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Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians Chapter 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 8, 2018


A Summary of Eph 1:1-2~St. Paul addresses his readers in the usual manner, asserting his divine election and commission to preach the Gospel of Christ, and wishing them grace and peace, which divine favors are respectively the source and the fruit of their supernatural union with God through Christ.

Eph 1:1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.

Paul. It is to be noted that, whereas in the other Captivity Epistles Timothy’s name is associated with Paul’s, here, as in Rom., Gal., and the Pastoral letters, only the name of Paul is mentioned. As Timothy had been with Paul at Ephesus and was therefore well known to the Ephesians, the omission of his name in the greeting of this Epistle is taken as an argument that the letter was not directed to the Church of Ephesus (see Introduction, No. IV).

Apostle, that is, a legate to whom is committed a mission with power and authority. Hence, the term implies more than messenger and it is applied in the New Testament to those who have been designated to preach the Gospel. By this title, therefore, Paul claims to be Christ’s legate, sent and commissioned by Christ to preach the Gospel. Thus, our Lord said : “As thou hast sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

By the will of God, that is, Paul’s mission is both gratuitous and divine, and not the result of his own merits or choice. He has not taken the honor to himself, but has been called by God, as Aaron was (cf. Heb. 5:4).

To all the Saints. The omnibus of the Vulgate is not represented in the Greek. “Saints,” that is, those who by Baptism have been consecrated to God and live in union with Jesus Christ.

At Ephesus. These words are wanting in some of the best MSS., and are omitted by Origen, Basil, and other Fathers; they are probably not authentic. Tertullian tells us that Marcion in the second century knew this letter as the Epistle “To the Laodiceans,” which may have been the correct inscription (see Introduction, No. IV).

Faithful. This is a term frequently used by St. Paul. It designates those who with mind and heart have freely embraced the faith of Christ, subjecting themselves to His will and service.

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

Grace . . . peace. This is Paul’s usual salutation. Grace, God’s special help and favor, is the root and source of our supernatural union with Him and with Christ, and peace is the blessed fruit of that same union.

From God the Father, etc. In these words we have indicated the author and the fountain-head of the blessing which the Apostle imparts. Since the same divine favor is asked from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, we have here a proof of the divinity of our Lord: He and the Father are one (John 10:30).


A Summary of Eph 1:3-3:21~These three chapters constitute a sublime hymn of praise to God for the special divine blessings that have been vouchsafed to the whole world through Christ, our Redeemer and the Head of the Church. The Apostle begins with an act of thanksgiving, which recalls God’s eternal decree of love in our behalf (Eph 1:3-14); then he considers this decree as fulfilled in the Church, where the distinction between Jews and Gentiles has been blotted out (Eph 1:15-2:22); next he reflects on the special part that has fallen to him in revealing this mystery to the Gentiles (Eph 3:2-13); finally, he utters the prayer for the “Ephesians,” begun in iii. i and continued in Eph 3:14-19 after being interrupted by the digression of Eph 3:2-13, and closes with a doxology (Eph 3:20-21).


A Summary of Eph 1:3-14~In St. Paul’s time it was the custom to begin an ordinary letter with thanksgiving and prayer. The Apostle conformed to this convention in opening his Epistles, varying as a rule the wording of the formula.

This whole section in the original forms but one sentence, consisting of a long chain of clauses and constituting a sort of hymn in three parts, of which each ends with the refrain, “to the praise of his glory” (verses 3-6, 7-12, 13-14)? Verse 3 is an outburst of praise to God for all the blessings conferred on us in Christ, and the following verses are an amplification of this central thought as it unfolds in meditation. As his conceptions evolve, the Apostle ascribes to each of the three divine Persons of the most holy Trinity the action which by appropriation belongs to Him in the work of our redemption. Thus, in Eph 1:3-6 he speaks of the eternal Father who from eternity chose us as His adopted children; in Eph 1:7-13a he considers the execution of this eternal decree in time towards Jews and Gentiles through the meritorious blood of Christ; and in Eph 1:13b- 14 he turns to the Holy Ghost who through grace applies redemption to all, and whom believing we have received as the pledge of our eternal inheritance.

Eph 1:3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ:

Blessed, i.e., worthy of praise.

The God and Father, etc. More probably both “God” and “Father”—and not the word “Father” only—govern the genitive case that follows, because in Greek there is just one article, modifying “God,” and none before “Father”; so that the sense is: “Blessed be our God and Father, who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Cf. John 20:17: “I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.”

Who blessed us, i.e., you Gentiles and us Jews, all of whom are made partakers of the blessings of the Gospel. The reference is to God’s eternal purpose towards the elect, and hence we should read, “Who blessed us,” the definitely past tense.

With all spiritual blessings. The blessings now conferred on the faithful in Christianity are spiritual, as opposed to carnal and terrestrial goods, and as coming from the Holy Ghost and pertaining to man’s higher nature, such as redemption, remission of sins, filiation, and the like. In the Old Testament the rewards promised were temporal (cf. Gen 22:17; Deut 28:1-13, etc.).

In heavenly places (literally, In the heavenlies) . This unusual phrase occurs four more times in this Epistle (Eph 1:20, Eph 2:6, Eph 3:10, Eph 6:12), but nowhere else; and each time there is question of locality, save the last, perhaps. These blessings therefore come from heaven and lead to heaven, they are both present and future; and they are given “in Christ”—that is, through Christ, by virtue of our union with Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life that lead to the Father. Christ is the head, and we are the members of His mystical body, the Church; we share in His life. This doctrine of the union of the faithful with Christ, their mystical head, is uppermost in this section and throughout the whole Epistle. The phrase “in Christ” is found twenty-nine times in the Pauline Epistles, and only three times elsewhere, and that in 1 Peter. In forty-three other passages of St. Paul we find the enlarged phrase, “in Christ Jesus,” and four times “in the Christ.” Everywhere these phrases denote our close union with Christ as members of His mystical body.

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

The Apostle now begins to explain God’s eternal decree in behalf of Christians. The Eternal Father chose us from eternity, that we might be holy and immaculate in His eyes, and out of love for us He freely predestined us to be His adopted children through His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (ver. 4-6).

As. This word connects the preceding verse with the present one, and the meaning is that the spiritual blessings which Christians now enjoy are the logical consequence of God’s eternal decree in their regard.

He chose us, i.e.. He selected Christians, apart from the rest of mankind, to be His special people, “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16).

In Him, i.e., in Christ, as members of His mystical body. Christians are not conceived apart from Christ, their mystical head, either in God’s eternal decree or in time.

Before the foundation, etc., i.e., prior to all creation, from everlasting.

That we should be holy, that is, graced with virtues and free from vice. The reference is to an actual state of moral rectitude, and not to a future condition, nor to a merely external and imputed justice.

In his sight, i.e., in the eyes of God, who reads the secrets of the heart, to whom nothing is hid (Ps 7:9; Matt 5:48, Matt 6:4, Matt 6:6, Mat 6:18; Heb 4:13).

In charity, i.e., in love. Whether this love is divine or human, depends on the connection of this phrase with what precedes in the verse or with what follows. Some authorities connect it with “chose,” and so there would be question of God’s love which chose us; but this explanation is not likely, as the verb “chose” is too far separated from the phrase “in charity.” Many others, ancient and modern, connect the phrase with “holy and unspotted,” and thus the meaning would be that charity is the formal cause of our sanctification, and that charity is at once the bond and the crown of Christian virtues. St. Jerome and St. John Chrysostom, however, make the connection with what follows in the next verse, “predestinated,” and hence make the love of God for us the supreme cause of our predestination to be His adopted children. In this whole section the Apostle seems to be saying that love for us has been at the bottom of God’s free choice of us, and the motive of our predestination. Thus also St. John says: “God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son, etc.” (John 3:16). Our adoption as children through Christ, therefore, is due only to God’s paternal love for us.

Eph 1:5. Who predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself: according to the purpose of his will:

Who predestinated us. Those who connect “in charity” of the preceding verse with this verse read as follows: “Who predestinated us in charity.” According to our way of thinking, predestination presupposes election, and election presupposes love. Thus, God first loved us, then chose us, and then predestined us. It is to be noted that there is question here, directly, only of predestination to faith and grace in this life; but of course, since faith and grace are themselves ordained to eternal salvation and given for that purpose, there would be also question here, indirectly, of predestination to final salvation. In either sense the predestination is gratuitous, in no way dependent on our merits.

Unto the adoption, etc. The proximate purpose of divine predestination was that we might become adopted children of God. The Son of God became man that men might become the sons of God, as St. Augustine says (cf. Gal 4:4-6). Perfect adoption consists in our transformation into the likeness of the glorious risen Saviour in the life to come, and presupposes as a means to this great end our present transformation by virtue into the likeness of Jesus. The use of the term “adoption” as applied to Christians is peculiarly Pauline. It is found five times in his Epistles (Gal 4:5; Rom 8:15, Rom 8:23, Rom 9:4; Eph 1:5), and nowhere else in the Bible.

Through Jesus Christ. Our adoption as sons of God is conferred through our Lord, as our Redeemer and Mediator: “You are all the children of God by faith, in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26).

Unto himself, i.e., unto the Father, Our redemption originated with the Father and goes back to Him as its end. The eternal purpose of the Father was “that we should be called, and should be the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). A less probable interpretation refers “unto himself” to the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

According to the purpose, etc. Better, “according to the good pleasure, etc.” Here we have indicated the radical reason and the true efficient cause of our redemption, election, etc., namely, the gratuitous will of God. Hence St. Thomas says: “Praedestinationis divinae nulla alia causa est, nec esse potest, quam simplex Dei voluntas. Unde patet etiam, quod divinse voluntatis praedestinantis non est alia ratio, quam divina bonitas filiis communicanda.” = By now it must be clear how divine predestination neither has nor can have any cause but the will of God alone. This, in turn, reveals how the only motive for God’s predestinating will is to communicate the divine goodness to others.

The will of God is “the ultimate account of all divine procedure, from the creature’s point of view. Nothing in that Will is capricious; all is supremely wise and good. But it enfolds an ‘unseen universe’ of reasons and causes wholly beyond our discovery; and here precisely is one main field for the legitimate exercise of faith; personal confidence as to the unknown reasons for the revealed action of a Known God” (Bishop Moule, Epistle to the Ephesians, hoc loco).

Eph 1:6. Unto the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he graced us in the beloved.

Unto the praise, etc. Now the Apostle points out the final cause of God’s love, choice, predestination and adoption of us Christians. The divine will actuated by love was the prime moving cause on God’s part, and His glory is the final cause of the whole divine process in our regard. “Grace” here means not so much the supernatural gift of grace as the fountain of God’s gifts, or His liberality and benevolence; and this benevolence of God towards us is described as shining, or gloriously manifesting itself. Hence, the final cause of our adoption as sons of God through Christ—that to which our adoption was ordained as regards God—is praise, or the public and jubilant exaltation in the sight of men and angels of the divine munificence gloriously manifesting itself towards us (Voste, Epist. ad Eph.).

By which, etc. The preposition in of the Vulgate should be omitted here, as it is not represented in the best Greek MSS., where we read ης (a genitive by attraction of the preceding noun χαριτος, for the accusative or the dative). We should therefore translate: “By which, etc.”

He graced us. The verb here is aorist, referring to a definitely past action. It is a rare verb which is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in Luke 1:28, and its meaning here goes back to the corresponding word in the verse, χάρις, which we said meant benevolence. Therefore the sense of the verb εχαριτωσεν in this passage is to pursue with benevolence. Hence the meaning is that God, pursuing us with His benevolence, has rendered us lovable or gracious. Explaining this verb St. Chrysostom says: “He not only delivered us from sin, but He made us lovable”; and Theodoret has: “The death of the Lord made us worthy of love.”

In the beloved (εν τω ηγαπημενω) . In the Vulgate the words filio suo are added as an explanation of dilecto. The meaning is given by Monod: “The Son, lovable in Himself, is essentially The Beloved; we, unlovable in ourselves, are accepted because of, and in, the Beloved; and if we are called beloved in our turn, it is because God sees us in His Son” (Aux Ephes., quoted by Moule, op. cit, hoc loco). Thus, the grace of adoption has come to us, not on account of any merit of ours, but only through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God. It is to be noted that St. Paul is everywhere insistent on the mediatorial merits of Christ.

Eph 1:7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins, according to the riches of his grace,

Having considered the eternal decree by which God chose and predestined us to be His adopted children, the Apostle now proceeds (Eph 1:7-14) to speak of the execution of this decree in time. “Loving us from eternity. He has rendered us lovable in time” (Corluy). Jesus, the Incarnate Word, has redeemed us from sin by His blood (Eph 1:7); in consequence we have received in the supernatural order all wisdom and prudence (Eph 1:8), the supreme mystery of the will of God to unite all things in Christ being made known (Eph 1:9-10). All these things have happened to Jews and Gentiles, called together into the New Israel (Eph 1:11-13a), the Holy Spirit, the pledge of our eternal inheritance, being poured out on all (Eph 1:13b-14). Cf. Voste, op. cit., hoc loco.

In whom, i.e., in the beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ. In virtue of our union with Him “we have redemption, etc.,” that is, liberation from the devil and sin, and from the anger of God, which redemption our Saviour has purchased for us by the shedding of His blood for us on the cross (Matt 20:28; Col 1:14, Col 1:20; 1 Pet 1:18 ff; 1 Cor 6:20, etc.). Our redemption has been effected by the voluntary offering on the part of Christ of His life as a ransom-price for our souls; Christ died that we might live.

The remission of sins. This explains in what our redemption consisted, namely, in the forgiveness of our sins (or, literally, trespasses of all kinds).

According to the riches, etc. This is a favorite phrase with St. Paul, by which he wishes to show the immensity of God’s goodness and love towards us. It would have been a great favor merely to have received God’s forgiveness, and a still greater favor to have received it through the giving of His divine Son for us; but to be forgiven at the price of the pouring out of the very blood of God’s only Son, this manifests a love for us on the part of the Eternal Father which surpasses all bounds, and which is, therefore, “according to the riches of His grace.” The shedding of blood was an acknowledgment of God’s supreme dominion over life and death which sin had challenged, suffering made atonement for transgression, and merit won back the graces lost (cf. Hitchcock, op. cit., hoc loco).

Eph 1:8. Which he caused to abound in us in all wisdom and prudence;

Which he caused to abound in us. The Greek here reads: ης επερισσευσεν, the genitive of attraction ης being used for the accusative ην. The subject of the verb is God, understood. Hence we should read: “Which (grace) he (God) caused to abound in us.”

In all wisdom, etc. The grace of God which has abounded in our favor has not only procured for us remission of sins, but it has also given us insight into the mysteries of the divine will.

“Wisdom” (σοφια) means a knowledge of principles, and here it has reference to a speculative knowledge of the great mysteries of faith. “Prudence,” or “intelligence” (φρονησει) , pertains to actions, and is a practical knowledge of good to be done or evil to be avoided; prudence or intelligence is the wisdom of the just (Luke 1:17). Some expositors think there is question here of the wisdom and prudence which God has exercised, rather than of the wisdom and prudence which He has communicated to the faithful; but the common opinion and the context of verse 9 favor the latter view.

Eph 1:9. Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in him,

The Apostle now proceeds to show how God has made His grace to abound in all wisdom and prudence in the saints, namely, by making known to them and helping them to understand the divine purpose, long concealed but now revealed through the Incarnation, of uniting all things in Christ.

Having made known, etc. γνωρισας is from the Greek word (γνωρίζω) implies the revelation of hidden truths, and it occurs frequently in St. Paul. The time referred to is the actual revelation of the Gospel.

