The Book of Galatians
Fast Facts on the Book of Galatians
c. 48-57 AD
Place of Origin:
Ephesus, Macedonia, Syrian Antioch, or Corinth
Churches in southern area of the Roman province of Galatia ( Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe)
Respond to Judaizers, who required Gentile converts to Christianity to be circumcized and who argued that Paul was not an authentic apostle.
Paul's apostolic authority, justification by faith apart from legalism. (This book was very influential on Martin Luther.)
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Summary of Galatians
Early Christianity gives clear and ample testimony to the book of Galatians. Marcion placed it at the head of his Apostolikon (140 AD); 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 Gal has reached us from ancient times.
A double note of war sounds in the address and greeting (Gal 1:1,4). Astonishment replaces the customary thanksgiving (Gal 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 through 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.
Personal History (Galatians 1:11 through 2:21 (4:12-20; 6:17))
Paul asserts himself for his gospel's sake, by showing that his commission was God-given and complete (Gal 1:11,12). On four decisive moments in his course he dwells for this purpose--as regards the second manifestly (Gal 1:20), as to others probably, in correction of misstatements:
(1) A thorough-paced Judaist and persecutor (Gal 1:13,14), Paul was supernaturally converted to Christ (Gal 1:15), and received at conversion his charge for the Gentiles, about which he consulted no one (Gal 1:16,17).
(2) Three years later he "made acquaintance with Cephas" in Jerusalem and saw James besides, but no "other of the apostles" (Gal 1:18,19). For long he was known only by report to "the churches of Judea" (Gal 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" (Gal 2:1-5). Instead of supporting the demand for the circumcision of the "Greek" Titus (Gal 2:3), the "pillars" there recognized the sufficiency and completeness of Paul's "gospel of the uncircumcision" and the validity of his apostleship (Gal 2:6-8). They gave "right hands of fellowship" to himself and Barnabas on this understanding (Gal 2:9,10). The freedom of GentileChristianity was secured, and Paul had not "run in vain."
(4) At Antioch, however, Paul and Cephas differed (Gal 2:11). Cephas was induced to withdraw from the common church-table, and carried "the rest of the Jews," including Barnabas, with him (Gal 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" (Gal 2:13,14). Paul therefore reproved Cephas publicly in the speech reproduced by Gal 2:14-21, the report of which clearly states the evangelical position and the ruinous consequences (2:18,21) of reestablishing "the law."
Doctrinal Polemic (Galatians 3:1 through 5:12)
\The doctrinal polemic was rehearsed in the autobiography (Gal 2:3-5,11-12). In Gal 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.
From his own experience (Gal 2:19-21) Paul passes to that of the readers, who are "bewitched" to forget "Christ crucified" (Gal 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 (Gal 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 (Gal 3:6-9). "The law" curses every transgressor; Scripture promised righteousness through faith for the very reason that justification by legal "doing" is impossible (Gal 3:10-12). "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law" in dying the death it declared "accursed" (Gal 3:13).
Thus He conveyed to the nations "the promise of the Spirit," pledged to them through believing Abraham (Gal 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 (Gal 3:15-17 the King James Version). Nullified it wound have been, had its fulfillment turned on legal performance instead of Divine "grace" (Gal 3:18). (a4) "Why then the law?" Sin required it, pending the accomplishment of "the promise." Its promulgation through intermediaries marks its inferiority (Gal 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' (Gal 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' (Gal 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 (Gal 4:1-5). Today the "cry" of "the Spirit of his Son" in your "hearts" proves this redemption accomplished (Gal 4:6,7).
The demonstration is complete; Gal 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 Rom 8:1-27; 2 Cor 3:4-18; Eph 1:13,14. From Gal 4:8 onward to 5:12, the argument is pressed home by appeal, illustration and warning.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)!
The Ethical Application (Galatians 5:13-6:10)
The ethical application is contained in the phrase of Rom 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' (Gal 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 (Gal 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 (Gal 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! (Gal 6:6-10).
The Epilogue (Galatians 6:11-18)
The autograph conclusion (Gal 6:11) exposes the sinister motive of the circumcisionists, who are ashamed of the cross, the Christian's only boast (Gal 6:12-15). Such men are none of "the Israel of God!" (Gal 6:16). "The brand of Jesus" is now on Paul's body; at their peril "henceforth" will men trouble him! (Gal 6:17). The benediction follows (Gal 6:18).
