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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

- Galatians

by A.T. Robertson




It is a pity that we are not able to visualize more clearly the time and place of writing this powerful polemic against the Judaizers who were trying to draw away from the evangelical gospel the churches of Galatia. The data are not clear as in the Thessalonian and Corinthian Epistles. There are many things that can be said, but few are decisive. One is that the Epistle was written about seventeen years after Paul's conversion, adding the three years of Galatians 1:18 and the fourteen of Galatians 2:1, though not insisting on the full number in either case. Unfortunately we do not know the precise year of his conversion. It was somewhere between A.D. 31 and 36. Another thing that is clear is that the Epistle was written after the Conference in Jerusalem over the Judaizing controversy to which Paul refers in Galatians 2:1-10 and after the subsequent visit of Peter to Antioch (Galatians 2:11-14). The natural interpretation of Acts 15:1-33 is to understand it as the historical narrative of the public meetings of which Paul gives an inside view in Galatians 2:1-10. Not all scholars agree to this view, but the weight of the argument is for it. If so, that rules out the contention of Ramsay and others that Galatians is the earliest of Paul's Epistles. It was written then after that Conference which took place about A.D. 49. It seems clear also that it was written after the Epistles to the Thessalonians (A.D. 50-51) which were sent from Corinth.

Did Paul mean by Galatia the Roman province as he usually does or does he make an ethnographic use of the term and mean the real Celts of North Galatia? Luke uses geographical terms in either sense. Certainly Paul preached in South Galatia in his first mission tour. See Acts 16:6 for the discussion about the language there as bearing on his going into North Galatia. By "the churches of Galatia" Paul can mean the whole of Galatia or either South or North Galatia. The various items mentioned, like the illness that led to his preaching (Galatians 4:13), "the first time" or "formerly" (Galatians 4:13), "so quickly" (Galatians 1:6), are not conclusive as to time or place. If Paul means only the South Galatian Churches (Pisidia, Lycaonia, Phrygia), then the Epistle, even if two visits had been made, could come some time after the second tour of Acts 16:1. The place could be Philippi, Corinth, Ephesus, Antioch. Even so room must be made for the seventeen years after his conversion plus the interval thereafter (some twenty years in all). If Paul includes North Galatia, the time would be more easily handled (the twenty years required from A.D. 31 to 36 to A.D. 51 to 57) and the place could be Ephesus, Philippi, or Corinth. Special treatises on the date of Galatians have been written by Askwith (1899), Round (1906), Steinmann (1908), Weber (1900)

Lightfoot held that the similarity of Galatians to Romans (written from Corinth spring of A.D. 56 or 57) naturally argues for the same general period and place. It is a possible hypothesis that, when Paul reached Corinth late autumn or early winter of A.D. 55 or 56 (Acts 20:1), he received alarming reports of the damage wrought by the Judaizers in Galatia. He had won his fight against them in Corinth (I and II Corinthians). So now he hurls this thunderbolt at them from Corinth and later, in a calmer mood, sends the fuller discussion to the church in Rome. This hypothesis is adopted here, but with full recognition of the fact that it is only hypothesis. The language and the topics and the treatment are the same that we find in Romans. Galatians thus fits in precisely between II Corinthians and Romans. It is a flaming torch in the Judaizing controversy. This Epistle was the battlecry of Martin Luther in the Reformation. Today it has served as a bulwark against the wild criticism that has sought to remove the Pauline Epistles from the realm of historical study. Paul is all ablaze in this Epistle with indignation as he faces the men who are undermining his work in Galatia.


(Only a few out of a vast number)

Adeney (1911), Bacon (1909), Beet (1885), Bousset (1907), Baljon (1889), Burton (1920), Ellicott (new ed. 1884), Emmet (1912), Findlay (1888), Girdlestone (1913), Hovey (1887), Lagrange (1918), Lietzmann (1910), Lightfoot (eleventh ed., 1905), Lipsius (1902), Martin Luther (1535; tr. 1575), MacGregor (1914), Mackenzie (1912), Ramsay (1900), Rendall (1903), Sieffert (Meyer Komm., 9 ed. 1899), Watkins (1914), Williams (1910), Windisch (2 aufl. 1926), Wood (1887), Zahn (2 aufl. 1907).

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