The mystery, etc., i.e., the hidden secret of His will or purpose to unite all, Jews and Gentiles, in Christ—to make Christ the term and, as it were, the synthesis of the whole re-established supernatural order (Voste). The word μυστηριον occurs twenty-one times in St. Paul, and six times in this Epistle. In the Vulgate it is rendered eight times by sacramentum (including the present passage), and at other times by mysterium. It would be better to translate it everywhere by mysterium, and thus avoid the confusion arising from the technical meaning now given to the word sacrament.

According to his good pleasure, i.e., according to the good pleasure of the Father who has made known to the saints the hidden purpose of His will.

Which he purposed in him, i.e., in the Son (εν αυτω), the Messiah. The Father’s purpose was in Christ, the Son, inasmuch as it was to be realized through the Son (omnia per Ipsum facta sunt, et iterum omnia per Ipsum reconcilianda et restituenda sunt).

Eph 1:10. In the dispensation of the fullness of times, to re-establish all things in Christ, that are in heaven and on earth, in him.

In the dispensation, etc. The Greek word οικονομιαν, here rendered “dispensation,” really means stewardship, house-management; and the sense of this passage, in connection with the preceding verse, is that, when sin had disrupted the primitive harmony of creation, the Eternal Father purposed or decreed to send His Son into the world when the time determined by Himself had arrived, and to make Him the supreme head and administrator of all things in His spiritual household, the Church, for the purpose of reuniting and reconciling all things to Himself through this same divine Son. This work of recapitulating and reconciling all things in Christ began with the Incarnation, but it will not be completed till the end of the world, at the general resurrection.

All things, etc., i.e., men and angels, the material universe and the spiritual, are all made subject to Christ, the supreme head of the supernatural order, and all are to be reunited and reconciled to the Father through Christ, since all are in need of this reunion and reconciliation, all having been thrown into disharmony by sin. The Greek verb here translated “to re-establish” means “to restore,” “to reunite.” In the beginning all creatures—angels, men and the physical world—formed one grand, harmonious family all subject to God. But sin disrupted this primeval unity and subordination of part to part and of the whole to the Creator; and so the Eternal Father sent His Son to reunite the dissevered parts of His Creation and to restore the original harmony between the rational and the irrational, earth and heaven, men and angels (cf. Rom 8:19 ff.). Thus, the redemption equals creation in its extension. All things were created through the Word, and all things must be summed up and reconciled to the Father through the Word.

In him, i.e., in Christ, a repetition for the sake of emphasis; but the phrase ought to be connected with the following verse.

Eph 1:11. In whom we also were called by lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his will;

In whom we also, etc. The et nos of the Vulgate is not represented in the Greek, and hence the we here is not emphatic; the Apostle is stressing not the persons that were called, but the fact of their call to the Gospel, both Jews and Gentiles.

By lot. The meaning of the Greek here is to obtain an inheritance, a portion, that is, to be made a part of God’s inheritance, portion, lot. The Greek verb used here to express this allotment is found nowhere else in the Greek Bible, but its meaning is clear from the noun κλῆρος, lot (cf. also Deut 32:9). The Church is the New Israel of God (Gal 6:16). The call to Christianity is gratuitous, altogether independent of our merits, and infallible; it is in no way fortuitous or due to chance. For we were “predestinated” to this admission into the New Israel of God “according to the purpose, etc.,” that is, according to the free and independent choice of the will of God. The Greek verb here used, worketh, (ενεργουντος), signifies the infallible efficacy of the divine action in moving all things to their respective operations and ends.

The counsel, etc. In Greek βουλην includes the deliberation of the reason, whereas θέλημα (will) means native, active inclination. God’s will is eminently free, but by no means arbitrary; it acts according to “counsel.”

Eph 1:12. That we may be unto the praise of his glory, we who before hoped in Christ:

That we might be, etc. The final reason why God chose, predestined, and called us is His own glory. The final reason for every action of God must be Himself, because, as being all-perfect, He can act only for the highest and most perfect end, and this obviously is Himself.

We who before, etc., i.e., we Jews. It is more probable that the Apostle is speaking in this verse, not of Christians in general who are living in the hope of Christ to come at the end of the world, but of the Jews to whom the Messianic promises were given. To the Jews, living in hope of the Messiah to come, was given the prerogative of being first admitted into the New Israel of God, the Church. We hold, then, that the reference in this verse is to Jewish believers as against Gentile believers. The former, as having inherited and cherished the hope of the Messiah to come before the Gentiles were aware of this blessing, have a sort of prior claim with respect to the Gospel.

Eph 1:13. In whom you also, after you had heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation); in whom also believing, you were signed with the holy Spirit of promise,

In whom you also, etc. Having spoken in the previous verse of the Jewish Christians, the Apostle now turns to the Gentile converts, who also have been called to share in the blessings of the Gospel. Most probably the verb “were called” (as in ver. 11) should be supplied to complete the first line of this present verse, thus: “In whom you also were called, etc.” Also the Gentiles have been called through Christ, they have had preached to them “the word of truth” (i.e., the Gospel), the purpose of which is their salvation; they have also believed in Christ and in the Gospel, and in consequence they have received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit promised by the Prophets and by Jesus as the seal and pledge of their divine filiation. This sign or seal is impressed on the soul in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. These two Sacraments, of Baptism and Confirmation, were usually conferred together in the early Church (cf. Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4 ff., Acts 2:16 ff.; John 1:32, John 6:27, etc.). Some authors take the second in quo (in whom) of this verse to refer to the Gospel rather than to Christ, but this does not change the meaning.

Eph 1:14. Who is the pledge of our inheritance, unto the redemption of acquisition, unto the praise of his glory.

Who is the pledge, etc. The Holy Ghost now given to Christians is the earnest, or first installment, or part-payment of the final and complete blessedness which will be theirs hereafter. The Greek word αρραβων, here translated pledge, is Semitic in origin and first meant something given as a guarantee of an agreement between two parties, but which was to be surrendered upon the fulfillment of the agreement. But by usage the word took on the meaning of an earnest, or a certain part of the whole that is to be paid in due time. This is the meaning of the word here.

Unto the redemption, etc., i.e., the Holy Ghost is now given the Christians as the first installment of their full and final emancipation as God’s people and possession, acquired by the blood of Christ. The saints are the property or possession of God, and they have already received a part or foretaste of their future inheritance; the Holy Ghost has been given “them as part-payment until the redemption is complete, that is, until our “acquisition,” or future possession, has been fully redeemed. “Charitas viae, quam hic habemus per infusum Spiritum Sanctum, eadem numero est ac charitas patriae, qua beati (misericordia Dei) possidebimus Deum in coelo” (St. Thomas, la IIæ, Q. 67, art. 6).


A Summary of Ephesians 1:15-19~Having considered the benefits which God from eternity has bestowed on the “Ephesians,” and also the privilege of their call to the Gospel in time, the Apostle now thanks God for the faith they have already received, and then goes on to pray for a further outpouring of the Spirit upon them, to the end that they may fully realize the divine prospects which are theirs, which God has in store for them, and which will be given them according to the measure of His omnipotent power displayed in the exaltation of Christ.

Eph 1:15. Wherefore I also, hearing of your faith which is in the Lord Jesus, and of your love towards all the saints,

Wherefore, i.e., because of the many divine benefits which have been described above, namely, our election, predestination, adoption, redemption, etc.

I also, hearing, etc., i.e., Paul, a prisoner in Rome, had heard of the faith among the “Ephesians.” This is taken as an argument that this letter was not addressed to the Christians of Ephesus, among whom Paul had lived so long and whose faith was known to him personally. But others say that the Apostle is here alluding to the increase and progress of their faith since he was with them.

Which is in the Lord Jesus, i.e., which reposes in Him and on Him as a basis and foundation; or, less likely, which is maintained in union with Him.

And your love, etc. The word “love” here is wanting in some good MSS., but it is found in other important ones and in all ancient versions, and is therefore to be retained as a parallel to “faith.” The faith of the saints issues in love toward the brethren who share that faith, that is, in a love of preference, one which favors the Christians, but does not exclude love towards all men (2 Peter 1:7).

Eph 1:16. Cease not to give thanks for you, making commemoration of you in my prayers;

Cease not, etc. This is a frequent phrase with St. Paul, especially at the beginning of his Epistles, and Egyptian papyri show that similar phrases were used in epistolary greetings in pre-Christian times; with St. Paul, however, such words have a spiritual meaning. The Apostle continually thanks God for the spiritual benefits conferred on the saints, and he prays that these blessings may be continued and extended.

Eph 1:17. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and of revelation, in the knowledge of him:

In verses 17-19 we have the substance of St. Paul’s prayer. This is the Apostle’s first prayer in this letter; a second prayer occurs below in Eph 3:14-19, and a third in Eph 6:18-20,

That the God, etc. There should be no comma after Deus in the Vulgate here. The meaning of the passage is: The God whom our Lord Jesus Christ knew and manifested to the world (John 20:17; Matt, 27:46; cf. above, ver. 3). The Arians abused this text to prove that our Lord was not divine; and hence some of the Fathers interpreted the words “of our Lord Jesus Christ” as referring to the humanity of Christ.

The Father of glory, i.e., the author and source of all glory, who possesses in Himself the fullness of glory and diffuses it in the world outside the Godhead.

May give unto you the spirit, etc., not the Holy Spirit, but His gifts, especially that of heavenly wisdom which penetrates into the deep mysteries of God and ever reveals a fuller knowledge of the Father, the Divine Being, whom to know, together with the Son whom He has sent, is to know the secrets and the fullness of eternal life (John 17:3; Matt. 11:27).

Eph 1:18. The eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what the hope is of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
Eph 1:19. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the operation of the might of his power,

The eyes of your heart, etc., i.e., that the Father of glory may give you (v. 17) enlightened eyes, or enlightenment of eyes, so that you may thoroughly understand the following: (a) “what Is the hope of his calling,” i.e., what are the rewards to be hoped for by those whom God has called to Christianity; (b) “what are the riches of the glory, etc.,” i.e., what are the treasures of glory in heaven which God has prepared for Christians who, as children of God, have become heirs of celestial riches; (c) “what is the exceeding greatness of his power, etc.,” i.e., what is the infinite power of God which is able to confer on the saints all that God has promised them as a result of their Christian faith. Thus, the Apostle prays that his readers may grasp the hope of their calling, the object of their calling, and the infinite power by which God is able to fulfill His promises to the saints.

Heart, among the Semites and Hebrews, meant not only the seat of the affections, but of intelligence also.

What, i.e., the essence or quiddity. There Is good MSS. evidence for rejecting the “and” after “calling,” thus making “the hope of his calling” one question with “what are the riches of his glory,” instead of there being two questions involved in those two clauses.

The glory of his inheritance, i.e., the state of glory which Christ, the King of glory, has inherited and prepared in heaven for the saints (John 14:2 ff.).
In the saints. i.e., in the Christians who are saved: “The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

Of his power, etc., exercised in our sanctification and glorification.

Who believe is in apposition with “us”; the phrase is not to be connected with the words that follow.

According to the operation, etc. These words go back to “the exceeding greatness of his power,” and the meaning Is: “according to the working of the strength of his power.”

Might of his power. This is an intensive phrase used to bring out the power of God working within us; nothing is impossible to that divine power which was able to raise Christ from the dead. God who calls us to the joys of the Infinite has infinite power to make effective that call. See parallel passages in Col. 1:27, and Rom. 9:23.


A Summary of Ephesians 1:20-23~Speaking of the infinite power of God manifested in the raising of Christ from the dead, the Apostle is, as it were, carried out of himself, and bursts forth into a sublime act of praise of the risen and glorified Saviour, sitting at the right hand of God in heaven, elevated above all angelic powers or dignities, with all things beneath His feet, being made the head of the Church, which is His mystical body. In these verses our Lord’s exaltation and supremacy are proclaimed, first over the universe (Eph 1:21–22a) and then over the Church (ver. Eph 1:22b-23).

Eph 1:20. Which he wrought in Christ, raising him up from the dead, and setting him on his right hand in the heavenly places,

Which he wrought. The reference is to the action of the Eternal Father in raising our Lord from the dead.

In Christ, i.e., in the person and instance of Christ.

And setting him. Better: “making him to sit.”

On his right hand, i.e., in the place of honor, sharing as the Incarnate Son the throne of the eternal Father, which as God He had never relinquished.

In the heavenly places, i.e., in a spiritual locality outside and above our world of sense. Our Lord’s glorified body is a real body, and therefore it requires a real place in which to dwell. See above on verse 3.


Eph 1:21. Above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.

Above all principality, etc. The Apostle here mentions four orders or classes or choirs of celestial beings above which Christ in heaven is said to be exalted (cf. 1 Peter 3:22, and below, Eph 3:10). In Col. 1:16, we have a parallel passage where St. Paul adds the order of “thrones,” but omits the order of “virtue” here mentioned. In that passage the thought is that Christ in His pre-existent glory and divinity is the Creator of those angelic beings; whereas here His Headship over them is the dominant thought. The division of angels into nine orders and three hierarchies is due to the Pseudo-Dionysius in his book On the Celestial Hierarchy, a notable work which first appeared about 500 a.d., but which from then on exercised a great influence till the close of the Middle Ages.

Every name, etc., is a Hebraism which signifies every creature whatsoever, which can exist “not only in this world” (i.e., in the time that precedes the Second Coming of Christ), “but also in that which is to come” (i.e., the eternal and heavenly duration that will follow the Second Advent): over all creatures, present or to come, Christ rules supreme (cf. Phil. 2:9-1 1 ; Col. 1:13).

Eph 1:22. And he hath subjected all things under his feet, and hath made him head over all the church,

And he hath subjected, etc. An allusion to Ps. 8:8, where man is described as the crown of the visible world (cf. 1 Cor. 15:26 ff.; Heb. 2:8 flf).

And hath made him head, etc. The Greek reads : “And gave him to the Church head over all.” The words “over all” show the dignity and excellence of Christ whom the eternal Father has given to the Church as its head. Our Lord made St. Peter the visible head of the Apostolic College and of the Church, but He Himself ever remains the supreme head, not only of the Church Militant, but likewise of the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant.

Eph 1:23. Which is his body, and the fullness of him who is filled all in all.

But Jesus is the head of the Church, not merely because He governs it and has subjected all things to Himself, but also because it is His mystical body. The Church exists by virtue of Christ its head, and we its members live by His life. Hence, to injure unjustly the Church and its members is to injure Christ, as Jesus affirmed to Saul the persecutor: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me, etc.” (Acts 9:4 ff.). St. Paul frequently speaks of the Church as the mystical body of Christ (cf. Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12 ff.; Eph. 4:12-16, 5:23, 30; Col. 1:18-19, 2:19).

The fullness of him, i.e., the totality or completion of Christ, or that which renders Christ complete. The Greek word πληρωμα (fullness) here is obscure and has received various explanations, the most probable of which we have just given in the preceding sentence. The Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of the Church. From this union of head and body there results one whole, which is the mystical Christ. The Church, therefore, the body of Christ, completes Christ; or, to put it in another way, Christ, the head of the Church, is completed by the Church. In other words, as in the human body the members are the completion or complement of the head, since without them the head could not exercise the different actions, so the Church, which is the body of Christ, is the complement of Christ the head, because without it Christ would not be able to exercise His office of Redeemer and Sanctifier of souls.

Who is filled. Here again the meaning is very obscure. The verb to fill in the Greek of the present passage may be taken in the middle or in the passive voice. If we take it as a middle, the meaning would be that Christ for His own sake fills with all graces and blessings the members of the Church, His mystical body. If the verb be understood as a passive participle, the sense is that Christ, God Incarnate, is incomplete without the Church, as a head is necessarily incomplete without its body; and that, consequently, as the Church grows in holiness and progresses in the fulfillment of its divine mission, Christ, God Incarnate, is progressively completed.

