Flesh and Spirit: An Examination of Galatians 5:19-23



Book: Flesh and Spirit: An Examination of Galatians 5:19-23

Author: William Barclay

Publisher: Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd., reissued in 1978

ISBN-13: 978-0715203965

ISBN-10: 0715203967

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Teens and adults

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Barclay, William.  Flesh and Spirit: An Examination of Galatians 5:19-23 (published in 1962 by Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN).  I purchased a copy of this book back in 1974 when I was in college.  William Barclay (1907-1978) was a Scottish theologian, minister, and author, who wrote more than fifty books and is perhaps best known for his Daily Study Bible, a set of 17 commentaries on the New Testament, published by Saint Andrew Press, the Church of Scotland’s publishing house.  He served for most of his life, over half a century, as Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow.   In Flesh and Spirit, he expounds the thinking of Paul in Galatians 5 on the fact that man is continually involved in a twofold combat situation, of having to wrestle with himself and with the problems which surround him in society, showing that through Christ the perfect and adequate release for these problems is found.

The book is divided into three sections.   After a couple of introductory chapters discussing the war in the soul and the enemy who wages it, Barclay then examines the works of the flesh, from porneia  (fornication or sexual immorality) to komos (revelries).  Then he moves on to describing the fruit of the Spirit, from agape (love) to egkrateia (temperance or self-control).  There are two cautions to note about Barclay’s writings, especially his commentaries.  First, he makes a number of statements about what words meant and how they were used in ancient times without providing very many citations of original sources, so some scholars are a little suspicious of his accuracy on a few points.  Secondly, other people have various objections to different aspects of his theology.

However, these questions shouldn’t present any difficulties for this classic work.  One might not agree with every detail, but there is so much here that is good.  I used the material in it heavily when preparing a requested series of sermons on the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit for a gospel meeting with a church at Palatine, IL, back in 1989.  I have been told that a lot of the more recent commentaries dealing with Galatians 5:22-23 quote profusely from Barclay’s book.  My copy of it is an older hardback, but one would assume that the newer paperback is the same.  Because Barclay is so clear and concise, anybody who wishes to understand better the terms which Paul uses in Galatians 5 should profit from this work.  Someone commented, “Good read–these old guys know how to write a good book.”  Amen to that!

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