By W. M. Ramsay
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.