Lesson 1: Introduction and Chapter 1

Holy Lord,
We thank you for the brave missionaries like St. Paul that You have called to be your emissaries in taking the message of Jesus' Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth. Now, as in the past, these men offer You the sacrifice of their lives for the salvation of humanity. Their lives are an example for us and a reminder that we also are called to be missionaries to our families, our communities and our countrymen and women. The mission to share the Gospel of salvation is entrusted to every new generation of Christians until Christ returns, and we must do our part to continue the mission that began with the Apostles, Jesus' other disciples, and men like St. Paul. Please send You Holy Spirit to guide us as we study St. Paul's letter to the Christians of the Roman province of Galatia. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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... Ananias said, "Lord, I have heard from many people about this man and all what evil things he has been doing to your holy people in Jerusalem. He has come here with a warrant from the chief priests to arrest everybody who invokes your name." The Lord replied, "Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel. I myself will show him how much he must suffer for my name.
Acts 9:13-16

In the whole world Paul taught that all the churches are arranged by sevens, that they are called seven, and that the Catholic Church is one. And first of all, indeed, that he himself also might maintain the type of seven churches, he did not exceed that number. But he wrote to the Romans, to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Thessalonians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians; afterward he wrote to individual persons, so as not to exceed the number of seven churches.
Bishop Victorinus of Petovium [Pettau] martyred 304 AD, from the Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John.

St. Paul's letter to the Christian communities of Galatia is the first of the "great epistles" of St. Paul, "the apostle to the Gentiles." The letter has been called the "Magna Carta of Christian liberty" because the focus of St. Paul's message is that Jesus Christ has freed those who believe in Him from bondage to the legalism of the old Law and from slavery to sin. He has placed all who come in faith to embrace Him as their personal Lord and Savior in a position of true liberty. St. Paul's argument is that the life-transforming Cross of Jesus Christ makes way for the believer's deliverance from the uncompromising weight of the Law, the curse of sin, and the unfulfilling burden of living entirely for self. St. Paul describes a dramatic faith-union with Jesus Christ that is revealed in the visible sign of the Sacrament of Christian Baptism (Gal 3:27) that unites all believers to Christ and to each other as brothers and sisters in the family of God (Gal 3:28).

Authorship and a Summary of the Life of St. Paul, "Apostle to the Goyim (Gentiles)"

Paul, an apostle not from human beings nor through a human being but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead, and all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia ...
Galatians 1:1-2

St. Paul identifies himself as the writer of the letter to the churches of the Roman Province of Galatia in the first verse. The Galatians were Paul's Gentile converts to Christianity. Those Galatians who lived in the northern part of the province were the descendants of the Celts (Gauls) who had invaded western and central Asia Minor in the third century BC, following the Gallic invasion of the Balkans in 279 BC.(1) In 189 BC Rome sent an expedition against the Galatians that resulted in the Galatian War. They were defeated and the Romans then dominated Galatian Celts from that point onward. In 64 BC, Galatia formally became a client-state of the Roman Empire ruled by its own chieftains. The chieftains were eventually deposed and in 25 BC Galatia was incorporated by the Emperor Augustus into the Roman Empire. It was the "Gallia" of the East, and Roman writers called its inhabitants Galli (Gauls). The Roman Province of Galatia extended from north-central Asia Minor (Turkey), where the Gauls had settled, and later south-central Asia Minor was incorporated into the province at the end of the first century BC. The provincial capital was Ancyra (Ankara).

That St. Paul is the inspired writer of the letter to the Christian communities of Galatia has never been seriously denied by Biblical scholars and theologians, with the exception of a very few modern authors. The Church Fathers unanimously held the view that Paul was the inspired writer, and Paul even testifies that, instead of his scribe, he wrote the postscript to the letter in his own less elegant hand (Gal 6:11).

By his own account, St. Paul was born a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin in the city of Tarsus, the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia. Please consult a map of Asia Minor in the first century BC-AD and locate the Roman Province of Cilicia on the coast of modern southeastern Turkey and its capital city of Tarsus located on the Cydnus river about 20 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. Tarsus was given special status as a "free" Roman city by Marc Antony (died 31 BC) and its privileges were confirmed and enlarged by the first Roman emperor, Octavian/Augustus Caesar (ruled 27 BC " 14 AD).

