The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Galatians 1:11-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 23, 2012

Notations in red are my additions.

Gal 1:11  For I give you to understand, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.

That the Gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. It is not a human but a Divine Gospel; it is not man’s but God’s, or, as Ephrem puts it, it is not from man, i.e., it does not spring from man’s opinions or from man’s invention, but from God. Hence he adds:

Gal 1:12  For neither did I receive it of man: nor did I learn it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Viz., when I was carried by Him into the third heaven (2 Cor 12:1). This strike me as too narrow an interpretation. Certainly other revelatory experiences must be taken account of, e.g., the Damascus Road experience (Acts 9).

Gal 1:13  For you have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion: how that, beyond measure, I persecuted the church of God and wasted it.

I persecuted the Church of God and wasted it. That is, I did my best to storm it and overturn it. Cf. Psa_129:1-2, The word translated waste here comes, as some think, from a word denoting the burning of a town by an enemy, or else, as Erasmus held, from one denoting the surrounding of it. Either way Paul’s meaning is clear. He says this to remove from himself all suspicion of hatred of the Jews. Though they inveigh against me, he says, as their foe, yet my past life is sufficient answer. For I am myself a Jew, and fought more vigorously for Judaism than they, before God, by His call, changed my heart and enlightened it by faith in Christ.

Gal 1:14  And I made progress in the Jew’s religion above many of my equals in my own nation, being more abundantly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

In mine own nation being more abundantly zealous. A more eager lover and follower; or better still, a more jealous lover of it, on behalf of the national institution, handed down to me from my ancestors; a zealot of the law though through ignorance. So much more when he knew the truth was he zealous for the Gospel, so expiating his former evil zeal. From this it seems that Paul’s eager zeal was greater than that of his contemporaries, and acted as a handmaid and whetstone of virtue to him. For an eager nature does not creep along the ground, but, like a fire, leaps upwards and attempts to overcome all difficulties. On this, S. Augustine has some excellent remarks: “Souls that are capable of virtue and expansive often give birth to vices first, by which they show the virtue they are most adapted to produce, when they have been carefully disciplined. For instance, the hasty feeling which prompted Moses to revenge the wrong done to his brother in Egypt by a cruel Egyptian was indeed vicious, inasmuch as it overstepped the bounds of authority, but yet it gave great promise for the future. So in the case of Saul, when he was persecuting the Church, when God called to him out of heaven, smote him to the ground, lifted him up, drew him into the Church, he was as it were cut down, pruned, sown in the ground, and fertilised, for his very fierceness in persecuting the Gospel out of jealousy for the traditions of his fathers, thereby thinking that he was doing God service, was, like a vicious woodland growth, but a sign of greater power” (contra Faustum, lib. xxii. c 70).

Gal 1:15  But when it pleased him who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace,

But when it pleased Him. Vatablus has, “When it seemed good to God,” which is too weak a rendering of εὺδόκησεν a word that denotes the free call of God’s love to grace and salvation.

Who separated me from my mother’s womb. Of His loving-kindness He separated me from my mother’s womb, and caused me to be born into this world with this object in view, viz., to reveal His Son in me. Before all merit, and when not yet born, He predestined me; and when predestined, separated me from the womb, and caused me to be born; and when born He called me that He might bring me to the knowledge of Christ and His Gospel, and so to the apostleship, that I might preach Christ to the Gentiles.

S. Jerome remarks that the same thing is said of Jeremiah in Jer 1:5: “Before I found thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”Paul here alludes to this, for Jeremiah was a type of Paul. The Hebrew for sanctifier denotesboth sanctified and separated; for that is called sacred which is separated from father, mother, and all earthly things to be dedicated and consecrated to God. So Paul was separated by God’s predestination from his mother’s womb, and consecrated to the Gospel, to be a prophet and teacher of the Gentiles.

Mystically, says S. Anselm, from my mother’s womb denotes “from the darkness of the synagogue to see the light of the Gospel.”

Observe that segregatus, “separated,” denotes one selected out of the flock, as the predestinate are selected by God out of the flock of men. So much more is an Apostle and Herald of the word of God separated from the many; and, as S. Chrysostom says, he ought to excel the many as a shepherd excels his flock. It was for this reason that the prophet exclaims, in Isa 6:5: “Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Woe is me! for I am nothing better than others, who are merely unholy themselves. See the comment on Rom 1:1.

Gal 1:16  To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles: immediately I condescended not to flesh and blood.

