Essay on The Galatians And The Polemical Epistle

Essay on The Galatians And The Polemical Epistle

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The polemical Epistle to the Galatians has some of the most explosive and harsh rhetoric in all Pauline epistles. Paul’s writing clearly indicates that he is troubled by the situation in Galatia. Along with the other Pauline epistles, with the possible exception of Romans (Goodacre, 2016b), Paul’s Letter to the Galatians is occasional. That is, Paul is responding to specific problems within the Galatian community (Goodacre, 2016a). The actual occasion of Galatians is as follows: Paul is writing to dissuade Gentile Galatian Christians from adopting another gospel that calls for male circumcision and adherence to Jewish Law (New Revised Standard Version, Galatians. 5:2-3). Paul, the Galatian Christians, and his theological opponents make up the three major actors in the epistle. The occasion of the epistle shows that despite Paul bringing the gospel of Christ to the Galatians (Gal. 4:13), many of them are turning to a belief system antithetical to his own (Gal. 1:8). Paul’s opponents, who are most likely missionary Jewish Christians, have at least partially succeeded in their mission, as evident in the need for Paul to write an epistle (Martyn, 1985, p. 314). Although the Galatian Christians are the official recipients of the epistle (Gal. 1:2), the letter is also targeted at the “agitators” (Gal. 5:12) who are “pervert[ing] the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:7). An overview of Galatians in conjugation with the context surrounding the epistle shows that Paul has two major objectives: the elevation of his gospel and ministry and the rejection of his opponents’ gospel and ministry. Paul goes about achieving these objectives by identifying God’s divine role in his gospel, showing that his gospel is grounded in biblical literature, and cont...


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...rity seems well founded because of their lack of conviction by “quickly deserting” (Gal. 1:6) the gospel and Paul’s infantilizing tone when calling them his “little children” (Gal. 4:19). The support for Paul first introducing the Torah to these people is more troublesome. Johnson’s support verses, (Gal. 3:2; 4:21; 5:4) simply explain that the Galatians did not receive the Spirit of Christ through the Law. On top of the lack of textual evidence, Richard Longenecker a fellow New Testament scholar, states that Jews resided throughout Galatia and singled out the idea of Jews not residing in North Galatia as being “patently false” (Longenecker, 1990, p. lxix). Altogether, the description of the Galatians pulled from Paul’s epistle reveals a gullible people that initially “would have torn out [their] eyes” for Paul (Gal. 4:15) but are now acting “foolish” (Gal. 3:1; 3:3).

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