GALATIA WAS a tract of country lying on the northward part of that elevated tableland which forms the central portion of the great peninsula we call Asia Minor. On the south, those uplands rest upon the long range of the Taurian Mountains running more or less parallel with the coast. On the north, they are upreared, first by the Olympus range, which, commencing in the neighborhood of Prusa (now Brusa), pursue a generally eastward direction, until, after being pierced by the river Ancharias (Akaria), which rises in those highlands, they are continued by the Aladag and Ulgaz Mountains as far as the Halys (Kizil-Irmak). Anciently these lands were to a considerable extent occupied by the Phrygians, then deemed, according to Homer ('Iliad,' 3:185-190), one of the finest races of mankind. But in the earlier part of the third century before Christ, hordes of Gauls, after a detachment of their hosts had been repulsed in an attempt to swarm into Greece, had managed to cross the Hellespont, and had poured themselves upon the western districts of Asia Minor, carrying havoc and rapine in every direction. With the details of their ensuing history we need not trouble ourselves. It is sufficient to remark that at length these wild tribes got bounded in within the limits of that country to which they gave their own name, being a district which they had wrested from its former Phrygian occupants. In the year B.C. 189 they were conquered by the Roman general, Cn. Manlius Vulso. The Romans, however, found it advisable to allow them for a long time to remain to a considerable degree independent, under princes of their own. One of these was the Deiotarus whose name is familiar to the readers of Cicero as a friend and a useful ally of his when Proconsul of Cilicia, and as afterwards defended by him, in his 'Oratio pro Rege Deiotaro,' when arraigned before Julius Caesar on the charge of attempting to assassinate him. This Deiotarus, B.C. 65, first united the Galatians under one sovereign. On the death of a successor of his, Amyntas, B.C. 25, Galatia, with the addition of some neighboring districts, was constituted into a Roman province under a governor.
In consequence of this it came to pass that the term Galatia is used in a wider and in a narrower sense. It sometimes designates the country properly so called; sometimes, the Roman province made up of this Galatia and other districts added thereto, which were different at different times. At the period we are now concerned with, these additional districts were Lycaonia, Isauria, and a portion of Pisidia; all lying to the south-west and south of Galatia proper. If the term as used by St. Paul denotes the country which was coextensive with the Roman province of that name, we might reckon the Churches of Antioch of Pisidia (now Yalobatch,) as well as those of Iconium (Konieh,) Derbe, and Lystra, cities of Lycaonia, as among "the Churches of Galatia." This hypothesis, however, is shown by Bishop Lightfoot ('Galatians: the Churches of Galatia'), as well as by others, to be untenable. It is the prevailing opinion of critics, and may be confidently assumed as the fact, that the word "Galatia" is used by the apostle with reference to this country in its stricter and more proper sense.
At this time the Galatians were divided into three septs.
(1) The Trocmi, occupying the easternmost position, on the right bank of the Halys, their capital being Tavium. Not far beyond their eastern border lay Comana (now Tokat), consecrated by being the sleeping-place of St. Chrysostom and of Henry Martyn.
(2) Next came the Tectosages, whose capital city, Ancyra (Angora), the capital also of the Roman province, lay a little north of the very midmost part of the peninsula of Asia Minor; it was famous in ancient times, as it is now, for the soft camlet fabrics woven from the fine hair of its goats.
(3) Westernmost were situated the Tolistoboii, or Tolistobogii, whose capital, Pessinus, situated south-westward from Ancyra, lay under Mount Dindymus, and was world-famed as being the chief center of the worship of Cybele, the mother of the gods; "Dindymene" (Horace); "cui Dindyma curae" (Virgil); the worship the report of which was blazed abroad everywhere by reason of the hideous self-mutilation of some of its priests, "Galli," or "Corybantes," and for the frenzy of its devotees, excited by hautboys and bronzen timbrels (" Corybantia aera ").
It has been stated that the Gauls gave the district which they occupied their own name. In explanation of this, we must observe that Galat is the form under which the name, which in Latin is Gall, commonly appears in Greek authors after the time of Herodotus, in whose 'Histories' it appears as Kelt. The Galliae of Europe, both Cisalpine (Lombardy) and France, were each of them by the Greeks called Galatia. In fact, the "Galatia" now before us was a third Gaul. It is to be further observed that when St. Paul, writing at the close of his life from Rome, tells Timothy (2 Timothy 4:10) that Crescens was gone to Galatia, the word was commonly, perhaps rightly, taken by Greek commentators, as referring to a European Gaul, and not to that in Asia Minor. Galat has very much the appearance of being the very word Kelt slightly varied in its utterance; but it is not quite certain that it is so; it may rather be the case (Bishop Lightfoot thinks) that Galat and Kelt were diverging forms of the same word, applied to different branches of the Celtic race. It has been surmised that both exhibit the same root as Gall, with a Celtic suffix.
It is interesting to observe that the Gauls embosomed in Asia Minor retained with "Celtic tenacity" their own original tongue to so great an extent that their language is declared by Jerome, in the Introduction to his Commentary on the Epistles, to be in his own time, which was more than three centuries later than St. Paul, very much the same (eadem fere) as he had heard spoken by the Gauls at Tr�ves. They used, however, the Greek language as well, for which reason they were at times called by the Romans Gallo-Graeci. Indeed, the Greek tongue, which under the empire got to be used even in Rome itself more customarily than Latin, was in vogue, as Jerome likewise observes, all over the East. They were thus bilinguals at least — not a few also, no doubt, being acquainted with the language of their Roman masters as well. Such was beyond question the case of many of the countries subject to the Roman empire (comp. John 19:20). Thus when Paul and Barnabas were visiting the neighboring country of Lycaonia, they no doubt addressed the people in Greek, assured of being understood by them; while they themselves failed to catch the import of the cries uttered by the Lycaonian populace, who in their excitement reverted quite naturally to their own more native speech (Acts 14:11-44).
The Galatic Land. It is noticeable that St. Luke does not use the word "Galatia" at all. He twice finds occasion to specify the district, and in both instances he names it "the Galatic Land" (Acts 16:6; Acts 18:23). No doubt he found this designation of it already in use, though no instance of its occurrence elsewhere has been produced, and chose to employ it in preference to "Galatia," in order to make it more immediately obvious to the Roman readers to whom he was addressing his narrative, that it was not the entire Roman province of the name that he was now referring to. So also then he uses the term "Phrygia" in both cases in close connection with "the Galatic Land," there being no Roman province so called. He thus conjoins the two, as being linked together by a certain measure of identity in their populations; for in all probability not a few of the original Phrygian inhabitants still dwelt in the country, though now forming a stratum of population subordinate to that of their Gallic conquerors. At all events, "the Galatic" had originally formed a part of the country of the Phrygians.
