Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Review: Torah to the Gentiles

Children usually think that bigger is better; Joey has a bigger bike than Johnny, Suzy has a better doll house than Mary, Cade has a larger tree house than Jackson. However I was taught as a child not to judge a book by its cover, or size for that matter. Some of the most important pieces of writing were not long at all, here I think of the Magna Carta, Luther's 95 Theses, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the Emancipation Proclamation.  Short pieces of writing but extremely important. The same pertains to the Scriptures. Paul's letter to the Galatians is very short at 6 chapters but extremely important and essential for faithful followers of Christ to fully understand not only what the gospel means but how we are to live together as one body of Christ in the Spirit.

Fr. Marc Boulos is the pastor of St. Elizabeth Orthodox Church (OCA) in Eagan, MN and the co-host of The Bible as Literature podcast.

I applaud Fr. Boulos for his recent contribution for our understanding of perhaps Paul's most important letter in his corpus, the epistle to the Galatians. Boulos' many years as a pastor, teacher, and preacher, together with his pastoral experience has provided him the language to translate Paul's teachings on how we must live according to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It might be easy to discount this small book, but good things come in small packages. The introduction and conclusion are worth the price of the book for in them Boulos lays out the practical implications of living as one body; living by the rule of love, "Learning how to love is like learning to swim. It requires endless practice in the real world-endless hours in the pool-dealing with the primary data. In the case of love, this data is the wisdom gained from the shame of the cross." (p. 123). It is the crucified Christ which draws Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free, into one body. Although we all know that living as one body is not easy, yet it is the command of love that is the glue that binds us together.

The book is divided into six chapters, each chapter includes both the original Greek and English so the reader can see both. What is important about this book is that Boulos uses "scripture to interpret scripture." In other words unlike some biblical commentaries that has various "theological lenses" in which they view the text Boulos uses the ancient teaching technique of using the scriptures to unlock the meaning of the scriptural text in which he is using. While reading Torah to the Gentiles I immediately thought that this would be an excellent resource for a Bible study or small book study since it includes both the scriptural text as well as commentary.

Paul is not an easy read. Most people prefer the gospels since they are straight narratives with characters, plot, setting, and drama. Paul's letters are dense as he primarily uses Graeco-Roman religious, military, and legal language in his argument and after a while many people stop reading Paul because they don't "get it." Yet Boulos takes this dense language and unpacks it, allowing the reader insight into Paul's writing itself. This is not an easy task, yet Boulos manages to do it with ease.

If you want a basic introductory to Paul's "epistle of epistles" then go out and buy yourself a copy of Torah to the Gentiles. No. Buy a few copies, give them to your pastor and to your local prayer group or Bible study. You won't be disappointed.

For more information about Fr. Boulos and his parish click here 

For more information about OCABS Press click here 

To purchase a copy of the book click here 

For an interview with Fr. Boulos click here