The Unuttered Question: Did the Hebrew ‘Sha’uwl’, known as ‘Paul’, write the letter known as ‘To the Galatians’?
(Updated: June 12th, 2016)
Whilst such a question is rarely (if ever) asked in scholarly circles or by the public in general, yet it is a question that must be asked: Did Sha’uwl/Paul write (or more accurately dictate) the letter to the Galatians, or did someone else write it, claiming that Sha’uwl/Paul was its author? This is a question I shall be looking at intensely throughout this paper, which is not just regarding the letter to the Galatians, but also concerning the other letters attributed to Sha’uwl/Paul (from now on, “Sha’uwl/Paul” shall just be referred to as “Paul” to keep things simple).
The letter to the Galatians hasn’t really caused much controversy in Christian Scholarship over the centuries, and many a Christian Denomination has looked to Galatians for guidance. This guidance has usually resulted in most of these denominations rejecting quite a few of the instructions outlined in the Torah (more commonly known as the Law or the Pentateuch), with preaching regarding the freedom that God granted to us through Jesus Christ (more accurately Messiah Yahushua). Any person that would argue that the Torah should still be followed regardless of this freedom is commonly reproached, and accused of wanting to “Judaise” or “return us to slavery”, with Galatians being the letter that is frequently quoted in response.
With the rise of sects such as Messianic Judaism, Sacred Name Movement, Hebraic Roots etc., many have sought to rescue Galatians from its supposed Anti Torah (or Antinomian) stance; others have gone in a different direction and have flat out rejected Paul and all of his letters, regarding him as an apostate and deceiver, with even accusations of Paul being a false prophet and demon possessed.
I, on the other hand, propose an alternative: that perhaps Paul didn’t write Galatians at all, but was a later Christian that had misunderstood quite a lot of what Paul had actually said; possibly even a Christian that had been brought up in an anti Jewish home. There’s a history of anti-Jewish sentiment in the Roman world, and the Jewish revolt of 67-70 CE helped in exasperating the situation. Using a famous name to bring credence to a letter wasn’t unheard of (and scholars argue the same for several other Pauline letters; more on that later on), so the choice of Paul wouldn’t have been a difficult one.
As I stated at the beginning, the authorship question is barely brought up regarding Galatians. However, what would be the consequence if Galatians’ authorship was brought into doubt? Could this be the answer that has been missing?
If interested, read on, and come to your own conclusion.
Introduction to the ‘Pauline’ letters
Before we get to the letter of Galatians itself, I shall give a brief overview of the Pauline letters.
There are fourteen letters/epistles/books in the Renewed Covenant Writings (or the New Testament, which henceforth be N.T.) attributed to Paul: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon and Hebrews. Of these fourteen, most Christians only accept thirteen of them to have been written or dictated by Paul, attributing Hebrews to an unknown author, but a person to whom was known by Paul as Hebrews mentions Timothy (Heb. 13:23). Scholars, however, have dwindled down what are referred to as the Genuine Pauline letters to seven: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon, claiming that the final six (seven) “have different or divergent language and style, the absence of Pauline concepts, the presence of concepts not found in other undisputed letters, and difficulties in historical settings” (added bold-font mine).
The general scholarly consensus of these seven letters to be genuine letters of Paul has given rise to the term Undisputed Letters, and therefore the other six (seven) to be designated Disputed Letters, where scholars are divided with their opinions. The first scholar to really start such a list was a German scholar named Ferdinand Christian Baur, who around 1845 CE concluded that Paul only wrote four of the letters attributed to him: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians. Nevertheless, subsequent scholars refined Baur’s methods and added Philemon, 1 Thessalonians and Philippians to the undisputed letters list, and no scholar since then has truly attempted to disprove them.
The final six letters – Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus – are split into two camps: the deutero-pauline letters: Colossians, Ephesians and 2 Thessalonians; and those known as the Pastoral epistles: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Due to Ephesians’ supposed reliance on Colossians, they are both disregarded as genuine Pauline letters and said to have both been written by a different author, who wrote Colossians first and then further developed the theological concepts mentioned in Colossians in the longer Ephesians letter. 2 Thessalonians is also disregarded due to the same reasoning, in that 2 Thessalonians relies too heavily on 1 Thessalonians for structure, language and doctrine. The final three, the Pastoral Epistles, are disregarded due to the fact that they “make Paul presuppose” the “hierarchical structure” of the “church in the 2nd Century”, with his apparent mention of overseers and deacons. The Greek of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus is also a vast improvement on Paul’s other letters.
Whether Paul wrote any of the other disputed Pauline letters is not this papers concern. However, if or when I may refer to any of the disputed letters, I will do so cautiously, and make sure that I reference that they are part of the disputed section. Nevertheless, as I am seeking to provide grounds for questioning the genuineness of Galatians as a genuine Pauline letter, or whether it is a forgery, then I am going against the general consensus, and if it can be shown that we have been incorrect with regarding Galatians as a definite letter of Paul’s without contention, then this should call into question whether we are correct with deciding that the letters in the disputed category are really not the work of Paul. Therefore it could be possible that the letters compromising the undisputed category should also be relooked at, and not merely assumed to be genuinely Paul.
This is a quick stub from the 171 page paper. The full paper is available to download as a PDF document.
To download the paper click here