The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Introduction to St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 13, 2017



I. Galatia and the Galatians. The original Galatians were the inhabitants of the country lying between Bithynia on the north, Pontus and Cappadocia on the east, Lycaonia on the south, and Phrygia on the west; this country was called Galatia Proper, or North Galatia. Its principal cities were Ancyra, Pessinus and Tavium.

The Galatians were sprung from Gallic or Celtic tribes that migrated east from the west and north of Europe in the third century B.C. These were called Celtae by the colonists at Marseilles, Galatae by the Greeks, and Galli by the Romans (cf. Hayes, Paul and His Epistles, p. 280). Passing over the Alps into Italy they sacked Rome in 390 B.C., crossed the Danube and invaded Macedonia and Greece in 279 B.C., and finally penetrated into Asia Minor, and settled in the mountainous districts which thenceforth bore their name. Here they held undisputed sway for nearly a century. They were divided into three tribes: the Trocmi or Trogmi in the east with Tavium as their centre and capital, the Tectosages in the central part of the country with Ancyra as their capital, and the Tolistobogii or Tolistoboii in the west around Pessinus. They were a warlike people, and so harassed their neighbors that they became the terror of all Asia Minor. After many varying successes they were finally driven back and confined to their
own country around 234 B.C. by Attalus I, King of Pergamos. At length in 189 B.C. they were attacked and conquered by the Romans under Manlius Vulso. The Romans, however, permitted them to be governed by their own princes up to about 25 B.C., when they were made a part of the Roman Province of Galatia.

Thus in the time of St. Paul the Roman Province of Galatia included Galatia Proper, a part of Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, Pontus and Paphlagonia. While Ancyra was the official capital of the Province, Antioch was a secondary and military centre, having a more important and strategic location. The cities which St. Paul visited on his first missionary journey—Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe—were all in the southern part of the Roman Province of Galatia.

The inhabitants of North Galatia or Galatia Proper were a mixed race, composed of the Celtic invaders of the third century B.C. and a large population of Phrygians, interspersed with Greeks and perhaps a few Jews, who had possessed the country before the invasion by the Celts. The people of South Galatia were Greco-Phrygians who had coalesced with large colonies of Romans and Jews.

II. The Galatians of the Epistle. From what has just been said the question is naturally asked,—to whom did St. Paul address his letter, to the people of North or to those of South Galatia? In reply we can only say that the question is so difficult, and the arguments for the two theories advanced are so weighty, that a solution of the problem, with our present available knowledge, must be regarded as impossible. Up to the early part of the nineteenth century it was very generally believed that the Epistle to the Galatians was addressed to the Christians of Galatia Proper; but since that time very able authorities have been convinced that it was written to the converts of South Galatia, whom St. Paul and Barnabas evangelized on their first missionary journey. Among the patrons of this latter, or South
Galatian Theory, are Comely, Le Camus, Lemonnyer, Zahn, Ramsay, Sanday, O. Holtzmann and many other noted authorities. The other, or North Galatian Theory, is the older and traditional view, which was held by all the Fathers and by scholars generally down to the last century. Prof. Steinmann and Fr. Lagrange have adopted this opinion, and among non-Catholics it has been embraced by such illustrious scholars as Lightfoot, Weiss, Lipsius, H. J. Holtzmann, Julicher and many more. Although in our Commentary on The Acts of the Apostles we preferred the South Galatian Theory, we have been induced by further investigation to subjoin here the leading arguments for each theory and leave the student to judge for himself.

Arguments for the South Galatian Theory:

(a) St. Luke, in the book of Acts, gives us a full account of the founding of the Churches in South Galatia, but has not a word to say about any Churches in North Galatia, unless this be implied in the single sentence of Acts 16:6. His silence on this latter point is hard to explain, if the all-important Epistle to the Galatians was addressed to the Christians of Galatia Proper.

(b) Our Epistle is dealing with one of the most momentous questions in the early Church, namely, the relations of the converted Gentiles to the Mosaic observances; and, in the South Galatian Theory, it is addressed to Churches of whose existence and importance we have ample knowledge: whereas in the other Theory we have the same great questions discussed in writing to Churches about which, aside from this Epistle, we know nothing, and whose very existence is seriously questioned.

