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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

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The Letter of Paul to the Galatians - Introduction

Freedom is the message of this extremely important letter. The immediate issue is whether Christians should observe Jewish law. Paul's churches in Galatia (perhaps at Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe; Acts ch. 14 ) had been visited by Christian Jews who preached at least a partial observance of Mosaic law. Paul cites circumcision ( 5.2; 6.12 ) and the ritual calendar ( 4.10 ). Apparently they presented both themselves and Paul as subject to the authority of the Jerusalem Church. Paul asserts his divine commission and complete freedom from Jerusalem, giving us valuable autobiographical information ( 1.10–2.14 ). He attacks “legalism” as a denial in principle of the divine acceptance (“justification”) which can depend only on utter trust (“faith”) in Christ ( 2.15–3.29 ). The Mosaic law is for “slaves,” whereas Christians are God's adopted children (ch. 4 ); their acting in love supersedes the law ( 5.13–6.10 ). Sarcastically, Paul accuses the Judaizers of seeking to give Christianity the appearance of a Jewish sect only to avoid persecution ( 6.12 ).

The date of the letter is a problem. Many of the same issues (and phrases) appear in Romans, suggesting that the interval between the two was not great. Because these issues are more urgent here in Galatians, this letter is the earlier.

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