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GALATIANS - THOSE CRAZY CELTS - GALATIA Print E-mail
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GALATIA

 

Through his work in Galatia, and his subsequent letter to the Galatians, Paul came to a much more developed understanding of ‘living resurrectionally’.  In comparison with his Galatian vision, what he saw in Thessaloniki and Philippi seems rather elementary….

 

It is not fully clear where the ‘Galatia’ in which Paul worked, and to which he wrote, really is.  The term ‘Galatians’ refers to Gallic tribes (Gauls, Celts) who are obviously not Jews, and who have lived around Asia Minor for some time before Paul.  At the time of Paul, the term ‘Galatia’ was used both for an ethnic group and for an administrative region under Roman control. 

 

There is a difference between southern and northern Galatia (in the administrative sense).  It seems the Galatians of our interest here are from the north of Asia Minor (Turkey) and have some link with Celts.  In the 3rd century bce, wandering Celtic warlike tribes were in central to northern Galatia, around Ancyra (modern Ankara in Turkey).  There is still a minority group of Christians in Ankara.  They had the same racial roots as the Irish.  They had been defeated by Greeks in the past, more than once.  A remnant of them seems to have remained in the area.  [CeLT=GaLaT] [Cf. The Dying Gaul, a statue in the Capitoline Museum, Rome, the original of which is bronze in Pergamum.  He is on his last legs!].  A study of these people has remarkable parallels with studies of the ‘dying out’ of Irish-type Catholicism in present Australian culture, for whom the Dying Gaul could be a symbol. 

 

I have added a picture of ‘the Dying Gaul’ to suggest the demise of these Galatians, and perhaps to raise questions about the dying-out of a traditional Celtic model of being Church here in Australia (and elsewhere)….. See picture attachment.   I wonder if Paul has written, unknowingly, a letter to this ‘dying’ church-culture????

 

There has been a presence of Jews there too, and many of the Galatians had been Jewish sympathizers without becoming Jews through circumcision and Torah acceptance.  Paul is working for both Gentiles and Jews in Galatia.  Significant in the Jewish groups there was, in all probability, a cohort converted to Christianity from some rather austere Essene-type communities. 

 

J.Dunn regards the debate about which group Paul worked in and wrote to, as unresolved. He seems to lean to southern Galatia.  Crossan and Reed take it for granted it is northern Galatia.  If the letter is written to the north, it is written in the mid-fifties.  If it is written to the south, it must be earlier, 48-49, and would be the earliest of Paul’s letters.  In these reflections, I am taking the northern option.  Some are now suggesting that Galatians was written after 1 Corinthians but before 2 Corinthians.  Others suggest that 2 Cor 10-13 is earlier than 2 Cor 1-9, and that Galatians comes between the two.

 

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It is worth a look at the going religious practices of these people.  Cf. Susan Elliott, Cutting Too Close for Comfort: Paul’s Letter to the Galatians in its Anatolian Cultic Context, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 248, Sheffield Academic Press, 2004

 

Elliott draws attention to the specifically Anatolian situation (north Galatia).  Local pagans (Gentiles, Gauls, Celts) were practising a cult of the ‘Mother of the gods’.  It was not a fertility cult. There had historically been many influences on this region, and there had been also many cultures and many religions and many gods introduced into the region.  Each one of them seems to have ‘occupied’ a special geographical area, usually around a mountain – there were many mountains there.  It sounds a bit like a ‘Mormon zone’ in Utah.  In their own zones, the gods were like absolute chiefs and monarchs.  A cult developed of a ‘Mother of all these gods’, a ‘Mountain Mother’.  A ‘Great Mother’.  She was the guardian of all the practices and written rules.  She was the keeper of Law.  She was strong (she is often depicted with lions!).  She could keep the wilderness under control.  Her cult included orgies (‘controlled’ because part of a religious cult) and frenzies… In the service of this Goddess, was a figure called Attis – beardless, young, recently castrated, often androgynous.  They were the equivalent in some Roman religions of the Galli (there is at least a verbal connection here with the ‘Gauls’).  They were slaves of the Great Mother.  They had initiation rituals (including castration).  They practised a kind of prostitution.  They were regarded as healers and prophets.  They had a kind of power among the people.  The people were bewitched by the whole cult of the Great Mother.  [This seems to link to the acceptance of a kind of stoicheia, or of some controlling powers in their universe…]

 

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