International Standard Bible EncyclopediaGALATIANS, EPISTLE TO THE
" I. THE AUTHORSHIP
1. Position of the Dutch School
2. Early Testimony
II. THE MATTER OF THE EPISTLE
A) Summary of Contents
2. Personal History (Galatians 1:11-2:21; 4:12-20; 6:17)
Paul's Independent Apostleship
3. The Doctrinal Polemic (Galatians 3:1-5:12)
(2) Main Argument
(3) Appeal and Warning
4. The Ethical Application (Galatians 5:12-6:10)
Law of the Spirit of Life
5. The Epilogue (Galatians 6:11-18)
B) Salient Points
1. The Principles at Stake
2. Present Stage of the Controversy
3. Paul's Depreciation of the Law
4. The Personal Question
1. Idiosyncrasy of the Epistle
2. Jewish Coloring
III. RELATIONS TO OTHER EPISTLES
1. Galatians and Romans
2. Links with 1 and 2 Corinthians
3. With the Corinthians-Romans Group
4. With Other Groups of Epistles
5. General Comparison
IV. THE DESTINATION AND DATE
1. Place and Time Interdependent
2. Internal Evidence
3. External Data
(1) Galatia and the Galatians
(2) Prima facie Sense of Acts 16:6
(3) The Grammar of Acts 16:6
(4) Notes of Time in the Epistle
(5) Paul's Renewed Struggle with Legalism (6) Ephesus or Corinth?
(7) Paul's First Coming to Galatia
(8) Barnabas and the Galatians
(9) The Two Antiochs
(10) Wider Bearings of the Problem
When and to whom, precisely, this letter was written, it is difficult to say; its authorship and purpose are unmistakable. One might conceive it addressed by the apostle Paul, in its main tenor, to almost any church of his Gentilemission attracted to Judaism, at any point within the years circa 45-60 A.D. Some plausibly argue that it was the earliest, others place it among the later, of the Pauline Epistles. This consideration dictates the order of our inquiry, which proceeds from the plainer to the more involved and disputable parts of the subject.
I. The Authorship.
1. Position of the Dutch School:
The Tubingen criticism of the last century recognized the four major epistles of Paul as fully authentic, and made them the corner-stone of its construction of New Testament history. Only Bruno Bauer (Kritik. d. paulin. Briefe, 1850-52) attacked them in this sense, while several other critics accused them of serious interpolations; but these attempts made little impression. Subsequently, a group of Dutch scholars, beginning with Loman in his Quaestiones Paulinae (1882) and represented by Van Manen in the Encyclopedia Biblica (art. "Paul"), have denied all the canonical epistles to the genuine Paul. They postulate a gradual development in New Testament ideas covering the first century and a half after Christ, and treat the existing letters as "catholic adaptations" of fragmentary pieces from the apostle's hand, produced by a school of "Paulinists" who carried their master's principles far beyond his own intentions. On this theory, Galatians, with its advanced polemic against the law, approaching the position of Marcion (140 A.D.), was work of the early 2nd century. Edwin Johnson in England (Antiqua Mater, 1887), and Steck in Germany (Galaterbrief, 1888), are the only considerable scholars outside of Holland who have adopted this hypothesis; it is rejected by critics so radical as Scholten and Schmiedel (see the article of the latter on "Galatians" in EB). Knowling has searchingly examined the position of the Dutch school in his Witness of the Epistles (1892)-it is altogether too arbitrary and uncontrolled by historical fact to be entertained; see Julicher's or Zahn's Introduction to New Testament (English translation), to the same effect. Attempts to dismember this writing, and to appropriate it for other hands and later times than those of the apostle Paul, are idle in view of its vital coherence and the passionate force with which the author's personality has stamped itself upon his work; the Paulinum pectus speaks in every line. The two contentions on which the letter turns-concerning Paul's apostleship, and the circumcision of GentileChristians-belonged to the apostle's lifetime: in the fifth and sixth decades these were burning questions; by the 2nd century the church had left them far behind.
