Sunday, March 08, 2009

Paul Novel: Galatians 1

Well, my wife Angie has corroborated that I should keep my day job unless I put more gun fights into this thing. But I've committed to finish it, so I will continue! What I've posted here on previous Sundays has been chapter 8, the second chapter on 1 Corinthians.

So today we start chapter 9: Trouble in Galatia.
The first two years of Paul’s stay in Asia was invigorating to him. Yes, he had been briefly imprisoned and had appeared before the Roman governor. But he had witnessed to Christ before the governor, a grand opportunity as far as he was concerned! And he had seen the gospel expand inland as far as Colossae. He was beginning to feel that itch to move, to entrust Ephesus to the care of others and push further west even beyond Rome into Spain.

The Corinthian church continued to present some difficulty, but Paul hoped that his most recent letter would bring the kind of peace and unity the church needed. Apollos had largely removed himself from the situation, submitting to Paul's authority. The two obviously were having an effect on each other's thinking. Apollos was less flippant about pagan temples, and Paul began to think more seriously about what might happen to the dead before the resurrection.

But Paul's equilibrium was startlingly thrown off balance when news arrived at Ephesus about certain goings on in the northern region of Roman Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had founded churches in the south of that Roman district less than ten years earlier, in the regions of Pisidia and Lacaonia. It was there in the city of Lystra that Timothy had believed in Jesus.

Then on a second trip through the area with Silas, Paul had found himself heading north by a somewhat bizarre route, only to end up in the area of Ancyra, in Galatia proper. This was the area where descendants of the warlike Galatians of old lived. It was while there that Paul became deathly ill. And even after he recovered, he found that he had lost significant sight in his eyes as a result of the fever.

He would not normally have spent so much time in an area where there was no great city, but he took the situation as a sign of God's will. For the next few months he brought the good news to the Galatians of the region, and many received the message with joy. Indeed, they treated Paul like he was an angel from heaven. Then when Paul decided his sight had returned as much as it would, he, Silas, and Timothy pressed on. He would struggle with his eyes the rest of his life.

Paul made a second trip through the region of north Galatia after he left Corinth the first time. It was during that trip that he urged them to set aside money on the Lord's Day for an offering he hoped to bring to the churches of Jerusalem. He hoped to bring it there by Pentecost the next year. Little did he know at the time that he would have to put off that trip and that, by the time he did take it, he would have lost the loyalty of the Galatians.

To understand the situation at Galatia, you have to go back almost ten years. Back then, Paul was preaching the good news everywhere he could in his home region, where Tarsus was. Remember, he spent three years in Palestine after he believed. That was in the area around Damascus and in Nabatean Arabia just east of it.

But after those first three years, Paul had returned to his home town of Tarsus, in Asia Minor. For almost ten years thereafter, Paul had used Tarsus as a base from which to preach the gospel in the surrounding region, the region of Cilicia. At the time he was still sorting out his calling. He worked mostly in whatever Jewish synagogues he could find, with mixed results. He also tried to reach out to any Gentiles who would listen to him.

Near the end of a decade there, he received an invitation to come to Antioch, a city in the northernmost part of Palestine, in Syria. It was only about a week's journey from Tarsus, to the east. There, he found a vibrant group of believers. Most of them were Greek-speaking Jews, but Gentile God-fearers had become an important part of the community too.

It was exactly the collection of God's people that Paul had pictured as part of the end of the age. There were not only Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but also many Gentiles flocking to Israel's God. Paul's only complaint was that Antioch was not actively seeking out the Gentiles. They were only receiving them as God drew them to their synagogues.

Still, the Christian synagogues there were awash with signs of the Holy Spirit. When they met together at dawn on Sunday morning, there was always a prophetic word that all acknowledged as authentic. People in their fellowship regularly experienced healings, and whenever they came across evil spirits, they were caused to flee. Paul almost felt that God's rule might break through at any time.

The believers were a glorious mixture of Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, not to mention Jews from all over the Diaspora. Barnabas was there, and it was he who had invited Paul to join the assemblies at Antioch. There was Simeon the black and Lucius of Cyrene, both of whom were from North Africa. One of the patrons of the community was a man named Manaen, who had actually grown up with Herod Antipas, the one who beheaded John the baptizer.

Perhaps the best known instance of the Spirit's working there was when the prophet Agabus foresaw that a famine was coming over the world. When it happened, the community of Antioch shared its abundance with the churches of Jerusalem. They sent a delegation with support from Antioch down to Jerusalem.

But despite the success of the gospel at Antioch, Paul could not forget his sense that the good news was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. He could not get the prophesy of Isaiah out of his mind, that the Gentiles would rally to the Messiah. He could not forget the mandate of Isaiah to proclaim God's glory among the nations...


Richard Fellows said...


Acts 16:6-10 says that at three points on their journey the group received divine direction, the purpose of which was to bring them to Europe as soon as possible. Hence they were directed to pass through Asia without preaching there (16:6). Therefore Luke cannot be suggesting that they took a long and time consuming detour to the north-east to ethnic Galatia. Such a trip would not fit with the purpose of the divine directions. One would have to suppose that Luke is thinking in terms of different divine direction with conflicting purposes, and this seems unlikely to me. Can this problem be overcome?