The great apostle to the Gentiles, who we know as St. Paul, was given the name Saul (Sha'ul in Hebrew) by his parents; it is a Hebrew name meaning "to desire" or "to ask." As a member of the tribe of Benjamin, he was probably named for the tribe's most illustrious member, Saul the first King of Israel (Acts 13:9 and 1 Sam 8:1-5; 9:1-2, 15-17; 10:1a). It was not uncommon for Jews of Paul's time to use two names, their Hebrew name and a Gentile name that facilitated their interaction in the Gentile community. Therefore, Paul probably always used two names: Saul, his Hebrew name, and Paulus, his Latin name that helped to define his Roman citizenship.(2) Paul's home town was a Roman provincial capital and his father was a Roman citizen who either provided some important service to the Empire to be granted citizenship, or was a freed Roman slave to whom Roman citizenship was always extended. When St. Paul was in trouble with the Roman authorities, he always used his Roman citizenship to his advantage (e.g. Acts 22:25-29).

Some of the accounts of Saul/Paul's life in his own words:

Paul writes that he was an orthodox Jewish Pharisee who was born a citizen of Rome but who was called from his mother's womb to serve God (Rom 3:5-6). As a youth he was sent to Jerusalem to study under the great rabbi and Sanhedrin council member Gamaliel. He later served as an officer of this same Jewish law court which condemned both Jesus and St. Stephen. It was Saul/Paul's assignment as an officer of the Sanhedrin to hunt down and persecute suspected follows of Jesus of Nazareth. It was a task he pursued with enthusiasm prior to his conversion experience: Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains (Acts 9:1-2).

Paul must have been one of the brightest young men of his generation to have been chosen to study in Jerusalem with the great Jewish scholar, teacher of the Law of Moses, and member of the Jewish High Court "the Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3 and 5:34-39). Paul probably studied with Gamaliel the customary three or four years and was then appointed an officer of the Jewish Law Court, the Sanhedrin. He was serving in this capacity when he witnessed the martyrdom of St. Stephen in circa 37 AD (Acts 7:58-8:1). It was as an officer of the Sanhedrin that Paul was sent to Damascus, Syria to arrest other Jewish Christians who had fled persecution in Jerusalem.

The turning point in Paul's life was his encounter with the risen Savior on the road to Damascus: On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He said, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting (Acts 9:3-5). It is a story that is repeated three times by Luke in Acts of Apostles in 9:1-19; 22:4-16; and 26:1-23. Paul defends his call and his right to be called an apostle, which came about, he writes, not through a vision but through an experience with the living resurrected Christ. It is this experience that Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 15:8-10 when he wrote about his vision of the resurrected Christ. First he mentioned others who had seen and spoken with Christ after His resurrection, and then Paul wrote, Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. Paul will zealously defend his right to be called an apostle throughout his letters, challenging those who might say he doesn't deserve the title "apostle."

After his conversion experience, Paul spent three years in retreat in Arabia (Gal 1:17-18) before journeying to Jerusalem where he conferred with Jesus' vicar of the New Covenant Church, St. Peter. After spending about two weeks with Paul, Peter approved Paul's mission to the gentiles: Only after three years did I go up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas. I stayed fifteen days with him but did not set eyes on any of the rest of the apostles, only James, the Lord's brother (Gal 1:18). In his letters Paul will refer to St. Peter as Cephas, which is the Greek transliteration of Kepha, (pronounced kay-fah), the Aramaic title Jesus gave to Peter in Matthew 16:18 meaning "Rock", eight out of ten times "and only twice in the Greek, Petros, or Peter in English.

After receiving St. Peter's approval, with St. Barnabas's patronage, Paul joined the Jerusalem community and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When Paul's preaching drew the wrath of the Hellenists (Greek culture Jews) who viewed Paul as a traitor and were determined to kill him, the members of the Jerusalem faith community arranged for his escape from Jerusalem. Paul returned home to Tarsus in Asia Minor to await the Church's call to ministry (Acts 9:30).

