Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
AWAY FROM THE
Judaizing teachers had persuaded the Galatians that Paul had taught them
the new religion imperfectly, and at second hand; that the founder of
their church himself possessed only a deputed commission, the seal of
truth and authority being in the apostles at Jerusalem: moreover, that
whatever he might profess among them, he had himself at other times, and
in other places, given way to the doctrine of circumcision. To refute
this, he appeals to the history of his conversion, and to the manner of
his conferring with the apostles when he met them at Jerusalem; that so
far was his doctrine from being derived from them, or they from
exercising any superiority over him, that they had simply assented to
what he had already preached among the Gentiles, which preaching was
communicated, not by them to him, but by himself to them
an apologetic Epistle could not be a later forgery, the objections which
it meets only coming out incidentally, not being obtruded as they would
be by a forger; and also being such as could only arise in the earliest
age of the Church, when Jerusalem and Judaism still held a prominent
1. apostle--in the earliest Epistles, the two to the
Thessalonians, through humility, he uses no title of authority; but
associates with him "Silvanus and Timotheus"; yet here, though
are with him, he does not name them but puts his own name and
apostleship prominent: evidently because his apostolic commission needs
now to be vindicated against deniers of it.
of--Greek, "from." Expressing the origin from which his mission
came, "not from men," but from Christ and the Father (understood) as
the source. "By" expresses the immediate operating agent in the call.
Not only was the call from God as its ultimate source, but by Christ and the Father as the immediate agent in calling him
(Ac 22:15; 26:16-18).
The laying on of Ananias' hands
is no objection to this; for that was but a sign of the fact, not an
assisting cause. So the Holy Ghost calls him specially
(Ac 13:2, 3);
he was an apostle before this special mission.
man--singular; to mark the contrast to "Jesus Christ." The opposition
between "Christ" and "man," and His name being put in closest connection
with God the Father, imply His Godhead.
raised him from the dead--implying that, though he had not seen Him in
His humiliation as the other apostles (which was made an objection
against him), he had seen and been
constituted an apostle by Him in His resurrection power
Ro 1:4, 5).
Compare as to the ascension, the consequence of the resurrection, and
the cause of His giving "apostles,"
He rose again, too, for our justification
thus Paul prepares the way for the prominent subject of the Epistle,
justification in Christ, not by the law.
2. all the brethren--I am not alone in my doctrine; all my
colleagues in the Gospel work, travelling with me
Gaius and Aristarchus at Ephesus:
Sopater, Secundus, Timotheus, Tychicus, Trophimus, some, or all of
these), join with me. Not that these were joint authors with
Paul of the Epistle: but joined him in the sentiments and
salutations. The phrase, "all the brethren," accords with a date
when he had many travelling companions, he and they having to bear
jointly the collection to Jerusalem [CONYBEARE and
the churches--Pessinus and Ancyra were the principal cities; but
doubtless there were many other churches in Galatia
He does not attach any honorable title to the churches here, as
elsewhere, being displeased at their Judaizing. See First Corinthians;
First Thessalonians, &c. The first Epistle of Peter is addressed to
Jewish Christians sojourning in Galatia
among other places mentioned. It is interesting thus to find the
apostle of the circumcision, as well as the apostle of the
uncircumcision, once at issue
co-operating to build up the same churches.
3. from . . . from--Omit the second "from." The
Greek joins God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ in closet
union, by there being but the one preposition.
4. gave himself--
unto death, as an offering. Found only in this and the Pastoral
Epistles. The Greek is different in
for our sins--which enslaved us to the present evil world.
deliver us from this--Greek, "out of the," &c. The Father
and Son are each said to "deliver us," &c.
but the Son, not the Father, gave Himself for us in order to do
so, and make us citizens of a better world
The Galatians in desiring to return to legal bondage are, he implies,
renouncing the deliverance which Christ wrought for us. This he
more fully repeats in
"Deliver" is the very word used by the Lord as to His deliverance of
an undesigned coincidence between Paul and Luke.
world--Greek, "age"; system or course of
the world, regarded from a religious point of view. The present
age opposes the "glory"
of God, and is under the authority of the Evil One. The "ages of ages"
are opposed to "the present evil age."
according to the will of God and our Father--Greek, "of Him who
is at once God [the sovereign Creator] and our Father"
(Joh 6:38, 39; 10:18,
end). Without merit of ours. His sovereignty as
"GOD," and our filial relation to Him as
"OUR FATHER," ought to keep
us from blending our own legal notions (as the Galatians were doing)
with His will and plan. This paves the way for his argument.