All in all, i.e., all things in all ways. Cf. St. Thomas, hoc loco; Voste, op. cit., hoc loco; Prat, La Theol. de St. Paul, I, pp. 410 ff.

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Father Callan’s Introduction to Ephesians

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 8, 2018


1. Captivity Epistles. Four letters of St. Paul—those to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon— are known as the Captivity Epistles, because the Apostle was a prisoner when he wrote them, most probably at Rome (61-63 a.d.), as mentioned in Acts 28:30. This opinion is according to a very ancient tradition which the contents of those Epistles support. First of all, there is a similarity of vocabulary and style in these four letters, and Philippians seems to point directly to Rome when St. Paul speaks of himself as a prisoner, of the number of local preachers, and of Caesar’s household (Phil. 1:7-17, 4: 22). Moreover, that these four letters emanated from the Eternal City and were written about the same time is further made very likely from the following: (a) Timothy is associated with St. Paul in writing to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon; (b) Rome, the capital of the Empire, was the natural resort of the runaway slave from Colossse, Onesimus, whose meeting with St. Paul occasioned the letter to Philemon (Phlm. 10-12, 18); (c) in Ephesians 6:20, the Apostle calls himself an ambassador in chains, that is, a representative of Christ the King in the imperial city, but without honor; (d) he is free to preach and to receive all who come to him (Phlm. 7 ff., 24; Eph. 3:12, 6:19, 20; Phil. 1:12, 20 ff.; Acts 28:30, 31); (e) he expects an early release, and asks Philemon to make ready a lodging for him (Phil. 2:24; Phlm, 22); (f) Tychicus and Onesimus are together in bearing these three letters to Asia (Eph. 6:21 ; Col. 4:7-9; Phlm. 12, 22).

In view of these considerations there is nothing of moment to be said in favor of the opinion that the three letters last named were written during the Caesarean captivity (58-60 a.d.). The arguments just given favoring Rome would not fit Caesarea. Still less can be said in support of the opinion which makes Ephesus the place whence St. Paul wrote the Captivity Epistles (see Pope, Aids to the Study of the Bible, vol. III., p. 160).

As to the order of these four Epistles, it is evident from what has been said above that those to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon are not to be separated; but whether the Colossian Epistle preceded or followed the composition of that to the Ephesians cannot be determined with any degree of certainty, though it is clear that both were carried from Rome at the same time by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7). Nor can it be decided whether the letter to the Philippians was the first or the last of these four Captivity Epistles.

With regard to their general contents Dr. Voste, O.P., very appropriately remarks that “there is nothing in the whole New Testament which so nearly approaches the doctrinal and mystical sublimity of the Fourth Gospel as do these Epistles. There is the same loftiness of dogmatic and ethical teaching, the same marvelous boldness of expressions, the same divine revelation of the union of the faithful with Christ or of the branches with the vine, and finally the same glorification of the love and person of Christ. John, the beloved disciple, has revealed to us the glory of the Word made flesh; Paul, rapt to the third heaven, has made known to us the glory of Christ exalted on high. And then, also, it was that the Apostle described this sublimity when, like the exile of Patmos, he was an ambassador in chains for Christ; when, like Stephen the First Martyr when being stoned to death, he saw the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Ep. ad Eph., Introd., pp. 6, 7).

The style and manner of treatment in these Captivity Epistles is very different from that in St. Paul’s previous letters—Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. In those great Epistles the Apostle was at the height of his career; he was founding Churches; he was unfolding his great revelations; he was defending his authority and his teachings; he was in the thick of the battle. In these letters his work is mostly done; he is quietly surveying the fruits of his many labors, and is only anxious that they may be preserved. He is now reflective, meditative, and on the whole at peace in his mind.

His surroundings are also very different here. Formerly he was writing from Greek cities, with their individualistic outlook and cultured environment; but now he is writing from Rome, the centre of the great empire, with its worldwide outlook and its emphasis upon the family, the community, the state, and the race. Hence, Paul’s vision assumes a wider range here—especially in Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians—taking in the whole world and uniting all men of all time under the universal sovereignty of Christ. Christ, the King, and His universal Church are uppermost in the Apostle’s mind in these letters.

2. Ephesus. Situated on the great highway of trade between the East and the West, and under Roman rule the capital of Proconsular Asia, Ephesus was one of the most important cities of ancient times. It was to the province of Asia what Corinth was to Greece, what Antioch was to Syria, and what Alexandria was to Egypt. It was built on the Cayster River only about three miles inland from the Ægean Sea, and was the sea terminal of the great trade route which extended eastward, up the valley of the Maeander to that of the Lycus, and thence to central Asiatic and far eastern points. Miletus was indeed the natural terminus and seaport of the road which, from central Asia Minor and eastern lands, led down the valleys of the Lycus and the Maeander to the West, but the journey was shortened some thirty miles by a pass only six hundred feet high over the mountains from the Maeander to Ephesus. Moreover, during later centuries, and especially under the Romans, the silt carried down by the Maeander seems to have been permitted to spoil the harbor of Miletus, thus giving Ephesus undisputed supremacy as the seaport of Proconsular Asia until, in course of time, a similar fate befell the port of Ephesus through the alluvium which the Cayster deposited at its mouth. Even in St. Paul’s age the channel between Ephesus and the sea had to be cleaned out repeatedly, but later, after the sway of Rome had passed away, it was allowed to fill up and become a mere marsh, and the glory of Ephesus as a port and the great coastal terminal of trade from Central Asia and eastern countries ceased to exist and became a mere matter of the past.

In the days of its prosperity the trade and wealth of Ephesus were augmented also by the coast-line ships from north and south, and by the vast numbers of visitors who were passing from Rome to the East or from the Orient to the West, as well as those who came to the city to worship at the shrine of Diana, to enjoy the Roman festivals, and to assist at the public games and shows. For, as already said, Ephesus was the principal seaport of the Roman province of Asia and the roads from the interior all converged there, thus making it most easily accessible for land travelers. Just outside the city stood the marvelous Temple of Diana (Artemis), one of the seven wonders of the world, and on the western side of Mt. Coressus was the largest theatre of the Hellenic world, open to the sky, and capable of accommodating 50,000 spectators; while a little to the north was situated the Stadium or Race Course where the public games and fights were exhibited.

The road from Ephesus to the east up the valley of the Cayster was too steep and precipitous for commercial purposes, but, as it was considerably shorter than the lower and more level route down the valleys of the Lycus and the Masander, foot-passengers, like St. Paul, naturally preferred it. Hence, the Apostle going on foot from Pisidian Antioch to Ephesus would follow the higher, though steeper, Cayster route; and this is why he seems never to have visited Colossse and Laodicea, which were on the main highway of trade down the valleys of the Lycus and the Maeander.

3. The Church of Ephesus. Being so situated, the terminal of trade and travel from Asia and the East westward, and as the Asiatic port for commerce and travelers from the West to the East, Ephesus was naturally sought by St. Paul as a centre from which his preaching and missionary activities should radiate. Already at the outset of his second great journey (51 a.d.) he seems to have had Ephesus in mind as his goal, but being “forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6), he passed through Mysia over to Troas, and from there to Neapolis and Philippi, and then down through Macedonia and Greece (Acts 16:11-18:18). But at the close of that missionary journey, on his way from Greece to Syria, he paid a brief visit to Ephesus, leaving there, as he proceeded back to the East, Aquila and Priscilla whom he had brought thither, and promising to return later himself (Acts 18:18-21).

Accordingly, on his third missionary journey (55-58 A.D.), St. Paul, after visiting the Churches previously founded in Galatia, came directly to Ephesus by way of the “upper coasts,” that is, following the Cayster valley route (Acts 19:1). The seed planted there on his first brief visit and nourished to some extent by the efforts of Aquila and Priscilla, aided for a time by Apollo, had already produced a little fruit in the establishment of a small group of catechumens who had received only the baptism of John (Acts 19:1-3). These St. Paul at once instructed and baptised, imposing hands upon them and thus endowing them with the gifts of the Spirit (Acts 19:4-7). Then entering the synagogue where he had preached on his first visit to Ephesus, “he spoke boldly for the space of three months, disputing and exhorting concerning the Kingdom of God,” until, forced by the opposition of some of his Jewish hearers, he made “the school of one Tyrannus” his place of worship and instruction (Acts 19:8-9). In this new abode he continued his spiritual labors for two whole years, discoursing every day and proving by miracles the divinity of his doctrine and claims, with the grand result that great numbers embraced the faith in Ephesus, the magical practices in honor of Diana were exposed as frauds, and the Gospel was heard by both Jews and Greeks throughout the whole province of Asia (Acts x19:10-26). It seems that St. Paul himself remained in Ephesus all the time (Acts 20:18), but his influence and efforts were extended by co-workers, like Epaphras and Tychicus of Colossse, and by the multitudes who came to Ephesus for various purposes, and, having heard the glad tidings of the new religion, carried them back to their homes. Although his personal work in Ephesus was nearly finished and he was contemplating an early visit to Macedonia and Corinth (1 Cor 16:5 ff.), the Apostle’s stay was somewhat shortened by the tumult raised by the silversmith Demetrius and his craftsmen; whereas he had intended to prolong his labors in that fruitful field until Pentecost, and then go to Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 19:21 ff.; 1 Cor 16:8-9).

On his way from Corinth back to Syria at the close of his third missionary journey (58 a.d.), St. Paul, unable to spare the time for a visit to Ephesus itself, halted at Miletus on the coast of Caria (Acts 20:15), some thirty miles southwest of Ephesus, and called thither the ancients of the Church of Ephesus, and addressed to them the solemn discourse of which St. Luke has given us the substance in Acts 20:18-35—which discourse is at once an indication of the strong and flourishing condition of the Ephesian Christian community and of St. Paul’s abiding interest in and affection for the Church there.

The next mention of Ephesus in connection with St. Paul is in the Pastoral Epistles, written towards the end of the Apostle’s life. In 1 Tim. 1:3 ff., we read that Paul exhorted Timothy to remain at Ephesus as head of that Church to teach and to correct, while he himself went to Macedonia; and in the Second Epistle to Timothy, written during the Apostle’s last imprisonment in Rome and shortly before his death, ‘he recalls the kindness of the Ephesian Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 2:18), and says he has sent Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:12).

Ephesus is mentioned twice in later Apostolic history, namely, in Rev 1:11; 2:1. There it was, after Timothy had passed, that St. John the Evangelist, as Bishop of that see, spent his declining years and wrote his Gospel and Epistles; there he was heard by Polycarp, Ignatius Martyr, and Papias; and there he died and was buried about the close of the first century of our era.

The Church of Ephesus continued to exercise a great influence for many centuries. It was the scene of the Ecumenical Council of 431 and of the “Robber Synod” of 449, and at the end of the fourth century its Bishop bore the title of Exarch or Grand Metropolitan of Asia. Ultimately, however, the primacy of Asia was taken over by the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Christian community of Ephesus gradually declined with the rest of the city its present desolate state of a small Turkish village.

4. To Whom Ephesians Was Addressed. It is extremely difficult to decide for whom this letter was destined. A great variety of opinions have been advanced, the merits of all of which it is neither possible nor useful to discuss here. Hence we shall confine ourselves to those which seem most likely, and which are or have been most generally held.

According to tradition this Epistle was intended for the faithful of the city of Ephesus, which St. Paul visited at the close of his second missionary journey and where he spent over two years on his third journey. In favor of this opinion we have: (a) the testimony of all extant Manuscripts containing St. Paul’s Epistles, which—with the exception of the Vatican (B), the Sinaitic (S), the cursive 67, and that of Mt. Athos recently found—read ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ (at Ephesus) in Eph 1:1; (b) the title given this Epistle by every known MS., which has “To the Ephesians”; (c) the most ancient versions, going back to the middle of the second century, which follow the MSS. in reading “at Ephesus” in 1:1, and which therefore seem to indicate that this reading was already old when they were made; (d) the Muratorian Fragment in Rome, St. Irenaeus in Gaul, Tertullian in Africa, and Clement in Alexandria. These Fathers appear to have held the Ephesian destination of this letter on the authority of tradition, and not on the evidence of the MSS. before them. Thus it seems that, at the end of the second century, tradition was wellnigh unanimous in affirming that this letter was written for the faithful of Ephesus. Internal evidence, however, in support of this ancient opinion is, practically speaking, entirely lacking.

Against the Ephesian destination we have: (a) the indirect and negative testimony of the four MSS. referred to above, two of which are the oldest and best in existence, going back to about the middle of the fourth century; (b) Marcion, about the middle of the second century, who said this letter was addressed to the Laodiceans, and who, since he could have had no dogmatic reason for saying so, may have been guided by some ancient codex which read this way; (c) Tertullian, who, arguing against Marcion for the Ephesian destination, was influenced only by tradition, making no reference to the words “at Ephesus” in 1:1, which must therefore have been absent from the MSS. known to him; (d) Origen, St. Basil, and St. Jerome, from whose writings we see that the phrase “at Ephesus” in 1:1 was lacking in the MSS. they made use of. With regard to the argument from Marcion, just given above, we are not obliged to believe that he had before him a codex which read “to the Laodiceans,” for his opinion may have been based only on the reference in Colossians to a letter at Laodicea (Col. 4:16). However, all this external evidence seems to show, at least, that the words ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ of verse 1 of this Epistle are not authentic, and consequently do not prove anything for the Ephesian destination of the letter.

Internal evidence is strongly opposed to an Ephesian destination. For example, (a) this Epistle has no personal greetings of any kind, which is nearly impossible to understand if Paul was writing to Ephesus where he had lived and labored so long and so successfully; (b) the tone of the letter is formal and distant, terms of familiarity and endearment (like “beloved” and “brethren”), being entirely absent; (c) there is no allusion to the Apostle’s previous relations with his readers (as in Thess., Gal., Corinth., etc.), but, on the contrary, he seems to be unknown to the recipients of this Epistle, he has only heard of their faith (Eph 1:15), they have perhaps heard of the ministry committed to him (Eph 3:2 ff.), and he hopes they have been taught aright regarding Christ (Eph 4:20-21). We cannot imagine St. Paul addressing the Ephesians, either exclusively or inclusively, in this manner; and hence it seems to us that not only was this letter not addressed solely to the faithful of Ephesus, but it also could not have been written to any group of Churches which would include Ephesus.

If, therefore, we are to follow the theory commonly accepted nowadays (namely, that this was a Circular Epistle addressed to a number of Christian communities in Asia Minor), we ought to exclude the Church at Ephesus, and perhaps confine ourselves to the faithful of Laodicea and Hierapolis. But here again we encounter difficulties. Since these cities were only a few miles from Colossae, and must therefore have been affected by the same errors as endangered the faithful to whom Colossians was sent, it is hard to see why two letters so different in tone and object should have been directed to readers so near together and so similarly circumstanced. We admit, of course, that this objection has weight only in the supposition that Ephesians was addressed exclusively to the Churches at Laodicea and Hierapolis, and not to a group of Churches of which those two were only a part. If then we hold that we have here a Circular Epistle, and yet exclude the Church at Ephesus for the reasons given at the end of the preceding paragraph, and also the Churches at Laodicea and HierapoHs because of their nearness to Colossae, what group of Churches unknown to St. Paul shall we designate as readers of this letter? In reply it must be observed, first of all, that it seems next to certain that the readers addressed by this Epistle were living in Asia Minor somewhere and not too far from Colossae, since Tychicus was the bearer of this Epistle and of that to the Colossians at one and the same time. Arguing thus, some scholars have concluded that this letter was written for that rather isolated group of Churches in northeastern Asia Minor, near the Black Sea, to which St. Peter addressed his first letter (1 Pet. 1:1). The Ephesian designation given the letter, we are told, was due to the fact that, when the official collection of St. Paul’s Epistles was prepared some time in the second century, the copy which had been made at Ephesus when Tychicus first arrived there with the original from Rome, and which naturally bore the inserted reference to that central Church of Asia, was the one that was chosen for the Canon and that was copied generally in subsequent codices (cf. Ladeuze, Cath, EncycL, vol. V, pp. 487, 488; Revue Bihliquc, 1902, pp. 573-580.) This conjecture is worth some reflection, but one may well ask why St. Paul sent the crown of all his Epistles only to such a comparatively insignificant body of the faithful.