(c) While the author of Acts calls places by their popular names, St. Paul is accustomed to designate them by their official Roman titles, as, for example, Asia, Macedonia, Achaia, and the like. Since, therefore, Roman Galatia had, for seventy-five years prior to the Apostle’s missionary labors, included the cities of Lycaonia and Pisidia, which he evangelized on his first journey, it would be only in keeping with his custom to call the Churches of these cities Galatian: it would be quite singular if he meant by this term Churches of that northern country which had formerly been independent of Rome.

(d) The Epistle (Gal 2:1, 9, 13) makes several references to Barnabas as if he were well known to its readers. Now we know from Acts 13-14 that Barnabas took an active part with St. Paul in founding the Churches of South Galatia. If St. Paul established any Churches in North Galatia at all, it was when accompanied by Silas on his second missionary journey; but Silas is not mentioned in the Epistle.

(e) In Acts 18:23 it is said that St. Paul, after spending some time in Antioch, “went through the country of Galatia and Phrygia, in order, confirming all the disciples.” If this refers to North Galatia only, the Apostle failed to visit and confirm the very important disciples of South Galatia, or else St. Luke has passed over in silence such an impressive event—suppositions that are difficult to entertain.

(f) In North Galatia the Jews were very few, if there were any at all; but we know from Acts 13:43, 14:1, and from non-Biblical writings and inscriptions that there was a considerable number of Jews in South Galatia. Furthermore, the Judaizers would more easily find their way to South than to the remoter North Galatia. The Epistle shows plainly that there were not a few Jews in the community addressed (Gal 3:27-29), and that many of them were well acquainted with Jewish modes of exposition (Gal 4:22-31).

(g) In Acts 14:10 we read that the Lycaonians said of Paul and Barnabas: “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” This is quite in harmony with Gal. 4:14: “You . . . received me as an angel of God.”

(h) In Acts 20:4, when St. Paul was setting out for Jerusalem with the collection for the faithful in the Holy City, we find with him various representatives of the different Churches that had contributed to the collection; Timothy and Gaius of Derbe are mentioned as representing South Galatia. Where are the deputies of the North Galatian Churches, if such Churches existed?

Arguments for the North Galatian Theory:

(a) If St. Luke in the book of Acts is silent about the founding of Churches in North Galatia, that proves nothing, in view of his complete silence regarding so many other notable events and experiences in St. Paul’s life. The book of Acts is also silent about the Apostle’s visit to Arabia, mentioned in this Epistle (Gal 1:17); it omits all record of the mission work in Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:21) ; it says nothing about the troubles in the Corinthian Churches which drew from the Apostle two letters to the Corinthians; it gives no account of the labors in Illyricum and Dalmatia (Rom. 15:19; 2 Tim. 4:10), nor of the establishment of the Church at Colossae to which the Apostle addressed an Epistle.

(b) It is admitted that St. Luke, in Acts, uses the popular names for Galatia and other places; but it is by no means certain that St. Paul did not do the same. For example, Dalmatia (2 Tim. 4:10) was not an official name for a province till a.d. 70; Arabia is doubtless only a geographical term in Gal. 4:25; Spain and Judea are doubtful.

(c) St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Galatians, speaks as if he were nearly, if not entirely, alone in the founding of their Churches (Gal 1:8, 9; 4:11-20). This can hardly be explained if he was writing to the South Galatians, among whom Barnabas had labored so faithfully and equally with the Apostle. If Barnabas is mentioned in this Epistle (Gal 2:1, 9, 13), this proves nothing in favor of the South Galatian Theory, for he is also mentioned in the Epistles to the Corinthians and Colossians (1 Cor. 9:6; Col. 4:10), and we know that he had nothing to do with the founding of those Churches, and was known to them only by reputation.

