Bible: Letter of Paul to the Galatians

(ca. 48–52)

The apostle Paul wrote his Letter to the Galatians either just before or just after the Jerusalem Council (49 CE), the pivotal event in the missionary expansion of Christianity to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Prior to the council, the majority of Christians were Jews who believed in Jesus as messiah. For these Jewish Christians, a prerequisite for receiving salvation through Jesus was adherence to Torah (the Law), namely, the 613 mitzvoth (commands) given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai. Some of these commands, notably circumcision, the dietary laws, and the Sabbath laws, visibly marked Jews out from their pagan neighbors. However, Paul sparked controversy by preaching throughout the Mediterranean basin that Gentiles could find salvation through personal commitment to Jesus—namely, faith—without submission to Torah. The Council embraced Paul's position as official Christian doctrine, thus enabling the transformation of Christianity from a sect of Judaism into a separate and...

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Saint Paul (Yale University Art Gallery)

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