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Archive for May 13th, 2017

Father Callan’s Introduction to St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 13, 2017



I. Galatia and the Galatians. The original Galatians were the inhabitants of the country lying between Bithynia on the north, Pontus and Cappadocia on the east, Lycaonia on the south, and Phrygia on the west; this country was called Galatia Proper, or North Galatia. Its principal cities were Ancyra, Pessinus and Tavium.

The Galatians were sprung from Gallic or Celtic tribes that migrated east from the west and north of Europe in the third century B.C. These were called Celtae by the colonists at Marseilles, Galatae by the Greeks, and Galli by the Romans (cf. Hayes, Paul and His Epistles, p. 280). Passing over the Alps into Italy they sacked Rome in 390 B.C., crossed the Danube and invaded Macedonia and Greece in 279 B.C., and finally penetrated into Asia Minor, and settled in the mountainous districts which thenceforth bore their name. Here they held undisputed sway for nearly a century. They were divided into three tribes: the Trocmi or Trogmi in the east with Tavium as their centre and capital, the Tectosages in the central part of the country with Ancyra as their capital, and the Tolistobogii or Tolistoboii in the west around Pessinus. They were a warlike people, and so harassed their neighbors that they became the terror of all Asia Minor. After many varying successes they were finally driven back and confined to their
own country around 234 B.C. by Attalus I, King of Pergamos. At length in 189 B.C. they were attacked and conquered by the Romans under Manlius Vulso. The Romans, however, permitted them to be governed by their own princes up to about 25 B.C., when they were made a part of the Roman Province of Galatia.

Thus in the time of St. Paul the Roman Province of Galatia included Galatia Proper, a part of Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, Pontus and Paphlagonia. While Ancyra was the official capital of the Province, Antioch was a secondary and military centre, having a more important and strategic location. The cities which St. Paul visited on his first missionary journey—Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe—were all in the southern part of the Roman Province of Galatia.

The inhabitants of North Galatia or Galatia Proper were a mixed race, composed of the Celtic invaders of the third century B.C. and a large population of Phrygians, interspersed with Greeks and perhaps a few Jews, who had possessed the country before the invasion by the Celts. The people of South Galatia were Greco-Phrygians who had coalesced with large colonies of Romans and Jews.

II. The Galatians of the Epistle. From what has just been said the question is naturally asked,—to whom did St. Paul address his letter, to the people of North or to those of South Galatia? In reply we can only say that the question is so difficult, and the arguments for the two theories advanced are so weighty, that a solution of the problem, with our present available knowledge, must be regarded as impossible. Up to the early part of the nineteenth century it was very generally believed that the Epistle to the Galatians was addressed to the Christians of Galatia Proper; but since that time very able authorities have been convinced that it was written to the converts of South Galatia, whom St. Paul and Barnabas evangelized on their first missionary journey. Among the patrons of this latter, or South
Galatian Theory, are Comely, Le Camus, Lemonnyer, Zahn, Ramsay, Sanday, O. Holtzmann and many other noted authorities. The other, or North Galatian Theory, is the older and traditional view, which was held by all the Fathers and by scholars generally down to the last century. Prof. Steinmann and Fr. Lagrange have adopted this opinion, and among non-Catholics it has been embraced by such illustrious scholars as Lightfoot, Weiss, Lipsius, H. J. Holtzmann, Julicher and many more. Although in our Commentary on The Acts of the Apostles we preferred the South Galatian Theory, we have been induced by further investigation to subjoin here the leading arguments for each theory and leave the student to judge for himself.

Arguments for the South Galatian Theory:

(a) St. Luke, in the book of Acts, gives us a full account of the founding of the Churches in South Galatia, but has not a word to say about any Churches in North Galatia, unless this be implied in the single sentence of Acts 16:6. His silence on this latter point is hard to explain, if the all-important Epistle to the Galatians was addressed to the Christians of Galatia Proper.

(b) Our Epistle is dealing with one of the most momentous questions in the early Church, namely, the relations of the converted Gentiles to the Mosaic observances; and, in the South Galatian Theory, it is addressed to Churches of whose existence and importance we have ample knowledge: whereas in the other Theory we have the same great questions discussed in writing to Churches about which, aside from this Epistle, we know nothing, and whose very existence is seriously questioned.

(c) While the author of Acts calls places by their popular names, St. Paul is accustomed to designate them by their official Roman titles, as, for example, Asia, Macedonia, Achaia, and the like. Since, therefore, Roman Galatia had, for seventy-five years prior to the Apostle’s missionary labors, included the cities of Lycaonia and Pisidia, which he evangelized on his first journey, it would be only in keeping with his custom to call the Churches of these cities Galatian: it would be quite singular if he meant by this term Churches of that northern country which had formerly been independent of Rome.

(d) The Epistle (Gal 2:1, 9, 13) makes several references to Barnabas as if he were well known to its readers. Now we know from Acts 13-14 that Barnabas took an active part with St. Paul in founding the Churches of South Galatia. If St. Paul established any Churches in North Galatia at all, it was when accompanied by Silas on his second missionary journey; but Silas is not mentioned in the Epistle.

(e) In Acts 18:23 it is said that St. Paul, after spending some time in Antioch, “went through the country of Galatia and Phrygia, in order, confirming all the disciples.” If this refers to North Galatia only, the Apostle failed to visit and confirm the very important disciples of South Galatia, or else St. Luke has passed over in silence such an impressive event—suppositions that are difficult to entertain.

(f) In North Galatia the Jews were very few, if there were any at all; but we know from Acts 13:43, 14:1, and from non-Biblical writings and inscriptions that there was a considerable number of Jews in South Galatia. Furthermore, the Judaizers would more easily find their way to South than to the remoter North Galatia. The Epistle shows plainly that there were not a few Jews in the community addressed (Gal 3:27-29), and that many of them were well acquainted with Jewish modes of exposition (Gal 4:22-31).

(g) In Acts 14:10 we read that the Lycaonians said of Paul and Barnabas: “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” This is quite in harmony with Gal. 4:14: “You . . . received me as an angel of God.”

(h) In Acts 20:4, when St. Paul was setting out for Jerusalem with the collection for the faithful in the Holy City, we find with him various representatives of the different Churches that had contributed to the collection; Timothy and Gaius of Derbe are mentioned as representing South Galatia. Where are the deputies of the North Galatian Churches, if such Churches existed?

Arguments for the North Galatian Theory:

(a) If St. Luke in the book of Acts is silent about the founding of Churches in North Galatia, that proves nothing, in view of his complete silence regarding so many other notable events and experiences in St. Paul’s life. The book of Acts is also silent about the Apostle’s visit to Arabia, mentioned in this Epistle (Gal 1:17); it omits all record of the mission work in Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:21) ; it says nothing about the troubles in the Corinthian Churches which drew from the Apostle two letters to the Corinthians; it gives no account of the labors in Illyricum and Dalmatia (Rom. 15:19; 2 Tim. 4:10), nor of the establishment of the Church at Colossae to which the Apostle addressed an Epistle.

(b) It is admitted that St. Luke, in Acts, uses the popular names for Galatia and other places; but it is by no means certain that St. Paul did not do the same. For example, Dalmatia (2 Tim. 4:10) was not an official name for a province till a.d. 70; Arabia is doubtless only a geographical term in Gal. 4:25; Spain and Judea are doubtful.