5. be glory--rather, as Greek, "be the
glory"; the glory which is peculiarly and exclusively His. Compare
Note, see on
6. Without the usual expressions of thanksgiving for their faith,
&c., he vehemently plunges into his subject, zealous for "the glory" of
which was being disparaged by the Galatians falling away from the pure
Gospel of the "grace" of God.
I marvel--implying that he had hoped better things from them, whence
his sorrowful surprise at their turning out so different from his
so soon--after my last visit; when I hoped and thought you were
untainted by the Judaizing teachers. If this Epistle was written from
Corinth, the interval would be a little more than three years, which
would be "soon" to have fallen away, if they were apparently sound at
the time of his visit.
Ga 4:18, 20
may imply that he saw no symptom of unsoundness then, such as he
hears of in them now. But English Version is probably not
correct there. See see on
If from Ephesus, the interval would be not more than one year.
BIRKS holds the Epistle to have been written from
Corinth after his FIRST visit to Galatia; for this
agrees best with the "so soon" here: with
"It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not
only when I am present with you." If they had persevered in the faith
during three years of his first absence, and only turned aside after
his second visit, they could not be charged justly with adhering to the
truth only when he was present: for his first absence was longer than
both his visits, and they would have obeyed longer in his
"absence" than in his "presence." But if their decline
had begun immediately after he left them, and before his return to
them, the reproof will be just. But see on
removed--Translate, "are being removed," that is, ye are
suffering yourselves so soon (whether from the time of my last
visit, or from the time of the first temptation held out to you)
[PARÆUS] to be removed by Jewish seducers. Thus he softens the
censure by implying that the Galatians were tempted by seducers from
without, with whom the chief guilt lay: and the present, "ye are
being removed," implies that their seduction was only in process of
being effected, not that it was actually effected. WAHL,
others take the Greek as middle voice. "ye are removing" or
"passing over." "Shifting your ground" [CONYBEARE and
HOWSON]. But thus
the point of Paul's oblique reference to their misleaders is lost; and
the Greek is used passively, justifying its being taken so here.
On the impulsiveness and fickleness of the Gauls (another form of
Kel-t-s, the progenitors of the Erse, Gauls, Cymri, and Belgians),
whence the Galatians sprang, see
and CÆSAR [Commentaries on the Gallic
from him that called you--God the Father
1Th 2:12; 5:24).
into--rather, as Greek, "IN the
grace of Christ," as the element in which, and the instrument
by which, God calls us to salvation. Compare Note, see on
"the gift by (Greek, 'in') grace (Greek, 'the
grace') of (the) one man." "The grace of Christ," is Christ's
gratuitously purchased and bestowed justification, reconciliation, and
another--rather, as Greek, "a second and different gospel,"
that is, into a so-called gospel, different altogether from the only
7. another--A distinct Greek word from that in
Though I called it a gospel
it is not really so. There is really but one Gospel, and no
but--Translate, "Only that there are some that trouble you," &c.
(Ga 5:10, 12).
All I meant by the "different gospel" was nothing but a perversion by
"some" of the one Gospel of Christ.
would pervert--Greek, "wish to pervert"; they could not really
pervert the Gospel, though they could pervert Gospel professors (compare
Ga 4:9, 17, 21; 6:12, 13;
Though acknowledging Christ, they insisted on circumcision and Jewish
ordinances and professed to rest on the authority of other apostles,
namely, Peter and James. But Paul recognizes no gospel, save the pure
8. But--however weighty they may seem "who trouble you." Translate
as Greek, "Even though we," namely, I and the brethren with me,
weighty and many as we are
(Ga 1:1, 2).
