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Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Ephesians 1:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 28, 2020

Chapter l In this chapter the Apostle declares the purpose of Almighty God, from all eternity, to call the Ephesian believers, and all other faithful followers of Jesus Christ, to grace and salvation; and prays that they may he enlightened to see the splendour and sublimity of this heavenly calling, and of the hope cf sharing the greatness:and felicity of Jesus Christ, seated in glory at the right hand of God.

Eph 1:1. Paul, Apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, to all the saints who are at Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus;

Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God. This statement is frequently repeated by St. Paul, as at the beginning of both the Epistles to the Corinthians, that to the Colossians, &c. It implies that a vocation depending on the will of God is required for every minister of Christ, whether called to preach the Gospel or stand at the altar. It may suggest to every priest to consider and reflect upon the motives and circumstances which led him to enter the sacerdotal office, so that if he thinks there existed any defect in his vocation, it may be supplied by penance.

To all the saints. So also in both the Epistles to the Corinthians, and elsewhere. For all Christians are saints, and  called to sanctity, though, it may be, in different degrees. They came forth immaculate from the fount of baptism, and with that beginning a profane and worldly life can hardly be consistent. At least they should aspire in some degree to sanctity.

Eph 1:2. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace. St. Paul prays for grace and peace for his brethren, in almost all his Epistles. Grace and peace are what we should continually ask of Christ, for ourselves and others. Grace includes every gift necessary for eternal life ; peace is the firm, unshaken, and tranquil. possession of these spiritual gifts.

Eph 1:3. Blessed the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in every spiritual benediction,, in the heavenly places, in Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no verb in this sentence, either in the Vulgate or the Greek text. We may understand, either blessed is, or blessed be. It is a theological truth that God is, and ought to be, blessed ; the recognition of this truth is an act of piety in the creature towards the Creator. In this verse the Apostle blesses God. and affirms that God has blessed us. In the first, to bless means to praise, in the second it signifies to do good; but both significations are radically the same, because to praise, and to do good, proceed alike from a good will, and have their origin in charity. We bless God, when we thank him for his benefits, and God blesses us when he bestows those benefits. For God’s blessing confers good, in which it differs from the ineffectual, and sometimes false, benedictions of man.

In every spiritual benediction. The word in is redundant by a Hebrew idiom. With every spiritual benediction. In saying spiritual benediction, the Apostle means to contrast the blessings we receive from God, with those he promised to, and conferred upon, his ancient people, which were not spiritual, but material. He promised’ earthly blessings to the Jews, he has promised the heavenly to Christians. The New Testament is distant from the Old, as heaven from earth. In the ancient Scriptures, as for example in Lev. 26, Deut. 7, or 28, we find only earthly advantages secured or offered to the people of Israel. But, in reading the New Testament, we find no promises of terrestrial good. Blessed are the pour in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Who loveth me, we will come and make our dwelling with him Matt. 5:3, Jn 14:23. The followers of Christ are, on the contrary, warned to expect persecution and affliction. You shall mourn and weep. hi the world you shall have trouble. Jn 16:20, 33. The spirit of the Christian faith is to despise earth, and aspire to heaven, to be withdrawn from what is carnal, the more abundantly to possess that which is spiritual.

In the heavenly, understand regions or places, not literally but in figure, because the nature of the heavenly cannot be fully apprehended by our limited intelligence. God has blessed us in the heavenly places, because there he dwells; or more properly, has blessed us with celestial gifts which are one day to raise us to heaven.

In Christ. That is, through Christ ; or by the faith of Christ; or because the possession of Christ is the promised blessing which awaits us in the heavenly places, whither he has ascended. The preposition in is omitted in the Greek, but probably by mistake of a transcriber, the expression as it stands being: a solecism and ungrammatical. Christ is the means or channel by which every blessing of God reaches us; and by which our praise and benediction ascends in answer to God. Through him, with him, and in him, is all honour and glory given to God omnipotent, not by man only, but by the holy Angels as well.

Eph 1:4. As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and immaculate, in his sight, in charity.

As he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. This particularizes and describes the blessing referred to in the last verse. God chose us, before the foundation of the world, in view of the merits of Christ, and for the sake of Christ; and having chosen us in eternity, has blessed us in time. The Greek word καταβολή (kataboles) signifies the laying of a foundation, literally, throwing down. As if, says St. Chrysostom, God had thrown down the universe from an infinite height, not locally, but on account of the immeasurable distance which separates the nature of the Creator from that of the creature.

That we might be holy and blameless in his sight. This is the object of our election, to be holy and blameless, not only in the sight of men, who may be deceived, but in that of God, who sees all things. In charity, because this is the crown and perfection of sanctification, and the means of attaining it. The Apostle does not assert that sanctification is the final end of our election, but it is the final end as regards this life. Or it may be considered as identical with the final beatification of soul and body in the presence of God, for which it is, in any point of view, essential. But St. Chrysostom, Theodoret, and the Syriac version, take the words in charity as belonging to the next verse: who has predestinated us in charity, or love.

