A Historical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians

By W. M. Ramsay

Part 2

Historical Commentary

Chapter 7

Cause of the Galatian Movement

In order to illustrate the Galatian situation, let us suppose that at the present day a race, which had been converted to Christianity by Protestant missionaries, was soon afterwards visited by Roman Catholic missionaries, and that it was as a whole strongly affected by the more imposing ritual of that form of Christianity and “was quickly removing” to it. Would any one be content to explain the situation as an instance and a proof of the “fickleness” of the race, which thus went over? One who summed up the situation in that way would be at once rebuked for his superficiality, and told that he must look for some more deep-seated reason why the race was inclined to prefer the more sensuous and imposing ritual of the second form to the stern simplicity of their original Christianity.

So in the Galatian movement, we must regard it as superficial, if any one explains that movement as caused by the “fickleness” of the Galatians. A race does not change its religion through fickleness: it changes, because it believes the new form to be better or truer or more advantageous than the old. We must try to understand the reason of a notable religious movement in Galatia, and not delude ourselves by misleading and superficial talk about Galatian fickleness.

It is characteristic of the unscientific nature of the North Galatian theory that it lays such stress on the “fickleness” of the Galatians as the one great cause of their religious movement.

Now what cause does Paul regard as lying at the bottom of the Galatian movement? There is not throughout the whole Epistle a word or a sentence to suggest that he attributed it to fickleness. The verse which we are considering merely states a fact — “you are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different Gospel” — and there is not the slightest justification for reading into it an explanation of the cause of removal. See XLII, pp. 193 ff, 323 f, 449.

Moreover, Paul shows throughout the Epistle that he saw certain causes for the Galatian movement, and that fickleness was not one of them. The causes will become clear as we go over the ground. Here briefly it may be said that they partly lay in misconceptions into which the Galatians had fallen through false impressions and false information conveyed to them by others, and partly in the natural tendency to recur to certain religious forms to which the Galatians had been accustomed as pagans, or, as St. Paul puts it, to “turn back to the weak and beggarly rudiments,” Gal 4:9.

In fact, the whole Epistle is the explanation of the causes of removal, which it counteracts and undermines.

 

 

Book Navigation Title Page Preface Table of Contents Religion in Asia Minor      ► Chapter 1      ► Chapter 2      ► Chapter 3      ► Chapter 4      ► Chapter 5      ► Chapter 6      ► Chapter 7      ► Chapter 8      ► Chapter 9      ► Chapter 10      ► Chapter 11      ► Chapter 12      ► Chapter 13      ► Chapter 14      ► Chapter 15      ► Chapter 16      ► Chapter 17      ► Chapter 18      ► Chapter 19      ► Chapter 20      ► Chapter 21      ► Chapter 22      ► Chapter 23 Historical Commentary      ► Section 1      ► Section 2      ► Section 3      ► Section 4      ► Section 5      ► Section 6      ► Section 7      ► Section 8      ► Section 9      ► Section 10      ► Section 11      ► Section 12      ► Section 13      ► Section 14      ► Section 15      ► Section 16      ► Section 17      ► Section 18      ► Section 19      ► Section 20      ► Section 21      ► Section 22      ► Section 23      ► Section 24      ► Section 25      ► Section 26      ► Section 27      ► Section 28      ► Section 29      ► Section 30      ► Section 31      ► Section 32      ► Section 33      ► Section 34      ► Section 35      ► Section 36      ► Section 37      ► Section 38      ► Section 39      ► Section 40      ► Section 41      ► Section 42      ► Section 43      ► Section 44      ► Section 45      ► Section 46      ► Section 47      ► Section 48      ► Section 49      ► Section 50      ► Section 51      ► Section 52      ► Section 53      ► Section 54      ► Section 55      ► Section 56      ► Section 57      ► Section 58      ► Section 59      ► Section 60      ► Section 61      ► Section 62      ► Section 63      ► Section 64