By W. M. Ramsay
“I Marvel” (Gal 1:6)
After the introductory address — the heading of the letter, Song of Solomon 1 to say — Paul usually begins the body of the letter with an expression of thanks (so Rom., 1 Cor., Phil., Colossians , 1 and 2 Thess., 2 Tim., Philem.), or of blessing (so 2 Cor., Eph.) — some acknowledgment of the Divine care and kindness in respect of his correspondents and himself.
In so doing he was following the customary polite form in ordinary Greek letters. In those letters, after the superscription giving the names and titles of the writer and of the person or persons addressed, there was usually added some acknowledgment of the Divine power, such as: “if you are well and successful, it would be in accordance with my constant prayer to the Gods:” or “before all things I pray that you may be in health;” but in case of haste, eagerness, excitement or anger, this conventional part of the letter was often omitted. Now “courtesy of address to all was valued by Paul as an element in the religious life; and he advised his pupils to learn from the surrounding world everything that was worthy in it, . . . ‘whatsoever is courteous, whatsoever is of fine expression, all excellence, all merit, take account of these,’ wherever you find these qualities, notice them, imitate them”.1 So here, “it is Paul’s Greek environment and his Greek education that are responsible for the expressions which he uses”.2 In all his own life and words, and in all his teaching to others, he takes up “the most gracious and polished tone of educated society”; but as all the forms of politeness and courtesy in ordinary life had a religious tone and acknowledged the gods, he changed them so far as to give them a Christian turn (though sometimes the change might almost have been adopted by an enlightened pagan), acknowledging God in place of the gods.
The exceptions are 1 Timothy and Titus (in which he plunges at once into the important business of Church order and teaching, the cause of the letters), and the Galatian letter, which differs from all others. Not merely is there no expression of thankfulness; Paul goes at once to the business in hand, “I marvel that ye are so quickly removing,” and then he pronounces a curse on any one, man or angel from heaven, who preaches to the Galatians “any gospel other than that which we preached unto you” — “any gospel other than that which ye received”. The reference, of course, is to the message which converted the Galatians, the Gospel which originally called them from darkness to light.
The intense feeling under which Paul was labouring is shown by the unique character of the opening, and by the strength — one might say, the violence — of the language. Anything that is said in this first paragraph must be understood as being of overwhelming importance. Paul here touches the crucial point of the Galatian difficulty.
 Deissmann, Bibelstudien, p. 207 ff; Rendel Harris, Expositor, Sept., 1898, p. 163 ff; St. Paul the Trav., p. 149.
 Harris, loc. cit., p. 165. So in St. Paul the Trav., p. 149, “it is the educated citizen of the Roman world who speaks in these and many other sentences”.