In order to understand these opening words of the Apostle, it may be useful to enumerate some of the shocking tenets of the heretics against whom this Epistle is directed, and which were more fully brought to light at a later period when they had been separated from the communion of the Church. These errors are fully detailed in the writings of Irenaeus and St. Clement.

It will be sufficient to say here that the followers of Simon Magus maintained, 1. That the Creator of the world was not the Supreme Being, but an evil or imperfect principle or agent; 2. That he was the enemy of Christ, and brought him to the cross; 3. That the heirs of salvation have a divine or angelic nature, derived from spheres beyond the knowledge of the Creator; 4. That their salvation is, therefore, the result, not of election but of creation; 5. That it depends on destiny, not on the will of the Creator; 6. That sanctity, or obedience to the laws of the Creator of the world, is a degrading servitude, and the contrary is the characteristic of the sons of light; 7. That the rest of the race of mankind are not objects of charity, but of scorn and hate, like their Creator, and incapable of salvation; 8. That knowledge, not love, is the perfection of humanity and the inheritance of the Saints. These errors are combatted throughout the present Epistle; and in the two verses now under consideration St. Paul asserts, 1. That our Creator is blessed; 2. That he has blessed us, that is, all baptized Christians, in Christ; 3. That he has chosen us before creation; 4. That he has chosen us to salvation; 5. That he has chosen us for Christ’s sake, from the foreknowledge that we should believe in Christ; 6. That he has chosen us to sanctification; 7. That sanctification is obtained and made perfect by charity; 8. That in charity he has predestinated us to life eternal.

To this may be added that the heretics appear to have considered the world to have existed from eternity, or at least the material from which it was framed, on which account St. Paul says that God laid, or cast down, the foundations of the world. And that angels, not Christ, are our true mediators with God; for which reason the Apostle avers that God has blessed us in heavenly places in Christ. It is possible that some of these wild opinions may be faintly reflected in the heresies or philosophies of modern times, but for the most part they are obsolete and forgotten, and the chief interest of the Epistle to the Ephesians consists in the sublime and beautiful exposition of the Christian philosophy with which St. Paul has crushed and refuted them, in this magnificent treatise, and which he derived directly from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God.

Eph 1:5 Who predestined us to the adoption of sons, through Jesus Christ, into him, according to the purpose of his will:

Who predestined us. The Apostle borrows this word, from the vocabulary of his opponents, who attributed. everything in human life to destiny, or the influence of an inexorable fate determined by mysterious powers presiding over the birth of every individual, and whose dictates could not be escaped. But he uses the term in a sense of his own, very different from theirs, declaring that God has, from the beginning of the world, appointed or predestined believers in Christ, to the adoption of sons. The same blessing he has described before, and now expands in further detail; to be chosen to sanctity is the same thing as to be predestined to sonship. For the saints are the sons of God. Through, by means of and for the sake of Jesus Christ, to him. The Greek text, as we have it now, reads εἰς αὐτός (eis auton), to himself; the translator of the Vulgate appears to have read eis auto, to him, that is, to Christ. According to the purpose of his will, or the good pleasure of his will, his own voluntary and spontaneous mercy and kindness, the sole origin and source of this infinite honour and benefit to man. It is clear that St. Paul understands that this adoption to be sons of God had already been conferred upon the Ephesian Christians in the laver of regeneration, to which God had chosen or predestined them from eternity. This was the immediate object of their predestination and election, to which these tended; and that he does not refer to any immediate election and predestination to glory, appears from these considerations. 1. The inscription, the Epistle being addressed to the saints and faithful, not to such as were chosen to glory. 2. The words of the text: predestined to sonship, which is the privilege of all believers. 3. The general tenor of the Epistle addressed to them. No one would venture to assert that none of the Ephesian Christians were damned; that the object of St. Paul in writing it was to assure them of salvation unconditionally, or that he meant to make their election to glory patent and public to all the world. That their attainment of eternal glory was the end of their election, there is no doubt; but it does not follow that the; mode of arriving at grace and glory are the same. This is, however, another and more general question; what is asserted here is that the Apostle is not treating of election or predestination to final glory, but election and predestination to the adoption of sons, which is the privilege of all baptized believers in Christ. They are chosen to sanctity. But it is evident, from the language of this Epistle, that the Ephesian Christians were not all saints. This election is not, therefore, absolute, but conditional. Absolute on the part of God, who gives the graces necessary for sanctity, but conditional, as assuming our own free cooperation with that grace.

Eph 1:6. To the praise of the glory of his grace, whereby he made us gracious in his beloved Son.

To the praise of the glory of his grace. The Syriac: that the praise of his grace may be celebrated. The final cause and object of our election and salvation is, that for God’s infinite love and mercy, praise and glory may be rendered to him by men and angels.

In which grace, or by which grace, he has made us gracious, endowed us with Christian graces, made us acceptable and beloved to himself, as his own sons. Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and place a ring on his hand, Lk 15:22. St. Chrysostom says: By this grace he not only freed us from our sins, but made us pleasing, and objects of love and affection to himself. As if he took up one who was foul and disfigured with pestilence, disease, and leprosy, enfeebled by age, ruined in fortune, and restoring him at once to youth, health, strength, and beauty, beyond all compare, and in the flower and fulness of his age, and the vigour of life, clothed him with purple,, placed a jeweled diadem upon his head, surrounded him with state and splendour. Thus has God recreated and adorned the soul of man, and made it brilliant and beautiful, lovely, amiable, and desirable in his sight.