RELIGION OF THE GALATIANS
The Gallic invaders do not appear to have at once adopted the worship of Cybele; for when, in the third generation after the conquest, they were attacked by the Romans, the Phrygian priests of Cybele met the Roman general, clad in the robes of their office, and chanting wild strains of prophecy, in which they announced to him that the goddess approved of his enterprise, and would make him the master of the country (Lightfoot, quoting Livy, 38:18; Polybius, 22:20). Perhaps this prediction had later the effect of making the Gauls, through its accomplishment, more ready to submit to the claims made on behalf of the goddess to their homage. At all events, they appear subsequently to have embraced her worship most cordially. The fervid fanaticism of her rites would naturally present a great attraction to the temperament of a people so excitable as they were. Among the inscriptions found at Pessinus, as also at Comana (Tokat), there are several, Bishop Lightfoot observes, specifying priests of Cybele by names which are evidently Gaulish. Her worship lingered long in this its old home: the Emperor Julian found it still subsisting there, and tried hard to revive this, as well as other Gentile cults, into renewed vigor. The Galatians, however, served other gods as well (Galatians 4:8). At Tavium the principal object of worship was a colossal bronze statue of Zeus. At Ancyra there was a magnificent temple of Augustus in white marble, still subsisting in ruins. As their Lycaonian neighbors recognized Hermes as one of their divinities as well as Zeus, we may well believe that his cult also was accepted by these Gauls; both were adopted from the Phrygians, the former possessors of the soil, together with probably much, at least, of their other idolatrous worship. As being a less civilized race than that which they dispossessed, they might have been on that account the more ready to lend an ear to their religious teaching, especially since these idolatrous cults were very commonly localized, and consequently claimed to be taken on by the new-comers along with the places to which they were attached. They had besides brought with them forms of religious or idolatrous observance of their own, which, after the manner of idolaters, they would more or less amalgamate with those others; but of these we know nothing.
JEWS IN GALATIA
Amongst these idolatrous nations there was scattered far and wide a large diffusion of Jews, forming, in respect to the spread of the gospel, a most important element of the population. In addition to circumstances tending, here as elsewhere, to their diffusion, it appears that there were some which in Asia Minor were especially operative. Antiochus the Great, King of Syria, before he was compelled towards the close of his long reign to give way in the year B.C. 191 before the advancing power of Rome, held sway over a wide belt of country reaching from the shores of the Aegean right across the continent as far as beyond Babylon. And we learn from Josephus ('Ant.,' 12:3, 4) that this king, with a view to the consolidation of his power, ordered his general Zeuxis to remove two thousand Jewish families from Mesopotamia and Babylon into Lydia and Phrygia, and to locate them "in the castles and places most convenient;" at the same time securing to them the free exercise of their religion, making them grants of land for building homes and for husbandry, and conferring various immunities indicative of his confidence in their loyalty to his government. If this scheme was fully carried out, it would infer the implantation in those countries of a population of not less than ten thousand people. Some of these could hardly fail of becoming established in Galatia. It is, indeed, quite supposable that the disquiets in these parts of his dominions which, as he tells Zeuxis, led him to adopt this measure, had their origin in part in the turbulent spirit of the Gauls recently settled in Asia Minor or still roving about unsettled. At all events, these Jewish settlements in "Phrygia" would become nuclei, sending forth ramifications which would quickly spread in districts so fertile as Galatia was. That Jews did abound in the Galatic region in particular is evinced by another fact recorded by Josephus ('Ant.,' 16:6, 2), who tells that by Augustus's command a copy of an address which he had received from the Jews, together with a decree of his issued in consequence of it, which ensured to them protection in their religious observances, was inscribed upon a pillar in his temple at Ancyra, the capital of the province. Accordingly, we find in the history of the Acts abundant proofs of the great influence which the Jews were able to exercise in all these parts of Asia Minor of whose evangelization St. Luke has given any details; and the like may be presumed to have been the case in other places his references to which are only brief and allusive. The important influence of the Jewish population of "those parts" (Acts 16:3) is further shown by the circumstance that, in consideration thereof, St. Paul at Lystra or Iconium thought it advisable to circumcise Timothy to facilitate his evangelizing work.
Roman roads. The spreading abroad of the now commercial people of the Jews was favored by the accommodation which the Roman government provided for easier locomotion, in the roads it built intersecting these countries of Asia Minor in all directions, and they are particularized (we are told) in the Itineraries, and some of them are still in existence. These passed through Gordium, formerly the capital city of Phrygia, and still in those days an important center of traffic, lying on the north-western frontier of Galatia, and went out by Tavium, another important center of commerce on the eastern side. These roads had no doubt much to do with the direction of the course which St. Paul took in his three great journeyings in Asia Minor. On this subject the reader is referred to the interesting and highly illustrative chapters in Conybeare and Howson's work on St. Paul, in which Dean Howson follows up the apostle's travels in those countries (ch. 6-8).
The Jewish tincture of the Epistle. Attention has been drawn by Dr. Jowett and others to the especially Jewish character which in this Epistle marks St. Paul's reasonings and style of illustration. And this has been supposed to favor an inference which has been deduced from ch. 4:9, that the persons he addresses were to a great degree actually Jews. This inference, however, itself rests, as I venture to think, upon a mistaken view of the apostle's meaning in that passage (see note, in loc.); while further he expressly affirms, in the immediately preceding verse, that the Churchmen he is writing to had before their conversion been in bondage to gods which were really no gods. Moreover, that they were Gentiles is clearly implied in Galatians 2:5, "That the truth of the gospel might continue with you," and is rendered certain by their not having been circumcised, but only solicited to receive circumcision (Galatians 5:2, Galatians 5:3; Galatians 6:12). The Jewish tincture which St. Paul feels at liberty to give to his discourse admits of being more satisfactorily explained by other considerations, which have not, so far as I have observed, been sufficiently taken into account.
The method which the apostle uniformly pursued in his work of evangelizing the heathen, that is, by addressing in each place "the Jew first," was both justified and recommended for his adoption by the consideration that Jewish converts might be expected to supply the most ready and, when genuine believers, the most reliable instruments for the religious guidance in the first instance of the newly formed Churches. The new economy was professedly based upon the old, being in fact its proper and its all along designed development; so that "the scribe discipled to the kingdom of heaven" stood in a position, relatively to other Christians, preeminently favorable for being qualified to instruct his brethren drawn from the Gentiles: out of his already well-filled treasure he could bring forth things old as well as new (Matthew 13:52). The "old things" were familiar to his hand, and when illuminated and more completely vitalized by combination with the new, were immediately available for the most effective enforcement of the doctrine of Christ.