2. Early Testimony:
Early Christianity gives clear and ample testimony to this document. Marcion placed it at the head of his Apostolikon (140 A.D.); Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Melito, quoted it about the same time. It is echoed by Ignatius (Philad., i) and Polycarp (Philip., iii and v) a generation earlier, and seems to have been used by contemporary Gnostic teachers. It stands in line with the other epistles of Paul in the oldest Latin, Syriac and Egyptian translations, and in the Muratorian (Roman) Canon of the 2nd century. It comes full into view as an integral part of the new Scripture in Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian at the close of this period. No breath of suspicion as to the authorship, integrity or apostolic authority of the Ep. to the Galatians has reached us from ancient times.
II. Matter of the Epistle.
A) Summary of Contents:
A double note of war sounds in the address and greeting (Galatians 1:1, 4). Astonishment replaces the customary thanksgiving (Galatians 1:6-10): The Galatians are listening to preachers of "another gospel" (1:6, 7) and traducers of the apostle (1:8, 10), whom he declares "anathema." Paul has therefore two objects in writing-to vindicate himself, and to clear and reinforce his doctrine. The first he pursues from 1:11 to 2:21; the second from 3:1 to 5:12. Appropriate: moral exhortations follow in 5:13-6:10. The closing paragraph (6:11-17) resumes incisively the purport of the letter. Personal, argumentative, and hortatory matter interchange with the freedom natural in a letter to old friends.
2. Personal History (Galatians 1:11-2:21 (4:12-20; 6:17)):
Paul's Independent Apostleship.
Paul asserts himself for his gospel's sake, by showing that his commission was God-given and complete (Galatians 1:11, 12). On four decisive moments in his course he dwells for this purpose-as regards the second manifestly (Galatians 1:20), as to others probably, in correction of misstatements:
(1) A thorough-paced Judaist and persecutor (Galatians 1:13, 14), Paul was supernaturally converted to Christ (Galatians 1:15), and received at conversion his charge for the Gentiles, about which he consulted no one (Galatians 1:16, 17).
(2) Three years later he "made acquaintance with Cephas" in Jerusalem and saw James besides, but no "other of the apostles" (Galatians 1:18, 19). For long he was known only by report to "the churches of Judea" (Galatians 1:21-24).
(3) At the end of "fourteen years" he "went up to Jerusalem," with Barnabas, to confer about the "liberty" of Gentilebelievers, which was endangered by "false brethren" (Galatians 2:1-5). Instead of supporting the demand for the circumcision of the "Greek" Titus (Galatians 2:3), the "pillars" there recognized the sufficiency and completeness of Paul's "gospel of the uncircumcision" and the validity of his apostleship (Galatians 2:6-8). They gave "right hands of fellowship" to himself and Barnabas on this understanding (Galatians 2:9, 10). The freedom of GentileChristianity was secured, and Paul had not "run in vain."
(4) At Antioch, however, Paul and Cephas differed (Galatians 2:11). Cephas was induced to withdraw from the common church-table, and carried "the rest of the Jews," including Barnabas, with him (Galatians 2:12, 13). "The truth of the gospel," with Cephas' own sincerity, was compromised by this "separation," which in effect "compelled the Gentiles to Judaize" (Galatians 2:13, 14). Paul therefore reproved Cephas publicly in the speech reproduced by Galatians 2:14-21, the report of which clearly states the evangelical position and the ruinous consequences (2:18, 21) of reestablishing "the law."
3. Doctrinal Polemic (Galatians 3:1-5:12):
The doctrinal polemic was rehearsed in the autobiography (Galatians 2:3-5, 11-12). In Galatians 2:16 is laid down thesis of the epistle: "A man is not justified by the works of law but through faith in Jesus Christ." This proposition is (a) demonstrated from experience and history in 3:1-4:7; then (b) enforced by 4:8-5:12.
(2) Main Argument.
(a1) From his own experience (Galatians 2:19-21) Paul passes to that of the readers, who are "bewitched" to forget "Christ crucified" (Galatians 3:1)! Had their life in "the Spirit" come through "works of the law" or the "hearing of faith"? Will the flesh consummate what the Spirit began (Galatians 3:2-5)?
