Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13

The Denouement of the South Galatian Hypothesis*

In: Novum Testamentum
Clare K. Rothschild Romeoville, IL

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According to Acts 13, after Barnabas and Paul confront the Jewish magician Bar-Jesus on Cyprus and successfully win the allegiance of Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus, the fellow travelers visit Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath in Pisidian Antioch, Paul gives his first and only speech to Jews in Acts (13:16b-41). William M. Ramsay, subscribing to the “province” or “Southern Galatian” hypothesis, understands the addressees of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians to be those converted in response to this speech. Ramsay goes so far as to draw connections between the speech and Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. In contrast, H.D. Betz argues that Galatians was written to Gentiles in Northern Galatia. Betz sees no proof of the historicity of the Acts account and finds no compelling reason, therefore, to associate it with Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. A prolegomenon for both Ramsay and Betz is the purpose of Acts. Kirsopp Lake once asked whether it was “an accident that he [“Luke”] describes Paul’s first dealings with the Romans, the Corinthians, the Ephesians, and the Thessalonians,” noting that “Galatia was the remaining church which Paul founded and wrote to.” This essay argues that both Ramsay and Betz are in a sense correct. Paul’s visit to Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13 provides grounds for Paul’s foundation of the Galatic churches, irrespective of the historicity of its presentation in Acts. Further, it argues that such a stopover has a distinct narrative advantage; namely, it affords an attractively Romanesque stopover early in Paul’s travels for this Roman-born, Roman-named, Rome-bound missionary.

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