(d) In Gal. 4:13 St. Paul seems to say that his preaching the Gospel to the Galatians was occasioned by some infirmity or illness of body. This physical disability caused the Apostle to stay some time among them, and he made use of the opportunity to preach the Gospel to them. In spite of his illness, which apparently affected his eyes (4:14-15), the Galatians received him “as an angel of God,” and would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to him, had that been possible. All this seems essentially different from the account given in Acts 13-14 of the founding of the Churches of Southern Galatia.

(e) It is not at all certain that Timothy and Gaius, in bringing their contributions to St. Paul for the poor in Jerusalem, were representatives of South Galatia. Timothy, and perhaps also Gaius, had been with the Apostle for some time, and probably had come from Macedonia as delegates from some other Church, like that of Corinth or Philippi. Moreover, it would seem highly improbable that a collection, either from North or South Galatia, would have been sent so far around when it could have been sent much more easily and safely by direct route to Jerusalem. Again, if no delegate is mentioned as representing the North Galatian Churches, we are not to wonder, because the list given by St. Paul does not represent all his Churches. There is no one spoken of as coming from Corinth, Philippi, or Achaia.

(f) St. Luke in Acts 16:6 and Acts 18:23 is speaking of St. Paul’s visits to the country of North Galatia. In the first passage, St. Paul with Silas, on his second missionary journey, had passed through the South Galatian country visited on the first journey, and was intending to enter Asia; but, having been prevented by the Holy Ghost, they turned northward and went through την φρυγιαν και την γαλατικην χωραν (= ten Phrygian kai Galatiken choran = the Phrygian and the Galatian territory). This was the occasion of the founding of the Churches in North Galatia. On his third missionary journey the Apostle “went through in order την γαλατικην χωραν και φρυγιαν (“the Galatian territory and the Phrygian”) confirming all the disciples” (Acts 18:23). In both of these passages φρυγια (Phrygia) is doubtless a substantive, and so also is την γαλατικη (Galatia), since both are defining a common term, χωρα (territory, country, region). Moreover, την γαλατικην χωραν (the Galatian territory) is evidently a country lying eastward of γαλατικη (Galatia).

(g) As said above, the North Galatian Theory was held by all the Fathers, and by exegetes and scholars generally, down to the nineteenth century.

The arguments respectively outlined in favor of the two opposing theories are sufficient, we think, to give the student a clear idea of the controversy, and to show how insoluble, with our present knowledge, the question really is. Great authorities are aligned against each other; but it is consoling to know that the vital problems discussed in the Epistle are quite above the dispute regarding the people addressed.

III. Composition of the Galatian Church. Whether the Epistle to the Galatians was addressed to the inhabitants of North or to those of South Galatia, the question is properly asked whether its readers were Gentiles or Jews, or both; and, if both, in what proportion were each. That Gentiles were addressed is evident from Gal 5:2, 3; 6:12, 13; 4:8; 3:28-29, where St. Paul is warning the Galatians against circumcision, and reminding them of their former worship of idols, but of their present equality with the Jews and all others before God. It is not circumcision, but faith in Christ that justifies (Gal 5:2); if they be Christ’s, they belong to the true posterity of Abraham and are heirs of the
promise made to Abraham (iii. 29): this is the whole argument of the Epistle, and it shows that the majority of its readers must have been Gentile Christians. However, there were also Jews and proselytes among those addressed, as appears from Gal 2:15; 3:13, 23, 25, 28; 4:3. This is further manifest from the fact that the doctrinal argument of the Epistle is based on the authority of Scripture, and from the consequent familiarity with the Old Testament which the Apostle supposes in his readers. With the exception of the Epistle to the Romans, this letter has a greater proportion of Old Testament references than any other of St. Paul’s Epistles. While, therefore, the majority of the readers of this letter were of pagan origin, there were also a number of Jews among those addressed.