First presbyters mostly Jewish converts. We read in the Acts that when Barnabas and Paul, retracing their steps homewards, visited Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, confirming the souls of the disciples, they appointed for them elders in every Church (Acts 14:21-44). We read this at first with some surprise; how was it possible that communities composed of converts so recently made, and after the small amount of Christian instruction which was all they could have possibly received, should be able to supply men qualified to take the lead in teaching as well as in practical guidance? Having in view bodies of converts in the present day gathered in by our own missionaries, for example in India or in China, it strikes our minds that the appointment to the presbyteral office of neophytes so recent would seem to be a measure which, if unavoidable, would, however, be fraught with great hazard. But our embarrassment is greatly relieved when we recall to mind the converts from the synagogue. Here were men — Apollos, for example — who from their earliest years had been familiar with those sacred writings which were able, as St. Paul reminds Timothy, to make men wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus; so that when the way of God had been carefully expounded to them, they would find themselves, under the Spirit's guidance, thoroughly equipped, as in fact Apollos proved himself, as men of God for every work of the ministry (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy 3:17). We cannot help feeling persuaded that it was in the main from this rank of converts that those presbyters were chosen. And obviously the same consideration applies to those who had been appointed to "teach in the Word" the members of the several Galatian Churches (Galatians 6:6). They too, we may confidently assume, were in most or many cases converts from the synagogue.
The Old Testament the only Scriptures, and handled after the methods of Jewish schools. Further, we must bear in mind that now and for some time later the only Scriptures which Sunday by Sunday furnished those sacred readings, which in the Christian assemblies, after the model of the sabbath services of the synagogue, formed the basis of expository comment and of exhortation, were the same as those referred to by the apostle in the passage just above cited, that is to say, they were the Scriptures of the Old Testament. In these their teachers searched for and found, and by these they delighted to illustrate, those truths relative to our Lord's personal history, which were embodied in the brief summary of Christian faith instilled into the mind of the Church. The histories of the Old Testament, its prophecies, its devotional utterances, the precepts of the Mosaic Law itself as illustrative of spiritual principles (1 Corinthians 9:9), were, we feel certain, each successive Lord's day presented to the view of the Christian brotherhood, by men of originally Jewish culture, but adding to that culture, and so qualifying it, the all-important elements of the truth of the gospel. Now, it is obvious to suppose that, in the hands of such teachers, the methods of Biblical comment and illustration would to a very great extent be the same as they had been familiar with previously to their conversion, from their rabbinical education in the Jewish schools and from the synagogue preaching.
It is, of course, not meant that these readings and expositions of the Old Testament constituted the whole of the service, or of even the public addresses, on the Lord's day. Without importing into our conception of the Church life of just this time the features which mark it in the portraiture given fifty years later by Pliny, in his celebrated letter addressed to the emperor from Bithynia, we are able, however, to form some notion of its nature from glimpses afforded by the Acts and the Epistles. And forming our judgment from these, we cannot doubt that the Holy Eucharist was celebrated at least every Sunday, and probably oftener; that more or less in connection with this, the feast called Love (Agap�) was held, furnishing opportunity for religious converse; also that "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" were sung or chanted (Ephesians 5:19). Moreover, those who had gifts of prophesying and of speaking in tongues had opportunity given them of employing their gifts for the good of their brethren (1 Corinthians 14.); and prayers were offered up which all could take part in or express sympathy with. Thus the reading and expounding of the Old Testament Scriptures by no means formed the whole or even, perhaps, the main part of the business of these fraternal assemblies. But neither, again, need we suppose that the reading of those Scriptures with instruction founded upon them was confined, as it perhaps was in the synagogue (Acts 15:21), to one day in the week. In those days of early religious fervor, and of thirst for the "spiritual milk which was without guile," meetings for social worship and mutual instruction were, we may well believe, held from day to day and from house to house, at which there would be going on a perpetual repeating and inculcating of the ideas and words of Scripture, with still the same Jewish tincture in the mode of expression and of illustration.
This had been going on now for some years. Now, when the apostle wrote this letter of his to the Galatians, this instilling into the minds of the Gentile converts of Christian truths clothed in the garb of Jewish thought had been going on, in some at least of the Galatian Churches, for not less than five or six years. By which time these disciples, with the quickness and vivacity of intelligence which then, as Caesar tells us, characterized the Gallic temperament, even as they do now, must have imbibed so much of Jewish theological thought Christianized as would qualify them readily to apprehend and assimilate any such trains of thought and reasoning as those which we find in this Epistle. Their case was different from that of the Thessalonian believers when the apostle wrote his two letters to them: these last were not yet prepared to receive instruction couched in those forms — their conversion from heathenism was too recent; and accordingly in those two Epistles we do not find it. But the Galatian converts stood in a different position, as did also the Roman Christians (Romans 7:1), and the Corinthian (1 Corinthians 10:1, 1 Corinthians 10:11, and passim), and those to whom was sent the encyclical letter which we know as the Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 5:30; Ephesians 6:2); all these, though mainly Gentiles, were become, by the time those letters were sent to them, familiar with the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and could be addressed as being so.
CHURCHES OF GALATIA.
In Galatia there does not appear to have been any one city which St. Paul made his head-quarters for evangelistic work in any such way as in Asia he made Ephesus his head-quarters, and in Achaia Corinth. We have no mention of Pessinus, or of Ancyra, or of Tavium. The Epistle is addressed to "the Churches of Galatia," as if there were a number of such Churches, no one of which, perhaps, contained so large a body of members as to give it a distinguishing pre-eminence among the rest. In those days, in countries over which Christianity was extensively diffused, each considerable town, or village even, had its own several "Church" presided over by presbyters of its own, and in organization independent of the others. We read, for example, of "the Churches of Galatia," "the Churches of Macedonia," and "the Churches of Judaea," but never of (say) "the Church of Galatia," or "the Church of, Judaea " or the like. At the same time, no city, however large its entire population, or however numerous the believers dwelling in it, is spoken of as having more than one Church; for example, there was only one Chinch at Corinth, only one at Antioch in Syria, only one even in Jerusalem, although in this last city, as St. James told St. Paul (Acts 21:20), there were "tens of thousands" (μυριαìδες) of believers. Three centuries later, as we learn from Bingham ('Antiquities,' 2. 12. 2), in the peninsula now called Asia Minor, "not much larger" (the author says) "than the Isle of Great Britain," there were, "as appears from the ancient Notitiae of the Church," four hundred "bishops," some of them in towns of quite small size. Now, whatever may be thought of the sense of the word "bishop" in the days of the apostles (cf. Philippians 1:1), there can be no question that, in the fourth century, each several "bishop" betokened a separate Church presided over by him. There were, then, in the fourth century, four hundred Churches in Asia Minor. Considering the size of Galatia, a considerable number of these may be supposed to have appertained to this district, some of them from the days of St. Paul
History of the Galatian Churches as gathered from the Epistles. Of the previous history of these Churches, as also of their subsequent history in the apostolic age, our information is extremely slight. The only particulars which we possess relative to the evangelization of this region are drawn from the Epistle itself. In the fourth chapter the apostle reminds his converts that his preaching the gospel to them at "the former time" (ver. 13) was occasioned by a bodily illness. But whether he means that it was illness that led to his coming among them, or that befalling him whilst already there it necessitated a longer stay than he would otherwise have made, is not quite clear. But the former seems the more probable interpretation. The great salubrity of the northern part of this great inland plateau of which Galatia formed a part is well known (see note on the passage). Next, the apostle makes most grateful acknowledgment of the quite extraordinary enthusiasm of personal attachment which the Galatian converts had then evinced towards him (see Galatians 4:14, Galatians 4:15, and notes). He also adverts, in Galatians 3:2, Galatians 3:5, to their receiving the Spirit, and to the Spirit being supplied to them — expressions which show that in their case, as was indeed very generally the case when the apostle himself first brought the gospel to a new neighborhood, its testimony had been sealed by the impartation of charisms. Further, the form of expression in Galatians 4:13, "the former time (τοÌ προìτερον)," implies that there had been another visit afterwards before the writing of the Epistle, and probably only one other. That there had been in this second visit a palpable diminution in the fervor of personal attachment which had so gladdened his heart in his first visit, is not necessarily implied in the manner in which he expresses himself; for the phrase, "the former time," qualifies no more than the reference to his illness; but since three or four years had intervened, such a change was hardly to be wondered at, especially when we consider the changeableness which is the reverse side to the Celt's enthusiasm in his friendships; though St. Paul, who held the love of his disciples so dear, would naturally feel pained and disappointed if their reception of him then really did show any coldness. The reference which, shortly after the writing of this Epistle (as I venture to think), the apostle made to these Churches in 1 Corinthians 16:1 will have to be considered more fully further on.
