Galatians (!)

By Charles H. Welch


The questions "Where is Galatia?", "What cities did the Apostle visit?", "When was the epistle to the Galatians written?" have been considered in the article entitled CHRONOLOGY, Acts and Epistles, in Part One, and evidence has been provided to show that this epistle was the first written by the apostle Paul. The opening words sound like the challenge of one entering the arena.

"Paul, an apostle
NOT of men,
  NEITHER by man,
  BUT by Jesus Christ."

The relationship of Galatians with the remaining epistles of Paul, written during the Acts, will be seen set out in the article mentioned above.

Assuming that the reader is acquainted with these introductory studies, we now turn our attention to the epistle itself.

Galatians as a whole
A 1-2:14
The Apostle's authority.
"Though an angel from heaven"
     a Jerusalem              Bondage
    FAITH v. WORKS       b Circumcision not compelled
           c Persecution for the gospel
       B 2:15-4:12             d I am crucified with Christ
                 e Not I but Christ
           CROSS v. LAW                   f Redeemed from curse
                      g Covenant and Adoption
A 4:13-6:10
The Apostle's Infirmity
"As an angel of God"
     a Jerusalem              Free
    SPIRIT v. FLESH       b Circumcision availeth nothing
           c Persecution for the cross
       B 6:11-16             d I am crucified to the world
                 e Not circumcision: but new creature
           CROSS v. WORLD                    f Peace
                       g Israel of God


The Apostle's marks in his body
   GRACE and SPIRIT Benediction and sign manual
(see 2 Thess. 3:17)

The great controversy that shook the Galatian Church and which called forth this vehement epistle revolved around the question of justification, whether it was by faith, or works, or a blend of both.

We might have thought that this mighty theme would meet us at the very forefront of the epistle, but it is not so. One whole chapter and a part of the second is occupied in establishing the absolute independence and authority of the apostleship of Paul, so important to all subsequent teaching, and so important to a correct appreciation of dispensational truth this Apostleship of Paul really is. The first chapter therefore can be set out as follows:

A 1:1-5 Paul's APOSTLESHIP Not from men
Neither through man
But through Jesus Christ
    B 1:6-10                      "Ye received"
A 1:11,12 Paul's GOSPEL Not according to man
Neither from man nor teaching
But by revelation
    B 1:13,14                      "Ye heard"
A 1:15-17 Paul's AUTHORITY Not flesh and blood
Neither Apostles
But unto Arabia
    B 1:18-24                      "They had heard".

The importance of the due recognition of Paul's apostleship is considered in the article entitled APOSTLE, which should be read as an extension of this chapter of Galatians. This recognition is given by those "who seemed to be pillars" at Jerusalem (Gal. 2:9), and the theme of Galatians 2:1-14 revolves around the word "compel" as it refers to the circumcision of the Gentile believer (Gal. 2:13,14), and "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:5,14) for the sake of which Paul gave place by subjection "not for an hour" (Gal. 2:5), glorious hour indeed in the history of the fight of faith. For the structure of Galatians 2:1-14 see the article entitled GOSPEL. The remainder of the epistle is devoted to the subject of "adoption" illustrated as it is by the nature of the Galatian will (Gal. 2:15-4:12). This great section is in correspondence with Galatians 6:11-16, the former showing the relationship of the CROSS to the LAW, the latter the relationship of the CROSS to the WORLD.

Galatians 2:15-4:12

A 2:15-20 a Phusis "By nature" Jews
     b Build again palin
        c Personal "I am dead to the law"
   B 2:21-3:7          d Atheteo Frustrate
              e Ei gar For if righteousness came by law
      C 3:8-12                f THE SCRIPTURE preached beforehand
                    g Justification by faith ek pisteos
                       h Hupo under a curse
         D 3:13-20                         i Exagorazo Redeemed Heirs
                             J Covenant prior to law
   B 3:15-21          d Atheteo Disannul.
              e Ei gar For if law could give life
      C 3:22,23                f The SCRIPTURE concluded
                    g Promise by faith ek pisteos
                       h Hupo Under sin and law
         D 3:24-4:7                            J School master before Christ
                          i Exagorazo Redeemed Adoption
A 4:8-12 a Phusis "By nature" gods
     b Turn again palin
        c Personal "Be as I am".