(a2) Abraham, they are told, is the father of God's people; but `the men of faith' are Abraham's true heirs (Galatians 3:6-9). "The law" curses every transgressor; Scripture promised righteousness through faith for the very reason that justification by legal "doing" is impossible (Galatians 3:10, 12). "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law" in dying the death it declared "accursed" (Galatians 3:13). Thus He conveyed to the nations "the promise of the Spirit," pledged to them through believing Abraham (Galatians 3:7, 14).
(a3) The "testament" God gave to "Abraham and his seed" (a single "seed," observe) is unalterable. The Mosaic law, enacted 430 years later, could not nullify this instrument (Galatians 3:15-17 the King James Version). Nullified it wound have been, had its fulfillment turned on legal performance instead of Divine "grace" (Galatians 3:18).
(a4) "Why then the law?" Sin required it, pending the accomplishment of "the promise." Its promulgation through intermediaries marks its inferiority (Galatians 3:19, 20). With no power `to give life,' it served the part of a jailer guarding us till "faith came," of "the paedagogus" training us `for Christ' (Galatians 3:21-25).
(a5) But now "in Christ," Jew and Greek alike, "ye are all sons of God through faith"; being such, "you are Abraham's seed" and `heirs in terms of the promise' (Galatians 3:26-29). The `infant' heirs, in tutelage, were `subject to the elements of the world,' until "God sent forth his Son," placed in the like condition, to "redeem" them (Galatians 4:1-5). Today the "cry" of "the Spirit of his Son" in your "hearts" proves this redemption accomplished (Galatians 4:6, 7).
The demonstration is complete; Galatians 3:1-4:7 forms the core of the epistle. The growth of the Christian consciousness has been traced from its germ in Abraham to its flower in the church of all nations. The Mosaic law formed a disciplinary interlude in the process, which has been all along a life of faith. Paul concludes where he began (3:2), by claiming the Spirit as witness to the full salvation of the Gentiles; compare Romans 8:1-27 2 Corinthians 3:4-18; Ephesians 1:13, 14. From Galatians 4:8 onward to 5:12, the argument is pressed home by appeal, illustration and warning.
(3) Appeal and Warning.
(b1) After "knowing God," would the Galatians return to the bondage in which ignorantly they served as gods "the elements" of Nature? (4:8, 9). Their adoption of Jewish "seasons" points to this backsliding (4:10, 11).
(b2) Paul's anxiety prompts the entreaty of 4:12-20, in which he recalls his fervent reception by his readers, deplores their present alienation, and confesses his perplexity.
(b3) Observe that Abraham had two sons-"after the flesh" and "through promise" (4:21-23); those who want to be under law are choosing the part of Ishmael: "Hagar" stands for `the present Jerusalem' in her bondage; `the Jerusalem above is free-she is our mother!' (4:24-28, 31). The fate of Hagar and Ishmael pictures the issue of legal subjection (4:29, 30): "Stand fast therefore" (5:1). (b4) The crucial moment comes at 5:2: the Galatians are half-persuaded (5:7, 8); they will fatally commit themselves, if they consent to `be circumcised.' This will sever them from Christ, and bind them to complete observance of Moses' law: law or grace-by one or the other they must stand (5:3-5). "Circumcision, uncircumcision"-these "count for nothing in Christ Jesus" (5:6). Paul will not believe in the defection of those who `ran' so "well"; "judgment" will fall on their `disturber' (5:7-10, 12). Persecution marks himself as no circumcisionist (5:11)!
4. The Ethical Application (Galatians 5:13-6:10):
Law of the Spirit of Life
The ethical application is contained in the phrase of Romans 8:2, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus."
(1) Love guards Christian liberty from license; it `fulfills the whole law in a single word' (Galatians 5:13-15).
(2) The Spirit, who imparts freedom, guides the free man's "walk." Flesh and spirit are, opposing principles: deliverance from "the flesh" and its "works" is found in possession by "the Spirit," who bears in those He rules His proper "fruit." `Crucified with Christ' and `living in the Spirit,' the Christian man keeps God's law without bondage under it (Galatians 5:16-26).