In view of the unsatisfactory character of the conclusions so far arrived at touching the destination of this letter, perhaps it is best after all to hold with the majority of modern scholars that we have in Ephesians a circular letter written to the various Churches of Asia Minor, including Ephesus, Laodicea and Hierapolis, and that the impersonal tone and distant, formal character of the Epistle are to be explained by the very fact that so many of the faithful were addressed, not a few of whom were strange and unknown to the Apostle. Along with this opinion the words ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ (at Ephesus) which are found in so many MSS., can be explained quite reasonably as in the preceding paragraph.

The opinion of Harnack, however, which Fr. Knabenbauer regarded as not improbable and which Dr. J, M. Voste, O.P., adopts in his learned work on Ephesians, deserves our serious consideration. The opinion goes back to Marcion’s view that our Epistle was addressed to the Laodiceans. We give here a summary of Dr. Voste’s reasoning on this theory.

In the first place, the best text of verse i of this Epistle seems to be defective, as if the name of a city which ought to be in it had dropped out or had been purposely omitted. After the words τοῖς οὖσιν (who are) we should expect a noun, as in Rom. 1:7 τοις ουσιν εν ρωμη (to all in Rome), and in Phil. 1:1 τοις ουσιν εν φιλιπποις (to all in Philippi); (cf. also 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2; Col. 1:2). Therefore, it is concluded that verse 1 of Ephesians ought to read: τοις ουσιν εν λαοδικεια (to those that are at Laodicea, etc.). The phrase εν λαοδικεια (at Laodicea), we are told, was in time suppressed because of the unworthiness which later crept into the Church of Laodicea, and to which St. John refers in Rev 3:14-19; but that it belongs there and that this Epistle was consequently directed to the Laodiceans is further made probable by the following references to the Church at Laodicea in the Epistle to the Colossians:

1. “For I would have you know what manner of care I have for you and for them that are at Laodicea, and whosoever have not seen my face in the flesh” (Col. 2:1). Here we observe that, while speaking to the Colossians, only the Laodiceans are expressly named.

2. St. Paul says of Epaphras: “For I bear him testimony that he hath much labor for you, and for them that are at Laodicea, and them at Hierapolis” (Col. 4:13). These three cities—Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis—were not far apart in the valley of the Lycus River.

3. The Apostle says to the Colossians: “Salute the brethren who are at Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in his house” (Col. 4:15). Here Hierapolis is not included.

4. Finally, the Apostle says: “And when this Epistle shall have been read with you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans: and that you read that which is of the Laodiceans” (Col. 4:16). Here again there is question only of the Churches at Colossae and Laodicea, and both have received a letter from St. Paul.

As Dr. Voste goes on to observe here, it is manifest from the foregoing texts that the Churches at Colossae and Laodicea were intimately connected one with the other and in the heart of the Apostle. And hence it would a priori be very strange if, while the Epistle to the Colossians has been preserved, that to the Laodiceans should have been lost—all the more so, since, having been read at Colossae, most likely a copy of it would have been made by the Colossians That no copy of a letter so important as this one seems to have been should have come down to us, while that to the Church of Colossae and even the little personal letter to Philemon written at the same time have been preserved, borders on the incredible. But, on the other hand, if among the Epistles of St. Paul that we have there is one which, as regards time of composition and contents, is like our Epistle to the Colossians, though its traditional inscription gives rise to various hypotheses, there results great probability that this is the Epistle to the Laodiceans.

Now, we have an Epistle to the Ephesians, written at the same time as the Epistle to the Colossians and in many ways very much like it, which seems certainly not to have been written to the Ephesians but to some other Church. The suspicion, therefore, naturally arises that this letter which now bears the title “to the Ephesians,” but which in the best MSS. and in ancient tradition appeared without any special inscription, is that lost Epistle of St. Paul’s which was sent to the Laodiceans. With this admission, we shall find no difficulty in the absence of salutations and of particular characteristics, because, as a matter of fact, the Laodiceans had never seen St. Paul, and, moreover, certain things in the Epistle to the Colossians, which was also to be sent to the Laodiceans, would pertain to the latter.

Hence, it seems very probable that our Epistle to the Ephesians in the beginning carried in its salutation the phrase εν λαοδικεια (at Laodicea) and that Marcion in the middle of the second century still read these authentic words in his text. We can account for the early suppression of the Laodicean designation, as said above, by the great corruption which invaded the Church of Laodicea towards the end of the first century (Rev 3:14-19), and which rendered it no longer worthy of so great a privilege and special distinction. This suppression would naturally be soon forgotten at large, and in course of time, when the collection of St. Paul’s Epistles was made, the illustrious name of Ephesus, the capital city of Roman Asia where St. Paul had lived so long, was substituted for the omission, in order to satisfy the grammatical construction ot the first verse of the letter, as well as to give to this glorious Epistle a complete and specific inscription, like those of St. Paul’s other letters. The fact that not all MSS. adopted the Ephesian inscription only proves that the Epistle had for long been known to lack the name of any special city or place.

The foregoing explanation is in substance the theory of Harnack as given by Dr. Voste in his work on Ephesians (Introduction, pp. 18 ff.) . As said above, this opinion was also accepted by Fr. Knabenbauer, S.J., as not improbable, and it has been followed by a number of non-Catholic exegetes. To us it seems very plausible, though not entirely free from difficulties. Perhaps it is open to fewer objections than any of the other explanations.

5. Authorship of Ephesians. This letter was circulated in the Church to some extent by the end of the first century, at the close of the second century it was in common use and widely known and it was always ascribed to St. Paul as its author. In fact, the authenticity of this Epistle was admitted without question by every ancient authority that can now be cited. Thus, the Muratorian Canon includes Ephesus among the Churches to which St. Paul wrote letters. St. Irenseus quotes Eph 5:30 as the words of “the blessed Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians.” Tertullian argues against Marcion for the Ephesian destination of this letter. Clement of Alexandria, Origen and St. Basil are equally explicit; and Eusebius includes this Epistle among the sacred writings which were admitted by the whole Church without hesitation.

It is even probable that we have an allusion to this Epistle in Col. 4:16, and a number of references to it in the First Epistle of St. Peter. For the latter compare Eph. 1:3-14 with 1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 1:20 with 1 Pet. 3:22; Eph. 2:18-22 with 1 Pet. 2:4-6; Eph. 3:10 with 1 Pet. 1:12; Eph. 4:9 with 1 Pet. 3:19; Eph. 5:22-6:9 with 1 Pet. 2:18-3:7. There are also quotations from and allusions to this Epistle, or echoes of it, in the writings of St. Ignatius Martyr, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tatian, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, and the Epistle of Barnabas.

Moreover, the heretics of the second century not only admitted that St. Paul was the author of this letter, but they even cited it as Sacred Scripture. Marcion, for example, included it in his Canon (cf. St. Epiphanius, Haer., xlii. 9), Valentine made use of it to justify his own doctrine (cf. St. Iren., Adv. Haer., i. 3, 8), Basilides did likewise (Philosoph., vii. 26), and other heretics likewise had recourse to it when they thought it served their purpose.

Among modern Rationalists and non-Catholic writers there are some who have doubted or denied the authenticity of our letter, but there is an equal if not a greater number who admit its genuineness, or incline towards it. In the former group are Schleiermacher, De Wette, Weizacher, Ewald, Baur, Holtzmann, Renan, Schwegler, Davidson, Cone, Moffatt, Dobschutz, Pfleiderer, Clemen, Scott, von Soden, etc.; whereas in the latter group we find such names as Weiss, Zahn, Shaw, Knowling, Lunemann, Lock, Robertson, Bacon, Schenkel, Salmon, Godet, Harnack, McGiffert, Howson, etc. Dr. Hort says he is sure that Ephesians bears “the impress of Paul’s wonderful mind.” Julicher appears to be uncertain.

One of the main reasons for suspecting the authenticity of this Epistle is based upon its similarity to Colossians, from which it is concluded that one or the other or both are the work of some falsifier, living perhaps early in the second century.

We may reply, in the first place, by freely conceding that the resemblances between these two letters are many and striking. For example, (a) the salutations are practically the same; (b) both have the same general structure; (c) in both the principal subjects and leading thoughts are much the same, the relations of Christ to His Church and to the Universe being the dominant thoughts in Ephesians and Colossians respectively; (d) there are many parallel passages, the same words, phrases and similitudes, and, in the practical part, the same counsels and exhortations. But are not these similarities just what we should expect in two letters written by the same author at about the same time to two Churches in practically the same spiritual condition and general environment? They are both Captivity Epistles (Eph. 6: 20; Col. 4:10), and Tychicus is the bearer of them both (Eph. 6:21-22; Col. 4:7-9), very probably to neighboring Churches known to him. Is it surprising, then, that both letters should discuss similar themes in a similar style?

In the second place, let it be observed that, while there are notable resemblances between Ephesians and Colossians, there are also marked differences. Thus, (a) Colossians is personal and concrete, Ephesians impersonal and general in application, (b) The former inclines to the controversial and polemical; the latter is poetical and mystical, and more Johannine than any other of the Pauline writings. “In Colossians Paul is the soldier, in Ephesians the builder” (Farrar). “Colossians is a letter of discussion, Ephesians of reflection. In the former we behold Paul in spiritual conflict, in the latter his soul is at rest” (Findlay). (c) The former is Christological, dealing with Christ’s relation to the universe; the latter is the ecclesiastical Epistle, treating of the relation between Christ and the Church. Under this last heading there are five passages in Ephesians which have no parallel in Colossians, namely, Eph 1:3-14, 4:4-16, 5:8-14, 5:22-33, 6:10-17. (d) There are twelve references to the Holy Ghost in Ephesians, and only one in Colossians; there are nine quotations from the Old Testament in the former Epistle, and none in the latter.

In view of the foregoing, it seems to us that no valid argument against the Pauline authorship of Ephesians can be drawn from the resemblances between that Epistle and Colossians. But our objectors find another difficulty in the style and diction of this letter, where, we are told, there are some forty strange words or expressions (ἅπαξ λεγόμενον = hapax legomenon) that do not occur elsewhere, either in the writings of St. Paul or in the whole New Testament; and some forty more which, while they are found elsewhere in the New Testament, are not to be found in St. Paul. Moreover, it is objected that the style here is dull and sluggish; that it is overtaxed with phrases, clauses, synonyms and qualifying epithets; and that it is lacking in the sharpness, vigor, and overpowering eloquence so characteristic of St. Paul. Hapax legomenon is a term employed by scholars to refer to words and phrases that appear only once or very rarely in a book or an author’s body of work.

In reply to the first difficulty it need only be said that peculiarities of expression may be found more or less in all the letters of St. Paul, and as frequently in those whose authenticity the Rationalists admit as in the others. Thus, for example, we find ninety-six ἅπαξ λεγόμενον (hapax legomenon) in the Epistle to the Romans; ninety-one in 1 Cor.; ninety-two in 2 Cor.; thirty-three in Gal.; thirty-six in Philippians, etc. On the other hand, it should be noted that this letter contains many words not found in the New Testament except in the writings of St. Paul, which is an additional, positive proof of its authenticity.

As regards peculiarities of style and composition, we can say that these are easily and satisfactorily explained by a consideration of the time, place, and conditions in which Paul wrote this letter, as well as the circumstances of the faithful to whom he addressed it. The Apostle was nearing the end of his eventful life; he was a prisoner in Rome, the central city of a vast empire, and he had leisure for meditation on the great mysteries that had been revealed to him. He was writing to Churches unknown to him, at least for the most part, with which he had no reason for discussion or controversy, but which he wished to remind of the spiritual treasures that were theirs. In language, therefore, which often takes on the qualities and proportions of a hymn of adoration he unfolds to his readers in this letter the wealth of sublime thoughts and reasonings that flooded his soul. It is not wonderful, then, that his language here becomes rich and overflowing, soaring up like a cloud of incense to the very throne of God. Paul was writing from his prison cell in Rome, but his heart and soul were with Christ in heaven; he was enchained to a Roman soldier, but his mind swept over the vast Roman domains and took in the conditions of all the Churches scattered throughout the Christian world; he was still bound to his earthly tabernacle, but his thoughts penetrated to the “heavenly places” and pondered the mystery, the plenitude, the light, the love, the peace and glory of the Godhead as revealed in Christ and made known to the Church.

There are few advocates today of the argument against the authenticity of this letter which Baur, Schwegler and other Rationalists based on the Epistle’s relation to the Gnosticism of the second century. First of all, it is well known now that the Gnosticism which was a developed system in the second century had its beginning and early growth in the time of St. Paul. On this point we need only consult Irenaeus (Adv. Har., i. 23), Clement of Alexandria (Strom., vii. 18), and Eusebius (Hist. EccL, ii. 13 ; iv. 7).

In the second place, it is altogether doubtful whether there is any allusion in the Epistle to the Ephesians to Gnosticism, as it appeared in the second century. It is far more likely, on the contrary, that the propagators of this heresy made deliberate use of some of the expressions of St. Paul in this letter to help the spread and acceptance of their own doctrines.

6. Date and Place of Composition. At the close of Paul’s third missionary journey, while he was fulfilling a vow in the Temple at Jerusalem, he was arrested by the Jewish authorities on a false charge (Acts 21:26 ff.) and carried away as a captive to Csesarea, where he was kept in prison for two years (Acts 23:23-24:27). At the end of this period, when the Roman Governor Festus was about to bring him to trial, the Apostle asserted his Roman citizenship and appealed to the tribunal of Cassar; and Festus, having heard Paul’s story and found him guilty of no crime, decided to send him to Rome (Acts 25:1-27). After making the long and perilous journey Paul with Luke finally arrived in the Eternal City and was there kept in prison two more years (Acts 27:1-28:31).

Now we shall assume that the Csesarean imprisonment occurred 58-60 A.D., that St. Paul set out from Caesarea for Rome in the autumn of 60 a.d., arriving in the latter city in the spring of 61 a.d., and that consequently the Apostle’s ensuing Roman captivity was from 61 to 63 A.D. We accept these years, not because they are certain or the only ones, but because they are just as probable as (if not a little more so than) any others that may be given. With these data premised, we ought not to find it difficult to fix the date and place of composition, not only of Ephesians, but also of the three other Captivity Epistles—Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon— on account of the very close relationship between these four letters.

As in the case of the three last-named Epistles, the Apostle was a prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles when he wrote our letter (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20), and his imprisonment had lasted a considerable time (Eph. 3:1; 6:22). Our letter was carried to its destination by a certain Tychicus (Eph. 6:21), who was at the same time entrusted with a similar letter to be delivered to the faithful at Colossae (Col. 4:6), and who therefore was recommended to both these Churches in almost the same words. On this mission Tychicus was accompanied by Onesimus, a fugitive slave from Colossas, whom the Apostle was sending back with a letter of commendation to his master, Philemon, a well-to-do Christian of that city (Col. 4:7-9). From these clear indications it seems evident that Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were all written from the same place, during the same imprisonment, and therefore about the same time. But whether Rome or Csesarea was the place of Paul’s captivity at this time is still a disputed question, with the great weight of evidence pointing to Rome. For, if we examine the letter to the Philippians, we shall find that that Epistle was written either shortly before or shortly after these other three, while the Apostle was in the same imprisonment (Phil. 1:12 ff.), and that the indications are all Romeward. Thus the reference to the prsetorium in Phil. 1:13, the relations between Jewish and Gentile Christians as reflected in Phil 1:15-20, the mention of Caesar’s household in Phil. 4:22, the freedom to preach and teach which St. Paul enjoyed (Phil. 1:12; Eph. 6:23; cf. Acts 24:32 ff., 28:31 ff.), are all much more applicable to Rome than to Caesarea. Again, it must have been when St. Paul was in Rome that he was expecting a speedy release ( Phlm. 22), for surely he was not expecting a release from Caesarea that would soon enable him to visit Philemon in Colossae. Finally, the points of contact between these four Epistles and the Pastoral Epistles in phraseology, in Christology, in the stress laid on an organized Church and family life, etc., all indicate the later date, and so favor Rome, during the Apostle’s first captivity there between 61 and 64 A.D. (cf. Hastings, Dict, of The Bible, vol. I, p. 718).

