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The Anglican Digest, Summer 2017 Issue

Anglicans, including members of the Episcopal Church, probably hear and recite more Scripture than most Christians. At every Eucharist, they hear three lessons — usually one from the Old Testament, part of an Epistle and one of the Gospels — and they say or sing a Psalm; at Morning and Evening Prayer, they hear two lessons and read or sing a larger section from the Psalms.

One can’t attend a Baptism, a Marriage, or an Ordination without being deluged with Bible. One wonders why there seems so much anecdotal evidence that Anglicans are remarkably ignorant about Scripture.

Jon Jordan is a teacher and a member of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, Dallas. His bishop, George Sumner, highly recommends this little book, an introduction to St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Jon must be an excellent teacher, because he sets about his task with clear prose, and maps out the aids we need to access Paul’s message. Throughout the book, he bids us to read the whole letter in one go, over and over again, while bearing in mind different points the Apostle seeks to make to a church he founded, but which has been taken over by “Teachers” who insist that new Christians must be circumcised before they are baptized and that they must continue to keep the Jewish Law.

St. Paul asserts his authority as an Apostle. He insists that there is no middle way. The Galatians can either accept the authentic Faith or be cut off from communion with the Church.

Jon, very wisely, tells us to avoid inserting our contemporary controversies into the text. St. Paul is teaching that the function of the Old Testament law became obsolete when Christ died for us all — but this does not make us lawless. Trough Baptism, we become Spirit-filled women and men, called to the law of love. All differences of race, culture, and gender are washed away when we become sons and daughters of God; after that, we are called to live lives which demonstrate the practical implications of our being one in Christ.

There are chapters on how to read the book, and how to read an Epistle. We are introduced to the author and the audience, and its occasion and purpose. The chapter introducing Galatians has extended sections on Paul and on the Galatian church and its problems. An excellent chapter on Paul’s use of the Old Testament is worth reading and printing off for further reference. The rest of the book identifies the major themes — and yes, we are urged to read the entire Epistle at the end of all eight chapters.

My only regret is that Jon didn’t make more of the connection between the gift of the Holy Spirit and baptism. I hope that, in this, Jon isn’t permitting contemporary conflicts to impinge on the text.

I’m glad to recommend this slim volume. It is worth more than its weight.