Burton, Galatians, and being a student

Ernest DeWitt Burton, in the preface to his commentary on Galatians, states that he began working on Galatians in 1896 with the specific goal of writing the commentary. The date at the end of the preface is July 1, 1920. So for twenty-five years Burton worked on Galatians. Not only that, towards the end of the preface he states that during this time the commentary was "the chief centre of my work as a student of the New Testament." Not only did he work on it for an extended time, it was his central focus.

Reading statements like this makes my knees shake. Compared to Burton's depth and erudition, I feel like a child in the shadow of the grown man. With giants like this among us, what contribution can I bring to the discussion? I think the secret is in what Burton himself says. Note that he does not describe himself as a teacher or professor of the New Testament. Rather, he is a student of it. I take this to mean that he never assumed mastery over the text; rather the opposite was true. Perhaps that's what made him a giant: He realized that he always had something to learn and he humbly sought to learn it throughout those twenty-five years. I pray that as I continue to write on this profound letter I too would forever be the student, learning daily what Paul meant and what the Lord would have me to know.