The Greek implies a case supposed which never has occurred.
angel--in which light ye at first received me (compare
and whose authority is the highest possible next to that of God and
Christ. A new revelation, even though seemingly accredited by miracles,
is not to be received if it contradict the already existing revelation.
For God cannot contradict Himself
The Judaizing teachers sheltered themselves under the names of the
great apostles, James, John, and Peter: "Do not bring these names up to
me, for even if an angel," &c. Not that he means, the apostles
really supported the Judaizers: but he wishes to show, when the truth
is in question, respect of persons is inadmissible [CHRYSOSTOM].
preach--that is, "should preach."
any other gospel . . . than--The Greek expresses not so much "any
other gospel different from what we have preached," as, "any gospel
BESIDE that which we preached." This distinctly opposes the traditions
of the Church of Rome, which are at once besides and against (the Greek includes both ideas) the written Word, our only "attested
9. said before--when we were visiting you (so "before" means,
Ga 5:2, 3, 21.
Translate, "If any man preacheth unto you any gospel
BESIDE that which," &c. Observe the indicative,
not the subjunctive or conditional mood, is used, "preacheth,"
literally, "furnisheth you with any gospel." The fact is
assumed, not merely supposed as a contingency, as in
"preach," or "should preach." This implies that he had already observed
(namely, during his last visit) the machinations of the Judaizing
teachers: but his surprise
now at the Galatians being misled by them, implies that they had
not apparently been so then. As in
he had said, "which we preached," so here, with an augmentation of the
force, "which ye received"; acknowledging that they had truly
accursed--The opposite appears in
10. For--accounting for the strong language he has just used.
do I now--resuming the "now" of
"Am I now persuading men?" [ALFORD], that
is, conciliating. Is what I have just now said a sample of
men-pleasing, of which I am accused? His adversaries accused him of
being an interested flatterer of men, "becoming all things to all men,"
to make a party for himself, and so observing the law among the Jews
(for instance, circumcising Timothy), yet persuading the Gentiles to
(in order to flatter those, really keeping them in a subordinate state,
not admitted to the full privileges which the circumcised alone
enjoyed). NEANDER explains the "now" thus: Once,
when a Pharisee, I was actuated only by a regard to human authority and
to please men
but NOW I teach as responsible to God alone
or God?--Regard is to be had to God alone.
for if I yet pleased men--The oldest manuscripts omit "for." "If I
were still pleasing men," &c.
On "yet," compare
servant of Christ--and so pleasing Him in all things
11. certify--I made known to you as to the Gospel which was
preached by me, that it is not after man, that is, not of, by,
or from man
(Ga 1:1, 12).
It is not according to man; not influenced by mere human
considerations, as it would be, if it were of human origin.
brethren--He not till now calls them so.
12. Translate, "For not even did I myself
(any more than the other apostles)
receive it from man, nor was I taught it (by man)."
"Received it," implies the absence of labor in acquiring it. "Taught
it," implies the labor of learning.
by the revelation of Jesus Christ--Translate, "by revelation of
[that is, from] Jesus Christ." By His revealing it to me. Probably this
took place during the three years, in part of which he sojourned in
(Ga 1:17, 18),
in the vicinity of the scene of the giving of the law; a fit place for
such a revelation of the Gospel of grace, which supersedes the
He, like other Pharisees who embraced Christianity, did not at first
recognize its independence of the Mosaic law, but combined both
together. Ananias, his first instructor, was universally esteemed for
his legal piety and so was not likely to have taught him to sever
Christianity from the law. This severance was partially recognized
after the martyrdom of Stephen. But Paul received it by special
(1Co 11:23; 15:3;
A vision of the Lord Jesus is mentioned
at his first visit to Jerusalem
but this seems to have been subsequent to the revelation here meant
and to have been confined to giving a particular command. The vision
"fourteen years before"
was in A.D. 43, still later, six years after his
conversion. Thus Paul is an independent witness to the Gospel. Though
he had received no instruction from the apostles, but from the Holy
Ghost, yet when he met them his Gospel exactly agreed with theirs.
13. heard--even before I came among you.
conversation--"my former way of life."
