The Book of Galatians
The title is based on the addressee, "the churches in Galatia" (Gal. 1:2).
II. Author and Setting
The author of the letter is Paul and "all the brothers with me"; this is based on Galatians 1:1-2:
Paul, an apostle -- sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead -- and all the brothers with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
B. Setting and Date
The province of Galatia was established 25 BC and contained the
districts of Lycaonia and Isauria, as well as part of Pisidia
and Phrygia. The cities of Iconium, Derbe, Lystra and Pisidian
Antioch, which Paul had reached on his first missionary journey,
were part of the district, and it seems likely that it is to Christians
living in these four cities that Paul is writing his letter.
James Montgomery Boice (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976, pp. 409-10) does an excellent job of summarizing the situation at the time Paul wrote his letter to the churches in Galatia:
In the decade or so surrounding the year A.D. 50, the infant church was drifting by degrees and at times almost unnoticeably toward its first great doctrinal crisis. When the gospel was being preached primarily to Jews by Jews, the development of the church progressed smoothly. But as the ambassadors of Christ pushed out into largely Gentile communities and the gospel began to take root there, questions arose regarding a Christian's relationship to the law of Moses and to Judaism as a system. Was the church to open her doors wide to all comers, regardless of their relationship to the particularized traditions of Judaism? Were her boundaries to be as wide as the human race? Or was she to be only an extension of Judaism to the Gentiles?
In more particular terms, was it necessary for a Gentile believer to observe the law of Moses in order to become a Christian? Should a Gentile be circumcised? Questions like these must have been raised with increasing force throughout the Roman Empire, wherever the church of Jesus Christ camped on Gentile soil.
Galatians is a record of the form this struggle took in one area of Asia Minor. but it is also a reflection of the way in which the issue was being debated and handled in Jerusalem and at Antioch in Syria. Acts supplements this information. Was it right for Gentile and Jewish Christians to eat together? And could they eat the same food? Was an orthodox Jew contaminated by such fellowship, as Jewish traditions declared, or was he not? for a time, debate seemed to move in a direction destructive of Christian unity and of the survival of the gospel of grace, but Paul almost singlehandedly withstood this trend and turned the tide. At Jerusalem the question was taken up formally in council, and Paul's approach was upheld (Acts 15:1-29).
The date of the letter is to some extent dependent upon the trip
to Jerusalem he might be referring to in Galatians 2. If he is
referring to the trip that resulted in the decision of the Council
of Jerusalem (Acts 15), then perhaps the letter can be dated to
a time after AD 48 or 49, which is when the council took place.
Peter visited Paul in Antioch (Gal. 2:11-14), which of necessity
would then be after this council in Jerusalem. Since Paul is also
not in prison at the time he wrote to the Galatians, he had to
have written the letter prior to AD 58, when he was arrested in
Jerusalem (Acts 21).
Boyce, referring to Burton, suggests the following for placing the letter:
1. It might have been written from Corinth, in the period described in Acts 18:1-17, either before or after he wrote 1 Thessalonians.
2. It might have been written from Antioch, in the period described in Acts 18:22.
3. It might have been written from Ephesus, in the period described in Acts 19.
4. It might have been written from Macedonia or Achaia, in the period described in Acts 20:1-3.
Boyce suggested a date around AD 52; Ephesus seems a good choice because of the length of time he stayed there (close to three years).
III. An Outline of Galatians
I. Introduction 1:1-10
II. Paul's defense of himself 1:11-2:21
III. The nature of the gospel 3:1-4:31
IV. Life in the Spirit 5:1-6:10
V. Conclusion 6:11-18
Questions on Galatians
1. When was the letter to the Galatians written?
2. Write a commentary on Galatians 3:1-5
3. What does Paul say about boasting?
4. What biographical information does Paul relate in his letter to the Galatians?
5. How is righteousness obtained? How is it not obtained?
6. What is the fruit of the spirit?
7. What sums up the law?
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