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Galatians Epistle to the

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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1. The Apostle, the Galatians, and the Judaizers.-The ‘churches of Galatia’ to which the Epistle is addressed (Galatians 1:2) owed their Christianity to the preaching of St. Paul (Galatians 1:8). Humanly speaking, one may say that their conversion was due to an accident. Apparently the Apostle had set out with some other goal in view, but he was led to visit Galatia, or was detained there, because of some bodily ailment (Galatians 4:13). The nature of his malady was such as made him painful to behold (Galatians 4:14), but in spite of it the Galatians welcomed him ‘as an angel from heaven,’ and listened eagerly while he proclaimed to them Christ crucified as the only way of salvation (Galatians 3:1). They accepted his glad tidings and were baptized (Galatians 3:1). They had made a good start in the Christian race (Galatians 5:7), strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit, whose presence within them was visibly manifested in works of power (Galatians 3:3-5).

Once again* [Note: The implied antithesis to τὸ πρότερον (Galatians 4:13) is not τὸ δεύτερον but τὸ νῦν. The contrast is not between the first and the second of two visits, but between the former happy state of things and the changed circumstances at the time or writing. The expression τὸ πρότερον has no bearing on the number or St. Paul’s visits to Galatia (Askwith, Galatians, p. 73f.).] St. Paul visited the Galatian churches. A little plain speaking was necessary concerning certain matters of doctrine and conduct (Galatians 1:9; Galatians 5:21; Galatians 4:16), yet on the whole it would seem that he found no grave cause for alarm.

Subsequently, however, the steadfastness of the Galatian Christians was greatly disturbed by the appearance of Judaistic opponents of St. Paul (Galatians 1:7; Galatians 3:1; Galatians 5:10), who denied both his apostolic authority and the sufficiency of the gospel which he preached. From the form in which the Apostle cast his defence of himself and of his teaching (Galatians 1-2, 3-5), it is not difficult to deduce the doctrinal position of these disturbers and the arguments by which they bewitched the Galatians (Galatians 3:1).

‘The promise of salvation,’ said they, ‘is given to the seed of Abraham alone (Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:29). Gentiles like the Galatians, who wish to be included in its scope, must first be incorporated into the family of Abraham. This means, not only that they must be circumcised, but also that they must undertake to keep the whole of the Mosaic Law (Galatians 4:10; Galatians 4:21; Galatians 5:2; Galatians 6:12). Only on these conditions, by exact performance of all the works of the Law, can a Gentile win his way to membership in the Christian Church (Galatians 2:16; Galatians 2:21). St. Paul was silent about these conditions because he wished to curry favour with you (Galatians 1:10), yet on occasion even he has declared by his action that circumcision is binding upon Gentile Christians (Galatians 5:11). But it must be remembered that he is not an apostle in the same sense as our teachers, the great apostles of the circumcision, Peter, James, and John. They received their authority directly from Jesus Christ; his was derived from them. They preach the whole truth, he withholds a part’ (Galatians 1:9 to Galatians 2:14).

The effect of this insidious reasoning was like that of leaven in a lump of dough (Galatians 5:9). St. Paul’s authority was undermined, and it seemed likely that his labour would prove to have been wasted (Galatians 4:11). With amazing rapidity (οὔτως ταχέως [Galatians 1:6]) the Galatians were turning aside from the gospel of Christ to the perverted gospel of the Judaizers (Galatians 1:7). They were minded to give up the freedom Christ had won (Galatians 5:1), and to take upon them the yoke of the Law with all its burdens (Galatians 4:10).

At the time when St. Paul first heard of their defection, he was for some reason unable to pay a visit to Galatia (Galatians 4:20). To meet the needs of the moment, therefore, he wrote a letter to the Galatians, denying the insinuations of his opponents with respect to his subordination to the apostles at Jerusalem, and pointing out the fatal consequences of the error into which the Galatians were being led-an error which, pressed to its logical conclusion, was equivalent to the statement that Christ’s death was gratuitous and unnecessary (Galatians 2:21).

To the attack on his personal authority he replies by stating the facts of his immediate Divine call to apostleship, and of his relations with the apostles of the circumcision (Galatians 1:9 to Galatians 2:14). In answer to the Judaizers’ insistence on the necessity of circumcision and the observance of the Law, he sets forth the true position of the Law in God’s scheme of redemption. It was a temporary provision, inserted parenthetically between the promise to Abraham and its fulfilment in Christ. The Law itself bears witness of its own impotence ‘to justify’ (Galatians 3:9-11), and now that its purpose is served it has become a dead letter. The gospel of Christ declares that we are ‘justified by faith and not by works of law’ (Galatians 2:16).