(c) St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Galatians, speaks as if he were nearly, if not entirely, alone in the founding of their Churches (Gal 1:8, 9; 4:11-20). This can hardly be explained if he was writing to the South Galatians, among whom Barnabas had labored so faithfully and equally with the Apostle. If Barnabas is mentioned in this Epistle (Gal 2:1, 9, 13), this proves nothing in favor of the South Galatian Theory, for he is also mentioned in the Epistles to the Corinthians and Colossians (1 Cor. 9:6; Col. 4:10), and we know that he had nothing to do with the founding of those Churches, and was known to them only by reputation.

(d) In Gal. 4:13 St. Paul seems to say that his preaching the Gospel to the Galatians was occasioned by some infirmity or illness of body. This physical disability caused the Apostle to stay some time among them, and he made use of the opportunity to preach the Gospel to them. In spite of his illness, which apparently affected his eyes (4:14-15), the Galatians received him “as an angel of God,” and would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to him, had that been possible. All this seems essentially different from the account given in Acts 13-14 of the founding of the Churches of Southern Galatia.

(e) It is not at all certain that Timothy and Gaius, in bringing their contributions to St. Paul for the poor in Jerusalem, were representatives of South Galatia. Timothy, and perhaps also Gaius, had been with the Apostle for some time, and probably had come from Macedonia as delegates from some other Church, like that of Corinth or Philippi. Moreover, it would seem highly improbable that a collection, either from North or South Galatia, would have been sent so far around when it could have been sent much more easily and safely by direct route to Jerusalem. Again, if no delegate is mentioned as representing the North Galatian Churches, we are not to wonder, because the list given by St. Paul does not represent all his Churches. There is no one spoken of as coming from Corinth, Philippi, or Achaia.

(f) St. Luke in Acts 16:6 and Acts 18:23 is speaking of St. Paul’s visits to the country of North Galatia. In the first passage, St. Paul with Silas, on his second missionary journey, had passed through the South Galatian country visited on the first journey, and was intending to enter Asia; but, having been prevented by the Holy Ghost, they turned northward and went through την φρυγιαν και την γαλατικην χωραν (= ten Phrygian kai Galatiken choran = the Phrygian and the Galatian territory). This was the occasion of the founding of the Churches in North Galatia. On his third missionary journey the Apostle “went through in order την γαλατικην χωραν και φρυγιαν (“the Galatian territory and the Phrygian”) confirming all the disciples” (Acts 18:23). In both of these passages φρυγια (Phrygia) is doubtless a substantive, and so also is την γαλατικη (Galatia), since both are defining a common term, χωρα (territory, country, region). Moreover, την γαλατικην χωραν (the Galatian territory) is evidently a country lying eastward of γαλατικη (Galatia).

(g) As said above, the North Galatian Theory was held by all the Fathers, and by exegetes and scholars generally, down to the nineteenth century.

The arguments respectively outlined in favor of the two opposing theories are sufficient, we think, to give the student a clear idea of the controversy, and to show how insoluble, with our present knowledge, the question really is. Great authorities are aligned against each other; but it is consoling to know that the vital problems discussed in the Epistle are quite above the dispute regarding the people addressed.

III. Composition of the Galatian Church. Whether the Epistle to the Galatians was addressed to the inhabitants of North or to those of South Galatia, the question is properly asked whether its readers were Gentiles or Jews, or both; and, if both, in what proportion were each. That Gentiles were addressed is evident from Gal 5:2, 3; 6:12, 13; 4:8; 3:28-29, where St. Paul is warning the Galatians against circumcision, and reminding them of their former worship of idols, but of their present equality with the Jews and all others before God. It is not circumcision, but faith in Christ that justifies (Gal 5:2); if they be Christ’s, they belong to the true posterity of Abraham and are heirs of the
promise made to Abraham (iii. 29): this is the whole argument of the Epistle, and it shows that the majority of its readers must have been Gentile Christians. However, there were also Jews and proselytes among those addressed, as appears from Gal 2:15; 3:13, 23, 25, 28; 4:3. This is further manifest from the fact that the doctrinal argument of the Epistle is based on the authority of Scripture, and from the consequent familiarity with the Old Testament which the Apostle supposes in his readers. With the exception of the Epistle to the Romans, this letter has a greater proportion of Old Testament references than any other of St. Paul’s Epistles. While, therefore, the majority of the readers of this letter were of pagan origin, there were also a number of Jews among those addressed.

IV. The Occasion and Purpose of the Epistle. The Epistle to the Galatians was occasioned by the advent among them of Judaizers who were teaching, contrary to the doctrines taught by St. Paul, that for salvation it was necessary to be circumcised and to conform to the Mosaic observances (Gal. 3:1-4:31). St. Paul had founded the Galatian Churches himself (Gal 1:8-9), and the faithful there had received him “as an angel of God, even as Jesus Christ,” in spite of the disgusting malady from which he was suffering at the time (Gal 4:13-14); they were willing to pluck out their eyes for him (Gal 4:15). And his ministry among them had borne remarkable fruit: they had received the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:2); miracles had been worked (Gal 3:5); God had sent the Spirit of His Son into their hearts (Gal 4:6); and all had gone well with them (Gal 5:7). But after the Apostle’s second visit to these converts he learned, perhaps by letter or by special delegates sent to him, that the Judaizers were attempting much harm to them and had in part succeeded. Those false teachers had come down from Jerusalem, or Antioch, perhaps, and, pretending to have special sanction from the authorities of the Church in the Holy City, they essayed to subvert the teaching of St. Paul and to introduce
another “gospel” (Gal 1:9). Their method was to enforce their doctrine, first by undermining the authority of the Apostle. They told the Galatians that the authority and commission of the twelve was unquestionable, that they had been chosen by Christ, had lived with Christ, had been taught by Him, had received the Holy Ghost at Pentecost—all of which were facts universally known and admitted. But as to Paul, it was doubted whether he was an Apostle at all. If he was, did not his commission come from men (Gal. 1:1, 12)? Hands had been laid on him at Antioch and he had been sent out to preach (Acts 13:3), but his authorization seemed to be only human and to rest on his own testimony (Gal 2:7-9). Hence it was not strange if his teaching differed widely in many respects from that of Christ and the other Apostles.

Was not the preaching of this Paul subjected to examination at the Council of Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1-10)? Did not St. Peter openly disagree with him at Antioch (Gal. 2:11-15)? His practice was to please all men for the sake of success; he sought the favor of men, and so taught circumcision or uncircumcision as circumstances demanded (Gal. 1:10; 5:11). He disregarded the sacredness of the Mosaic Law and circumcision, although these were an external sign of God’s covenant with man and are necessary, if we wish to enjoy participation in the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom (Gal. 4:10; 5:2; 6:12). To deny this was to put in doubt the truth of the divine promises, to open the way
to unbridled vice, and consequently to imperil the whole work of Christianity.

The arguments of these Judaizers were very specious, being grounded, as it seemed, on the Old Testament and on the practices of Christ and the older Apostles. Was the gospel of Paul really the true one? was it complete? Even if salvation depended on faith in Christ, were not circumcision and the Mosaic observances necessary conditions? Had the Law an eternal, or only a transitory value, being replaced by the New Covenant of which Christ was the author and initiator? These were the questions that perplexed the Galatians and shook their faith in Paul (Gal 1:6). His preaching had fascinated them, but now their advance had been checked (Gal 5:7); they were on the point of accepting another gospel (Gal 1:6), and there was danger that they who had begun with the works of the spirit, would terminate with those of the flesh (Gal 3:3). Already they were observing “days, and months, and times, and years” (Gal 4:10); and their desire seemed to be to place themselves entirely “under the law” (Gal 4:21).

