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The Epistle to the GALATIANS.
1: 1 - 5.
pp. 221 - 226
That the epistle to the Galatians is of great importance there can be no doubt, because
it deals with the fundamentals of the Christian faith, as does also the epistle to the
Romans, and in some senses it is the counterpart of this epistle. Before we can consider
its contents we must understand what is meant by Galatia for this will decide to whom the
epistle is addressed and its date. We have to distinguish between the kingdom of Galatia
which was situated north east of Asia Minor and the Roman province of Galatia, which,
in addition to the kingdom went southwards to include Lycaonia, Isauria, Phrygia, and a
portion in which area lay Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.
The kingdom consisted of a broad strip of land over 200 miles in length, the chief
cities of which were Tavium, Ancyra and Pessinus. To which of these portions of Asia
Minor was the epistle to the Galatians sent? Some scholars champion the northern
district and others the southern. If the northern theory is right, Paul founded the churches
there on his second missionary journey; but if the southern theory is right, it was when
he was on his first missionary journey that the churches were founded in the south east.
The northern theory is championed by Bishop Lightfoot and others, whereas the
southern is held by Professor W. M. Ramsay and a number of expositors. The ancestors
of the northern kingdom were chiefly Gauls who poured into Asia Minor in the third
century B.100: and while the majority of believers in the churches situated there were
Gallic Celts, there were certainly Jews as well, for the Galatian epistle assumes an
acquaintance with the O.T. which converted Gentiles could not be expected to have,
except under Jewish instruction.
The northern Galatian theory was held until the nineteenth century, but since then
Bible scholars, the chief of whom was Sir William Ramsay, have adopted the southern
theory and others give the epistle an earlier date. If the second visit of Paul is the one
mentioned in Acts 16: 6, the epistle must have been written after the council of
Jerusalem in Acts 15: On the other hand if the second visit is identified with that
mentioned in Acts 14: 21, when Paul and Barnabas revisited the southern Galatian
churches on their return journey to Antioch, the date may be before the council and
consequently about 49A.D. This would mean that Galatians is Paul's first epistle and not
I Thessalonians which is usually held to be his first writing.
There is no mention of the Jerusalem Council's decisions in the Galatian epistle and
this is extraordinary if this letter was written after Acts 15:, for it would have but
stressed Paul's arguments concerning the law of Moses and greatly assisted his dealings
with the Galatian apostasy.