IV. The Occasion and Purpose of the Epistle. The Epistle to the Galatians was occasioned by the advent among them of Judaizers who were teaching, contrary to the doctrines taught by St. Paul, that for salvation it was necessary to be circumcised and to conform to the Mosaic observances (Gal. 3:1-4:31). St. Paul had founded the Galatian Churches himself (Gal 1:8-9), and the faithful there had received him “as an angel of God, even as Jesus Christ,” in spite of the disgusting malady from which he was suffering at the time (Gal 4:13-14); they were willing to pluck out their eyes for him (Gal 4:15). And his ministry among them had borne remarkable fruit: they had received the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:2); miracles had been worked (Gal 3:5); God had sent the Spirit of His Son into their hearts (Gal 4:6); and all had gone well with them (Gal 5:7). But after the Apostle’s second visit to these converts he learned, perhaps by letter or by special delegates sent to him, that the Judaizers were attempting much harm to them and had in part succeeded. Those false teachers had come down from Jerusalem, or Antioch, perhaps, and, pretending to have special sanction from the authorities of the Church in the Holy City, they essayed to subvert the teaching of St. Paul and to introduce
another “gospel” (Gal 1:9). Their method was to enforce their doctrine, first by undermining the authority of the Apostle. They told the Galatians that the authority and commission of the twelve was unquestionable, that they had been chosen by Christ, had lived with Christ, had been taught by Him, had received the Holy Ghost at Pentecost—all of which were facts universally known and admitted. But as to Paul, it was doubted whether he was an Apostle at all. If he was, did not his commission come from men (Gal. 1:1, 12)? Hands had been laid on him at Antioch and he had been sent out to preach (Acts 13:3), but his authorization seemed to be only human and to rest on his own testimony (Gal 2:7-9). Hence it was not strange if his teaching differed widely in many respects from that of Christ and the other Apostles.

Was not the preaching of this Paul subjected to examination at the Council of Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1-10)? Did not St. Peter openly disagree with him at Antioch (Gal. 2:11-15)? His practice was to please all men for the sake of success; he sought the favor of men, and so taught circumcision or uncircumcision as circumstances demanded (Gal. 1:10; 5:11). He disregarded the sacredness of the Mosaic Law and circumcision, although these were an external sign of God’s covenant with man and are necessary, if we wish to enjoy participation in the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom (Gal. 4:10; 5:2; 6:12). To deny this was to put in doubt the truth of the divine promises, to open the way
to unbridled vice, and consequently to imperil the whole work of Christianity.

The arguments of these Judaizers were very specious, being grounded, as it seemed, on the Old Testament and on the practices of Christ and the older Apostles. Was the gospel of Paul really the true one? was it complete? Even if salvation depended on faith in Christ, were not circumcision and the Mosaic observances necessary conditions? Had the Law an eternal, or only a transitory value, being replaced by the New Covenant of which Christ was the author and initiator? These were the questions that perplexed the Galatians and shook their faith in Paul (Gal 1:6). His preaching had fascinated them, but now their advance had been checked (Gal 5:7); they were on the point of accepting another gospel (Gal 1:6), and there was danger that they who had begun with the works of the spirit, would terminate with those of the flesh (Gal 3:3). Already they were observing “days, and months, and times, and years” (Gal 4:10); and their desire seemed to be to place themselves entirely “under the law” (Gal 4:21).

Such were the difficulties that confronted St. Paul in Galatia, and the problems which called for solution. The situation was serious, but not entirely desperate (Gal 5:10). It does not seem that the faithful had yet yielded to circumcision (Gal 5:2), nor that their entire number had been troubled. Nevertheless, such was the gravity of their condition that St. Paul was stirred with deepest anxiety and would have given much to be with them (Gal 4:20). In the absence of such a possibility he took up his pen and wrote to them this rigorous defense of his person and his doctrine, establishing: (a) the divine origin of his teaching and authority; (b) that justification is not through the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ crucified and risen again; (c) that consequently the Law had only a transitory office, the termination of which, however, by no means lets down the barriers to sin and vice, since the Christian is guided henceforth by the law of charity.

