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The Great Commentary Of Cornelius À Lapide Volumes 1 To 8

1 He asketh what moved them to leave the faith, and hang upon the law? 6 They that believe are justified, 9 and blessed with Abraham. 10 And this he sheweth by many reasons.

S. Paul proceeds to prove by five reasons that we are justified not by the law, or the works of the law, but by Christ.

i. The first proof is drawn (ver. 2) from experience. The Galatians had received the Holy Spirit and His gifts, not in circumcision, but in baptism.

ii. The second (ver. 6) from the example of Abraham, who was justified because he believed God, i.e., by faith.

iii. The third relies on the fact (ver. 10) that those under the law are under the curse threatened to all who transgress it. But Christ, being made a curse for us, has set us free from the curse of the law.

iv. The fourth is drawn (ver. 11) from Habakkuk 2:4: “The just liveth by faith.”

v. The fifth insists (ver. 16) that it was to Abraham and his seed that the blessing of righteousness was promised. Therefore, it is by the promise, apprehended by faith, that we are justified, and not by the law. For the law, as is said in ver. 24, was given only as a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ, that by Him we might be justified, that we might put on Him and become all one with Him.

Ver. 1.—O foolish Galatians. “Each province,” says S. Jerome, “has its characteristic. Epimenides notes that the Cretans are liars. The Latin historian charges the Moors with frivolity, the Dalmatians with ferocity. All the poets condemn the cowardice of the Phrygians. Cicero (‘pro Flacco’) asserts that the Greeks are frivolous by nature and empty by education. In the same way the Apostle, it seems to me, charges the Galatians with their racial defect in describing them as unteachable, stubborn, and slow to wisdom.” S. Jerome again says that Hilary, an impartial witness, calls the Gauls intractable; and again he insists that the stupidity of the Galatians is evident from their inclination to all sorts of foolish heresies. “Whoever has seen, as I have done, Ancyra, the metropolis of Galalia, will bear out my statement that it is torn with schisms. To say nothing of the Cataphrygians, the Ophites, the Borborites, and the Manichæans, whoever in the whole Roman world besides knows more than the names of the Passalorincitæ, the Ascodrobi, the Artotiritæ, and other monstrous sects? The traces of ancient folly remain to this day” (in Ep. Galat., Preface, lib. ii.).

Observe that this reproach of the Apostle’s springs, not from indignation, but from charity; it is a material and not a formal rebuke. Cf. Gregory, Past. iii. 8.

Parents who use a thong to punish their sons may still more use their tongue, and burn out their vices by sharp words. Christ called the scribes hypocrites (S. Matt. 22:18), and S. Paul called Elymas a child of the devil (Acts 13:10). The keenness, however, of the rebuke is toned down here by the following words—“Who hath bewitched you?”—which attribute their folly to the influence of the Jews.

Who hath bewitched you? The Greek word here signifies (1.) to envy. “What Jew has envied you your Gospel liberty?” (Theophylact and Anselm). It denotes (2.) to fascinate, charm, bind the eyes, so as to make them to see what is not, or not to see what is. This second sense better suits the context—before whose eyes Christ hath been evidently set forth. It was through the fixed look of the person casting the spell that the charm was commonly made to work. Virgil refers to this in the line, “Some eye is casting its spell on my tender lambs.” S. Paul’s question then means: “What evil eye has seduced you, O Galatians, yet young in the faith, to the delusion of Judaism?” “The evil eye,” says Jerome, “is peculiarly hurtful to infants, and those of tender years, and who cannot yet run alone.”

Evidently set forth. The Vulgate is præcriptus, which is rendered by Anselm, disinherited; by Ambrose, spoiled, in the sense: You have deprived Christ of His lawful inheritance, the Church.

S. Augustine, according to Erasmus, understands the word to allude to legal prescription, by which, after a certain time (three years in the case of movables, ten years in the case of immovables), possession gave a title to ownership. Christ, by the prescription of the Old Law, which for so many hundreds of years enjoyed the name of the Free Law, was shut out from His possession, the Church. But Erasmus has misread S. Augustine, as is evident from the best MSS. The latter reads proscriptus, and comments on it thus: “The Jews took away His inheritance, and drove Him out” which is an act of proscription, not of prescription.

S. Jerome interprets præscriptus to mean that the death of Christ was, predicted by the prophets and in the sacraments of the Old Law.

But there is a third and better meaning. Christ was put by writing, or by a picture, before your very eyes, crucified. The Galatians had not been spectators of the actual Crucifixion, but Christ had by preaching and faith been represented to them as crucified. This interpretation makes it necessary to supply as though before crucified.

The sense, then, is: Though crucified at Jerusalem in fact, yet Christ has been represented as though crucified before you, O Galatians, by my preaching and your faith. By the eyes of faith you have seen Christ hanging on the Cross more clearly than did the Jews who stood at its foot. Who, then, has cast a spell upon those eyes which have so clearly seen Christ crucified?

It is possible, however, that the words are to be taken literally. In your own age, in the presence perhaps of some of you, and in a country not far removed, Christ was marked out by the instruments of His Passion, and depicted as your Saviour. While the colours then are so fresh on the canvas, how can you be so bewitched as to forget so great and so recent a benefit?

