Carson, D.A., and Douglas Moo An Introduction to the New Testament - Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. "New Testament Letters" Carson & Moo pp. 331-353
"Galatians" Carson & Moo pp. 456-478
Carson and Moo observe that Paul's letter to the Galatians shows a great deal of urgency. When we confront people who are entrapped in sin and are harming themselves, it is a very important matter, in reality a matter of life and death.
p. 457 "Paul contrasts life in the Spirit with that in the flesh, which leads to instruction about right living. Paul takes up the pen himself to close with an impassioned reminder that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters - but God's new creation does."
This letter has a very long history of being recognized as a work of the apostle Paul. Internal evidence and historical tradition are consistent.
An address to "Galatia" is problematic. The region of Galatia is essentially divided into two portions. The northern portion, a mountainous and remote area, was settled by Gauls in the third century B.C. The southern portion, a coastal region, had a multi-ethnic community during the Roman period. We know that Paul had journeyed through the southern regions, stopping at multiple cities. However, his welcome in that area was not uniformly positive. Paul's letter to the Galatians seems to indicate a very positive experience with the people. However, Paul had been ill at the time when he apparently met the Galatians. This would tend to suggest that he would not have gone to the difficult and remote mountainous area. We are left uncertain about what portion of Galatia Paul is addressing.
pp. 461-462 "If one adopts the North Galatian theory, then because Paul could not have spent enough time ministering in the north to plant churches until about halfway through his recorded missionary service, the date of Galatians, which of course must have been written after the planting of the church, must be a little later - about the same time as Paul's letter to Rome. If the South Galatian theory is adopted, an early date is possible." Carson and Moo suggest a number of considerations which support an early date, including his lack of mention of the decree of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, which addressed many of the issues Paul addresses in Galatians. Others suggest an affinity with the Corinthian letters and lean toward a later composition. pp. 464-465 "That the letter precedes the Jerusalem Council seems indicated by the fact that Paul makes no mention of its verdict. Even if he did not make it his main argument, it is hard to see why he should omit all mention of such a significant support to his argument against accepting the whole Jewish Torah."
p. 465 "From Acts 13-14 we learn that Paul and Barnabas evangelized the southern part of the province of Galatia by going first to the synagogues, where they preached to Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. but in each city Jews stirred up opposition, and the preachers turned to the Gentiles and made converts from among them."
p. 465 "But after Paul and Barnabas left the scene, apparently some Jewish Christians came into the area and taught that those who embrace the Christian salvation must submit to Jewish Law, the Torah."
p. 466 "In recent years some have argued that all or at least most of the laws that these interlopers were pressing on the Galatians were the legislative pieces that established "boundary markers" - the practices that differentiated Jews from other people . . . Certainly Paul is constantly at pains to unite Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Nevertheless, this "new perspective" on Paul is too narrow."
Carson and Moo suggest a number of situations that apparently provoked the composition. There were apparently false teachers who had come from the Jewish Christian camp. They sometimes see libertinism, spurring people to indulge in sin. There were criticisms of Paul mentioned. And the gospel of grace was compromised by the teaching which had arisen in Galatia.
There are a number of minor variants in the text of Galatians but nothing which causes difficulties. Among the variants are the name used for Peter and whether in chapter 1 verse 6 the words "of Christ" should come after the word "grace." These are not serious problems.
ADOPTION INTO THE CANON
Galatians was adopted very early and consistently as canonical. There are hints of it in late first century and early second century authors.
GALATIANS IN RECENT STUDY
There is an ongoing debate about the identity of the people Paul was opposing. There is also a great deal of study on the rhetorical features of Galatians. Rather a lot of the most recent discussion focuses on the work of E.P. Sanders who suggested that the Jews never thought they could be saved by keeping the law. His work surfaces as a presupposition of many in Pauline studies today.
THE CONTRIBUTION OF GALATIANS
This book sets out the truth of justification by faith in Christ and by no other means. This concept is of critical importance to all Christians. There is also a strong emphasis on Christian freedom. We are justified by grace through faith and we are set free to walk in the Spirit.