Such were the difficulties that confronted St. Paul in Galatia, and the problems which called for solution. The situation was serious, but not entirely desperate (Gal 5:10). It does not seem that the faithful had yet yielded to circumcision (Gal 5:2), nor that their entire number had been troubled. Nevertheless, such was the gravity of their condition that St. Paul was stirred with deepest anxiety and would have given much to be with them (Gal 4:20). In the absence of such a possibility he took up his pen and wrote to them this rigorous defense of his person and his doctrine, establishing: (a) the divine origin of his teaching and authority; (b) that justification is not through the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ crucified and risen again; (c) that consequently the Law had only a transitory office, the termination of which, however, by no means lets down the barriers to sin and vice, since the Christian is guided henceforth by the law of charity.

V. Time and Place of Writing. Just when and where this letter was written is not entirely certain; opinions have been greatly divided from the early centuries. Marcion, according to St. Epiphanius (Haer. xlii. 9), thought Galatians was the first of St. Paul’s Epistles. St. Chrysostom (In Rom. horn. I) believed it to have been written before Romans toward the end of the third missionary journey. Theodoret (Com in Ep. Pauli Praef.), St. Jerome (In Gal.. iv. 20; vi. 11), and others are of the opinion that it was composed at Rome during St. Paul’s first captivity there. The MSS. B K L P with some cursives, the two Syriac and the Coptic versions have the subscription “from Rome”. The belief that the Epistle was written from Rome has also been held by some recent scholars, like Koehler and Halmer, on account of the passages Gal 4:20 and Gal 6:17, where there seems to be reference to some restraint imposed upon the Apostle; and also on account of the allusion to Roman law terms in Gal 4:2 and Gal 3:20. It is next to certain, however, that, had St. Paul been a captive at Rome or elsewhere during the writing of this letter, he would have stated it very clearly and definitely, as Zahn rightly remarks (Introd. to The New Test., I. p. 140). Zahn, like Marcion, puts Galatians first of all St. Paul’s Epistles in point of time. Le Camus, Weber and The Westminster Version of Holy Scripture, among Catholics, also take this view. Cornely, Hausrath and Pfleiderer place its composition shortly after the Council of Jerusalem. Meyer, Lipsius and Holtzmann say it was written at Ephesus during the third missionary journey. Bleek and Lightfoot believe it was composed at Corinth after the three years’ sojourn at Ephesus, while Lagrange thinks it was written in the latter city about the year 54. Ramsay and Dr. Weber (Cath.) put its composition at Antioch before the Council of Jerusalem. This opinion is advanced to obviate certain apparent difficulties arising from Gal. 2 and Acts 15. The two visits to Galatia are the visit to Derbe and back, in this opinion.

Naturally the time and place of writing assigned to this Epistle depend mainly upon the theory which one adopts regarding its readers. Many understand from Gal. 2:1-10 that the letter was written after the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) ; and from Gal. 1:8-9; 4:13 it appears quite certain that it came after a second visit to the Galatian Churches. Moreover, “so soon” (ταχέως = tacheos) of Gal 1:6 is cited by some authorities to show that the composition of the Epistle was very soon after the Apostle’s second visit to the Galatians. When, therefore, was this second visit, so soon
after which the Galatians became an object of anxiety to the Apostle? For those who hold the South Galatian Theory it was the visit spoken of in Acts 16:6, during St. Paul’s second missionary journey, the first visit being recounted in Acts 13-14; and the place of writing was perhaps Troas, or more probably Corinth around 53 a.d. (Cornely, Zahn).

For those critics who hold the North Galatian Theory the first visit to the Galatians is that recorded in Acts 16:6; and the second, that mentioned in Acts 18: 23, during the third missionary journey. Because of the close resemblances of ideas and often of language between the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians and Galatians, the patrons of this latter theory believe that Galatians was written about the same time as those other letters, and therefore at Ephesus between 54 and 57 a.d., or at Corinth in 57-58.

To account for the undeniable similarity between Galatians, Corinthians and Romans—a similarity in ideas, and often also in expressions—it seems altogether natural to believe that they were composed while the Apostle was in more or less of the same frame of mind, although this period could easily, and most likely did, extend over several years. For resemblances between Galatians and Corinthians compare Gal. 1:6 with 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 6:15 with 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 3:13 with 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 6:7 with 2 Cor. 9:6. For resemblances between Galatians and Romans compare Gal. 2:16 with Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:6 with Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:19 with Rom. 6; Gal. 5:17 with Rom. 7:15-23; Gal. 4:5-7 with Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 5:14 with Rom. 13:9, etc., etc. There are at least twenty parallel passages between Galatians and
Romans. Of course the situation in the Corinthian Church was much the same as that in the Galatian, as we learn especially from Second Corinthians; there were the same attacks on the Apostle’s authority, and the same adversaries, the Judaizers. This would explain much of the likeness in thought and words between Galatians and Corinthians. But it cannot be said that the situations in Rome and Galatia were the same, and hence it would seem
that the resemblance between the Epistles to these two Churches must be accounted for chiefly by the nearness of the years in which they were written, although this period very probably extended over four or five years.

The difference between Romans and Galatians have inclined some critics to believe that there was a development in the Apostle’s doctrine, that he did not have a complete and definite idea of his Gospel until after his controversy with the Judaizers. In Galatians, they say, we have an elementary exposition of his theology, but in Romans a full and profound development of his whole system of doctrine. It is doubtless true that Romans is an elaboration of the teachings of Galatians, but this by no means argues that St. Paul only gradually became aware of the full import of his Gospel. The Epistle to the Galatians was a letter of circumstances, and the Apostle adapted his teaching to the
situation before him, replying mainly to the attacks of his enemies. In the Epistle to the Romans he unfolded the main features of his whole Gospel, so that the faithful in the Eternal City might know what he had been teaching to other Gentiles, might recognize the identity of his Gospel with that which they had received already, and might be prepared to welcome his visit. Writing to the Romans St. Paul was in a state of mind far more tranquil than when he wrote to the Galatians. This appears from the entire tone of the two letters. In the latter Epistle the polemic is ardent and personal, in the former the argument, while forceful and overpowering in its logic, is calm and peaceful; the Epistle to the Galatians is a defense of doctrines that are questioned and in danger, the Epistle to the Romans is a quiet but powerful exposition of truths already known and accepted without hesitation; to the Galatians the Apostle’s thesis is mainly negative, that justification is not from the Law and its works, while to the Romans it is positive, namely, that salvation is through faith in Christ independent of the Law.

VI. Authenticity and Canonicity. The authenticity of the Epistle to the Galatians is admitted by all antiquity. In modern times doubt was first cast upon it by an Englishman named Evanson (1792), and in the last century a number of critics, especially of the German rationalistic schools, have questioned its genuineness. But the objections of recent Rationalists are of little weight when compared with the unbroken tradition of the Church from the earliest times.