In this sense Christ Himself crucified is, as it were, a picture or a book in which He is described in blood-red letters. Do you wish to know who Christ is and what He is like? Open this book, look at the Cross, see the title, Jesus of Nazareth—i.e., Consecrator, who has consecrated us to God—King of the Jews. You will find it written: “Christ was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” He alone bore and expiated our sin, for what is sin but Christicide or Deicide? You will read too in this book, in the wounds and blood of Christ, that it was love of you which formed and coloured Him so. In His whole body you will see love written, nay, engraved. This book, in short, will show to one who reads and looks well all the wisdom of Christ, and the very depths of Christian philosophy.

Ver. 2.—Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? The Spirit here is the Holy Spirit, with His visible gifts of tongues and prophecy, which He used to give in baptism, as outward tokens of the invisible graces He there infused. S. Paul asks the Galatians whether it is not clear that they received the Spirit and His gifts, not from circumcision, but in baptism.

The hearing of faith. Hearing can be taken here either actively, in reference to the preaching they heard, or passively, in reference to their hearkening to and obeying the faith preached. Cf. Isaiah 53:1.

Ver. 3.—Having begun in the Spirit. With the spiritual doctrine of Christ, and the spiritual gifts received from Him, enabling you to live the spiritual life.

Are ye now made perfect by the flesh? The flesh is put for circumcision and other carnal ceremonies of the law. The interpretation which sees here a reference to the carnal lusts of the flesh is disproved by the context. Made perfect is in the Vulgate consumemini.

S. Bernard (Serm. 33 in Cant.) applies this text to those who exhaust their strength by unrestrained devotion, through excessive prayers and penances. Afterwards, he says, they become lazy, and are consumed by the flesh, while seeking for health, and so become sensual and carnal. Cf. notes to 1 Cor. 3:2.

Theophylact observes that S. Paul uses the passive, not the active—“Are you made perfect?” not, “Do you make perfect?” i.e., he hints that they were like brute beasts, in suffering themselves to be circumcised by others. He also notes that he does not say merely τελεῖσθε, but ἐπιτελεῖσθε: After being perfected in Christ, will you seek a perfection beyond in the Old Law? Do you want to add a fifth wheel to the coach?

Ver. 4.—Have ye suffered so many things in vain? Why should unbelievers persecute you in vain, i.e., without cause, if you are returning to Moses?

If it be yet in vain. Which it will be, unless you return to your former mind, and stand firm in the faith of Christ.

Ver. 5.—He therefore that ministereth. I.e., God or Christ, who infuses His grace, and works in you by His Divine power, Cf. 1. Cor. 12:6.

Ver. 6.—Even as Abraham believed God. This introduces the second argument, to prove that we are justified, not by the works of the law, but by faith; not by Moses, but by Christ. Abraham received the Spirit when uncircumcised and before the law, and was justified by faith in Christ, not by the law, which at that time was not in existence. So, argues S. Paul, are you justified by faith.

And it was accounted to him for righteousness. By his faith he was justified. Cf. notes to Rom. 4:3.

Ver. 7.—They which are of faith. A Græcism for they who are faithful, who imitate Abraham’s faith.

The same are the children of Abraham. Not by blood, but by imitation; to them, therefore, belongs the blessing pronounced on Abraham.

Ver. 8.—Preached before the gospel unto Abraham. Gave him this most joyful news of the blessing to be conferred by Christ on His descendants, i.e., on the faithful. In other words, the Gospel about Christ and His righteousness is not new, but is as old as the days of Abraham.

In thee shall all nations be blessed. Cajetan observes, in his notes or Genesis 12., that when God called Abraham from his home in Chaldea, and from his kindred, to go to a land to be shown him, He promised him a sevenfold blessing. Seven is the number of completeness. (1.) He promised him that he should be the head or father of a great nation, in the words, “I will make of thee a great nation;” (2.) abundant riches, in the words, “I will bless thee;” (3.) fame and wide renown, in the words, “And make thy name great;” (4.) the sum of all blessings and honours, in the words, “Thou shalt be a blessing.” The exact force of the Hebrew here is that thou shalt be so filled with blessings as to seem to be a blessing itself, so that when men may wish to bless any one, they shall put you forward as an example, saying, “May God bless thee as He blessed Abraham.” In a similar way the Romans saluted their Cæsar: “May you be more fortunate than Augustus, more virtuous than Trajan.” (5.) “The Lord promised His blessing, not to Abraham only, but to his friends, in the words, “I will bless them that bless thee.” (6.) He promised that He would avenge him on his adversaries, in the words, “I will curse him that curseth thee.” (7.) The preceding six are temporal only, but the seventh and the chief is spiritual and eternal, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

1. Observe that in thee, i.e., in thy seed, as is explained in Gen. 22:17, is to be understood as in Christ, who was born of Abraham, according to the Apostle’s interpretation in Gal. 3:16. Through thy seed, Christ, and through faith in Him, all nations shall be blessed, i.e., be justified and made sons and friends of God, and consequently heirs of God’s kingdom, and entitled to hear the blissful words, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Abraham’s blessing, therefore, was that he should be the father of the justified.

2. But in thee can be also rendered like thee. As thou art justified by faith, so by faith shall all nations be justified, and not by the works of the law. So say Chrysostom, Augustine, Theophylact, Œcumenius, and S. Thomas.

Notice, too, that with God to speak is as efficacious as to do, for, “He spake the word and they were made.”

Similarly, to pronounce a blessing with Him is the same as to confer a blessing (benedicere = benefacere). The greater the blessing promised, the greater the blessing given. But the greatest good we can receive is that grace by which we become sharers of the Divine nature, and the word blessing, therefore, denotes this great gift.

Hence the Fathers rightly interpret, they shall be blessed, as they shall be justified: they shall receive the blessing of justification, than which no greater gift can be given to man by God.

