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Pauls letter to the galatians

Paul's Letter To The Galatians

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

Historical Document


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


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


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 ....

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these

commandments, shall be called least in the kingdom of

heaven.." (Matt 5: 17 & 19)

Although I realize the Book of Matthew was written after

Galatians, the preachings of Jesus were made before Matthew was

even a Christian! Points to consider before accusing Paul of

defying Jesus would be to find out if Paul had access to all the

words of Jesus. The Quell was supposedly present during Paul's

lifetime. It is also possible that Matthew added these words of

Jesus in his book, but they may not have been true ... he has

added other unproven events before. Weather Paul was aware of

these words or not, he was obviously preaching a fundamentally

different belief than Jesus was.

Paul argues his position only up to Gal. 5:12, after that, he

contradicts his preaching until 6:10, where he ends the letter.

This area is full of rules/laws for the Galatians to live by. Of

course, he justifies that Christians live by these laws because

they "Walk in the Spirit of Christ." (Gal 5:16) If Christians

are to "imitate" Jesus' actions & morals, then why should they

decide to follow some, and not others? This is more evidence of

Peter trying to create a "convenient" religion.

The problem of acceptance of Jewish Law, I believe, is the

fundamental split in Christianity. It can still be seen today:

Catholicism represents Paul's view of Christianity, while Seventh

Day Adventist Christians keep Jewish Law. However, if Paul had

preached the Law, I don't believe that Christianity would even be

present today (especially among the gentiles). He did much to

advance Christianity; however, Gentile Christianity became a

religion of Paul, rather than a religion of Jesus.

Word Count: 1,018

Source: Essay UK -

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