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 Gal (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.
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 (Gal 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 (Gal 3:3; 5:2; compare Rom 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.
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 (Gal 3:10-24); and (b) that instead of completing the work of faith, its part in the Divine economy was subordinate (Gal 3:19-25). It was a temporary provision, due to man's sinful unripeness for the original covenant (Gal 3:19,24; 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.
\The religious and the personal questions of the epistle are bound up together; this Gal 5:2 clearly indicates. The latter naturally emerges first (1:1,11 ff). Paul's authority must be overthrown, if his disciples are to be Judaized. Hence, the campaign of detraction against him (compare 2 Cor 10 through 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 Gal 1:13 through 2:21. "Cephas" was held up (compare 1 Cor 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 (Gal 1:10; 5:11; compare Acts 16:3; 1 Cor 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 (Gal 1:13-20); he was subsequently recognized by "the pillars" as apostle, on equality with Peter (Gal 2:6-9); he had finally vindicated his doctrine when it was assailed, in spite of Peter (Gal 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 Gal 2:1-10 and the encounter of 2:11-21; to these points we shall return, iv.3 (4), (5).
Idiosyncrasy of the Epistle
This is a letter of expostulation. Passion and argument are blended in it. Hot indignation and righteous scorn (Gal 1:7-9; 4:17; 5:10,12; 6:12,13), tender, wounded affection (Gal 4:11-20), deep sincerity and manly integrity united with the loftiest consciousness of spiritual authority (Gal 1:10-12,20; 2:4-6,14; 5:2; 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 Gal 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 (Gal 2:4-10,20; 4:16-20; 5:13), awkward parentheses and entangled periods (Gal 2:1-10,18; 3:16,20; 4:25), and outburst of excessive vehemence (Gal 1:8,9; 5:12).
The anti-legalist polemic gives a special Old Testament coloring to the epistle; the apostle meets his adversaries on their own ground. In Gal 3:16,19-20; 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.
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 Gal 2:13-6:16 and Rom 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.
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" (Rom 11:18 and Gal 5:10, etc.); "blessing" or "gratulation" (Grk: makarismos), "divisions" (Rom 16:17; Gal 5:20); "fail" or "fall from" (Grk: ekpipto); "labor on" or "upon" (of persons), "passions" (Grk: pathemata, in this sense); "set free" or "deliver" (Grk: 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.
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" (Grk: 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 Gal through 2 Cor 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" (Grk: kuroo); "I am perplexed," the antithesis of "sowing" and "reaping" (figuratively); the phrase "on the contrary" or "contrariwise" (Grk: t'ounantion), etc.
The conception of the "two covenants" (or "testaments") is conspicuous in both epistles (Gal 3:17-21; 4:21-31; 2 Cor 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, Grk: diatheke, of "spirit," "freedom," "life," with the other. Gal 3:13 ("Christ .... made a curse for us") is matched by 2 Cor 5:21 ("made sin for us"); in Gal 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 Cor 5:14,15 this experience becomes a universal law for Christians; and where in Gal 6:17 the apostle appears as `from hence-forth .... bearing in' his `body the brand of Jesus,' in 2 Cor 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 Gal 5:19,20 Galatians curiously, and somewhat intricately, links itself at once with 2 Corinthians and Roman (see 2 Cor 12:20; Rom 13:13; 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 through 13.
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.
With Other Groups of Epistles
The proportion of locutions peculiar to Gal and the 3rd group (Colossians-Philemon-Ephesians-Philippians) is 1 to each of their 15 chapters. The more noticeable of these are in Galatians-Colossians: "elements of the world," and the maxim, "There is no Jew nor Greek," etc., associated with the "putting on of Christ" ("the new man"); "fullness of the time" (or "seasons") and "householders of faith (of God)," also "Christ loved me (the church) and gave up himself for me (her)," in Galatians-Ephesians; "he that supplieth (your supplying of, Grk: epichoregia) the Spirit," and "vain-glory" (Grk: kenodoxia), in Galatians-Philippians; "redeem" (Grk: exagorazo) and "inheritance" are peculiar to Gal with Colossians-Ephesians together; the association of the believer's "inheritance" with "the Spirit" in Galatians-Ephesians is a significant point of doctrinal identity.
