Teaching Notes Background of Letter to GALATIANS
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Paul's Letter to the Galatians
Approx. 1250AD Vellum
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BACKGROUND OF GALATIANS
Background of Letter to Galatians
By Grace, Not by Law
Finality of the Gospel
Galalia: In Central Asia Minor, see map. Region of Paul's
First Missionary Journey. Its borders at times varied. It included
Derbe, the cities of Iconium, Lystra, and probably
Pisidian Antioch. Read Acts 13 and 14.
Galatians were a branch of Gauls, originally from north of
the Black Sea, split off from the main migration westward to
France, and settled in Asia Minor, 3rd century BCE.
Occasion of This Letter
Paul’s work in Galatia had been extremely successful. Great
multitudes, mostly Gentiles, had enthusiastically accepted Christ.
Sometime after Paul had left Galatia, certain Jewish teachers
came along insisting that Gentiles could not be Christians without
keeping the Law of Moses. The Galatians gave heed to their
teaching with the same whole—heartedness with-which they had
at ﬁrst received Paul’s message; and there was a general epidemic
of Circumcision among these Gentile Christians. Circumcision is
the name of the Initiatory Rite into Judaism. Paul heard of the
And then it was that Paul wrote this Letter to explain to them
that Circumcision, while it had been a necessary part of Jewish.
National Life, was not a part of the Gospel of Christ and had.
nothing whatever to do with Salvation.
Date of the Letter to Galatians
Paul had founded these Galatian Churches about 45-48 AD.
He had. re-Visited them, as he was setting out on his Second
Journey about 50 A D, Acts 16:1—6; and again, as he was starting
on his Third Journey, about 54 AD, Acts 18:23.
The commonly accepted traditional date of the writing of this
Letter is about 57 AD, at the close of Paul’s Third Missionary
Journey, while he-was in Ephesus, or Macedonia", Corinth,
shortly before he wrote the Letter to the Romans.
Some think it more probably was written about 49 AD, from
Antioch, soon after Paul’s ﬁrst return from Galatia, before the
Jerusalem Council of. 50 AD, whose Letter stating that Circumcis-
ion was Not Necessary was carried without delay to the Galatian
Churches, Acts 15:1-16-4; for, if written after that, it seems like
Paul would have referred to the Jerusalem Letter. But “first”,
4:13, favors the later date.
Judaizers were a sect of Jewish Christians who, not, willing to
accept the teaching of the Apostles on the question, Acts 15,
continued to insist that Christians must come to God through
Judaism, that a Gentile, in order to be a Christian, must become
a Jewish Proselyte, and keep the Jewish Law.
They made it their business to visit and unsettle and trouble
Gentile Churches. They were simply determined to stamp Christ
with the Jewish Trademark.
Against this Paul stood like adamant. “Had the observance of.
the Law been imposed on Gentile converts Paul’s whole lifework
Would have been wrecked.”
“The expansion of Christianity from a Jewish sect into a World
Religion was Paul’s consuming passion, in pursuit of which he
broke every hindering tie, and strained every faculty of mind-and
body for upwards of thirty years.”
The effort to Judaize the Gentile Churches was brought to an
end by the Fall of Jerusalem, 70 AD, which “Severed all rela-
tion between Judaism and Christianity. Up to this time Christian-
ity was regarded as a Sect or Branch of Judaism. But from
then on Jews and Christians were apart. A small sect of Jewish
Christians, the Ebionites, remained, in decreasing numbers, for
two centuries, hardly recognized by the general Church, and re-
garded as Apostates by their own race.”
Circumcision was the name of the initiatory physical rite of
Judaism, if a male, not born a Jew, wished to become a Jewish
Proselyte, he could do so by being Circumcised, and observing
the ceremonial law of the Jews; in some respects, as a foreigner
may become a citizen of our country.
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Papyri 46 (also at Chester Beatty)
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New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
This content adapted from Halley, Henry H., Bible Handbook, Grayson Publishing, Minneapolis, MN. © 1927 - 1959, 1964.
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Hugh C. Wood, Atlanta, Georgia