“See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!” (Galatians 6:11).
Although Paul the Apostle has issued a number of challenges to the Galatian churches throughout this letter, he paused for a personal aside here in Galatians 6:11: “This is my own handwriting. You can see how big the letters are” (ERV). This handwritten message served an important purpose.
You see, first-century letters were typically composed by a scribe known as an amanuensis. The amanuensis served as a secretary for the author and usually assisted in one of two ways. For example, an author might dictate a letter for the amanuensis to convert into a written document. Or, the author might provide a basic idea of what he or she wished to say and allow the amanuensis to draft the letter.
If a first-century author was not directly involved in the composition of a letter, this handwritten portion thus served to authenticate his or her message. Not surprisingly, this practice represented a distinguishing feature in several of Paul’s New Testament epistles…
“The salutation with my own hand—Paul’s” (1 Corinthians 16:21).
“This salutation by my own hand—Paul” (Colossians 4:18)
“The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17).
Its also interesting to note how Paul drew attention to his distinctively large handwriting in this passage. Perhaps Paul’s eyesight had deteriorated to the point where it became necessary for him to write in this manner. Its also possible that his years of labor as a tentmaker had impacted his ability to form small handwritten characters. Whatever the reason, this portion of Paul’s letter to the Galatians tells us that his message was important enough to expend the effort necessary to authenticate it.
Finally, two sources expand on these possibilities and offer some additional insight into this portion of Galatians chapter six…
“This (passage) can be interpreted in two ways: 1) Paul’s poor eyesight forced him to use large letters (cf. 4:13, 15); or 2) instead of the normal cursive style of writing used by professional scribes, he used the large, block letters (frequently employed in public notices) to emphasize the letter’s content rather than its form. It was a visible picture that contrasted his concern with the content of the gospel for the Judaizers’ only concern: appearances.” (1)
“Whatever the purpose of ‘large letters’ here, the main point is that not a scribe but Paul himself writes this section, as the handwriting shows. Paul’s special effort indicates that they must pay special attention.” (2)
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ga 6:11). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(2) Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament © 1988 Craig S. Keener [p.540]