The Thessalonians and Timothy-Titus (1st and 4th) groups are outliers in relation to Galatians, judged by vocabulary. There is little to associate our epistle with either of these combinations, apart from pervasive Corinthians-Romans phrases and the Pauline complexion. There are 5 such expressions registered for the 8 chapters of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 7 for the 13 of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus--just over one to two chapters for each group. While the verbal coincidences in these two cases are, proportionately, but one-half so many as those connecting Galatians with the 3rd group of epistles and one-fifth or one-sixth of those linking it to the 2nd group, they are also less characteristic; the most striking is the contrast of "well-doing" (Grk: kalopoieo) with "fainting" or "wearying" (Grk: egkakeo) in Gal 6:9 and 2 Thess 3:13.
No other writing of Paul reflects the whole man so fully as this--his spiritual, emotional, intellectual, practical, and even physical, idiosyncrasy. We see less of the apostle's tenderness, but more of his strength than in Philippians; less of his inner, mystic experiences, more of the critical turns of his career; less of his "fears," more of his "fightings," than in 2 Corinthians. While the 2nd letter to Timothy lifts the curtain from the closing stage of the apostle's ministry, Gal throws a powerful light upon its beginning. The Pauline theology opens to us its heart in this document.
The apostle's message of deliverance from sin through faith in the crucified Redeemer, and of the new life in the Spirit growing from this root, lives and speaks; we see it in Galatians as a working and fighting theology, while in Romans it peacefully expands into an ordered system. The immediately saving truth of Christianity, the gospel of the Gospel, finds its most trenchant utterance in this epistle; here we learn "the word of the cross" as Paul received it from the living Saviour, and defended it at the crisis of his work.
The Destination and Date
Place and Time Interdependent
The question of the people to whom, is bound up with that of the time at which, the Epistle to the Galatians was written. Each goes to determine the other. The expression "the first time" (Grk: to proteron) of Gal 4:13 presumes Paul to have been twice with the readers previously--for the first occasion, see 4:13-15; for the second, 1:9; 5:3.
The explanation of Round (Date of the Epistle to Galatians, 1906), that the apostle intended to distinguish his first arrival at the several (South) Galatian cities from his return in the course of the same journey (Acts 14:21-23), cannot be accepted: Derbe, the limit of the expedition, received Paul and Barnabas but once on that round, and in retracing their steps the missionaries were completing an interrupted work, whereas Gal 4:13 implies a second, distinct visitation of the churches concerned as a whole; in Acts 15:36 Paul looks back to the journey of Acts 13:14-14:26 as one event.
Now the apostle revisited the South Galatian churches in starting on the 2nd missionary tour (Acts 16:1-5). Consequently, if his "Galatians" were Christians of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (the South Galatian hypothesis), the letter was written in the further course of the 2nd tour--from Macedonia or Corinth about the time of 1 and 2 Thess (so Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, I, English translation), or from Antioch in the interval between the 2nd and 3rd journeys (so Ramsay); for on this latter journey (Acts 18:23) Paul (ex hyp.) traversed `the (South) Galatian country' a third time.
On the other hand, if they were people of Galatia proper, i.e. of North (Old) Galatia, the epistle cannot be earlier than the occasion of Acts 18:23, when Paul touched a second time "the Galatian country," which, on this supposition, he had evangelized in traveling from South Galatia to Troas during the previous tour (Acts 16:6-8). On the North Galatian hypothesis, the letter was dispatched from Ephesus during Paul's long residence there (Acts 19; so most interpreters, ancient and modern), in which case it heads the 2nd group of the epistles; or later, from Macedonia or Corinth, and shortly before the writing of the Epistle to the Romans (thus Lightfoot, Salmon, A. L. Williams and others).
Per contra, the earlier date, if proved independently, carries with it the South Galatian, the later date the North Galatian theory. The subscription of the Textus Receptus of the New Testament "written from Rome," rests on inferior manuscript authority and late Patristic tradition. Clemen, with no suggestion as to place of origin, assigns to the writing a date subsequent to the termination of the 3rd missionary tour (55 or 57 AD), inasmuch as the epistle reflects the controversy about the Law, which in Romans is comparatively mild, at an acute, and, therefore (he supposes), an advanced stage.