Although St. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. iii. 7, 2) is the first to quote the Epistle by name and attribute it to St. Paul, it is certain that the letter was well known and made use of by ecclesiastical writers before Irenaeus. Polycarp and Clement of Rome use passages in their writings that are found only in Galatians, or seem undoubtedly to allude to the Epistle (Compare Polycarp, Ad Philippi. vi with Gal. 6:7; ix. 2 with Gal. 2:2; iii. 2 with Gal. 4:26. Compare Clem, of Rome Ep. 1 Cor.. ii. 1 with Gal. 3:16; 1 Cor. xlix. 6 with Gal. 1:4). St. Justin Martyr (Dial, with Trypho XCV) cites the same passages of Deut. 27:26, 21:23 which St. Paul has used in Gal. 3:10, 13; and in his First Apology (c. LIII) he uses Isa. 54:1 as St. Paul does in Gal. 4:27. The Epistle to the Galatians is found in the Muratorian Canon, and in the Old Latin and Syriac versions. That it was known in the African Church is clear from Tertullian (De Praescrip. vi. 23; Adv. Mar. v. 2, 4), and from Clement of Alex. (Strom, iii. 15). Even the heretics of the second century, like Marcion and Valentine, did not think of questioning the authorship of this Epistle (Cf. Tertull. Adv. Marc. v. 2; Iren. Adv. Haer. i. 3, 5).

Since, therefore, the Epistle to the Galatians was known and recognized by the Apostolic Fathers and early ecclesiastical writers, and since it is found in the Muratorian and other Canons and in the old versions of the Bible, as well as in the best and oldest MSS. we have, there is no reason for doubting in the least its authenticity and canonicity.

These external arguments are enforced by the contents of the Epistle. As said above, there is a very marked similarity between the doctrine and style of this letter and the doctrine and style of Romans and Corinthians, which are universally regarded as having St. Paul as their author. Moreover, the teachings which this Epistle embodies and the circumstances amid which it must have been written seem to point unmistakably to the years that closely followed the discussions at Antioch about the reception of the pagans into the community of Christians, the Council of Jerusalem, where that discussion was settled, and the years that just preceded, or followed, the composition of Second Corinthians. At Antioch the question was raised and bitterly disputed whether the Gentile converts should not first be circumcised and subjected to the Mosaic observances before being admitted on an equal footing with the Jewish Christians (Acts 15:1-2). This discussion Paul and Barnabas carried to Jerusalem where it was definitely decided in favor of the Gentiles by a Council of the Church (Acts 15:2-29). The decision of the Council was promulgated at Antioch, and all seemed well for a time; but it was not very long, as we know from the Epistles to the Corinthians, before certain Judaizers of Pharisaical tendencies were moved with hatred against St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles and the champion of the Gentiles’ cause. They began to follow up his work and belittle his Apostolic authority, his character, his teachings, etc., in order that they might again insist on their own views and doctrines. It was a situation like this in Galatia that called forth the present Epistle, and to which the Epistle perfectly corresponds. It would be absurd to suppose a writer subsequent to St. Paul’s time, or other than St. Paul himself,
to be discussing in a letter questions that were entirely settled in the Apostle’s life-time, and in which he alone could be the person involved. The whole contents, therefore, of the Epistle to the Galatians correspond to the circumstances and conditions of history and doctrine which are only to be found in St. Paul’s time and in connection with the Apostle himself.

VII. The Importance of the Epistle; its Style. The Epistle to the Galatians is of great importance, as well for the doctrines which it supposes to be thoroughly understood and admitted in the early Church, as for its positive teachings. It implies that the Galatians were entirely familiar with the doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation and Divinity of Christ, the Redemption, Grace, Baptism and the like. The Apostle’s teaching on these fundamental truths seems never to have been questioned; neither do his readers ever appear to require an explanation of them. This shows that these truths were not only well understood and accepted, but also that St. Paul’s teaching regarding them was in perfect conformity with the common teaching of the other Apostles. The positive value of the letter lies in its direct teaching with respect to the fundamental truth of justification through faith in Christ, the abrogation of the Mosaic observances, the consequent liberty of the Gospel and in the biographical data which it furnishes concerning the Apostle, his preparation for the Apostolate, the source of his knowledge of Christianity, his authority, the conformity of his questioned doctrines with those of the other Apostles, and the like.

Unlike the Epistle to the Romans, which is calmly expository in the main, this letter is chiefly apologetical in form and vehement throughout. The style is distinctly Pauline. Being deeply moved by the situation he is combating and filled with righteous indignation the Apostle rushes on, like a mighty torrent, caring not for unfinished phrases, jolting omissions or grammatical mistakes, so long as he is able to give undoubted and unmistakable expression to his feelings. In numerous passages the resemblance to his other Epistles is so marked as to compel a recognition of the identity of the author; and yet the sudden changes and transitions of thought and expression, the unexpected ruptures and unevenness of language, the bursts of anger towards his enemies, often swiftly alternating with tenderest words of sympathy for those that were well disposed,—all features so characteristic of St. Paul, make it impossible that anyone could have forged this letter by imitating any other of the Apostle’s writings.

VIII. Division and Analysis. There are three general divisions in the Epistle to the Galatians: the Introduction, the Body and the Conclusion. The Body of the letter likewise falls into three parts, consisting of two chapters each.

In the Introduction or Prologue (Gal 1:1-10) the Apostle, in his own name and on behalf of those who are with him, salutes the Galatians, announcing his divine vocation, and wishing them peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 1:1-5). Next he expresses his great surprise that the Galatians are so soon seduced (Gal 1:6). Forthwith he utters his denunciation against those who have troubled and upset them (Gal 1:7-9). Finally, the Apostle declares that he speaks as he does because he wishes to please God rather than men (Gal 1:10).

The First Part of the Epistle (Gal 1:11-2:21) is apologetic, containing the Apostle’s defense of himself. To begin with, he gives his readers to understand that his Apostolate is not of human origin, declaring that he has not received his revelation from man but from Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-12). And this he proves, first from the fact that up to the day when God revealed His Son to him, he was a zealous Pharisee and a persecutor of the Christians (Gal 1:13-16); whereas, straightway upon receiving his divine call, without going up to Jerusalem or taking counsel with anyone, he retired into Arabia, returning later to Damascus (Gal 1:17). A second proof to the same effect is clear from this, that not till after three years did he see any of the other Apostles, and then only Peter and James for a brief visit in the Holy City (Gal 1:18-20), after which he went to Syria and Cicilia, being unknown to the faithful of Judea who, nevertheless, having heard of his conversion, glorified God on his account (Gal 1:21-24).

After proving the divine origin of his Gospel the Apostle goes on (Gal 2:1-21) to show that his teaching is in perfect harmony with that of the other Apostles. This also is evident from two facts, (a) After fourteen years, at the Council of Jerusalem, he explained his whole Gospel to the Apostles and the entire Church, and, in spite of certain false brethren who raised some objections to him, the Apostles that were in highest esteem, seeing that to Paul had been entrusted the Gospel to the uncircumcised, gave him the right hand of fellowship, asking only that he be mindful of his poor brethren in the faith and succor their needs (Gal 2:1-10. (b) Later on, at Antioch, when Peter, fearing to offend the Jews, failed to regulate his conduct according to the common teaching of the Church, St. Paul rebuked him for his inconsistency, and the Prince of the Apostles recognized the rightfulness and truth of the position taken by his great confrere (Gal 2:11-21).

The Second, or Dogmatic Part of the Epistle (Gal 3:1-5:12) discusses the great doctrine of justification, which, as the Apostle shows, is not from the Law, but from faith in Jesus Christ.

