Paul is mad when he writes this letter.
He gets mad plenty of times during his ministry. His anger shows up in some of his letters—especially in his two letters to the troublesome church of Corinth, Greece.
But if we want to see Paul at his angriest, Galatians is the letter to read.
How angry does he get?
Angry enough to say something that sounds inappropriate, crude, and just plain mean.
He seems to be talking about some Christian Jews who are trekking around to the churches he started. Those mission trekkers are telling the Christians they have to follow all the Jewish laws if they want to be good Christians—including the painful law requiring men to get circumcised.
Paul considers that a low blow.
Here’s what he tells the Galatian churches about those Christian Jews:
“I wish those circumcision lovers messing with you would just go ahead and cut their whole thing off!” (5:12).
That’s strong talk for a holy man.
Paul got angry because he recognized the danger of the threat. If the intruders won, Christianity might have become just another branch of Judaism, like the Pharisees and the Sadducees. These Christians would obey all the Jewish laws. The thing that would distinguish them from other Jews, however, would have been that they insisted Jesus was the promised Messiah.
Big deal. That’s what Paul probably thought. He knew that if people still had to obey Jewish laws and offer sacrifices for sin, then Jesus died for nothing.
So, Paul told those intrusive Christian Jews what they could do with circumcision, and with all the other traditional Jewish laws he considered obsolete now that Jesus had come.
This is an intense letter written with Christianity teetering on the brink of assimilation—in danger of becoming just one more ingredient melted into Jewish soup.
“From: Paul, an apostle, who didn’t get this job from some committee of humans” (Galatians 1:1).
Limited clues in the letter make it impossible to tell exactly when Paul wrote the letter. He mentions only two of the five trips to Jerusalem reported in Acts. One guess is that he wrote Galatians very early in his ministry, around AD 50, shortly after the Jerusalem Council meeting of church leaders. That council addressed the topic of this letter (Acts 15:1-21). Others push the date back to the middle 50s. Some say he wrote it before the Jerusalem Council, in the late 40s.
It’s unknown where Paul was when he wrote Galatians. If he wrote it after the Jerusalem Council meeting, he may have been ministering in Antioch, Syria. Or he may have been on the road on his second mission trip to southern Galatia in what is now Turkey.
Destination of letter
“To: All the churches scattered throughout the region of Galatia” (1:2). Bible experts debate which Galatia. (1) The traditional Galatian tribes of Celtic immigrants who settled into what is now north central Turkey. (2) The larger Roman province of Galatia, stretching all the way across central Turkey, from the Black Sea in the north to the Mediterranean Sea in the south. A popular thought is that if Paul addressed the Roman province, he was probably writing especially to churches in the southland, where he started churches on his first and second mission trip, as reported in Acts 13–16.