Finally, the Apostle meets the charge of pleasing men by exposing the motives of the Judaizers, whose main object was to escape persecution and to gain applause (Galatians 6:12-13; Galatians 4:17); with this he contrasts his own self-sacrificing love for his converts (Galatians 4:19) and the hardships he has suffered for his fearless proclamation of the truth (Galatians 5:11; Galatians 6:17).

2. Summary of the Epistle.-The Epistle falls into three main divisions.

A. Chiefly historical (Galatians 1:1 to Galatians 2:14)

Galatians 1:1-5. The customary salutation is so framed, with its insistence on the writer’s apostolic authority, as to lead up to the main subject of the Epistle.

Galatians 1:6-10. The usual thanksgiving for past good progress is displaced by an expression of astonishment at the Galatians’ sudden apostasy, a denunciation of the false teachers, and a declaration of the eternal truth of St. Paul’s gospel.

Galatians 1:11 to Galatians 2:14. This gospel was derived from no human source, but was directly revealed by Jesus Christ. Obviously it could not have been suggested by the Apostle’s early training, which was based on principles diametrically opposed to the gospel freedom (Galatians 1:11-14). Nor could he have learnt it from the earlier apostles, for he did not meet them till some time after his conversion (Galatians 1:15-17). When at length he did visit Jerusalem, he saw none of the apostles save Cephas and James, and them only for a short time. Finally, he left Jerusalem unknown even by sight to the great majority of Christians (Galatians 1:18-24).

When he visited Jerusalem again, fourteen years later, he asserted the freedom of the Gentiles from the Law by refusing to circumcise Titus.* [Note: The ‘Western Text,’ which omits οἶς οὐδέ (Galatians 2:5), implies that Titus was circumcised. This is also a possible interpretation of the generally accepted reading. On the whole question see K. Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St. Paul, p. 275 ff.] On this visit he conferred privately with the apostles of the circumcision, on terms of absolute equality. They on their side commended the work he had already done amongst Gentiles, and treated him as a fellow-apostle (Galatians 2:1-10). His independent apostolic authority was further demonstrated at Antioch, where he publicly rebuked St. Peter for virtually denying the gospel by refusing to eat with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-14). The particular argument used by St. Paul against St. Peter gradually expands into the general argument which forms the second section of the Epistle.

B. Principally doctrinal (Galatians 2:15 to Galatians 4:31)

Galatians 2:15-21. St. Peter himself and all Jewish Christians, by seeking justification through faith in Jesus Christ, tacitly admitted the impossibility of attaining salvation through works of the Law. St. Paul’s own experience had taught him that only after realizing this impossibility, which the Law itself brought home to him, had be come to know Christ as a vital power within. If salvation were attainable by obedience to the Law, then would the Cross be superfluous.

Galatians 3:1-9. The Galatians must be bewitched, after having experienced the reality of justification by faith, to turn to works of law as a more perfect way of salvation. Faith, not works of law, makes men true children of Abraham and inheritors of the blessing bestowed on him.

Galatians 3:10-18. The Law brings no blessing but a curse, to free us from which Christ died a death which the Law describes as accursed. Through faith in Him we receive the fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham-a promise which is older than the Law and cannot be annulled by it.

Galatians 3:19 to Galatians 4:11. The Law was a temporary provision to develop man’s sense of sin, and to make him feel the need of salvation. It was the mark of a state of bondage, not contrary to, but preparing for, the gospel. Under the Law we were in our spiritual minority. Now, as members of Christ, we have reached the status of full-grown men. Being one with Him, we are the true promised seed of Abraham. We have outgrown the limitations of childhood and come to the full freedom of spiritual manhood as sons and heirs of God. How then can the Galatians desire to return to the former state of bondage?

Galatians 4:12-20. The Apostle begs them to pause, appealing to their recollection of his personal intercourse with them, which he contrasts with the self-interested motives of the false teachers.

Galatians 4:21-31. The witness of the Law against itself is illustrated by an allegorical interpretation of the story of Sarah and Hagar. Hagar, the bondwoman, and her descendants stand for the old covenant and its followers, who are in bondage to the Law. These are thrust out from the promised inheritance and remain in bondage. But Isaac, the child of promise, born of a free woman, represents the true seed of Abraham, namely, Christ, and them who are united to Him by faith. These possess the inheritance, for they are free.