Lightfoot (chapter iii of Introduction to Commentary) placed Galatians in the 2nd group of the epistles between 2 Corinthians and Romans, upon considerations drawn from "the style and character" of the epistle. His argument might be strengthened by a detailed linguistic analysis (see III, 1-3, above). The more minutely one compares Galatians with Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians, the more these four are seen to form a continuous web, the product of the same experience in the writer's mind and the same situation in the church. This presumption, based on internal evidence, must be tested by examination of the topographical and chronological data.
Galatia and the Galatians
Roman authors of the period in using these expressions commonly thought of provincial Galatia (NOTE: Schurer seems to be right, however, in maintaining that "Galatia" was only the abbreviated designation for the province, named a parte potiori, and that in more formal description it was styled "Galatia, Pisidia, Phrygia," etc.) which then embraced in addition to Galatia proper a large tract of Southern Phrygia and Lycaonia, reaching from Pisidian Antioch in the west to Derbe in the east; but writers of Asia Minor leaned to the older local and national usage, according to which "Galatia" signified the north-central highlands of the peninsula, on both sides of the river Halys, in which the invading Galatae had settled long before this time.
It is asserted that Paul strictly followed the official, as against the popular, usus loquendi in these matters--a questionable dictum (see A. L. Williams, op. cit., xix, xx, or Steinmann's Leserkreis, 78-104), in view of Gal 1:21,22 (note the Greek double article), to go no farther. There was nothing in Paul's Roman citizenship to make him a precisian in a point like this. Ramsay has proved that all four cities of Acts 13:14-14:23 were by this time included in provincial Galatia. Their inhabitants might therefore, officially, be styled "Galatians" (Galatae); it does not follow that this was a fit or likely compilation for Paul to use. Julicher says this would have been a piece of "bad taste" on his part. The attachment of the southern districts (Phrygian, Pisidian, Lycaonian) to Galatia was recent--Derbe had been annexed so late as the year 41--and artificial. Supposing that their Roman "colonial" rank made the designation "Galatians" agreeable to citizens of Antioch or Lystra, there was little in it to appeal to Iconians or Derbeans (compare Schmiedel, in EB, col. 1604).
Prima Facie Sense of Acts 16:6
The "Galatian country" (Grk: Galatike chora) is mentioned by Luke, with careful repetition, in Acts 16:6 and 18:23. Luke at any rate was not tied to imperial usage; he distinguishes "Phrygia" from "Asia" in Acts 2:9,10, although Phrygia was administratively parceled out between Asia and Galatia. When therefore "Asia" is opposed in 16:6 to "the Phrygian and Galatian country" (or "Phrygia and Galatian country," Zahn), we presume that the three terms of locality bear alike a non-official sense, so that the "Galatian country" means Old Galatia (or some part of it) lying to the Northeast, as "Asia" means the narrower Asia west of "Phrygia."
On this presumption we understand that Paul and Silas, after completing their visitation of "the cities" of the former tour (Acts 16:4,5; compare 15:36, in conjunction with 13:14 through 14:23), since they were forbidden to proceed westward and "speak the word in Asia," turned their faces to the region--first Phrygian, then Galatian--that stretched northward into new territory, through which they traveled toward "Mysia" and "Bithynia" (Acts 16:7). Thus Acts 16:6 fills in the space between the South Galatia covered by 16:4 and 5, and the Mysian-Bithynian border where we find the travelers in 16:7. Upon this, the ordinary construction of Luke's somewhat involved sentence, North Galatia was entered by Paul on his 2nd tour; he retraversed, more completely, "the Galatian region" at the commencement of the 3rd tour, when he found "disciples" there (Acts 18:23) whom he had gathered on the previous visit.
The Grammar of Acts 16:6
\In the interpretation of the Lukan passages proposed by Ramsay, Acts 16:16a, detached from 16b, is read as the completion of 16:1-5 (`And they went through the Phrygian .... region. They were forbidden by the Holy Ghost .... in Asia, and came over against Mysia,' etc.); and "the Phrygian and Galatian region" means the southwestern division of Provincia Galatia, a district at once Phrygian (ethnically) and Galatian (politically).
The combination of two local adjectives., under a common article, to denote the same country in different respects, if exceptional in Greek idiom (15:41 and 27:5 illustrate the usual force of this collocation), is clearly possible--the one strictly parallel geographical expression, "the Iturean and Trachonite country" in Lk 3:1, unfortunately, is also ambiguous.
