Internal evidence: The contents in the Epistle to the Galatians strongly suggest Pauline authorship. The author identifies himself as Paul and exhibits distinct Pauline style, vocabulary, and theological emphases, which are consistent with his other letters. The passionate and forceful tone of the letter reflects Paul's personal investment in the Galatian churches and his authoritative stance as an apostle. Moreover, Paul's personal experiences, as mentioned in the letter, align with what is known about his life from other sources. He refers to his conversion experience (Gal 1:11-17) and his meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem (Gal 2:1-10). These accounts correspond with details found in the Book of Acts and Paul's other letters, reinforcing the link between the author of Galatians and the historical figure of Paul.

External evidence: The information derived from early Christian writings and historical testimonies, further supports Pauline authorship of the Epistle to the Galatians. The earliest extant Christian sources consistently attribute the letter to Paul. Early Church fathers such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria recognized the letter as Paul's work, demonstrating the widespread recognition and acceptance of its authorship in the early Christian community. Additionally, the letter's inclusion in the canon of the New Testament, alongside other Pauline letters, attests to its authenticity. The early church also recognized the theological and doctrinal coherence between Galatians and Paul's other letters, further affirming this fact.


While there is some uncertainty surrounding the date of Galatians because of the limited historical information available and the complexities of reconstructing the timeline of Paul's missionary activities, scholars generally agree that the letter was written in the late 40s or early 50s AD. There are three primary views (note that views 1 and 2 sometimes overlap): (1) Proponents of the early date, in the late 40s or early 50's AD, argue that the meeting in Jerusalem mentioned in Galatians 2:1-10 corresponds to the Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15 which is dated around 48-49 AD and typically follow the South Galatian view. (2) Proponents of a middle dating, in the early to mid 50's AD, typically follow the North Galatian view in which case it would have taken Paul a longer time to reach them. (3) Proponents of a late dating, in the late 50's or early 60's AD, often believe the gravity of the issues at stake necessitate a longer timeframe.


The matter of whether the Epistle was intended for the churches in North or South Galatia is an ongoing question. Although there is no consensus among scholars, the evidence appears to lean towards the South Galatian view. If the Epistle to the Galatians was directed to the churches in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, there is important historical, geographical, literary, and epigraphic data to better understand the letter.1

Occasion and Background

Paul had previously established churches in this region during his missionary journeys. The occasion that prompted Paul to write this letter was the arrival of false teachers who were promoting a distorted version of the Gospel among the Galatian believers. These teachers, often referred to as "Judaizers," insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity needed to be circumcised and adhere to Jewish laws in order to be justified before God. The Judaizers sought to undermine Paul's authority and discredit his message, causing confusion and division among the believers. Recognizing the gravity of the situation and the potential danger of the Galatians abandoning the true Gospel, Paul writes Galatians as a passionate defense of his apostleship and a clear articulation of the Gospel of grace. Paul maintains the purity of the Gospel message of faith in Jesus Christ in opposition to the false apostles whose doctrine was corrupted by false additions.

Purpose and Message

The overarching message of Galatians is the central theme of justification by faith. Paul emphasizes that a person is declared righteous before God, not by observing the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is a gift of God's grace, received by faith alone, and not by human effort or merit. Paul emphasizes the freedom that believers have in Christ enabling them to live in a new covenant of grace, as opposed to the bondage and futility of trying to attain righteousness through the law. In the new covenant of grace, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but all who have faith in Christ are one family, heirs to the promise given to Abraham. It serves as a forceful reminder of the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice and the undeserved nature of salvation.

Key Themes

Justification: The theme of justification by faith is a central and foundational concept in the Epistle to the Galatians. Throughout the letter, the apostle Paul passionately argues that justification is by faith in Christ for salvation and rejects any form of reliance on works of the law (Gal 3:28) or human effort (Gal 3:11). Paul vehemently opposes the necessity of observing Jewish laws (2:16), particularly circumcision (Gal 5:6), as a requirement for salvation and asserts that justification—being declared righteous before God—is solely by faith in Jesus Christ. It is Christ and his redemptive work on the cross that reconciles humanity with God (Gal 1:4) and grants them justification as a result of God's grace through faith (Gal 2:21).