The Galatian will is explained in the article on ADOPTION, and the word COVENANT is also considered in the article that bears that name. Two features more must suffice for this brief analysis of a mighty epistle. Galatians 5:10-12 and 6:1,2 place over against one another "the troubler" who shall "bear his judgment, whoever he be", and "the restorer" who is enjoined to "bear one another's burden". The law of love is put in correspondence with the law of Christ (Gal. 5:13,14,6:2,3). The question of the authorship of the epistles is one that is very near the basis of the truth for the present time, and as one feature, namely the matter of Paul's signature or sign-manual and handwriting, comes before us at the close of Galatians, we will devote a larger space to it than may at first seem proportionate, as it will provide an answer to the question that arises with the study of every succeeding epistle attributed to Paul, and particularly the authorship of the epistle to the Hebrews. A full discussion of Hebrews and its authorship necessarily involves many more items and proofs than the one dealt with here, and these will he found in the article that bears the name of that epistle, HEBREWS.

We come therefore to the closing section of Galatians, namely 6:11-16, which opens with the words:

"Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand" (Gal. 6:11) which the R.V. retranslates:

"See how with large letters I have written (margin 'or write') unto you with mine own hand."

It is remarkable what differences of opinion have been expressed by commentators concerning the meaning of these words, but they may be summarized under the following headings:

  1. That Paul wrote the whole of the epistle to the Galatians with his own hand, and calls this epistle "a large letter".

  2. That the words "how large a letter" refer to the length of the epistle, being equivalent to "how long an epistle".

  3. That Paul wrote the whole of the epistle to the Galatians with his own hand, and calls the Galatians' attention to "the large letters" he used, referring to the size of the characters, and not to the length of the epistle.

  4. That Paul dictated, as was his usual custom, the bulk of the epistle, but at verse 11 he took the pen from the hand of the amanuensis and wrote the postscript himself.

  5. That the postscript alone was written "with large letters".

  6. That the large letters were a sign of the Apostle's earnestness, the largeness of the letter used, being equivalent to the use of CAPITALS or Italics on the printed page.

  7. That the large letters were not adopted by the Apostle for the sake of emphasis, but that owing to his defective ,eyesight (already alluded to, to arouse the latent affection of the Galatians) he could not write other than with "large letters".

  8. Finally, Deissmann's opinion that to soften the angry tone of same previous portion of the epistle, Paul concludes with a little joke, so that "his dear silly children" should understand that with the large letters "The Galatians knew that the last traces of the seriousness of the punishing schoolmaster had vanished from his features"

(Bibelstudein, p. 263).

We need spend no time on Deissmann's fancy, but must give attention to the alternatives set out under the: first seven headings. This we will not do by taking them seriatum, but by examining the actual wording of the passage.

First, the structure of the sentence, and the literal meaning of the words used.

Idete pelikois humin grammasin egrapsa te eme cheiri.

Idete "Ye see". The word is emphatic, and not to be translated "ye see" but rather "see ye", "look ye", drawing attention to a feature of unusual interest. In Galatians 5:2 the Apostle uses ide "behold", as though he said "mark this well".

Pelikois. Ellicott says that the word "strictly denotes geometrical magnitude "how large", in contradistinction to arithmetical magnitude expressed by posos "how many". Pelikos is so used in the LXX of Zechariah 2:2. In Hebrews 7:4 the idea of magnitude in an ethical sense is expressed by this same word. We must therefore avoid confusing the idea of "how large" with "how many" or "how lengthy".

Grammasin. Once only does gramma signify "epistles", namely in Acts 28:21, where the Jews at Rome declared "we neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee". This. however, is an isolated usage of the term and not one used by Paul here, but by the Jews. Where Paul desires to speak of an epistle he uses the regular word epistole, and that seventeen times, which, together with five references in the Acts and two in 2 Peter, is very strong evidence in favour of translating this word in Galatians 6:11 "letters" and not "an epistle". Grammasin is in the plural dative, and we are compelled to translate these words as it is translated in Luke 23:38, "and a superscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew". Paul himself has so used the word grammasin in 2 Corinthians 3:7. "In letters having been engraved in stones." The fact that the word is plural prevents us from translating "epistle" and no sense can be extracted from the translation "ye see how large epistles I have written to you".

Egrapsa. This word is in the aorist tense, but it is extremely difficult to decide whether this is the "epistolary aorist" where Paul refers to the time at which the letter is received, or whether it should be translated "I wrote" or in idiomatic English "I have written", referring to the entire epistle. It was the custom of Paul, and of writers in his own day, to employ the services of a trained scribe, and one, evidently a believer, has his name inserted in the epistle to the Romans: "I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you" (Rom. 16:22). It is common knowledge that Romans 16:25-27 was added as a "postscript" to the epistle, and Alford has suggested that "we may almost conceive him (Paul) to have taken his pen off from one of them (the pastoral epistles) and to have written it (Rom. 16:25-27) under the same impulse". He gives a list of words and expressions found in the postscript and in the pastoral epistles that point to this conclusion. For example, "my gospel" is found in 2 Timothy 2:8, kerugma "preaching" in 2 Timothy 4:17 and Titus 1:3, chronois aioniois "age times" in 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2 &c.

