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Who Were The Galatians?
by Wayne Blank
Galatians opens with our learning that the Christians there were having some difficulty: "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." (Galatians 1:6-7 New International Version). After starting out on solid ground, having been taught the truth by the apostle Paul himself, the Galatians had been led seriously astray: "Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the Gospel of Christ." (Galatians 1:7)
It wasn't necessarily that the Galatians were turning away from the true God to paganism or idolatry, but in terms of their Christianity, after having taken one big figurative step forward, they were being led into taking two steps back by their Jewish teachers who, while themselves perhaps sincerely claiming to be Christian, did not yet fully understand the significance of Christ's sacrifice.
Who were the Galatians?
The precise location of the Galatian churches is not recorded, which over time has resulted in some confusion. "Galatia" as a region of the Roman empire at that time covered a fairly extensive area in Asia Minor. Today, we would refer to the Biblical area of the Galatians as being in central Turkey, south of the Black Sea, most likely centered around what is today the country's capital, Ankara. The region was a natural part of the missionary route from the land of Israel to what was then the wilds of Europe.
The Galatians themselves were Gentiles, originally thought to be a small separated branch of the Gauls (hence their name). From their earliest settlements in extreme western Asia, north of the Black Sea, the Galatians settled in Biblical Galatia, while the larger body gradually migrated westward until settling in what is today France (France was known in ancient times as "Gallia" or "Gaul". One of the most famous French leaders of the twentieth century was Charles de Gaulle.)
Galatians is a fascinating study with many lessons for us today. If you can find the time, it is very well worth the 45 minutes or so that it takes to carefully read.
Fact Finder: Who wrote the Book of Galatians?