In his beloved Son. The word Son is omitted in the Greek. In the Beloved. The Syriac: through his Beloved. Christ is essentially and by excellence the Beloved of the Father. The felicity of Deity consists in the eternal affection that reigns between the Father and the Son. The Son beholds the fulness of the Father’s glory ; the Father sees his own infinite perfection perfectly reflected in the Son, his image and likeness. And through our union with Christ we also are beloved, rendered amiable, gracious, acceptable, to God the Father, in the Beloved. The false doctrine of the heretics, that the sons of light have by creation, and of themselves, a different nature from other men, the development of which must bring them to ultimate glory, is contradicted by this statement of the Apostle, that we are gracious and acceptable in the sight of God only for the sake of Christ, and through union with liim.

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Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Galatians Chapter 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 31, 2019

Chapter 1. In this chapter the Apostle emphatically declares, in opposition to his unworthy antagonists in Galatia, that his Apostolical mission was derived directly from Jesus Christ : and pronounces an anathema against those who endeavoured to pervert the truth of Christ’s Gospel.

Gal 1:1. Paul, Apostle not from men, nor through man ; but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.

Apostle, not from men, nor through man. Saint Paul’s commission as a divine teacher was not derived from human authority, like that of his opponents, who could advance no other claim than their own appointment of themselves ; but derived originally from God. 2. It did not come to him through any human agency whatever, as did the appointment of St. Matthias, who was chosen to a place in the Apostolic College by the other Apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost ; and as is the case with all the prelates and pastors of the Church who have exercised their office since. It was derived from God the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, not in his mortal life, but after his resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, seated at God’s right hand and reigning in glory and the exercise of divine omnipotence. The commission of the pastors of the Church now is divine as to its origin, but human as regards the means of its communication. This was not the case with Saint Paul, or the other Apostles.

Gal 1:2. And all the brethren who are with me, to the Churches of Galatia :

And all the brethren with me. The whole Church of Rome, assuming this Epistle to have been written there. Saint Chrysostom notes that whereas in other Epistles Saint Paul gives his own name only, or with one or two others, he here joins with him all the Christians who were with him, the dangerous tendency of the errors he had to oppose, and the peril of the salvation of the Galatians, requiring a more formal demonstration than usual. He addresses all the Churches of Galatia collectively, because they were all infected with these errors. And he omits the usual designation, beloved or holy ; his object being to warn them that they were in danger of losing, if they had not already lost, their faith.

Gal 1:3. Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace to you, the source of spiritual good ; and peace, either the repose of the mind in faith, or as St. Augustine thinks, reconciliation with God. The Father is the originating, the Son the meritorious, cause of grace and of peace.

Gal 1:4. Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from the present wicked world, according to the will of our God and Father,

Christ became the meritorious cause of grace and peace to us, by becoming the victim of our sins. This statement has an important bearing on the argument which follows, which goes to show that divine grace and the peace of the soul with God are not attainable by •compliance with the law of Moses, nor can such compliance in any way aid in effecting it. . Grace and peace are from our Lord Jesus Christ, because he gave himself for our sins.

Saint John tells us that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the power of the devil (1 Jn 5:19). But the world is not evil in itself, or by any fault of its Creator ; the evil that is in it comes from the sins of men. Our deliverance from this present wicked world is the effects of Christ’s death, but it may be effected without the necessity of withdrawing us from God’s visible creation, by taking away sin. This Christ did freely and voluntarily, but in accordance with the will of God, his Father by nature, ours by grace.

Gal 1:5. To whom is glory for ever and ever. Amen.

To whom be the glory for ever. There is no verb in this sentence in the Greek, and the article is prefixed to the word glory. The Vulgate reads Cui est gloria.

Gal 1:6. I wonder that thus so quickly you are removing from him who called you into the grace of Christ, into another Gospel.

The Apostle, without further preface, plunges at once into his subject, expressing his horror and surprise at the
change which had come, in so short a time, over the faith of the Galatians. The word thus is not in the Greek, and
Erasmus says the phrase is absurd, but he acknowledges that it is so read by Tertullian and Saint Augustine, as it is also by Ambrose. I wonder : I cannot conceive how it has happened. That thus, after you have received God’s grace, done such good works, suffered so much for Christ : and so quickly, you are removing. Not removed. The use of the present tense is very noticeable, indicating that the apostasy he feared had not actually taken place, or at least was not general, though there was imminent danger of it. From the faith and service of Almighty God, who has called you into the grace of Christ, the communion of the Catholic Church, justification, sanctification, salvation, you are turning to another Gospel. Thus their perversion was nothing less than apostasy from God and Christ.

Gal 1:7. Which is not another ; unless there are some, who trouble you, and wish to change the Gospel of Christ.

