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Epistle To the Galatians
|| 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 (
Paul’s Independent Apostleship
3. The Doctrinal Polemic (
(2) Main Argument
(3) Appeal and Warning
4. The Ethical Application (
Law of the Spirit of Life
5. The Epilogue (
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
(3) The Grammar of
(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 AD. Some plausibly argue that it was the earliest, others place it among the later, of the. 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 ofhistory. Only (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 AD), 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 AD);, 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, 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 Ga 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 (
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 (
(1) A thorough-paced Judaist and persecutor (
(2) Three years later he "made acquaintance with Cephas" in Jerusalem and saw James besides, but no "other of the apostles" (
(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" (
(4) At Antioch, however, Paul and Cephas differed (
3. Doctrinal Polemic (Galatians 3:1-5:12):
The doctrinal polemic was rehearsed in the autobiography (
(2) Main Argument.
(a1) From his own experience (
(a2) Abraham, they are told, is the father of God’s people; but `the men of faith’ are Abraham’s true heirs (
(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 (
(a4) "Why then the law?" Sin required it, pending the accomplishment of "the promise." Its promulgation through intermediaries marks its inferiority (
(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’ (
The demonstration is complete;
(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
(1) Love guards Christian liberty from license; it `fulfills the whole law in a single word’ (
(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 (
(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 (
(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! (
5. The Epilogue (Galatians 6:11-18):
The autograph conclusion (
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 Ga (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 (
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 (
(b) that instead of completing the work of faith, its part in the Divine economy was subordinate (
It was a temporary provision, due to man’s sinful unripeness for the original covenant (
4. The Personal Question:
1. Idiosyncrasy of the Epistle:
2. Jewish Coloring:
The anti-legalist polemic gives a special
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
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" (
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:
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
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.
4. With Other Groups of Epistles:
The proportion of locutions peculiar to Ga 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, epichoregia) the Spirit," and "vain-glory" (kenodoxia), in Galatians-Philippians; "redeem" (exagorazo) and "inheritance" are peculiar to Ga 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" (kalopoieo) with "fainting" or "wearying" (egkakeo) in
5. General Comparison:
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, Ga 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.
IV. The Destination and Date.
1. 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" (to proteron) of
Now the apostle revisited the South Galatian churches in starting on the 2nd missionary tour (
Per contra, the earlier date, if proved independently, carries with it the South Galatian, the later date the North Galatian theory. The subscription of theof 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.
2. Internal Evidence:
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.
3. External Data:
(1) Galatia and the Galatians.
The double sense of these terms obtaining in current use has been shown in the article on GALATIA; Steinmann sets out the evidence at large in his essay on Der Leserkreis des Galaterbriefes, 61-76 (1908); see also A. L. Williams’ Introduction to Galatians in Cambr. Greek Test. (1910). 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. (On their history see the previous article) 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
(2) Prima Facie Sense of
(3) The Grammar of
In the interpretation of the Lukan passages proposed by Ramsay,
Zahn’s position is peculiar (Intro to New Testament, I, 164-202). Rejecting Ramsay’s explanation of
(4) Notes of Time in the Epistle.
The "3 years" of
(a) The synchronism of the conversion with the murder of Stephen and the free action of the high priest against the Nazarenes (
(c) The encounter of Paul and Cephas at Antioch (
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 (
(5) 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
(6) Ephesus or Corinth?
(7) Paul’s First Coming to Galatia.
The deification of Barnabas and Paul by the Lycaonians (
Paul’s mishandling at Lystra (
(8) Barnabas and the Galatians.
(9) The Two Antiochs.
The arguments drawn from local difference in legal usage--in the matters of adoption, testament, etc.--in favor of the South Galatian destination (see Schmiedel’s examination of Ramsay’s views in EB, coll. 1608-9), and from the temperament of Paul’s "Galatians" in favor of North Galatia (Lightfoot), are too precarious to build upon.
(10) Wider Bearings of the Problem.