Jews' religion--The term, "Hebrew," expresses the language; "Jew," the nationality, as distinguished from the Gentiles;
"Israelite," the highest title, the religious privileges, as a member of
the church--Here singular, marking its unity, though constituted of
many particular churches, under the one Head, Christ.
of God--added to mark the greatness of his sinful alienation from
wasted--laid it waste: the opposite of "building it up."
14. profited--Greek, "I was becoming a proficient"; "I made
my equals--Greek, "Of mine own age, among my countrymen."
traditions of my fathers--namely, those of the Pharisees, Paul being
"a Pharisee, and son of a Pharisee"
(Ac 23:6; 26:5).
"MY fathers," shows that it is not to be understood generally of the
traditions of the nation.
15. separated--"set me apart": in the purposes of His electing love
Ac 9:15; 22:14),
in order to show in me His "pleasure," which is the
farthest point that any can reach in inquiring the causes of his
salvation. The actual "separating" or "setting apart" to the work
marked out for him, is mentioned in
There is an allusion, perhaps, in the way of contrast, to the
derivation of Pharisee from Hebrew, "pharash,"
"separated." I was once a so-called Pharisee or Separatist, but
God had separated me to something far better.
from . . . womb--Thus merit in me was out of the
question, in assigning causes for His call from
Grace is the sole cause
(Ps 22:9; 71:6;
Isa 49:1, 5;
called me--on the way to Damascus
16. reveal his Son in me--within me, in my inmost soul, by the Holy
"shined in our hearts." The revealing of His Son by me to the Gentiles
(so translate for "heathen") was impossible, unless He had first
revealed His Son in me; at first on my conversion, but
especially at the subsequent revelation from Jesus Christ
whereby I learned the Gospel's independence of the Mosaic law.
that I might preach--the present in the Greek, which includes
the idea "that I may preach Him," implying an office still
continuing. This was the main commission entrusted to him
(Ga 2:7, 9).
immediately--connected chiefly with "I went into Arabia"
It denotes the sudden fitness of the apostle. So
"Straightway he preached Christ in the synagogue."
I conferred not--Greek, "I had not further (namely, in addition
to revelation) recourse to . . . for the purpose of consulting." The
divine revelation was sufficient for me [BENGEL].
flesh and blood--
17. went I up--Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "went away."
to Jerusalem--the seat of the apostles.
into Arabia--This journey (not recorded in Acts) was during the
whole period of his stay at Damascus, called by Luke
"many [Greek, a considerable number of] days." It is curiously
confirmatory of the legitimacy of taking "many days" to stand for
"three years," that the same phrase exactly occurs in the same sense in
1Ki 2:38, 39.
This was a country of the Gentiles; here doubtless he preached
as he did before and after
(Ac 9:20, 22)
at Damascus: thus he shows the independence of his apostolic
commission. He also here had that comparative retirement needed, after
the first fervor of his conversion, to prepare him for the great work
before him. Compare Moses
(Ac 7:29, 30).
His familiarity with the scene of the giving of the law, and the
meditations and revelations which he had there, appear in
Ga 4:24, 25;
The Lord from heaven communed with him, as He on earth in the days of
His flesh communed with the other apostles.
returned--Greek "returned back again."
18. after three years--dating from my conversion, as appears by the
contrast to "immediately"
This is the same visit to Jerusalem as in
and at this visit occurred the vision
(Ac 22:17, 18).
The incident which led to his leaving Damascus
was not the main cause of his going to Jerusalem. So that
there is no discrepancy in the statement here that he went "to see
Peter"; or rather, as Greek, "to make the acquaintance of"; "to
become personally acquainted with." The two oldest manuscripts read,
"Cephas," the name given Peter elsewhere in the Epistle, the
Hebrew name; as Peter is the Greek
Appropriate to the view of him here as the apostle especially of the
Hebrews. It is remarkable that Peter himself, in his Epistles, uses the
Greek name Peter, perhaps to mark his antagonism to the
Judaizers who would cling to the Hebraic form. He was prominent among
the apostles, though James, as bishop of Jerusalem, had the chief
abode--or "tarried" [ELLICOTT].
fifteen days--only fifteen days; contrasting with the long period of
three years, during which, previously, he had exercised an independent
commission in preaching: a fact proving on the face of it, how little he
owed to Peter in regard to his apostolical authority or instruction.
