One of the weaknesses of many readings of Galatians is that they imagine the Galatians "contemplating" or "thinking about" the message brought by the influencers, as if they have listened to a series of sermons and have now retired for a fortnight to meditate on the practical application to them as individuals. Whenever anyone attempts to describe the background to the epistle, it is usually construed in terms of this Galatian contemplation, and it is thought that Paul is speaking directly to people still in the process of thought. This supposed background is problematic. The letter does not sound like it is addressed to groups of people who are thinking about taking action. Indeed Paul's very criticism of them is that they are not thinking at all:
3.1: Ὦ ἀνόητοι Γαλάται, τίς ὑμᾶς ἐβάσκανεν, οἷς κατ’ ὀφθαλμοὺς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς προεγράφη ἐσταυρωμένος;This key verse comes after Paul’s chapter-long discussion of what happened in Antioch and Jerusalem and marks the point at which Paul is resuming his direct assault on his former converts, for the first time addressing them directly as “Galatians”. The word he uses to qualify "Galatians" is ἀνόητοι, usually translated "foolish", but meaning something like "unthinking". He uses the term again in 3.3, οὕτως ἀνόητοί ἐστε; ("Are you so foolish?"). Far from thoughtfully engaging on the possibility of circumcision, the Galatians, in Paul's rhetoric, are not thinking at all. Whether Paul's characterization of them is accurate or not, it hints that the basis for Paul's criticism is not intention but action. It is not that they are thinking about circumcision but that they are getting themselves circumcised.
O foolish Galatians! Who has evil-eyed you, before whose very eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
The point is further clarified by Paul’s attempt to get the bottom of what has happened here. After calling them foolish Galatians, Paul goes on to ask, in the standard translations, "Who has bewitched you . . . ?" The reference is to the practice of giving someone the evil eye (See Mark Nanos, "The Social Context and Message of Galatians in View of Paul’s Evil Eye Warning (Gal. 3:1)"). Paul is attempting to explain what the Galatians have done in the light of the ancient world’s notion that they are victims of someone’s evil eye. In other words, Paul is attempting to make sense of what is going on in Galatia by appealing to magical practice. His rhetoric illustrates his conviction that they are victims who are being cajoled into making a decisive step. We will turn next to evidence that that illustrates how the Galatians were already "Judaizing".