(3) In cases of unwary fall, `men of the Spirit' will know how to "restore" the lapsed, `fulfilling Christ's law' and mindful of their own weakness (Galatians 6:1-5).
(4) Teachers have a peculiar claim on the taught; to ignore this is to `mock God.' Men will "reap corruption" or "eternal life," as in such matters they `sow to the flesh' or `to the Spirit.' Be patient till the harvest! (Galatians 6:6-10).
5. The Epilogue (Galatians 6:11-18):
The autograph conclusion (Galatians 6:11) exposes the sinister motive of the circumcisionists, who are ashamed of the cross, the Christian's only boast (Galatians 6:12-15). Such men are none of "the Israel of God!" (Galatians 6:16). "The brand of Jesus" is now on Paul's body; at their peril "henceforth" will men trouble him! (Galatians 6:17). The benediction follows (Galatians 6:18).
B) Salient Points:
1. The Principles at Stake:
The postscript reveals the inwardness of the legalists' agitation. They advocated circumcision from policy more than from conviction, hoping to conciliate Judaism and atone for accepting the Nazarene-to hide the shame of the cross-by capturing for the Law the Gentilechurches. They attack Paul because he stands in the way of this attempt. Their policy is treason; it surrenders to the world that cross of Christ, to which the world for its salvation must unconditionally submit. The grace of God the one source of salvation Galatians (1:3; 2:21; 5:4), the cross of Christ its sole ground (1:4; 2:19-21; 3:13; 6:14), faith in the Good News its all-sufficient means (2:16, 20; 3:2, 5-9, 23-26; 5:5), the Spirit its effectuating power (3:2-5; 4:6, 7; 5:5, 16-25; 6:8)-hence, emancipation from the Jewish law, and the full status of sons of God open to the Gentiles (2:4, 5, 15-19; 3:10-14; 3:28-4:9, 26-31; 5:18; 6:15): these connected principles are at stake in the contention; they make up the doctrine of the epistle.
2. Present Stage of the Controversy:
Circumcision is now proposed by the Judaists as a supplement to faith in Christ, as the qualification for sonship to Abraham and communion with the apostolic church (Galatians 3:7, 29). After the Council at Jerusalem, they no longer say outright, "Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). Paul's Galatian converts, they admit, "have begun in the Spirit"; they bid them "be perfected" and attain the full Christian status by conforming to Moses-"Christ will profit" them much more, if they add to their faith circumcision (Galatians 3:3; Galatians 5:2; compare Romans 3:1). This insidious proposal might seem to be in keeping with the findings of the Council; Peter's action at Antioch lent color to it. Such a grading of the Circumcision and Uncircumcision within the church offered a tempting solution of the legalist controversy; for it appeared to reconcile the universal destination of the gospel with the inalienable prerogatives of the sons of Abraham. Paul's reply is, that believing Gentiles are already Abraham's "seed"-nay, sons and heirs of God; instead of adding anything, circumcision would rob them of everything they have won in Christ; instead of going on to perfection by its aid, they would draw back unto perdition.
3. Paul's Depreciation of the Law:
Paul carries the war into the enemies' camp, when he argues,
(a) that the law of Moses brought condemnation, not blessing, on its subjects (Galatians 3:10-24); and
(b) that instead of completing the work of faith, its part in the Divine economy was subordinate (Galatians 3:19-25).
It was a temporary provision, due to man's sinful unripeness for the original covenant (Galatians 3:19, 24; Galatians 4:4). The Spirit of sonship, now manifested in the Gentiles, is the infallible sign that the promise made to mankind in Abraham has been fulfilled. The whole position of the legalists is undermined by the use the apostle makes of the Abrahamic covenant.
