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

Analysis

The Apostle commences this Epistle by commending his own Apostolic authority. This line of defence was for him a duty of necessity, and was forced upon him by the false teachers, who, the more effectually to unsettle the faith of the Gentile converts in the sound doctrines which they had heard from his lips, questioned his Apostolic commission, and insisted that he should be disregarded, as he was but the disciple of the other Apostles, from whose practice, in reference to the Jewish ceremonial law, he differed. In order to guard the Galatians against the dangerous consequences of such false insinuations, the Apostle puts forward his immediate call by Christ himself (verse 1). After the usual Apostolic salutation, he prepares to enter on the subject of the Epistle, by ascribing our justification to the merits of Christ, in which it is insinuated, that it is from him, and not from the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law, it comes (2–5). He expresses the occasion of his writing this Epistle, and shows the unchangeable truth of the doctrine which he himself taught them, and denounces all persons presuming to teach otherwise (6–9). Knowing how calculated strong language of this sort would be to offend those against whom it was directed, he says, he has no desire to please men and, therefore, no desire to use bland conciliatory language; for, if he were to seek the applause of men, as the false teachers do, he would never have become a Christian (10–11). He employs the remainder of the chapter in fully refuting the calumny of such as said that he received his Gospel from other men. And from the history of his life, both before and after his conversion, he shows how foolish it is to say that he could either have received, or learned it, from any mortal man living. Hence, he received it from the abundant grace of the Holy Ghost, and immediately, without human intervention, from Christ himself.

Paraphrase

1. Paul, whose apostleship is derived neither from purely human authority, nor from delegation on the part of God through man, but immediately from Jesus Christ himself, now glorious and immortal, and from God the Father, who by his omnipotence raised Jesus from the dead.

2. Paul, I say, and all the brethren who ate with me (salute the churches of Galatia).

3. May you enjoy the abundance of spiritual blessings and their undisturbed possession from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Who offered himself as a propitiatory victim for our sins, to rescue us from the corruption of this world; and this oblation, although made freely, was, still, made in compliance with the will and precept of God. His Father by nature, ours, by adoption.

5. Eternal praise be rendered to him for so distinguished a proof of his excessive charity.

6. I wonder exceedingly that you have, so soon after your conversion, changed sides, and passed over from that God who, without any claim on your part, has gratuitously called you to the grace and faith of his Son, Jesus Christ, to embrace another gospel so different from the one preached to you.

7. Not that I mean to say, that there is really another gospel, but that there are some persons who endeavour to unsettle your faith, and wish to subvert the true gospel of Christ.

8. But should we ourselves, from some change of mind, or, were it possible, an angel from heaven, preach to you anything contrary to what we have already preached, let him be accursed.

9. As I have already said, so now I again repeat, should any one announce to you a gospel different from that which you have received from us, let him be anathema, or accursed.

10. In writing thus, do I, now, in my converted state, plead my cause before man or before God? Or am I anxious to please man rather than God? Were I still desirous of pleasing men, and of conciliating them, so as to obtain a favourable verdict. I would remain as I was, and not become enlisted in the service of Christ, from which I incurred the hatred of the greater part of my countrymen.

11. But, it is God whom I am endeavouring to please, and before him, and not before men, I am pleading my cause. For, I wish to make known to you, that it is from God that I receive the gospel which I preach, and that it is not from man, nor is it in any respect human.

12. For neither did I receive it at once, nor did I learn it gradually, from any man, but I received it immediately from the revelation of Jesus Christ.

13. For, that I would not submit to be taught the gospel by any man, must be clear to you, who have heard of my mode of living while formerly professing the Jewish religion. You must have heard of the violent measures I resorted to, for the purpose of persecuting the faithful, and of totally destroying the Church of God.

14. You also heard of my progress in the knowledge of the Jewish religion, in which I outstripped my equals of my own religious belief, as I did in my excessive zeal for the laws and institutions handed down to me by my fathers.

15. But when it pleased God (who gratuitously singled me out, and predestined me from my mother’s womb, and through a singular grace mercifully called me),

16. To reveal to me his Son and the knowledge of his heavenly truths, for the purpose of proclaiming him to the Gentiles, I complied at once, without consulting, or conferring with, any man living.