From this is evident the error of Paginus, in rendering the phrase before us, In thee shall all nations bless themselves. The Hebrew voice of the verb is the Niphal, which is purely passive, not reflexive; moreover, S. Paul’s use of the passage is against him.

Ver. 9.—So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. This is the conclusion from the premisses of the three preceding verses. God promised to Abraham that in him, i.e., in his seed, i.e., in Christ, all nations should be blessed, i.e., justified. But the promise of God cannot fail; therefore the consequence contained in this verse follows.

If the second sense of in thee, given above, is preferred, the argument is the same. In thee, i.e., like thee, all nations shall be blessed. But thou, O Abraham, wast justified by faith; therefore, the Gentiles too shall be justified in the same way. And from this it follows that they who are of faith shall be blessed, i.e., justified with faithful Abraham. This last phrase rather favours the second rendering of in thee, and hints that the Gentiles shall be justified by faith like faithful Abraham.

Observe again the Græcism, they who are of faith, i.e., who are faithful. Similarly, he speaks of those who are of the circumcision, i.e., the Jews, followers of the law. Elsewhere he calls them those who are of the works of the law, i.e., those who rely on it and hope for justification from it.

Ver. 10.—For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. He inquired in verse 5 whether righteousness comes from the law or from faith. He replied, “From faith,” and then proved his answer by the example of Abraham. He now proceeds to a third proof, by destroying the alternative, viz., that it is not of the law. So far from the law bestowing a blessing, those who are under it are under a curse—exposed to eternal damnation. This he argues thus: Whoever does not keep the whole law is cursed by the law. But no one keeps the whole law without the grace of Christ, as I suppose you know from your own experience; for you know that the law teaches, threatens, and punishes only, but does not confer grace; therefore, without faith no one is free from the curse of the law pronounced by it against those who transgress it. The law curses, faith alone blesses.

If any one wishes the argument put more in syllogistic form, it may be thrown into the mood barbara thus: Whoever breaks any law is cursed by it. But all who are under the law, and are shut off from the grace of Christ, break the law; therefore, all who are under the law are cursed by it. The major is proved by Deut. 27:26; the minor is supposed to be known by experience, and hence the conclusion follows. Of course the minor must be granted, else the Judaisers might say to the Galatians: We are as much under a blessing as a curse, for if the law curses those who break it, it also blesses those who keep it, as is said in Deut. 28:2.

For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Though Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, the LXX., render the word we translate continueth somewhat differently, yet the sense is the same throughout. Whoever does not by his deeds establish, strengthen, settle the law, is accursed by it. This is the major of the syllogism just stated.

1. Observe that he passes over the minor, because it was admitted. Calvin, however, makes it to be this: But no one can fulfil the law; therefore, the law imposes what is impossible, and consequently all are under its curse. But this is an impious proposition. If modified thus: No one keeps the law without the faith of Christ, therefore all without that faith are under the curse of the law, then it becomes orthodox. God does not command impossibilities. Although by natural strength a man cannot keep the whole law, yet he can by supernatural, and this latter God gives to all that ask Him, whether Jews or Gentiles.

2. Observe, in the second place, that not all were accursed who broke any law. For some laws, though of Divine origin, obliged under venial sin only, because of the nature of their subject-matter, as, e.g., the law forbidding the mother to be taken in the nest with her young (Deut. 22:6), and the law forbidding a vineyard to be sown with divers seeds (ver. 9), and the law forbidding a garment to be woven of flax and wool (ver. 11). It is evident, therefore, that Deut. 27, quoted by S. Paul, refers to the Decalogue, which contains commandments of great importance. It is because they oblige under mortal sin that he is cursed who breaks one of them. A reference to Deut. 27 will show this to be the case. The Apostle assumes that no one can keep the whole Decalogue without the grace of Christ, and he thence concludes that all who are under the law are cursed by it.

Ver. 11.—But that no man is justified. This is a fourth proof. S. Paul would fain convince the Galatians by an accumulation of proofs. After that based on the example of Abraham, and that on the condition of those under the law, he proceeds to another drawn from Habukkuk 2:4, a text already explained in the notes on Rom. 1:17.

Ver. 12.—And the law is not of faith. The law neither teaches nor gives the grace by which we fulfil the law and live righteously. But, as is said in Ezek. 20:11, the man that doeth what the law commands shall live, i.e., shall not be punished with the death threatened by the law for transgressors, but he shall enjoy life and an abundance of temporal goods, as the law promises to those who keep it. The same was said in Rom. 10:5, which reminds us of the close relationship between that Epistle and this, the latter being a compendium of the former.

Observe the antithesis between “faith” and “law.” Of the former, it is said that the just, because he is just, shall live by it, i.e., shall enjoy a life of grace and glory, which is the perfect and blissful life. But as to the latter, it is not said absolutely that he who keeps the law shall live by it, but only in it, i.e., he shall live the life and enjoy the goods promised by the law, viz., abundance of corn, wine, and oil.