4. The Personal Question:
The religious and the personal questions of the epistle are bound up together; this Galatians 5:2 clearly indicates. The latter naturally emerges first (1:1, 11). Paul's authority must be overthrown, if his disciples are to be Judaized. Hence, the campaign of detraction against him (compare 2 Corinthians 10-12). The line of defense indicates the nature of the attack. Paul was said to be a second-hand, second-rate apostle, whose knowledge of Christ and title to preach Him came from Cephas and the mother church. In proof of this, an account was given of his career, which he corrects in Galatians 1:13-2:21. "Cephas" was held up (compare 1 Corinthians 1:12) as the chief of the apostles, whose primacy Paul had repeatedly acknowledged; and "the pillars" at Jerusalem were quoted as maintainers of Mosaic rule and authorities for the additions to be made to Paul's imperfect gospel. Paul himself, it was insinuated, "preaches circumcision" where it suits him; he is a plausible time-server (Galatians 1:10; Galatians 5:11; compare Acts 16:3 1 Corinthians 9:19-21). The apostle's object in his self-defense is not to sketch his own life, nor in particular to recount his visits to Jerusalem, but to prove his independent apostleship and his consistent maintenance of Gentilerights. He states, therefore, what really happened on the critical occasions of his contact with Peter and the Jerusalem church. To begin with, he received his gospel and apostolic office from Jesus Christ directly, and apart from Peter (Galatians 1:13-20); he was subsequently recognized by "the pillars" as apostle, on equality with Peter (Galatians 2:6-9); he had finally vindicated his doctrine when it was assailed, in spite of Peter (Galatians 2:11-12). The adjustment of Paul's recollections with Luke's narrative is a matter of dispute, in regard both to the conference of Galatians 2:1-10 and the encounter of 2:11-21; to these points we shall return, iv.3 (4), (5).
1. Idiosyncrasy of the Epistle:
This is a letter of expostulation. Passion and argument are blended in it. Hot indignation and righteous scorn (Galatians 1:7-9; Galatians 4:17; Galatians 5:10, 12; 6:12, 13), tender, wounded affection (Galatians 4:11-20), deep sincerity and manly integrity united with the loftiest consciousness of spiritual authority (Galatians 1:10-12, 20; Galatians 2:4-6, 14; 5:02; 6:17), above all a consuming devotion to the person and cross of the Redeemer, fill these few pages with an incomparable wealth and glow of Christian emotion. The power of mind the epistle exhibits matches its largeness of heart. Roman indeed carries out the argument with greater breadth and theoretic completeness; but Galatians excels in pungency, incisiveness, and debating force. The style is that of Paul at the summit of his powers. Its spiritual elevation, its vigor and resource, its subtlety and irony, poignancy and pathos, the vis vivida that animates the whole, have made this letter a classic of religious controversy. The blemishes of Paul's composition, which contribute to his mastery of effect, are conspicuous here-his abrupt turns and apostrophes, and sometimes difficult ellipses (Galatians 2:4-10, 20; Galatians 4:16-20; 5:13), awkward parentheses and entangled periods (Galatians 2:1-10, 18; Galatians 3:16, 20; 4:25), and outburst of excessive vehemence (Galatians 1:8, 9; Galatians 5:12).
2. Jewish Coloring:
The anti-legalist polemic gives a special Old Testament coloring to the epistle; the apostle meets his adversaries on their own ground. In Galatians 3:16, 19-20; Galatians 4:21-31, we have examples of the rabbinical exegesis Paul had learned from his Jewish masters. These texts should be read in part as argumenta ad hominem; however peculiar in form such Pauline passages may be, they always contain sound reasoning.
III. Relations to Other Epistles.
(1) The connection of Galatians with Romans is patent; it is not sufficiently understood how pervasive that connection is and into what manifold detail it extends. The similarity of doctrine and doctrinal vocabulary manifest in Galatians 2:13-6:16 and Romans 1:16-8:39 is accounted for by the Judaistic controversy on which Paul was engaged for so long, and by the fact that this discussion touched the heart of his gospel and raised questions in regard to which his mind was made up from the beginning (1:15, 16), on which he would therefore always express himself in much the same way. Broadly speaking, the difference is that Romans is didactic and abstract, where Galatians is personal and polemical; that the former presents, a measured and rounded development of conceptions projected rapidly in the latter under the stress of controversy. The emphasis lies in Romans on justification by faith; in Galatians on the freedom of the Christian man. The contrast of tone is symptomatic of a calmer mood in the writer-the lull which follows the storm; it suits the different address of the two epistles.