But the other difficulty of grammar involved in the new rendering of Acts 16:6 is insuperable: the severance of the participle, "having been forbidden" (Grk: koluthentes), from the introductory verb, "they went through" (diel-thon), wrenches the sentence to dislocation; the aorist participle in such connection "must contain, if not something antecedent to `they went,' at least something synchronous with it, in no case a thing subsequent to it, if all the rules of grammar and all sure understanding of language are not to be given up" (Schmiedel, EB, col. 1599; endorsed in Moulton's Prolegomena to the Grammar of New Testament Greek, 134; see also Chase in The Expositor, IV, viii, 404-11, and ix, 339-42). Acts 10:29 ("I came .... when I was sent for") affords a grammatical parallel to 16:6 (`They went through .... since they were hindered').
Zahn's position is peculiar (Intro to New Testament, I, 164-202). Rejecting Ramsay's explanation of Acts 16:6, and of 18:23 (where Ramsay sees Paul a third time crossing South Galatia), and maintaining that Luke credits the apostle with successful work in North Galatia, he holds, notwithstanding, the South Galatian view of the epistle. This involves the paradox that Paul in writing to "the churches of Galatia" ignored those of North Galatia to whom the title properly belonged--an incongruence which Ramsay escapes by denying that Paul had set foot in Old Galatia.
In the 1st edition of the Einleitung Zahn had supposed North and South Galatia together included in the address; this supposition is contrary to the fact that the readers form a homogeneous body, the fruit of a single mission (4:13), and are affected simultaneously by the same disturbance (1:6; 5:7-9). Associating the letter in 2nd edition with South Galatians alone, Zahn suggests that while Paul had labored in North Galatia and found "disciples" there on his return, these were too few and scattered to form "churches"--an estimate scarcely in keeping with Luke's phrase Acts 5:7-9 "all the disciples" (18:23), and raising a distinction between "disciples" and "churches" foreign to the historian's usage (see Acts 6:2; 9:19; 14:20).
We must choose between North and South Galatia; and if churches existed among the people of the north at the time of writing, then the northerners claim this title by right of use and wont--and the epistle with it. The reversal of "Galatian and Phrygia(n)" in Acts 18:23, as compared with 16:6, implies that the apostle on the 3rd tour struck "the Galatian country" first, traveling this time directly North from Syrian Antioch, and turned westward toward Phrygia when he had reached Old Galatia; whereas his previous route had brought him westward along the highroad traversing South Galatia, until he turned northward at a point not far distant from Pisidian Antioch, to reach North Galatia through Phrygia from the southwest. See the Map of Asia Minor.
Notes of Time in the Epistle
The "3 years" of Gal 1:18 and the "14 years" of 2:1 are both seemingly counted from Paul's conversion. (a) The synchronism of the conversion with the murder of Stephen and the free action of the high priest against the Nazarenes (Acts 9:2, etc.), and of Saul's visit to Jerusalem in the 3rd year thereafter with Aretas' rule in Damascus (2 Cor 11:32,33), forbid our placing these two events further back than 36 and 38--at furthest, 35 and 37 AD (see Turner on "Chronology of the NT" in HDB, as against the earlier dating). (b) This calculation brings us to 48-49 as the year of the conference of Gal 2:1-10--a date precluding the association of that meeting with the errand to Jerusalem related in Acts 11:30 and 12:25, while it suits the identification of the former with the council of Acts 15.
Other indications converge on this as the critical epoch of Paul's apostleship. The expedition to Cyprus and South Galatia (Acts 13; 14) had revealed in Paul `signs of the apostle' which the chiefs of the Judean church now recognized (Gal 2:7-9; compare Acts 15:12), and gave him the ascendancy which he exercised at this crisis; up to the time of Acts 13:1 "Saul" was known but as an old persecutor turned preacher (Gal 1:23), one of the band of "prophets and teachers" gathered round Barnabas at Antioch. The previous visit of Barnabas and Saul to Jerusalem (Acts 11; 12) had no ostensible object beyond that of famine-relief. From Acts 12 we learn that the mother church just then was suffering deadly persecution; Peter certainly was out of the way.
There was no opportunity for the negotiation described in Gal 2:1-10, and it would have been premature for Paul to raise the question of his apostleship at this stage. In all likelihood, he saw few Judean Christians then beyond "the elders," who received the Antiochene charity (Acts 11:30). Nothing transpired in connection with this remittance, important as it was from Luke's standpoint, to affect the question of Gal 1; 2; it would have been idle for Paul to refer to it.
