Date of Galatians

The dating of this letter is largely a discussion on where the 2 Jerusalem visits mentioned in Galatians fit into the chronology of Acts.

The dating of this letter is furthermore a discussion that is closely related to the destination. I see two options if a South Galatian destination (see this post) is considered most likely. If a North Galatian destination is considered other possible dates open up.

There are 5 Jerusalem visits mentioned in Acts (9:26-30; 11:30; 15:1-30; 18:22 and 21:15-17).

1) Acts 18:22 and 21:15-17 are most likely visits that occurred after the letter was written.

2) The first post-conversion visit of Acts 9:26-30 corresponds quite naturally to Galatians 1:18.

3) The real question is whether Galatians 2:1-10 corresponds to the “famine visit” of Acts 11:27-30 or the “Jerusalem Conference” visit of Acts 15.

4) It seems natural to connect the Galatians 2:1-10 with the Acts 15 visit as both visits have to do with the issue surrounding the obligation of the Gentiles (circumcision, food laws etc.), the same people involved (Paul, Barnabas, Peter, James) and the same decision is reached.

“…if Galatians 2:1–10 = Acts 11:27–30 , then there were two conferences in Jerusalem. Many scholars have thought that it is highly unlikely that there were two conferences where the same people debated the same issue with the same outcome. This duplication of conferences is unnecessary if the Galatians 2:1–10 = Acts 15:1–20 equation stands.(1)

5) Problems with this view include:

a) What do we make of the fact that Paul says that he (only?) visited Jerusalem twice but yet if Acts 15 = Galatians 2, then Paul has in fact at this time visited Jerusalem 3 times already. (Although Paul never mentions in Acts 11 that he actually met any of the apostles – which is his point in Galatians 2)

b) It makes it difficult to explain the withdrawal from table fellowship with the Gentiles of both Peter and Barnabas if the Jerusalem council of Acts 15 had already happened.  (Although Peter’s withdrawal is inconsistent no matter how we view it given his experience and defence of salvation and table fellowship with the Gentiles in Acts 10-11).

c)  If such a “formal” and authoratative conference has already taken place then why does Paul not refer to these decisions when dealing with the Judaizers.  Those who would regard Paul as a renegade apostle would surely have to be silent before evidence that the Jerusalem apostles have concurred with and supported Paul.

6) Galatians 2 seems to be a smaller, more private and informal meeting than that described in Acts 15. A meeting that would fit with Acts 11:27-30, much easier.

7) The situation described in Antioch prior to the Jerusalem conference is similar to the confrontation between Peter and Paul described in Galatians 2:10-14. Both are a disagreement in Antioch over the application of the Jewish law to Gentiles and both see the conflict beginning because of a delegation from Jerusalem.

If these 2 incidents can be equated it would be reasonable to see Paul as having written Galatians on the eve of Jerusalem conference of Acts 15.

“One advantage in this dating is that it would explain why Paul in Galatians does not cut the ground entirely from under the Judaizers feet by appealing to the Council’s ruling that circumcision and all that went with it should not be imposed on Gentile converts.” (FF Bruce, p44)


~ by John on December 12, 2008.

One Response to “Date of Galatians”

  1. […] between this journey and the Council of Jerusalem (see Date of Galatians post), false teachers (known as the Judaizers) came to the Galatian churches and began teaching that in […]

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