Galatians, Epistle to

The genuineness of this epistle is not called in question. Its
Pauline origin is universally acknowledged.

Occasion of. The churches of Galatia were founded by Paul
himself (Acts 16:6; Gal. 1:8; 4:13, 19). They seem to have been
composed mainly of converts from heathenism (4:8), but partly
also of Jewish converts, who probably, under the influence of
Judaizing teachers, sought to incorporate the rites of Judaism
with Christianity, and by their active zeal had succeeded in
inducing the majority of the churches to adopt their views (1:6;
3:1). This epistle was written for the purpose of counteracting
this Judaizing tendency, and of recalling the Galatians to the
simplicity of the gospel, and at the same time also of
vindicating Paul's claim to be a divinely-commissioned apostle.

Time and place of writing. The epistle was probably written
very soon after Paul's second visit to Galatia (Acts 18:23). The
references of the epistle appear to agree with this conclusion.
The visit to Jerusalem, mentioned in Gal. 2:1-10, was identical
with that of Acts 15, and it is spoken of as a thing of the
past, and consequently the epistle was written subsequently to
the council of Jerusalem. The similarity between this epistle
and that to the Romans has led to the conclusion that they were
both written at the same time, namely, in the winter of A.D.
57-8, during Paul's stay in Corinth (Acts 20:2, 3). This to the
Galatians is written on the urgency of the occasion, tidings
having reached him of the state of matters; and that to the
Romans in a more deliberate and systematic way, in exposition of
the same great doctrines of the gospel.

Contents of. The great question discussed is, Was the Jewish
law binding on Christians? The epistle is designed to prove
against the Jews that men are justified by faith without the
works of the law of Moses. After an introductory address (Gal.
1:1-10) the apostle discusses the subjects which had occasioned
the epistle. (1) He defends his apostolic authority (1:11-19;
2:1-14); (2) shows the evil influence of the Judaizers in
destroying the very essence of the gospel (3 and 4); (3) exhorts
the Galatian believers to stand fast in the faith as it is in
Jesus, and to abound in the fruits of the Spirit, and in a right
use of their Christian freedom (5-6:1-10); (4) and then
concludes with a summary of the topics discussed, and with the
benediction.

The Epistle to the Galatians and that to the Romans taken
together "form a complete proof that justification is not to be
obtained meritoriously either by works of morality or by rites
and ceremonies, though of divine appointment; but that it is a
free gift, proceeding entirely from the mercy of God, to those
who receive it by faith in Jesus our Lord."

In the conclusion of the epistle (6:11) Paul says, "Ye see how
large a letter I have written with mine own hand." It is implied
that this was different from his ordinary usage, which was
simply to write the concluding salutation with his own hand,
indicating that the rest of the epistle was written by another
hand. Regarding this conclusion, Lightfoot, in his Commentary on
the epistle, says: "At this point the apostle takes the pen from
his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his
own hand. From the time when letters began to be forged in his
name (2 Thess. 2:2; 3:17) it seems to have been his practice to
close with a few words in his own handwriting, as a precaution
against such forgeries...In the present case he writes a whole
paragraph, summing up the main lessons of the epistle in terse,
eager, disjointed sentences. He writes it, too, in large, bold
characters (Gr. pelikois grammasin), that his hand-writing may
reflect the energy and determination of his soul." (See
JUSTIFICATION T0002147.)