Galatia

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” These words open the third chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, one of the most often-quoted epistles of the New Testament canon. In an emotionally charged and historically creative argument, the author attempts to convince these addressees of their freedom and oneness “in Christ” that they should “not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). Galatians, which ostensibly concerns the issue of how and under what circumstances the circumcised “brothers” of Israel could interact with the non-circumcised “gentiles,” has endured a formidable history as a Pauline calling-card of sorts. Scholars tend to see this text as authentically Pauline, primarily due to its rhetorical tone and style. Moreover, its emphasis on conversion and conflict has made it a convenient conversation partner for reformations large and small.
 

Did you know…?

  • In his Antiquities of the Jews 1.6, Josephus claimed that the biblical figure Gomer (Gen 10, Hos 1) is the founder of Galatia and that the people were originally called Gomerites.
  • Ancient Greeks may have used the term Galatia to refer to the area in Anatolia that was settled by three different Celtic tribes who had migrated south and east: the Tectosages, Tolistobogii, and Trocmii.
  • The Romans maintained that the Galatians practiced human sacrifice. In particular, they claimed that the Galatians decapitated their enemies and ritually displayed their severed heads on wooden posts.
  • There are no known first-century manuscripts of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. The earliest complete version of this letter dates to the 175-225 CE, more than a century and a half after Paul supposedly wrote it.
  • In the fourth century CE, Jerome claimed that the people of Galatia still spoke a Celtic language rather than Greek.

Contributors

  • Davina C. Lopez

    Professor of Religious Studies and core faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies, Eckerd College

    Davina C. Lopez is Professor of Religious Studies and core faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies at Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, Florida. A scholar of the New Testament and early Christianity with research interests in Pauline studies, Roman imperial art and literature, and theory and method in the study of religion, she is the author of Apostle to the Conquered: Reimagining Paul’s Mission (Fortress, 2008) and coauthor, with Todd Penner, of De-introducing the New Testament: Texts, Worlds, Methods, Stories (Wiley, 2015).