The Book of Galatians highly believed to be written by Apostle Paul was written in its original form as instructions to the Christians in southern Galatia, which was a Roman province in what is now Turkey. Galatia was the area where on his first missionary journey Paul established the congregations in Pisidia Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe .
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Although there have been several other books written by bible scholars alike on Paul’s letter to the Galatians but that of Ralph Martin and Julie Wu under review is by normal standard one of the best annotated books of understanding.
The book is explicit and clear in its outline with the use of interesting pictures and boxes to highlight points in a very concise manner, the colour combination is attractive and makes the book appeal to reading and learning.
Authorship and date
Paul was attributed to have written no fewer than thirteen epistles in the New Testament. Out of this thirteen, seven are almost universally accepted, three are considered in some academic circles as other than Pauline for textual and grammatical reasons, and the other three are in dispute in those same circles.
It was gathered that Paul writing documented today in the book of Galatians was a dictation through a secretary (or amanuensis), who would usually paraphrase the gist of his message, as was the practice among first-century scribes.
It was also gathered that the message in the book of Galatians was first circulated among the Christians, where they were read aloud by members of the church along with other works. That was why some bible scholars regard Paul’s epistles which was said to have been written between 50-62 to be one of the earliest-written books, if not the first written book of the New Testament as they were cited around c. 96 by Clement of Rome.
It must be emphasised that this letter which was largely traceable to Paul was part of the intensive trips/missions to the east and west of the Aegean Sea…during which he concentrated in the succession of the provinces of Galatia, Macedona, Achaia and Asia
Although, scholars have not agreed on a specific date because the exact year is difficult to determine, but some placed the date of Paul’s writing his letter to the Galatians between 48 to 52 AD.
To some scholars the date was a time when Paul’s writing was put before the Jerusalem Council. According to then, the materials before the Council dealt with the issue of circumcision and the Law of Moses and whether such issue is relevant in view of the New Testament teachings.
The argument here is that Paul’s letter to the Galatians did not mention the Jerusalem Council and that if the council had met before the date of Paul’s writing his letter, Paul would have mentioned the decisions of the apostolic council in Jerusalem. Before of this assumption, scholars believed Paul must have written this letter to the Galatians before the Jerusalem Council, which was around 48 to 49 AD.
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Expectedly, there is another group of scholars who argued that Paul’s Galatian letter should be dated at a date after the Jerusalem Council. According to this group, Paul began his second missionary journey after the Council had met. This group cited Acts 16:4 where it was recorded that Paul revisited the churches of Galatia to deliver the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in the Jerusalem Council. They also argued that it was after this date that Paul went to Greece to teach for close to two years while on his second missionary journey, this would place the date of its being written around 52 AD.
Galatian’s purpose was primarily to resolve the dispute among churches in Galatians. During Paul’s mission in Corinth, false teachers were overturning the decision of the Jerusalem Council by claiming that the Gentile Christians must be circumcised according to the Law of Moses to be saved. To try to settle the matter, Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians from Corinth, where he was unable to leave his missionary work at the time. In other words, Paul wrote his letter to Galatians while in Corinth.
Another purpose is for Paul to counter the Judaizer view. Paul was particularly interested in refuting the false teachers spread by false teachers and to remind the Galatians of the roots of their faith. The three issues surrounding false teaching Paul was trying to tackle include:
- That Paul was not a true apostle and did not have the full backing of the church in Jerusalem and that they (the false teachers) are the true apostle accredited by James;
- That while Paul brought the Galatians the gospel of Jesus Christ, he had failed to give them the full undiluted gospel and that;
- Without adherence to the Jewish Law, the church would have no ethical guidelines and would fall into immorality.
The book of Galatians has 6 Chapters, and was written in polemical style and tone, yet with a clear rhetorical structure and deep pastoral concern for the readers, to enforce the twin themes of faith and freedom (9).
The book is carefully structured into five distinct parts. The first part contained greetings and introduction (Galatians 1:1-10). The second part (Galatians 1:11-2:21) was used to defend Paul apostolic ministry of the pure gospel as against the false teachers.
The third part was used to defend the gospel of justification and salvation by grace and faith alone (Galatians 3:1-4:31) while the fourth part was dedicated to defending the freedom Christians have to love one another and live by the Spirit. Galatians 5:1-6:10. The last part includes conclusion and summation (Galatians 6:11-18).
This work has been to review Paul’s letters to the Galatians at the time the false prophets and teachers were spreading fake counsels and heresies about Paul and his teachings. The book was structurally crafted to treat the purpose and intent of Paul in a very clear manner. Paul’s Galatians is regarded as his very first epistle in the New Testament.