Which is not a Gospel at all, for there is but one. Those who trouble you are trying to subvert, overthrow, and destroy the Gospel of Christ. This is in reality their design and enterprise, though they disguise and conceal it by calling what they teach, the faith of Christ. The false teachers of heresy then, as false teachers of heresy always do, called the mixture of Judaism and Christianity which they had invented, and were endeavouring to get the Galatians to accept, by the name of the Christian religion. This, says Saint Chrysostom, was their craft and deceit. The nature and characteristic of the Christian faith is salvation by faith in Christ. To teach the necessity of circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic institutions, is wholly to change its nature, and subvert and overthrow the Gospel of Christ. It was not another Gospel, but it was a new religion.

Gal 1:8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a Gospel to you beyond that (præter)  which we have preached to you ; let him be anathema.
Gal 1:9. As we have already said, I now also say again ; if any shall have preached a Gospel to you beside that (præterquam)you received ; let him be anathema.

The heretics falsely cited the names of St. Peter, St. John, and St. James, as supporting their error. St. Paul does not name these Apostles, but by saying an angel from heaven, as St. Chrysostom observes, he includes all authority and knowledge of celestial things, while by including himself in the anathema, in case he changed his opinions, he also includes every earthly friendship, influence, and relation. The Gospel he taught them was true, and all the Angels, Apostles, and political leaders in God’s universe, could not shake its truth. Lest he should be thought to have made this statement, which certainly is a startling one, hastily and without consideration, he deliberately repeats it in the same words. The Greek παρʼ ὃ is rendered in the Vulgate by præter and præterquam, but its meaning is different from, or inconsistent with. Further and completer instruction on the lines already laid down is not a subject of anathema, and as St. Augustine observes, the Apostle himself expressed a wish to visit the Thessalonians to supply what was wanting to their faith (1 Thess. 2:17, 3:1-2). Heretics have distorted what Saint Paul says to the Galatians, as if it conveyed an anathema against the decrees of Popes and Councils, as being an addition to the faith taught by the Apostles. But the decrees of Popes and Councils, while they explain the faith, do not cross its borders ; and while
they teach explicitly what Scripture teaches implicitly, they contain nothing opposed to it. If the Catholic Faith in St. Paul’s days was so certain that he does not hesitate to anathematize the whole College of the Apostles, and the Angels of heaven, if they taught anything contrary to it ; it is even more certain now, confirmed by the tradition of so many centuries, the innumerable miracles wrought by God in support of it, and the general consent and agreement of mankind.

Gal 1:10. For am I now trying to persuade men, or God? Or am I seeking to please men? If I still pleased men
I should not be Christ’s servant.

St. Paul is sensible that the anathema he has just pronounced will give great offence in Galatia. But he does not shrink. What I have said, is said because it is God’s truth : I am quite indifferent what men may think of it. If my object in life was to please men, I should be at this moment the leader of the Jews ; perhaps their king. A servant of Christ, I should never have become. St. Chrysostom says : I am not bidding for a leader’s place, nor seeking disciples, nor ambitious of your praise. I seek to please God, not men ; and if I sought to please men, I should still be a persecutor of the Church of God. There is undoubtedly here a reflection on his opponents, whose judaizing tendency was adopted in the hope of conciliating the favour and support of Jews, still politically powerful in Western Asia. The Jewish religion was at that time tolerated and fostered by the Roman laws, whereas there were many indications and threatenings of the coming persecution of the Christian Church, which broke out a few years later ; and the Judaizers sought to obtain in advance the protection and support of Jews. They endeavoured to persuade the Jews to countenance them ; to please them by advocating the ceremonies of their law. Saint Paul sought to please God, by courageous adherence to his truth.

It is impossible to serve God and man. The bride cannot have two husbands, nor the servant two laws. God made the soul of man for himself, and admits no rival. Unum uni, una uni, was the exclamation of the ecstatic brother Aegidius, the companion of St. Francis. One heart for God, one bride for Christ. At the same time, while to please man for man’s sake is sin, to please man for God’s sake is charity. Let every one please his neighbour, Rom. 15:2. I please all, in all things, 1 Cor. 10:33. Man, says St. Augustine, does not please to any good purpose, unless it is for God’s sake, and that he may be pleased and glorified, in hope that his grace may be accorded by human ministry and agency. For in this case it is not man, but God, that pleases.

Gal 1:11. For I make it known to you brethren, of the Gospel which was preached by me, that it is not according to man.
Gal 1:12. For neither did I receive it from man, nor learned it : but through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The remainder of this chapter is addressed to the slander of his opponents, that he was not really an Apostle of Christ. I tell you, and wish all to know, that my Gospel is neither human in its origin, nor taught to me by men, but by direct revelation from Jesus Christ our Lord, in person. This revelation was begun at Saint Paul’s conversion, and carried out in further detail in visions during his prolonged retirement in Arabia or at Tarsus.

Gal 1:13. For you have heard of my conversation at one time in Judaism ; that above measure I persecuted the Church of God, and fought against her;
Gal 1:14. And made progress in Judaism above many my contemporaries in age, in my nation, being more abundantly jealous of the traditions of my fathers.

