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

By W. M. Ramsay

Part 2

Historical Commentary

Chapter 11

Tone of Address to the Galatians

This opening paragraph, Gal 1:6-10, does not merely show the intense feeling that raged in Paul’s mind: it is also a revelation of Galatian nature. His power of vividly presenting the situation in all its reality before his own mind made him, in the moment of writing, as fully conscious of his correspondents’ nature and mind as he was of himself. Things presented themselves to him, as he wrote, in the form which would most impress his Galatian readers. It was that intense sympathetic comprehension of the nature of others that made him such a power among men. Hence, in this Epistle, you see the whole nature of the Galatian converts spread open before you; and it is not the bold, proud, self-assertive nature of a northern race, like the Gauls, that is here revealed. Let any one who has some knowledge of the difference between Oriental nature and the nature of the “barbarians” from the northwestern lands, or who has studied the ancient picture of those Gauls who swept in their small bands over Asia, trampling in the dust the multitudinous armies of great kings and populous cities, those fierce, haughty, self-respecting barbarians, keenly sensitive to insult, careless of danger or wounds, settled as an aristocratic and conquering caste among a far more numerous race of subject Phrygians — let any such person judge for himself whether this paragraph, or the fresh start. Gal 3:1 ff, is the way to address such an audience: the tone of authority, of speaking from a higher platform, is exactly what a man of tact would carefully avoid. But many modern writers seem never to have considered what was the position of the Gauls in Galatia. They write as if Paul were addressing simple-minded, peaceful tribes of gentle South Sea islanders, whom he treats as his children. The Gauls were an aristocracy settled for nearly three centuries as nobles among plebeians, like the Normans among the Saxons in England.

But this very tone, brief and authoritative, is the effective method of addressing the native races of Asia Minor. It is so now, and it was the same in ancient time, when the very word “Phrygian” was equivalent to “slave”. Every traveller who mixes with the people of Anatolia learns how necessary is the “touch of authority” mixed with frankness and courtesy. On this point I can only appeal to those who know; and add the statement that the best possible illustration of the tone of this whole Epistle is the experience of the traveller.1

This difference of tone from all other Epistles has, of course, been noticed by every one, and is usually explained as due to anger. But Paul, even if angry, was not one of those persons who lose their temper and say injudicious things: while deeply moved, he only became more resolute and alert and watchful: the tone of this letter is misunderstood by those who fail to read in it the character of the persons to whom it is addressed. See XXII.

 

[1] See above, pp. 33, 195, and Impressions of Turkey, p. 27 ff.

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