1. Galatians and Romans:
Besides the correspondence of purport, there is a verbal resemblance to Romans pervading the tissue of Galatians, and traceable in its mannerisms and incidental expressions. Outside of the identical quotations, we find more than 40 Greek locutions, some of them rare in the language, common to these two and occurring in these only of Paul's epistles-including the words rendered "bear" (Romans 11:18 and Galatians 5:10, etc.); "blessing" or "gratulation" (makarismos), "divisions" (Romans 16:17 Galatians 5:20); "fail" or "fall from" (ekpipto); "labor on" or "upon" (of persons), "passions" (pathemata, in this sense); "set free" or "deliver" (eleutheroo); "shut up" or "conclude," and "shut out" or "exclude"; "travail (together)," and such phrases as "die to" (with dative), "hearing of faith," "if possible," "put on (the Lord Jesus) Christ," "those who do such things," "what saith the Scripture?" "where then?" (rhetorical), "why any longer?" The list would be greatly extended by adding expressions distinctive of this pair of letters that occur sporadically elsewhere in Paul. The kinship of Galatians-Romans in vocabulary and vein of expression resembles that existing between Colossians-Ephesians or 1 and 2 Thessalonians; it is twice as strong proportionately as that of 1 and 2 Corinthians. Not only the same current of thought, but with it, much the same stream of language was running through Paul's mind in writing these two epistles.
The association of Galatians with the two Corinthian letters, though less intimate than that of Galatians-Romans, is unmistakable.
2. Links with 1 and 2 Corinthians:
We count 23 distinct locations shared by 2 Corinthians alone (in its 13 chapters) with Galatians, and 20 such shared with 1 Corinthians (16 chapters)-a larger proportion for the former. Among the Galatians-1 Corinthians peculiarities are the sayings, "A little leaven," etc., "circumcision is nothing," etc., and the phrases, "be not deceived," "it is manifest" (delon as predicate to a sentence), "known by God," "profit nothing" and "to be something," "scandal of the cross," "the spiritual" (of persons), "they that are Christ's (of Christ Jesus)." Peculiar to Galatians through 2 Corinthians are "another gospel" and "false brethren," "brings into bondage," "devour" and "zealously seek" or "am jealous over" (of persons); "a new creation," "confirm" or "ratify" (kuroo); "I am perplexed," the antithesis of "sowing" and "reaping" (figuratively); the phrase "on the contrary" or "contrariwise" (t'ounantion), etc. The conception of the "two covenants" (or "testaments") is conspicuous in both epistles (Galatians 3:17-21; Galatians 4:21-31 2 Corinthians 3:8-18), and does not recur in Paul; in each case the ideas of "law" (or "letter"), "bondage," "death," are associated with the one, diatheke, of "spirit," "freedom," "life," with the other. Galatians 3:13 ("Christ. made a curse for us") is matched by 2 Corinthians 5:21 ("made sin for us"); in Galatians 2:19 and 6:14 we find Paul "crucified to the world" in the cross of his Master and "Christ" alone "living in" him; in 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15 this experience becomes a universal law for Christians; and where in Galatians 6:17 the apostle appears as `from hence-forth. bearing in' his `body the brand of Jesus,' in 2 Corinthians 4:10 he is "always bearing about in" his "body the dying of Jesus."
These identical or closely congruous trains of thought and turns of phrase, varied and dominant as they are, speak for some near connection between the two writings. By its list of vices in Galatians 5:19, 20 Galatians curiously, and somewhat intricately, links itself at once with 2 Corinthians and Roman (see 2 Corinthians 12:20 Romans 13:13; Romans 16:17). Galatians is allied by argument and doctrine with Romans, and by temper and sentiment with 2 Corinthians. The storm of feeling agitating our epistle blows from the same quarter, reaches the same height, and engages the same emotions with those which animate 2 Corinthians 10-13.
