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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Galatians

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Text Commentary side-by-side

1.1–5 : The salutation,

in which Paul stresses his apostolic authority.

1 :

Apostle, both a witness (Acts 1.22 ) and a proclaimer (1 Cor 12.28 ) of the resurrection of Jesus. Paul's apostleship results directly from his experience of the risen Christ.

2 :

Churches of Galatia, the plural indicates that Paul was addressing several Christian communities. The location of these churches is uncertain. Current scholarly opinion favors the region named after and occupied by a people of Celtic origins (around modern Ankara in Turkey). The Roman province of Galatia extended to the south, however, to the cities of Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, where Paul and Barnabas also founded churches (Acts 14.1–23 ).

3 :

Grace … peace, the combined Greek and Hebrew greeting that Paul typically used (e.g., Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; 2 Cor 1.2 ).

4 :

Gave himself for our sins, in sacrificial death (Mk 10.45 ) as a sin offering (Lev 4–5 ). Paul repeats this central early Christian tradition (see also 2.20; 1 Tim 2.6 ). The present evil age implies that there is another age, the “age to come” in Jewish apocalyptic thought (see also 2 Thess 2.7–8 ). Christ's death, therefore, cancels believers' sin and delivers them for this messianic era.

1.6–2.14 : A recapitulation of Paul's life.

1.6–9 : Paul rebukes the Galatians.

Unlike Paul's other letters (Rom 1.8–15; 1 Cor 1.4–9 ), he does not offer thanksgiving for those addressed. Instead he immediately upbraids them for deserting the one who called you—not Paul here, but God or God through Christ.

7 :

The new teaching that the Galatians have accepted is “a different gospel” and not compatible with Paul's instruction.

8–9 :

Paul's opponents may have held that their teaching had been revealed by an angel from heaven, a common claim in Judaism (reflected in 3.19 ) and some other religions of antiquity. In any case, Paul's revelation comes from a higher source than any angel, Jesus Christ ( 1.11 ). Accursed, an anathema using a double curse for emphasis.

1.10–12 : Paul states the defense of his gospel.

His position is not based on expediency: He does not reject observance of the Jewish law by Gentiles as a means of winning more converts through lax requirements.

11–12 :

Paul's gospel was directly revealed to him by Jesus Christ. Paul implies that the teaching of his opponents, unlike his gospel, is of human origin.

1.13–2.14 : Paul recounts his background in Judaism, his calling as an apostle, and his mission to the Gentiles.

The purpose of this autobiographical sketch is to state the facts, as Paul saw them, of how he became the apostle to the Gentiles.

1.13–24 : Paul's conversion, early life in the church, and defense of his apostleship.

13–14 :

Persecuting the church of God, see Acts 8.3; 9.21; 22.4 . Paul insists that he was an exemplary Jew (Acts 22.3; Phil 3.4–6 ) who was zealous for the traditions of my ancestors, i.e., for the Jewish law, including its oral traditions which were upheld in Pharisaic Judaism (Phil 3.5–6 ).

15–16 :

Paul's conversion occurs as a direct result of divine intervention without human mediation in order to fulfill God's plan of revealing Christ to the Gentiles. Set … born, like a prophet in the Hebrew Bible (Isa 49.1; Jer 1.5 ). To me (lit. “in me”), links together the ideas that Christ is revealed to Paul and through Paul to the Gentiles.

17 :

Arabia, the Nabataean kingdom, in Transjordan, of which the capital was Petra. Damascus is recorded in Acts 9.8–25 as the place where Paul went immediately after his conversion; see also 2 Cor 11.32–33 .

18 :

It is unclear whether the three years are to be counted from Paul's call or from his return to Damascus. Cephas is the Aramaic equivalent of “Peter” (both names mean “rock”) and the form of the name favored by Paul.

19 :

James the brother of Jesus (Mk 6.3; Mt 13.55; 1 Cor 15.7 ) who became a leading member of the Jerusalem church (Acts 1.14; 15.13; 21.18–19 ).

21 :

Syria had Antioch as its capital, and the chief city of Cilicia on the southeast coast of Asia Minor was Paul's hometown of Tarsus.

22–23 :

Cf. Acts 9.26–30 , which gives a different account of all these events.

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