In conclusion, then, we hold with the traditional opinion that not only Ephesians, but also Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, were written by St. Paul in the Eternal City, during his first Roman captivity (61-63 a.d.).

7. Occasion and Purpose. We have just seen that the Apostle was a prisoner in Rome when he wrote this letter. Epaphras had brought him news of the dogmatic and moral errors that were springing up in the Church at Colossae and the neighboring cities. Perhaps the Apostle had been accused of a lack of interest In those Churches which he had not personally evangelized, and which had not seen his face (Col. 2:1-5). He had heard of the faith and charity of the “Ephesians,” and he was greatly pleased at this (Eph. 1:15-16); they also had heard of him and of his work among the Gentiles (Eph. 3:2 ff.).

While, therefore, dispatching Tychicus with a letter to the Colossians, St. Paul seized the opportunity to send this letter to those other Churches which he addressed in this Epistle, to remind them of their dignity as Christians and of the glorious life in Christ; to assure them that, though not evangelized by him, they were nevertheless members of the one vast Catholic Church which had been predestined before the ages to unite all mankind, Jews and Gentiles, in one common brotherhood living the life of God ; to exhort them, consequently, to a higher activity and a greater unity in accordance with God’s eternal decrees and purposes for His Church; to warn them against the dangers of sin and possible errors which would imperil their divine life here on earth and their sublime prospects in the eternal life hereafter; and to stimulate them to ever greater efforts in the pursuit of virtue and in the fulfillment of their various duties. That such were the occasion and purpose of the letter to the “Ephesians” an analysis of its contents seems to show, as well as the hints that we can gather from the Epistle to the Colossians.

8. Argument and Division. In general, this Epistle consists of a brief introduction, in which St. Paul greets his readers in his usual manner (Eph 1:1-2); a dogmatic part, in which he discusses God’s eternal purpose, realized in Christ, of uniting all mankind, Jews and Gentiles, in the one Church of Christ (Eph 1:3-3:21); a moral part, in which are outlined the duties incumbent upon the members of the Church in the Christian life (Eph 4:1-6:20); and a conclusion, containing some personal matters and a benediction (Eph 6:21-24). A more detailed analysis of the dogmatic and moral parts will help to a better understanding of the Epistle.

A. Dogmatic Part (Eph 1:3—3:21).—(a) A solemn act of thanksgiving to God for our union with Christ (Eph 1:3-14). In lyric fashion, the Apostle begins by recalling the divine benefits for which Almighty God from eternity has chosen and predestined us, that, namely, through the grace of Christ we should be His holy and adopted children (Eph 1:3-6). It was Christ, he says, who in time carried out the divine decree, redeeming us from our sins by His blood, and revealing to us the supreme mystery of God, which was to reconcile to Himself all things in Christ (Eph 1:7-10); for in Christ we have become God’s portion, both we Jews, who had the Messianic promises, and you Gentiles, who by faith have also received the Holy Ghost, the pledge of our eternal inheritance (Eph 1:11-14).

(b) A prayer that the Ephesians may understand the glories of being united to Christ in His Church (Eph 1:13-23). In a special manner the Apostle first thanks God for the faith and love which are already characteristic of the “Ephesians” (Eph 1:15-16). He then prays for a still greater outpouring of the Spirit upon them that they may realize their Christian dignity and their future glory, as well as the greatness of the divine power exerted in our behalf (Eph 1:17-19), and pre-eminently manifested in raising Jesus from the dead, and in making Him Lord of the universe and head of the Church, which is His mystical body (Eph 1:20-23).

(c) The Gentiles’ former heathen life and condition are contrasted with their present privileges in the Church of Christ (Eph 2:1-22). Formerly the “Ephesians” were dead in their sins, walking according to the course of this world and obeying the lusts of the flesh; but God out of pure mercy raised them from their miserable state to a participation in the resurrection and glorification of Christ, by whose grace we are saved (Eph 2:1-10). In order that the “Ephesians” may understand the greatness of the grace they have received, St. Paul bids them recall the state in which they were living before their conversion, and to contrast that with the exalted benefits they now enjoy through their union with Christ (Eph 2:11-13), who has broken down the wall that separated Jews and Gentiles and has reconciled both the one and the other with the Father (Eph 2:14-18). Henceforth the “Ephesians” are admitted to full membership in the household of God and are made parts of His spiritual edifice (Eph 2:19-22).

(d) A renewed prayer that the “Ephesians” may know and appreciate the greatness of their Christian vocation (Eph 3:1-19). At the thought of the call of the Gentiles into the Church of Christ, St. Paul breaks forth in an act of thanksgiving (Eph 3:1); but the very mention of the Gentiles causes him to interrupt his prayer and to digress upon the part his preaching and ministry have had in their admission into the Church (Eph 3:2-13). Resuming his prayer (Eph 3:14), the Apostle asks God out of the riches of His glory to give the “Ephesians” spiritual strength and the grace necessary to become perfect Christians (Eph 3:14-19).

(e) Doxology, which concludes the Dogmatic Part of the Epistle: Glory to God in the Church, and in Christ Jesus, the head of the Church, throughout all coming generations, to all eternity (Eph 3:20-21).

B. Moral Part (Eph 4:1-6:20).—(a) The general character of the Christian Ufe, as manifested in the diversity of gifts and functions  of the members of the Church within the one Church (Eph 4:1-16). The Apostle, bound a prisoner in the Lord, exhorts his readers to live a life worthy of their vocation in all charity, being careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:1-6). The diversity of the gifts of the Holy Ghost should not be an obstacle to unity, but rather a means of greater solidarity, because all the faithful are members of the one mystical body of Christ
(Eph 4:7-16).

(b) The contrast between the old life of paganism and the new life of Christianity (Eph 4:17-24). The “Ephesians” must live no longer as they did as pagans, in ignorance and impurity (Eph 4:17-19); but, putting away the old man according to the flesh, they must put on the new man according to God (Eph 4:20-24).

(c) Virtues required of all Christians (Eph 4:25-5:21). Our life and unity in Christ require that we refrain from the vices of lying, anger, etc., and practice the contrary virtues (Eph 4:25-32), that we be followers of God and imitators of Christ in our lives, avoiding the works of darkness and walking as children of light (Eph 5:1-14). Let us be truly wise, using well our time, fulfilling the will of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, etc. (Eph 5:15-21).

(d) Admonitions for special classes in the Church (Eph 5:22-6:9). After a general exhortation to obedience (Eph 5:21), the Apostle now takes up the duties of special classes in the Church, namely, those of wives and husbands (Eph 5:22-33), of children and parents (Eph 6:1-4), and of slaves and masters (Eph 6:5-9)—all of which duties are to be faithfully discharged for the sake of Christ and in Christ.

(e) The warfare of the Church (Eph 6:10-20). From a consideration of things pertaining to the internal welfare of the Church, St. Paul now turns to external needs and reminds his readers of the battles that must be fought against spiritual forces without. Each member of the Church must be prepared to do his part in this warfare, and his weapons must be those of God Himself.

So much for the Dogmatic and Moral Parts. The Conclusion, like the Introduction, has been noticed at the beginning of this section.

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A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture [Mark 2:1–12. Mat. 9:1–8. Luke 5:17–26]

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 8, 2018

The Cure of the Paralytic, and Forgiveness of Sin
[Mark 2:1–12. Mat. 9:1–8. Luke 5:17–26]

JESUS returned to Capharnaum, and, as He was teaching in a private house, a great multitude of people, coming to hear Him, filled the house and crowded round it. But behold, four men brought a paralytic1 on a bed, and as they could not get near to Jesus on account of the throng2, they went up on the roof3 of the house, and making an opening4, let down the paralytic in his bed.

Jesus, seeing their faith5, said: “Son, be of good heart, thy sins6 are forgiven thee.”

Now there were among the crowd some Scribes and Pharisees7, who, hearing these words, thought within themselves: “He blasphemeth. Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus, seeing their thoughts, said to them: “Why do you think evil in your hearts? Which is easier8, to say: ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee?’ or to say: ‘Rise up, take thy bed and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, I say to thee: ‘Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house.’ ” Immediately the man arose, took up his bed9 and went forth in the sight of all. And all the people wondered and glorified God10, saying: “We never saw the like!”


1. A paralytic. i. e. one who was wholly paralysed, so that he could use none of his limbs, but had to be carried about.

2. The throng. The people being packed together as tightly as they could be in the passages and rooms, passing through was quite an impossibility.

3. On the roof. A staircase on the outside of the house led directly to the roof.

4. An opening. By removing a part of the roof, which was at the same time the ceiling of the room below.

5. Their faith. The extraordinary amount of trouble they had taken to convey the sick man to Jesus as speedily as possible, proved both their faith and their desire for help.

6. Thy sins. As the lame man lay before Jesus and raised his eyes to Him, he trembled before the Holy One of God, and, contrite and abashed, cast down his eyes. But Jesus beheld his contrition, and tenderly, addressing him as “Son”, comforted him and forgave him his sins

7. Scribes and Pharisees. Our Lord’s miracles and increasing fame in Galilee had stirred up the Pharisees and Scribes throughout the whole land. They came to Capharnaum not only from Galilee, but also from Judæa and Jerusalem to watch Jesus (Luke 5:17).

8. Which is easier? It is easy enough to say the first, for nobody can look into a man’s soul, and see whether he be really cleansed from sin or not. Any deceiver or false prophet could say such words without his deception being proved; but to say to a lame man “Rise up and walk” is a very much harder thing, for it can be proved on the spot whether his words have any power or no.

9. Took up his bed. Our Lord, by His word, cured the man so instantaneously that he was able to take up and carry off his bed without help. This should have proved to the Pharisees that our Lord’s former words: “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” had been equally powerful, and had remitted the man’s sins. Jesus had proved that He was no blasphemer; and as his enemies could not deny His power, they remained silent.

10. Glorified God. The people were seized with a holy awe, for they felt that only a divine power could have worked such a miracle: and the Gospel says that “they glorified God who gave such power to men”. For as Jesus, the Son of Man, stood before them in a lowly human form, they did not perceive that He was God, and had worked this miracle by His own power, but believed that God had given the power to Him, a man.


Proofs of our Lord’s Divinity. 1. He saw the contrition, faith and hope which were in the soul of the paralysed man, in the same manner as He read the secret thoughts of the Pharisees: therefore He was Omniscient. God alone is Omniscient: therefore Jesus is God. 2. Jesus is Omnipotent; for by His will and word He instantaneously cured the lame man. Even as at the creation He said: “Let things be,” so now He said to the palsied man: “Arise!” 3. Jesus, by His own power, absolved the lame man of his sins. This, as the Pharisees very rightly judged, is the prerogative of God, who is offended by sins, and who knows the heart of the sinner: therefore Jesus is God. Had He not been God, He would have been assuming to Himself a divine right and power, and would have been a deceiver and a blasphemer.

Blasphemy. It was the Pharisees who were blasphemers, because, in spite of His miracles and holiness, they despised Jesus and accused Him of blasphemy. Their reason must have told them that God would not be with a blasphemer, and that therefore no blasphemer could work such mighty miracles. But their evil wills and evil hearts obscured their reason, and made them obstinate and defiant. Their unbelief was without excuse.

The dignity of the soul. Jesus first healed the palsied man’s soul, and then his body. He desired to teach us by this that He came to cure and save souls, that the soul is worth more than the body, and that the health of the body can only avail those whose soul is healthy. Our love of ourselves ought therefore to be bestowed first of all on our souls.

The necessity of contrition. The sick man possessed real contrition. His sins oppressed and tormented him more than his bodily infirmity; and with one beseeching glance he prayed to Jesus for forgiveness. Jesus saw that the state of his soul pained him more than that of his body, and that what he most craved for was pardon and peace; and therefore He said to him: “Son, be of good heart, thy sins are for given.” If the sick man had no contrition, he would not have obtained pardon.

The Compassion of Jesus on repentant sinners. He lovingly addressed the sick man as “son”, and consoled him.

The object of sufferings. The severe malady of the lame man was perhaps a consequence or a punishment of his sins. God allowed this terrible infirmity to overtake this sinner and torment his body, so that he might learn to repent of his sins, and thus save his soul from everlasting perdition.

Sins of thought. The Pharisees sinned grievously by thought.

The forgiveness of sins by priests. You have just heard that God alone can forgive sins. But does not a priest forgive sins in the Sacrament of Penance? Yes, but he does so not in his own name and by his own authority as Jesus did, but in the name and by the authority received from God—our Lord having left to the apostles and their successors the office of forgiving sins. By the Sacrament of Penance our Lord gave to his Church a really divine power, for the comfort and salvation of sinful men. Let us too, then, “glorify God who has given such power to men”.

Indulgences. The palsied man receives first the forgiveness of his sins, then his temporal punishment (the palsy) is removed. This is exactly what is done by indulgences, which are granted for the purpose of removing temporal punishment. Only he who is cleansed from mortal sin and is in a state of grace, can gain an indulgence.

Application. Do you suppress all bad thoughts—such as envy, pride, impurity, unkindness—as quickly as possible? God sees into your heart. If a bad thought occurs to you, say at once: “Begone!” and turn your thoughts to something that is holy.

Do you make a good act of thanksgiving after you have been to confession?

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians Chapter 6

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 5, 2018

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


In this chapter, the Apostle inculcates, in particular cases, the exercise of charity, the necessity of which he had shown in a general way, in the foregoing chapter (Gal 5:14). He exhorts those who are well instructed in the faith, to discharge the duty of charitable correction with regard to their weaker brethren. This, however, was to be done in a spirit of compassionate meekness and clemency, which the consideration of their own frailty would easily suggest to them (Gal 6:1). They should sympathize with their weak brethren, and, far from growing proud at the contrast between their own works and the frailties of others, should rather be humbled at the prospect of the account they are to render before a just Judge for their own transgressions (Gal 6:2–5). He exhorts them to the performance of good works, particularly the good work of supporting their teachers (Gal 6:6). He exhorts them to persevere in sowing the seeds of virtue, from a consideration of the rich harvest of glory which they were to reap. They should exhibit benevolence towards all men, but, in a special manner, towards the faithful members of the Church (Gal 6:5–10). He derives a final argument against the doctrine of the false teachers respecting the legal ceremonies, from the corrupt morals of these men, and the base motives by which they were actuated, in urging the Galatians to receive circumcision (Gal 6:11–13). Their motive was, first, to please the Jews, and thus avoid persecution (Gal 6:12); and, secondly, to have matter for glorying in the circumcision of the Galatians as brought about by themselves (Gal 6:13). The Apostle shows how different are the objects he has in view. He glories only in the cross of Christ; and, secondly, far from seeking human applause, by this cross he is become an object of aversion to the world (Gaal 6:14). He assigns reasons for glorying only in the cross and passion of Christ (Gal 6:15-16); and, finally, furnishes the Galatians, when tempted, or constrained to be circumcised (Gal 6:12), with a general answer which they were to give to those who were molesting them (Gal 6:17). The words of this verse are spoken by the Apostle in the name of the Galatians.