I am no novice or tyro in the religion of the Jews, and am better acquainted with it, more thoroughly understand
its bearings, its teaching, its inner significance, than those who are now persuading you to embrace it. The outline of my career and history cannot be unknown to you. And he goes on to remind them how, with the whole energy of his fiery nature, and acute intellect, and pure and ardent love of all that is spiritual and true, he studied the Jewish law, under its most accomplished teachers, until he was thirty years old, and was urged, by his profound conviction of its divinity and truth, to seek to root out and overthrow the faith of Jesus Christ, as being in opposition, as he conceived to the will of God ; which he doubtless believed to be, the restitution of the kingdom of Juda, and its deliverance from the Roman power. And both in zeal against Christ, who had advocated submission to the Roman power, and in intimate acquaintance with the institutions and religious belief of his own nation, he confessedly distanced all competitors of his age and generation.

Gal 1:15. But when it pleased him who set me apart from the womb of my mother, and called me by his grace:

In spite of this inauspicious commencement of his career, God had nevertheless separated and set him apart, even when he was in his mother’s womb, and appointed him his herald, minister, and servant, like the Prophet Jeremias, Jer. 1:5. In due time God was pleased to accomplish what he had thus fore-ordained, and called me by his grace, revealing his Son to him, that he might in turn reveal Him to the nations. St. Jerome thinks the revelation here referred to took place on the road to Damascus. St. Thomas thinks it was made, at least partly, during the following three days ; others consider that it was subsequent to the visit of Ananias and baptism of St. Thomas.

Gal 1:16. To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the nations : at once I did not rest in flesh and blood.
Gal 1:17. Nor did I go to Jerusalem to the Apostles who were appointed before me : but I went away into Arabia ; and again returned to Damascus :

I rested not in flesh and blood. The Greek, I consulted not with flesh and blood. The Syriac : I made it not known to flesh and blood. The Arabic has the same meaning. I began to preach Christ at once, without asking permission of any one. Act. 9:20. By flesh and blood, says St. Chrysostom, he means the Apostles ; or if any one prefers to think he means all mankind, I shall not contradict. I did not go to Jerusalem to consult with Peter, John, and James, who were there at that time.

Damascus was at that period the capital of the kingdom of Arabia Petræ, and the Apostle, when he says he went into Arabia, doubtless means that he preached Christ in the neighbouring country, for three years. This is not mentioned by St. Luke in the Acts, possibly because it was not attended by any remarkable occurrence. St. Luke only says that after many days, that is three years, St. Paul left the country and proceeded to Jerusalem.

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

I came to Jerusalem to see Peter. The Greek word is ἱστορῆσαι, to seek or make his acquaintance ; not to learn from him, says St. Jerome, but to pay honour to the first of the Apostles. Saint Chrysostom says the same. Ambrose observes that it was reasonable he should wish to see Peter, not to be taught by him, because he had been taught already by the same authority who instructed Peter, but from respect to his Apostolic office, and to inform him of the wonderful gifts and extraordinary mission he had received. He adds that he remained with Peter fifteen days, which is a proof that he could not have learned from him the religion of Christ, the time being insufficient.

Gal 1:19. But I saw no other of the Apostles, except James, the brother of the Lord.

I saw no other of the Apostles, none of whom, possibly, were at that time at Jerusalem : except Saint James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, the brother of our Lord, that is, his cousin, being the son of Mary, the wife of Cleophas, sister of the Blessed Virgin. Saint Luke’s account of this visit to Jerusalem, in the Acts of the Apostles, is very circumstantial, and is given Act. 9:26—30. His life being in danger, he was, by the intervention of the Christians of Jerusalem, shipped off to Tarsus, his native place, where he remained for some years, with his family and friends.

Gal 1:20. And what I write to you, behold before God, that I do not lie.
Gal 1:21. Then I came into the parts of Syria and Cilicia.
Gal 1:22. And I was unknown by face to the Churches of Judea which were in Christ.
Gal 1:23. But this much they had heard, that he who formerly persecuted us, now preaches the faith which once he fought against.
Gal 1:24. And in me they glorified God.

Before God, I lie not. So many false statements regarding the Apostle’s life and history had been maliciously circulated among the Galatians, that he evidently considers they would have some difficulty in believing him, and accordingly thinks it necessary to confirm his own statement with an oath.

(21) Tarsus was in Cilicia, and parts of Syria were in its immediate neighbourhood. If the conversion of St. Paul took place a.d. 31, the earliest convenient date, he must have remained nine years in this comparative retirement. He could not have met there any of the Apostles, from whom he might have received instruction ; (22) neither did he receive it from the Christians of Judea, by whom the heretics declared he must have been taught the necessity of circumcision and of the observance of the law, for he only remained a few days in their country, and they were not even personally acquainted with him. (23) But they knew him only too well by reputation, as the most violent and dangerous adversary they ever had, and his marvellous conversion from a persecutor into a preacher of the faith he once assailed, filled them with astonishment and gratitude to God (24).


