Paul and the situation at Galatia — again (NT 2.9)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Paul and the situation at Galatia — again (NT 2.9),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified February 11, 2023,

Paul’s relations with the communities of Jesus-followers he founded varied. While he has almost nothing but praise for those at Thessalonica (according to 1 Thess), I have already outlined his rocky relations with some of those at Corinth. If 2 Corinthians 1-9 actually comes (chronologically) after 2 Corinthians 10-13, then at least at Corinth these relations turned around and ended with some level of reconciliation.

We lack any sign of reconciliation between Paul and the followers of Jesus in Galatia, however. In a previous post on Paul, the Galatians, and circumcision (NT 1.6), I have discussed these rocky relations with the Galatians as well as the other teachers who Paul views as opponents to his own “good message”. In particular, there I focus on Paul’s interpretation (midrash) of the story of Abraham in order to counter his opponents’ views.

If the absence of any mention of donations from Galatia for the poor at Jerusalem in Paul’s latest letter — that to the Romans in the mid-late 50s CE — is any indication then it seems that the Galatians continued to follow leaders of the Jesus movement other than Paul. Not only has Paul seemingly lost the support of the Galatians by this time (they are not mentioned as contributors to the collection), but he is even worried that the leadership at Jerusalem itself may not accept the financial gift from the Achaians (Corinth and Cenchreae are in this region) and the Macedonians (Thessalonica and Philippi) which he had hoped would lessen tensions between Paul with his Gentile followers and the groups of Jewish followers of Jesus at Jerusalem. For in Romans, Paul states:

“At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem with aid for the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem; they were pleased to do it, and indeed they are in debt to them, for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been raised, I shall go on by way of you to Spain; and I know that when I come to you I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ. I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company” (Romans 15:25-32 [RSV]).

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