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  Date: 54 AD


Galatians is one of the Hauptbriefe, or four Pauline letters that Baur and his Tübingen School did not deny as authentic. He saw in chapters 2-5 what he considered as the early divisions between Pauline and "nascent" Christianity such as the question of following the Mosaic Law and circumcision, and especially in the dispute between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2. Werner Georg Kümmel writes,
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Pauline origin of a number of the epistles was called into question - first of all, the Pastorals, then also Thessalonians, Ephesians, Philipians, and Colossians. Then F. C. Baur and the Tübingen school regarded only the so-called "pillar epistles" (Galatians, I, II Corinthians, Romans) as authentic documents of the apostle, because only these epistles could be understood as witnesses of the struggle between Paul and the Judaizers. But it soon became apparent that the Tübingen School had stretched the historical picture of primitive Christianity on a framework which was too narrow. The advocates of "radical criticism" (Br. Bauer, Pierson, Naber, Loman, van Manen, van den Bergh van Eysinga, Steck) denied even Paul's authorship of the four "Pillar epistles," and explained them as the sediment of antinomian sterams around 140. They proceeded from untenable presuppositions and from a forced construction of history, as did later constructions by J. G. Rylands, A. Loisy, H. Delafosse, and others. Together with the four "Pillar epistles," I Thessalonians, Philippians, and Philemon are definitely to be regarded as authentic.
Doubt about the authenticity of Galatians, which was probably known already by Polycarp (3:3; 5:1), was expressed by Br. Bauer, Kritik der paulinischen Briefe, 1850-52, and the radical Dutch critics, supported by the Swiss scholar, R. Steck, Der Gal. nach seiner Echtheit untersucht, 1888. On this untenable criticism, see J. Gloël, Die jüngste Kritik des Gal. auf ihre Berechtigung geprüft, 1890. Interpolation or compilation hypotheses for Galatians (cf. C. Clemen, Die Einheitlichkeit der paulinischen Briefe, 1894, 100 ff.) have not been advocated recently, doubtless correctly so. That Galatians is a genuine, authentic Epistle is indisputable. Its significance lies not only in what it teaches us about the history of Paul and his dispute with the radical, Jewish-Christian contraction of the gospel, but especially in the fact that, occasiond by this dispute, it became the first classical formulation of the freedom of the Christian from the regulation of the Law and his capacity for responsible obedience in the Spirit of God.

Galatia was roughly the middle section of Anatolia in ancient Rome, the strip stretching from the Black to the Mediterranean Sea. Since there were two regions that one might have referred to as Galatia, there has been questions as to whether the recipients were the inhabitants of "southern" or "northern" Galatia:
The Galatians, in the narrower sense, who alone were thought to be the addressees until the eighteenth century, were Celts, who had settled in central Asia Minor in the first half of the third century before Christ. Around 240 B.C. King Attalos of Pergamum limited their territory to the river regions of the Halys and the Sangarios, with the cities Ancyra, Pessinus, and Tavium. In 25 B.C. the last king of the Galatians, Amyntas, left behind his kingdom to the Romans, who made a province out of it, with Ancyra as the capital. This province included, in addition to the actual land of Galatia, several other territories, including Pisidia, Isauria, parts of Lycaonia, Phrygia, Paphlagonia, and Pontus. The extent of the territories and cities assimilated into the province of Galatia was changed more than once. Officially, it bore no uniform name. The abbreviated designation of the province with the name Galatia appears occasionally in writers of the age of the emperors, but not in inscriptions. The name "Galatian" is found only for the inhabitants of the territory of Galatia.

In Galatia at the time of Galatians there existed several churches in unnamed places (1:2). Concerning the time of the founding, the Epistle says nothing. Acts mentions the land of Galatia twice: 16:6 says only that the Apostle and his companions passed through the region of Phrygia and Galatia; according to 18;23, there were disciples at the beginning of the so-called third missionary journey in the region of Galatia and Phrygia, i.e., congregations existed there. Did Paul write to these congregations in "the region of Galatia"?

Two answers stand opposed to each other, the falsely so-called "south Galatian" and "north Galatian" theories. The south Galatian hypothesis, or better, "province hypothesis" ["Provinzhypothese"], refers to the congregations at Antioch, Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, and others, in Pisidia and Lycaonia, founded on the first missionary journey (Acts 13, 14), which Paul again visited on the so-called second missionary journey (Acts 16:1 ff.). The north Galatian hypothesis, or better, "territory hypothesis" ["Landschaftshypothese"], seeks the addressees of the Epistle in the actual land of Galatia, in the territory of Galatia. Since, according to Acts 18:23, ccongregations are presupposed there, one must, according to this hypothesis, in spite of the silence of Acts, suppose that Paul, on his passage through the Galatian territory (Acts 16:6), gave the impetus to the founding of these congregations.

