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 MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians 1:11-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 10, 2017

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of Galatians 1 followed by his commentary on verses 11;20. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


The Apostle commences this Epistle by commending his own Apostolic authority. This line of defence was for him a duty of necessity, and was forced upon him by the false teachers, who, the more effectually to unsettle the faith of the Gentile converts in the sound doctrines which they had heard from his lips, questioned his Apostolic commission, and insisted that he should be disregarded, as he was but the disciple of the other Apostles, from whose practice, in reference to the Jewish ceremonial law, he differed. In order to guard the Galatians against the dangerous consequences of such false insinuations, the Apostle puts forward his immediate call by Christ himself (verse 1). After the usual Apostolic salutation, he prepares to enter on the subject of the Epistle, by ascribing our justification to the merits of Christ, in which it is insinuated, that it is from him, and not from the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law, it comes (2–5). He expresses the occasion of his writing this Epistle, and shows the unchangeable truth of the doctrine which he himself taught them, and denounces all persons presuming to teach otherwise (6–9). Knowing how calculated strong language of this sort would be to offend those against whom it was directed, he says, he has no desire to please men and, therefore, no desire to use bland conciliatory language; for, if he were to seek the applause of men, as the false teachers do, he would never have become a Christian (10–11). He employs the remainder of the chapter in fully refuting the calumny of such as said that he received his Gospel from other men. And from the history of his life, both before and after his conversion, he shows how foolish it is to say that he could either have received, or learned it, from any mortal man living. Hence, he received it from the abundant grace of the Holy Ghost, and immediately, without human intervention, from Christ himself.

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

But, it is God whom I am endeavouring to please, and before him, and not before men, I am pleading my cause. For, I wish to make known to you, that it is from God that I receive the gospel which I preach, and that it is not from man, nor is it in any respect human.

He proves that it was not before man, but before God, that he was pleading his cause; since the gospel which he preached was from God, and nowise human.

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

For neither did I receive it at once, nor did I learn it gradually, from any man, but I received it immediately from the revelation of Jesus Christ.

He proves in the following verses that he neither “received” the gospel at once, nor “learned it” by degrees, from any man, since he employed both physical and moral means for the destruction of the same gospel.

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.

For, that I would not submit to be taught the gospel by any man, must be clear to you, who have heard of my mode of living while formerly professing the Jewish religion. You must have heard of the violent measures I resorted to, for the purpose of persecuting the faithful, and of totally destroying the Church of God.

He had recourse to violent measures in persecuting the faithful. He could not, therefore, have been instructed by them. He would not submit to any such process.

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.

You also heard of my progress in the knowledge of the Jewish religion, in which I outstripped my equals of my own religious belief, as I did in my excessive zeal for the laws and institutions handed down to me by my fathers.

Again, he employed all possible moral means to destroy the Church, as was evinced by his zeal for the law of his fathers, in the knowledge, as well as in the zealous defence of which, he far outstripped his contemporaries, even of his own nation.

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

But when it pleased God (who gratuitously singled me out, and predestined me from my mother’s womb, and through a singular grace mercifully called me),

“Pleased him.” The common Greek text has, “pleased God,” the word “God” is not found in the Vatican MS. “Who separated me,” &c. This beginning of time in reference to St. Paul, is employed to express the eternity, without beginning, from which God had predestined him.

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 to me his Son and the knowledge of his heavenly truths, for the purpose of proclaiming him to the Gentiles, I complied at once, without consulting, or conferring with, any man living.

“To reveal,” &c. This is connected with the words, “when it pleased him,” or, as the common Greek text has it, when it pleased God.… to reveal to me his Son, &c. Others connect these words with the entire preceding verse—When it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me to his grace, to reveal his Son (when it pleased him, I say), that I should preach him among the Gentiles, I immediately condescended not, &c. The Greek admits of either connexion. “Immediately I condescended not,” προσανεθεμην, &c., i.e., I complied at once, without consulting or holding communication with any man living.

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 did I repair to Jerusalem for the purpose of conferring with those who were called before me to the apostleship; but I went at once to Arabia, and again returned to Damascus.

“I went to Arabia” Of course, it is understood from the entire context and verse 16, that he did so for the purpose of preaching the Gospel; for his scope in this passage, is to prove that he preached the Gospel without being sent by any Apostle, nay before he saw any other of the Apostles. The same appears from Acts, 9:20.

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

I afterwards, after the lapse of three years, went up to Jerusalem for the purpose of waiting on Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and paying him, as such, a complimentary visit; and I remained with him only fifteen days.

He stopped with St. Peter only fifteen days, a period too short to learn the Gospel from him. The Greek word for “see,” ἱστορῆσαι, signifies to visit for the purpose of making his acquaintance:—it implies paying a visit of respect.

Is it not said in the Acts (9:26), that after his conversion St. Paul fled to Jerusalem from Damascus? Yes; but it is added, “after many days elapsed” (verse 23), which may refer to the “three years” mentioned here. It may also be replied with St. Jerome, that although St. Paul had come to Jerusalem after flying from Damascus, immediately after his conversion, he came there, not to consult the Apostles, which is the only thing he asserts here, but from necessity, to save himself.

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

I saw none other of the Apostles, excepting James, the son of Mary Cleophas, who was sister to the Blessed Virgin.

. James, the son of Cleophas, was cousin to our Redeemer; and hence, by a Hebrew usage, called his “brother.”

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

All these things I assert on the solemn assurance of an oath, of which I make God the witness.

Fr. MacEvilly offers no comment on this verse except for the paraphrase.


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