Their history as gathered from the Acts. Comparing with these indications that which we find bearing upon the subject in the Acts, written probably four or five years later than the Epistle, we find, in perfect accordance so far as it goes with the Epistle, mention made by St. Luke of two visits paid by St. Paul to "the Galatic Land." The first took place in the early part of that great missionary journey which the apostle, after his separation from Barnabas, made in company with Silas. Starting from Antioch, he first visited the Churches already subsisting in Syria and Cilicia. Then going, as appears most likely, through the passes in the Taurus which were called the Cilician Gates (see Conybeare and Howson), most probably in the spring of
A.D. 51, the two holy evangelists came to Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium. In this neighborhood the apostle adopted Timothy into companionship with them in the work. They then "went on their way through the cities [apparently those of Lycaonia and Pisidia.], delivering unto them the decrees for to keep, which had been ordained by the apostles and the elders which were at Jerusalem" (Acts 15:41-44). The lapse of some time seems indicated by the manner of expression in Acts 16:5, "So the Churches [apparently of the parts just now referred to] were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily." The sacred historian then adds, "And they went through Phrygia and the Galatic Land, having been forbidden of the Holy Ghost to speak the word in Asia [that is, the Roman province so called];... and came over against Mysia." That is all that St. Luke says about Galatia here. Evidently his main interest in recording this whole journey lies in that introduction of the gospel into Europe which in especial it was designed by Heaven to effect — a subject which occupies his entire attention from this point down to the eighteenth verse of ch. 18. Hastening on, therefore, to that most especially interesting part of this narrative, he abridges the earlier part of it into the brief statement which has now been cited.
In Acts 18 beginning from ver. 22, St. Luke proceeds to relate some particulars of another great missionary journey made by the apostle. He is not now accompanied by Silas, but appears to have Timothy with him, together with, no doubt, other associates in the holy enterprise. After "saluting the Church" of Jerusalem, probably in the year A.D. 53 or 54, "he went down to Antioch; and having spent some time there, he went forth, going through in order the Galatic Land and Phrygia, stablishing all the disciples." Then, after an interesting parenthesis respecting Apollos, the historian adds (Acts 19:1), "Paul having passed through the upper country [that is, the upland plateau in the northern part of which the Galatic Land and Phrygia were situated], came to Ephesus." At Ephesus, as we learn from vers. 8 and 10, he spent upwards of two years, spreading the knowledge of the gospel far and wide in the province of Asia; after which he crossed the sea to visit the Churches previously founded by him in Europe.
DATE OF THE APOSTLE'S LEAVING EPHESUS.
In the reference which St. Luke here (Acts 18:23) makes to the "Galatic Land," we observe that, mentioning it as before in conjunction with Phrygia, he now reverses the order in which the two districts are named. This suggests the impression that the apostle approached those countries by a different route from before, one which brought him into the Galatic first. This would be the case if he had ascended the plateau from its eastern or Cappadocian side. A few years later there were believers in Cappadocia so numerous as to call for especial mention by St. Peter in the greeting of his first letter: "To the sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." Before starting for that long continuance in the West which probably he had already in view, St. Paul appears to have been anxious to secure in the first instance, so far as he might, ground already occupied. That he made a point of doing this is shown, both by the words, "stablishing all the disciples," and the phrase "going through in order (καθεξῆς);" both expressions point to centers of converts already formed. After completing the visitation of the Churches in the Galatic and Phrygia, he probably inspected also the stations of Christian work dotted over other portions of "the upper country " — for example, in Lycaonia and Pisidia — before descending to the lowlands to reach Ephesus. Now, when we consider that this extended tour from Antioch to Ephesus by a circuitous route, involving also frequent detours as well as frequent stoppages necessary in the prosecution of his evangelistic work, means a journey of not much less than a thousand miles, for the most part probably on foot — the traveler a man of by no means robust health, one subject to attacks of illness — we can hardly suppose but that the greater part of a year at the very least must have elapsed from the time of his leaving Jerusalem before he reached the capital of "Asia." If so, then supposing the visit to Jerusalem to have been A.D. 53 or 54, it was probably not till the spring of 57, perhaps not till the spring of 58, that the apostle left Ephesus for Macedonia.
WHAT LED TO THE WRITING OF THE EPISTLE.
The manner in which the Epistle opens makes it clear that the apostle addressed himself to the writing of it under the impulse of strong emotion, excited by tidings from Galatia which he had newly received. He had learnt to his grief and astonishment that they were giving heed to certain who would fain "turn the doctrine of the gospel of Christ into its clean contrary," and yielding themselves to their direction.
The seducers probably not strangers, but Churchmen of Galatia itself.