On a broad view of the scope of Paul’s missionary work and of the relation of his letters to Acts, there is much to commend the South Galatian theory. It simplifies the situation by connecting this cardinal writing of Paul with churches of cardinal importance in Luke’s narrative. The South Galatian cities lay along the main route of the apostle’s travels, and in the mid-stream of the church’s life. The epistle, when associated with the Christian communities of this region, gains a definite setting and a firm point of attachment in New Testament history; whereas the founding of North Galatian Christianity is indicated by Luke, if at all, in the most cursory fashion, and it held an obscure place in the early church. How, it is asked, could Paul’s intimate friend have been (on the North Galatian theory) so uninterested in churches by which Paul himself set such store? And how can Paul have ignored, apart from the allusion of
After all, though less important during the 1st century than South Galatia North Galatia was not an unimportant or inaccessible region. It was traversed by the ancient "Royal Road" from the East to the Hellespont, which the apostle probably followed as far as Phrygia in the journey of
The South Galatian destination was proposed by the Danish Mynster (Einltg. in d. Brief an d. Gal, 1825; M. however included North Galatia), and adopted by the French Perrot (De Galatia Provincia Romana, 1867) and Renan (S. Paul); by the German Clemen (Chronologie d. paulin. Briefe, 1893; Die Adressaten d. Gal.-Briefes; Paulus: sein Leben u. Wirken, 1904), Hausrath (NT Zeitgeschichte, 1873, English Translation), Pfleiderer (Paulinismus, 1873, English translation; Paulinismus2, much altered; Urchristenthum, 1902), Steck (as above), Weizsacker (Das apost. Zeitalter3, 1902, English Translation); after Ramsay (see under GALATIA), by Belser (Beitrage z. Erklarung d. AG, etc.), O. Holtzmann (Zeitschrift f. KG, 1894), von Soden (Hist of Early Christian Lit., ET; he includes South with North Galatia), Weber (Die Adressaten d. Gal.-Briefes), J. Weiss (RE3, article "Kleinasien"), in Germany; by Askwith (Ep. to Gal: An Essay on Its Destination and Date), Bacon (Expos, V, vii, 123-36; x, 351-67), Bartlet (Expos, V, x, 263-80), Gifford (Expos, IV, x, 1-20), Maclean (1-vol HDB), Rendall (Expos, IV, ix, 254-64; EGT, Introduction to "Galatians"), Round (as above), Sanday (with hesitation, The Expositor, IV, vii, 491-95), Woodhouse (EB, article "Galatia"). The N. Galatian destination, held by earlier scholars up to Lightfoot and Salmon (DB2, an illuminating discussion), is reasserted, in view of Ramsay’s findings, by Chase (Expos, IV, viii, 401-19; ix, 331-42), Cheetham (Class. Review, 1894), Dods (HDB, article "Galatians"), Williams (Cambr. Greek Testament., 1910), in this country; by Sabatier (L’Apotre Paul2, English translation, 1891); by Gheorghiu (Adressatii epistle c. Galateni, Cernauti, 1904, praised by Steinmann); and by the German critics Blass (Acta Apost.), yon Dobschutz (Die urchr. Gemeinden, 1902, and Probleme d. apost. Zeitalters), Harnack (Apostelgeschichte, 1908, 87-90), H. Holtzmann (Handcomm. z. New Testament, "AG"), Julicher (NT Intro, English Translation), Lipsius (Handcomm. z. New Testament, "Galater") Lietzmann (doubtfully, Handbuch z. N T, III, i, "Galaterbrief"), Mommsen (ZNTW, 1901, 81-96), Schmiedel (Encyclopedia Biblica), Schurer (Jahrbuch f. prot. Theologie, XVIII, 460- 74), Sieffert (Meyer’s Kommentar), Steinmann (as above), Zockler (a full and masterly discussion: Studien u. Kritiken, 1895, 51-102). Mommsen’s verdict is thus expressed: "To apprehend `the Galatians’ of Paul otherwise than in the strict and narrower sense of the term, is unallowable. The Provinces associated with Galatia under the rule of a single legate, as e.g. Lycaonia certainly was as early as the time of Claudius, were in no way incorporated in that region; the official inscriptions simply set Galatia at the head of the combined regions. Still less could the inhabitants of Iconium and Lystra be named `Galatians’ in common speech."
Apart from the aforesaid controversy, besides the standard Commentary on Paul’s Epistles, Luther’s Ad Galatas is of unique historical interest; the interpretations of Usteri (1833), Hilgenfeld (1852), Winer (18594), Holsten (Das Evangel. d. Paulus, 1880), Philippi (1884), in German; Baljon (1889), in Dutch; and of B. Jowett, Ellicott, Beet, are specially serviceable, from different points of view; see also CGT and EB.
George G. Findlay