To reveal His Son in me. In my soul. The phrase is a Hebraism. He says in me rather than to me, to denote that he had received no bare revelation by ear or eye, but that in his inmost heart he had so entirely drunk in Christ and His teaching and Spirit that Christ was in him and spoke by him (Theophylact). Secondly, Jerome and Vatablus understand it, “To reveal His Son through me.” Thirdly, Jerome has another interpretation more subtle than literal: “He does not say to me but in me, because Christ was already in Paul. For there were in him the principle of all virtues and of God, and the seeds of faith. These, however, he did not recognise, nor believe in them till God revealed them in him as being in his heart.”

I condescended not with flesh and blood. I joined myself to no one; I conferred with no one about my vocation, or the revelation, or the way to act on it; I called into counsel no relations or any one else; but, knowing of a certainty that I had been called and taught by God, I followed God as my only teacher and leader. The word rendered confer denotes, says Budæus, to communicate secrets and counsels, to go to one’s friends as counsellors and upright judges, that they may approve or disapprove, advise or dissuade, as they see fit.

Flesh and blood denotes, by synecdoche, the whole man consisting of these two elements. Cf. S. Matt. xvi. 17. I was not taught the Gospel, says S. Paul, by any man, for I conferred with none, but by revelation from God alone. See, then, 0 Galatians, how by rejecting it, and tainting it with an admixture of Judaism, you are tainting and rejecting the word of God, and even God Himself, who revealed it to me, that I might go and preach it.

It may be said: Why, then, did Paul afterwards go to Jerusalem to see Peter (ver. 18), and what is more, confer with him about the Gospel? I reply. He did not confer with him as though in doubt or imperfectly instructed, but that the faithful whom he taught might know him to be in communion with Peter and the other Apostles, to hold the same faith as they, that so they might give more credence to his preaching of the Gospel.

Jerome, however, refers the word immediately to the preceding clause, thus: “To reveal him immediately in the Gentiles I conferred not with flesh and blood.” “Since I was ordered by God immediately to preach to the Gentiles, I immediately obeyed, so that I took no counsel with any man. Afterwards, however, I did confer with Peter, James, and John.” The first explanation, however, is better. Or it may be rendered: I did not see, I did not cling to my earthly parents and relations, but, loving them, I followed the call of God (Augustine and Œcumenius).

Morally, he follows S. Paul’s example who is called by God to the apostleship, to religion, to evangelical perfection, to heroic works, and does not yield to flesh and blood, but at once departs to gain that to which he feels himself called.  S. Jerome writes to Heliodorus: “0 delicate soldier, what do you in your father’s house? Where is the rampart, the fosse, the winter spent under tents? Call to mind the day of your enlistment, when you were buried with Christ in baptism, when you took your military oath that for His name you would spare neither father nor mother. Lo! the adversary is trying to slay Christ in your breast. Lo! the camp of the enemy is thirsting for the donative which you received when you started on your warfare. What, though a little grandson hang an your neck; though your mother, with dishevelled hair and garments rent, bare the breasts which suckled you; though your father lie on the threshold: go forth, trampling on his body, and with dry eyes hasten to the banner of the Cross. Filial piety demands that in this you be cruel. . . . The love of God and the fear of hell will easily break your fetters. If they believe in Christ, let them assist me who am about to fight for His name. If they do not, let the dead bury their dead.”

Again, he writes to that noble widow, Furia: “The father will be sorrowful, but Christ will rejoice; the family will mourn, but there will be joy among the angels. Let your father do what he will with your goods. It is not he for whom you were born, but Christ, for whom you have been born again, who has redeemed you at a great price, even His own blood, of whom you have to think. Beware of nurses and bearers and venomous animals of that sort, who seek to fill their bellies with your husks. They advise not what is for your good but their own.”

S. Bernard too, preaching on the text, “Lo, we have left all,” says: “How many does the accursed wisdom of the world overcome, and extinguish the fire kindled in them, which the Lord had wished to see burn fiercely! Do nothing, it says, in a hurry: take plenty of time to think over it; it is an important step that you are proposing to take; you had better try first what you can do, and consult your friends, lest you come afterwards to be sorry for your action. This wisdom of the world is earthly, sensual, devilish, the foe of salvation, the destroyer of life, the mother of lust, and abominable unto the Lord.”

Gal 1:17  Neither went I to Jerusalem, to the apostles who were before me: but I went into Arabia, and again I returned to Damascus.