Ver. 13.—Christ was made a curse for us. Christ, though blessed in Himself, was made a curse, so far as He took on Him the person of sinners, to expiate the curse due because of their sins. Just as if a man make himself responsible for another’s debt, he becomes and is called a debtor, so Christ was made a curse for us. The term, however, cannot be properly applied to Him, for though a debt may be transferred, sin cannot. It is only applied to Him improperly, in the sense that He took upon Him the punishment of sin. In 2 Cor. 5:21, Christ is said to have been made sin for us, i.e., a victim for sin, according to the Jewish rite by which, through the imposition of hands, the whole body of sin was transferred to the victim. So here He is called a curse, because God transferred to Him the curses due to the whole human race, so that He bore for us the shameful Cross, to show the hideousness of sin as well as to give an example of every virtue. He hung on the Cross, says S. Augustine, “in order that Christian freedom, unlike Jewish slavery, might fear not only no death, but no kind of death” (contra Adimant. c. 21). So too Tertullian: “The Lord Himself was cursed in the law, and yet He alone was blessed. Therefore let us, His servants, follow our Lord, and patiently endure cursing, that we may be blessed” (de Patientiâ, c. 8).

For it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. This is from Deut. 21:23. Aquila and Theodotion render the clause, The curse of God is hanged; Symmachus, He was hanged for blasphemy against God; Ebion, the half-Jewish, half-Christian heresiarch, as Jerome calls him, rendered it, He who hangs is an outrage on God; another, The insult against God is hanged. Jerome adds that his Hebrew teacher (Barhanina) told him that the Hebrew might be translated, God was ignominiously hanged. Hence S. Jerome infers, that as S. Paul does not mention the name of God, that name was not in the original, but afterwards inserted by some Jew, in derision of the Christians. But this is improbable, for all the Hebrew, Latin, and Greek texts, as well as the LXX. version, have the name of God in this text of Deuteronomy. It was, therefore, out of zeal for God that Paul omitted His name, and because of the Jews and the Galatians, already half-disposed to forsake Christ. He feared lest he might alienate them still further if he said that Christ had been cursed by God.

1. From this and other passages, such as Num. 25:4, Josh. 8:29, 2 Sam. 21:9, it appears that the Jews, contrary to the opinion expressed by some, punished criminals with crucifixion, as well as stoning or burning.

2. They adopted crucifixion for the most heinous crimes, such as blasphemy, idolatry, oppression, and accordingly they crucified Christ for aiming at a kingship over Judæa. Hence criminals so punished were held in greater execration than others, accursed by God and man. It was not among the Romans alone that the punishment of crucifixion was regarded as infamous above all others.

3. Although Tostatus extends by analogy the provisions of Deut. 21:23 to other modes of punishment besides crucifixion, yet there is little warrant for doing so. The law imposes this penalty precisely on hanged criminials alone, on the ground that they were specially execrable.

It may be asked why God commanded the bodies of such criminals to be buried before the evening. The answer is to be found in Josh. 8:28, and the comments of Andreas Masius on it. “It is,” he says, “because such a corpse is regarded as contaminating the earth; for as long as human bodies are left neglected and unburied, like the bodies of brute beasts, men who dwell on the earth are apt to conceive an impious and pernicious opinion of the soul’s mortality.” This explanation is more ingenious than true. It proves too much, and applies to all criminals, however killed; but the law regards those only who were hanged on a tree. The opinion, therefore, of Cajetan and others is preferable, viz., that God wishes to blot out the remembrance of such men entirely from the earth, as a deterrent to others. So too poisoning, arson, fraud, and sodomy were punished with death by fire, the fire annihilating the bodies of those guilty of such atrocities.

We should note the Scripture phraseology here. The earth is said to be polluted by crimes, to groan, to cry aloud, to be angry, to call for vengeance, nay, to cast out its inhabiters, as, e.g., in Lev. 18:28. The figure is a prosopopœia, by which life and feeling are attributed to inanimate things, so that the earth and the elements, as irrational creatures serving their Creator and jealous for His honour, detest what He detests. They do this by a sort of natural instinct, which keeps them true to their place and the universal good, and eager to fulfil the will of God. This natural instinct makes them do what they would do in obedience to reason if they were rational creatures.

It was in accordance with this law of Deuteronomy that Christ, as a suspended malefactor, was taken from the Cross and buried, before the evening of the day on which He suffered, the next day being a Sabbath, although strictly speaking He was exempted from this law by His innocence. Hence the Hebrew of S. Jerome, before quoted, held that the law could be prophetically rendered: “His body” i.e., Christ’s, “shall not remain on the tree because God was ignominiously hanged.” The Jews, however, did not rely on this law for their action in taking him down from the Cross, but on the dishonour that would otherwise be done to the great Sabbath that was close at hand, as is clear from S. John 19:31.

This law of Deuteronomy was a judicial law, and, therefore, abrogated with the whole judicial and ceremonial law, by the death of Christ. Consequently crucified criminals are not now reckoned as cursed above others, nor are they buried on the same day, but are sometimes allowed to hang for days and weeks for a terror to other evil-doers.

S. Jerome remarks on this passage: “The Lord’s shame is our glory. He died that we might live. He descended into hell that we might ascend to heaven. He was made foolishness that we might become wise. He emptied Himself of His fulness, and put off the form of God, and put on the form of a servant, that the fulness of the Godhead might dwell in us, and that we might be changed from slaves into masters. He hung on the Cross, that the tree of shame might destroy the sin which we had committed through the tree of knowledge. His Cross made the bitter waters sweet, and made the lost axe swim in Jordan. Finally, He was made a curse—made, not born—that the blessings which had been promised to Abraham, with Him as author and herald, might be transferred to the Gentiles, and the promise of His spirit might by faith be fulfilled in us.” See too the notes of Chrysostom and Anselm.

Ver. 14.—That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles. This evidently is a corollary from the preceding verse. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, in order that the blessing of Abraham might be ours in place of the curse.