Who the seducers were the apostle nowhere explicitly states. We read in the Acts (Acts 15:1) that the Judaizing trouble at Antioch, which occasioned the important conference held at Jerusalem, had originated with "certain men coming down from Judaea." And in the Epistle itself (Galatians 2:12) St. Paul refers to the coming to Antioch of "certain from James" as having, again in that city, led to serious embarrassments indirectly connected with the same great Judaistic controversy. This has suggested to many the surmise that the fomenters of the movement in Galatia, which was manifestly of a Judaizing character, had likewise come from Jerusalem or from Judaea, and some have considered that the apostle's reference in the Epistle to such persons having been the cause of the second trouble at Antioch was a significant though veiled allusion to a similar cause of likewise the Galatian trouble. The existence of this shade of allusion is, however, purely hypothetical, having no ground in what is really written. That "the troublers" had come from Judaea or from any other place out of Galatia is a conjecture both ungrounded and unnecessary. No hint of this is given in any one of the several references which the apostle makes to them: none in Galatians 1:7, nor in Galatians 3:1, nor in Galatians 4:17, nor in Galatians 5:10-48, nor in Galatians 6:12, Galatians 6:13. The words (in Galatians 5:10), "He that troubleth you shall bear his judgment whosoever he be," appear to hint a certain eminence of position held by one or more of these mischievous teachers; and possibly this is also alluded to in the words (in Galatians 1:8), "Though we or an angel from heaven preach a different gospel," etc.; but the requirement of either passage is amply met by the supposition that one, or more than one, of the Galatian elders or deacons themselves had committed the offense. This would be only in accordance with what we read in Acts 20:30, where the apostle warns the Ephesian elders that from among their own selves should men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Possibly it may have been this very experience of his, then quite recent, in respect to the Galatian elders, which, together with probably other experiences of a similar kind, prompted that utterance of warning at Miletus. The intimation in Galatians 5:12, that it might be a very good thing if those who were unsettling them would even inflict apocop� upon themselves, seems far more appropriate and possible on the supposition that they were Galatians who had fellow-countrymen among the priests of Pessinus, than on the supposition that they were persons belonging to other lands. But most especially the apostle's words in Galatians 6:12, Galatians 6:13 favor the belief that the trouble originated with certain who were themselves Galatians. They are spoken of as "undergoing circumcision" (περιτεμνοìμενοι: see note; the competing reading, περιτετμημεìνοι, comes to the same result: they had evidently not been circumcised until they engaged in this movement); moreover, they have no real care for the Law themselves, but only wish to save themselves from the risk of being persecuted — persecuted, that is, through the instigation of Jewish neighbors ; — a description wholly inapplicable to persons coming from James or from Judaea.
The features of the noxious movement. The mischievous movement, then, appears to have originated with certain Gentile members of these Churches, who had loosened the hold which they had once appeared to have on the fundamental truth, that faith in Christ is the alone and the sufficient ground of justification before God, and were blindly and, so to speak, flounderingly casting about for other means of obtaining justification. The means they were grasping at consisted in obedience to certain selected prescriptions of the ceremonial Law. That they did not mean the adoption of the entire ceremonial institute is shown by Galatians 5:3. They had plainly not got to that as yet. Circumcision was indeed being seriously talked about (Galatians 5:2), and the passage in Galatians 6:13 favors the belief that some of those most forward in the movement had already made a beginning of submitting to the rite in their own persons. It is distinctly stated that, under their leading, Galatian Churchmen were toying with the observance of "days, and months, and seasons, and years" (Galatians 4:10), with a sort of ignorant but solemn pedantic earnestness which must have been piteous to witness. In what sort of doctrinal statement they formulated their "strange gospel" does not appear. One thing, however, is clear — by some means or other they were instilling the sentiment that faith in Christ needed, in order to completely justify, to be supplemented by some degree of conformity to the ceremonial Law given through Moses. That such was the spirit of their teaching is apparent from the teaching which St. Paul puts forward for the purpose of counteracting it; for to that end he insists upon these two theses — that faith in Christ Jesus is the sole ground on which any, whether Jews or Gentiles, are made sons of God; and that the ceremonial Law was a purely pedagogic and provisional institution, for which there is no longer any place at all in the relations between God and his people. The genius of the movement is also illustrated by the apostle's relating the incident of St. Peter's misguided action at Antioch, and the reasoning by which he himself openly convicted his error. For the mention of this incident would have been irrelevant if it had not involved as its basis the emergence of a similar mode of thought and feeling. The similarity consisted in the fact that Cephas was treating those Gentile believers who did not conform to the ceremonial Law as if they were not standing on the like footing of acceptableness with believers who were conforming thereto — the very misapprehension which was now working in the minds of these Galatians, both the misleaders and the misled. Since on that occasion at Antioch Cephas had most certainly not enunciated in words the doctrine that faith without ceremonial observances was insufficient for gaining acceptance, but only appeared by his actions to be teaching it, it may be surmised that perhaps neither did these Galatian subverters of the gospel in words preach their "strange gospel," but simply preached it by their actions; namely, by themselves practicing, and by encouraging others to practice, certain Mosaistic observances; by studiously vaunting and glorying in such practices; and by discountenancing and putting out of the pale of fraternal fellowship those who kept aloof from such Mosaism. They perhaps did not directly disown Christ as their Hope of acceptance, but they were turning elsewhere for comfort and joy. Such movements of thought and feeling, especially when embodying themselves in distinguishing badges of outward ceremonial action, are apt in general to be very catching with unwary and unstable souls; and we need, in particular, not wonder that among people of Celtic warmth, fickleness, and impetuosity of temperament, it should have spread with great rapidity from Church to Church, as it seems to have done.
The attitude of the disevangelized party towards St. Paul. No tendency of the kind now described could be followed out by any without its rending them away more or less consciously from the guidance of St. Paul. It may, in fact, be considered in no small degree probable that the open detaching of themselves in the eyes of the Jews from discipleship to Paul was, with some of the ringleaders in the movement, one of the objects directly aimed at. It is in this way, as is explained in the notes on the passage, that the otherwise enigmatical statement in Galatians 6:12 meets with its satisfactory interpretation. They therefore allowed themselves to speak detractingly of his apostolic mission: an apostle of some sort, they said, he might be; but no such apostle as Cephas was; an authority attached to his leadership of infinitely less account than attached to James, the Lord's brother; there were scores and scores of apostles going about, with quite as much claim to be listened to. If any showed themselves unwilling to renounce one who had once been so highly esteemed and loved, they were plied with other considerations. Paul himself, they said, was aiming at the introduction of the adopting of circumcision by his disciples, in the end, when circumstances were ripe for it (Galatians 5:11, on which see note): when among Jews, who indeed was more of a Jew than Paul? and then again, let them look at his circumcising Timothy! If any would fain hold fast by Paul, very likely they would, after all, find themselves to be not running counter to his real feelings and purposes, though it might be perhaps something like forcing his hand, if they took the bold step of at once being circumcised. At all events, they might with some plausibility, though certainly with utter falsity, pretend that nothing would be more pleasing to James and the other venerable pillars of the holy mother Church of Jerusalem.