The call would come from St. Barnabas who was sent by the church in Jerusalem to teach the Gospel to the community of believers at Antioch, Syria. It is this community, founded by refugees from the persecution of New Covenant believers in Jerusalem following the death of St. Stephen, that first used the term "Christian" to describe themselves as disciples of Jesus the Redeemer-Messiah (Acts 11:19-26). The evangelical preaching of this community of believers was so successful that the Jerusalem community sent Barnabas to the Antioch church (Acts 11:22). Encouraged by the great harvest of souls for Christ in Antioch, Barnabas sent to Tarsus for Paul to join him in Antioch. This thriving Christian community, which St. Peter would later shepherd for seven years before leaving to found the Church in Rome, would send Paul on three missionary journeys to bring the Gospel of salvation to the Gentiles of Asia Minor and Greece, including the Gentiles in the Roman Province of Galatia.

It was after Paul was sent out on his first missionary journey that he began using the Latin patrician name Paulus in his missionary work. Like all Jews, even priests and scholars, Paul was taught a trade to be able to support himself and he supplemented his income with his skill as a tent-maker or prayer shawl maker (the Hebrew word for prayer shawl "tillit" can also be translated as "tent" (see Acts 18:3). Paul zealously dedicated his life to fulfilling the commission of Jesus to be His Apostle to the Gentiles.

Dating St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians

There are two theories concerning the dating of St. Paul's letter to the Galatians and these two theories stem from this question: was Paul writing to the churches of South Galatia that he founded on his first missionary journey in Acts 14:1-23, or was he writing to the churches of North Galatia that he founded on his second missionary journey in Acts 16:6? If Paul was writing to Christian communities founded on his first missionary journey, his letter was probably written as early as 48/49 AD, but if Paul was writing to the churches in North Galatia established on his second missionary journey, then his letter was probably written sometime after 51/52 AD.

A possible answer to the question may be found in the serious dispute Paul had with St. Peter in Galatians 2:11-14 that took place after "some people came from James" (referring to St. James, Bishop of the mother church in Jerusalem) to Paul's home church in Antioch, Syria and caused an issue within the Christian community of Jewish and Gentile Christians. The dispute is described in the Book of Acts of Apostles: Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved." Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question (Acts 15:1-2).

St. Peter came to the faith community at Antioch, Syria after his miraculous release from prison in Jerusalem in c. 41 AD during the Christian persecution initiated by King Herod Agrippa I who ruled from 41-44 AD (Acts 12:1-19). According to Bishop Eusebius' Church History, Peter made his temporary headquarters with the community at Antioch, as he visited faith communities throughout Asia Minor and Greece, for about seven years before leaving for Rome to establish that city as the geographic center of the Universal Church.

St. Paul testifies that his dispute with St. Peter concerned his interpretation of Peter's view of the Gentile Christians after the visit of the Jewish-Christians from Jerusalem when Paul says, ...he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself because he was afraid of the circumcised, referring to the Jewish Christians (Gal 2:12). Whether St. Peter was at that time undecided in how the Church should welcome Gentiles, or if he was trying not to offend Jewish Christians as he worked to bring about unity within the Church, by the time the Council of Jerusalem was convened in 49/50 AD to deal with the issue, Peter had definitely made up his mind: After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them, "My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe [referring to Peter's vision in Acts 10 and the defense of his action in baptizing the family and friends of the Roman Gentile Centurion Cornelius to the other "Apostles and the brothers" in Acts 11:1-18]. And God who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. Why then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they" (Acts 15:7-11).

Peter's pronouncement of salvation by grace as opposed to the old law was affirmed by St. James and the entire magisterium of Apostles and presbyters present at the council: Then the Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas with a letter defining the Church's position on Gentile converts "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meal sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell" (Acts 15:22ab, 28). It seems reasonable that Paul's letter to the Galatians and the dispute with Peter took place prior to the Jerusalem Council since it would have been inappropriate for Peter to neglect or take a stand against what he and the entire magisterium had pronounced concerning the equality of Jewish and Gentile Christians after the Council.

The Purpose of the Letter

Some Judaizers (Jewish Christians) from Jerusalem were visiting mixed Jewish and Gentile or entirely Gentile-Christian faith communities beyond Judah; many of these communities were founded by Paul. Through their teachings, which were contrary to Paul's teachings, they brought confusion and disruption to the Church. They were insisting on the necessity of obedience to certain precepts of Mosaic Law together with faith in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer-Messiah. These persons were undermining St. Paul's authority as well as asserting that he was not among the original Apostles or disciples of Jesus Christ. To make matters worse, they also told the communities that Paul's Gospel message did not agree with that of the original Apostles and disciples in Jerusalem. This doctrine led to great confusion and distress among the Gentile Christian communities founded by Paul in Asia Minor and to Paul's home church, the faith community at Antioch, Syria.

