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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Introduction

WHO WERE THE GALATIANS?—They were a people of Asia Minor. Historians are not agreed about their origin. Most likely, they were originally a people of Gaul; from Gaul, they emigrated to Greece under Brennus. It is not quite agreed upon whether or not he was the same who besieged Rome and was repulsed by Camillus. From Greece, they passed over to Asia Minor, and were called from the two countries whence they emigrated, Gallo-Greci or Galatians. Galatia, the country in which they settled, and to which they gave name, comprised a large tract of Asia Minor, having Cappadocia to the east, Bythynia to the west, Pamphylia to the south, and the Euxine or Black Sea to the north. The Galatians were Gentiles, converted by the labours of St. Paul. It is true, indeed, that St. Peter had preached in Galatia before him; but his labours were confined to the Jews only. It is quite certain that the Gentiles of the country, whom St. Paul here addresses, were his own converts. Their conversion took place on the occasion of his second visit, in which he was accompanied by Barnabas, to the Churches of Asia, and was marked by many signal interpositions of Divine Providence; many among them were favoured with the gift of miracles and the other graces bestowed on the infant Church.

OCCASION OF THIS EPISTLE.—The occasion of this Epistle was the introduction of certain false doctrines among the Gentile converts, by the Jews who embraced the faith. The principal error of these Judaizing teachers consisted in inculcating the necessity, on the part of the Gentile converts, of adding to the Gospel the ceremonial precepts of the Mosaic Law, and of submitting to circumcision. The Jewish converts, it is true, were allowed to retain the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law, not, however, as a matter of necessity; but, for the purpose, as St. Augustine expresses it, of burying the synagogue with honour. No such reason, however, could hold in regard to the Gentiles; and hence, by submitting to the ceremonies of the Law, they acted from the erroneous impression that the latter were necessary. This was the rankest heresy, subversive of the Gospel itself. It was an error, the contrary of which was proposed by competent authority—the living voice of the Apostles themselves—and hence, it altogether destroyed the habit of Divine faith. This will readily account for the fiery zeal, which the Apostle displayed in this Epistle for its removal.

SUBJECT OF.—From the foregoing it is not difficult to perceive that the subject matter of this Epistle is closely allied to that of the Epistle to the Romans, the only difference being, that in the latter the errors to be confuted were more comprehensive, as embracing the errors of both Jews and Gentiles, respectively, relative to the advantages for justification of the works of the Natural and Mosaic Laws without faith—. the errors of the converted Gentiles regarded the merits and advantages of the Natural Law; and that of the Jews, the advantages for justification of the Law of Moses—whereas, in this Epistle, the error to be confuted was only that of the converted Jews. Hence, in this Epistle, the Apostle confines himself chiefly to the proof of the insufficiency and inutility of the works of the Mosaic Law—the sole point at issue—and shows the necessity of faith. In the first place, he establishes against the false teachers the apostolic authority with which he was divinely invested to preach the Gospel.—(Chapter 1). In the next place, he proves the conformity that existed between his own teaching, and that of the other Apostles, on the subject of the legal ceremonies the abrogation of which he demonstrates by several arguments.—(Chapter 2).

After having adduced several reasons to prove, that justification comes from faith and not from the ceremonial precepts of the Mosaic Law, he points out the relation which the law held, in regard to the promise, viz., the very same which the pedagogue holds in regard to the preceptor; and from this he leaves it to be inferred, that the office of the law having ceased it was, therefore, abrogated, as useless.—(Chapter 3).

He then proceeds to show that, after having now, in the New Law, attained their majority, and the full right and title to their heavenly inheritance, the Jews were no longer to have recourse to the elementary discipline of the law; and, quoting certain facts narrated in the Old Testament, he points out the allegorical meaning which these facts involve, from which he leaves it to be inferred, that by subjecting themselves to the law, the Galatians would be excluded from God’s heavenly inheritance.—(Chapter 4).

The Apostle devotes the two following chapters to subjects of morality. He exhorts the Galatians to perseverance in good works, and recounts the works of the flesh and of the spirit.—(Chapter 5).

Finally, after exhorting them to the exercise of humility and charity, and after impressing on them the obligation of supporting their teachers, he concludes by furnishing them with a general reply against such as would molest them, or attempt to unsettle their faith. The chief subject of the Epistle may be said briefly to consist in the proofs of the apostolic authority of St. Paul; of the conformity of his preaching with that of the other Apostles; and of the inutility of the legal ceremonies for justification. Commentators remark, that this Epistle may be regarded as the complement of that to the Romans.

TIME AND PLACE OF.—Upon these points a great variety of opinion prevails. It is asserted by Theodoret, St. Jerome, and many others, that it was written at Rome, about the year 60, and consequently after the Epistle to the Romans. The chief ground of this opinion is, that in this Epistle, the Apostle states, according to them (chap. 2 verse 10), that he had made the collection of alms, which he only purposed making, when he wrote to the Romans.—(Romans, 15:26, 28). It was, therefore, as they maintain, written subsequent to the Epistle to the Romans, and it must have been written from Rome, because the Apostle was sent thither immediately after delivering the alms at Jerusalem, and had no leisure for writing on his journey. Another argument in support of this view is grounded on the words of the Apostle (6:17): “I bear the marks (or stigmata) of the Lord Jesus,” by which the advocates of this opinion understands his chains at Rome. The subscriptions of the Greek copies also assert, that it was written from Rome. It is, however, to be borne in mind, as has been already remarked, that these subscriptions are not always of undoubted authority nor are they regarded as authentic, in all cases, by critics generally.

Others, with St. Chrysostom, Baronius, &c., maintain that it was written at Ephesus or Philippi, or some other city of Greece, before the Epistle to the Romans, in the year 55, or thereabouts. These assert that it could not have been written from Rome; for, if so, it would have been written years after the conversion of the Galatians, in which case the Apostle could hardly say (1:6): “I wonder that you are so soon removed from him who called you,” &c. Again, the Apostle omits all mention of his chains, to which he always refers in his Epistles written from Rome. In reply to the reasons of the other opinion, they say, that St. Paul might have been solicitous about the obligation imposed on him by the other Apostles, of collecting alms, long before he was sent to Rome, and they maintain that his words (chapter 2 verse 10, of this Epistle) express no more.

Secondly, they say, the marks, or stigmata, may be understood of the Christian mortifications and austerities of his life, as also of his sufferings in the cause of the faith during his first journey with Barnabas, having been almost stoned to death at Lystra, publicly scourged at Philippi, &c.

It is justly observed by A’Lapide, that the greatest uncertainty exists respecting the date of this Epistle, and the place, to which it may be referred.








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