Careful studies of thousands of letters written in Paul's day have led to the discovery that most of the letters exhibit two styles of handwriting: a refined style of a trained secretary in the body of the letter and a more casual style of the author in the conclusion. It appears that it was common practice for letters to be written by dictation to secretaries. The author would personally write only a few lines at the end of the letter. Usually these concluding lines in the author's own hand summarized the cardinal points of the letter. Evidently the author's summary of the main points served not only to verify that he had actually made those points in his dictation to his secretary but also to underline the points he wanted his readers to remember. For this reason the conclusion of a letter often provided important interpretive clues to the entire letter.
We see this common practice of letterwriting in Paul's letter to the Galatians. At verse 11 he indicates that he has taken up the pen to conclude the letter: See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Since most of the members of the Galatian churches would not be able to see that there was a change in script when his letter was read to the churches, it was necessary for Paul to draw attention to the fact that he had picked up the pen and was writing the conclusion. Some have suggested that he wrote with large letters because he had poor eyesight or because he had a clumsy workman's hand. Such conjectures have little evidence to support them. It makes more sense to suppose that Paul wrote his conclusion in large letters because he wanted to emphasize to the Galatian congregations the importance of the main points of the letter in his concluding summary. In our day we might draw attention through boldface type or double underlining of the main points.
The main points to which Paul draws attention in his conclusion are points of contrast between himself and the false teachers who have misled the Galatian churches. To clarify these points of contrast, Paul first summarizes the position of the false teachers, the way of the world (vv. 12-13), and then restates his own position, the way of the cross (vv. 14-15). He concludes with a peace benediction (v. 16), a final statement of his authority (v. 17) and a grace benediction (v. 18).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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