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Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all."
That the epistle succeeded in regaining, or rather in retaining, for the apostle the general confidence of his Corinthian converts, may be inferred from the veneration in which his memory was held amongst them a few years after his death. Of this veneration we find unmistakable tokens in the epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, written towards the close of the first century.
1. Authorship.—This is another epistle whose genuineness is scarcely disputed. Its main topic—the relation of Christians to the ceremonial law of the Jews-would lead us to fix its composition at a period anterior to the destruction of Jerusalem, when the question was practically set at rest.
Its character and style are inconsistent with the idea of forgery. (1) The picture which it gives of the state of the Galatian Church is too lifelike, and the play of feeling it exhibits on the part of the apostle is too subtle for the inventive power of an age so little skilled in that kind of fiction. (2) Its representation of facts, as regards the relations of Paul with the other apostles, is too candid to have been got up in the interests of Church unity, and on the other hand is too moderate in its tone to have been framed in the interests of any known party in the Church. (3) A comparison of the personal and historical allusions in the epistle with statements in the Book of Acts and some of the other epistles ascribed to Paul, shows a substantial harmony, along with an occasional diversity that betokens independence—the epistle furnishing details of many incidents in Paul's life that are only mentioned in a general way by the author of the Book of Acts.1 (4) There is in several respects a strong resemblance between this epistle and those to the Corinthians and the Romans (see p. 96).
With regard to external evidence there are the usual echoes and reflections in the Apostolic Fathers and in the apologists and other theological writers of the second century; while
many direct quotations are to be found in the writings of the Fathers about the end of the second century. The epistle is also included in the Canons and Versions of the second century.
2. The Readers. “Unto the churches of Galatia." The interpretation of the term “Galatia” has been a subject of much controversy. It may either be understood to refer to the recently created Roman province of that name in Asia Minor, or be taken in the older and more popular sense, as designating a broad strip of country in that province, about two hundred miles long, running from south-west to north-east.
It is in the latter sense that the term has generally been understood here. The region thus designated was inhabited by a mixed race of Phrygians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, and Jews, who had successively obtained a footing in it by different means and with varying degrees of success. Of these elements of the population it was the Celtic invaders from Western Europe that had made their influence most strongly felt. They found their way into the country in the third century B.C.; and after them and the Greek immigrants who were there before them the country was called Gallo-Græcia. So deep and lasting was their influence, that even in the end of the fourth century A.D. Jerome was able to trace a strong resemblance between the language of Galatia and that spoken on the banks of the Moselle and the Rhine ; and modern travellers have been struck with the fair hair and blue eyes that mark an affinity between the pastoral tribes of Galatia and the peasantry of Western France.
1 For proofs of independence, cf. i. 15-18, Acts ix. 19-26 ; ii. 1-10, Acts xv. 1-21 ; ii. 11-14 (which has nothing corresponding to it in Acts, although corroborated in some of its circumstances by xi. 25, 26; xiv. 26, xv. 1-24, xxi. 18-25). For fulness of detail in this epistle see ii. ; i. 17-19, Acts ix. 25-28, xxii. 18; iv. 13, 14, cf. 2 Cor. xii. 7-9; vi. 1, cf. 2 Cor. ii. 6-8 ; vi. 11, cf. Rom. xvi. 22, 2 Thess. iii. 17. It must at the same time be admitted that there are a number of apparent discrepancies between this epistle and the Book of Acts which we are unable to explain, but they are not such as to justify any doubt as to the Pauline authorship of the epistle.
Confirmation of the view that it was to the inhabitants of Celtic Galatia the epistle was addressed has been found in the enthusiasm, as well as the fickleness and love of novelty, which have been characteristic of the Gauls both in Europe and Asia, and which left their mark on the early history of the Galatian Church (i.6; iii. 1-3; iv. 13-16; v. 7). Traces have also been discerned in the epistle of the superstition, drunkenness, avarice, vanity, irascibility and strife that sometimes impair the charm of the Celtic character (v. 15, 21, 26; vi. 3, 4, 6).
According to this theory Paul's preaching of the Gospel in Galatia was due to his detention in that country on his way to the more promising field of proconsular Asia, caused by an attack of the painful and humiliating malady to which he was liable-supposed to have been an aggravated form of ophthalmia (iv. 13-16, cf. 2 Cor. xii. 7-10). This visit to Galatia, which took place in the course of his second missionary journey, about 51 A.D., is alluded to in the Book of Acts in the most general terms (xvi. 6); but from some passages in this epistle, already quoted, it would appear that his faithful and energetic preaching of Christ crucified (iii. 1, 2) had excited great enthusiasm and affection. A second visit to. Galatia (implied in Gal. iv. 13) is recorded in Acts xviii. 22, 23, during the apostle's third
missionary journey, about 54 A.D., when he “went through the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, stablishing all the disciples." From this language it appears that not a few congregations had been formed in the district; but it would seem that their feelings towards the apostle and his Gospel had in the meantime undergone a change, and that he had, on this second occasion, to speak to them in tones of warning (i. 9; v. 21; iv. 16-20).
While the majority of scholars have hitherto been agreed in giving to Galatia the narrower interpretation that is assumed in the foregoing statement, a number of critics 1 hold that the name is to be taken in its wider meaning as a designation for the Roman province, which included several other districts besides that of the Asiatic Celts, and that the Churches to which the epistle was addressed were no other than those of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, which were planted by Paul in his first missionary journey, and of which we have an account in Acts xiii., xiv., as well as in the meagre notices above referred to, in chaps. xvi. and xviii.
The following are the chief arguments adduced in support of this view :
I. (1) The cities referred to (Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe) formed part of the Roman province of Galatia in the time of the apostle. They were important centres of Roman civilisation; and the Roman name • Galatians" was certainly one to which their citizens
1 Renan, Perrot, Sabatier, Hausrath, Weizsäcker, Pfleiderer, etc. Recently a careful and elaborate argument in favour of this view has been advanced by Professor W. M. Ramsay (The Church in the Roman Empire, chaps. i.-vi.), who brings to the discussion of the question a rare knowledge of the archæology and topography of Asia Minor. According to Professor Ramsay, the prevailing misconception as to the meaning of Galatia has been due to the fact that “during the second century the term Galatia ceased to bear the sense which it had to a Roman in the first century.”