Galatians was written in the heat of controversy; every line in it reflects that fact. Paul believed his gospel to be under a deadly attack that would destroy the churches he had founded and ultimately the gospel itself. Therefore he used all the arguments at his command to counteract that attack: personal experience, biblical interpretation of the OT, sarcasm and pathos, personal appeal, and apostolic tradition.
Paul’s language and thought are shaped by the situation. An attack on his gospel is an attack on the validity of his ministry. His life and his gospel are closely tied together. The result is a letter that is personal, emotional, self-revealing. Of all of Paul’s letters, only 2 Corinthians can equal Galatians in this respect. As a result, both are fundamental for understanding Paul’s character and reconstructing his life story. Galatians provides the chronological framework for Paul’s life prior to A.D. 49. Without it we could reconstruct little, if anything, of his early life.
Galatians was written in the heat of controversy. Because the controversy touched the core of the Christian gospel, Galatians is basic to any discussion of what is essential in Christianity. Paul was aroused because the attack was deadly. It would destroy the congregations founded by his missionary preaching and change the character of Christian faith and life. The attack was deadly because it was so pious. It was based on the OT and so accused Paul of preaching an incomplete gospel, one that set aside the law, part of God’s own revelation to Israel (Gal. 3:1—5:12), and . . .