17. Neither did I repair to Jerusalem for the purpose of conferring with those who were called before me to the apostleship; but I went at once to Arabia, and again returned to Damascus.

18. I afterwards, after the lapse of three years, went up to Jerusalem for the purpose of waiting on Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and paying him, as such, a complimentary visit; and I remained with him only fifteen days.

19. I saw none other of the Apostles, excepting James, the son of Mary Cleophas, who was sister to the Blessed Virgin.

20. All these things I assert on the solemn assurance of an oath, of which I make God the witness.

21. After that I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia (without making a sufficient stay in Judea to learn the Gospel there).

22. I was even personally a stranger to the Christian churches of Judea.

23. All they knew of me, was from a rumour regarding me to this effect:—The man who heretofore was our persecutor, is now a most zealous preacher of the faith which he formerly attempted to destroy.

24. And seeing me become a pastor from being a wolf destroying the fold, they took occasion to glorify God.

Commentary

1. “An Apostle.” This word, used in its strict etymological sense, means, one sent. It also signifies, one sent by God, either in a general way, or on some special mission (2 Corinthians, 8:23; Philippians, 2:25). It signifies the highest office in the Church, and denotes the supreme mission specially given and confined to the Twelve and St. Paul.—(Ephesians, 4:12; 1 Corinthians, 12:28). In order to be an Apostle in this latter, and most exalted, sense, it is required—Firstly, to have seen our Lord in person, (1 Corinthians, 9:1; Acts, 1:21); secondly, to be immediately chosen and sent by God, as appears from this verse, “not of men,” &c., or, immediate mission; thirdly, universal authority to teach, to bind and loose, to establish churches and propagate the ministry; fourthly, the power of miracles, this being necessary to beget “reasonable service” in their hearers; and hence, the Apostles in preaching, exhibited the seal of a Divine mission, and exercised the power of working miracles, speaking unknown tongues, &c.; fifthly, personal infallibility. The third condition was to be exercised with due subjection to the supreme jurisdiction of St. Peter. These qualities were extraordinary and personal in the other Apostles, given to them as legates, whose office, as such, ceased with themselves; and hence, was not transmitted to their successors, the bishops. But St. Peter’s was not only the extraordinary Apostolic commission granted him in common with the others, as Divine legate, in which respect his apostolic power would not be transmissible, but also the ordinary commission given him, and him alone, as Pastor, “pasce oves meas,” &c.; and this real, as well as personal, quality was transmitted to his successors in the holy Roman See, which is, therefore, the Apostolic See, in which the plenitude of Peter’s power resides, and which alone can claim the privileges conferred on the Apostles—(Vide Passaglia de Ecelesia, Liber iii.) “Not of men,” i.e., not immediately by human authority. “Neither by man,” i.e., nor mediately sent by God through human delegation. The words, “not of men, neither by man,” ουκ ἀπʼ ἀνθρωπων ουδε δἰ ανθρωπων, may also mean, not by any body of men collectively, viz., the Apostolic College, nor by any single man among them, “but by Jesus Christ,” &c. The Apostle, after showing that he was not sent either by man, or by God through the intervention of any man or body of men, now shows by whom he was immediately commissioned, viz., Jesus Christ himself, after rising from the dead and in his glorified state. That St. Paul was immediately chosen to be an Apostle, and sent by God, we know also from other passages of the New Testament, Acts, 22:14, 15; Gal. 1:15, 16; Acts, 9:4, 8, 15; Acts, 22:21, &c. “Who raised him from the dead.” The Apostle, in his Epistles, frequently refers to Christ’s Resurrection, as being the foundation of our faith, and the consummation of the glory of his humanity. It may be asked, was not St. Paul sent by man; for (Acts, 13), we read of hands having been imposed on him by the Pastors of the Church? RESP.—Paul and Barnabas were not constituted Apostles on that occasion; all that then occurred was, that after prayer and fasting, hands being imposed upon them, they were sent to preach the gospel, to which they were before “taken” or appointed by the Holy Ghost; as Peter and John were sent by the College of the Apostles to the Samaritans, although long before elected as Apostles by our Lord; and that Paul and Barnabas were on this occasion sent by the Holy Ghost, appears quite evident from chap. 13:4. Before the period referred to, St. Paul exercised the functions of Apostle. Immediately after his baptism, he proceeded to Arabia, and preached in quality of Apostle, as sent by Christ himself. The imposition of hands at Antioch (Acts, 13.)—what, then, did it mean? It was probably, intended to show the communion of pastors and the unity of ministry in the Church, and to ratify, by some external ceremony, the mission divinely conferred on them, it might also have the effect of conferring additional grace; but, St. Paul was an Apostle before it.

