Unit One Introduction
In the first unit of our study we will be looking at some biographical information on Paul, establishing a reasonable foundation of the identity of Galatians, and begin looking at Pauls introduction and the first two chapters of the letter. In the readings for the course you will begin to understand who Paul may have been writing to and what Pauls intentions were in writing the letter to the Galatians. In the threaded discussion for the course, you will apply the first two chapters of Galatians to your present personal and ministry situations in light of the commentary on the respective chapters.
The Apostle Paul
One of the biggest persecutors of followers of Christ, Saul, encountered the risen Christ on his way to Damascus. As a result of the experience, and now known as Paul, he was called to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
Paul before Conversion
Paul, self-identified as a Pharisee, the student of Gamaliel, was born in the ancient Mediterranean city of Tarsus which was located in south-central Turkey. At the time of his birth, the city was the capital of Cilicia and a prominent city in the Roman Empire. Paul details his pre-conversion life in Philippians 3:4-6.
Paul admits to his personal persecution of Christians prior to his conversion (Galatians 1.13-14). His mentor Gamaliel appears to have been much more tolerant of Christians than he was.
Paul in Acts
The majority of the New Testament book, Acts of the Apostles, is made up of stories of Paul. The first mention of him in Acts of the Apostles is in 8:1 as a persecutor of the church even as the church had just lost Stephen to stoning. From there, stories of him are interwoven with the stories of Peter and the other apostles until chapter 16. After chapter 16, the rest of the book, through chapter 28, is dedicated to telling the story of Pauls missionary journeys. Luke, the writer of Acts, details his travels and encounters with Gentiles, Jews, and the 12 original apostles.
In addition to Paul’s ministry being a major focus of the majority of the book of Acts, he also wrote a significant amount of the New Testament. He has been credited with at least 13 out of 27 books of the New Testament. In most cases he knew the people to which he wrote, except for the church at Rome. Though he did not start the church there and had never visited, he was familiar with many of its members. This is attested by the lengthy list of greetings found in Romans 16. His letters were substitutes for his actual presence. Everything that he wrote was written within the process of community formation.
He was not a professional writer or teacher. He was a missionary pastor, an apostle commissioned to preach the gospel and to begin Christian communities. His letters were meant to be heard. They were written to entire churches where they were read aloud to the members in the communities to whom they were addressed. They were not meant to be exegeted but to be read all at once.
Paul’s letters follow the typical form of a traditional, private Greek letter. Greco-Roman letters follow a general format that includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction consisted of the following elements: sender, recipient, greetings, prayer/thanksgiving, and theme.
The body is the second part. The challenge is to find where the body begins. One must look for literary markers in transitional phrases. Paul likes to use I appealed to you or I want you to know (e.g., Romans 1:3, Galatians 1:11). In his conclusions, Paul generally greets a number of people or he requests prayer.
There are seven books that are universally viewed as authentic writings of Paul. Six others are less convincing to scholars that they are authentic writings of Paul. The writings of Romans and Galatians are considered epistles/letters, but what kind of letters are they? There are several types of letters written by Paul. 1) Letters of friendship (e.g. Philemon), 2) epideictic – praise or blame, 3) letters of exhortation or advice including: a) paranaetic – moral teaching, b) protopic- exhortation to a way of life, and 4) letters of recommendation (e.g. 2 Corinthians & Titus). Pauls letters presuppose a relationship. They were written with the intent to establish a relationship or to mend a relationship. They were not intended to be historical documents.
Thirteen Letters Divided into Three Categories
Main Prison/Captivity Pastoral
Romans Ephesians * I Timothy *
I Corinthians Philippians II Timothy *
II Corinthians Colossians * Titus *
II Thessalonians *
*Connotes contested Pauline authorship
Galatians is written in the form of a traditional, personal Greek letter. Paul is personally familiar with the Galatians due to his missionary work to them. We will follow the structure as proposed by Peter Oakes in our textbook. From the start, Pauls letter to the Galatians is unique in a couple of ways. One way is that Paul introduces himself extensively compared to what he had done in his previous letters. Another unique element of this letter is that the salutation, the shortest of all Pauline letters, includes a curse on his opponents as opposed to a blessing on the audience of this letter. Also missing is Pauls usual thanksgiving since Galatians was written in the heat of controversy.
Paul identifies his audience twice (1.2, 3.1) in Galatians. Ethnically, the demonym Galatian is derived from origins in Gaul (modern-day France). This would refer to emigrants who migrated into north-central Asia Minor. However, it is difficult to pinpoint where exactly these Galatians to which Paul writes reside. The difficulty comes from the Roman Empires choice to name after them the Central Asia Minor province that they lived in. This province included many people not of the same ethnicity as those in the north, including Lyconians and the Pisidians. This latter idea is often referred to as the South Galatian Theory and the former as the North Galatian Theory.
Determining the date that Galatians was written greatly depends on which of the above theories concerning the recipients is correct. Therefore, there is much debate over when the epistle was actually written. If the addressees are in fact those living in the Roman province of Galatia, then the date of the letter is likely in the late 40s. On the other hand, if it is the North Galatian ethnic group then the date is likely in the mid 50s.
In Galatians, Paul addressed some serious issues that had been brought about by false teachers who were teaching that Christians must observe the practices of the Jews in order to worship their God. Paul had previously traveled to preach the Gospel to the Galatians. He, accompanied by others, had begun several churches among them. At some point after he left, people came in and began teaching and convincing the Galatians that they must abide by the Law of Moses/Torah. Paul is writing this letter in direct relationship to these teachings.
Read the Introduction section in Galatians textbook.
1. Read Galatians 1:1-4:20 in a Bible translation of your choice.
2. Read the Galatians 1:1-4:20 sections in Galatians textbook.
1.3 Threaded Discussion: Life in the Spirit
1. Review Textbook: Galatians.
2. In your initial post, discuss the following from those pages adapted for our general use:
o a. Discuss Oakes contrast between Spirit and Flesh in Galatians.
o b. Assess your life in the Spirit beginning with your conversion and identifying your first conscious awareness of the Spirits presence in your life, as well as significant later moments.
o c. Write a brief summary of your life with the Spirit and some key times that you recognized the Spirits presence in your life and the times that you may have failed to let him fully guide you.
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