By W. M. Ramsay
The Large Letters (Gal 6:11-17)
As in several other cases, Paul ends with a peculiarly direct and personal appeal to his correspondents, summing up afresh the critical points in his letter.
Habitually Paul employed a secretary, to whom he dictated his letters; but his custom was to add a parting message with his own hand as a mark of authenticity, “the salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand, which is the token in every Epistle” (2Th 3:17). He sometimes marks this concluding message as his own by the words as well as by the handwriting, as in Col 4:18, 1Co 16:21. Sometimes he trusts to the handwriting alone, and we may confidently take such concluding paragraphs as Rom 16:25-27, Eph 4:23-24, as the parting messages in Paul’s hand, though in some cases it is difficult to detect the point of transition.
In no other case is the point where Paul takes the pen marked so emphatically as here; and in no other case is the parting message so important. Paul returns to the primary subject after having diverged from it in his eagerness to give counsel and advice to the Galatian Churches. He adds with his own hand a brief and pointed résumé of the leading thoughts in the letter; and he arrests attention and concentrates it on the résumé at once by the opening words: “Look you in what big letters I wrote with my own hand”.
The tense “I wrote” is an epistolary usage, especially common in Latin, but also found in Greek: the writer puts himself at the point of view of his readers, so that his own action seems to him to lie in the past, as it must be to them when they read it. Paul rarely employs this epistolary tense,1 but here it is forced on him by the opening word “Look”. He imagines himself to be standing beside his correspondents as they are reading his letter, and saying to them, “Look what big letters Paul used here.”
It has been inferred by many from this sentence that Paul’s ordinary handwriting was very large. But if that were so, it would be unnecessary for him to say both “with my own hand” and “in big letters”. Moreover, those who suppose that a trifling detail, such as the shape or size of Paul’s ordinary handwriting, could find room in his mind as he wrote this letter, are mistaking his character. The size of the letters must have some important bearing on the parting message, or it would not have been mentioned. We must here look for the cause, not in any personal trait, but in some principle of ancient life and custom.
In modern times publicity for documents of importance is attained by multiplication of copies. In ancient times that method was impossible: anything that had to be brought before the notice of the public must be exposed in a prominent position before the eyes of all, engraved on some lasting material such as bronze or marble. When a document was thus exposed in public, attention was often called to some specially important point, especially at the beginning or end, by the use of larger letters.2
On this familiar analogy Paul calls attention to the following sentences as containing the critical topics of the letter, and being therefore in bold, striking lettering. Lightfoot, who adopts this view,3 is probably right in taking ὑμῖν as an ethical dative, translating “how large, mark you”.
Dr. Deissmann’s interpretation of the “large letters,” as belonging to the region of pure comedy, has been alluded to in § XXII. It is rightly rejected by Meyer-Sieffert.
 A case in Phm 1:19.
 Examples at Pisidian Antioch in Sterrett’s Epigr. Journey, Nos. 97, 99, 101, 102, 108, etc.; others are quoted by Meyer-Sieffert; others may be found in Pompeian advertisements.
 He does not, however, mention the epigraphic custom, but treats the device as special to Paul.