C. Mainly hortatory (Galatians 5:1 to Galatians 6:18)

Galatians 5:1-12. The Galatians should therefore cling to the freedom which Christ has won for them. To follow the Judaizers and accept circumcision is to break away from Christ and return to bondage under the yoke of the Law.

Galatians 5:13-26. Yet liberty must not be confused with licence. The fundamental Christian law of love declares that true freedom is freedom to serve others. The works which result from the indwelling of Christ’s Spirit cannot possibly be mistaken, nor can those of the flesh.

Galatians 6:1-10. The freedom of Christian service must be practically manifested, in forbearance and brotherly love and liberality.

Galatians 6:11-18. Peroration, summing up the main points of the Epistle, and the final benediction. The Apostle calls attention to the fact that at any rate for these closing verses he has dispensed with the services of the customary amanuensis, and written his message in his own large handwriting (Galatians 6:11). Possibly the words ἔγραψα τῇ ἐμῇ χειρί may refer to the whole Epistle.

3. Leading ideas

(a) Righteousness and justification.-St. Paul and his Judaistic opponents alike expressed their teaching in conventional Jewish terminology. Both agreed that the object of all religion is the attainment of ‘righteousness’ (δικαιοσύνη [Galatians 2:21; Galatians 3:21; Galatians 5:5]). The metaphor underlying the word ‘righteousness’ is forensic, and has its roots far back in the usage of the OT. In its most primitive sense the word ‘righteous’ (δίκαιος, Heb. צַדִּיק) is used to describe that one of two litigants whom the judge pronounces to be ‘in the right.’ ‘Righteousness’ (δικαιοσύνη, Heb. צֶרֶק or צְדָקָה) is the status of one who is in the right. The verb which denotes the action of the judge in pronouncing him ‘righteous’ (Heb. הִצְדִּיק) is represented by the Greek word δικαιοῦν and the English ‘to justify’ (Luke 7:35). Used in the religions sense, ‘righteousness’ means the status of one who is in a right relation towards God, in a state of acceptance with God. ‘To justify’ (δικαιοῦν) is to declare one to be in a state of righteousness (cf. Sanday-Headlam, Romans 5, p. 28ff.).

(b) Works and faith.-The fundamental difference between St. Paul and his opponents was not concerning the nature of righteousness, but concerning the way in which it may be attained. The Judaizers maintained that righteousness is the reward of man’s own effort. It is the fruit of perfect obedience to the will of God. The Law of Moses is the most complete expression of the Divine will for man. Whether for Jew or Gentile, therefore, righteousness, the condition of salvation, depends upon an exact performance of all the Mosaic ordinances. We are ‘justified by works of the law’ (Galatians 2:16; Galatians 2:21; Galatians 5:4).

St. Paul exposes the fundamental defect of this, position. The doctrine of ‘justification by works takes no account of the inborn weakness of human nature. If righteousness be attainable by perfect obedience to the Law, then the Incarnation was unnecessary. Christ’s death was superfluous and meaningless (Galatians 2:21), for men can save themselves. But experience shows that human nature is so constituted as to be incapable of perfect obedience. The search for justification by works has been tried and has failed. Those who sought most eagerly have been most acutely conscious of their failure (Galatians 2:15-19). The Law could not help them. All it could do was to make clear the Divine commands, and pronounce sentence on such as failed to keep them (Galatians 3:13). From its sentence no man escapes. The actual result of the giving of the Law was to teach man by bitter experience that ‘by works of the law shall no flesh be justified’ (Galatians 2:16).

But that righteousness which man cannot win by his own individual efforts he can now receive as a free gift won for him by Christ (Galatians 1:3; Galatians 3:13-14). On man’s side the one condition of justification is ‘faith.’ Faith is much more than mere intellectual belief. It is an entire surrender of the whole self to Christ, the conscious act of entering into vital union with Him. This union is no mere metaphor, but a living personal reality. At baptism the believer ‘puts on Christ’ (Galatians 3:27). Thenceforward he is ‘in Christ,’ ‘Christ is formed in him’ (Galatians 4:19), until he can say, ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Galatians 2:19-20). Thus ‘they that are of faith’ (Galatians 3:9) are justified, not, as by a legal fiction, by the imputation to them of a righteousness which is not really their own, but because, as members of Christ, they have become living parts of that perfect human nature which alone is completely righteous, i.e. in complete union with God. Christ’s righteousness is theirs because they are one with Him (Galatians 3:28).

But there can be no justification without the faith which is absolute self-surrender. Christ must be everything or nothing. If men persist in relying on their own unaided power to obtain righteousness by works, they cut themselves off from Christ and have no share in the righteousness which human nature has achieved in Him (Galatians 5:2).