On the other hand, no real contradiction exists between Acts 15 and Gal 2 "The two accounts admirably complete each other" (Pfleiderer; compare Cambr. Greek Test., 145, 146; Steinmann, Die Abfassungszeit d. Gal.-Briefes, section 7); in matters of complicated dispute involving personal considerations, attempts at a private understanding naturally precede the public settlement. It would be strange indeed if the same question of the circumcision of Gentilebelievers had twice within a few years been raised at Antioch, to be twice carried to Jerusalem and twice over decided there by the same parties--Barnabas and Paul, Peter and James--and with no reference made in the second discussion (that of Acts, ex hyp.) to the previous compact (Gal 2).
Granting the epistle written after the council, as both Ramsay and Zahn suppose, we infer that Paul has given his more intimate account of the crisis, about which the readers were already informed in the sense of Acts 15, with a view to bring out its essential bearing on the situation.
The encounter of Paul and Cephas at Antioch (Gal 2:11-21) is undated. The time of its occurrence bears on the date of the epistle. As hitherto, the order of narration presumably follows the order of events, the "but" of Gal 2:11 appears to contrast Cephas' present attitude with his action in Jerusalem just described. Two possible opportunities present themselves for a meeting of Paul and Cephas in Antioch subsequently to the council--the time of Paul's and Barnabas' sojourn there on their return from Jerusalem (Acts 15:35,36), or the occasion of Paul's later visit, occupying "some time," between the 2nd and 3rd tours (Acts 18:22,23), when for aught we know Barnabas and Peter may both have been in the Syrian capital.
The former dating assumes that Peter yielded to the Judaizers on the morrow of the council, that "Barnabas too was carried away" while still in colleagueship with Paul and when the cause of Gentilefreedom, which he had championed, was in the flush of victory. It assumes that the legalists had no sooner been defeated than they opened a new attack on the same ground, and presented themselves as "from James" when James only the other day had repudiated their agitation (Acts 15:19,24). All this is very unlikely.
We must allow the legalists time to recover from their discomfiture and to lay new plans (see II 2, (2), (3), (4). Moreover, Luke's detailed narrative in Acts 15:30-36, which makes much of the visit of Judas and Silas, gives no hint of any coming of Peter to Antioch at that time, and leaves little room for this; he gives an impression of settled peace and satisfaction following on the Jerusalem concordat, with which the strife of Gal 2:11 ff would ill accord. Through the course of the 2nd missionary tour, so far as the Thessalonian epistles indicate, Paul's mind remained undisturbed by legalistic troubles. "The apostle had quitted Jerusalem (after his understanding with the pillars) and proceeded to his 2nd missionary journey full of satisfaction at the victory he had gained and free from anxiety for the future .... The decisive moment of the crisis necessarily falls between the Thessalonian and Galatian epistles .... A new situation suddenly presents itself to him on his return" to Antioch (A. Sabatier, The Apostle Paul, English translation, 10, 11, also 124-36).
Paul's Renewed Struggle with Legalism
The new situation arose through the vacillation of Peter; and the "certain from James" who made mischief at Antioch, were the forerunners of "troublers" who agitated the churches far and wide, appearing simultaneously in Corinth and North Galatia. The attempt to set up a separate church-table for the circumcised at Antioch was the first movement in a crafty and persistent campaign against Gentileliberties engineered from Jerusalem.
The Epistle to the Romans signalized Paul's conclusive victory in this struggle, which covered the period of the 3rd missionary tour. On his revisitation of the Galatians (1:9; 5:3 parallel Acts 18:23), fresh from the contention with Cephas and aware of the wide conspiracy on foot, Paul gave warning of the coming of "another gospel"; it had arrived, fulfilling his worst fears. Upon this view of the course of affairs (see Neander, Planting and Training of the Christian Church, III, vii; Godet's Introduction to the New Testament, Epistles of Paul, 200-201; Sabatier, as above), the mistake of Peter at Antioch was the proximate antecedent of the trouble in Galatia; hence, Gal 2:11-24 leads up to 3:1 and the main argument. Now, if the Antiochene collision befell so late as this, then the epistle is subsequent to the date of Acts 18:22,23; from which it follows, once more, that Gal belongs to the 3rd missionary tour and the Corinthians-Romans group of letters.
Source: ISBE (in the public domain)
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