[In other blogs, see recently Loren Rosson, Why Paul Took Up the Collection (Rom 15:25-32), Phil Harland, Paul, the Galatians, and circumcision (NT 1.6) and Paul and the situation at Galatia — again (NT 2.9). Also browse earlier posts in The Stuff of Earth and Hypotyposeis.]
In this post, I would like to summarise the reasons found in my previous post(s), to add a fresh argument, and to lay the groundwork for a controversial proposal about what actually happened in what were originally Paul's Galatian churches. First, then, a summary of the case that Paul lost the churches of Galatia:
(1) The collection: In Paul's instructions concerning the collection for the saints in Jerusalem, Galatia is initially included (1 Cor. 16.1-4) but has dropped out in subsequent epistles, 2 Corinthians 9.1-4 and Romans 15.24-28. Paul is still on good terms with the Galatians in 1 Corinthians, and has recently given them directions concerning the collection, but by 2 Corinthians and Romans, they are no longer mentioned as participants in the collection. The rupture with the Galatian churches, to which the epistle to the Galatians bears witness, has occurred in between the writing of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. Paul has lost those churches, and Galatians is his last desperate attempt to win back people he sees as apostate. See further: Does Galatians post-date 1 Corinthians?, and cf. Does Galatians post-date 1 Corinthians II and Does Galatians post-date 1 Corinthians III.
(2) Absence of Travel Plans: There is a striking absence of travel plans in Galatians. Paul always makes travel plans in his epistles, always talks about his next visit; it's a repeated theme. See 1 Thess. 2.17--3.1; 1 Cor. 16.5-10; 2 Cor. 12.14--13.2; Romans 1.9-15 and 15.22-25; Philemon 22; Phil. 1.21-27. Paul is writing to the Galatians already conscious that he has made his last visit to them. See further: Paul's lack of travel plans in Galatians.
(3) The Scarcity of Galatia in Acts: Galatia and the Galatian crisis has been written out of Paul's story in Acts. All that survives of Galatia in Acts are remnants of Paul's itinerary, with no additional detail:
16.6, "They went through the Phrygian and Galatian region . . ."There is no story of the conversion of the Galatians, and still less of the crisis there. This is significant given the fact that Acts does tell the story of the founding of the major centres of Paul's activity as reflected in his other epistles, Philippi in Acts 16, Thessalonica in Acts 17, Corinth in Acts 18 (and of course, Rome is the theme of the end of Acts).
18.23, "Paul left and went through the region of Galatia and Phrygia . . . "
On this latter point, it might, of course, be objected that Acts 13-14 tell the story of Paul's founding mission in Galatia, and that this is the region Paul is writing to in Galatians, the so-called "South Galatian hypothesis". But whatever one thinks of this hypothesis (and I am not persuaded), it is important to remind ourselves of something simple, that Luke himself does not call that region Galatia. When Luke is talking about places like Lystra, Derbe and Iconium, he calls them "cities of Lycaonia" (Acts 14.6; cf. Acts 14.11). The term "Galatia", which Luke knows and uses (Acts 16.6, 18.23) does not refer to this region. In other words, Luke knows of a mission there which he does not narrate. Alongside the other evidence, it seems likely that Luke knew that Paul had been ultimately unsuccessful there.
In my next post in this series, I would like to discuss the situation addressed by Paul in Galatians, and I will suggest that contrary to the usual reconstructions, the process of circumcision was already underway before Paul wrote to them his letter of rebuke.