The Apostle makes a pointed reference to his "sign manual" when writing to the Thessalonians-for they had been deceived by a letter purporting to come from himself (2 Thess. 2:2), consequently he draws their attention to a feature in his salutation.

"The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all" (2 Thess. 3:17,18).

Here the Apostle draws attention to two features:

  1. The handwriting, "so I write."

  2. The form of salutation, "Grace . . . with you."

The Apostle did not always call attention to the fact that he concluded his epistles with a note in his own, hand. He does in 1 Corinthians 16:21, "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand", and again in Colossians 4:18. The form of the salutation varies in small particulars in the several epistles, but ALWAYS includes the words "Grace . . . be with . . .", no other apostle being permitted by the Holy Ghost to end an epistle thus. As this is a matter of first importance let us not begrudge the time spent in noting this evidential feature, especially as Paul himself has been at pains to call our attention to it.

"The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand."

Romans. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen" (Rom. 16:20).
Repeated in his postscript (Rom. 16:24).
1 Corinthians. "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. . . . Amen" (1 Cor. 16:21-24).
2 Corinthians. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen" (2 Cor. 13:14).
Galatians. "Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen" (Gal. 6:18).
Ephesians. "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen" (Eph. 6:24).
Philippians. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" (Phil. 4:23).
Colossians "The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen" (Col. 4:18).
1 Thessalonians. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen" (1 Thess. 5:28).
2 Thessalonians. "I Paul add the greeting with my own hand, which is the credential in every letter of mine. . . . May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" (2 Thess. 3:17,18 Weymouth).
1 Timothy "Grace be with thee. Amen" (1 Tim. 6:21).
2 Timothy "The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen" (2 Tim. 4:22).
Titus "Grace be with you all. Amen" (Titus 3:15).
Philemon "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen" (Phile. 25).
Hebrews. "Grace be with you all. Amen" (Heb. 13:25).

Here is a consistent witness, made even more definite by observing the concluding words of the epistles of Peter, James, John and Jude. In this list the epistle to the Hebrews finds a place, and while we do not limit the evidence of its Pauline authorship to this one feature, an unbiased reader cannot but feel that unless some evidence to the contrary is forthcoming, the epistle to the Hebrews is as clearly signed by the apostle Paul, as any one of his accepted epistles. If the word egrapsa be taken as the epistolary aorist, then the actual words written with large letters will be the postscript Galatians 6:11-18. If, however, egrapsa refers to what has already been written, then the Apostle must be supposed to have departed from the usual custom, and have written the whole epistle with his own hand. The aorist usually refers either (1) to a former letter (1 Cor. 5:9) or (2) to an epistle now concluded (Rom. 15:15), or (3) to a foregoing portion of the epistle (1 Cor. 9:15).

"With this partially conflicting evidence it seems impossible to decide positively whether St. Paul wrote the whole epistle or only the concluding portion" (Ellicott).

Our own conclusion which coincides with that of Lightfoot, Conybeare and Howson and The Companion Bible, is that the "large letters" written with Paul's own hand refer to the postscript only. Conybeare and Howson print as a note the following illustrative incident:

"The writer of this note received a letter from the venerable Neander a few months before his death . . . his letter is written in the fair and flowing hand of an amanuensis, but it ends with a few irregular lines in large rugged characters, written by himself, and explaining the cause of his needing the services of an amanuensis, namely, the weakness of his eyes (probably the very malady of St. Paul). It is impossible to read this autograph without thinking of the present passage, and observing that he might have expressed himself in the very words of St. Paul - Ide pelikois soi grammasin egrapsa te eme cheiri.

"Humin, 'to you'. Standing after pelikois, 'large', this word can scarcely be taken with 'I write' or 'I wrote' to you, it is connected with pelikois, as though the Apostle said 'how large, mark you!' "

Whether the large letters were for emphasis, a thought already incipient in the figure of the "placard" ("evidently set forth") of Galatians 3:1, or whether Paul's handwriting was unlike that of a trained slave, rather irregular, to which may be added the affliction of his eyes, which he mentions in Galatians 4:15, may not be easy to decide, but emphasis there is from whatever single or combined causes. Whether Paul wrote the whole epistle with his own hand, whether all the epistle was written in large letters, whether the postscript only was written by his hand, and the postscript only in large letters, the fact remains that we have an emphatic personal summary given by the Apostle at the close of this most personal epistle.

In Hebrews, we have a "summary" given in chapter 8:1 where we learn that "a seated priest in a heavenly sanctuary" sums up what he had been teaching in the first seven chapters. Here, in Galatians 6:12-16, we have the Apostle's own underlining, and we should be foolish in the extreme if we neglected so evident a guide to the understanding of the main theme of this most important epistle.

An Alphabetical Analysis

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