The promise of the Spirit. To the children of Abraham, i.e., to those who believe on Christ, the descendant of Abraham, was promised the Holy Spirit to justify and sanctify us. For when God said to Abraham, “In thee,” it was to his seed, which is Christ, that the blessing was appointed. Cf. notes to verse 8 above.

Ver. 15.—I speak after the manner of men. Cf. Job 31:33, and Hos. 6:7. S. Paul’s meaning is that in dealing with spiritual things he uses material illustrations, as, e.g., that of a testator and his testament, to prove that we inherit Abraham’s blessing, not through the law, but through faith in Christ, according to the covenant made with Abraham, and that, therefore, the Galatians should feel shame for attributing less to God than to the testaments and covenants of men. This is his fifth proof, that we are justified by faith and not by the law.

Though it be but a man’s covenant. No one adds to or subtracts from a man’s testament when once it is duly drawn up.

Ver. 16.—To Abraham and his seed were the promises made. This refers to Gen. 22:16. From this we conclude that by his readiness to obey God in sacrificing his son he merited that from his own seed should Christ be born as a blessing to the Gentiles, and to fulfil the promises. The Apostle, therefore, rightly lays it down that these promises were made to Abraham and his seed, i.e., to Christ, who should spring from his loins; although the word of Genesis speaks of these promises being made to Abraham in his seed only, and not to his seed. Yet the very fact that they were to be fulfilled in his seed shows that they were made rather to his seed than to Abraham. Just as if a king should promise one of his nobles to exalt his family in his son, by making him a duke or a prince, and thereby makes a promise to the son rather than to the father, so did God to Abraham. It was in Christ, as the seed of Abraham, that the promise, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” has been fulfilled, and justification assured to all who believe in Christ.

To thy seed which is Christ. This may be said to meet a possible objection that seed is equivalent to posterity or descendants, and is therefore a noun of multitude, and that S. Paul here denies this interpretation. But seed is sometimes used as a collective term, as for example, in the promise, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven,” and sometimes as a particular term; e.g., in Gen. 21:13: “Of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.” S. Paul, in interpreting the word here in the latter sense, might have appealed to the practice of the Rabbinical expositors, who all understood it of Christ. Moreover, if it were to be taken in the former sense, the prophecy would have failed of fulfilment, for all the nations of the earth have not been blessed in Abraham’s posterity, if by them we are to understand the Jewish people; on the contrary, the Jews are for a reproach, and a curse among the Gentiles.

Ver. 17.—The covenant that was before of God in Christ. If, as was said in verse 15, no one annuls the testament of a man, still less can the law, which came 430 years afterwards, annul the promise of God confirmed to Abraham in Christ.

Note that the Hebrew berith, the Greek diathēkē, and the Latin testamentum, have all the same meaning of covenant, and that the diathēkē, of the LXX. is identical with sunthēkē, according to Jerome, Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Œcumenius. Budæus proves the same from Demosthenes and Aristophanes. Cf. notes to 1 Cor. 11:25. But S. Augustine understands the term of a will. “Because,” he says, “the death of the testator has the effect of confirming his will, so the unchangeableness of God has the effect of confirming His promise.”

An important question is here raised as to the date from which these 430 years should be reckoned, for the terminus ad quem alone is clearly defined in this passage, viz., the year when the law was given on Mount Sinai. S. Paul’s computation seems in conflict with Exod. 12:40, which speaks of the sojourning of the children of Israel in Egypt as lasting 430 years, or, in other words, which represents the time between the going down of Jacob into Egypt and the Exodus as 430 years; but the Apostle seems to count the interval between Abraham and the Exodus as 430 years. But from Abraham to Jacob’s descent was 200 years, and therefore if Exod. 12:40 is to be followed, the Apostle should have said 630 years.

I reply briefly with S. Augustine (qu. 47 in Exod.); with Athanasius, or rather Anastasius, in his “Synopsis of Holy Scripture” (in loco); with Eusebius, in his Chronicon; with Rupert, Tostatus, Cajetan (in Exod.), that the computation of S. Paul is identical with that of Moses in Exod. 12:40, and that both begin to reckon, not from the descent of Jacob into Egypt, but from the seventy-fifth year of Abraham’s life, when he was called from his country to go into Canaan. It was in that year that he received the blessings S. Paul is referring to, as is evident from the beginning of Gen. 12.

1. This appears from the obvious fact that the Hebrews did not dwell in Egypt 430 years; for Kohath went down with his grandfather, Jacob (Exod. 6:18). But Kohath lived 133 years, and his son Amram 137 years. When Moses, Amram’s son, went out of Egypt with the Hebrews, he was in his eighty-first year; and if all these three are added together, we get 351 only. But we must deduct from this total the years that Kohath lived after begetting Amram, and that Amram lived after begetting Moses. From this it follows that the number of 430 must be reckoned from a date long anterior to the descent into Egypt, viz., from the migration of Abraham from Haran, and this the LXX. expressly say in their rendering of Exod. 12:40: “But the sojourning of the children of Israel, which they and their fathers made in the land of Egypt and Canaan, was 430 years.”

2. Moreover, the Apostle says here that the law was given 430 years after, not the descent of Jacob, but the promise to Abraham; but the law was given in the same year that the Hebrews left Egypt, in the third month after their departure. Cf. Exod. 19:1, and the notes to Exod. 12:40.

Ver. 18.—If the inheritance be of the law. If our heritage of righteousness be of the law of Moses, then it is not of the promise. But this is false, for God promised this righteousness to Abraham and to his seed, which is Christ. If it is of the promise of Christ, then it is through faith in Christ, and not through the law of Moses, that all nations are to be blessed.