Gal 6:1. Brethren, should any one, owing either to the seduction of the false teachers, or, the strength of temptation, chance to be surprised in any of the above mentioned faults, particularly heresy or apostacy: let these amongst you, who are strong and well instructed in the faith, and live according to the dictates of God’s Holy Spirit, instruct and restore him to spiritual health, but with all mildness and humility, keeping before your eyes your own weakness, which renders you liable to commit sin and yield to temptation.

“Overtaken,” i.e., suddenly surprised, “in any fault.” i.e., in any of the faults termed in the preceding chapter, “works of the flesh.” He particularly refers to the sin of yielding to the teaching of the false teachers respecting the legal ceremonies. “Spiritual,” refers to the better instructed in the faith amongst them. “Instruct!” the Greek word, καταρτιζετε, means to restore such a person to sound faith, and to grace; the idea is borrowed from restoring a disjointed limb to its proper place in the body. In the present instance, this is to be done by timely instruction and correction. “Considering thyself;” he employs the singular number in order to bring the matter home to the conscience of each one; it is less harsh to admonish them individually, than to address the entire body. “In the spirit of mildness.” This regards not the correction of such sinners, as are obstinate in sin; for, these latter should be treated with rigour, as the Apostle himself wished that Titus would treat the Cretans.—(Titus, 1).

Gal 6:2. With compassionate sympathy, correct those who have fallen, in such a way as if their sins and infirmities were your own and borne by yourselves, and thus you will accomplish the Law of Christ, viz., his peculiar precept of charity.

“Burdens” refer to sins of every description, especially to the sin of apostacy. “They bear one another’s burdens” by the true spirit of sympathy, by compassionating each other, and instructing each other in the spirit of meekness. “Bear,” βασταζετε, means, to bear a burden placed on one. “And so you shall fulfil.” The common Greek text has, αναπληρωσατε, so fulfil. The future, ανεπληρωσετε, is found in the chief MSS.

Gal 6:3. For, if any person form a high idea of his own excellence—to which his harsh treatment of his infirm brother may be traced—such a person, in truth, seduces himself, since, in reality, he is of himself but nothing.

He points out the source of the harsh treatment of our weaker brethren; it is pride, or the false opinion of our own superior excellence. The Apostle assails this vice, and asserts, that left to themselves, and unaided by God’s grace, the firmest amongst them could be nothing in the order of salvation. “Deceiveth,” φρεναπατᾶ, deceives his own mind.

Gal 6:4. Let each one try and examine his life and actions according to the rules of faith and morality, and not mind comparing them with the works of his neighbour, and thus he will have cause for glorying in his own work, on account of its real merit, and not from the contrast with the failings and imperfections of others

In this verse, he alludes to a certain class of men who, like the Pharisee in the Gospel, boasted of their own good works, from the contrast with their weaker brethren. Non sum sicut ceteri.—(Luke, 18:11). In this passage, we are furnished with most excellent instructions regarding the mode of administering correction to our infirm brethren. We should, as much as possible, excuse them. Their fault may have been the result of sudden passion or violent temptation. They may have been “overtaken” in it. We should “instruct” them and restore them to grace with the greatest meekness. Correction being of itself bitter and repugnant to our corrupt nature, should be rendered as sweet as possible, both in word and manner. It should merely insinuate the fault and extenuate it as much as possible. It should carry with it a due consideration of our own frailty, both as regards the past—did we ever do so ourselves? the present—are we subject to the same failing? and the future—what shall become of ourselves hereafter, in the same circumstances? This is the neighbour’s day for sinning, to-morrow shall be mine, said an ancient Father. How many are permitted by God to fall into sin, in punishment of their undue severity towards the fallen? Cassian (Collat. 2, chap. 13), mentions a frightful instance of this, in the lives of the ancient Fathers. We should so sympathize with our sinning brethren, as if we were bearing their sins on ourselves. We should guard against pride, like the Pharisee, on account of the misdeeds of others; and in judging of our own actions, we should only think of the just and tremendous judgment of God, in which they shall be examined.

Gal 6:5. For in the just judgment of God, each one shall have to bear the full weight of his own sins, without any extenuation from a contrast with others.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Gal 6:6. Let him who receives instruction in the doctrine of faith, share with his spiritual teacher, all his tem poral substance.

“Let him that is instructed,” &c. In the Greek it runs literally thus: κοινωνειτω δὲ ὁ κατηχούμενος τὸν λόγον τῷ κατηχοῦντι, let him who is catechised in the word, communicate, to his catechist, &c., i.e., make his spiritual instructor a sharer in all his temporal substance. The Apostle prescribes this, lest his reproof of the “spiritual” men, among whom were to be reckoned their instructors, should alienate from them the affections of their disciples, and thus cause them to be deprived of the necessary support. Catechetical, or viva voce instruction, was the method of imparting religious knowledge adopted by the Apostles. It is the fittest and most efficacious. Woe to the pastor of souls, who neglects it!

Gal 6:7. Be not deceived in alleging vain excuses of in ability to comply with this natural precept of supporting your teachers. God, who is to judge you in such matters, will not be mocked.

Some interpreters connect this with Gal 6:4, thus: “Be not deceived,” in judging of yourselves by the defects of others; for, “God is not mocked,” and this latter connexion well accords with the following verse.

Gal 6:8. For whatsoever things a man shall have sown, the same shall he reap. For, whosoever shall indulge in forbidden pleasures, which he shall have cast as seed into the flesh, shall reap of this same flesh the harvest of death and corruption. But whosoever shall have performed spiritual works, of which the grace of God’s spirit is the principle, and thus shall have sown in the spirit, shall reap of the same spirit the harvest of eternal and incorruptible life.

After having exhorted those, who received instruction in religion, to contribute liberally towards the support of their teachers, he, in this verse, exhorts all Christians to the performance of good works. In this manner he employs the familiar metaphors of the seed and the harvest. He looks upon the “flesh” and “the Spirit,” or the Holy Ghost, as fields in which seeds of a different kind are deposited, from which a crop of the same kind shall spring. “In the flesh … in the spirit,” are read in the Greek, εὶς τὴν σάρκα … εἰς τὸ πνεῦμα, into the flesh … into the spirit.

Gal 6:9. But in performing good works, let us unceasingly persevere; for, we shall reap the fruit of our good works, in due time, provided we cease not, but persevere.

According to the Vulgate, we are exhorted in this verse to persevere in the performance of good works. “Let us not fail.” We are told, that perseverance is a necessary condition for eternal life. According to the Greek, we are recommended to perform good works with cheerful alacrity, not becoming faint-hearted; because we shall in due time reap the fruit of our good works for a never-ending duration. “Not failing,” may mean in the Greek, “not relaxing” (from fatigue).

Gal 6:10. Wherefore, whilst the present life, the seed-time for good works, lasts, let us do good towards all mankind, but let us make the faithful fellow-members of the Church, the special objects of our benevolence.

“Whilst we have time,” i.e., during the present life; for “the night shall come, when no man can work.”—(John, 9:4).

Gal 6:11. You can judge of the sincerity of my affection and concern for you, from the length of this Epistle, in writing which I have departed from my mode of writing my other Epistles; for, from the kind of letters or characters employed, you may perceive that I have myself written the entire of this with my own hand.

The interpretation in the Pharaphrase, which insinuates, that, whereas the Apostle availed himself of an amanuensis, in his other Epistles, and merely subscribed or prefixed his name to them, he wrote the entire of this with his own hand, is the one more commonly adopted; others understand the words to mean, that the characters in which this Epistle is written, show them to be written in his own handwriting. Their imperfect form proves them to be written by one who is not well versed in writing the Greek characters. The words πηλικοις γραμμασιν, may be rendered, with what large characters or letters. The former interpretation is, however, the more probable.

Gal 6:12. Those men, who are anxious to uphold a good character with their countrymen and relatives, viz., the Jews, and to please them have recourse to threats, and motives of conscience, in order to induce you to become circumcised; their real object, however, is to evade the persecution practised against those who preach the cross of Christ.

“For as many as desire,” &c. “For” is wanting in the Greek; and it appears indeed, to be redundant in our version. “To please.” The Greek word, ευπροσωπησαι means, to show a good countenance. The Apostle now, in order to withdraw the Galatians from the legal ceremonies, employs a final argument founded on the base motives by which the false teachers were influenced in urging them to be circumcised. The real motives of these hirelings was, to escape the persecution with which the preachers of the cross of Christ were visited.

Gal 6:13. For, neither do they themselves, who are circumcised, and urge you to be circumcised, observe the law; their motive in wishing to have you circumcised is, to have matter for glorying with the Jews in your circumcision, as if you were converted by them to the Jewish religion.

And also to have matter for glorying with their friends and countrymen, the Jews, in the conversion of the Galatians, as proselytes to Judaism, through their exertions. These, and not zeal for the law, which they themselves violated, were their real motives.

Gal 6:14. But, as for me, far be it from me to glory in anything else save in the cross and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom, and on whose account, the world, whose esteem the false teachers seek, is dead, nay, an object of abhorrence and execration to me, as I am, on the other hand, hated and execrated by it.

The Apostle contrasts his own love of the cross, and of suffering, for Christ’s sake, with the love of pleasure and ease, in which the false teachers indulged; and his contempt for the esteem of the world, that regards him as an object of execration, with their love of popularity and human applause. The motives, and the objects which he has in view, are diametrically opposed to theirs. He protests, that so far as glorying is concerned, while the others glory in carnal things, he rejects all other glorying, “save in the cross of Jesus Christ”—in believing, in preaching its efficiency, in enduring its sufferings. “By whom the world,” whose praise and esteem the false teachers court, “is crucified to me,” is an object of abhorrence to me, as the cross naturally is to all. “And I to the world.” Far from being concerned about the persecution to which he may be subjected for Christ—far from wishing to renounce the cross and its preaching, in order, like the false teachers, to avoid persecution (Gal 6:12)—he is already an object of horror and aversion to the world on account of the preaching of the cross. No wonder that the Apostle should show his love for the cross, on which the sacred limbs of the Man God were extended, since on it Redemption was accomplished, and all the inconceivable blessings flowing therefrom were secured at an infinite price. On the cross can be seen the magnitude of sin, and the boundless love of God. How strikingly do not the heroism of the Apostle, and his love of suffering contrast with our accommodation to the maxims of a corrupt world, and our love of ease and self-indulgence.

Gal 6:15. For, in Christianity, neither is circumcision nor uncircumcision of any avail; the only thing of avail is, the renovation of the interior man by sanctifying grace, which is the fruit of the cross and passion of Christ.

This verse contains an epitome, or abstract of the entire doctrine of the Epistle. The Apostle assigns it as a reason for making the cross and passion of Christ the subject of his glorying, because in Christanity both circumcision and uncircumcision are accounted as nothing; the only thing of avail before God is “the new creature;” or, the renovation of the interior man by sanctifying grace, which is the fruit of the cross and passion of Christ, in which the Apostle therefore justly glories.

Gal 6:16. And whosoever shall advance within the orderly limits of this rule (respecting the newness of life, [see Gal 6:15], or respecting the doctrine of justification as explained throughout the entire Epistle), may the peace and mercy of God descend upon them, whether Gentiles or faithful Jews; for they are the true Israel and people of God.

“Shall follow this rule.” The Greek is. ὅσοι τῷ κανόνι τούτω στοιχήσουσιν, whosoever shall advance in an orderly way in this canon. The word, canon, denotes a builder’s plummet, or a carpenter’s rule. What “this rule” refers to, is a subject of discussion. Some refer it to a rule of faith, and extend it to the whole subject of the Epistle; or, to the doctrine of the preceding verse—“For in Christ Jesus,” &c. Others understand it of a rule of morals, and make it refer to the words, “new creature,” as if the Apostle pointed out this regeneration and spiritual renovation through sanctifying grace, as the rule of life and morals which all Christians should follow. “Peace be upon them,” &c. According to the English translation, these words are precatory, and convey a benediction from the Apostle. According to others, the words are merely assertory, and convey an additional reason for glorying in the cross of Christ, because grace and mercy are in store for those who observe this rule. “And upon the Israel of God,” is added, according to some, lest the Apostle might seem to be excluding the Jews, at least the believing portion of them (“Israel of God,”) from the forementioned blessings. Others, more probably, understand the words of spiritual Israel, whether Jews or Gentiles (as in Paraphrase). “And,” is probably explicative, and means, namely.

Gal 6:17. Henceforth, let no man trouble me any longer by working either upon my fears or scruples to force me to submit to circumcision (Gal 6:12). For, I bear in my body more honourable scars, than those impressed by circumcision, the marks of the Lord Jesus in the persecutions and wounds which I suffered for the faith.

“From henceforth,” &c. The more probable connection of this verse appears to be that which makes it have reference to verse 12, and supposes it to contain a general answer to be given by the Galatians, when their fears or scruples were appealed to, in order to have them submit to circumcision. “They constrain you to be circumcised,” &c.—(Gal 6:12). It is to be borne in mind that in Gal 6:12-13, the Apostle points out the motives of the false teachers in forcing the Galatians to be circumcised; viz.—Firstly, to please the Jews, and thereby escape persecution; and secondly, to have matter for glorying in their circumcision as brought about by themselves. In Gal 6:14, the Apostle shows how different his subject for glorying—viz., the cross—was from theirs, and, how unconcerned he was about the applause of the world, to which he was an object of abhorrence. He then, in Gal 6:17, speaking in the name of the Galatians, furnishes an answer which they are to render to those who are forcing them to be circumcised, amounting to this: “Cease from troubling me or working any longer on my fears and scruples; for, if it be necessary for me to bear any marks on my body, such as circumcision impresses, I bear them already in the marks of violence, inflicted on me for the faith and Gospel of Christ.” This answer might be fairly given by the Galatians, many of whom suffered for the Gospel as appears (3:4). This is the interpretation of Père Mauduit. Others understand the Apostle to refer to himself personally. “Let no one trouble me any longer about the observance of Jewish ceremonies; for, as I glory only in the cross of Christ, I bear in my body the most honourable scars, the marks of Christ, in the persecutions and wounds which I underwent for the Gospel.”—(2 Corinthians 11:24).

Gal 6:18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

The Greek copies have the following subscription: “Written from Rome unto the Galatians.” This, however, is rejected by critics, as not authentic.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians Chapter 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 5, 2018

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


The Apostle commences this chapter, by exhorting the Galatians to persevere in the Gospel liberty, into which Christ had asserted them (Gal 5:1)—and adduces several motives for deterring them from submitting to the bondage of the Mosaic law. First, if they submit to circumcision, their Christian profession will prove of no avail to them (Gal 5:2); secondly, they would be bound to the entire law by receiving circumcision (Gal 5:3); thirdly, they would forfeit all the blessings of Christianity (Gal 5:4); fourthly, because it is by faith, animated by charity, and not by any carnal means, justification is obtained (Gal 5:5-6). He deplores the interruption that happened the Galatians in their onward course of Christian perfection; their deviation from the straight path he ascribes to their intercourse with false teachers, whom the father of lies employed to corrupt their faith, as a little leaven corrupts the entire mass (Gal 5:7–9). He expresses his firm hope that, through God’s grace they will repent, and denounces a merited sentence of judgment against the men, who were instrumental in unsettling their faith (Gal 5:10). He refutes the calumny circulated regarding himself by his enemies—viz., that he observed the legal ceremonies, by referring to the notoriety of his persecution for having insisted on the abolition of these ceremonies (Gal 5:11). He expresses a wish, that these false teachers would be not only circumcised, but altogether cut off from the Church (Gal 5:12). He exhorts the Galatians to the practice of the Christian virtues, especially of charity, to which the whole law is reduced (Gal 5:13-14). He animadverts on the deplorable absence of charity for one another from among them (Gal 5:15). He assigns one general means of observing charity, which is, to walk according to the impulse of God’s spirit, the motions of which are diametrically opposed to those of the flesh (Gal 5:16-18). In order to guard them against all error on a subject which so vitally concerns their salvation, he recounts the works of the flesh, and the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:23). He next points out the obligations imposed upon them by the very nature of their Christian professions, to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and live according to the Spirit (Gal 5:24-26).


