Thursday, January 17, 2008

Those Foolish Galatians -- Where Were They?

Doug Chaplin is asking for a "good argument" for the North Galatian hypothesis from someone who advocates it. I'll give it a shot.

The North Galatian hypothesis is preferable on the basis of a sound dating of the letter. If we agree that after the Jerusalem conference (Gal 2:1-10 ~ Acts 15, though issues pertaining to the apostolic decree are either unhistorical or happened later, like at Acts 18:23) and Antioch incident (Gal 2:1-14) Paul went to the region of Phrygia and Galatia (as reported in Acts 16:6 (which distinguishes these regions from the "South Galatian" places he just visited), and later wrote to the Galatians in between the writing of I & II Corinthians (Mark Goodacre makes a persuasive case for this), then the theory works fine and makes perfect sense.

The South Galatian hypothesis derives from an agenda to save Luke's testimony and chronology as much as possible (for instance by equating Gal 2:1-10 with Acts 11:27-30 rather than Acts 15) and thus downward dating Galatians as early as possible. I once flirted with this scheme in my early years on Corpus Paulinum, but quickly abandoned it. There are problems with confining Paul's activity to the regions of Syria and Cilicia for a 14-year period (prior to the conference, as Luke would have it), followed by Herculean accomplishments across Greece and Asia Minor during the closing years. Luke, in any case, certainly doesn't refer to the southern regions in Acts 13-14 as "Galatia".

Our conclusions must depend on how we reconstruct Pauline chronology more generally, since nothing in Galatians specifies what region Paul really has in mind. This is how I see events unfolding:
Second Jerusalem visit (agreement on the collection and to exempt Gentiles from circumcision)

Antioch Incident (pillars revoke their decision to exempt Gentiles from circumcision)

In (North) Galatia (collection begun there)

In Ephesus

Writing of I Corinthians (directions given for the collection there)

Crisis in Galatia (lapse of collection there)

Writing of Galatians

Crisis in Corinth (lapse of collection there)

Writing of II Corinthians (more than one letter?)

In Corinth

Crisis in Rome

Writing of Romans

Third Jerusalem visit (presumed delivery of the collection, though not from the Galatians)
Galatians has always been a difficult letter to date, but once we appreciate that Paul failed in Galatia everything falls into place. Esler sensed that Paul failed based on dramatic argumentative shifts in Romans, and Goodacre confirmed it based on an analysis of the Corinthian letters. I think they're both right -- Goodacre in particular that Galatians was written between I & II Corinthians. There's just no need to postulate "South Galatia" as the region for Paul's addressees.

UPDATE: Doug Chaplin responds, claiming the North Galatian hypothesis is too speculative. I find this amusing since the South originated only because certain scholars wanted to correlate everything Paul says with everything Luke says. But in any case, I don't buy Doug's treatment of Acts 16:6, where Luke is obviously referring to the northern tribal area. He also claims that "ethnic Galatia seems a little too far off the beaten track" given Paul's usual itinerary, but as Esler and others have pointed out, both Paul and Luke vaguley account for this. Paul says that he came to Galatia because of a "weakness in the flesh" (Gal 4:13). Luke says that he travelled through the tribal region "having been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in Asia" -- in other words, barred from continuing westward along the Cilician Road. I have no idea why Paul would have left the road and headed north to Galatia on account of an illness of the eyes. Maybe he just wanted to escape the urban scene for a while?


Blogger Doug said...

Thanks for the argument. I've now offered another post picking up some of what you say, and explaining why I don't find it convincing. I see North Galatia as the speculation. Equally I don't have a firmly held view yet. I'm just probing the strength of the case.

Blogger Richard Fellows said...


You have put forward plausible reasons why the north Galatia view COULD be possible, but I fail to see that you have provided a positive argument in its favour. Any hypothesis is possible if we pile up enough assumptions, but what we need is evidence.

The view that the Galatians deserted Paul (which I do not think can be demonstrated) is perfectly consistent with the south Galatia theory. Acts records that Paul made converts in Psidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, and Troas. Acts records the names of at least one believer in each of these cities except for the three south Galatian cities (it is not known whether Derbe was in south Galatia). This is explicable if the south Galatian churches fell from grace. Luke would not want to name members of churches that had deserted the faith since to name someone was to honour them in the ancient world. So if you are looking for churches that ditched Paul, the south Galatian churches are your best candidates.

Your view that the early south Galatianists were motived by an agenda is also no argument against the south Galatia view. Is your opposition to the south Galatia view perhaps motived by a backlash against the motivations of some of its advocates?

Nor does the south Galatia theory exclude the Gal 2;1-10=Acts 15 equation. I hold both hypotheses and find that they work very well together.

A common south Galatianist view is that Acts 16:6 refers to the single region of Phyrygian Galatia. It is a while since I looked at this proposal, but it made good sense to me at the time. You would need to disprove this possibility AND show that Luke and Paul use the term "Galatia" in the same way. If Paul wanted to write to the churches of Psidian Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, what term would he use, other than "Galatians".

I have given some new arguments for south Galatia on Doug's blog.


Blogger Loren Rosson III said...


There is no conclusive evidence either way, as I mentioned in the post. The fact that the South hypothesis originated from a particular agenda is relevant, because once a later dating for Galatians becomes not only plausible (but probable), you've removed the very reason for postulating the South hypothesis to begin with. It's of course true that a later dating of the letter (and the assumption that Gal 2=Acts 15) could work with the South hypothesis, but I see no compelling reason to go that direction. The proposal that Acts 16:6 refers to anything but the northern region is not convincing.

My abandoning the South Galatian hypothesis certainly had nothing to do with "backlash". I was just returning to my original assumption. But the location of Paul's recipients doesn't effect a reading of the Galatians letter, or the consequences of it (as you note in part), so if I were to learn that "South Galatia" was in view after all, it wouldn't matter too much.


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