I wonder, the Apostle says, that you are changing so soon from the grace of God to another Gospel. The same phenomenon encounters us every day, and is just as wonderful, extraordinary, and unaccountable as ever. In early youth, in the flower of their age, with all the teaching of the Church, to which they listened in childhood, fresh in their memory, all the impressions of love to God, the aspirations after heaven, of which they were once conscious, not yet faded from their heart, how many turn aside from the communion of the Catholic Church of Christ, to follow another Gospel—the pleasures, the vanities, the ambitions of the world, the cavils of unbelievers, the sophistries of heretics, the sneer of the ungodly, the snares of Satan, which they renounced in their baptism ! This is worse than the apostasy of the Galatians ; for the Galatians wandered into Judaism, but at any rate they had never renounced it. We renounce the Gospel of the devil, and return to it as soon as we are old enough to act for ourselves. It is a double treason, for we abandon Jesus, to whose service we were solemnly devoted ; and we return to the standard of the
devil, whose service we have solemnly abjured. Truly we may wonder: for what are the hopes this new Gospel sets before us ? A few years of pleasure, of amusement, of success, perhaps renown, and these chequered by disappointment, saddened by sorrow, poisoned by remorse. Then the bitter dregs of the cup, of which the sweetness
is all gone ; the dreary retrospect of a wasted life ; the gloomy prospect of a future that is endless, and without
hope. This is no Gospel; and the only Messenger who ever brought good news from heaven to this earth of ours, since it became the prison house of sin, was He who brought us the glad tidings of God’s forgiveness, and his
grace, for this mortal life, and joy eternal in his presence in the life to come.

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Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Preface to His Commentary on Galatians

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 31, 2019

Galatia is a province of Asia Minor, bounded on the east by Cappadocia, on the west by Bithynia, on the south by Pamphylia, and on the north by the Euxine Sea. It was at one time called Gallo-Graecia, and subsequently Galatia, the dominant race among the inhabitants being Gauls of the tribe of the Senones, who crossed the Hellespont under the guidance of Brennus, after the invasion of Rome, conquered the Troas B. C. 278, were checked by King Attains in a battle about B. C. 241, and then occupied the territory called from them Gallo-Graecia or Galatia. This is the statement of Suidas ; there are other accounts of the circumstances attending this invasion, but there is no doubt the people were of Gallic origin. Galatia was conquered and incorporated into the Roman Empire in B.C. 25, on the death of King Amyntas.

The Galatians were converted to the faith of Christ by the preaching of Saint Paul. They received the faith with extraordinary zeal and devotion, wrought many miracles, and endured persecution for the cause of Christ. But after the Apostle’s departure, they were led astray by false teachers, whose ostensible zeal for Judaism was possibly a mask for still more dangerous errors, and who were, as Saint Chrysostom says, intoxicated with empty glory. These men endeavoured to persuade them to adopt circumcision and other ceremonies of the Mosaic law ; and with a view to obtaining acceptance for their doctrine, began by attacking the authority of Saint Paul. They declared that he was no Apostle of Christ, but only a disciple of the Apostles, and not even a consistent and faithful one; for James at Jerusalem carried on the observance of the Jewish law ; and Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, had lately at Antioch, avoided association with Gentile converts who had not received circumcision. They accused Saint Paul of inconsistency in this respect, alleging that he conformed to Jewish custom in one place and not in another, and taught different doctrines at different times according to circumstances. The Galatians, too easily listening to these false statements, were persuaded to accept circumcision and adopt the observance of days and months, seasons and years, according to the Jewish calendar, Gal 4:10. The Apostle, perceiving the dangerous consequences to which this error might lead, and the hindrance it was likely to place in the way of the conversion of the Gentiles, the task which God had specially committed to his hands, denounces it as nothing less than apostasy from Christ and the destruction of his Gospel, Gal 3:7. With just indignation and profound sorrow, Saint Chrysostom says, and with burning zeal, he addressed to the Galatians an Epistle full of vehemence, as is plainly evident to every reader, from its opening onwards. He rather chides than teaches, says Saint Jerome, but chides to recal them from the errors by which they had been led astray. The false apostles had denied his Apostolate, for which reason, in the very first words, he declares that he received it from Christ our Lord, as the other Apostles did, but with this special prerogative, that he received it from Christ reigning in glory in heaven. Then he shows that his doctrine was in complete agreement with that of St. Peter, St. John, and St. James. He gives the true history of the occurrence at Antioch, which had been perverted to his prejudice by the false teachers. Then he shows by many arguments from Scripture and the reason of the case, that the ceremonies of the old Law are insufficient and useless for salvation, and that man is justified by faith in Christ. Finally, he exhorts the Galatians to hold these truths in purity of faith and a holy life.

The argument of this Epistle is, therefore, as will be seen, not dissimilar to that of the Epistle to the Romans, and it is sometimes regarded as a compendium or epitome of that treatise, having in common with it many sentiments,
arguments, conclusions, and even phrases. But there is this difference, that while in the Epistle to the Romans the Apostle proves the insufficiency, both of legal obedience, and Gentile philosophy, to effect the regeneration of mankind, in this he deals with the Jewish question only, proving the efficacy of faith and the works which follow it.