Gal 5:1. Persevere firmly in the Gospel liberty which Christ has secured for you (Gal 4:31), and suffer not yourselves to be again held under the yoke of servitude—viz., the yoke of the Mosaic law.

“Stand fast.” These words are, in the ordinary Greek and Syriac versions, joined with the words of the preceding verse, thus: stand fast (therefore) in the freedom with which Christ made us free. The meaning is the same as in our construction, which is that of St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and several old Greek editions. From the words, “stand fast,” some interpreters infer that the Galatians had not lost the faith. From verse 4, it appears, however, that some had, and the words, “stand fast,” are, probably, addressed to those who persevered. The words, “stand fast,” probably contain a military metaphor, in allusion to their persevering under the banner of Christ.

“And be not held again,” &c., i.e., be not tied down and held fast under another yoke of bondage. “Again” is used in reference to bondage in general; they were before under the bondage of idolatry. He now refers to bondage of a different kind viz., that of the Mosaic law.—(See Gal 4:9).

Gal 5:2. Behold, I, Paul, your divinely commissioned Apostle, openly announce and proclaim to you, that if you submit to circumcision, you shall have no share in the benefits of Christ; your Christian profession shall be of no avail to you.

“Behold, I Paul.” He used the word, “Behold,” for the purpose of arresting their attention, and he introduces his own name, to show that he is about to address them authoritatively, in quality of true Apostle, on an important subject of faith, touching the necessity of uniting the legal ceremonies with the Gospel—a point on which they were led astray by the false teachers. “Christ shall profit you nothing.” The benefits of Christ’s death and passion shall be lost to them, since, by such a course, they renounce their Christian profession altogether. Of what avail shall his Christian profession be to the sinner, who by his profane, carnal, and animal life, expels Christ and his Holy Spirit from his breast? It shall serve only to deepen his damnation.

Gal 5:3. And in addition to the declaration just made, I once more solemnly declare to every man, who, by submitting to circumcision, wishes to be incorporated with the Jewish synagogue, that he is bound to the observance of the entire law.

The false teachers taught the Galatians, that it was sufficient for them to observe the leading points of the Mosaic law, such as the observance of Sabbaths, new moons, &c. The Apostle, on the contrary, informed them, that so long as they labour under their erroneous convictions, and submitted to circumcision, they are bound to the numberless burthens of the law; because circumcision was a public profession of the Jewish religion, as baptism is of Christianity. Hence, a man is obliged to follow the dictates of an erroneous conscience.

Gal 5:4. You have rendered void in your regard all the blessings of Christianity, or, you have renounced Christianity; by seeking to be justified through the law, you have fallen away from sanctifying grace.

“You are made void of Christ,” convey a strong repetition of the words, verse 2, “Christ shall profit you nothing.” In other words, they cease to be true Christians, notwithstanding their external profession of Christianity.

“You are fallen from grace.” Hence, grace is not inamissible, as some of the Galatians must have sinned mortally.

Gal 5:5. For we, true and sincere Christians, seek for, and hope to obtain, the justice for which we long, through the spirit of grace and charity which is imparted by faith.

A proof that they ceased to be Christians, is their having recourse to means of justification quite different from that pointed out by the law of Christ. “We,” true Christians, “wait for,” απεκδεχομεθα, patiently wait for, “the hope of justice,” i.e., the justice which we all hope and long for, including perseverance in the same justice, and its final consummation in eternal glory, by spiritual means, of which the groundwork and source is faith (“by faith”); whereas the Galatians resorted to carnal ceremonies and the works of the law.

Gal 5:6. For in Christianity, it conduces no way to justice or salvation, whether a person be circumcised or uncircumcised, the only thing of avail is faith, which is perfected, and which operates, by charity, that is, which is joined to the observance of the commandments, and the performance of good works.

The reason why recourse should be had to faith rather than to the works of the law for justification is, because in “Christ Jesus,” i.e., in Christianity, or in our union and fellowship with Christ, it avails not for justification whether one be circumcised or not. The system of justification, in the present order of things, is founded on faith; but this faith must not be sterile or inoperative, like the faith of demons; it must be active and operative, animated and “worked by charity.” The Greek for “worketh,” or, displays its energy, ενεργουμενη, might be also rendered passively, which is energized, or, worked, i.e., formed or animated “by charity.” The meaning, however, is the same; for, if faith be animated by charity, it proceeds to works, and so “worketh by charity.” Hence, faith alone is not sufficient for justification or salvation.

Gal 5:7. You advanced well in your onward course, of Christian virtue. Who could have crossed your path so as to turn you aside from your right course, and prevent you from obeying the truth?

“You did run well,” &c. It is quite usual with the Apostle to compare our progress towards salvation to the exercises of the race-course, (v.g.) 1 Cor. 9.; 2 Tim. 4:7. “Who hath hindered you?” i.e., who has crossed your path and turned you aside, so that you no longer advance in the direct course of Gospel truth?

Gal 5:8. This erroneous persuasion which you entertain regarding the necessity of the Jewish ceremonies is not from God, who called you to Christianity.

There false impressions did not emanate from God, but from the devil, the father of lies.

Gal 5:9. It is caused by a few false teachers, whose converse and society have corrupted you, just as a little leaven corrupts and imbues with its own sourness the entire mass with which it is mixed.

The society and preaching of the false teachers, although but few, would have the effect of corrupting all, as “a little leaven corrupteth the entire lump.” For “corrupteth,” St. Jerome and others use, ὅλον τὸ φυραμα ζυμοῖ, “ferments or leaveneth the entire mass.” The meaning, however, is the same as that of the Vulgate. The adage may be understood of the doctrine as well as of the teachers, thus: a single error destroys the entire collection of the truths of faith and the habit of faith, just as “a little leaven, &c.”

Gal 5:10. But I have confidence in you, that, through the grace of God, you will not entertain any thoughts on matters of faith different from what we have taught you; but the man, whoever he be, that causes this disturbance, and attempts to unsettle your faith, shall suffer the just sentence of condemnation which he deserves.

“But he that troubleth you,” may refer to some particular leader among the false teachers, or to the false teachers in general. “Shall bear the judgment” of condemnation. Woe to the man who, by scandal, whether in word or example, murders a soul purchased by the blood of God!

Gal 5:11. But as for me, brethren, if I am still proclaiming the necessity of circumcision, as has been asserted regarding me by my enemies, why is it that I suffer persecution from the Jews? The scandal of the cross—the only cause of my persecution—would, in that case, have ceased to exist.

The false teachers, with a view of more easily inducing the Galatians to receive circumcision, asserted that St. Paul himself when among the Jews, acted like them, and proclaimed the necessity of the legal ceremonies, in proof of which they quoted the fact of Timothy having been circumcised. The Apostle refutes this calumny by referring to the persecutions which he endured from the Jews—persecutions to which he most assuredly would not be subjected, if he acted as had been charged upon him by the false teachers. “The scandal of the cross is, then, made void.” The preaching of the cross would cease to be an offence to the Jews, who would have cheerfully borne with it, had it not proclaimed the abolition of the Old Law, and put forward the death of Christ on the cross, as the only source of salvation. They were anxious to have the observance of the legal ceremonies united with the Gospel precepts, and in the event of the Apostle doing so, they would have ceased to persecute him. It was not so much the preaching of the cross, as the abolition of the Law by the cross, as the only source of salvation, that gave them offence.

Gal 5:12. Would to God, that those men, who attempt to unsettle your faith by subjecting you to circumcision, were not only circumcised themselves, but altogether cut off from the Church, as rotten members, lest they corrupt others.

The doctrine of circumcision inculcated by the false teachers had the effect of unsettling the faith and disturbing the belief of the Galatians; hence, the Apostle wishes them to be cut off altogether from the Church. This interpretation of the words is rendered probable by the clear analogy perceptible between this and the passage (1 Cor. 5), in which the Apostle pronounces a sentence of excommunication. It is the same sentence he evidently refers to here. Some interpreters give the word, αποκοψονται, “were cut off,” an active signification, “cut themselves off” from all communion with the faithful.

Gal 5:13. For, as to you, brethren, you are called by Christ to liberty and immunity from the onerous servitude of the legal ceremonies. Take care, however, not to abuse this liberty, by making it an occasion or pretext for indulging the desires of the flesh. But although exempted from legal servitude, there is a species of heavenly servitude which you should be careful to practise, by becoming the servants of one another, mutually assisting one another, through the charity of the spirit of God.

The exposition adopted in the Paraphrase, the only one warranted by the context, shows the utter futility of the objection derived by heretics from this passage against the obligation of human laws. To the latter, the Apostle enjoins obedience, even on grounds of conscience (Rom. 13). The “liberty” referred to here is an immunity from the legal ceremonies, from the spirit of fear entailed by the Old Law, and from the slavery of sin. “Only make not liberty an occasion to the flesh.” There is an ellipsis in the Greek, in which the verb “make” is wanting. St. Jerome admits that it had been inserted by the interpreter to complete the sense. By these words, the Apostle guards against the erroneous interpretation already referred to, and with them he commences the moral part of the Epistle. The abuse against which he cautions them is “to make liberty an occasion to the flesh.” The end, to which this liberty should tend is, “by charity of the spirit serve one another.” From real, sincere feelings of charity, they should be subject to one another, so as to provide for their mutual necessities. The means, for preserving this liberty are assigned in Gal 5:16.

Gal 5:14. For, the entire law, so far as regards out neighbour, is comprised in this short saying: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

The love of our neighbour, although differing in object from the love of God, is still the same virtue with it; because both branches of the virtue have the same motive.

Gal 5:15. But if, in defiance of this precept, you continue to bite and devour one another, by your mutual quarrels, calumnies, and detractions, take care, lest you utterly ruin one another, by calling down the divine vengeance on yourselves.

The novel doctrines of the false teachers occasioned disputes and contentions amongst the Galatians, which the Apostle sharply censures, by comparing the parties at variance to dogs, devouring one another. He points out at the same time, the result of their disputes—viz., spiritual ruin, to avoid which, he prescribes the observance of the precept of charity (Gal 5:3).

Gal 5:16. This, then, I say, and commend to you in a particular manner: live according to the impulse and dictates of the Holy Ghost, and you shall not consent to, or accomplish the desires of the flesh.

I say then.” He uses this emphatic form of expression in order to arrest their attention. “Walk in the spirit.” As all the precepts were reduced to charity (Gal 5:14), so are all the means of practising this comprehensive and excellent virtue reduced to this one. “Walk,” i.e., live according to the dictates of God’s Spirit, who is the animating principle of Christian life, “and you shall not fulfil,” i.e., perform, follow after, or consent to “the desires of the flesh,” i.e., of corrupt nature, and of the sensual passions of man. The Apostle does not say, you shall not experience the depraved motions of concupiscence, since this is impossible in the present order of things; but, “you shall not fulfil,” &c.

Gal 5:17. For the desires to which the flesh, or concupiscence, impels us, are quite opposed to the desires to which the spirit or grace impels us. They are borne towards objects quite different in their nature (concupiscence makes us wish for carnal, earthly things; but the spirit of grace makes us desire spiritual, heavenly, and eternal things); for these are mutually opposed to each other, in such a way as that just men often do and suffer certain things against their will.

It is not without cause that he told them “to walk in the spirit, and not fulfil the lusts of the flesh”; for the motions of both are quite contrary and opposite. By “the flesh,” are meant the disorderly motions of concupiscence—that is to say, the disorderly motions of corrupt nature, both in the concupiscible and irascible appetites, such as the desires of lust and gluttony, in the one, and of envy and anger, in the other. The word “flesh” also includes, the motions of the superior or rational appetite, such as the desires of vain glory, and the rest. This concupiscence, whether it appertains to the superior or inferior appetite, is called “the flesh,” because the concupiscence of the flesh, it is, that domineers principally over man, in his present fallen state. The “spirit” refers to the Holy Ghost, who produces in us, holy desires by his grace. “So that you do not the things that you would;” ἵνα μὴ ἅ ἄν θέλητε ταῦτα ποιῆτε. The Protestant rendering, “that you cannot do,” &c., is a corruption of the text; the consequence of the struggle and opposition between the desires of the corrupt and disorderly passions of our fallen nature, and the holy desires to which the dictates of the Holy Ghost impel us, is that the most perfect can neither perform all the good, nor avoid all the evil they wish; they cannot avoid the involuntary motions of concupiscence, and the disorderly desires of the superior faculties of the soul.

Gal 5:18. But if you are under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, you are no longer under the law; you are beyond its threats and menaces, since you voluntarily and spontaneously perform, from motives of love, what the law enjoins with a threat of punishment. Hence, you can set its threats and menaces at defiance.

“You are not under the Law.” “Under the law” is used in reference to a man who is unable to fulfil the precepts of the law, and is, therefore, rendered liable to the threats, which it holds out against its violators. The law pointed out to man his duties; but, of itself, it did not furnish him with the necessary means for their fulfilment. By saying, “you are not under the law,” he shows the inutility of disputes respecting the legal ceremonies,

Gal 5:19. (To obviate any mistake in a matter of such moment, I will recount to you the works of the flesh and the fruits of the spirit). The works to which the flesh, that is to say, the disorderly passions of concupiscence, whether of the superior or inferior appetite, incites us, are manifest—viz., all kinds of carnal uncleanness:

He recounts the works to which “the flesh,” i.e., concupiscence in the sense already explained, incites us. He reckons among them not only the defilements of the flesh, but spiritual sins also, sins proceeding from a superior disorderly appetite, such as sins of heresy, envy, &c. “Are manifest;” it is well known to all the faithful that they proceed not from the Holy Ghost. “Which are,” ἅτινα ἐστιν, to which class belong, “fornication.” It is justly observed by Commentators that great prominence is given here by the Apostle to sins of carnal uncleanness: because, the Pagans of old regarded such as indifferent in their nature. In the ordinary Greek, we have “adultery” placed before fornication, thus: μοιχεία, πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, &c., μοιχεία (adultery, is rejected by the best critics), “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, luxury.” “Immodesty” is not read in the Greek; it has the same meaning with “luxury.” The sins mentioned in this verse refer to all kinds of impurity. It is remarked by interpreters, that the Apostle groups the different vices enumerated here under four heads:—Firstly, impurity, as in this verse; secondly, impiety, as “idolatry,” witchcrafts; thirdly, the vices of the irascible appetite, such as “enmities”—“murders;” fourthly, gluttony and drunkenness, &c.

Gal 5:20. Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects.

“Idolatry” probably refers to their eating meats offered to idols, either with an erroneous conscience, or in circumstances calculated to give scandal.—(See 1 Cor. 11. “Fly from the service of idols,” verse 14, “neither become ye idolaters,” verse 7).

“Witchcrafts”—all compacts or communications with the devil, whereby our neighbour is injured. The Greek word for “witchcrafts,” φαρμακεια, conveys, that charms or drugs were employed for the injurious effect. “Enmities;” deep feelings of hatred. “Contentions;” verbal wranglings and disputes, having for object superiority in argument rather than the vindication of truth. “Emulations;” the inordinate seeking of self-pre-eminence, or the sorrow arising from the privation of the goods possessed by another. “Wraths;” strong, furious desires of vengeance. “Quarrels;” the contentious disposition to fight with every one. “Dissensions;” differences existing between neighbours, or between those closely allied to us whether by ties of nature or grace. “Sects” (in Greek, αἱρεσεις, heresies), refer to disputes in religious doctrine, or rather opinions opposed to sound doctrine, in which sense the word is used.—(1 Corinthians, 11:19).