(c) The Law and the promise.-God made a promise to Abraham, that in him and in his seed all nations should be blessed (Galatians 3:9). That promise is fulfilled in Christ. He is the true seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:17; Galatians 3:29), and the blessing received by the human race is the gift of the Spirit (Galatians 3:14), which is the evidence of man’s justification. But, when the promise was given, no mention was made of works or law. The Scripture speaks only of the ‘faith’ of Abraham (Galatians 3:6). The promise given to Abraham was of the nature of a covenant signed and sealed. The Law, therefore, which came more than 400 years later, cannot annul it or add to it a new clause insisting on the necessity of works (Galatians 3:15; Galatians 3:17). The promise came first; the Law came later. The promise is absolute, the Law conditional. The promise was spoken directly by God; the Law was issued through mediators, human and angelic (Galatians 3:14). These facts prove that the Law is subordinate and inferior to the promise, though it would be impious to imagine a contradiction between the two, since one God gave both (Galatians 3:21). The Law had a real purpose to serve. By its exact definition of transgressions and the consequent deepening of man’s sense of sin and helplessness (Galatians 3:19), it prepared the way for his acceptance of the fulfilment of the promise, the offer of justification by faith in Christ. But now that the promise is fulfilled the Law is no longer necessary (Galatians 3:23; Galatians 3:25).

(d) Christology.-The Divinity of Christ is taken for granted (Galatians 4:4). The reality of His human nature is indicated by references to His birth of a woman (Galatians 4:4), His nationality (Galatians 3:16), His Crucifixion (Galatians 3:1), and His Resurrection (Galatians 1:1). That He is man not individually but inclusively (i.e. not ‘a man’ but ‘man’), is shown by the whole argument of the Epistle, which rests on the conviction that ‘by faith’ all men may share the power of His perfect human nature (Galatians 2:19-20; Galatians 4:19).

His redemptive work centres in His death. He ‘gave himself for our sins,’ thereby ‘delivering us from the present age with all its evils’ (Galatians 1:4). He ‘redeemed’ us from the curse pronounced by the Law, by Himself ‘becoming a curse for us’ (Galatians 3:13-14; Galatians 4:4), i.e. by dying a death which the Law describes as accursed (Deuteronomy 21:23).* [Note: Deuteronomy 21:23 means not that ‘a curse rests on him who is impaled,’ but that ‘his unburied corpse is an insult to the God of the land which by its presence it defiles.’ St. Paul quotes the LXX, which takes wrongly as subjective genitive. St. Paul means simply ‘Christ died a death in connexion with the outward circumstances of which the Law mentions a curse.’]

(e) The Holy Spirit.-The indwelling of the Holy spirit is the evidence of our adoption into the family of God (Galatians 4:5-6). His presence is manifested in the inward sense of sonship (Galatians 4:6), and outwardly in works of power (Galatians 3:5) and in the manifold Christian graces (Galatians 5:22 f.). He is personally distinct from the Father and the Son, yet the three act as one. ‘The Father sends the Spirit of the Son’ (Galatians 4:6).

4. Relation to other books of the NT

(a) Galatians and Acts.-The autobiographical details given by St. Paul in Acts 1:13-24;Acts 2:1-14 cover a period of which a second account is provided by the writer of Acts. The task of reconciling the two narratives is beset by many difficulties, most of which centre round St. Paul’s two visits to Jerusalem.

(1) The Epistle asserts that St. Paul’s conversion was followed by a visit to Arabia, a ‘return’ to Damascus, and then, ‘after three years,’ a visit to Jerusalem. This visit is described as being of a purely private nature. St. Paul saw none of the apostles except St. Peter and St. James, and departed to Syria and Cilicia unknown even by sight to the faithful in Judaea (Acts 1:16-23).

Acts, on the other hand, seems to imply that after his conversion St. Paul returned directly from Damascus to Jerusalem (Acts 9:23-26). The expression ὡς δὲ ἐπληροῦντο ἡμέραι ἱκαναί (Acts 9:23) suggests that the Apostle spent a considerable time at Damascus, but nothing is said concerning any visit to Arabia. Moreover, the description in Acts of his visit to Jerusalem differs considerably from that in the Epistle. It speaks of a period of public preaching sufficiently widely known to give rise to Jewish plots against his life (Acts 9:28 f.). If this be true, it is difficult to believe that St. Paul’s stay in the city was limited to fifteen days (Galatians 1:18), or that he was unknown by sight to the Christians of Judaea , unless it be assumed that ‘Judaea ’ means the outlying districts exclusive of Jerusalem (cf. Zechariah 12:8; Zechariah 14:14).