It is not quite certain whether the Epistle to the Galatians was written before or after that to the Romans. Cornelius a Lapide considers that there is greater uncertainty as to its date, than in the case of any other of St. Paul’s writings. The Greek copies, and the Syriac and Arabic versions, assert that it was written at Rome. This is also affirmed by St. Athanasius, in the Synopsis, St. Jerome, Theodoret in the Preface to St. Paul’s Epistles, and by other writers. In this case it was, of course, composed at a later period than the Epistle to the Romans, and probably in the year 60. And this view is supported by the words of the Apostle, Rom. 15:26, Macedonia and Achaia have resolved to make a collection of money for the poor, which money he intended to convey to Jerusalem, and he adds,  Rom 15:28 : when I have done this, I shall come through Rome to Spain. And in Gal. 2:10 he shows that this pious errand had been discharged.

Nevertheless St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, in the argument of the Epistle to the Romans, and Baronius, tom. 1.,
maintain that Saint Paul cannot have written this Epistle at Rome, because he makes no allusion to his imprisonment,
as he does in all the others written at that period ; and they consider that it was written before the Epistle to the Romans, at Ephesus, Philippi, or some place in Greece, in the year of Christ 58. Some modern writers place it before the Epistles to the Corinthians, in 55 or 56. M. de Tillemont is inclined to this view, though not positively. Mem. note 42 sur St. Paul. And the same opinion is expressed, though with some hesitation, by the author of the Analysis (Argument). The question must, therefore, be left undecided.

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Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Romans 1:1-7

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 18, 2018

Text in red represent my additions to the notes.

Rom 1:1.  Paul, servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an Apostle, separated to the Gospel of God.
Rom 1:2.  Which He had promised in former times by His prophets, in the Holy Scriptures.
Rom 1:3.  Concerning His Son, who was made to him of the seed of David according to the flesh.
Rom 1:4.  Who was predestined the Son of God in virtue according to the Spirit of Sanctification from the resurrection of the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ: (RSV Translation of this verse- and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,)
Rom 1:5.  Through whom we have received grace and Apostolate for the obedience of faith in all the nations for his name,
Rom 1:6.  Among whom are you also, the called of Jesus Christ:
Rom 1:7.  To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In this magnificent prologue the Apostle fixes the attention of his readers at Rome upon his own claim to be listened to by them, as an apostle of Christ.  We shall find that in the verses that succeed, 8-17, he continues to press the same subject on them, on the ground of his care and solicitude for their spiritual welfare.  In the remainder of the chapter he enters upon the task he has principally set himself in this Epistle, to prove that Justification is of faith, not of the law, natural or positive; and turning first to the Gentiles, convicts them of systematic and flagrant disobedience to the known laws of God.

Romans 1:1-17 forms a single literary sub-unit, consisting of a greeting (1-7), a thanksgiving (8-15), and statement of primary theme (16-17).  I refer to 1:1-17 as a sub-unit because it forms part of a larger literary section of the Gospel, namely, 1:1-4:25.  This broader unit has a concentric structure which may be outlined as follows:

A1) 1:1-17. The purpose of the letter is announced.  Justification is by faith.

B)  1:18-3:20.  Neither Jew nor Gentile can save themselves because the wrath of God is upon all who sin, whether men in general (1:1-18), or Jews under the law (2:1-3:20).

A2)  3:21-4:25.  St Paul expounds upon justification by faith.

For more details on the structure of Romans see SEVEN PAULINE LETTERS y Peter F. Ellis.

ver. 1 Paul.  The Apostle’s Hebrew name was Saul.  He may have had two names given him in circumcision, and this is the opinion of Origen, Saint Anselm, and Saint Thomas.  Or his name may have been changed to Paul in the same way that that of Simon was changed to Cephas, or Peter: this is the opinion of Saint Chrysostom.  Or else he took the name Paul from his first convert of distinction, Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus; which is the view of Saint Jerome, followed by Baronius (see Acts13:12).  Or lastly, he may have assumed the name Paul, which means little, out of humility, being small of stature, and considering himself the least (Eph 3:8), which is the opinion of Saint Augustine.  At any rate it is certain that he is called Paul from the date of his mission to Cyprus with Saint Barnabas, and takes this name in all his Epistles.

The opinions concerning the name of Paul have a long history, right up into modern times.  The fact is, however, that no reason is given for the change of name: “Acts simply says, ‘Saul, who is also called Paul,’ and that is all there is to it” (Stanley B. Marrow, PAUL, HIS LETTERS AND HIS THEOLOGY pg 7).

Servant of Jesus Christ. There are several modes of servitude to God, says St Chrysostom: by creation, by faith, by institute (office) of life; and St Paul was God’s servant in all three.  The Greek word “servant,” as well as the Latin one, means literally “slave.”

Concerning St John Chrysostom, here is what he wrote: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.” Why did God change his name, and call him Paul who was Saul? It was, that he might not even in this respect come short of the Apostles, but that that preëminence which the chief of the Disciples had, he might also acquire (Mc 3,16); and have whereon to ground a closer union with them. And he calls himself, the servant of Christ, yet not merely this; for there be many sorts of servitude. One owing to the Creation, according to which it says, “for all are Thy servants” (Ps 119,91); and according to which it says, “Nebuchadnezzar, My servant” (Jr 25,9), for the work is the servant of Him which made it. Another kind is that from the faith, of which it saith, “But God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from a pure heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto you: being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Rm 6,17-18). Another is that from civil subjection (toliteia”), after which it saith, “Moses my servant is dead” (Jos 1,2); and indeed all the Jews were servants, but Moses in a special way as shining most brightly in the community. Since then, in all the forms of the marvellous servitude, Paul was a servant, this he puts in the room of the greatest title of dignity, saying, “a servant of Jesus Christ.”