Comparison of Galatian with Colossian and later defection. With much obscurity hanging about the precise nature of the perversion which St. Paul is encountering in this Epistle, thus much is certain: like certain members of another Church in that peninsula four or five years later, they no longer were "holding fast the Head;" "vainly puffed up by their fleshly mind, they were urging their brethren to "subject themselves to ordinances, arbitrarily selected, of outward observances; hoping to find in these mere "shadows" that satisfaction for the requirements of man's sinful soul which was to be found only in Christ (Colossians 2:16-51). Theosophic speculations, such as were rife at Colossae, are not, however, spoken of by St. Paul in connection with Galatia. In the next two or three centuries a great number of incongruous and monstrous forms of religious teaching and practice flourished with rank luxuriance in the peninsula of Asia Minor, Galatia holding a sad pre-eminence, as well as in neighboring countries to the east and south-east; schemes of heresy evolved out of endlessly varied intermixtures of cabalistic Judaism and Oriental theosophy with elements of Christian doctrine. The Epistle to the Colossians and the pastoral letters afford indications of some such as already emergent; but the prophetic spirit gave the apostle forebodings of far worse than these to come. If the Head were not held fast, there would be no security against the incursion very quickly of the direst delusions. With trembling anxiety, therefore, the apostle hastens to cheek at once any tendency to depart from the gospel once for all proclaimed to the world.
The apostle distinguishes the deceivers from the deceived. The apostle makes a distinguishable difference between the seducers and their victims. The latter he warns — with stern severity, indeed, but with severity alternating with expressions of yearning affectionateness — that they are falling away from the God who called them to be in the grace of Christ; that they are foolishly yielding themselves to illusive spells; that they are on the eve of falling from grace; that they are being driven away from country and home; that the mother of us all is demanding that the sons of the bondwoman — and such they are becoming — shall be cast out. But those who are subverting the gospel he denounces as anathema; they shall bear their judgment, whosoever they be; as witting maligners of Christ's servants they deserve no better fate than to rank with priests of devils; practicing the works of heresy, they shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
THE EFFECT PRODUCED BY THE LETTER.
We have no direct evidence to show what consequences ensued from the sending of this letter. It would be hard to believe that it failed of success. Indeed, its preservation to be enrolled among the volumes of the sacred canon would seem to be of itself evidence that it had proved its effectiveness as an arrow of the Messiah's quiver sharp in the heart of his enemies whereby the people had fallen under him. But the present writer ventures to think that the fact that it was successful may be come at in an indirect way.
The apostle, in both of his letters to the Corinthians, mentions, and in the Second especially urges, that a collection should be made on behalf of the poor of Judaea. In the former letter he writes thus: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the Churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come. And when I arrive," etc. (1 Corinthians 16:1-46). Now, when was it that he had thus given order to the Churches of Galatia?
In the present Epistle he adverts to the relief of the poor of Judaea as a matter which he was wont to make an especial point of promoting. In the second chapter, when giving an account of the recognition which at Jerusalem "those accounted to be pillars" had accorded to himself and Barnabas as ministers of the gospel to the Gentiles, he adds (ver. 10), "Only they would that we should remember the poor; the very thing this which I was even of myself zealous to do." But he makes neither directly nor indirectly any request to the Galatians, that they should make a collection for the poor of Judaea. Again, in the sixth chapter he enjoins upon them that they should share with their teachers whatever good things they themselves possess; adding, as if addressing persons who were proving themselves backward in the practice of this duty, a solemn and affecting exhortation to works of beneficence, both towards men in general and especially towards such as are of Faith's household. But here, again, there is no word respecting any collection for the Judaean poor.
In the Second Epistle which he sent to the Corinthians he informs them that he had told the Churches of Macedonia, from whose midst he was then writing, that "Achaia had been prepared for a year past" (2 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 8:10). This statement needs not to be insisted upon as one of literal exactness; neither the apostle himself as is evident, nor the Macedonian brethren to whom that was said, would be likely to regard it as other than an utterance of warm feeling, expressing rather the speaker's general sensation of the length of the interval than the result of an exact retrospect. If six or eight months had elapsed since the brethren in Achaia had signified their hearty response to the apostle's proposal to them to make such a collection, the apostle might now, in the sanguineness of his heart, have spoken to those then about him in the way that he here describes. That signification of their hearty response to his application had been coeval probably with their sending to ask him, as 1 Corinthians 16:1 implies that they had done, in what way he wished them to set about making and forwarding the collection. Now, an interval of (say) eight months would bring us back to the closing portion of his stay at Ephesus. When from Ephesus he signified to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:8) that he purposed continuing in that city till Pentecost, he was probably writing about the time of Easter (1 Corinthians 5:7); and some such interval seems required for the important work which he then anticipated to be lying before him there (1 Corinthians 16:9). I would next put it to the reader, whether, in pondering 1 Corinthians 16:2, he does not feel a certain air of freshness and recency hanging about the fact alluded to in the words, "as I gave order to the Churches of Galatia" — whether the apostle does not mean something like this, "The other day I received from the Churches of Galatia a similar request that I would state to them in what manner I wished this business of the collection to be managed, and the reply which I made to them I now make to you."
This is, at all events, the impression which the words convey to my own mind. If it be a just impression, then, taking into account the entire absence in this Epistle to the Galatians of any reference to a proposal of such a collection having been up to that time made to them, the following interpretation of the whole circumstances would seem a coherent and probable one.
Towards the close of the apostle's long abode at Ephesus, but some while before he wrote his First Epistle to the Corinthians, he had formed the plan, after he had visited the Churches in Macedonia and Achaia, of taking a journey to Jerusalem; and having this before him, he wished to set on foot a collection for the poor in Judaea among the Gentile Churches of which he had the oversight in Asia Minor and Europe, the proceeds of which should be taken by himself or by "apostles" of the Churches accompanying himself, when he repaired to the Jewish capital.
This plan was in his mind when that painful account reached him of the wavering allegiance of his Galatian converts to the gospel, which made it necessary to write this letter. With such a danger threatening the vital interests of the Christian cause in that region, it did not seem seasonable to directly moot the question of a collection just then; their attachment to the gospel and to himself as its apostle needed to be re-established in the first instance; not until this had been effected could he hope for a satisfactory response on their part to an appeal of his for a charitable contribution to be forwarded in connection with himself. He refrains, therefore, from asking them in his letter for a contribution. But having, as it were by the way, told them of the request which James, Cephas, and John had made to him that he would remember their poor, and having added how greatly he himself was concerned to do so, he contents himself for the present with taking occasion, from the niggardliness with which they assisted their teaching ministers, to insist emphatically upon the evil consequences to themselves of sowing only to their own selfish gratification, and upon the blessed reward which awaits a persistent course of beneficence; and there leaves it. If the confidence, which he tells them he felt towards them in the Lord that they would after all prove faithful to the gospel, were realized, the hints which he had let fall tending towards the appeal he desired to make would be sure of themselves to bear fruit; they would at any rate pave the way for making it. Meanwhile he must wait in anxious hope for the result, which at present was a matter of infinitely greater importance, of their return to a cordial faith in Christ Jesus.
How deeply the suspense affected him we may in some degree imagine from the account which he has himself given in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians of the anxiety with which he had awaited Titus's return, when he had dispatched him to Corinth to ascertain the effect produced by his first letter, and of the unspeakable relief with which he had heard of their eager and impassioned submission to his remonstrances concerning the incestuous offender (2 Corinthians 2:12, 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:4-47).