Yet it is clear that both accounts refer to the same visit, for both place it between St. Paul’s return from Damascus and his departure to Cilicia (Acts 9:30, Galatians 1:21). Nor do the two narratives appear irreconcilable, when the different objects with which they were written are borne in mind. St. Paul’s purpose was to give a complete account of his movements so far as they brought him into contact with the apostles. Consequently, in connexion with his visit to Jerusalem, he omits everything except his intercourse with Cephas and James. The object of the writer of Acts was to trace the growth of the Church. He might well omit, as irrelevant to his purpose, all mention of St. Paul’s visit to Arabia, which the Apostle himself describes as a temporary absence in the course of a long stay in Damascus (ὑπέστρεψα [Galatians 1:17]).

(2) Galatians 2:1-10 describes a second occasion, when St. Paul visited Jerusalem in company with Barnabas, and interviewed the apostles of the circumcision. According to Acts, St. Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem together twice:* [Note: McGiffert (History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age, p. 172 ff.) is almost alone in arguing that the two visits of Acts 15 and Acts 11 are really one the same.] (a) during the famine of a.d. 46 (Acts 11:30; Acts 12:25); (b) at the time of the so-called Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:2) some years later. By Ramsay, Lake, Emmet, and other scholars, the visit of Galatians 2:1-10 is identified with (a); by Lightfoot, Zahn, and the majority of modern critics with (b).

In favour of the former identification it is urged:

(i.) That the natural inference from the language of the Epistle is that St. Paul’s second interview with the other apostles occurred during his second visit to Jerusalem, and Acts places his second visit in the time of the famine; (ii.) that, in three details at least, the circumstances of Galatians 2:1-10 agree with the account of Acts 11:27-30 : the journey was suggested ‘by revelation’ (Galatians 2:1, Acts 11:27); St. Paul’s companion is Barnabas (Galatians 2:1, Acts 11:30); each account mentions the relief of the poor (Galatians 2:10, Acts 11:19)

In support of the alternative view it is argued: (i.) That in Acts 15 and Galatians 2:1-10 the chief persons are the same-St. Paul and Barnabas on the one hand, St. Peter and St. James on the other; (ii.) the subject of discussion is the same, i.e. the circumcision of Gentile converts; (iii.) the result is the same, i.e. the exemption of Gentile converts from the enactments of the Law, and the recognition by St. Peter, St. James, and St. John of the apostleship of St. Paul and Barnabas (Lightfoot, Galatians 5 p. 123ff.).

The acceptance of either view involves difficulties. Against the former it has been objected:

(i.) That Acts does not mention any meeting between St. Paul and the three in connexion with the ‘famine visit,’ but rather suggests that they were absent from Jerusalem at the time. This is not a serious difficulty. The argument from silence is always precarious, and the only passage which suggests that the apostles were not in Jerusalem is the statement that, from the house of John Mark’s mother, St. Peter went εἰς ἕτερον τόπον (Acts 12:17), which need not necessarily mean that he left the city.

(ii.) That the language of Galatians 2:2 (τρέχω ἢ ἔδραμον) implies that St. Paul had already done much missionary work amongst Gentiles, whereas the events of Acts 11:27-30 took place before his first missionary journey. It is doubtful, however, if this objection has any weight, in view of the fact that at any rate fourteen years had elapsed since the Apostle first realized his special vocation to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21).

(iii.) That it is chronologically impossible. The date of the famine (and therefore of St. Paul’s visit to Jerusalem) is fixed by the independent evidence of Josephus between a.d. 46 and 48. On this theory, therefore, the date of St. Paul’s conversion would be not later than a.d. 33, even if the fourteen years of Galatians 2:1 are reckoned from that event, and as early as a.d. 30, if they are reckoned from his first visit to Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18). Most recent students of NT chronology, however (except Harnack, who accepts the date a.d. 30), place St. Paul’s conversion between a.d. 33 and 37. The difficulty is real but not fatal. All chronological schemes for the period a.d. 29-46 are merely tentative, and those who argue for the later date usually take their stand on the assumption that the visit of Galatians 2 is the same as that of Acts 15.

The alternative theory, that Galatians 2 and Acts 15 refer to the same occasion, presents special difficulties of its own.

