Paul's Letter To The Galatians




A Humanities Essay That Teaches The Study of The Bible As A
Historical Document

PAUL'S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS:


When Paul attended the Jerusalem Conference in 48 or 49, a
decision was made that gentiles would be allowed to become
Christians without becoming Jews first (ie. have a circumcision,
and follow the Jewish Laws). Paul, being the one that defended
the gentile's right to be Christians, became the apostle to the
gentiles. Why would Paul, a Jew, want to be an apostle to
gentiles? According to him, Jesus appeared to him in AD 32 or
36, and told him to preach the good news to the gentiles (Gal
1:16).
Paul uses scripture to explain why gentiles should not be
required to be circumcised, or obey Jewish Law; however, there
are no direct quotes in scripture that say this. One would
wonder why Paul, someone who grew-up in a "good" Jewish family,
would not follow in the footsteps of Jewish Christian
Missionaries, and require Christian converts to become Jews
first. He certainly had to fight to have his belief accepted!
In my opinion, Paul tried to follow the example of the original
apostles (who knew Jesus) by "converting the multitudes." I think
Paul understood human nature better than the other apostles
preaching circumcision to the gentiles. Perhaps he thought that
gentiles would accept Christianity more easily if it was natural
to their lifestyle --I'm sure that the thought of circumcision,
and strict dietary laws scared gentiles from Christianity! It
seems that the "Judaziers" preached a God that was hard to
please.
Paul's major problem confronted in his letter to the Galatians
is the preachings of the Judaziers. Apparently, men who preach
circumcision and the Law had been trying to "pervert" the
Galatians, and change their beliefs away from Paul's preachings
(Gal 1:7). Paul is so angered that the Galatians are so easily
convinced (Gal 1:6), that he actually wishes the Judaziers to
mutilate themselves (Gal 5:12)! So, the letter to Galatians uses
4 specific tactics to make Galatians come back to the teachings
according to Paul.
Paul begins by defending his credibility as an apostle. He
writes a brief autobiographical history, stressing that he once
persecuted Christians, and then converted when Jesus appeared to
him. Also, he tells the outcome of the Jerusalem Conference,
probably to convince them that other apostles have accepted his
theology. This part of the letter is a bit like a resume of
qualifications. I could imagine that the Judiazers who came to
Galatia after Paul, denounced him as an apostle: that he never
met Jesus, and was not truly educated to be an apostle.
Next, Paul writes that "obedience to the Law could not earn
approval by God; approval is possible only through faith in
Christ" (Perrin, pg. 184). Faith in the crucified Christ will
bring righteousness, not the Law (Gal 2:21). Having circumcision
will do nothing to make one better in the eyes of God.
Then, Paul uses an allegory of The Two Covenants: Abraham's
child of a slave woman represents Jerusalem living under the Law,
and the child of the free woman represents Jerusalem being free!
This tactic, along with Paul's use of familiar Jewish argument
style, quoting scripture after scripture to prove a point (Gal
3), are common preaching styles; probably taught to him during
whatever rabbinic training he got (perhaps when he spent time
with Peter). Paul also tries to appeal to the Helenistic
enthusiasm in Christianity in Gal 3:1-5.

Although Paul makes some very convincing arguments in favor of
his beliefs, I cannot agree with his interpretation of Christ
Jesus Christianity. Compare these two quotes from New Testament
Scripture (The first is by Paul in Galations. The second is a
quote of Jesus in the Book of Matthew.):

"knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law
but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in
Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ
and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law
no flesh shall be justified." (Gal 2:16)

"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the
Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill ....