Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Research Paper on the Audience of Galatians



Introduction
This paper aims to deal with the historical puzzle as to who were the recipients of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Raymond E. Brown notes that this debate has be deliberated upon for nearly two centuries by various scholars.1 As James D.G. Dunn comments, the difficulty in dealing with this issue arises out of the confusion with the names “Galatia” or “Galatians” for it can be used
ethnically, referring to the descendants of the Gallic tribes and administratively, referring to the Roman province.2 However, Dunn notes that the issue largely revolves around the relation
between Acts and Galatians, whether Paul could be referring to the churches established during the first missionary journey (Acts 13-14).3

Historical Background
Before getting into the main argument, it would be worthwhile to locate the audience in their historical context. Raymond E. Brown notes that
Galatai were Indo-Aryans, related to the Celts and Gauls, who invaded Asia Minor about 279 B.C. Within fifty years, after defeat by the kingdom of Pergamum, their territory was restricted to a mountainous central section around Ancyra (modern Ankara). Rome used them as allies in various wars; and when the last Galatian king died in 25 B.C., their ethnic homeland was incorporated into the large Roman “Province of Galatia” that extended south toward the Mediterranean, including Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.4
Geographically speaking, Dunn shows us that the above mentioned towns (i.e. Pisidian Antioch,
Iconium, Lystra and Derbe) were situated south of ethnic Galatia, but had been included in the
Roman province as its southernmost part.5 However, Brown argues that Luke never refers to the
southern region as “Galatia” and that the southern cities Antioch, Derbe, Iconium and Lystra
(Acts 13:14; 14:6) are not placed in the Roman “province” but in their “districts”6 Moreover,
Walter Hansen notes that by the third century A.D., the province of Galatia was reduced to
approximately its ancient ethnological dimensions, the original “northern” territory of the Celtic

invaders.7 Hansen also mentions that this “northern” part was the only Galatia that existed during
the patristic times.8 Hansen further notes that “Galatia” in Paul’s time, referred to the entire
Roman province covering Pontus in the north to Pamphylia in the South. Hansen says that inspite of their ethnic origin; all the residents of this province were called “Galatians.”9

Recipients: Northern Galatians
Having briefly seen the historicity of the problem, let us now discuss the main issue. In this
section we will look at the evidences for a northern Galatia. Dunn shows us that in Acts 16:6 and
18:23 Paul makes a passing reference to “Galatia and Phrygia.”10 Dunn notes that according to
Luke’s record of Paul’s missionary visit in Acts 16:6 the two cities “Galatia and Phrygia” are
different from the cities mentioned in Acts 14:1-5 (Derbe, Lystra).11 Hence Dunn argues that, for
Luke “Galatia” could be referring to the ethnic Galatians in the north which does not correlate to
his first missionary visit but rather to Paul’s initial mission work according to Acts 16:6.12

Moreover, Brown notes that the term “Galatia” in Paul’s address (Gal. 3:1) though maybe
confusing is more appropriate for the “ethnic Galatians” in the north than for the “Hellenized
Galatians” in the south.13 Hansen also notes that scholars such as J. B. Lightfoot and H. D. Betz
have argued for a northern position based on the grounds that the recipients were churches in or
near Ancyra, Pessinus and Tavium, three cities in northern Asia Minor (modern Turkey).14
Hansen notes that pro-northern scholars have understood this territory to be originally conquered
and settled by a distinct “ethnic” group of Celtic (Gaulish) descent in the third century B.C.
Therefore they hold the view that in Gal. 3:1, Acts 16:6 and 18:23 Paul is referring to this
“particular race” that belongs to north Galatia.15 However, to take a pro-northern view is still
confusing in the light of Hansen’s comment that inspite of their ethnic origin, all the residents of 
the Roman province covering Pontus in the north to Pamphylia in the South were called
Galatians.


Recipients: Southern Galatians
On the other hand, other scholars have equally noted evidences for a southern position. D.A.
Carson, Douglas J. Moo and Leon Morris have closely observed why the southerners of various races included in the Roman province are considered to be the audience. Firstly, Carson, Moo and Morris note that some scholars believe that Paul’s ministry was more in the southern region than in the north. Moreover, the few instances that refer to his northern presence do not mention any church planting done by Paul (Acts 16:6; 8:23).16
Secondly, Carson, Moo and Morris show us that while Paul’s reference to “the region of Phrygia and Galatia” mentioned in Acts 16:6 is taken by the northern contenders to mean “Phrygia and
the Galatian country” inversely, scholars such as F.F. Bruce have suggested that “the region of
Phrygia and Galatia” was merely an exit route that Paul took whenever he left Lystra and
Iconium (Acts 16:2; 18:23) and thus is properly “Phrygio-Galatic territory.”17 However, Carson, Moo and Morris note that northern contenders still argue that Luke tends to speak of places in
geographic terms such as “Pisidian” Antioch (Acts 13:14) thereby suggesting that “the region of Phrygia and Galatia” must literally be taken as “geographic Phrygia” and “geographic Galatia”
as two different places.18 But, Carson, Moo and Morris conclude by saying that such a distinction is unlikely and thus pointing to a southern Galatia.19

Brown on the other hand contends that Acts 16:6-7 points more towards the northern Galatia.
Brown argues that the expression “the region of Phrygia and Galatia” could either mean that
Paul, Silas and Timothy during their second missionary journey “moved westward through the
Phrygian region of the province of Galatia (thus still not north Galatia), or moved northward
through Phrygia into the North Galatian territory proper? Brown argues that “geographically”
                                                


although the case for a southern Galatia seems more plausible the evidence still compels to a
northern position.20


Thirdly, Carson, Moo and Morris points to Paul’s territorial usage of titles such as “Galatians”
which is usually used to refer to the Roman provinces of Lycaonia, Antioch, Lystra, Iconium and Derbe. However, Carson, Moo and Morris show that there are other who argue against this
position, have noted that Paul’s usage is subject to change and therefore there is also a
probability that “Galatians” could still include the ethnic Galatians in the north.21

Fourthly, Carson, Moo and Morris identify the mention of two individuals who contributed
towards the offerings for the Jerusalem believers (Acts 20:4; 1 Cor. 16:1). Among the others who
contributed from Berea and Thessalonica, scholars say that the two contributors from Galatia
could be “South Galatians” although this information is not directly derived from Luke’s
record.22
Fifthly, Carson, Moo and Morris note that it is unlikely that Paul having a physical illness (Gal. 4:13) would have ministered in north Galatia which was known to be a dry and mountainous region unlike the southern part which was a commercial centre and easy for access to other places.23 Moreover, Carson, Moo and Morris say that scholars have also suggested that even Paul’s Jewish opponents would not have pursued him into the hard northern terrain but rather to an easy and accessible area in the south which is more plausible.24 Moreover, W. M. Ramsay argues that churches developed along the great lines of communication which points the
evidence more toward a southern position than a northern Galatia.25
Sixthly, Carson, Moo and Morris note that the words of welcome that Paul (Gal. 4:14) has also
been used to suggest that a similar welcome was given to Paul at Lystra (Acts 14:12). But as
argued by Carson, Moo and Morris this connection between Gal. 4:14 and Acts 14:12 is not a
                                                                            

strong enough evidence to sustain a southern position because of the fact that others argue Paul’s
sickly condition (Gal. 4:13).26


Finally, Carson, Moo and Morris notes the mention of Barnabas (Gal. 2:1, 9, 13), who
accompanied Paul only during his visit to the South Galatians churches and Peter (Gal. 2:7-8)
who according to the available evidence is never seen in northern Galatia and hence suggests that both of them could be known only by the Southern Galatians.27 However, Brown questions that “would not Barnabas’ presence at the famous Jerusalem meeting have been more widely known and not only to those whom he evangelized?”28

Recipients: North or South?
Carson, Moo and Morris tells us that scholars such as F.F. Bruce have concluded that the
Northern region could be preferred over the southern because the arguments are more
compelling in this direction.29 On the other hand Dunn says that neither a northern nor a southern
position can be fully argued and a decisive decision made. However, says Dunn, the puzzle does
not in any way affect the fact that the recipients included both Jews and Gentiles. Dunn notes
that a mention in Gal. 4:8 clearly the inclusion of Gentiles in Paul’s address which places them
among the audience.30

Conclusion
It is clear from the scholarly opinion that evidences does not help in clearly determining the
destination for the letter to Galatians. Thus to pronounce a final verdict on whether the audience
are north or south Galatians is not possible at this point. While scholars such as F.F. Bruce have
suggested a northern position based on compelling evidence, as rightly noted by Dunn, it does
not make any impact on determining the particularity of the audience. For Paul, the more serious
issue was to address both Jews and Gentiles. Thus to be caught up with the geographic issue is to
miss the point of Paul’s address to a racial mix of audience which is more important in this letter.

1 Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (N.Y.: Doubleday, 1997), 475.
2 James D.G. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians (London.: A & C Black, 1993), 6.
3 Dunn, Galatians, 6.
4 Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, 475.
5 Dunn, Galatians, 6.
6 Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, 476. 
7 G. Walter Hansen, Galatians (England.: IVP, 1994), 17.
8 Hansen, Galatians, 17.
9 Hansen, Galatians, 17.
10 Dunn, Galatians, 6.
11 Dunn, Galatians, 6.
12 Dunn, Galatians, 6.
13 Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, 476.
14 Hansen, 16.
15 Hansen, 16.

16 Carson , Moo and Morris (eds), An Introduction to the New Testament, 290.
17 Carson , Moo and Morris (eds), An Introduction to the New Testament, 290-291.
18 Carson , Moo and Morris (eds), An Introduction to the New Testament, 292.
19 Carson , Moo and Morris (eds), An Introduction to the New Testament, 292. 
20 Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, 476.
21 Carson , Moo and Morris (eds), An Introduction to the New Testament, 291.
22 Carson , Moo and Morris (eds), An Introduction to the New Testament, 291.
23 Carson , Moo and Morris (eds), An Introduction to the New Testament, 291.
24 Carson , Moo and Morris (eds), An Introduction to the New Testament, 291.
25 W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire (London.: Hodder & Stoughton, 1893), 10-11. 


26 Carson , Moo and Morris (eds), An Introduction to the New Testament, 291.
27 Carson , Moo and Morris (eds), An Introduction to the New Testament, 292.
28 Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, 476.
29 Carson , Moo and Morris (eds), An Introduction to the New Testament, 293.
30 Dunn, Galatians, 6.
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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. N.Y.: Doubleday, 1997. 467-482. 

Carson, D.A, Douglas J. Moo and Leon Morris (eds). An Introduction to the New Testament.  Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1992. 289-303. 

Dunn, James D.G. The Epistle to the Galatians. London.: A & C Black, 1993. 

Hansen, G. Walter. Galatians. England.: IVP, 1994.  


Ramsay, W.M. The Church in the Roman Empire. London.: Hodder & Stoughton, 1893.

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