Introduction To The Epistle Of Paul To The Galatians
Paul's defense of the true Gospel in this letter provides some of the clearest statements about grace found anywhere in the Bible. Romans may be Paul's most detailed treatment of the subject (see Life for Today Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Romans), but Galatians was his strongest. Paul minced no words in condemning trust in self-righteousness. He skipped most of the customary politeness of an introduction and got right to the point with a stinging curse placed on anyone who would dare to preach a gospel other than the one the Galatians had already received (Ga 1:8-9).
Paul was very disturbed that the Galatians had been seduced (Ga 3:1) from their faith in Christ through a perversion of the Gospel (Ga 1:7). They had been told that faith in Christ alone wasn't enough for salvation; they had to keep the precepts of the Old Testament Law, specifically the rite of circumcision. He wrote to turn them back to a pure faith in Christ alone for salvation.
Paul revealed that trusting in anything other than Christ alone for salvation voids the death of Christ (Ga 2:21). He also said in Ga 5:4 that the work of Christ can be made of no effect unto those who are trusting in their own keeping of the Law in order to produce justification. They are fallen from grace.
Aside from the obvious purpose of this letter--to bring the Galatians back to a pure faith in Christ--Paul gave some personal information about himself and his beginnings in ministry that is not recorded elsewhere in Scripture (Ga 1:13-2:21).
The very first verse of this letter to the Galatians clearly states that Paul was the author. It is amazing that any scholars would doubt such an obvious point, but some do. However, those who doubt the inspiration of this first verse are few in number. The letter itself definitely declares Paul as the author.
The Recipients Of The Book Of Galantians
Galatia was the name of a region (see note 1 at Ac 16:6) in Asia Minor (biblical Asia - see note 3 at Ac 16:6). The earliest recorded inhabitants of this area were Gauls (now French). They invaded Macedonia and Greece around 280 B.C. and then migrated to this area. The Gauls were called Galatia by the Greeks, thus the name Galatia.
The chief cities of the original Galatia were Ancyra (modern-day Ankara), Pessinus, and Tavium, which are not mentioned in Scripture. Due to war, the region varied in size from time to time. Under Galatia's last king, Amyntas, Galatia's borders were extended to include parts of Phrygia (see note 15 at Ac 2:9), Pisidia (see note 1 at Ac 13:14), Lycaonia (see note 6 at Ac 14:6), and Isauria. This put the cities of Lystra (see note 4 at Ac 14:6), Derbe (see note 5 at Ac 14:6), and Iconium (see note 3 at Ac 13:51) in what became the Roman province of Galatia. Paul visited these cities on his first (circa A.D. 46-48, see note 2 at Ac 14:26), second (around A.D. 51-53 - see note 1 at Ac 18:22), and third (circa A.D. 54-58 - see note 2 at Ac 18:23) missionary journeys.
Date And Place Of Writing
There is no consensus among scholars as to when and from where this epistle was written. It is evident, from the letter itself, that the book of Galatians was written after one of Paul's visits to this area, but which visit? He went through the cities of Lystra, Derbe, and Iconium on all three of his missionary journeys.
Some scholars think that the subject matter and the detailed rebuttal to legalism correspond to that of Romans and make this one of Paul's later writings. The subscript at the end of this letter, which is only contained in some manuscripts, supports this view by saying it was written from Rome. However, Paul said in Ga 1:6, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel." This would imply that this letter was written shortly after the Galatians' conversion. Also, there is no mention of Paul's bonds as there is in other letters from Paul that we know were written from prison (Eph 6:20; Php 1:7, 13-14, 16; Col 4:3, 18; 2Ti 2:9; Phm 10, and 13).
Dake's Study Bible places the writing of Galatians at A.D. 68, while the Davis Dictionary of the Bible ascribes it to A.D. 55-58. The New International Version Study Bible presents two views that date the letter between A.D. 51 and 57.
The only thing that is certain is that this was written shortly after one of Paul's visits to the churches of Galatia (Ga 1:6).
The place from which this letter was written cannot be stated emphatically either, since Paul's location at writing was dependent on when he wrote. The subscript at the end of this letter is not included in all copies of the letter, because it is not considered Scripture.