The Greek for "to see," at the same time implies
visiting a person important to know, such as Peter was. The plots of
the Jews prevented him staying longer
Also, the vision directing him to depart to the Gentiles, for that the
people of Jerusalem would not receive his testimony
(Ac 22:17, 18).
Ac 9:27, 28,
wherein Luke, as an historian, describes more generally what Paul, the
subject of the history, himself details more particularly. The history
speaks of "apostles"; and Paul's mention of a second apostle,
besides Peter, reconciles the Epistle and the history. At Stephen's
martyrdom, and the consequent persecution, the other ten apostles,
agreeably to Christ's directions, seem to have soon (though not
left Jerusalem to preach elsewhere. James remained in charge of the
mother church, as its bishop. Peter, the apostle of the circumcision,
was present during Paul's fifteen days' stay; but he, too, presently
went on a circuit through Judea.
James, the Lord's brother--This designation, to distinguish him from
James the son of Zebedee, was appropriate while that apostle was alive.
But before Paul's second visit to Jerusalem
he had been beheaded by Herod
Accordingly, in the subsequent mention of James here
(Ga 2:9, 12),
he is not designated by this distinctive epithet: a minute, undesigned
coincidence, and proof of genuineness. James was the Lord's brother,
not in our strict sense, but in the sense, "cousin," or "kinsman"
His brethren are never called "sons of Joseph," which they would have
been had they been the Lord's brothers strictly. However, compare
"I am an alien to my mother's children." In
Joh 7:3, 5,
the "brethren" who believed not in Him may mean His near
relations, not including the two of His brethren, that is,
relatives (James and Jude) who were among the Twelve apostles.
"His brethren," refer to Simon and Joses, and others
of His kinsmen, who were not apostles. It is not likely there would be
two pairs of brothers named alike, of such eminence as James and Jude;
the likelihood is that the apostles James and Jude are also the writers
of the Epistles, and the brethren of Jesus. James and Joses were sons
of Alpheus and Mary, sister of the Virgin Mary.
20. Solemn asseveration that his statement is true that his visit was
but for fifteen days and that he saw no apostle save Peter and James.
Probably it had been reported by Judaizers that he had received a long
course of instruction from the apostles in Jerusalem from the first;
hence his earnestness in asserting the contrary facts.
21. I came into . . . Syria and Cilicia--"preaching
and so, no doubt, founding the churches in Syria and Cilicia, which he
subsequently confirmed in the faith
(Ac 15:23, 41).
He probably went first to Cæsarea, the main seaport, and thence
by sea to Tarsus of Cilicia, his native place
and thence to Syria; Cilicia having its geographical affinities with
Syria, rather than with Asia Minor, as the Tarsus mountains separate it
from the latter. His placing "Syria" in the order of words before
"Cilicia," is due to Antioch being a more important city than Tarsus,
as also to his longer stay in the former city. Also "Syria and
Cilicia," from their close geographical connection, became a generic
geographical phrase, the more important district being placed first
[CONYBEARE and HOWSON]. This
sea journey accounts for his being "unknown by face to the churches of
He passes by in silence his second visit, with alms, to Judea
doubtless because it was for a limited and special object, and would
occupy but a few days
as there raged at Jerusalem at the time a persecution in which James,
the brother of John, was martyred, and Peter was m prison, and James
seems to have been the only apostle present
so it was needless to mention this visit, seeing that he could not at
such a time have received the instructions which the Galatians alleged
he had derived from the primary fountains of authority, the
22. So far was I from being a disciple of the apostles, that I was
even unknown in the churches of Judea (excepting Jerusalem,
which were the chief scene of their labors.
23. Translate as Greek, "They were hearing": tidings were brought
them from time to time [CONYBEARE and
he which persecuted us in times past--"our former persecutor"
The designation by which he was known among Christians still better than
by his name "Saul."
destroyed--Greek, "was destroying."
24. in me--"in my case." "Having understood the entire change, and
that the former wolf is now acting the shepherd's part, they received
occasion for joyful thanksgiving to God in respect to me"
How different, he implies to the Galatians, their spirit from