Weeks and weeks would he have to wait before the return of his messengers to Galatia. Who these were we know not, but our minds naturally glance at Timothy, who probably was of Iconium, and Gains of Derbe, both places in the adjoining district of Lycaonia; also at Luke, of perhaps Antioch; for these with others were in St. Paul's company in this journey (Acts 20:4); at Titus, too, the reliable messenger later on under somewhat similar circumstances to Corinth. Naturally the apostle would send his letter by one qualified to help forward its effect by wise, faithful, and strong-hearted words of his own. But time would have to be allowed for his letter to do its proper work after it reached Galatia; for it was not one single congregation, but a number of detached Churches, these perhaps not situated very near together, in which the evil leaven had been working; and Galatia was a long way off from Ephesus, Ancyra (Angora), the principal city, being as the crow flies three or four hundred miles distant.
We cannot doubt, however, that the period of anxious expectation was ended by the receipt of joyful tidings. What he wrote some months later, on the occasion of Titus's return from Corinth, was (very supposably) dictated by the very remembrance of this happy hour. "Thanks be unto God, which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest through us the savor of his knowledge in every place" (2 Corinthians 2:14). The drooping faith of the Galatians in Christ Jesus their Lord had been revived; they had shaken off the "bewitchment" which had dimmed their view of his all-sufficient grace and had lured them away to the vanities of Judaizing ceremonialism. Breaking with those who had misled them, their personal attachment to the apostle had reasserted itself with even a measure of its former Celtic enthusiasm. And now their cry was what they could do to testify to their Lord and Savior the sincerity of their repentance and devotion to him; what also to convince their wise and loving father in the gospel that his confidence towards them in the Lord had not been misplaced. For one thing he had incidentally, but perhaps significantly, alluded in his letter to his anxious desire to assist his needy brethren in Judaea. Gladly would they take part in this. In what way would he advise them to make the collection of their contribution? And how should they forward it to Judaea when made ?
In some such way as this, it may with probability be surmised, had the apostle been led to give to the Galatian Churches those directions which he, soon after as I think, repeated in his First Epistle to the Corinthians.
DATE OF THE EPISTLE.
If the above reasonings, from data which are confessedly in some degree problematical, appear, however, to be on the whole approvable, then we arrive at the result that the entire business of the Galatian trouble had been brought to a satisfactory conclusion before the apostle dispatched his first letter to the Corinthians. This, as was above stated, he did probably about the Easter-tide of either the year 57 or the year 58. We may, therefore, assume it to be probable that the Epistle to the Galatians was written some time in the winter months preceding that Easter, possibly as late as in the preceding January.
As the Epistle was written after St. Paul had visited Galatia a second time (Galatians 4:13), we are constrained to assign it to this third great journey of his; for it would be doing great violence to the probabilities of the case not to identify the two visits which the language of the Epistle presupposes with the two which are mentioned in the Acts.
An earlier time in the journey has been assumed by some on the ground that the words, "so quickly," in Galatians 1:6 mean, "so soon after you were called," or "so soon after I left you." But the phrase probably means simply, "so quickly upon being tempted." See note in loc.
The cast of thought and language in this Epistle has so marked an affinity to that in the two Epistles to the Corinthians and the Epistle to the Romans that the critical instinct protests loudly against a longer interval being interposed between its composition and that of any of the other three than the consideration of other kinds of evidence renders necessary.
If we suppose that the Galatian letter was written three or four months before the Easter-tide on which, in great probability, the apostle wrote his First Epistle to the Corinthians, then, since we know that the following Easter-tide found him at Philippi (Acts 20:6), after leaving Corinth, from which he had dispatched his letter to the Romans, it follows that the whole noble quaternion was issued forth to the Church within little more than one year.
It has been shown by Bishop Lightfoot that the comparison of the manner in which identical topics are discussed in these letters severally makes probable, by this branch of internal evidence, the fact, which is attested also so far as the Epistles to the Corinthians are concerned by references contained in them to matters of personal history, that the Roman letter was written the latest of the four. That this is so is due to the character worn by the Epistle to the Romans, as being rather a calm and deliberate treatise, than a letter properly so called evoked by the exigency of particular emergencies.
But this method of argument appears to the present writer to become extremely precarious when it is pushed further than this, for determining the position in point of time of the Galatian Epistle relatively to the two Epistles to the Corinthians. The strife which St. Paul, just at this juncture of his ministerial career, that is to say, during his third great missionary journey, was called to wage incessantly and strenuously wherever he went with Judaizers, with opponents or corrupters of the doctrine of our free justification through faith in Christ, and with impugners of his own properly apostolical authority, would inevitably have led to the formation in his mind, long before he left Ephesus, of a stock, so to speak, of considerations, phrases, and probative texts, ready to be severally produced in ever-varying grouping, and with varying degrees of fullness in the propounding of them, according to the changing mood of the writer or the shifting entourage of circumstances. There is no ground for imagining that we have in Galatians, or in 1 Corinthians, or in 2 Corinthians, any more than in Romans, tokens of the earliest presentment to his mind of any of these objects of thought. On the contrary, they must in all reason be assumed to have been each one of them a good while before quite familiar to his consciousness.
OBJECT AND CONTENTS OF THE EPISTLE.
The apostle's object in the Epistle is to recall the Galatians to the gospel which they had at the first received from himself — the unchangeable gospel of justification by the free grace of God, simply through faith in Christ, and not by deeds of the Law. To this end he finds it necessary to make it clear that he had received from Christ, and from no man, alike his function as apostle and the message which, as such, he had to deliver, — two points inseparably intertwined.
[This was necessary because, in the earlier part of his ministry in Asia Minor, when acting with Barnabas, and even again when acting with Silas, he had borne the function of an apostle from men; whereas in the present stage of his ministry he had been compelled openly to assert, what had all along been the fact, that he was an apostle delegated immediately from Christ, without in this respect any human intermediation at all. On these two points, namely, the two distinct senses of the word "apostle," and the circumstances now leading St. Paul to openly assert his apostleship in the higher sense, the reader is referred to the two dissertations which close the Introduction.]
The first chapter is taken up with the proof of the two points above indicated; the second with their illustration.
Galatians 1:1-48. The greeting — clearly distinguished in this respect from the greeting in his two earlier Epistles, those to the Thessalonians — insists upon his apostleship as being of the highest character, while it also devoutly and adoringly holds forth to view the redemptive work of Christ, the great remedy, as the apostle feels, for the evils which he has now to encounter.
Vers. 6-10. "The gospel ye received from me is unchangeable; when in your midst, I told you, and now repeat it, that he that perverts its main essence, whatever his station, must expect nothing less than destruction as an accursed thing."
Vers. 11, 12. "For I received it directly from God."