(i.) St. Paul’s account of his dealings with the mother church is incomplete. He is guilty of concealing his second visit to Jerusalem, and thereby his personal defence against the Judaizers is invalidated. The usual answers to this objection are: (α) St. Paul omits his second visit because he did not meet the apostles on that occasion (see above), or (β) St. Paul refers only to those visits of which his adversaries had given a distorted account.

(ii.) The most obvious inference from the narrative of Galatians 2 is that St. Paul’s dispute with Cephas at Antioch (Galatians 2:11) took place after the apostolic meeting at Jerusalem* [Note: ‘Galatians 2:11-16 forms the climax, from St. Paul’s point or view, in his triumphant assertion of the free Christian rights belonging to Gentile convert’ (Moffatt, LNT, p. 101).] (Galatians 2:1-10). But such a dispute is quite incomprehensible if the relation between Jewish and Gentile converts had already been settled. It is just possible, however, that the quarrel occurred before the meeting. It may be that the absence from Galatians 2:11 of the ἕπειτα of the earlier sections (Galatians 1:18-21; Galatians 2:1) indicates that the writer is no longer following strict chronological order.

(iii.) Acts 15 states that the Council of Jerusalem dealt with and settled the very question which St. Paul discusses in the Epistle. It is incredible that the Apostle should describe a private interview with the three which occurred at the time of the Council without alluding either to the Council itself or to its decrees, although the official decision, that Gentiles need not be circumcised, would have provided a conclusive argument against the Judaizers. Again, St. Paul could not truthfully have said οὐδὲν προσανέθεντο (Galatians 2:6), after accepting the ‘Gentile food restrictions’* [Note: This difficulty would disappear if we could accept as original the ‘Western’ text of Acts 15:29, which by omitting the words καὶ πνικτῶν transforms the ‘food law’ into a ‘moral law’ (see K. Lake, op. cit. p. 48 ff.).] passed by the Council (Acts 15:29). These objections are as weighty as any argument from silence can be. They are satisfactorily met only by the assumption that the Acts’ account of the Council is wholly or partly unhistorical.

The identity of the visit of Galatians 2:1-10 must be left uncertain. If it be that of Acts 11, the narrative of Galatians is free from difficulties, but some alteration is necessary in the generally accepted chronology of the primitive Apostolic Age. If it be that of Acts 15, doubt arises as to the historicity of the Acts’ account of the Council, and the reason for St. Paul’s silence concerning his second visit to Jerusalem must be left to conjecture.

See, further, Acts of the Apostles, II. 2 (b).

(b) Galatians and Romans.-‘Almost every thought and argument in the Epistle to the Galatians may be matched from the other Epistle’ (sc. Rom. [Lightfoot, Galatians 5, p. 45]). A detailed comparison of the parallel passages shows that this agreement exists not only in general ideas, but also in unusual turns of expression and argument such as would not arise inevitably from the nature of the subject (ib.). More or less consciously the writer must have had the one Epistle in mind when he wrote the other, and there can be no doubt as to which is the earlier† [Note: The only modern scholar of repute who places Romans before Galatians is C. Clemen (Chronol. der paulin. Briefe, Halle, 1893).] of the two. ‘The Epistle to the Galatians stands in relation to the Roman letter, as the rough model to the finished statue’ (ib. p. 49). Yet it cannot be argued from the close connexion between the two Epistles that they must have been written about the same time. Even after the lapse of several years, it would be quite natural for a writer returning to an old topic to slip into the old arguments and the old expressions.

(c) Galatians and St. James.-The subject of ‘faith and works’ is treated in the Epistle of St. James (James 2:14-26). The same OT illustration (Genesis 15:6) is used as in Gal., but the conclusion-‘faith is vain apart from works’ (James 2:20)-seems to be a direct contradiction of St. Paul’s teaching. Yet the contradiction is only apparent, for the two writers use the terms ‘faith’ and ‘works’ in totally different senses. To St. James ‘faith’ means intellectual assent to a proposition (James 2:19), ‘works’ are the manifold Christian virtues. To St. Paul ‘works’ are acts of obedience to the Law considered as the ground of salvation, ‘faith’ is a personal relation to Christ. The statement that ‘faith is made complete by works’ (James 2:22) is almost exactly equivalent to the assertion, ‘by the hearing of faith ye received the Spirit … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,’ etc. (Galatians 3:2; Galatians 5:22).

