Galatians (gəlāˈshənz) [key], letter of the New Testament. It is ascribed to St. Paul and addressed to ethnic Gauls living in central Asia Minor, or to inhabitants of the Roman province of Galatia in S Asia Minor. It may have been the earliest epistle (written c.A.D. 48); or, as many scholars hold, it may date after A.D. 52. Paul wrote the letter because the Galatians had been influenced by Judaizing Christians who asserted that circumcision was essential and that believers were bound to keep the law of Moses. They argued that Paul's emphasis on faith at the expense of law was his own invention. In the letter, Paul proceeds to anathematize anyone who preaches a gospel different from the one he preached to them. He defends his apostleship, claiming that he received his gospel from the risen Christ himself. His position is that God establishes people in a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus, not through the doing of works prescribed by the law. This is confirmed by the Galatians' own experience and by their understanding of the standing of Abraham before God. Relying on works of the law means being obligated to perform all its commands, or face the dire consequences. Paul demonstrates that the law was a temporary, though necessary, phenomenon in the religious experience of the people of God, until the coming of Christ. Paul espoused the belief that salvation could be achieved by faith alone, without having to comply with the demands of the Jewish law.
See studies by H. D. Betz (1979), R. Y. K. Fung (1988), and R. N. Longenecker (1990).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.