Vers. 13, 14. "It was no part of my early education; I was then an eager Judaist, persecuting the disciples of this gospel."
Vers. 15-17. "And after God had revealed it to me, I had recourse to no human creature for instruction, but forthwith gave myself to its proclamation."
Vers. 18-24. "Three years after, not earlier, wishing to acquaint myself with Cephas, I visited him at Jerusalem, and was his guest a fortnight; but saw no other of the apostles, except James, the Lord's brother, be accounted as such. After that I was discharging the work of my ministry in Syria and Cilicia, having been all the while, from the first, personally unknown to the Churches of Judaea; they only were hearing of me that, without any communication with them, I was preaching the gospel."
Galatians 2:1-48. Here St. Paul, with reference to the relations which he held to the other apostles, brings out the fact, that when he went to Jerusalem for the purpose in part of comparing his statement of the gospel with that which was presented by "those of reputation," particularly on matters bearing upon the position of Gentile believers towards the Law, what he heard from them in no way modified the doctrine which he taught; they, however, in the most public and marked manner, recognized its truth, recognizing likewise his ministry to the Gentiles as co-ordinate with theirs to the circumcision.
Vers. 11-21. The apostle then draws attention to a remarkable occasion, on which he had made good, to the approval of the Church at Antioch, his position as an apostle compared with that of Cephas, and had by reasoning vindicated his teaching on a matter closely relevant to his present controversy with the Galatians, showing that conformity with the Law of Moses inferred no superiority in a believer, and its neglect no inferiority, for that the cross of Christ had for God's people annihilated the Law. "I identify myself," he had then said, "with the crucified Christ: his death to the Law is my death to the Law; his life in righteousness and joy is my life therein too."
Galatians 3:1-48. With this thought fresh on his mind, the apostle next addresses himself directly to the case of the Galatians. "Ye too have beheld Christ crucified, and yet now — ! Is there witchcraft at work? Tell me, through what received ye the Spirit? Was it not through faith simply resting in the Redeemer? And now are ye perfecting, forsooth, the work of the Spirit by mere carnality? Ye suffered bravely the evils which Jewish bigotry brought upon you because ye would have none of the Law: will you now stultify that confessorship? Your own experience of the out-flowing of spiritual gifts and of Divine blessing (ver. 9) was in connection with simple faith in Christ; ye were thus proved to be justified, as Abraham was, by faith. No such blessing comes ever through ceremonial works of the Law; the Law works only a curse; it plainly tells you so; tells you so that ye may find blessing in Christ who bore its curse on our behalf.".
Vers. 15-18. "The promise solemnly given to Abraham and his seed, of blessing to come to all nations through Christ, cannot be set aside by the Law given hundreds of years later."
Vers. 19-23. "No doubt the Law had a function divinely assigned to it; but its subordinate position was shown in the very mode of its communication, being given as to beings kept at a distance from God, and making their sin fast till faith should be revealed."
Vers. 24-29. "The Law was our childhood's keeper, till faith should come. Now faith is come, we are become sons of God having put on Christ. Ye Gentiles are Christ's, and thus Abraham's seed, and, according to the promise, heirs of blessing."
Galatians 4:1-48. The apostle here resumes the position of Galatians 3:24, of the Law being the custodian of God's people's childhood. "We were then treated as mere children, no way our own masters, under the A, B, C, of a worldly religion. Bat now, through the incarnation and redemption of God's Son, we are made sons in enjoyment of our inheritance; and, what proves our sonship, God has poured into our hearts the joyous free-hearted Spirit of adoption."
Vers. 8-11. "In those days, we at any rate were God's worshippers; but as for you, ye were idolaters: and yet ye, of God's free choice and constraining grace adopted in among his people, must needs be setting yourselves, forsooth, in opposition to his appointments, and must be going back again to that miserable A, B, C, with your 'days, and months, and seasons, and years!'"
Vers. 12-20. Here follows a passage broken into small bits by strong emotion. Earnest entreaty; earnest assurances that he had no quarrel with them, — he had too tender a remembrance of their affectionate love to him for that: could they suppose him to be other than loving to them? Others, who were paying them court, had no such tender care for their welfare as he. "O my darling children," he cries, "my soul is in travail for you, that Christ may be formed within you, not the Law! Would I knew how best to deal with you !"
Vers. 21-31. Casting about for some line of thought to get hold of them, the apostle bethinks himself of the story of Sarah and Isaac in connection with Hagar and Ishmael, as presenting a kind of allegorical prediction of the two covenants; portraying the supernal Jerusalem and freedom and secure joy on the one side, and Sinai and servitude and imminent expulsion on the other.
Galatians 5:1-48. This leads on to the warning. "We now are free: do not again get held in a yoke of slavery; else ye will find yourselves, as Ishmael, dissevered from Christ and fallen from grace."
Vers. 5-12. Disjointed sentences follow, intermingling terse statements of sweetest doctrine with bewailment of the sad interruption in their once happy career; warning against the contagion of evil; confident hope that they will not disappoint his wishes; threatening of judgment upon their troublers; indignant refutation of those men's slanders touching himself; an outflashing wish that they would just make manifest what they really were by self-eviration.
Vers. 13-24. The summary in the first verse, "Ye have been made free men," is here repeated, to form a new starting-point for exhortation conceived in a calmer and more equable mood, and embodying a beautiful contrast between the flesh and its works, and the Spirit and its fruits.
Ver. 25-Galatians 6:10. Warning against vain-glory and combativeness. Exhortation to cultivate mutual tolerance and helpfulness; one's own improvement in place of censoriousness; liberality in maintaining their teachers; diligence to sow, not to one's own flesh, but to the Spirit; perseverance in beneficence.
Galatians 6:11-48. Conclusion. "Those who wish you circumcised do not care about the Law, but only to curry favor with the Jews and escape persecution. But my sole boast is the cross of Christ; and in Christ circumcision and uncircumcision are nothing, renewal of heart everything: joy be with those who feel and act by this rule! Let none dare to harass me any more; for Jesus' marks upon me evidence his presence with me. The Lord be with you, brethren !"
The literature available on this Epistle is very copious. Among the most helpful may be mentioned the following : — Chrysostom; Jerome; Theodoret; Calvin's 'Commentarius;' Estius, 'In Epistolas; 'Cornelius a Lapide; Grotius (in Poli Synopsis); Bengel's 'Gnomon;' Ruckert's 'Commentar ;' Windischmanu's 'Erklarung;' De Wette's 'Handbuch;' Meyer's ' Kommentar; 'Bishop Ellicott's 'Critical and Grammatical Commentary; ' Bishop Lightfoot's 'Epistle to the Galatians;' Dean Howson, in 'Conybeare and Howson' and in the "Speaker's Commentary;' Archdeacon Farrar's 'Life and Work of St. Paul.' No student should forget to use Luther's 'Commentarius,' which he fondly and proudly called his 'Catherine de Bora.'