His teaching on this subject he proves (a) by an appeal to the experience of the Galatians themselves. Was it not through faith, rather than by the works of the Law, that they had received the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:1-5) ? (b) He invokes the authority of Scripture. Do not the Scriptures prove that justification comes by faith? It was thus that Abraham was justified, and all those who believe as he did are his children and are blessed with their faithful father (Gal 3:6-9). As for the Law, it brought not benediction, but a curse upon all those who endeavored to fulfil its works; whereas the Scriptures attest that “the just man liveth by faith,” and hence all those who will have part in the promised blessings must seek them through faith in Christ Jesus and not through the Law (Gal 3:10-14).

The promise made to Abraham was not annulled by the promulgation of the Law over four hundred years later (Gal 3:15-18). The Law was only a simple guide which was supposed to lead the Jews to Christ (Gal 3:19-24), but which thereupon was to cease (Gal 3:25-29). As long as the Jews were under the Law, they were as children under a tutor, differing nothing from servants; but when Christ came, they were delivered from the slavery of their state and made the adopted sons of God, and, as such, heirs also through God (Gal 4:1-7).

Reminding the Galatians of their privileged condition the Apostle now exhorts them to prize their freedom, and not to be deceived by false teachers into forfeiting all their blessings (Gal 4:8-20). Then by an allegory, based on the two sons of Abraham, he illustrates, on the one hand, the inutility of the Law, and on the other, the glorious state of the children of faith (Gal 4:21-30). Certain practical conditions for the Galatians are then deduced from the principles laid down (Gal 4:31-v. 12). (a) The Apostle warns his readers that if they submit to circumcision and put themselves again under the Law, they thereby divest themselves of Christ and His grace and are bound to the observance of the
whole Law (Gal 5:1-5). In Christ nothing avails except faith that works by charity (Gal 5:6). (b) A severe judgment is reserved for those seducers who have upset and troubled the otherwise happy Galatians (Gal 5:7-12).

The Third or Moral Part of the Epistle (Gal 5:13-6:10) contains practical recommendations and counsels for the Christian life. In Christianity the Galatians will find complete satisfaction for all their generous religious instincts which are now inclining them towards the observance of the Law. (a) Let those who have been freed from the tyranny of the Law not abuse their liberty, but let them show charity, one towards another (Gal 5:13-15). They should live according to the spirit, avoiding the lusts and works of the flesh (Gal 5:16-25). (b) Let vainglory and pride be
shunned (Gal 5:26-6:6), and let charity be practiced toward all men, and especially toward those who are of the household of the faith (Gal 6:7-10).

The Conclusion (Gal 6:11-18) of this letter is a recapitulation and a summing up of the polemical and doctrinal parts before discussed (Gal 6:11-15), followed by a declaration of peace to the children of faith, a prayer, and a blessing (Gal 6:16-18).


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Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 13, 2017


A Summary of 2 Corinthians 13:11-13~In a short time the Apostle expects to visit Corinth, and hence only a few words are required to terminate this letter. Following the severity that has preceded in the last four chapters some brief expression of kindness now will dispose the faithful to proper dispositions.

2 Cor 13:11. For the rest, brethren, rejoice, be perfect, take exhortation, be of one mind, have peace; and the God of peace and of love shall be with you.

Rejoice (χαιρετε = chairete), i.e., have a holy joy in your belonging to Christ (1 Thess. 5:16).

Be perfect, i.e., correct your faults.

Take exhortation. Rather, “Be comforted,” in spite of the troubles in your Church.

Be of one mind, etc., i.e., keep aloof from parties and divisions.

And the God of peace, etc. The inverse order is found in the best Greek: “And the God of love and peace,” etc. The connection with the two preceding exhortations is very close: “Be of one mind, and the God of love shall be with you; have peace, and the God of peace shall be with you” (Plum.).

2 Cor 13:12. Salute one another with a holy kiss. All the saints salute you.

Salute one another, etc. See on Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20.

All the saints, i.e., all the Christians in the place from which St. Paul was writing this letter. The place is Macedonia, perhaps at Philippi, for all who hold the integrity of 2 Cor.; but Ephesus, for those who believe this verse to be a part of the severe letter written between 1 and 2 Cor.

2 Cor 13:13. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity of God, and the communication of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen.

This verse contains the fullest and most instructive of the benedictions found in St. Paul’s letters. The blessing here given is extended to all the Corinthians and embraces everything necessary for them, namely, “the grace of Christ, by which we are justified and saved; the charity of God the Father, by which we are united to Him; and the communication of the Holy Spirit, distributing to us His divine gifts” (St. Thomas). The only blessing which rivals this one in St. Paul is that found at the close of Ephesians. Perhaps the Apostle felt that the Corinthian Church, by reason of its dissensions and strifes, was in particular need of a more complete benediction.

The Greek Fathers frequently appealed to this verse against the various Anti-Trinitarian heretics. The familiarity with which St. Paul here refers to the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity shows that even at so early a date the faithful, who were far removed from the older centres of Christian thought and teaching, were well acquainted with the doctrine of three Persons in one divine nature. Of course, it was expressed in the baptismal formula (Matt 28:19), and was therefore one of the first doctrines to be taught.

The Amen is wanting in the best MSS.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13:7-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 13, 2017


By the threat of the preceding section the Apostle had in mind only to avert the necessity of using severity upon his
arrival in Corinth. He therefore now asks God by His grace to turn the faithful from evil ways, because he much prefers to find them abounding in all good, rather than to have the occasion of exercising his authority. The purpose of writing this letter has also been to move them to penance, and thus to obviate the need of severity when he comes.

2 Cor 13:7. Now we pray God, that you may do no evil, not that we may appear approved, but that you may do that which is good, and that we may be as reprobates.

Not that we may appear approved, etc. Better, “Not wishing that we be shown approved.” The Apostle prays God that he and his companions may have no occasion to exercise and prove their authority among the Corinthians. He much prefers to be suspected of lacking the power of Christ to punish. It is more important in his judgment that they should do no evil than that he should “appear approved” by showing his authority, although this may cause some to regard him and his companions as reprobates, i.e., unproved, and therefore without the power of Christ.

2 Cor 13:8. For we can do nothing: against the truth; but for the truth.

If the Corinthians are free from evil the Apostles will be disarmed; for they have no power to oppose good, but evil

Truth means moral rectitude.

2 Cor 13:9. For we rejoice that we are weak, and you are strong. This also we pray for, your perfection.

That we are weak. Rather, “When iorav) we are weak,” i.e., the Apostles rejoiced when there was no occasion for showing their power and authority, owing to the strong and fervent faith of the Corinthians. Instead of desiring a chance to display their authority the Apostles rather prayed for the perfection of the faithful, which would make all exercise of authority needless.

The quoniam of the Vulgate should be quum or quando.

2 Cor 13:10. Therefore I write these things, being absent, that, being present, I may not deal more severely, according to the power which the Lord hath given me unto edification, and not unto destruction.

The purpose of this letter, or of the last four chapters of it, is again (cf. 2 Cor 12:19) indicated, namely, that the Corinthians may amend and perfect their lives before he arrives among them in person. The Apostle does not want to use his God-given power for destruction, i.e., in punishing, but for edification, i.e., for building up the kingdom of God on earth.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 13, 2017


A Summary of 2 Corinthians 13:1-6~In verse 20 of the preceding chapter St. Paul expressed the fear that when he would come to Corinth he might be found other than he would like. Following up this thought he now says explicitly that he will be severe on those who by their impenitence provoke him. He therefore exhorts them beforehand to examine into their lives, because he will exercise his authority.