Another problem with your sequence is that you will have Paul write Galatians while the collection in Galatia is still in progress or has stalled. The difficulty here is that no-where in the letter does Paul discuss arrangements for the collection or encourage his hearers to give generously or encourage them to revive it. This silence is explicable if the collection from Galatia had been delivered years before the letter was written. Indeed Gal 2:10 implies that Paul helped the poor in Jerusalem immediately after the Jerusalem visit of Gal 2 (=Acts 15), so this is the most probable date of the collection from Galatia. There is nothing in 1 Cor 16:1 to suggest that the collection from Galatia was not complete at thet time of writing.

You suggest that Timothy was a native of Lystra, but Luke does not say so, and there are problems. A Timothy from rustic Lystra would have been new to the faith, relatively unknown to Paul, relatively uneducated, and he would not have met the apostles in Jerusalem. It is hard to see what he would have been able to contribute to the missionary team. Yet he preached to the Corinthians and Paul describes him as a co-worker of God (1 Thess. 3:2). Another problem with a Lystran Timothy is that local Jews, who demanded his circumcision, would surely not have allowed the mixed marriage of his parents.

If Timothy was Titus renamed the problems are solved. He was from Antioch, a major centre of learning were Jews and Greeks intermingled and mixed marriages were likely. He had been a believer for many years and had visited the Jerusalem apostles (Gal 2:1). He was therefore fully qualified to be Paul's partner. When Paul was asked to 'remember the poor', he sent Titus (Timothy) to south Galatia to organize a collection. Titus-Timothy was in Lystra when Paul arrived. Converts from Polytheism to Judaism and Christianity committed themselves to honor the one God. So "Timothy", meaning "honoring God" is a very appropriate conversion name. About half the proselytes to Judaism took a new name.

A consequence of this is that the presence of Timothy in Lystra is evidence that the collection from Galatia was at that time. It was designed to coincide with the Sabbatical year of 48/49, whereas the collection from Achaia and Macedonia coincided with the Sabbatical year of 55/56.

Does this all hang together?

Ken Schenck said...

Richard, you have consistently impressed me with the details of your analysis. I thought of you every time this week that I asked myself, "Where was Titus when Paul was writing 1 Corinthians?" Since Paul continues to use both the names Timothy and Titus, I haven't given into your hypothesis, but I admit its ingenuity.

I continually have second thoughts about my locating Galatians in relation to northern Galatia. What I have noticed is that classicists consistently seem to favor this destination, as did ancient Christians like Chrysostom. But I have reconsidered my position several times these last few weeks.

My policy with regard to Acts is to consider it an artful and rhetorical presentation of the early church, with special reference to Peter and Paul. I have no interest in denying its historicity at any point, but on the other hand, I don't think it detracts from Acts in any way to suggest that at some points it may not be precise in the way it presents things either.

Richard Fellows said...


thanks for your thoughts and feedback.

Paul gets the collection started by writing 1 Cor 16:1-3 and Timothy is his envoy at that time. Yet in 2 Cor 8:6 we read that Titus began the collection. How can we reconcile this contradiction? So you ask a good question: Where was Titus when 1 Corinthians was written. Some have suggested that Titus delivered 1 Corinthians, but it is odd that his name is not mentioned there and it would be strange for Paul to send both his trusted envoys to the same place at the same time. Others go further and propose that Timothy got held up in Macedonia and never made it to Corinth. Another line of thinking is that Titus made a trip to Corinth before 1 Corinthians was written and began the collection there at that time. This lacks economy and is unlikely because 1 Corinthians tells us that Chloe's people and Stephanas et al are Paul's sources of information and we read nothing of Titus. The difficulties are solved, I think, when we realize that Titus-Timothy went to Corinth at the time of 1 Corinthians and started the collection then.

You raise a concern about the Titus-Timothy hypothesis: If he was one person, why would Paul call him "Timothy" in 2 Cor 1:1,19 and elsewhere, but use his lesser-known name, "Titus", in connection with his two missions to organize the collection in 2 Cor 2:13; 7:6,13,15; 8:6,16,23;12:18? But Timothy is not the only person whose identity Paul protects in 2 Corinthians. The 'brothers' of 2 Cor 8:18-24 and he 'brother' of 2 Cor 12:18 are strangely anonymous. I suggest that Paul conceals the identities of his collection helpers to protect them from bandits and/or Jewish opponents. Trusted insiders in the Corinthian church would have known that Timothy had been called "Titus", but outsiders and spies would not have known. I call this "protective heteronymity". It is no coincidence, I think, that "Titus" is the only named person whom Paul reveals helped with the collection, and every mention of "Titus" in 2 Corinthians was in connection with his two missions to organize the collection. On the following web page I have recently attempted present these arguments: Comments welcome.

On the north/south Galatia debate, if you get time, take a look at the work of Stephen Mitchell, a classicist (Anatolia Land, Men, and Gods in Asia Minor volume II p3-4). He explains why he believes "there is virtually nothing to be said for the north Galatian theory". Also, on page 161 he describes how boundary changes placed the cities of south Galatia outside of the province after A.D.311 or so. This would explain why the south Galatia hypothesis was not an option for Chrysostom. Ramsay (another classicist) made the same point, I think.