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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

The Letter of Paul to the Galatians - Introduction

Some of Paul's most biting language occurs in this letter addressed to “the churches of Galatia” ( 1.2 ). He is put out with his readers because they are rejecting what he had taught them ( 3.1; 4.12–20 ), and even more put out with those teachers who are leading his churches astray. Paul charges them with “perverting the gospel of Christ” by insisting that gentiles * must observe the Mosaic law. In particular, they are requiring circumcision. * For Paul, the issues being fought over in Galatia have enormous consequences. The truth of the gospel he has preached throughout the eastern Mediterranean is at stake. If the other side is right, Christ's death was in vain.

Many of the themes addressed in Romans are treated here, but the focus is different. The role of the Mosaic law remains a central question, as does justification by faith. The example of Abraham figures centrally in the argument ( 3.6–18 ). New arguments also appear, such as the allegory * comparing Hagar and Sarah ( 4.21–31 ). More than in Romans, here the choice between law and gospel is seen as a choice between slavery and freedom (chs. 4–5 ). The tone is also more polemical * than Romans because Paul's apostleship has been directly attacked. He is much more defensive in Galatians and consequently devotes much of the opening chapters to personal concerns.

When Galatians was written is not certain. Many scholars think it was written about the same time as Romans, while Paul was in Corinth en route to Jerusalem with the collection for the poor Christians there. This view accounts for their similarity of theme but also for their differences in outlook. Galatians is directed to churches Paul himself had started ( 4.11–20 ). Other teachers who are sharply critical of Paul's work as an apostle * and his understanding of the gospel are now present in these churches. Fearing the Galatians will abandon his teachings and begin observing Torah, * Paul writes this angry letter denouncing the Galatians as weak and indecisive, and the new teachers as enemies of Christ.

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