2 Cor 13:1. Behold, this is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word stand.

The third time, etc., doubtless implies that he had visited Corinth twice before. All suggestions about intentions to come, or being willing to come, or letters being counted as visits, are unnatural and may be safely set aside (Plum.). See on 2 Cor 2:1; 12:14, 21.

In the mouth, etc., is a substantial quotation from the LXX of Deut. 19:15, which speaks of two and three, whereas the Hebrew has two or three witnesses. In the MSS. and (B A D F G) is preferred to or (א, Vulg., Aug.). The Apostle means that he will proceed against the guilty in a strictly legal manner (Matt 18:16; John 8:17). St. Chrysostom, Theodoret, and others have thought that the witnesses here spoken of mean the Apostle’s visits to Corinth, but this is very improbable. St. Paul would hardly refer to the Law in such an equivocal manner.

Behold (Vulg., Ecce) is most probably not genuine.

2 Cor 13:2. I have told before, and foretell, as present, and now absent, to them that sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again, I will not spare.

According to the best Greek reading “the second time” (δευτερον = deuteron) should be inserted after as present. The sense is: I have warned before, when present the second time, and now, being absent, I warn again them that sinned before, and all similar sinners, that if I come again, etc.

To them that sinned before, i.e., before the Apostle’s second visit.

All the rest refers to those who have fallen into sin since that visit

In the Vulgate secundo should be inserted after ut praesens, to agree with the best Greek.

2 Cor 13:3. Do you seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me, who towards you Is not weak, but is mighty in you?

Do you seek, etc. This interrogative form is in the Vulgate also, and makes good sense; but the best Greek reading has since, or seeing that, which gives a different meaning: Since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, I cannot spare, but am rather forced to show my power as an Apostle, and to make it plain that Christ speaks through me with power and authority (2 Cor 12:12 ; 1 Cor. 11:30). The verse is to be closely connected with the preceding.

For επει (= epei = “do”) Origen and Theodoret sometimes read εἰ (=ei = “if,” “foreasmuch as”) [Vulg., an] sometimes η (= ay = “or”).

2 Cor 13:4. For although he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him : but we shall live with him by the power of God towards you.

For although, etc. This translation supposes the reading of εἰ (= ei = “although”) after γαρ (=gar = “for”); but there is more authority for the omission of εἰ (= ei). The meaning of the better reading is: For he was indeed crucified through weakness, etc. In either case the sense is practically the same. Note: The conjunctive “for” (gar) must come before “although” (ei) in English translations even though the order is reversed in Greek. εἰ  (ei = “although”) may have been mistakenly inserted here because of its usage in the previous verse  where it has the meaning of “if”. This is a copying error called dittography.

Through weakness, i.e., inasmuch as He took a weak and mortal nature, He willingly suffered and died; and yet that selfsame nature now liveth by the power of God a glorious and immortal life. The ministers of Christ participate in His weakness and in His power as God, i.e., in His glorious and risen life. Hence they suffer and are condemned to death for His sake (2 Cor 4:10-11), but in them are also revealed the life and the power of God, and they are made the judges of the faithful.

We shall live, etc., refers not to the future life beyond the grave, but to the Apostle’s vigorous action in dealing later with the Corinthians.

The in vobis of the Vulgate should be in vos.

2 Cor 13:5. Try your own selves if you be in the faith; prove ye yourselves. Know you not your own selves, that Christ Jesus is in you, unless perhaps you be reprobntes?

Here the Apostle says that the Corinthians, instead of seeking a proof of Christ speaking in him (verse 3), ought rather to be testing and proving themselves, to see whether they are in the faith, and whether Christ is in their hearts.

In the faith, i.e., if you have a living faith. There is question of the theological virtue of faith, and that enlivened by charity, otherwise their faith would be no certain proof that Christ was in them or even among them (MacR.). St. Chrysostom thinks the faith of miracles (1 Cor. 12:9) is meant, but that is improbable for the reason just given.

Unless perhaps, etc. Since δοκιμάζετε (= dokimazete), prove ye, is here used, as generally, in a good sense, with the expectation that the result will be one of approval, St. Paul seems to imply that the majority of the Corinthians are in the state of grace; but he apparently has doubt regarding some of them who, being unable to stand the test and bear the proof, will be found to be reprobates (αδοκιμοι = adokimoi), i.e., without a living faith. The reprobation of the unpredestined is not in question here.

2 Cor 13:6. But I trust that you shall know that we are not reprobates.

Whatever may be the outcome of the examination which the Corinthians are advised to give themselves, St. Paul expects that they will at least find out that Christ is with him and his companions, enabling them to exercise their power and authority as true Apostles. If need be, he will take severe measures when he arrives.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:19-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 13, 2017


A Summary of 2 Corinthians 12:19-21~At times St. Paul speaks to the Corinthians as if he were on trial before them, as if they were his judges (2 Cor 10:7; 11:1, etc.); but here he gives them to understand that such is not the case. It does not pertain to children to judge their father. Only God is the judge of the Apostles. He writes these things for their edification, that they may correct their vices.

2 Cor 12:19. Of old, think you that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ; but all things, my dearly beloved, for your edification.

Some authorities understand the conclusion of the Epistle to begin with this verse. But see Introduction VI 5.

Of old (παλαι = palai). A less probable reading has παλιν (= palin), again. The meaning, according to the better reading, is “All this time are you thinking that we are defending ourselves to you?” The sentence may be interrogative or declarative. The answer to it is: “No, for we speak before God, i.e., God is our judge” (1 Cor. 4:3), and in Christ, i.e., as ministers of Christ, to whom we are most intimately united. Therefore, in writing as we do, we seek not to excuse ourselves, but only to edify you, that you be not scandalized in us (Rick.), but that, on the contrary, you be strengthened in faith and grace.

2 Cor 12:20. For I fear lest perhaps when I come I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found by you such as you would not. Lest perhaps contentions, envyings, animosities, dissensions, detractions, whisperings, swellings, seditions, be among you.

The reason he has seen fit to defend himself with a view to their edification is now explained. It is because they are still so deficient in the first elements of the Christian life. He greatly fears that when he arrives both he and the Corinthians will be unpleasantly disappointed. Such surely will be the case if he finds among them factions and party spirits, together with all the evils that follow a wilful lack of unity.

Among you (Vulg., inter vos) is not in the Greek.

2 Cor 12:21. Lest again, when I come, God humble me among you: and I mourn many of them that sinned before, and have not done penance for the uncleannesss, and fornication, and lasciviousness, that they have committed.

The Apostle’s fears are aggravated by the thought that when he comes he may find that his previous admonitions against impurity have not been heeded, and that many of the Corinthians have lapsed back into their former pagan uncleannesses. It would thus be a great humiliation to him to have to mourn over those who saddened him on his previous visit by not repenting and doing penance for their sins. It would likewise be a grievous pain to him to see many of those that sinned before, i.e., before their conversion, or before his second visit, or before his previous letter, back in their sins.

Have not done penance, etc. This shows that, besides amendment of life, penance is necessary for those who have sinned (Estius).

