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

Father Callan’s Commentary on Galatians 6:14-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2013

This post opens with a brief summary of Gal 6:11-18 followed by notes on verses 14-18. Text in red are my additions.

CONCLUSION OF THE EPISTLE

A Summary of Galatians 6:11-18~Taking the pen of his secretary into his own hand St. Paul gives some final and solemn counsels to the Galatians, summing up the polemical and doctrinal parts of the Epistle (verses 11-15), auguring peace to those who will follow his rule (verse 16), uttering a prayer of confidence in the final triumph of his labors (verse 17), and wishing the Galatians an affectionate farewell (verse 18).

11. See what a letter I have written to you with my own hand.

See what a letter. Better, “See with what large letters.” This is the usual sense of πηλικοις (= pelikois = large). The word γραμμασιν (= grammasin = letters) in the dative plural cannot signify anything but the character or dimensions of the letters; the reference is not to the Epistle or letter he has written (Lagr.). St. Paul writes this autograph himself with large letters because of the importance of these final words, and to set out in relief again his authority.

I have written to you. Literally, “I have written to you with large letters.” See the arrangement of the words in the Greek text. εγραψα (= egrapsa) is doubtless the epistolary aorist, since it refers only to the autograph.

12. For as many as desire to please in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer the persecution of the cross of Christ.

As many as. These words refer to the false teachers.
In the flesh, i.e., among men (St. Chrys.), or in a worldly way, or according to the flesh and an earthly standard.

They constrain, i.e., they are putting pressure on you.

Only that. The motive behind the actions of the Judaizers was to avoid being persecuted as believers in a crucified Messiah whose death meant the redemption of mankind and the abrogation of the Law. The uncircumcised Christians were exposed to the hate and persecution not only of the pagans, but especially of the Jews.

13. For neither they themselves who are circumcised, keep the law; but they will have you to be circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

A proof that the false teachers are not sincere is that they themselves do not keep the Law.

They themselves, etc., i.e., the Judaizers, did not observe the whole Law, but only as much of it as seemed to their advantage. The reason these false Christians wanted others to be circumcised was on account of their preference for Judaism and for their own nation, and also in order to be esteemed by the Jewish chiefs; they wanted to insist that circumcision, the distinctive mark of Judaism, was necessary for salvation, and hence something very much to their credit.

14. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.

St. Paul aspires to something far higher than the fleshy mark of circumcision wherein to glory; this is mere human glory. He will glory in nothing, save the cross of his crucified Saviour, the one true source of justification and salvation. To the Jews the cross was a sign of ignominy and malediction, but to the Christians it was the cause of salvation and the chief object of the preaching of St. Paul and the other Apostles (Acts 2:22, 26, 38; 1 Cor 2:2; 2 Cor 4:8, etc.).

By whom. Better, “Whereby” (δι ου). The Greek Fathers make δι ου refer to cross rather than to Christ, and this seems to agree better with the context (see NAB, RSV. The LEB retains the reference to Christ, i.e., by whom, instead of by or through which). The cross is the means, the instrument of redemption, through which, by reason of his union with Christ crucified, the Apostle is dead to the world, that is, to the reign of sin (1 Cor 1:20; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2), and the world is dead to him (Gal 2:20); in other words, all ties between him and the wicked world are broken.

The per quem of the Vulgate supposes Christ as the antecedent of δι ου.

15. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

This verse contains the same thought as v. 6. In the new order of things, which has been established by means of the cross of Christ, circumcision or uncircumcision, as pertaining to this carnal world, avails nothing; the only thing that counts is a new creature (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; Rom 1:25; Heb 4:13), i.e., elevation to the supernatural state of grace by which we become adopted sons of God and heirs of heaven.

In Christ Jesus (Vulg., in Christo Jesu), though well supported, is doubtless to be omitted here, as coming from verse 6.

Euthalius in the fifth century, Syncellus in the eighth century, and Photius in the ninth century said that this verse was quoted from the apocryphal work called, The Assumption of Moses; but in the only portion of this latter work which has come down to us, and which appeared around A.D. 7 , this passage does not occur. The apocryphal work in which it is found is of a later date, and doubtless borrowed the passage from our Epistle.

16. And whosoever shall follow this rule, peace on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

This rule, i.e., of glorying only in the cross of Christ (verse 14), and of being a new creature (verse 15). Those who follow such a rule will enjoy peace in union with Christ, and will experience God’s mercy as the source of their present peace and of their ultimate salvation.

The Israel of God, i.e., the real Israel, all true Christians, whether of Jewish or Gentile origin, as opposed to the merely carnal descendants of Abraham.

17. From henceforth let no man be troublesome to me; for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body.

From henceforth, i.e., for the future (του λοιπου), let no one trouble the Apostle about his doctrine, his Apostolate or the like. If anyone say that he is not a true servant of Christ, the refutation of such a calumny is found in the sufferings and marks of persecution which he bears on his body as a proof of his dependence on and of his fidelity to his Master (2 Cor 11:23-25; Acts 14:18). The allusion in  στιγματα (“stigmata”) is to the marks with which masters used to brand their slaves as an indication of proprietorship, or to the sacred signs that were set on persons or things under the protection of a god or goddess as a mark of their consecration to the deity. St. Paul is the property of his divine Master, he is consecrated to Him, and therefore is above all the troubles and molestations of a lower order. There is no question here of such stigmata as were imprinted on St. Francis of Assisi.

18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

The Apostle terminates his letter with an affectionate salutation. He calls the Galatians by the tender term of brethren to show that notwithstanding their mistakes and unfaithfulness, he loves them and wishes them well. The mention of spirit seems to be a last reminder of the great theme of the whole letter, namely, that true life lies not in the flesh, or fleshy practices, but in the spirit, that is, in the life of grace.

All personal greetings are absent from the close of this Epistle, perhaps because, like the Epistle to the Ephesians, it was intended to be a circular letter to several towns. The letter is addressed to the churches (plural) of Galatia. Karl Schelkle suggests that the absence of personal greetings is the result of the tensions between St Paul and the Galatians. He notes the absence of St Paul’s usual thanksgiving at the opening of this letter, its being replaced  with and exasperated statement of amazement that the Galatians are deserting the gospel (see Gal 1:6-9).

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One Response to “Father Callan’s Commentary on Galatians 6:14-18”

  1. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Galatians 6:14-18. […]

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