Neither went I to Jerusalem. But Acts 9:26 represents Paul as flying directly after his conversion from Damascus to Jerusalem. Jerome and Lorinus, when commenting on that passage, say that he went to Jerusalem directly after his conversion, because compelled to seek safety in flight, not that he might see Peter and confer with him about the Gospel, for this latter is all that is denied here. Baronius replies differently, that Paul is not said directly after his conversion to have gone to Jerusalem, but after many days, i.e., after three years, spent partly in Arabia, partly in Damascus. After that he came to see Peter, as is said here (ver. 18), and afterwards went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia (Ver. 21). With this agrees Acts 9:30, where it is said that the brethren brought him down to Cæsarea and sent him forth to Tarsus, which is the metropolis of Cilicia. If this be the true explanation, then S. Luke, in Acts 9, passes over the journey of Paul into Arabia, because in it nothing calling for mention had happened.

Both explanations are tenable. But the fear of the Apostles and the sponsorship of Barnabas (Act 9:26-27) favour the former. It is not likely that the miraculous conversion of Paul could for three years have remained unknown to the Apostles and the rest of the faithful at Jerusalem. If this be correct, then we must, with S. Chrysostom, marvel at the grace of God which so suddenly changed so bitter a persecutor as S. Paul was into a public teacher and a disputer with the Jews.

Gal 1:18  Then, after three years, I went to Jerusalem to see Peter: and I tarried with him fifteen days.

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter. Chrysostom and Theophylact remark on the distinction between ι̉δει̃ν and the word ίστορη̃σαι, used here. This latter is used of those who visit and go round splendid cities, like Rome, and carefully inspect its monuments, its Pontiff, its Cardinals, its clergy, and holy men. I came to Jerusalem, says S. Paul, to see Peter, not to learn anything from him (though Erasmus thinks that ίστορη̃σαι connotes this), for I had been taught from above, but merely to see and pay my respect to the chief of the Apostles (Theodoret, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome). In Gal. ii. 2 Paul gives another reason for his visit.

S. Chrysostom writes: “Peter was the chief and the mouth of the Apostles, and therefore Paul went up to see him especially” (Hom . in Joan. 87). And S. Jerome on this passage: “Paul came to see Peter—not to gaze on his eyes, cheeks, and countenance—to see if he was fat or lean, if he had a hooked or a straight nose, whether he had hair on his head, or was (as Clement relates) bald headed. Nor is it to be supposed consistent with apostolical dignity, that after such a separation of three years he should wish to see anything in Peter that was merely human. Paul saw Cephas with those same eyes with which he himself is seen still by those who have power to see him. If this does not seem clear to any one, let him compare this sentence with the one before, in which it is said that the Apostles conferred nothing on him. For he went to Jerusalem, that he might see an Apostle, not to learn anything from him—for both had the same authority for their preaching but to do honour to one who was an Apostle before him.” From this it is clear that Paul did not see Peter that he might be taught by him, as Erasmus and Vatablus think. For this is contradicted by Gal 2:6: “They added nothing to me,” and by Gal 1:11-12, where he expressly says that he had been taught not by man but by God.

Gal 1:19  But other of the apostles I saw none, saving James the brother of the Lord.

But other of the apostles saw I none saving James the Lord’s brother. I.e., a cousin or relation of Christ’s, for the Hebrews call cousins brothers. S. Jerome adds that S. James was called the Lord’s brother before all the Apostles, even those related to Christ, on account of his lofty character, his incomparable faith and wisdom, which made him seem like a brother to Christ. For the same reason he was surnamed the Just. Secondly, S. Jerome says that Christ, when going to His Father, commended to James, as to a brother, the eldest children of His mother, i.e., those in Judæa who believed on Him; for this James, the son of Alphæus, the son of Mary, wife of Cleophas, one of the twelve Apostles, was the first Bishop of Jerusalem. This is why, in the First Council of Jerusalem, he was the first after Peter to pronounce judgment (Act_15:13). A Canonical Epistle of his is extant.

S. Jerome hints both here and in his book on Ecclesiastical Writers, when writing of James, that this James was not of the twelve Apostles, but was called an Apostle, only because he had seen Christ and preached Him. In this case we have three of the name of James—the brother of John, slain by Herod; the son of Alphæus, both of whom were Apostles; and this brother of the Lord. But since this brother of the Lord is called an Apostle, and there is no cogent reason for distinguishing him from James the Apostle and son of Alphæus, when, indeed, there are many reasons why we should identify them, the first opinion seems the better one.

Gal 1:20  Now the things which I write to you, behold, before God, I lie not.

Before God I lie not. Vatablus paraphrases this verse: “What I write unto you, behold I write before God—I lie not;” and Theophylact agrees with him. But Ambrose and Augustine think that before God is a formal oath—I call God to witness. The Apostle asserts that he had not seen the other Apostles so strenuously that no one might be able to say that he had visited them in secret, and had not been taught by God (Jerome).

3 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Galatians 1:11-20”

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  3. […] Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Galatians 1:11-19. On 11-20. […]

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