St. Paul's purpose in writing the letter was to respond to what he had heard concerning the disruption that was taking place in the churches of Galatia. He vigorously defends his apostleship, declaring these men who came to promote Mosaic Law to be false prophets and their doctrine a false teaching. Paul passionately declares his authority to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he accuses the Galatians of abandoning the Gospel Jesus Christ had personally given to him, which he had faithfully preached to them, for another "false gospel." For a timeline of Paul's life, see Handout 2 from this lesson.

Biblical Period #12 The Kingdom of the Church
Covenant The New Covenant in Christ Jesus
Focus Grace Defended Grace Explained Grace Applied
Scripture 1:1-------------------3:1---------------4:1----------------5:1----------------6:11---------18
Division Greeting and
Paul's Apostleship
Bondage of the old Law Freedom of Grace Exhortation to Christians and Fruits of the Spirit Conclusion
Topic Defense of Paul's Gospel and Authority Doctrinal Exposition Practical Exhortation on Christian Life
True Liberty Faith and Liberty Application of True Liberty
Location Galatian Theory: writing from Antioch, Syria
Northern Galatian Theory: writing from Ephesus or Macedonia
Time South Galatian Theory: c. 49 AD
Northern Galatian Theory: c. 53-56 AD
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2016

Chart inspired by Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts page 400

The major themes of St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians:

  1. Paul's Gospel and his apostleship
  2. Salvation by grace alone through the work of salvation merited by Jesus Christ
  3. The legalism of the old Covenant Law versus the freedom of the New Covenant
  4. Living a Spirit-empowered life

Chapter 1: Paul's Defense of His Authority and the Gospel He Preaches

Chapter 1 contains:

  1. Paul's greeting (Gal 1:1-5)
  2. Paul's condemnation of false teachers and their false doctrines (Gal 1:6-9)
  3. Paul's background and his divine call to apostleship (Gal 1:10-17)
  4. Paul's first visit to Jerusalem (Gal 1:18-24)

In Galatians 1:1-2:21 St. Paul makes three claims:

  1. There is only one Gospel and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul preaches.
  2. Paul was not commissioned by human beings but received his Gospel through a revelation from Jesus Christ Himself.
  3. The Gospel that Paul preaches is the path to true liberty.

Galatians 1:1-5 ~ Greeting
1 Paul, an apostle not from human beings nor through a human being but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead, 2 and all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: 3 grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins that he might rescue us from the present evil age in accord with the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In the majority of St. Paul's letters, his greeting follows a standard form with only slight variations. The three basic elements are:

  1. Paul's name
  2. The name of the addressee
  3. The personal greeting

Question: After identifying himself, what does Paul add to confirm the authority of his mission?
Answer: He identifies himself as an apostle directly chosen by Christ and not by any human agency or human person.

Paul probably feels the need to defend his apostleship because he has heard that there have been attacks concerning his authority in Galatia. Paul's point in verse 1 is that he is not an apostle (with a small "a") who has been commissioned by "men", probably referring to a faith community (Phil 2:25; 2 Cor 8:23) or by "man", probably a reference to St. Peter and the other leaders of the Church who gave Paul permission to preach to the Gentiles (Gal 2:9), but through "Jesus Christ and God the Father." Paul was very sensitive about defending his right to be called an "apostle" since, like the original Twelve Apostles, he received his gospel and his commission to teach it directly from Jesus (see Acts 26:15-18; CCC 659). For Paul's defense of his apostleship in his other letters see Rom 1:1; 11:13; 1 Cor 1:1; 9:1-2; 15:9; 2 Cor 1:1; 12:12; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 Tim 1:1; 2:7; 2 Tim 1:1, 11; Tit 1:1.

2 and all the brothers who are with me ...
"All" refers to fellow Christians, both male and female, who have been part of Paul's missionary team or are member of the faith community in Antioch from where he may be writing his letter (see Gal 3:27-28).

3 grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is a greeting also used by Paul in other letters (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2).