5. The locality of the Galatian churches.-The question of the identity of the Galatian Christians is the centre of a fierce controversy. The point at issue is the meaning of ‘Galatia’ in 1:2 (1 Corinthians 16:1). Two rival theories hold the field:

(1) The North Galatian theory-i.e. that ‘Galatia’ means the old kingdom of Galatia, the region inhabited by the descendants of the Gauls who settled in Asia Minor in the 3rd cent. b.c. (see Lightfoot, Salmon, Chase, Jülicher, Schmiedel, etc.).

(2) The South Galatian theory-i.e. that ‘Galatia’ signifies the larger Roman province of that name, which included, together with Galatia proper, those portions of the old kingdoms of Phrygia and Lycaonia in which lay Antioch, Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium. The Epistle to the Galatians was addressed to the Christian communities of these cities (see Ramsay, Zahn, Rendall, Bartlet, Bacon, Askwith, Lake, etc.).

In itself either meaning of ‘Galatia’ is admissible. Which one is intended by St. Paul must be decided by the internal evidence of the Epistle itself, and the information supplied by the account given in Acts of St. Paul’s travels.

(a) Evidence of Acts.-The Apostle undoubtedly visited the cities of S. Galatia more than once (Acts 13, 14, 16). Have we any grounds for supposing that he ever visited Galatia proper? This is the first question to be faced. The only evidence for such a visit is derived from two phrases of doubtful meaning, which occur in the narrative of the second and third missionary journeys (Acts 16:6; Acts 18:23).

(a) The meaning of τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν (Acts 16:6).-The crucial point is the exact significance of Acts 16:6. The preceding verses tell how the Apostle passed through Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:41) to Derbe and Lystra (Acts 16:1). Thence, it seems to be implied, he went on to Iconium (Acts 16:2 ff.). His next undisputed stopping-place was somewhere on the borders of Bithynia ‘over against Mysia.’ The route by which he travelled thither is concealed in the words, διῆλθον δὲ τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν, κωλυθέντες ὑπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος λαλῆσαι τὸν λόγον ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ. What is the district described as τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν?

(i.) It is argued that the participle κωλυθέντες must be retrospective. The missionaries went through τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν because they had received the prohibition against preaching in Asia, and consequently after they had received it. But such a prohibition was not likely to be given before they had actually entered Asia, or were on the point of doing so. It follows, therefore, that the journey through τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν began only when the cities of S. Galatia were left behind. Since, then, the ‘Galatic region’ is distinguished from S. Galatia, it can only be Galatia proper. Φρυγίαν must be a noun (cf. Acts 2:10; Acts 18:23), and the whole phrase τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν must mean ‘Phrygia (Asiana) and (some North) Galatic region.’ The strength of this explanation is that it needs no serious straining of grammar or syntax. Its weakness is firstly that it involves an in consistency: διέρχεσθαι in Acts seems to have the special sense of ‘making a preaching journey,’ and Phrygia Asiana, where ex hypothesi such a journey was made, lay is the region where preaching was forbidden; secondly, it gives no explanation of the absence of the article before Γαλατικὴν χώραν, nor any real reason for the use of Γαλατικὴν χώραν instead of Γαλατίαν.

(ii.) The alternative explanation rests on the conviction that the single article in the phrase τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν proves conclusively that one single district is in view. τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν means that region which is both Phrygian and Galatian, ‘the Phrygo-Galatic region.’ The only district which really answers to this description is that part of the old kingdom of Phrygia which was included in the Roman province of Galatia, i.e. the country which extended westward from Iconium to Antioch and beyond, south of the Sultan Dagh.

That St. Paul had passed through the whole of S. Galatia before he was forbidden to preach in Asia is a mere assumption. At Iconium two roads lay before him-one to the north, leading via Laodicea into Phrygia Asiana, the other to the west, leading to Phrygia Galatica. It is permissible to suppose that Iconium was the point at which he became conscious of the Divine command not to preach in Asia, and that, because of it, he chose the western rather than the northern road. Sooner or later he was bound to enter Asia; but, by taking the western road, he was enabled to travel as long as possible through a legion where missionary work was allowed.* [Note: The contention that κωλυθέντες may be predicative, and therefore that the prohibition may have been given at the close of the journey through τήν Φρυγίαν καί Γαλατικὴν χώραν (Ask-with, p. 35 ff.), cannot be regarded as proved.]

The chief objections to this interpretation of the phrase are: (a) in the NT Φρυγίαν is elsewhere used only as a noun (Acts 2:10; Acts 18:23); (b) it is straining language to give καί the force of ‘or’: καί suggests two districts, not one (cf. τὴν Μακεδονίαν καὶ Ἀχαῖαν [Acts 19:21 and Acts 27:5]).