2. “To the churches of Galatia.” There were several churches in the Province, for which this Epistle was probably intended as a circular. The omission of the usual titles of honour and affection, such as, “Church of God,” or Saints, &c., was probably intentional, owing to the error of the Galatians.

4. “The present wicked world;” “wicked,” because the greater number in it are bad and impious. In this verse the Apostle, by way of exordium, prepares us for the subject of his Epistle—namely, that it is from Christ justification comes, and from faith in him; and hence, from no source opposed to him, such as the ceremonial law of the Jews.

6. He now enters on the subject matter of the Epistle, by rebuking them for their conduct. The words “from him,” are referred by some to God the Father; others by a change of construction, refer them to Christ, thus:—“Removed from that Christ who called you to his grace.” This latter construction is admitted by the Greek, μετατιθεσθε ἀπὸ τοῦ χαλεσαντος ὑμας Χριστοῦ.

7. When he speaks of another gospel, he is not to be understood as meaning that there is any such thing in reality, but that there are persons endeavouring “to pervert the (true) gospel of Christ.” The Greek word, μεταστεψαι, means, to convert the gospel, which word, convert, is clearly allusive to the nature of their errors—namely, their preposterous attempt to superadd the types, after the establishment of the reality.

8. In the strongest form of hyperbole, he inculcates the unchangeable truth of the gospel preached by himself. “Were an angel from heaven to preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached”—(a thing evidently impossible)—“let him be anathema.” The word “anathema” means the separation of a thing from human uses, and its total, utter destruction, as abominable and execrable.—(See Rom. 9:3). From this verse, as well as from 1 Epistle to Corinthians, chap. 22, is derived the form of dogmatic canons:—Si quis dixerit … anathema sit; so frequently adopted by the Councils of the Church. St. Paul does not here pronounce a sentence of excommunication; he only pronounces the person transgressing, to be deserving of eternal damnation.

9. The repetition of the same strong form of expression, shows the deliberate earnestness of the Apostle.

“Besides that which you have received.” “Besides,” has the signification of contrary to; otherwise, the greatest inconvenience would result. St. John, who wrote his Gospel and Apocalypse after this, and put forward many things not referred to by others, would be “anathema;” so would St. Paul himself, who, in this Epistle, advances many things not preached by him to the Galatians. And, looking to the economy always observed by the Apostles and the Church in preaching the gospel, is it not exceedingly probable, if not morally certain, that at his first preaching, St. Paul withheld from the neophyte Galatians many exalted truths of faith from which they were incapable of deriving profit, just as he acted in reference to the Corinthians, from whom he withheld the bread of the strong, giving them only the milk of babes? And will it be said, that if an angel from heaven, or a missionary from earth were to give them a fuller explanation of the Christian tenets suited to their spiritual growth, he would fall under the denunciation of “anathema?” Did not St. Paul himself write many things after this?—and are we to reject as so many ananthemas, the private revelations which God may be pleased to make from time to time, as it is piously believed he did to St. Bridget, regarding his sacred Passion? It is, moreover, clear from the entire context, that St. Paul speaks of such additions or changes, as would make the true gospel “another gospel,” in its very essence, contrary and opposed to the true gospel which he himself preached. The word “besides,” then, signifies “contrary to,” otherwise the most inconvenient consequences would follow.