Ver. 19.—Wherefore then serveth the law? Why was the law introduced after the promise? Is it that God does not fulfil His promise? The answer is that the law was given by God to restrain and punish transgressions. This was its direct purpose, but indirectly it served as a means whereby transgressions might be made manifest. A self-willed people would, on hearing the law, recognise their sins as such, and feel the need of Christ’s grace if they were to keep it. In this way the law sent men to Christ.

Till the seed should come. Till the birth of Christ, to whom God had promised that by Him all nations should be blessed, i.e., justified, and so be able to live uprightly and to keep the law. The law was given as a pædagogue till Christ should come; therefore when Christ has come it has done its work, and the Jews are foolish in wishing to prolong its power.

Because of transgressions. The Greek word rendered added denotes put in its place, as a soldier is assigned his post by his general. So the law was assigned its rank, place, time, and method of promulgation.

1. It was given its rank between the law of nature and the Gospel, being more perfect than the one but inferior to the other. It was a road from one to the other.

2. It was given its fitting time, in being promulgated to a people still uncouth, when it was about to form itself into a nation and a Church, to prevent it from falling into idolatry and heathen license.

3. It had its due place, for being given at Sinai before the entrance into Canaan, it formed a sort of condition to the covenant. God promised that He would lead the Hebrews into Canaan, and put them in possession of it, if they would follow the law as their guide, and observe it as a condition attached to His promise.

4. It had its proper mode of promulgation, for it came from an angel on Mount Sinai, with the sound of a trumpet, with a terrible earthquake, with thunder and lightning, as a law of fear to restrain the rebellious Jews, like slaves, by fear of punishment. In these four ways the law was externally ordered.

5. But it was also internally disposed in due order. Its precepts bade the Hebrews (a) worship God by appointed ceremonies and sacrifices; (b) refrain from injury to their neighbour, or if injury had been inflicted, it bade them offer fitting satisfaction; (c) it regulated the inner man by the moral precepts of the Decalogue.

Similarly, but much more perfectly, has the New Law, the law of Christ, been ordered. (1.) It was assigned its proper rank, as being the crown and perfection of all laws. (2.) It came in its proper time, viz., in the last age of the world, when Christ, the great Legislator, came. It was promulgated at Pentecost, on the fiftieth day after the Passover, which was a feast symbolical of pardon, freedom, bliss, and the eternal jubilee. (3.) Its place was befitting its dignity. Not on Sinai was it given but on Sion, the type and mirror of celestial glory, to which this law leads us. (4.) As to the mode of promulgation, notice that it was given with a mighty wind and fiery tongues, with the power and might of the Holy Spirit, to preach the Gospel and convert all nations, because it was a law of burning love and enkindled charity. (5.) Its contents were duly related to one another, through its precepts of faith, hope, charity, and those relating to justification and the Sacraments.

It was ordained by angels. From this it appears that it was not God who in person spoke to Moses, but an angel representing Him, and speaking in His Name; as when he said, “I am the Lord thy God.” Even so an ambassador speaks in the name of his sovereign, and acts by his authority. It was then an Angel who, in the place of God, was the immediate giver of the Decalogue to the people on Mount Sinai. It was an Angel also who spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai, and gave him for promulgation to the people the ceremonial laws, with directions for the making of the Tabernacle, for the ark, the cherubim, the sacrifices, and expiatory rites, which are found scattered throughout the Pentateuch.

In the hand of a mediator. Hand is here used to denote instrumentality. By a similar usage the word of the Lord is said to have come to pass in the hand of Elijah, Isaiah, and other prophets, acting as the instruments of God. Vatablus has for mediator intercessor, and Erasmus conciliator. But mediator, as the more intensive term, is preferable. Whoever mediates between two may be either a messenger, or an interpreter, or a peacemaker, and in each sense he is a mediator.

What mediator is referred to here? 1. Jerome, Augustine, Chysostom, and Ambrose reply, Christ the Lord. Although Christ was not then actually our mediator, yet He was by the decree and in the purpose of God. The Old Law, in this sense, was given by the power and authority of Christ, who was the predestined Mediator; and since, therefore, the law was given by His authority, so when He was born into the world it was in His power to abrogate it.

2. The answer of Cyril (Thesauri, 12:10), Gregory Nazianzen (Orat. 6 before Greg. Nyss.), Catharinus, Adam, and others, including even Beza, is better, viz., that the mediator was Moses, who himself says, in Deuteronomy 5:5, that he stood between the Lord and the people at that time. This opinion is supported by the consideration (a) that Christ cannot be said to be a mediator as God, but only as God-made-man. But at the time of Moses He was not yet made man, and therefore could not then be called a mediator. The major of this syllogism is proved thus: Christ as God only, just as Christ as man only, is but one of two extremes; therefore as such He cannot be a mediator, but only as God-man. As the God-man He unites in His person the two extremes of God and man. As God He had the authority and dignity belonging to a mediator; as man He did the work of a mediator. It may be objected to this, no doubt, that though Christ was not then actually a mediator, yet He was by predestination. But this objection loses sight of the fact that the Apostle is not speaking of a mediator by predestination, but of an acting mediator; for he says that the Old Law was ordained by this mediator, i.e., in very deed, when it was given to the Hebrews. But Christ, not yet existing as mediator, could not have ordained the law at that time; therefore He was not its mediator, for what has no existence can neither work nor ordain anything.