(β) The meaning of τὴν Γαλατικὴν χώραν καὶ Φρυγίαν (Acts 18:23).-Of this phrase, which indicates the route by which St. Paul started on his third journey, only one translation is possible, i.e. ‘the Galatic region and Phrygia.’ The exact meaning attached to the expression will depend on the interpretation given to the words of Acts 16:6. It can be adapted to either of the alternatives.

(i.) On thy first hypothesis, τὴν Γαλατικὴν χώραν will mean ‘Galatia proper’ as in Acts 16:6, and Phrygia will be ‘Phrygia Asiana.’

(ii.) On the second, τὴν Γαλατικὴν χώραν signifies, that part of the province of Galatia in which were Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium (Lycaonia Galatica). ‘Phrygia’ means either ‘Phrygia Galatica’ (i.e. the district described in Acts 16:6 as τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν) or ‘Phrygia Galatica and Phrygia Asiana,’ for the Apostle would have to pass through both regions in order to reach Ephesus by way of τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη (Acts 19:1). The absence of any further definition of Phrygia in Acts 18:23 is naturally explained by the fact that on this occasion preaching in Asia was not forbidden.

The impartial critic must admit that the evidence of these two passages is not sufficient to prove conclusively whether St. Paul ever visited N. Galatia or not. In favour of the N. Galatian interpretation, it must be granted that it represents the most straightforward and obvious reading of the verses, and that it gives a uniform meaning to the phrases τὴν Γαλατικὴν χώραν and Φρυγίαν. Yet it fails to explain some things-e.g. why the writer of Acts should say τὴν Γαλατικὴν χώραν where Γαλατίαν would be sufficient, and why he should state in the same verse that (a) preaching in Asia was forbidden, (b) therefore the Apostle preached in Asia. Again, the Acts usually tells its story at greater length when the gospel is being taken into a new district for the first time, but passes over as briefly as possible second visits to places already evangelized. The extreme brevity of the reference to τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν (Acts 16:6) suggests that it is not new ground to the missionaries.

The S. Galatian interpretation avoids these special difficulties, but only at the cost of some forcing of interpretation and straining of grammar. The great stumbling-block to its acceptance is the fact that when Acts is actually speaking of the S. Galatian cities, it does not describe them politically as ‘Galatian,’ but ethnographically-‘Antioch in Pisidia’ (Acts 13:14), ‘Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia’ (Acts 14:6). The contribution of Acts towards the discovery of the destination of the Galatian Epistle is simply this. St. Paul certainly visited the cities of S. Galatia; he may or may not have visited N. Galatia.

(b) Evidence of the Epistle itself.-This evidence is slight, and is claimed by both sides.

(α) For the N. Galatian theory it is claimed that:

(i.) St. Paul addresses his readers as Γαλάται (Galatians 3:1). This term applies only to the people of N. Galatia. The inhabitants of Antioch, Derbe, and Lystra were Phrygians and Lycaonians. But it is difficult to see what other general term could be used to include the inhabitants of all these cities. It was true politically if not ethnographically.

(ii.) Assuming that Galatians 2:1-10 refers to the time of the Council, we should expect, on the S. Galatian theory, that some reference to the evangelizing of Antioch, Derbe, and Lystra would follow Galatians 1:21. It would also be natural to look for some mention in Acts 13, 14 of the Apostle’s illness (Galatians 4:13).

(β) For the S. Galatian theory it is urged that:

(i.) The circumstances of the conversion of the Galatians (Galatians 4:12-13) correspond closely to the account of the evangelizing of S. Galatia given by Acts 13:14-52; Acts 14:1-22. The arguments of St. Paul’s sermon at Antioch in Pisidia reappear in Galatians (Ramsay, Gal., pp. 399-401).

(ii.) The repeated mention of Barnabas (2:1, 9, 13) implies that he was personally known to the readers. but Barnabas was no longer with St. Paul on his second journey.

(iii.) The reference to the circumcision of Timothy, supposed to lie behind Galatians 5:11, is more naturally understood if St. Paul was writing to Timothy’s native place.

None of these arguments taken singly or combined are strong enough to bear the weight of either theory.* [Note: Arguments which have been used, but which are now abandoned, are: (a) that the fickle temperament of the Galatians of the Epistle points to the N. Galatia, who were partly or Celtic descent (Lightfoot); (b) that N. Galatia was not likely to be visited by a sick man (Galatians 4:13),

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Galatians Epistle to the'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​g/galatians-epistle-to-the.html. 1906-1918.
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