Rejection of Mosaic Law in Galatians

Galatia was a region of central Turkey, occupied largely by the “Gauls” or “Celts” in Thrace. Details are hazy, but regardless Galatia was some sort of ‘Western’ church developed by Paul and his cohort.

The Epistle to the Galatians reads like an addendum to Romans. The chief focus of the letter is on the act of circumcision, a key distinguishing element of Moses’s law. The letter has since been broken down into six chapters. Paul begins in Chapter 1 by justifying his gospel as superior, for he does not seek the approval of mere human beings. Paul was a persecutor of the Christians, rising above many others in Judaism at the time. But God revealed “his Son” to Paul in a particular moment of revelation. Instead of returning to consult the elders of Jerusalem, he went to Arabia, and then to Damascus. He met only Peter (Cephas) and then James, both followers of Jesus, but no others (later he met other followers of Jesus as described in Chapter 2). He promises this is no lie. The people of the regions praised him, since Paul formerly tried to destroy the church and then became a convert (1:23-24).

Paul describes a notable confrontation between himself and Peter (Cephas) in Chapter 2, in which Paul argues there is no need for men to circumcised as in the Mosaic law. Paul reiterates his claims in Romans, that the law does not produce righteousness, but rather righteousness comes through God. Paul gives preference to faith, against the letter of the law. In Chapter 3, Paul argues that the law had a purpose to handle the transgressions of the people until the arrival of the messiah hundreds of years later. The people who lived prior to Jesus’s arrival were like slaves, but upon the arrival of Jesus they became like adopted sons.

Paul initially began preaching in Galatia as a result of an “illness” -perhaps in connection to his “thorn” described in Corinthians.

In Chapter 5, Paul argues that circumcision is irrelevant, and if one gets circumcised he better follow all the laws of Moses, as well. Jesus does not care one way or the other. In Chapter 6, the chief theme is that new creation comes through the new faith (“the way”) rather than the act of the old law. Paul closes by asking them not to bother him with these questions any longer, as he bears the “marks” of Jesus on his body -perhaps a self harm of crucifixion scars.

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