3. With the Corinthians-Romans Group:
If we add to the 43 locutions confined in the Pauline Epistles to Galatians-Romans the 23 such of Galatians-2 Corinthians, the 20 of Galatians-1 Corinthians, the 14 that range over Galatians-Romans-2 Corinthians, the 15 of Galatians-Romans-1 Corinthians, the 7 of Galatians-1-2 Corinthians, and the 11 running through all four, we get a total of 133 words or phrases (apart from Old Testament quotations) specific to Galatians in common with one or more of the Corinthians-Romans group-an average, that is, of close upon 3 for each chapter of those other epistles.
With the other groups of Pauline letters Galatians is associated by ties less numerous and strong, yet marked enough to suggest, in conjunction with the general style, a common authorship.
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ga-la'-shanz. See preceding article.
Easton's Bible Dictionary
Galatians, Epistle to
The genuineness of this epistle is not called in question. Its Pauline origin is universally acknowledged.
Occasion of. The churches of Galatia were founded by Paul himself (Acts 16:6; Galatians 1:8; 4:13, 19). They seem to have been composed mainly of converts from heathenism (4:8), but partly also of Jewish converts, who probably, under the influence of Judaizing teachers, sought to incorporate the rites of Judaism with Christianity, and by their active zeal had succeeded in inducing the majority of the churches to adopt their views (1:6; 3:1). This epistle was written for the purpose of counteracting this Judaizing tendency, and of recalling the Galatians to the simplicity of the gospel, and at the same time also of vindicating Paul's claim to be a divinely-commissioned apostle.
Time and place of writing. The epistle was probably written very soon after Paul's second visit to Galatia (Acts 18:23). The references of the epistle appear to agree with this conclusion. The visit to Jerusalem, mentioned in Galatians 2:1-10, was identical with that of Acts 15, and it is spoken of as a thing of the past, and consequently the epistle was written subsequently to the council of Jerusalem. The similarity between this epistle and that to the Romans has led to the conclusion that they were both written at the same time, namely, in the winter of A.D. 57-8, during Paul's stay in Corinth (Acts 20:2, 3). This to the Galatians is written on the urgency of the occasion, tidings having reached him of the state of matters; and that to the Romans in a more deliberate and systematic way, in exposition of the same great doctrines of the gospel.
Contents of. The great question discussed is, Was the Jewish law binding on Christians? The epistle is designed to prove against the Jews that men are justified by faith without the works of the law of Moses. After an introductory address (Galatians 1:1-10) the apostle discusses the subjects which had occasioned the epistle. (1) He defends his apostolic authority (1:11-19; 2:1-14); (2) shows the evil influence of the Judaizers in destroying the very essence of the gospel (3 and 4); (3) exhorts the Galatian believers to stand fast in the faith as it is in Jesus, and to abound in the fruits of the Spirit, and in a right use of their Christian freedom (5-6:1-10); (4) and then concludes with a summary of the topics discussed, and with the benediction.
The Epistle to the Galatians and that to the Romans taken together "form a complete proof that justification is not to be obtained meritoriously either by works of morality or by rites and ceremonies, though of divine appointment; but that it is a free gift, proceeding entirely from the mercy of God, to those who receive it by faith in Jesus our Lord."
In the conclusion of the epistle (6:11) Paul says, "Ye see how large a letter I have written with mine own hand." It is implied that this was different from his ordinary usage, which was simply to write the concluding salutation with his own hand, indicating that the rest of the epistle was written by another hand. Regarding this conclusion, Lightfoot, in his Commentary on the epistle, says: "At this point the apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his own hand. From the time when letters began to be forged in his name (2 Thessalonians 2:2; 3:17) it seems to have been his practice to close with a few words in his own handwriting, as a precaution against such forgeries...In the present case he writes a whole paragraph, summing up the main lessons of the epistle in terse, eager, disjointed sentences. He writes it, too, in large, bold characters (Gr. pelikois grammasin), that his hand-writing may reflect the energy and determination of his soul." (see JUSTIFICATION.)