4 who gave himself for our sins that he might rescue us from the present evil age in accord with the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
In verses 3-5 Paul adds a Christological formula that professes Jesus willingly delivered those who believe in Him from a world dominated by sin. Jesus accomplished this act of grace offering Himself as a sacrifice for our salvation on the altar of the Cross, according to the divine plan of God the Father (Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2; CCC 2824). The "present evil age" refers to the age of mankind since the fall of Adam. Jewish theology distinguished between the age dominated by sin and death as "this age" and "the age to come" when God's peace will reign supreme and the powers of darkness and evil are destroyed forever (Mt 12:32; Eph 1:21). It is through the redemptive works of Jesus Christ that the graces promised in the "age to come" are already being pouring out into the lives of the faithful, rescuing them from domination by sin, from a selfish/self-centered life in placing self above the will of God, and overcoming the works of Satan.

Galatians 1:6-10 ~ Loyalty to the Gospel
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by the grace of Christ for a different Gospel 7 not that there is another. But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a Gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! 9 As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a Gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed! 10 Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.

This part of the letter gives an indication of the degree of displeasure Paul feels for the Galatian communities he founded. He is so upset and so anxious to address their problems that he does not give the blessing or thanksgiving for the community that he normally gives at the beginning of his other letters to other Christian communities (see Rom 1:8; 1 Cor 1:4; 2 Cor 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:3; Col 1:3; 1 Thes 1:2; 2 Thes 1:3).

In verses 6-10, St. Paul clearly states his reasons for writing this letter to the churches of Galatia and why he is so personally offended.
Question: Why is Paul upset with the faith communities he founded in Galatia? What accusations does he level against them?

  1. He is distressed that they have so easily forsaken God ("the one who called you") and the grace of Jesus Christ for a different Gospel.
  2. They have listened to a different, perverted gospel (since there can only be one true Gospel of Jesus Christ), and in doing this they have denied the authority of Paul to preach the truth of the Gospel he gave them.

Question: Who are the "some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ"? How exactly are they perverting the Gospel of Jesus Christ? See Acts 15:1-5; 21:20-21; Gal 2:21 and 6:13-13.
Answer: They are the Judaizers/Jewish Christians who want to bring the Galatians and other Gentile converts under the yoke of circumcision and the other burdens of the laws of the Old Covenant. In their attempt to continue the Old Covenant ritual laws these men promoted a false gospel that denied the sufficiency of Christ's death for mankind's salvation (Gal 2:21).

The Judaizers were promoting a teaching that would still bind the people to the yoke of the old Law instead of taking up the yoke of Christ that He promised was light and full of grace and glory (Mt 11:20-30). The old Law was a preparation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it could not promise either eternal salvation or the gift of the Holy Spirit: "According to Christian tradition, the Law is holy, spiritual, and good, yet still imperfect. Like a tutor it shows what must be done, but does not of itself give the strength, the grace of the Spirit, to fulfill it. Because of sin, which it cannot remove, it remains a law of bondage. According to St. Paul, its special function is to denounce and disclose sin, which constitutes a "law of concupiscence" in the human heart ..." (CCC 1963, quoting from Rom 7; also see CCC 1962 and 1964).

8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a Gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! 9 As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a Gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed! In very strong language in verses 8 and 9, Paul pronounces a curse against anyone who preaches a Gospel other than the one preached by the representatives of the Church. There is no other Gospel other than what Jesus taught the Apostles and disciples and gave them the authority to pass on. The Greek word Paul uses is anathema, meaning "under a divine curse" or "set apart for destruction". The word anathema is used six times in the New Testament (Gal 1:8, 9; Acts 23:14; Rom 9:3; 1 Cor 12:3; 16:22). In the Greek (Septuagint) translation of the Old Testament, the word is used to translate the Hebrew word herem, "the curse of destruction" Yahweh placed on the enemy peoples of Canaan. Notice that even an angel that perverts the Gospel will be subject to the divine curse, which recalls the judgment against Lucifer/Satan (Rev 12:7-9), and also the false doctrines presented by both Mohammed, the founder of Islam, and Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, who both claimed an angel gave them another gospel.

Question: In Paul's letters, how does he use the word anathema? See 1 Cor 16:22 and Gal 1:8-9.
Answer: In Paul's writings he uses the word as a curse of divine judgment for those who refuse to love the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 16:22) and as a curse against all false teachers who pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ with false teaching (Gal 1:8-9).

