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Epistle to Galatians

From Academic Kids

Template:Books of the New Testament The Epistle to Galatians is a book of the New Testament. It is one of the Pauline epistles, comprising the letters from Paul to the Christian congregations of the East as well as additional pseudepigraphical letters falsely attributed to Paul.

The churches of Galatia were founded by Paul himself (Acts 16:6; Gal. 1:8; 4:13, 19). They seem to have been composed mainly of converts from paganism (4:8), but partly also of Jewish Christians, who, to judge from this text, apparently expected to incorporate the rites of Judaism with Christianity, as James the Just and his followers in Jerusalem and Syria were doing; by their active zeal they had succeeded in inducing the majority of the churches to adopt their views (1:6; 3:1). This epistle was written for the purpose of counteracting what modern Christians often term this "Judaizing tendency", and of recalling the Galatians to the teachings of Paul, and at the same time also of vindicating Paul's claim to be a divinely commissioned apostle.

Contents

Date and origin

As with all the texts of Early Christianity, there are two ways of approaching this epistle, a traditional approach and a text-critical approach.

The traditional reading

Among traditional readers of Galatians, there are two main theories about when Galatians was written, and to whom. The North Galatian view holds that the epistle was written very soon after Paul's second visit to Galatia (Acts 18:23). The visit to Jerusalem, mentioned in Gal. 2:1-10, seems identical with that of Acts 15, and it is spoken of as a thing of the past, and consequently the epistle seems to have been written subsequently to the Council of Jerusalem. The similarity between this epistle and that to the Romans has led to the conclusion that they were both written at the same time, namely, in the winter of AD 57-8, during Paul's stay in Corinth (Acts 20:2, 3). This to the Galatians is written on the urgency of the occasion, tidings having reached him of the state of matters; and that to the Romans in a more deliberate and systematic way, in exposition of the same great doctrines of the gospel.

The South Galatian view holds that Paul wrote Galatians before or shortly after the First Jerusalem Council, probably on his way to it, and that it was written to churches he had presumably planted during either his time in Tarsus (he would have traveled a short distance, since Tarsus is in Cilicia) after his first visit to Jerusalem as a Christian (Acts 9:30), or during his first missionary journey, when he traveled throughout southern Galatia.

The critical view

Since the mid 19th century, some of those who apply the common standards of textual criticism, which is called the "Higher Criticism" in Christian contexts, have presented evidence drawn from the text itself and its historical context, to assert that the Pauline Epistle to Galatians is a 2nd-century work. The developed state of the church communities that are taken for granted and the developed nature of theological thought are two major aspects that critical readers address, but the first reservations were made by Baur and members of the Tübingen School, who detected that Galatians is one of the "four Pauline letters" that were not mentioned by any Christian writer until the middle of the second century, and then only by a few writers, but concluded that Paul was was so extyraordinarily profound that his writings in these cases were too advanced to be accepted without misgivings by his contemporaries (Eysinga 1912). R. Steck, of Berne, writing on the Epistle to the Galatians (1888) demonstrated that the question of the authenticity of the Epistles could be assessed entirely separately from that of the symbolical interpretation of the Gospel history.

Contents

This epistle addresses the question, was the Jewish law binding on Christians? The epistle is designed to prove against the Jews that men are justified by faith without the works of the law of Moses. After an introductory address (Gal. 1:1-10) the apostle discusses the subjects which had occasioned the epistle. (1) He defends his apostolic authority (1:11-19; 2:1-14); (2) shows the evil influence of the Judaizers in destroying the very essence of the gospel (3 and 4); (3) exhorts the Galatian believers to stand fast in the faith as it is in Jesus, and to abound in the fruit of the Spirit, and in a right use of their Christian freedom (5-6:1-10); (4) and then concludes with a summary of the topics discussed, and with the benediction.

The Epistle to the Galatians and that to the Romans taken together "form a complete proof that justification is not to be obtained meritoriously either by works of morality or by rites and ceremonies, though of divine appointment; but that it is a free gift, proceeding entirely from the mercy of God, to those who receive it by faith in Jesus our Lord."

In the conclusion of the epistle (6:11) Paul says, "Ye see how large a letter I have written with mine own hand." It is implied that this was different from his ordinary usage, which was simply to write the concluding salutation with his own hand, indicating that the rest of the epistle was written by another hand. Regarding this conclusion, Lightfoot, in his Commentary on the epistle, says: "At this point the apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his own hand. From the time when letters began to be forged in his name (2 Thessalonians 2:2; 3:17) it seems to have been his practice to close with a few words in his own handwriting, as a precaution against such forgeries... In the present case he writes a whole paragraph, summing up the main lessons of the epistle in terse, eager, disjointed sentences. He writes it, too, in large, bold characters (Gr. pelikois grammasin), that his hand-writing may reflect the energy and determination of his soul."

An interesting literary interpretation of this period of Christianity and the character of Paul can be found in Rudyard Kipling's short story 'The Church that was at Antioch'. A Roman soldier and follower of Mithraism discovers the faith on his death bed, after having tried to diffuse tension between the Gentile and Jewish Christians over issues of Judaism such as circumcision and the preparation of food.

External links

fr:Épître aux Galates la:Epistula ad Galatas pl:List do Galatów fi:Kirje galatalaisille sv:Galaterbrevet

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