V. Time and Place of Writing. Just when and where this letter was written is not entirely certain; opinions have been greatly divided from the early centuries. Marcion, according to St. Epiphanius (Haer. xlii. 9), thought Galatians was the first of St. Paul’s Epistles. St. Chrysostom (In Rom. horn. I) believed it to have been written before Romans toward the end of the third missionary journey. Theodoret (Com in Ep. Pauli Praef.), St. Jerome (In Gal.. iv. 20; vi. 11), and others are of the opinion that it was composed at Rome during St. Paul’s first captivity there. The MSS. B K L P with some cursives, the two Syriac and the Coptic versions have the subscription “from Rome”. The belief that the Epistle was written from Rome has also been held by some recent scholars, like Koehler and Halmer, on account of the passages Gal 4:20 and Gal 6:17, where there seems to be reference to some restraint imposed upon the Apostle; and also on account of the allusion to Roman law terms in Gal 4:2 and Gal 3:20. It is next to certain, however, that, had St. Paul been a captive at Rome or elsewhere during the writing of this letter, he would have stated it very clearly and definitely, as Zahn rightly remarks (Introd. to The New Test., I. p. 140). Zahn, like Marcion, puts Galatians first of all St. Paul’s Epistles in point of time. Le Camus, Weber and The Westminster Version of Holy Scripture, among Catholics, also take this view. Cornely, Hausrath and Pfleiderer place its composition shortly after the Council of Jerusalem. Meyer, Lipsius and Holtzmann say it was written at Ephesus during the third missionary journey. Bleek and Lightfoot believe it was composed at Corinth after the three years’ sojourn at Ephesus, while Lagrange thinks it was written in the latter city about the year 54. Ramsay and Dr. Weber (Cath.) put its composition at Antioch before the Council of Jerusalem. This opinion is advanced to obviate certain apparent difficulties arising from Gal. 2 and Acts 15. The two visits to Galatia are the visit to Derbe and back, in this opinion.

Naturally the time and place of writing assigned to this Epistle depend mainly upon the theory which one adopts regarding its readers. Many understand from Gal. 2:1-10 that the letter was written after the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) ; and from Gal. 1:8-9; 4:13 it appears quite certain that it came after a second visit to the Galatian Churches. Moreover, “so soon” (ταχέως = tacheos) of Gal 1:6 is cited by some authorities to show that the composition of the Epistle was very soon after the Apostle’s second visit to the Galatians. When, therefore, was this second visit, so soon
after which the Galatians became an object of anxiety to the Apostle? For those who hold the South Galatian Theory it was the visit spoken of in Acts 16:6, during St. Paul’s second missionary journey, the first visit being recounted in Acts 13-14; and the place of writing was perhaps Troas, or more probably Corinth around 53 a.d. (Cornely, Zahn).

For those critics who hold the North Galatian Theory the first visit to the Galatians is that recorded in Acts 16:6; and the second, that mentioned in Acts 18: 23, during the third missionary journey. Because of the close resemblances of ideas and often of language between the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians and Galatians, the patrons of this latter theory believe that Galatians was written about the same time as those other letters, and therefore at Ephesus between 54 and 57 a.d., or at Corinth in 57-58.

To account for the undeniable similarity between Galatians, Corinthians and Romans—a similarity in ideas, and often also in expressions—it seems altogether natural to believe that they were composed while the Apostle was in more or less of the same frame of mind, although this period could easily, and most likely did, extend over several years. For resemblances between Galatians and Corinthians compare Gal. 1:6 with 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 6:15 with 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 3:13 with 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 6:7 with 2 Cor. 9:6. For resemblances between Galatians and Romans compare Gal. 2:16 with Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:6 with Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:19 with Rom. 6; Gal. 5:17 with Rom. 7:15-23; Gal. 4:5-7 with Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 5:14 with Rom. 13:9, etc., etc. There are at least twenty parallel passages between Galatians and
Romans. Of course the situation in the Corinthian Church was much the same as that in the Galatian, as we learn especially from Second Corinthians; there were the same attacks on the Apostle’s authority, and the same adversaries, the Judaizers. This would explain much of the likeness in thought and words between Galatians and Corinthians. But it cannot be said that the situations in Rome and Galatia were the same, and hence it would seem
that the resemblance between the Epistles to these two Churches must be accounted for chiefly by the nearness of the years in which they were written, although this period very probably extended over four or five years.

