Galatians – where was Paul’s epistle destined to?
“Galatia” as a name had two different senses in the first century A. D. The 1st meaning refers to the designated Galatia region in the northern part of the central plateau of Asia Minor. This includes Ancrya, Pressinus, and Tavium. The 2nd meaning connotes to the southern province of the Roman Empires. This includes the Galatia region of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Paphlagonia, Pontus, Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaconia and Isauria.
In reading Galatians, we may wonder just who exactly Paul had in mind in writing this epistle to when he said, “to the churches in Galatia” in Galatians chapter 1 verse 2? Is it the geographical Galatia region or the greater political Galatia vicinity?
The name “Galatia” was introduced into Asia soon after 278 B. C. The first group of people became known as Galatians were from the barbarian tribal stock known as Celts or Gauls.
Some of the tribes invaded and settled in Macedonia and later Asia Minor in the third century B.C. In popular speech, these Gauls distinguished from the West – European Gauls by the term “Gallo – Graecians” from which came the name “Galatians”.
The tribes met with great success in their early settlement. They raided and placed the whole region west of the Taurus river under tribute and forced even the Syrian kings to submit for a time to their terms. However, in 230 B.C., the Gauls were decisively defeated by Attalus I, king of Pergamum, and swiftly being confined to a smaller territory in the north.
This was the region first to be known as Galatia. Its principle cities were Ancyra (now the capital city of the modern Turkey), Pessinus, and Tavium.
Then the Romans came. In approximately 189 B. C., Roman Consul Manlius arrived in Galatians and put them under conquered. Yet, the Galatians were allowed to maintain much of their independence and to be governed partially by their own princes. Life did not change much for the locals.
This dual governing system worked so well in Galatians that it was incorporated into a much larger Roman jurisdiction later upon the death of Amyntas. This new governing area, established in 25 B.C., contained the southern districts of, Lycaconia and Isauria as well as a great portion of Phrygia, Pisidia, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra.
It is held that Paul visited the Galatia north in his 2nd missionary journey, though Acts contains no reference to such a visit. But he did visit some of these cities in particular to the cities of Pisidia, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra in his first missionary journey to Galatia as seen in 1 Cor. 16:1; Gal. 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:1; and 2 Tim 4:10
So, which of these areas were the epistle of Paul destined to? Or to put it in other way, in what sense did Paul use the name Galatians? Did he write to Christians in the northern ethnic Galatians? Or it was for the Galatians of the new southern Roman Galatia.
In the New Testament, the term Galatia occurs three times. In 2 Ti. 4:10, the reference is uncertain. In 1 Pe 1:1 it refers to the northern area of Asia Minor occupied by the Gauls. In Galatians, the older church view holds that the letter was addressed to churches located in north –central Asia Minor of Ancrya, Pressinus, and Tavium.
In the current scene, Christians of protestant in majority hold a different view. We believe that Paul uses the term to refer to the Roman province of Galatia and an additional area to the south. This is evidenced through his traveled on his missionary journey in Ac. 13:14-14:23.