Q. I wonder if you had thought much about Galatians being a circular letter written to several churches in south Galatia, separated by considerable distance. Are we to assume the agitators just retraced Paul’s steps and went to all of them? Were all of them facing the same problems with local Jews? Could this letter be mostly addressed to the church in Pisidian Antioch and the one in Iconium? Partly, I ask because too often we assume Paul is addressing one congregation with one set of problems, but in fact he is not. Are all of them contemplating circumcision and keeping Torah? How do you view these things?
A. Cilliers Breitenbach, a kind of modern William Ramsey, knows the southern Turkish scene, archaeology, roads, gravestones etc and reckons that Iconium, Lystra and Derbe are the key places. I can’t compete with his specialist knowledge, but I do note that Pisidian Antioch was known as ‘New Rome’, and was a major centre of imperial cult. And I do think that those three cities at least, no doubt with local variations, were all facing the same problems. From the point of view of zealous Torah-observant Jesus-followers in Jerusalem, we have to see it like this: the non-Jesus-believing Jews in Jerusalem would be looking at the Jesus-followers and saying ‘So – your friends out in the provinces are teaching people they don’t need to obey Torah? That’s precisely the kind of thing that will delay God’s coming kingdom! Get them into line, and quickly, or we’ll know you are just as disloyal as they are!’