(b) The phrase of S. Paul means that angels gave the law by the instrumentality of a mediator. But Christ cannot be said to be the minister of angels but their Prince (cf. Heb. 1); therefore, the mediator here is not Christ, (c) Again, the Old Law was given by Moses, as the New Law by Christ. As, then, Christ is the mediator of the New Law and the New Covenant, so was Moses of the old. (d) Lastly, that Moses was the mediator is clear from Heb. 8:5, 6, and 9:15, 19, 20.

Observe, in opposition to the Protestants, that if Moses could be called a mediator without any derogation from the mediatorial office of Christ, as even Beza admits, in the sense, not of a redeemer or reconciliator, but as a messenger from one to the other, why may not the Saints with even better title be called mediators without offence to Christ, seeing that by their merits and prayers they gain for us the grace of God? It is astonishing that Protestants should make so much fuss about this word, and strive to throw so much dust in people’s eyes, when, as is evident, there is no difference between us, either about the name or the thing.

The meaning of the Apostle, then, is this: The Old Law was given by angels and promulgated by Moses, the New by Christ Himself. He who as God used the instrumentality of Moses in proclaiming the Old Law, could, when made man, abrogate it in His own person, in order that the promise made to Abraham, that all nations should be justified, might be fulfilled in Himself, the seed of Abraham.

Ver. 20.—Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but of two, in this case of two peoples, Jews and Gentiles, to whom Christ acts as mediator, says Ambrose. (2.) Or, Christ is not a mediator of one nature, but of two, the Divine and the human. (3.) Or, Moses is not a mediator of one will and purpose, because as a man he was subject to change. God on the contrary is unchangeable in His will and promise. Adam leans to this explanation. But all these are beside the phraseology of Scripture and the drift of the Apostle.

(4.) A better interpretation is that Christ is a mediator not of one but of two—not of two Gods, as though Father and Son make two, according to the heresy of Arius and Nestorius—not between God and angels, for the good angels need no mediator, and the evil angels cannot derive any benefit from one—but He is a mediator between the two parties, God on one side and man on the other. And the inference drawn is that it is not the law, but Christ, that redeems us and reconciles us to God. This explantion is supported by Augustine, Theophylact, Anselm.

(5.) The best interpretation of the clause is that the Apostle is explaining the character of a mediator. The mediator Moses, he seems to say, is not of one but of two determinate parties, viz., God and the Hebrews, but not of God and Christians. On the other hand, God is One, not two. The Apostle is not building his argument on these words, except indirectly, but is merely contrasting the dual character of a mediator with the unity of God. It is on this latter fact that he relies to prove his case.

But God is one. There are not two Gods, one of whom is the God of the law and of the Jews, the other of Abraham and of Christians, as the Manichæans have thought, but the God of Jews and of Christians is one and the same—the law and the Gospel proceed from the same Author. Accordingly, it being the same God, He could not intend that the law should annul His promise to Abraham of giving His righteousness to all nations in Abraham’s seed, i.e, in Christ, or, in other words, through faith in Him; else would He be inconstant, the very thought of which is impious. Rather He gave the law to be our pædagogue to Christ. It is, therefore one and the same God who made Moses the mediator between Himself and the Hebrews; and, when he was superseded, between Himself and Christians of all nations, and so fulfilled His promise to Abraham, that He would give through Christ the blessing of justification to all nations.

This interpretation is confirmed by the parallel passage in 1 Tim. 2:5, where, from the fact that the same God is God of all nations, the Apostle proves that He wishes all men to be saved, and from the same principle he infers that there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. God, he argues, does not wish for the salvation of the Jews only, but of all nations. Again, not only the Jews, but all nations have fallen into sin, and stand in need of a redeemer. This cannot be Moses, for he was mediator to the Jews only; therefore it must be Christ. Moses, therefore, must give way to Him, as the seed promised to Abraham, in whom all nations should be blessed. So Gennadius in Œcumenius, and, following him, Salmeron,

Ver. 21.—Is the law then against the promises of God? Jerome correctly points out that this is an answer by anticipation to the objection to which S. Paul had exposed himself in verse 19, when he said, “The law was added because of transgressions till the seed should come.” For any one might say: If the law was added to the promise, and, as it were, removed it, it seems to have taken to itself the office of quickening and justifying men, so that it may be regarded as doing the work of the promise till Christ should come; for if not, why was it added, unless it were, as you say yourself, because of transgressions, to destroy them by the living and virtuous actions prescribed by the law for justification? If this be so, then the law is against the promises of God, for God promised this justification to faith in Christ, not to the law, nay, He thereby excluded it from the law.

That S. Paul is meeting an objection of this sort is obvious from what follows. The law, he exclaims, cannot give life; therefore, it is not against the promises of God which offer that spiritual life in Christ. The antecedent is proved thus: If the law could give life it could also justify; but this it cannot do (ver. 22). Hence the law was only given to be our pædagogue to Christ, to lead us to justification by faith. Or it may be put thus: When I said that the law was given because of transgressions, I meant that its function was to prevent them by fear of punishment, that passion might not issue in action; I did not mean that the law alone could calm the violence of passion within, or give that grace by which we fulfil the law.

God forbid. It is impossible that God should give a law contradictory to His promises, for this would be for God to contradict Himself. The law which came after was not opposed to the preceding promises, but its office was to admonish men to prepare themselves worthily for Christ and His Gospel. Therefore the law is not contrary to the promise, but establishes it.