In trying to hang on to the old Law, these Judaizers were trying to maintain the superiority of Jews over Gentiles in God's plan of salvation and make salvation a work of the Law instead of a work of divine grace. In the Letter to the Hebrews, the inspired writer, believed by many to be St. Paul, declared that the Old Covenant was fulfilled by Christ, and its animal sacrifices and ritual purity laws concerning foods, clothing, etc. were no longer binding. The old Law was only a shadow of what was to come (Heb 10:1-10).

10 Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.
Next, Paul answers those who might accuse him of only seeking the approval of certain people. The implication is that these "people" are the Gentile converts who Paul wants to please by eliminating circumcision from the requirements of Christian initiation into the New Covenant.

Question: Ironically, who are those who are really motivated by pleasing men? See Gal 6:12-13.
Answer: The Judaizers are the real men-pleasers, since they preach a doctrine of circumcision and obedience to the old Law in order not to be rejected by their Jewish kinsmen.

Paul on the other hand, is willing to preach the true Gospel even if he is persecuted by his own people. This, Paul says, is evidence that he is only looking for the approval of God and not men (Gal 1:10; 5:11; Acts 14:19-22).

Galatians 1:11-24 ~ Paul's former Life and Conversion
11 Now I want you to know, brothers [adelphoi], that the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin. 12 For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it, 14 and progressed in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my race, since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God, who from my mother's womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me; rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Kephas and remained with him for fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the Apostles, only James the brother [adelphos] of the Lord. 20 As to what I am writing to you, behold, before God I am not lying. 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23 they only kept hearing that "the one who once was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. 24 So they glorified God because of me. [...] = Interlineal Bible Greek-English, vol. IV, page 508.

In verse 11 St. Paul refers to the Galatians as "brothers" "adelphoi in Greek, which in the plural can mean both "brothers" and "sisters" and literally means "from the womb" in Greek. Adelphos/adelphoi are the only words used for brother/brothers in the New Testament and can refer to covenant kinsmen (as in this case), or to full brothers, half-brothers, step-brothers, or countrymen, as St. Peter used the word in referring to the Jews Acts 2:29 and as St. Paul also used the word in his trial before the Sanhedrin in Acts 23:1. It is an especially appropriate term for Christians who are brothers and sisters born from the waters of Christian baptism from the womb of the Church.

Question: What does Paul say is the origin of the Gospel he preached to the Galatians?
Answer: He received the Gospel he preaches directly from Jesus Christ.

Then in verses 13-24 Paul reminds the Galatians of his past history.
Question: How does Paul summarize his life to the Galatians in verses 13-24?


  1. Formerly he persecuted the Church of Jesus Christ.
  2. He was a devout Jew and zealous in his observance of ancestral traditions.
  3. He believes that, from his mother's womb, God set him apart to experience his personal revelation of Jesus Christ and to be called to His service.
  4. After his divine revelation of Christ, he went to live in Arabia.
  5. He returned to Damascus.
  6. After three years, he went to Jerusalem to meet with Kephas/St. Peter with whom he spent fifteen days, and he also met the brother of the Lord.
  7. He went to Syria and Cilicia.
  8. He was personally unknown to the Christian churches in Judea. However, they heard that the former persecutor of the Church was now preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and they were thankful for the success of his ministry.

St. Paul's summary leaves out some details of his life that are found in Acts of the Apostles chapters 9-10 and raises the question as to why he went to Arabia:

  1. Paul's revelation of Christ came when he was traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians as an agent of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the law court that condemned Jesus to death (Acts 9:1-19).
  2. After recovering from his conversion experience and being baptized (Acts 10:18-19), Paul went to Arabia. Since there is no mention of Paul preaching in Arabia, it is likely that he spent his time there preparing for the mission that he knew was his destiny "to teach the Gospel of salvation of Christ Jesus, by studying Scripture and finding all those passages that were fulfilled in the advent, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Redeemer-Messiah promised by the prophets.
  3. After returning to Damascus, Paul joined the Christian community there and began preaching the Gospel until the Jews threatened his life and he had to leave the city (Acts 10:19b-25).
  4. It was three years after his conversion that Paul traveled from Damascus to Jerusalem where he met Kephas. Paul preferred to use Kephas when referring to St. Peter; it is the Aramaic form of Peter/"rock", the title Jesus gave Simon (Jn 1:42; Mt 16:18), instead of the Greek "Petros."
  5. St. Peter and the other Apostles gave Paul their blessing to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, as Jesus had revealed to Ananias who baptized Paul (Acts 9:15; Gal 2:2, 8-9).