This Epistle too has abiding significance for the Church of God. It is essentially a defense of the doctrine of free grace, of the Christian liberty of New Testament believers over against those that would bring them under the law in its Old Testament application, and would place them under the obligation to submit to circumcision and to participate in the shadowy ceremonies of a by-gone day. The great central exhortation of this letter is: “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not tangled again with the yoke of bondage.” The way of the ritualist is not the way of life, is the lesson that should be remembered by all those who are inclined to over-emphasize the outward form of religion to the neglect of its spirit and essence.


I. Pauls Defense of his Apostleship (1:1-2:21). After the usual introduction the apostle states the occasion of his writing (1:1-10). In defense of his apostleship he points out that he has been called by God himself and received his Gospel by direct revelation, and had no occasion to learn it from the other apostles (1:11-24); that the apostles showed their agreement with him by not demanding the circumcision of Titus and by admitting his mission to the gentiles (2:1-10); and that he had even rebuked Peter, when this “pillar of the church” was not true to the doctrine of free grace (2:11-21).

II. His Defense of the Doctrine of Justification (3:1-4:31). Here the apostle clearly brings out that the Galatians received the gift of the Spirit by faith (3:1-5); that Abraham was justified by faith (3:6-9); that delivery from the curse of the law is possible only through faith (3:10-14); and that the law has merely a parenthetic character, coming, as it does, between the promise and its fulfillment (3:15-29). He compares Judaism to a son who is minor, and Christianity to a son that has attained his majority (4:1-7); admonishes the Galatians that, realizing their privilege, they should not return to the beggarly elements of knowledge (4:8-20); and says that the Jew is like the child of Hagar, while the Christian resembles the child of Sara (4:21-31).

III. Practical Exhortations (5:1-6:18). The Galatians are exhorted to stand in their Christian liberty (5:1-12), a liberty that is not license but obedience (5:13-18). The works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit are described that the Galatians may avoid the former and yield the latter (5:19-26). The right way of treating the erring and weak is pointed out, and also the relation of what one sows to what one reaps (5:1-10). With a brief summary and benediction Paul ends his letter (6:11-18).


I. Introduction (1:1-9)
II. Paul's Gospel and Authority (1:10-2:21)
III. Faith Alone Against Works-Gospel (3:1-5:12)
IV. New Life in the Spirit and Love (5:13-6:18)

I. Introduction (1:1-9)
A. Salutation (1:1-5)
B. No Other Gospel (1:6-9)
II. Paul's Gospel and Authority (1:10-2:21)
A. Setup: Man's Gospel, Paul's Past (1:10-14)
B. Calling: Proved by Independence (1:15-24)
C. Gospel: Apostolically Affirmed (2:1-10)
D. Authority: Properly Resists Peter (2:11-14)
E. Justification by Faith Alone (2:15-21)
III. Faith Alone Against Works-Gospel (3:1-5:12)
A. Works of Law or Faith? (3:1-9)
B. The Law Falls Short (3:10-14)
C. Law and Promise (3:15-22)
D. Bondage and Freedom (3:23-29)
E. Slaves and Sons (4:1-7)
F. How Can you Turn Back? (4:8-11)
G. Concerned Appeal (4:12-20)
H. Hagar and Sarah (4:21-31)
I. Faith Working through Love (5:1-12)
IV. New Life in the Spirit and Love (5:13-6:18)
A. Spirit and Flesh (5:13-26)
B. Keep Watch and do Good (6:1-10)
C. Final Warning and Benediction (6:11-18)


1. F. F. Bruce, North or South Galatians?, A lecture delivered in the John Rylands Library, November 12, 1969.



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