The difference between Romans and Galatians have inclined some critics to believe that there was a development in the Apostle’s doctrine, that he did not have a complete and definite idea of his Gospel until after his controversy with the Judaizers. In Galatians, they say, we have an elementary exposition of his theology, but in Romans a full and profound development of his whole system of doctrine. It is doubtless true that Romans is an elaboration of the teachings of Galatians, but this by no means argues that St. Paul only gradually became aware of the full import of his Gospel. The Epistle to the Galatians was a letter of circumstances, and the Apostle adapted his teaching to the
situation before him, replying mainly to the attacks of his enemies. In the Epistle to the Romans he unfolded the main features of his whole Gospel, so that the faithful in the Eternal City might know what he had been teaching to other Gentiles, might recognize the identity of his Gospel with that which they had received already, and might be prepared to welcome his visit. Writing to the Romans St. Paul was in a state of mind far more tranquil than when he wrote to the Galatians. This appears from the entire tone of the two letters. In the latter Epistle the polemic is ardent and personal, in the former the argument, while forceful and overpowering in its logic, is calm and peaceful; the Epistle to the Galatians is a defense of doctrines that are questioned and in danger, the Epistle to the Romans is a quiet but powerful exposition of truths already known and accepted without hesitation; to the Galatians the Apostle’s thesis is mainly negative, that justification is not from the Law and its works, while to the Romans it is positive, namely, that salvation is through faith in Christ independent of the Law.

VI. Authenticity and Canonicity. The authenticity of the Epistle to the Galatians is admitted by all antiquity. In modern times doubt was first cast upon it by an Englishman named Evanson (1792), and in the last century a number of critics, especially of the German rationalistic schools, have questioned its genuineness. But the objections of recent Rationalists are of little weight when compared with the unbroken tradition of the Church from the earliest times.

Although St. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. iii. 7, 2) is the first to quote the Epistle by name and attribute it to St. Paul, it is certain that the letter was well known and made use of by ecclesiastical writers before Irenaeus. Polycarp and Clement of Rome use passages in their writings that are found only in Galatians, or seem undoubtedly to allude to the Epistle (Compare Polycarp, Ad Philippi. vi with Gal. 6:7; ix. 2 with Gal. 2:2; iii. 2 with Gal. 4:26. Compare Clem, of Rome Ep. 1 Cor.. ii. 1 with Gal. 3:16; 1 Cor. xlix. 6 with Gal. 1:4). St. Justin Martyr (Dial, with Trypho XCV) cites the same passages of Deut. 27:26, 21:23 which St. Paul has used in Gal. 3:10, 13; and in his First Apology (c. LIII) he uses Isa. 54:1 as St. Paul does in Gal. 4:27. The Epistle to the Galatians is found in the Muratorian Canon, and in the Old Latin and Syriac versions. That it was known in the African Church is clear from Tertullian (De Praescrip. vi. 23; Adv. Mar. v. 2, 4), and from Clement of Alex. (Strom, iii. 15). Even the heretics of the second century, like Marcion and Valentine, did not think of questioning the authorship of this Epistle (Cf. Tertull. Adv. Marc. v. 2; Iren. Adv. Haer. i. 3, 5).

Since, therefore, the Epistle to the Galatians was known and recognized by the Apostolic Fathers and early ecclesiastical writers, and since it is found in the Muratorian and other Canons and in the old versions of the Bible, as well as in the best and oldest MSS. we have, there is no reason for doubting in the least its authenticity and canonicity.

