Unger's Bible Dictionary: Galatians



GALATIANS, EPISTLE TO. The letter of the apostle Paul containing his great defense of the gospel of grace against legalistic perversion or contamination.


Early Testimony. The early church gives unambiguous testimony to this document. Marcion put it at the head of his Apostolikon (A.D. 140). Athenagoras, Justin Martyr, and Melito quote it. Evidences of it appear in Ignatius and Polycarp. With the other Pauline epistles it appears in the oldest Lat., Syr., and Egyptian translations and in the Muratorian Canon of the second century. No trace of doubt as to the authority, integrity, or apostolic genuineness of the epistle comes from ancient times.


Destination and Date. Although the Pauline authorship of Galatians is well established, its destination, occasion, and date are surrounded by critical difficulties. It was addressed to "the churches of Galatia" (Gal 1:2). The Roman province of Galatia included not only Galatia proper, peopled largely by Celts from Gaul, but also portions of Lycaonia, Pisidia, and Phrygia, all situated on the S. The fact that Paul addressed the churches in the S part of Galatia is supported by the following. (1) He and Barnabas had visited the cities of Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and Pisidian Antioch, all in S Galatia, and had established churches in the vicinity during the first missionary journey (Acts 13:4; 14:19-21). (2) Familiar reference to Barnabas (Gal 2:1,9,13) would be unexplainable in a letter sent to northern Galatia, where Barnabas seems to have been unknown. (3) In the S Galatian cities there were Jews who might have caused the events mentioned in the letter (Acts 13:14-51; 14:1; 16:1-3). If the "South Galatian theory" is subscribed to, Galatians may have been written either at Antioch in Syria at the consummation of the first missionary journey (14:26-28) or at Ephesus in the course of the third missionary journey (19:10). The apostle's visit to Jerusalem (Gal 2:1-10) is thought to be identical to that alluded to in Acts 11:30. If this is so, Galatians may have been sent from Antioch around A.D. 48 AD, prior to Paul's third visit to Jerusalem to attend the apostolic gathering of chap. 15. According to this theory, Galatians would be the earliest of the apostle's letters. There are strong reasons, however, to support the hypothesis that Galatians was written at Ephesus (52 AD) during the same time as the other epistles.


The Occasion. Galatians has been called the "Magna Charta of Christian liberty" and the "Christian's Declaration of Independence." The difficulty that produced this important epistle was caused by Jewish believers who proclaimed a mixture of Judaism and Christianity. Paul had proclaimed the free grace of God for all men through the death of Christ. The legalizers contended that Christianity could only work within the sphere of the Mosaic law. Faith in Christ, involving the free gifts of the Holy Spirit, was not sufficient. Obedience to the Mosaic law (Gal 2:16,21; 3:2; 5:4; etc.), which requires observance of festal days and the Sabbath (4:10), was stressed. Had the Judaizers won, Christianity would merely have been a sect within Judaism. The situation called for all the skill and wisdom the great apostle could muster. With invincible logic he vindicated Christianity on the sole basis of man's acceptance of Christ. Men are justified by the finished work of the Redeemer and in no manner by forms and ceremonies. Galatians was an echo of the great truth of justification so masterfully set forth in Romans.



BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. C. Tenney, Galatians: The Charter of Christian Liberty (1954); E. D. Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1962); M. Luther, Lectures on Galatians, vols. 26-27, Luther's Works, trans. J. Pelikan (1963-64); R. A. Cole, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (1965); J. B. Lightfoot, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians (1966); W. Hendricksen, Exposition of Galatians, New Testament Commentary (1968); J. R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians (1968); D. Guthrie, Galatians, The Century Bible (1974); H. A. Kent, Jr., The Freedom of God's Sons (1976); J. Eadie, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians (1977); W. M. Ramsay, A Historical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (1978); M. Luther, Commentary on Galatians, trans. E. Middleton (1979); R. G. Gromacki, Stand Fast in Liberty (1979); J. Brown, An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians (1981).

(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

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New Testament Books and Authors The Book of Matthew The Book of Mark The Book of Luke The Book of John The Book of Acts The Book of Romans The Book of 1 Corinthians The Book of 2 Corinthians The Book of Galatians The Book of Ephesians The Book of Philippians The Book of Colossians The Book of 1 Thessalonians The Book of 2 Thessalonians The Book of 1 Timothy The Book of 2 Timothy The Book of Titus The Book of Philemon The Book of Hebrews The Book of James The Book of 1 Peter The Book of 2 Peter The Book of 1 John The Book of 2 John The Book of 3 John The Book of Jude The Book of Revelation Books of the New Testament The New Testament

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Matthew Mark Luke
John Acts Romans
1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians
Ephesians Philippians Colossians
1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon
Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 John
3 John Jude Revelation


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