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Paul and the Galatians

Updated on January 28, 2014

The World of Saint Paul


Paul Writes to Those Christians in "Galatia"

An area in modern-day Turkey is called "Galatia." It is in the central part of Turkey. But two thousand years ago, Turkey didn't exist as a nation. Instead, the whole area, as the map shows, was part of the wide-spread Roman Empire. Galatia was inhabited primarily by Gauls and the Romans who conquered them.

Paul's letter to the Galatians starts by telling them of the times when Paul had persecuted Christians, until he was converted by an apparition of Jesus.

It is apparent in the letter that Paul may have argued with Saint Peter as to whether it was right for Paul to preach Christianity to the Gentiles (a word meaning everyone in the world except Jews). Contemptuously, Jewish people, including Jesus' disciples, often referred to Gentiles as "the uncircumsized."

Paul traces faith in God back to Abraham, who was the ancestor of Israel (Jacob) and Moses. But Mosaic law, reasoned Paul, came from God 430 years after Abraham lived in order to keep the Hebrew people under guard because of their transgressions, while they waited a thousand more years for Christ, who brought faith to mankind. Faith, said Paul, superseded Mosaic law.

The faithful, Paul believed, were like children destined to receive their inheritance in heaven with God their Father.

In discussing the law, Paul reasoned that people who live in the same spirit as God will do only acts of love and kindness. There never would be any law against that. Such people could live without fear of breaking the law because following their Christian faith would ensure that they wouldn't. Paul may have been allaying the anxieties Galatians felt concerning the powerful Romans who ruled with an iron hand.

In his letter, Paul preaches kindness and gentleness toward others. It is no wonder that Saint Paul is considered just that--a saint. He resolved issues peacefully and intellectually, and not through force or war.

Paul is noted for his bringing Christianity to people who were not Jewish. Eventually, with the spread of the Roman Empire through so much of the Mediterranean world (outlined in yellow on the map) and with the Christian faith being adopted as the official religion of the empire, the primary European nations that formed after Roman times were Christian. The religion spread to the Americas and throughout the British Empire, thus accounting for Christianity's current position as the dominant religion of the powerful and influential nations.

Many scholars have found in the writings of Saint Paul, and the fundamental principles of all religions throughout the world, wisdom to be admired and valued by atheists, non-Christians, and people completely disinterested in church and spiritual discussions. This aspect of the teachings of saints and the many world religions earns respect and outweighs the many times throughout history when religious people have corrupted their churches and committed atrocities in the name of God.

Paul's teaching that by following fundamental love and kindness we can do no wrong still has a more enduring quality than other schools of thought tending toward goals like the acquisition of territory and power. If Paul could return to the area of Galatia in present-day Turkey, chances are good that he would find agreeable listeners there now as well.


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