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:11-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 13, 2017


A Summary of 2 Corinthians 12:11-18~How distasteful to the Apostle it was to boast of his labors and of his divine gifts we are constantly reminded by the frequent apologies he makes for so doing. The fact of the matter is that he has been forced to glory by the silence of the Corinthians in not defending him against the calumnies of his adversaries. His deeds among them were a proof that he was a genuine Apostle. The only thing they could complain about was his refusal to accept anything from them ; but this same policy he will continue on his forthcoming visit, being solicitous only for the welfare of their souls. They know that neither he nor his disciples have imposed on them.

2 Cor 12:11. I am become foolish: you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you: for I have no way come short of them that are above measure apostles, although I be nothing.

Foolish. Reflecting on all he has been saying in his own praise St. Paul admits that he has been acting foolishly; not that his glorying was in reality folly (cf. 2 Cor 12:6; 11:16), but only that it seemed so. In not defending him against his adversaries the Corinthians have forced him to boast. And they are inexcusable in their neglect, because he was in no way inferior to his enemies when he preached at Corinth.

Above measure apostles. See on 11:5.

Although I be nothing. These words are most probably to be connected with what precedes. The Apostle considered equality with his adversaries to be mere nothing.

2 Cor 12:12. Yet the signs of my apostleship have been wrought on you, in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

Yet the signs, etc. Better, “Indeed, the signs,” etc. That St. Paul is not inferior to his enemies is placed beyond doubt by the way in which the Church of Corinth was founded.

The signs, or characteristic notes, of true Apostleship, i.e., the visible proofs of the mission of a true Apostle, were wrought by St. Paul among the Corinthians. The first of these signs was patience in bearing all things rather than come short of the mission entrusted to him (2 Cor 6:4; 11:23 ff.); secondly there were the signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds, i.e., the various miracles, which God wrought through him in confirmation of his preaching at Corinth. All of St. Paul’s great Epistles bear witness to the miracles he worked to confirm his doctrine. “It is simply impossible that evidence of this kind for the special purpose for which it is adduced should be otherwise than true. It is given quite incidentally; it is not didactic, i.e., it is no part of an argument the object of which is to produce a belief in miracles; it refers to notorious matter of fact, to fact equally notorious for St. Paul himself and for those to whom he is writing; it shews that he could appeal to it without fear of being challenged” (Sanday).

2 Cor 12:13. For what is there that you have had less than the other churches, but that I myself was not burthensome to you? Pardon me this injury.

Another reason why the Corinthians should have defended the Apostle was that they had been witnesses and recipients of the same benefits as other Churches. He had exercised even greater regard for them by not burdening them with his support, but since they have been induced by his enemies to consider this as an injury done them, he sarcastically asks pardon for it. That he is speaking in sarcasm is clear from the following verse where he says he will continue this injury of taking nothing for his support.

2 Cor 12:14. Behold now the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burthensome unto you. For I seek not the things that are yours, but you. For neither ought the children to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.

Irony now gives place to earnest affection. Being their spiritual father St. Paul will continue not to seek the temporal goods of the Corinthians, but themselves.

Behold now the third time, etc. Better, “Behold this is the third time,” etc. In view of 2 Cor 13:1 this can only mean that the forthcoming visit to Corinth would be his third. See on 2:1; Introduction, I.

That St. Luke does not mention St. Paul’s second visit “in sorrow” (2 Cor 2:1) to the Corinthians is no more to be wondered at than his failure to speak of the Apostle’s visit to Arabia (Acts 9:20-26; cf. Gal. 1:17).

2 Cor 12:15. But I most gladly will spend and be spent myself for your souls; although loving you more, I be loved less.

So great is his affection for the Corinthians that he is willing to spend all he has, including his life, for their souls. This he will gladly do, in spite of their want of affection for him. Some critics make the second clause here independent, and read it interrogatively: “If I love you more abundantly, am I to be loved the less?”

2 Cor 12:16. But be it so : I did not burthen you : but being crafty, I caught you by guile.

The Apostle makes his adversaries speak. They will say: “Granted that you yourself did not take money from us, yet you were cunning enough to get it out of us through your legates. You did not burden us, but you got others to do so.”

2 Cor 12:17. Did I overreach you by any of them whom I sent to you?

This verse makes it clear that St. Paul had already sent several of his disciples to Corinth.

Overreach you, by extorting money from you.

2 Cor 12:18. I desired Titus, and I sent with him a brother. Did Titus overreach you? Did we not walk with the same spirit? did we not in the same steps?

What mission of Titus is referred to here? Perhaps we shall encounter fewest difficulties if we suppose three visits of
Titus to Corinth: (a) an earlier one in which he and a brother, literally, “the brother,” started the collection for the poor in Jerusalem, to which the present passage and 2 Cor 8:6 seem to allude; (b) the visit following the painful letter (2 Cor 2:13; 7:6, 13); ( c ) the visit on which he and two brethren were to complete the collection (2 Cor 8:6, 17, 18, 22).

Did we not walk, etc., i.e., were we not the same in spirit and outward conduct?

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 13, 2017


A Summary of 2 Corinthians 12:1-10~St. Paul has just proved that he far excels his enemies in the way he has exercised his Apostolic ministry and in the tribulations he has suffered for the Gospel. But in a third particular he has still more surpassed them, namely, in the extraordinary gifts with which he has been favored by God. For the
sake, therefore, of giving greater proof of his divine commission, and incidentally to confound his adversaries further, he now speaks of his visions and revelations. He might give many instances, but he prefers, out of humility, to give only one, which, however, is a very striking one. It is more pleasing to him to rejoice in his infirmities and to be judged by his labors and preaching, than to glory in his visions. And since it has pleased God to visit him with heavy crosses, lest he should be puffed up by the magnitude of his revelations, he will glory in his infirmities by which he merits the divine assistance.

2 Cor 12:1. If I must glory (it is not expedient indeed) : but I will come to the visions and revelations of the Lord.

Of the various readings of this verse the following is the most likely: “I must needs glory (Καυχᾶσθαι δεῖ, = kauchasthai dei): it is not indeed expedient, but I will come to visions,” etc. The first clause is also written by good authorities with an interrogation: “Must I needs glory?” The Apostle is forced to glory, although he knows that glorying as a rule is not good.

Visions and revelations may refer here to the same manifestations, although they are by no means to be identified, generally speaking. A vision usually takes place in a state of ecstasy or of rapture, and the one favored with it does not always understand the meaning of the things he sees. A revelation, on the contrary, always implies the unfolding of some truth in such a way that he to whom it is accorded not only sees, but understands the meaning of what he sees. Revelation, therefore, includes vision, but vision does not necessarily imply revelation (St. Thomas, h. 1.).

If (Vulg., si) should be omitted.

2 Cor 12:2. I know a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not, or out of the body, I know not; God knoweth), such a one caught up to the third heaven.

A man, i.e., St. Paul himself. Humility leads him to speak in the third person.

In Christ, i.e., a Christian, one united to Christ by faith and Baptism.

Above fourteen years, i.e., fourteen years previous to the time he was writing, which would be around 43-44 a.d., if this Epistle was written around 57-58 a.d.

Above is not expressed in the Greek.

Whether in the body, etc. St. Paul is certain of the fact of his having been transferred to heaven, but where his body was he does not know. Perhaps his soul was entirely separated from his body and transferred to heaven; or it may be that he was transferred both body and soul into heaven, or that while remaining in the body he was altogether abstracted from the senses. At any rate, it is certain that his senses had no part in the vision.

