The Date and Place of Galatians
Summary of Arguments in Defense of the "South Galatian Theory" and a date of 49 AD.
By Phillip G. Kayser
Since the time of Ramsay, it has been conclusively shown that the cities of Acts 14 were included in the Roman province of Galatia. Thus the cities of Acts 13-14 are clearly within what would be termed "Galatia." There would be no better term to group these disparate groups as one group than "Galatians."
Paul's habit of defining regions is generally to use Roman nomenclature. Greg Herrick says, "Paul seems to prefer provincial titles when referring to churches "(cf. "Macedonia" in 2 Cor. 8:1; "Asia" in 1 Cor. 16:19; "Achaia" in 2 Cor 1:1). The apostle also speaks of Judea, Syria and Cilicia23 (cf. Gal. 1:21), but never of Lycaonia, Pisidia, Mysia and Lydia. It appears logical and consistent then to say that the term ‘Galatia' in Galatians 1:2 and 3:1 is probably a provincial designation in which case the letter could have been sent to the churches of the south."
Paul addresses the Galatians in Greek, not Celtic.
Paul mentions Barnabas three times in Galatians 2:1,9,13, and does so as if Barnabas was already well known by the Galatians. Yet Barnabas never visited North Galatia. He was however on Paul's journey to South Galatia (Acts 13-14).
Acts 20:4 mentions the names of people who helped to carry the offerings from various regions. It is clear that "the churches of Galatia" sent an offering by their hand (1 Cor. 16:1). Therefore it is significant that none of the people carrying the offering are North Galatians, but there are two South Galatians mentioned: Gaius of Derbe and Timothy of Lystra.
Acts mentions Jewish people traveling to South Galatia, but there is no mention of such to North Galatia. Indeed, North Galatia was so dangerous, and so lacking in Jews, that it is unlikely that these Jewish adversaries would risk going that far. However, this is not conclusive.
On the South Galatian theory, the Galatians are influenced away from the true Gospel within a year, whereas on the North Galatian theory, it is (at best) a decade. The former fits Paul's complaint, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel" (Gal. 1:6). The latter view does not.
The North Galatian theory requires an assumption that churches were planted in North Galatia, something very difficult to square with Acts.
Historically it was believed that the order of Paul's writings were Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Romans. This fits the South Galatian theory much better.
It is unlikely that Acts 15 is the meeting mentioned by Paul in Galatians 2:1-10 for the following reasons: 1) The Galatians 2:1-10 meeting is the second trip Paul made to Jerusalem (see Gal. 1:16-2:1) whereas the Acts 15 trip is clearly the third trip Paul made to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-29 being trip one, Acts 11:27-30/12:25 being the second trip and Acts 15 being the third). 2) It is difficult to believe that Paul would not have mentioned the Jerusalem decree in Galatians when that would have settled the question at hand without any debate. 3) Acts 15 is a public meeting whereas Galatians 2 emphasizes that the meeting was private (Gal. 2:2). 4) It is difficult to imagine even Peter engaging in the behavior mentioned in Galatians 2:11-14 after the clear decree in Acts 15. 5) It appears that Paul is listing his visits to Jerusalem in order (this is the force of the Epeita ["then"] clauses in 1:18; 1:21 and 2:1).
Since the only evidence we have of a "famine throughout all the world" (Acts 11:28) is in 46 AD (see Josephus), the famine trip (Acts 11:27-30; cf 12:25) likely took place in 46 AD. Since Galatians 2:1 indicates that this second trip to Jerusalem took place 13-14 years after his conversion (in Jewish reckoning, parts of a year count as a year), that would place Paul's conversion in 33 AD (about three years after the death of Jesus). This is a workable chronology.
The "first" or "former" visit to Galatia mentioned in Galatians 4:13 would be on the outgoing journey (up through Acts 14:20) and the second visit to the Galatian churches would have been the return trip in Acts 14:21-25.
This means that the letter to the Galatians was written between Acts 15:2 and Acts 15:5, in 49 AD.