The "province hypothesis" appears for the first time in Joh. Joach. Schmidt (1748) and J. P. Mynster (1825). W. M. Ramsay and Zahn advocated it most effectively. Today it has numerous supporters (e.g. Goodspeed, T.W. Manson, Orchard, Heard, Henshaw, Albertz, Ridderbos, R.T. Stamm, McNeile-Williams, Michaelis, Guthrie, Klijn). The chief arguments for this hypothesis are the following: 1) Paul was accustomed to use as designations of the lands through which he passed the Roman provincial names, not the names of the territories. Lycaonia and Pisidia, however, belonged to the province Galatia. 2) In the churches of Galatia there were born Jews, which proves true only of the province Galatia, since we know practically nothing of Jews in the territory of Galatia. 3) According to Acts 20:4, Paul has Christians from the province Galatia (Gaius of Derbe, Timothy of Lystra) among the bearers of the collection, but no delegates from the territory of Galatia, whereas according to 1 Cor. 16:1 the collection was also gathered in Galatia. 4) The activity of the envoys from Jerusalem in Galatia in the south of the Taurus mountains is more probable than in the hardly accessible inner Asia Minor. But none of these arguments is really effective: 1) The contention that Paul used only the official names of the provinces cannot be maintained. In Gal. 1:21 Paul mentions his journey from Jerusalem and names Syria as the territory for which he first sets out. Here, however, he speaks of Syria, not in the broader, official sense of the Roman province, to which Jerusalem also belonged, but in the narrower sense of Seleucidian Syria, in which Antioch lay. When he refers to the Christian congregations in Judea (I Thess. 2:14), he is thinking of the territory of Judea (likewise in II Cor. 1:16). And Arabia, to which Paul went after his Damascus experience (Gal. 1:17), was no official name for the kingdom of the Nabateans. 2) The places which could point to Jewish Christians in the congregations (3:2 f., 13 f., 23 f.; 4:2, 5; 5:1), speak generally of the Christians there; but, according to 4:8; 5:2 f.; 6:12 f., it is certain that the Galatians were Gentile Christians. As a matter of fact, the passages cited testify only to the opinion natural to Paul as a former Jew that the OT Law has validity for all mankind, and, therefore, through Christ's redemptive death the Gentiles also were freed from the Law. 3) In Acts 20:4 there are also no bearers from Achaia in the collection deputation, who would be expected according to I Cor. 16:1 ff...
4) If, in connection with the opponents in Galatia, it is actually supposed to be a matter of envoys from Jerusalem (see below, pp. 193 ff.), then we know in any case nothing at all about their journeys, and even the supposition would be conceivable that they also were active in the churches founded by Paul on the so-called first missionary journey, before they went into the territory of Galatia, without our learning anything of this activity. This argument is, therefore, completely useless.

On the other hand, at least two arguments speak for the supposition that Galatians was directed to Christian congregations in the territory of Galatia: 1) If Galatians were sent to the congregations founded on the so-called first missionary journey, then Paul would not have said: "Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia" (1:21), but something like this: Then I went to Syria, Cilicia, and to you. 2) Paul could not possibly have addressed Lycaonians or Pisidians "O foolish Galatians" (3:1), particularly since this linguistic usage is generally not attested. The same linguistic usage as in Acts and contemporary writers, who clearly distinguished the Galatians from their neighboring tribes, must also be presupposed in Paul, a native of Asia Minor. Thus the supposition that the addressees are the Galatians living in inner Asia Minor, whom Paul visited on his second and third missionary journeys, is most nearly suited to the indications of the Epistle.
In regards to the first point, we may note that Kümmel's answer that Paul referred to Jerusalem and the Judean churches outside of Syria proper would be natural even if Paul normally would use the official Roman names. Also, Arabia as opposed to Nabatea would support, but certainly not prove, the supposition that Paul used the common names of the territories as opposed to the province, especially since the region of Galatia would be somewhat confused. However, one would not really be confused about using a town or region's name, plus seeing Arabia instead of Nabatea (Gal 1:17), and the fact that one has to wonder why Paul would refer to the official name to a populace that did otherwise, in addition to other authors who did not use the official name, would probably mean Kümmel is essentially correct in his rebuttal of point 1. Points 2, 3, and 4 stand by themselves. His first argument for "northern" Galatia cannot be maintained; we can't second-guess how Paul would have addressed his recipients. The second point however stands by itself and proves that the "northern" hypothesis is therefore, probably correct.


  1. Kümmel, W.G., Introduction to the New Testament, 14th ed., pp.177-78
  2. ibid., p.198
  3. Kümmel continues to write for counter-argument #3 that: "Moreover, it is questionable whether Gaius was not a Macedonian (cf. Acts 19:29 and 20:4 Doub[h]rios according to D gig)", instead of Debre, but this is in my opinion unsupportive, as it is one deviation and Codex D is notoriously deviative and hence probably unreliable, and in any case it isn't part of his main point for #3, which alone answers the pro-southern hypothesis point.
  4. Kümmel concludes his summary with: "This judgment, to be sure, can first be considered to some degree certain if it can be shown that the historical situation presupposed in Galatians corresponds to this supposition", but I don't think that is true; he nevertheless proceeds to ask and answer two questions, "Who are Paul's opponents in Galatians?" (Judaizers/Jewish Christians from Jerusalem or gentiles from amongst the Galatian congregation?) and "What events does Galatians presupposes occurred already in the life of Paul?" (the number of journeys to Jerusalem, pre-48 council of Jerusalem or not, mainly compared with Acts), which he in any case answers so as to not contradict but rather support his conclusions in pp.191-193, pp.193-197
  5. Op.cit., pp.191-193