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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Genre.

Of rather more importance for the exegesis of this letter is its literary genre, a question that has been prominent in recent discussion. Betz's theory that Galatians is an apologetic letter that presupposes the real or fictitious situation of the court of law has provoked lively debate. Betz (1979: 15) claims that the epistolary framework can be separated so easily ‘that it appears almost as a kind of external bracket for the body of the letter’. Paul is defending himself against the accusations of his accusers before the jury that is to decide the case, i.e. the Galatians. Betz's critics acknowledge that this forensic rhetorical pattern of persuasion can be discerned in parts of chs. 1 and 2 , but hardly in the letter as a whole. Some claim that Galatians is an example of deliberative rhetoric, i.e. that Paul is persuading the Galatians not to accept the claims of the agitators. While this is clearly the case in 1:6–9 and 6:12–16 , this reading does not do justice to many other parts of the letter. The debate has been assessed critically by Kern (1998 ) who calls in question the various attempts to interpret Galatians in the light of Graeco-Roman rhetorical handbooks. Paul uses several Graeco-Roman and Jewish patterns of persuasion in what is, after all, an impassioned letter rather than a rhetorical discourse.

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