While staying in Jerusalem on his first trip after being baptized, Paul did not meet any of the other Apostles. He does mention meeting the "brother [adelphos] of the Lord" (verse 19), who he does not call an Apostle. Jesus' brother i he does not call an Apostle. tles. He does mention meeings understood to be St. James, the first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem, the head of the mother church of all New Covenant communities (Mk 6:3; Acts 12:17; 15:13-21), and the inspired writer of the Letter of St. James in the New Testament.(3) According to the ancient document the Protoevangelium of James and other early Church histories, James of Jerusalem was the son of St. Joseph by an earlier marriage, and first century AD Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote that he was a man whose piety was greatly admired by the Jews (Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3.3; 18.5.2). However, Paul was not readily accepted by the community in Jerusalem. Many members of the Jerusalem community were afraid of Paul. They were suspicious of his motives, remembering his earlier persecution of Christians; the exception was St. Barnabas who became his friend. When Paul's life was threatened by the Jewish Hellenists who saw him as a traitor and were offended by his preaching, the Jerusalem church helped Paul escape to Caesarea where he took a passage on a ship and returned to his home in Tarsus, Cilicia. Later, Barnabas came to Tarsus to enlist Paul to be part of Barnabas' teaching ministry at the church of Antioch, Syria "a mixed Jewish and Gentile faith community (Acts 9:26-30; Acts 11:19-26).

Question: What is Paul's purpose in giving this short account of his history?
Answer: Paul obviously thought it necessary to remind the Galatian Christians of his credentials. He is an "apostle" of the Lord, his ministry is approved by Peter and the Church, and his authority to teach the Gospel comes directly from Jesus Christ.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: What did Paul and Moses have in common concerning their education and how did God use their intellectual powers in His divine plan? As you will recall, Moses was raised as a prince of the ruling family of Egypt and educated accordingly.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He said, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:3-5).

Question: In Paul's description of his vision of Jesus in his conversion experience, why is Jesus' statement "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" important in understanding the gravity of the sin of those who persecute Christians?

1. By the 2nd century AD, the Celts who settled in Asia Minor had become assimilated into the Hellenistic civilization of Anatolia, although the Galatians were still speaking the Galatian language into the late 4th century AD. In c. 387 AD St. Jerome (374-420 AD) wrote that the Galatians of Ancyra and the Treveri of Trier, in what came to be identified as the Germanic Rhineland, spoke the same language (Comentarii in Epistolam ad Galatos, 2.3).
2. There are several examples of dual names in the New Testament. John-Mark, the inspired writer of the second Gospel is one example. John-Mark was the son of a Jewish mother and a Roman father. John or Yehohanan is his Hebrew name and Marcus is his Latin Roman name. Tabitha/Dorcas in Acts 9:36 and Symeon-Niger in Acts 13:1 are two other examples of Jews who also adopted Gentile names.
3. Also see 1 Cor 9:5 where, according to Paul, the married brothers of Jesus also acted as missionaries of the Gospel: Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Kephas? After Jesus' Resurrection, He appeared privately to Simon-Peter (Kephas), then to "the Twelve" (used as a title for the magisterium of the original Apostles even though there were only eleven by then), to more than five hundred brothers (adolphoi) at once, privately to St. James (the "brother" of Jesus who became the first bishop of the Jerusalem church), then to all the "apostles", referring to the original 70/72 disciples (1 Cor 15:5-7). Jesus' kinsman St. James was martyred for Christ. Jewish priest/historian Flavius Josephus, in his book Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1, recounts St. James' death at the command of the Jewish high priest after the death of the Roman governor Festus but before the arrival of the new Roman governor Albinus, which would have been in the year 62 AD.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for this lesson:

Gal 1:1 CCC 857
Gal 1:4 CCC 2824
Gal 1:7-9 CCC 1962-64
Gal 1:13 CCC 752
Gal 1:15-16 CCC 442
Gal 1:15 CCC 153
Gal 1:16 CCC 659
Gal 1:19 CCC 500
Gal 1:20 CCC 2154
Mt 16:18 CCC 424, 442, 552, 586, 869
Acts 9:3-18 CCC 639