Secondly, the Greek word for “besides,” παρα has this signification in several passages of St. Paul—(Rom. chap. 4 verse 18, chap. 11 verse 24), and it is frequently taken in the same sense by profane authors, with whom παρα and κατα τους νομους, are antithesised. Why, then, did not the Apostle employ contrary to, instead of “besides”? The answer, simply, is, that the latter term more clearly expressed the contrariety of the doctrines here impugned, which consisted in superadding the ceremonial precepts of the Jewish law, as a matter of necessity to the gospel; and also, as is remarked by St. Chrysostom, to show that adding false doctrines no less destroys the gospel than does subtracting or taking away from it. Again, the gospel being a law, is violated by transgressions, or going beyond it. “Besides,” therefore, means, contrary to. Hence, our traditions being nowise contrary to the gospel, could not be excluded here, or contemplated at all by the Apostle.

10. “Persuade,” πειθω, plead his cause, and endeavour to please. As it is not to please man that he writes, he is not anxious to employ bland, or conciliatory, or tolerant language. The false teachers, on the other hand, proclaimed the necessity of the Mosaic ceremonies, in order to please the Jews. He subjected himself to much obloquy from his own nation by embracing the gospel, and by preaching it in order to please God. “If I yet pleased men,” &c. God will not be content with a half-service; we must be his entirely or not at all. No one can serve him, and be the slave of human passions or customs, at the same time.

11. He proves that it was not before man, but before God, that he was pleading his cause; since the gospel which he preached was from God, and nowise human.

12. He proves in the following verses that he neither “received” the gospel at once, nor “learned it” by degrees, from any man, since he employed both physical and moral means for the destruction of the same gospel.

13. He had recourse to violent measures in persecuting the faithful. He could not, therefore, have been instructed by them. He would not submit to any such process.

14. Again, he employed all possible moral means to destroy the Church, as was evinced by his zeal for the law of his fathers, in the knowledge, as well as in the zealous defence of which, he far outstripped his contemporaries, even of his own nation.

15. “Pleased him.” The common Greek text has, “pleased God,” the word “God” is not found in the Vatican MS. “Who separated me,” &c. This beginning of time in reference to St. Paul, is employed to express the eternity, without beginning, from which God had predestined him.

16. “To reveal,” &c. This is connected with the words, “when it pleased him,” or, as the common Greek text has it, when it pleased God.… to reveal to me his Son, &c. Others connect these words with the entire preceding verse—When it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me to his grace, to reveal his Son (when it pleased him, I say), that I should preach him among the Gentiles, I immediately condescended not, &c. The Greek admits of either connexion. “Immediately I condescended not,” προσανεθεμην, &c., i.e., I complied at once, without consulting or holding communication with any man living.

OBJECTION.—Why, then, should not Luther. Calvin &c. preach the Gospel without consulting the head of the Church?

RESP.—They should have proved their mission by miracles, as St. Paul did.

17. “I went to Arabia” Of course, it is understood from the entire context and verse 16, that he did so for the purpose of preaching the Gospel; for his scope in this passage, is to prove that he preached the Gospel without being sent by any Apostle, nay before he saw any other of the Apostles. The same appears from Acts, 9:20.

18. He stopped with St. Peter only fifteen days, a period too short to learn the Gospel from him. The Greek word for “see,” ἱστορῆσαι, signifies to visit for the purpose of making his acquaintance:—it implies paying a visit of respect.

Is it not said in the Acts (9:26), that after his conversion St. Paul fled to Jerusalem from Damascus? Yes; but it is added, “after many days elapsed” (verse 23), which may refer to the “three years” mentioned here. It may also be replied with St. Jerome, that although St. Paul had come to Jerusalem after flying from Damascus, immediately after his conversion, he came there, not to consult the Apostles, which is the only thing he asserts here, but from necessity, to save himself.

19. James, the son of Cleophas, was cousin to our Redeemer; and hence, by a Hebrew usage, called his “brother.”

21. The Apostle delayed not in Judea, and, therefore, could have had no opportunity of learning the Gospel there.

22. He adds this, to confute the statement of the false teachers, that among the Jews, he taught the necessity of circumcision, and of observing the law.

23. All their knowledge of him was derived from hearsay.

“Which he once impugned.” The Greek word, επορθει, means, destroyed or attempted to extirpate.








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