4 October, 2010 § Leave a comment
I’ve been doing a study on Galatians recently. Next semester, I’ll be leading a bible study as we delve into the book. I spent two years learning how to study the Bible at Word of Life Bible Institute in Pottersville, NY; so I’m trying to implement all of what I’ve learned. So far it’s been an interesting journey. Here is what I’ve done so far.
Authorship: The Apostle Paul is the undisputed author of the text. He identifies himself in 1:1 and 5:2. Church father Clement of Rome also agrees that Paul wrote Galatians.
Historical Setting: Galatia was founded by the Gauls and is literally “the country of the Gauls”, a warlike tribe of Celts that migrated from Europe to Asia Minor. Paul’s visit to Iconium is recorded in Acts 14 and marks the beginning of his relationship with the Galatian area. Later in Acts 16 Paul and Barnabas arrive in the Galatian area on account of the Spirit keeping them from speaking the gospel in Asia. This is manifested in that Paul felt he could not continue due to an infirmity of the flesh according to Galatians 4:13. Paul interprets this interruption and opportunity to preach in Galatia as the Spirit closing the door to speaking the gospel in Asia.
Recipients: There is some controversy as to whether Paul wrote to Southern Galatia or Northern Galatia, affecting when Paul could have written the epistle. Most scholars believe that Galatians was written to the southern churches, in the political division of Galatia, in Northern Asia Minor that became a part of the Roman Empire in 25 B.C.E. This places the writing of the epistle around 49 C.E. after Paul’s first missionary journey. Although it is also projected that Paul could have written to Galatia Proper, also known as the country of the Gauls, in Northern Asia Minor between 53 B.C.E. and 56 B.C.E. after Paul’s second missionary journey. Regardless, the differing dates do not affect the interpretation of the text to any substantial degree.
Purpose: Judaizers, seeking to proselytize the brand new Christians of Galatia to a form of Judaism mixed with Christianity, preach Christ plus the Law. They claimed to come from Peter, implying that Peter had more Apostolic authority than Paul who introduced them to the gospel. The Judaizers tell the Churches of Galatia that Paul forgot to teach them that they must be circumcised to be accepted in Christ Jesus. The Galatians believed and turned. Paul, who is in prison, receives word of their deception and rebukes their swift turn from the true gospel and calls them to repent of trying to earn salvation and therefore make light of the finished work of the cross of Christ. He defends his own integrity and the integrity of the Word of God by taking them back to the life of Abraham who God accounted righteous through faith and not by works.
Geographical Setting: Politically, Galatia was the Roman province which included Isauria, Lycaonia, and parts of Phrygia and Pisidia. Geographically, it was the center of Celtic tribes and included Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia. (KJV Bible Commentary)
Canonical and Theological Setting: With a best guess approach to the date of the writing of Galatians (49 C.E.) it was probably Paul’s first epistle he ever wrote and the second earliest writing in the New Testament with James
(45-49 C.E.) preceding it.
The circumcision of gentiles is a large portion of what is addressed in this epistle. It is also a main topic of the first Jerusalem Council which probably happened shortly after this letter as Paul does not mention the council’s ruling on the matter.
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1994, S. 2369
Hughes, Robert B. ; Laney, J. Carl: Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 2001 (The Tyndale Reference Library), S. 579
Wiersbe, Warren W.: Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1997, c1992, S. 514
That’s all for now. I’ll probably post my findings as they come.