The third heaven doubtless means the abode of the blessed; but what is intended by third is only a conjecture. The Jews were accustomed to distinguish three heavens, of which the first was our atmosphere, the second the region of the stars, and the third the dwelling-place of the Almighty, where God is seen as He is in Himself. Probably St. Paul was accommodating himself to this mode of speaking, in order to say that he was in the actual presence of God.

2 Cor 12:3. And I know such a man (whether in the body, or out of the body, I know not: God knoweth):
2 Cor 12:4. That he was caught up into paradise, and heard secret words, which it is not granted to man to utter.

Some authorities, with Irenaeus, Tertullian, Gregory the Great, and many others think there is question here of another event entirely distinct from the preceding one. They say that St. Paul was elevated “to the third heaven, and thence to paradise” (Clement of Alex., Strom, v. 12). In this opinion “the third heaven” could not mean the presence of God, or, at least, not the actual enjoyment of that presence. The majority of exegetes, however, hold with St. Augustine and St. Thomas that the Apostle is speaking here and in the preceding verse of one and the same event, and that “paradise” is mentioned to express the delights which the Apostle experienced in the third heaven.

Paradise means literally a place of delights. Jewish ideas regarding it were not always uniform. Sometimes they applied it to the “Garden of Eden”; sometimes to the abode of the righteous below the earth; sometimes to heaven, the abode of blessed spirits with God. The last is certainly the meaning given the term here.

Secret words, i.e., unutterable words, things which the Apostle could speak, but which it was not lawful to speak (Vulg.). St. Augustine, St. Thomas, and many others teach that St. Paul actually saw God and the divine essence at this time.

That the present incident is not to be identified with that of Acts 22:17 ff. is clear (a) from the fact that there no word is said about being caught up to heaven, while we are told what the Lord said to Paul; and (b) from the fact that the incident of Acts took place much earlier than the present one, that is, soon after the Apostle’s conversion.

2 Cor 12:5. For such a one I will glory; but for myself I will glory nothing, but in my infirmities.

St. Paul speaks of himself at present as of two persons, not only out of humility, but also because “he who was caught
up to the third heaven and heard unspeakable words is a different Paul from him who says, “Of such a one I will glory” (Origen). “He speaks of a divided experience, of two selves, two Pauls: one Paul in the third heaven, enjoying the Beatific Vision; another yet on earth, struggling, tempted, tried, and buffeted by Satan” (Robertson). Regarding this latter Paul he will not glory, save in his infirmities.

2 Cor 12:6. For though I should have a mind to glory, I shall not be foolish; for I will say the truth. But I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth in me, or anything he heareth from me.

For though I should have, etc. Better, “For if I should wish,” etc. It is not certain whether ἐὰν γὰρ θελήσω (= ean gar theleso)  is aorist subjunctive or future indicative. The Apostle means that if he should choose to boast about revelations which he has had, and which he has a right to disclose, he would not be foolish, because he would be telling what is true; but he abstains from doing so lest any should get a more exalted idea of him than their experience of his conduct and preaching would warrant: he prefers to be judged by his life and teaching, not by what he can truly tell of his privileges.

Anything (Vulg., aliquid) is omitted in the best Greek MSS.

2 Cor 12:7. And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me.

The text and the punctuation are uncertain here, but the general meaning is plain: Lest the Apostle should become proud on account of the extraordinary revelations granted him, there was given him some unusual bodily suffering of a very humiliating nature. Literally the verse should go somewhat as follows: “And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations—wherefore, that I should not be lifted up over much, there was given me a thorn in the flesh,” etc. The Apostle begins with the revelations, then suddenly breaks off with διό (= dio) wherefore (with
B א A G). He is doubtless referring to the revelations, just spoken of, which he could truthfully disclose.

There was given me by God (St. Aug.) through the instrumentality of Satan. Naturally Satan’s purpose in afflicting the Apostle was not the same as God’s : God intended the repression of pride; Satan had some evil end in view.

A sting of my flesh. Literally, “A thorn in (or for) my flesh.” The word for “thorn” (σκόλοψ = skolops) here occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is found four times in the LXX (Num. 33:55; Ezek 28:24; Hos 2:6; Sir 43:19), and always means a “thorn” or “splinter.” “There is no doubt that the Alexandrian use of σκόλοψ (= skolops) for ‘thorn’ is here intended” (Field, Otium Norvicense, III. p. 115). The idea conveyed is one of acute pain, looking back perhaps to Num. 33:55. Of course the expression is metaphorical; and hence what does the Apostle mean? The explanations have been many and various, but all, both ancient and modern, agree in this, that there is question of physical suffering of some kind. It is not certain, however, that the present passage and Gal. 4:13-14 refer to the same ἀσθένεια (= astheneia = infirmity sickness, etc.,), although this is commonly assumed.

That the “thorn” (Vulg., stimulus) here spoken of does not refer to temptations against purity, as most modern ascetical writers and many modern commentators believe, is proved beyond question by the following considerations: (a) Such a view was held by no Greek Father, nor by any Latin Father of the first six centuries; (b) St. Paul is speaking of something extraordinary, personal and permanent, which cannot be said of temptations to impurity; (c) he could not speak of glorying (verse 9), or of taking pleasure (verse 10) in carnal temptations. The “thorn in the flesh,” therefore, doubtless refers to some chronic physical malady, such as epilepsy, malarial fever, acute ophthalmia, or the like (St. Basil, St. Greg. Naz., St. Aug., St. Thomas, Cajetan, Corn., Le Camus, Light., Ramsay, Farrar, Plum., etc.).

An angel, etc., i.e., a messenger of Satan. The Apostle calls his malady a messenger or instrument of the devil very likely because it was inflicted by the evil one, with God’s permission, however.

To buffet me. Literally, “In order that he may buffet me” (ινα με κολαφιζη = hina me kolaphize) . The present tense is used to show the continual recurrence of the attack (St. Chrys.).

2 Cor 12:8. For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me.

For which thing, i.e., concerning this foe, i.e., the messenger of Satan, thrice I besought, i.e., the Apostle asked the Lord, i.e., Christ (verse 9) three times to be delivered from his affliction before he received the divine reply.

2 Cor 12:9. And he said to me : My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

And he said. Literally, “And he hath said.” The use of the perfect implies that the force of the reply continues.

My grace, etc. The request was refused, but something better was given, namely, grace, by which he could merit a supernatural reward.

Power, i.e., strength (δύναμις = dynamis), namely, of Christ. The power of God is most perfectly realized and appreciated when human strength is wanting, i.e., when weak human agents are made use of to accomplish great results.

Gladly therefore. Literally, “Most gladly therefore.” He means that he will most gladly glory in his infirmities rather than ask to be relieved from them, so that the power of Christ, sustaining and giving triumph by His grace, may continue with him. Thus the Apostle’s chronic illness would cause a continuous manifestation of divine power in him (MacR.).

2 Cor 12:10. For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ. For when I am weak, then am I powerful.

For which cause, i.e., because the power of Christ is continually manifested in his infirmities the Apostle is content with all his sufferings.

For Christ. The Apostle not only endures his afflictions and trials, but he takes pleasure in them for Christ’s sake. It is when he himself is weak and unequal to the task before him that the strength of Christ’s grace is particularly manifested, helping him to accomplish what would naturally be impossible.

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