These external arguments are enforced by the contents of the Epistle. As said above, there is a very marked similarity between the doctrine and style of this letter and the doctrine and style of Romans and Corinthians, which are universally regarded as having St. Paul as their author. Moreover, the teachings which this Epistle embodies and the circumstances amid which it must have been written seem to point unmistakably to the years that closely followed the discussions at Antioch about the reception of the pagans into the community of Christians, the Council of Jerusalem, where that discussion was settled, and the years that just preceded, or followed, the composition of Second Corinthians. At Antioch the question was raised and bitterly disputed whether the Gentile converts should not first be circumcised and subjected to the Mosaic observances before being admitted on an equal footing with the Jewish Christians (Acts 15:1-2). This discussion Paul and Barnabas carried to Jerusalem where it was definitely decided in favor of the Gentiles by a Council of the Church (Acts 15:2-29). The decision of the Council was promulgated at Antioch, and all seemed well for a time; but it was not very long, as we know from the Epistles to the Corinthians, before certain Judaizers of Pharisaical tendencies were moved with hatred against St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles and the champion of the Gentiles’ cause. They began to follow up his work and belittle his Apostolic authority, his character, his teachings, etc., in order that they might again insist on their own views and doctrines. It was a situation like this in Galatia that called forth the present Epistle, and to which the Epistle perfectly corresponds. It would be absurd to suppose a writer subsequent to St. Paul’s time, or other than St. Paul himself,
to be discussing in a letter questions that were entirely settled in the Apostle’s life-time, and in which he alone could be the person involved. The whole contents, therefore, of the Epistle to the Galatians correspond to the circumstances and conditions of history and doctrine which are only to be found in St. Paul’s time and in connection with the Apostle himself.

VII. The Importance of the Epistle; its Style. The Epistle to the Galatians is of great importance, as well for the doctrines which it supposes to be thoroughly understood and admitted in the early Church, as for its positive teachings. It implies that the Galatians were entirely familiar with the doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation and Divinity of Christ, the Redemption, Grace, Baptism and the like. The Apostle’s teaching on these fundamental truths seems never to have been questioned; neither do his readers ever appear to require an explanation of them. This shows that these truths were not only well understood and accepted, but also that St. Paul’s teaching regarding them was in perfect conformity with the common teaching of the other Apostles. The positive value of the letter lies in its direct teaching with respect to the fundamental truth of justification through faith in Christ, the abrogation of the Mosaic observances, the consequent liberty of the Gospel and in the biographical data which it furnishes concerning the Apostle, his preparation for the Apostolate, the source of his knowledge of Christianity, his authority, the conformity of his questioned doctrines with those of the other Apostles, and the like.

Unlike the Epistle to the Romans, which is calmly expository in the main, this letter is chiefly apologetical in form and vehement throughout. The style is distinctly Pauline. Being deeply moved by the situation he is combating and filled with righteous indignation the Apostle rushes on, like a mighty torrent, caring not for unfinished phrases, jolting omissions or grammatical mistakes, so long as he is able to give undoubted and unmistakable expression to his feelings. In numerous passages the resemblance to his other Epistles is so marked as to compel a recognition of the identity of the author; and yet the sudden changes and transitions of thought and expression, the unexpected ruptures and unevenness of language, the bursts of anger towards his enemies, often swiftly alternating with tenderest words of sympathy for those that were well disposed,—all features so characteristic of St. Paul, make it impossible that anyone could have forged this letter by imitating any other of the Apostle’s writings.

VIII. Division and Analysis. There are three general divisions in the Epistle to the Galatians: the Introduction, the Body and the Conclusion. The Body of the letter likewise falls into three parts, consisting of two chapters each.

In the Introduction or Prologue (Gal 1:1-10) the Apostle, in his own name and on behalf of those who are with him, salutes the Galatians, announcing his divine vocation, and wishing them peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 1:1-5). Next he expresses his great surprise that the Galatians are so soon seduced (Gal 1:6). Forthwith he utters his denunciation against those who have troubled and upset them (Gal 1:7-9). Finally, the Apostle declares that he speaks as he does because he wishes to please God rather than men (Gal 1:10).

The First Part of the Epistle (Gal 1:11-2:21) is apologetic, containing the Apostle’s defense of himself. To begin with, he gives his readers to understand that his Apostolate is not of human origin, declaring that he has not received his revelation from man but from Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-12). And this he proves, first from the fact that up to the day when God revealed His Son to him, he was a zealous Pharisee and a persecutor of the Christians (Gal 1:13-16); whereas, straightway upon receiving his divine call, without going up to Jerusalem or taking counsel with anyone, he retired into Arabia, returning later to Damascus (Gal 1:17). A second proof to the same effect is clear from this, that not till after three years did he see any of the other Apostles, and then only Peter and James for a brief visit in the Holy City (Gal 1:18-20), after which he went to Syria and Cicilia, being unknown to the faithful of Judea who, nevertheless, having heard of his conversion, glorified God on his account (Gal 1:21-24).