For if there had been a law given which could have given life. To give life is to impart righteousness to the soul. But, as S. Paul appears to distinguish between life and righteousness, it is better to say that to give life stands for to quicken man’s works. This is done when a man does virtuous actions out of the spirit of charity. The argument is from the effect to the cause, from a living work to life; as we say: This man eats, talks, moves, therefore he is alive. In the same way, if the law could produce in us living works, it could also give us the spirit of charity from which they spring, for the works of the Spirit presuppose the Spirit, just as motion does life.

Ver. 22.—But the scripture hath concluded all under sin. This Scripture is cited in Rom. 3:9.

Ver. 23.—Before faith came. Like slaves under the stern discipline of the law, we were kept as though by walls and hedges from sin, and were held, and kept in, that we might be thereby prepared, and might learn to long for the righteousness which Christ should give.

Ver. 24.—The law was our schoolmaster. A pædagogue, says S. Jerome, is one who looks after a boy. Among the Greeks he was a slave, whose duty it was to accompany his ward wherever he went, to keep him from loose conduct, to chastise him if need were, and in every way to form his character for good. Such was the office of the law with regard to the Hebrews,

Unto Christ. By a happy figure of speech, S. Paul compares the law to a pædagogue, and faith in Christ to a father. For we are born again by faith in Christ, and become sons of God, thereby passing from the state of pupilage under the law to that of men under Christ.

Ver. 26.—For ye are all the children of God. Both Jews, who were under the law, and Gentiles, who were not, are become, by faith in Christ, children of God. The conjunction for is causal, and indicates the reason why we are not under the law as a pædagogue, viz., because we are the sons of God. Children are like slaves, S. Paul says, in chap. 4:1, nay, like the lower animals, in needing a pædagogue to enable them to resist the motions of sense. But those who by faith in Christ have left this state of childhood, and are become sons of God, have grown to man’s estate. It would be, therefore, absurd for them to be made subject to the law as their pædagogue, as though they were still children. This would be as absurd, says Theophylact, as for a man, when the day had dawned, to prefer a lamp to the sun. This is a rebuke to the Jadaisers, which may be summarised thus: Christ is to us as a father to his grownup sons. Why do you then go back to the pædagogy of the law? Why hold out your hand again like boys to the ferule?

By faith. Not faith alone, but by faith manifested in baptism and other acts.

Ver. 27.—As many of you as have been baptized into Christ. To be baptized into Christ is to receive His baptism as distinct from that of Moses or John Baptist. The change from the first person (we) of verse 25 to the second person (you) here denotes the change of subject from Jews to Gentiles.

Have put on Christ. You have received plenteously in your baptism the grace and gifts of Christ; you have put them round you like a garment (cf. Ps. 109:18), so that you are made partakers of the Divine nature, and therefore of the workings of God’s power, by which Christ shines in your lives. “Your daily conversation,” says Anselm, “like a splendid robe, is Christ’s holiness and Christ’s religion.”

These words may be explained in a better way, thus: As matter takes its form, the body its soul as a substantial robe to hide its nakedness and ugliness; so you in baptism have put on Christ by grace, so that the Spirit of Christ is, as it were, your form and soul; consequently you have been brought into such close union with Christ that, as He is the Son of God by nature, so are you by adoption and grace. This is the explanation of Chrysostom and Theophylact. The conjunction for shows that Paul wishes to prove that we are the sons of God by the fact that we have put on Christ, who is the Son of God by nature, and hence are one with Him, and, as it were, are Christ Himself. Cf. notes to 1 Cor. 12:12.

We should note from this the efficacy of baptism, which not only adorns us with graces and gifts, but with Christ Himself. What have the Protestants to say to this who make baptism to be a bare sign of righteousness already received by faith?

S. Ambrose (Serm. 90) gives some beautiful words of S. Agnes about the baptismal robe of Christ, both that which is within, and that material robe which formerly was given to adults at their baptism as a symbol of the first. “He adorned me,” she said, “with a glorious bracelet. He covered my hand and neck with precious stones. He put pearls in my ears, and loaded me with glistening gems. On my face He put his seal, that I might admit no lover save Him alone. He clad me in a robe of cloth of gold, and with glorious jewels did He beautify me.” And a little farther she continued: “Now have I drunken milk and honey from His mouth. Now have I been clasped in His most chaste embraces. Now has His body been united to mine, and His blood has bedewed my cheeks.” This last of course refers to the Eucharist, which used to be given to those newly baptized, that they might be wholly united to Christ. To them too used to be given milk and honey, as symbols of the sweetness of Christ, and of the law of Christ, of which they then become partakers.

Ver. 28.—There is neither Jew nor Greek.—i.e, in Christ. In the Church of Christ there is no distinction before God of birth, position, or sex. All, whether Jews or Greeks (= Gentiles), whether slaves or freemen, whether males or females, make one mystical body, the Church, of which the Head is Christ.

Or we may take it, and better, with S. Chrysostom, to mean that ye are one in the sense that ye have put on one form, or one soul, like the garment described above, and this not of any angel, but of Christ. This garment is the faith, charity, and holiness of Christ, and it makes you to seem like one man, to be one Christ. The Jews, therefore, have nothing of their Judaism to pride themselves on when they pass into Christ; therefore they have nothing of their own to invite you to, O Galatians, for you are equal sharers in Christ with them.

Ver. 29.—If ye be Christ’s. If you are members of the Head, and are the mystical body of its Spirit, then, as Christ is, so are ye Abraham’s seed, and hence inheritors of the righteousness promised to Abraham. Accordingly, Ambrose reads here: “If ye are one in Christ, then are ye Abraham’s seed,” which gives the meaning very clearly.








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