The title “servant” has its origins in the Old Testament, wherein we find numerous individuals, especially prophets or those chosen for a special mission, referred to as such (2 Sam 24:10; Amos 3:7; Jer 25:4).  The title was also used of  the people of Israel in general, especially in relation to worship, the service of God.  St Paul is using the word here in reference to his mission, a mission he also sees in priestly terms (Rom 15:15-21), for the sake of making a priestly people (Rom 12:1-2).

Called to be an Apostle. The Greek word kletos called, is an adjective, not a participle.  It means an Apostle by vocation, or the call of Christ, not by his own intrusion into the office, or any human appointment.  The same adjective occurs in verses 6 and 7,  and has in both cases an analogous meaning: saints y God’s calling.

St Paul often emphasizes the gratuitous nature of his office.  This is usually done in response to opponents who were apparently claiming Paul had no right to the ministry and had taken it upon himself, without Divine warrant (see Gal 1:1, 11-17).  At other times St Paul refers to its gratuitous nature to highlight God’s mercy (1 Tim 1:12-17).

Separated. Has reference to the words of Christ in Acts 9:15, and 13:2.  Here the meaning has the sense of “appoint”, as in Galatians 1:15. The three terms, servant, called, separated to the Gospel, are perhaps insisted upon to counteract some unfavorable rumors which may have been prevalent at Rome regarding the purity of the Pauline doctrine.  But they are also the inalienable marks of the true Bishop of the Church of God in all times.  He is to teach the Gospel of God, not human inventions.  He must have a divine call, not a merely human one.  And he must live, labor, suffer, die, if necessary, in the service of God and his Church.

The Gospel of God. The Good News of Salvation in Christ Jesus.  The Good News is the announcement of the coming Reign of God (Mk 1:14); which is brought near in the death and resurrection of Christ, who now reigns in power and who, through the Church, is bringing the Reign and the Gospel to fulfillment (Matt 28:18-20).

ver. 2 Which He promised. God’s Gospel is no novelty.  It was announced and expected from the beginning of the world…St Paul sees the OT Scripture as being oriented towards the eschatological age in which we now live (see Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 9:10).  It is for this reason that the OT Scripture can only be understood in the light of the Gospel (2 Cor 3:7-4:7; 2 Tim 3:15 ).

ver. 3 Who was made to him. Who in time was made man, and born of the Virgin Mary, of the race of David.  The Greek word ginomai is also used for the birth of Christ in Galatians 4:4.  St Paul often employs this word in Christological contexts, perhaps implying Christ’s pre-existence.

ver. 4 Who was predestined the Son of God. This phrase has a long and complex interpretive history which cannot be gone into here.  Most modern scholars, rightly in my opinion, reject the Vulgate translation being used here.   The RSV reads:and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord…” The full significance of Jesus being the Son of God and Messiah could not be adequately known until after his resurrection and the giving of the Spirit, when the prophecies of Scripture could be seen as fulfilled.

ver. 5 Through whom we have received grace and Apostolate. Sanctification gratuitously given of God’s mercy: all free and supernatural gifts; and the Apostolate, to be exercised in Christ’s name and by his authority among all nations.  Clearly the author of these comments sees a twofold reference here.  More likely, “gace and Apostolate” means “the grace of apostleship,” thus building upon the references to himself as servant, called, and separated in vs 1.

For the obedience of faith. St Chrysostom: He does not say, to be brought into question and debate, or to be loudly canvassed: but obeyed. We are not sent to put forward syllogisms and arguments; but to deliver that which is committed to our trust.  What God has pronounced and affirmed, men are not to criticize or cavil at, but to listen receive.  The spirit of faith is the spirit of obedience.  Not a simple and natural operation of the mind, or exercise of reason, but the submission and adhesion of the will of man by the help of grace, to the word of God.  Concerning the obedience of faith, see here.  See also 2 Cor 10:1-6.

ver. 6 Among whom you also. Among the other nations of the earth, to whom our mission extends universally, are you also, Romans, and to you therefore I write, who are the called of Jesus Christ. This word (called) is more than once repeated, for the faithful to understand that they are Christians by the grace of God.

ver. 7 Grace and peace. Grace, to unite them to God; peace to untie them to one another.  The two words are repeatedly joined in this manner in St Paul’s Epistles.  This form of salutation was given y Christ to his Apostles, (Luke 10:5).  The two words together imply the fullness of covenant blessing.

Called to e saints. Sanctity is the end of your vocation.  Observe here the grandeur of the Christian Vocation.  The Christian belongs to Christ.  He is “the dalled of Jesus Christ;” and he is “beloved of God.”  And he is a “saint,” being sanctified by Baptism.

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