After proving the divine origin of his Gospel the Apostle goes on (Gal 2:1-21) to show that his teaching is in perfect harmony with that of the other Apostles. This also is evident from two facts, (a) After fourteen years, at the Council of Jerusalem, he explained his whole Gospel to the Apostles and the entire Church, and, in spite of certain false brethren who raised some objections to him, the Apostles that were in highest esteem, seeing that to Paul had been entrusted the Gospel to the uncircumcised, gave him the right hand of fellowship, asking only that he be mindful of his poor brethren in the faith and succor their needs (Gal 2:1-10. (b) Later on, at Antioch, when Peter, fearing to offend the Jews, failed to regulate his conduct according to the common teaching of the Church, St. Paul rebuked him for his inconsistency, and the Prince of the Apostles recognized the rightfulness and truth of the position taken by his great confrere (Gal 2:11-21).

The Second, or Dogmatic Part of the Epistle (Gal 3:1-5:12) discusses the great doctrine of justification, which, as the Apostle shows, is not from the Law, but from faith in Jesus Christ.

His teaching on this subject he proves (a) by an appeal to the experience of the Galatians themselves. Was it not through faith, rather than by the works of the Law, that they had received the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:1-5) ? (b) He invokes the authority of Scripture. Do not the Scriptures prove that justification comes by faith? It was thus that Abraham was justified, and all those who believe as he did are his children and are blessed with their faithful father (Gal 3:6-9). As for the Law, it brought not benediction, but a curse upon all those who endeavored to fulfil its works; whereas the Scriptures attest that “the just man liveth by faith,” and hence all those who will have part in the promised blessings must seek them through faith in Christ Jesus and not through the Law (Gal 3:10-14).

The promise made to Abraham was not annulled by the promulgation of the Law over four hundred years later (Gal 3:15-18). The Law was only a simple guide which was supposed to lead the Jews to Christ (Gal 3:19-24), but which thereupon was to cease (Gal 3:25-29). As long as the Jews were under the Law, they were as children under a tutor, differing nothing from servants; but when Christ came, they were delivered from the slavery of their state and made the adopted sons of God, and, as such, heirs also through God (Gal 4:1-7).

Reminding the Galatians of their privileged condition the Apostle now exhorts them to prize their freedom, and not to be deceived by false teachers into forfeiting all their blessings (Gal 4:8-20). Then by an allegory, based on the two sons of Abraham, he illustrates, on the one hand, the inutility of the Law, and on the other, the glorious state of the children of faith (Gal 4:21-30). Certain practical conditions for the Galatians are then deduced from the principles laid down (Gal 4:31-v. 12). (a) The Apostle warns his readers that if they submit to circumcision and put themselves again under the Law, they thereby divest themselves of Christ and His grace and are bound to the observance of the
whole Law (Gal 5:1-5). In Christ nothing avails except faith that works by charity (Gal 5:6). (b) A severe judgment is reserved for those seducers who have upset and troubled the otherwise happy Galatians (Gal 5:7-12).

The Third or Moral Part of the Epistle (Gal 5:13-6:10) contains practical recommendations and counsels for the Christian life. In Christianity the Galatians will find complete satisfaction for all their generous religious instincts which are now inclining them towards the observance of the Law. (a) Let those who have been freed from the tyranny of the Law not abuse their liberty, but let them show charity, one towards another (Gal 5:13-15). They should live according to the spirit, avoiding the lusts and works of the flesh (Gal 5:16-25). (b) Let vainglory and pride be
shunned (Gal 5:26-6:6), and let charity be practiced toward all men, and especially toward those who are of the household of the faith (Gal 6:7-10).

The Conclusion (Gal 6:11-18) of this letter is a recapitulation and a summing up of the polemical and doctrinal parts before discussed (Gal 6:11-15), followed by a declaration of peace to the children of faith, a prayer, and a blessing (Gal 6:16-18).


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