Paul and Jesus: The True Story

By David Wenham | Go to book overview

6: What is going on in Galatians?

Galatians is a red-hot letter, written with great passion and force. Having travelled in the previous chapter with Paul through Galatia and having tried to reconstruct the historical sequence of events from Acts and from Paul's letters, we now turn specifically to Galatians, to see what we can learn from the letter about Paul and his ministry. In the following chapter we will consider what we can deduce about his relationship with Jesus.


Paul's context and Paul's opponents

One of the intriguing questions when reading any of Paul's letters is: what led to the writing of this letter? Most of the letters are responses to particular situations, but it is not always easy to work out what those situations were. Scholars speak of a process of 'mirror-reading': we look into the letters, and try to see what situations are reflected – whom Paul is speaking to or about. Others have said that it is like hearing one end of a phone conversation and trying to work out what the person at the other end is saying. It is not always an easy task, especially if the person on 'this end' is agitated.

However, we have already had plenty of clues about what was happening in Galatia, and some things are very clear from Paul's letter to the Galatians. Thus Paul usually begins his letters by giving thanks for people; he does this even with the wayward Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1.4). But with the Galatians there is no opening thanksgiving; instead Paul jumps straight in with a pained comment: 'I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ' (1.6). Here is clear evidence that the Galatians are being led away from what Paul taught them – and soon after his visit – by people wanting to correct Paul's teaching. Paul goes on to say that he wishes those who distort the good news to be accursed (1.8, 9).

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Paul and Jesus: The True Story
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Part 1: Beginnings 1
  • 1: Before Paul Met Jesus 3
  • 2: The Big Bang! 9
  • 3: New Directions 19
  • 4: Antioch 26
  • Part 2 - Missionary Journeys and Letters 37
  • 5: Travels in and around Calaíta 39
  • 6: What Is Going on in Galatians? 49
  • 7: What Does Galatians Tell Us about Paul and Jesus? 60
  • 8: Travelling in Greece 77
  • 9: What Is Going on in 1 Thessalonians? 91
  • 10: What Does Thessalonians Tell Us about Paul and Jesus? 96
  • 11: A Look at 2 Thessalonians 111
  • 12: Travelling on to Ephesus 121
  • 13: What Is Going on in 7 Corinthians? 127
  • 14: What Does 1 Corinthians Tell Us about Paul and Jesus? 143
  • Part 3 - Finishing the Story 169
  • 15: And So on 171
  • 16: The True Story 179
  • Index of Biblical References 189
  • Index of Subjects 193
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