The Authorship of Galatians- an Excerpt from BECNT Galatians

The following is an excerpt from Galatians, by Doug Moo.


Cover ArtThe author of the Letter to the Galatians identifies himself as “Paul the Apostle” (1:1), and the letter is full of corroborating personal references.

Paul defends his independent apostleship by narrating his conversion/call and his early relationships with the Jerusalem apostles (1:11–2:10). He describes a difficult confrontation in Antioch with Peter (and Barnabas; 2:11–14). Paul reminds his readers of his earlier ministry with them (4:12–20). He cites his own attitudes and decisions as matters for the Galatians to emulate (2:18–21; 5:11; 6:14; perhaps 1:13–16). And he seeks to move his readers to embrace again the gospel he first preached to them by means of personal and even emotional appeals (1:6–10; 3:1; 4:11; 5:2–3; 6:17). Only 2 Corinthians and the Pastoral Epistles rival Galatians in degree of personal reference.

From the earliest days of the church, Paul’s authorship of Galatians has been acknowledged and never seriously challenged. Only the more mechanical aspect of authorship is debated. In 6:11, Paul says, “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” This claim probably applies only to 6:11 and following and not to the entire letter (on this issue and the reason why Paul might say this, see the commentary).

A natural, though not inevitable, corollary is that someone else has “written down” the rest of the letter on Paul’s behalf. We know, both from general ancient testimony and from Paul himself (Rom. 16:22), that he often—indeed, perhaps always—used what was called in the ancient world an “amanuensis” to perform the work of physically writing out his letters (R. Longenecker 1983; Richards 1991). Amanuenses were given varying degrees of freedom as far as their own involvement in the composition was concerned.

An amanuensis who was a trusted confidant might be responsible for much of the actual wording of a letter based on a more or less detailed outline of content provided by the true “author” (many interpreters think that such a situation could explain the differences in vocabulary and style among the Letters of Paul; see, e.g., Carson and Moo 2005: 334–35). If Paul used an amanuensis in writing the bulk of Galatians (which is probable), the strongly personal nature of the letter argues for a situation closer to word-for-word dictation.

©2013 by Douglas Moo. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


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