Gal 5:21. Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and the like, regarding which I now tell you beforehand, as I have told you already, that the men who are guilty of them shall never obtain a share in the inheritance of God’s kingdom.

“Envies;” sorrow arising from our neighbour’s prosperity. It differs from “emulation” (verse 20), thus; “emulation” is the sorrow arising from our being deprived of a certain good possessed by others; whereas “envy” is the sorrow arising from our neighbour’s possessing it; envy would wish the good never to have existed. “Murders;” φονοι, is wanting in the Codex Vaticanus, but supported by MSS. generally.

“Drunkenness,” refers to the excessive indulgence in inebriating drinks, whether attended by a deprivation of reason or not, “vie vobis qui fortes estis ad bibendum vinum” (Isa, 5:5). “Revellings;” excess in eating, and inordinate desires of gluttony, spending too much time in feasting, &c.

“I foretell you,” i.e., I tell you before the day of judgment arrives. It is to be remarked that some of the foregoing sins admit of levity of matter, and must be aggravated by circumstances in order to be mortal. It is, moreover, deserving of remark, that most of them are spiritual sins, which, it is to be feared, are seldom scrupled as they deserve.

Gal 5:22. But the works which the spirit produces in us by his grace, as means of securing God’s inheritance, are charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity.

The fruit of the Spirit; so called because the Holy Ghost is their principal author. It is to be borne in mind, that three of the fruits of the Spirit expressed in the Vulgate are wanting in the Greek. This is accounted for by many on the supposition, that different translators gave different meanings to some of the Greek words. The same Greek word, μακροθυμια, was rendered, patience longanimity. Another, πραοτης, was rendered modesty, mildness; and another, ἐγκράτεια, continency, chastity. All these were inserted in the Vulgate; and hence, we have three words more than are to be found in the Greek. “Charity” is the great source from which the other virtues flow. “Joy;” the pleasure arising from the good of our neighbour, opposed to “envy” and “emulation.” “Peace;” the tranquillity of soul arising from the testimony of a good conscience, opposed to “enmities.” “Patience, longanimity,” are both expressed by one word in the Greek, and mean, the spirit of enduring adversity, and bearing with the defects of others. “Benignity;” that amiable sweetness of temper, and of accommodation to the disposition of others, opposed to “contentions, quarrels.” “Goodness;” the benevolent desire of doing good and serving all, opposed to “homicides, witchcrafts.” “Mildness, modesty.” These two have but one corresponding word in the Greek, and mean, that tractable evenness of temper, which avoids all extremes of conduct.

Gal 5:23. Mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against the persons practising these, the law has no effect. They require no penal enactments to induce them to perform their duties; hence, they are not under the law, but far beyond the reach of its threats and menaces.

“Faith;” honourable fidelity in the fulfilment of promises and contracts. “Continency, chastity.” These also have but one corresponding word in the Greek; they mean the spirit of temperance and moderation in desires, opposed to the vices of lust and gluttony. “Against such there is no law,” i.e., over the persons who practise these virtues, the law can exercise no dominion. They can set its threats and menaces at defiance. These latter words have the same meaning as the words, verse 18, “you are not under the law.”—(See 1 Tim. 1:19).

Gal 5:24. But they who truly discharge the duties of their Christian profession, have mortified in themselves this carnal concupiscence which wars against the Spirit, with its passions and wicked desires.

“And they that are Christ’s.” In the chief MSS. it is, “they that are of Christ Jesus” “have crucified,” that is, mortified their corrupt desires; he says, “crucified,” in allusion to the death of Christ, which was the model of our death to the passions. “Their flesh,” the Greek has, την σαρκα, the flesh

Gal 5:25. But if we are interiorily animated by the Spirit, let us express this in our exterior conduct, in our actions.

Our lives, the whole tenor of our actions, should be strictly conformable to the dictates of the spirit by which we are animated.

Gal 5:26. Let us lay aside all desires of vain glory, which causes us to provoke one another, and if unsuccessful to envy one another.

Spiritual sins, such as the desire of empty glory arising from the repute of learning, eloquence, and other acquirements, are by no means uncommon among such as are perfectly free from the dominion of carnal sins. They are the more dangerous because rarely perceived; and therefore, but rarely scrupled, as they should; for, spiritual pride, arising from the possession of virtues, with which others are not equally favoured, is generally so latent in its approach, and so subtle in its operation, that even among persons devoted to God, it works great mischief in the soul, before it is thought of, and, not unfrequently, is the root of great disorders. How deep and solid should be the humility of those whom God favours with his graces, and stimulates to enter on his divine service. They should always bear in mind, that of themselves they are nothing; that all they possess is received; that left to themselves, there is no crime, however grievous or shameful, they are not capable of committing, as perhaps a sad experience of the past may but too clearly prove to them. How many have entered on God’s service with the most generous dispositions, and laboured well for some time; a latent pride, however, insensibly insinuated itself. They gloried in their good actions, as if coming from themselves. In the pride of their heart they said, “ascendam.” They fell away and became reprobates. Hence, we should unceasingly cry out with the Psalmist: “Create in me, O God, a clean heart, and renew a right spirit, within my bowels.” “From my hidden sins cleanse me.” “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to thy name give glory.” This is particularly important for those who have been consecrated to the service of God.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 5, 2018

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


The Apostle commences this chapter by pointing out the preposterous conduct of the Galatians in submitting to the Jewish ceremonies. Their conduct in this respect is, he says, precisely similar to that of an heir, who, after attaining his majority, renounces his privileges—viz., the free and uncontrolled administration of his property, and submits anew to the control of the pedagogue, and the slavish drudgery of magisterial discipline. In order the more clearly to show this, he compares the Jewish people under the Old Law, which was composed of sensible, material signs and carnal ceremonies, to an heir in the state of nonage or of infant minority, deprived of all administration of his property, and in this respect nowise better than a servant, perfectly under the control of teachers and guardians (Gal 4:1–4). The Galatians reached their majority when, the term fixed upon by God for sending his Son having expired, he introduced them at once into the glorious adoption of full-grown sons of God, and into the full enjoyment of his heavenly inheritance, by anticipation here on earth (Gal 4:4–7). He next refers to their former state of idolatry, and insinuates, that, although their ignorance might then be pleaded in extenuation of their guilt, now, after having been introduced into the clear knowledge of the true God, and after having been so highly favoured by him, they had no such extenuation for recurring to the elements of Jewish infancy, one of which he instances in their observance of the Jewish festival days (Gal 4:8–10). He expresses his fears regarding them (Gal 4:11), and exhorts them to follow his own example in neglecting Jewish ceremonies (Gal 4:12). He endeavours to soften the ascerbity of his rebuke, by reminding them that they gave him no personal grounds for embittered feelings, as they treated him with the greatest kindness and respect. He points out the authors of whatever feelings of enmity they might entertain against him—viz., the false teachers, and he gives expression to his ardent paternal affection for the Galatians, and the consideration with which he longs to address them (Gal 4:13–22). He undertakes to prove from the Old Testament, that by subjecting themselves to the Law of Moses, they would be excluded from the Church and its inheritance. He quotes the history of Genesis, in which is recorded the birth of Abraham’s two sons, one born of the bond-woman, the other of the free-woman (Gal 4:21–23). He points out the allegorical meaning of these historical facts, and shows that those two wives of Abraham represented the Old and New Testaments. The old, which took its rise from Sinai, was represented by Agar. And he shows how fit a place Sinai was to originate the old covenant of fear (Gal 4:24-25). He leaves it to be inferred that Sara represents the new covenant, and points out the wonderful fecundity of the Church represented by her (Gal 4:26-27). He applies the allegory, in the three following verses (Gal 4:28-31).


Gal 4:1. Now, what I mean to say is this: As long as an heir is in his minority, he, in no respect, differs from a servant, whether as to personal-control, or the administration of property, although he be, at the same time, the rightful owner and master of all his goods.

“Now I say,” i.e., what I have been already referring to, amounts to this. The Apostle reverts to the idea of the “pedagogue,” referred to in the preceding chapter (Gal 3:24), and more fully enlarges on it, and applies it in these verses. “Is a child,” i.e., a minor.

Gal 4:2. But he is subject to guardians of his education, and managers of his property, up to the lime fixed by his father in his will, or determined by law.

“Until the time appointed by the father,” i.e., until the term of minority fixed upon by his father in his will, or determined by law, expires.

Gal 4:3. So also, we Jews, although heirs to the promises of Abraham, but still in our infant minority, were restrained within the bounds of duty under the material or corporeal elements of the law of Moses.

He here applies the foregoing illustration:—“So we also;” that is, the Jews, with whom the Apostle associates himself. “When we were children,” both in knowledge of religion—for they understood not the meaning of the signs and ceremonies which they practised—as also in their affections, for they had regard for temporal goods only. “Were serving,” i.e., kept in the service of God solely from motives of fear.

“Under the elements of the world,” τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κοσμου, that is, under the law of Moses, which was composed of sensible rites and ceremonies, the meaning, or ultimate reference of which, the Jews understood no better than the infant does the alphabetical elements of knowledge.

Gal 4:4. But, after the term of this minority, and the time fixed upon by the heavenly Father had fully expired, God sent on earth his Son, formed of the substance of woman, and born of her, and, of his own free will, subject to the law of Moses.

The Jews attained their spiritual majority at the time of the coming of Christ. “Made of a woman;” shows the mode in which the Incarnation took place, and the human nature of Christ. “Made under,” i.e., voluntarily subject to the law of Moses. This shows he was not only true man, but also a true member of the Jewish nation.

Gal 4:5. For the purpose of emancipating, by purchase, from the thraldom and servitude of the law, those who were subject to it, and of making us the adopted sons of God, and heirs of the promise, by right of adoption.

“That he might redeem.” The Greek word, ἐξαγοράση, means, to purchase. “That we might receive,” &c. He speaks of the Jews, with whom he associates himself in the first person, “we.” He was himself of Jewish origin, as being a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin.

Gal 4:6. And that you, Galatians, have obtained the adoption of sons of God, is rendered clear by the strong impulse of the Spirit of his Son, whom he sent into your hearts, causing you to call upon him with filial confidence as “Abba,” that is to say, “Father.”

He addresses the Galatians in the second person:—“And because you are sons of God.” That the Galatians, as well as the other Gentile converts, were not to go through this preparatory course of magisterial discipline, but that they had been introduced at once, and asserted into the glorious sonship of God, they had a clear proof from the dictates of the Spirit of Christ, urging them to call on him, with filial confidence, as father. For the meaning of the words, “Abba”—“Father” (see chap. 8 to the Romans). The meaning attached to the word “because,” in the Paraphrase, is the more probable. It signifies “that.” The strong impulse of the Holy Ghost impelling them to call on God with confidence, is given as a proof that they were not slaves, but full-grown children of God. The words, “the Spirit of his Son,” show the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son as well as from the Father, which was denied by the Greeks.

Gal 4:7. Wherefore, there is no longer among you a slave; you are all full-grown adult sons. But if you are sons, then you are also heirs of the promised inheritance through Christ.

“Therefore, he is not now a servant,” &c. For which the Greek, which Estius prefers, is, οὐκέτι εἶ δοῦλος, thou art no more a servant, &c. According to this reading the words are addressed to the Galatians in the second person, and in the singular number, for the sake of greater emphasis. This verse expresses a conclusion drawn from the foregoing. The Vulgate reading, as explained in the Paraphrase—Therefore there is no longer among you, after your regeneration, a slave, but you are all full-grown sons, &c., does not differ in sense from the Greek. “An heir also through God.” The common Greek is, an heir of God through Christ. The Vulgate reading is that of the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS.

Gal 4:8. But, formerly, in your Pagan, Infidel state, you worshipped and served idols, and false gods, who were in reality no gods at all, and were regarded as such only by the fiction of men, not knowing the true God, the Sovereign Maker of Heaven and Earth.

By sayings they are “now” no more slaves, he implies that a time was, when they were so; and that they were involved in a worse description of slavery than the Jews, since they were serving false gods, who, in reality, were no gods at all, being regarded as such only by the fiction of men. There was, however, in their former conduct one extenuating circumstance—they did so in ignorance, “not knowing God.”

Gal 4:9. But now, after having been favoured, through the goodness of Christ, with the knowledge of the true God, or, it should have rather been said, after having been known and loved by him, as children; how is it possible, that you can again return to the first elements of Jewish infancy, which are both weak, as possessing no power to confer justification: and needy, because destitute of grace; under which you again wish to serve?

But their conduct now admitted of no such extenuation. They returned again to servitude, “after knowing God, and being known by him,” which latter words are understood by some to mean, after having been taught by him. He says, “how turn you again?” &c. Not that they were before subject to the Jewish ceremonies, but because the idolatrous practices, in which they were involved, resembled the Jewish ceremonies in this respect, that both were an unlawful servitude for the Galatians, who were Gentile converts. The word “again,” is used, then, in reference to an illicit servitude, but of a different kind in two cases—Jewish ceremonies, in one case; and Paganism, in the other.

Gal 4:10. Among the many instances of your submission to the first elements of Jewish infancy, may be quoted your exact observance of festival days, both weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual.

He particularises one of the “weak and needy elements” of Jewish infancy referred to in the preceding verse—viz., their observance of Jewish Festivals. “You observe,” παρατηρεισθε, i.e., you accurately observe, “days,” i.e., Sabbath days, and the like, after the manner of the Jews. “Months,” i.e., new moons and the seventh month, which was almost all sacred among the Jews. “Times.” Stated festivals for the four seasons of the year—viz., Pasch, Pentecost, Expiation, and Encænia. “Years,” i.e., the seventh year of remission and the fiftieth of jubilee.

Gal 4:11. On this account I fear for you, lest perhaps your past labours may have become for you vain and fruitless.

He expresses his solicitude and apostolic concern for their salvation. He says, “perhaps,” to show that he does not utterly despair of their perseverance in the faith, which he had planted amongst them.

Gal 4:12. In order to remove all grounds for such fears, imitate me in neglecting Jewish ceremonies; for, I have been, like you, in error regarding them, having been ardently zealous in their defence. Do not, I beseech you, brethren, regard these things as spoken in a spirit of bitterness—for, you have not done me the slightest personal injury; and, hence, you have given me no provocation, no cause whatever for such feelings.

“I also am as you.” These words are understood by some, as in the Paraphrase, to mean—Imitate me in casting away the legal ceremonies; for, I laboured under the same error formerly regarding their necessity, that you labour under at present. According to others, they mean—Follow my example in rejecting the Jewish ceremonies; for, although a Jew, I became like you, by accommodating myself, as far as it was allowable, to the manners of the Gentiles, so that I might gain them to Christ. This latter interpretation accords well with his words to the Corinthians—“I became all things to all men, that I might save all.”—(1 Cor 9:22).

“You have not injured me at all.” He now endeavours to guard against the suspicion of having been influenced by feelings of bitterness in his former rebuke, and shows that he could entertain no such feeling towards them, since they had done him no personal injury whatever.

Gal 4:13. On the contrary, you know full well, that, when on a former occasion I preached the Gospel to you in a slate of such bodily wretchedness and misery, as might serve as a temptation for you to reject and despise me;

. On the contrary, they received him with open arms, when he appeared among them on a former occasion, in a lowly, contemptible condition, which would serve as a temptation to them to reject him. The words, “and your temptation in my flesh,” in the common Greek, runs thus, πειρασμον μου τον εν τη σαρκι μου—and my temptation which teas in my flesh. The Vulgate reading is supported by the chief MSS., πειρασμον ὑμων, your temptation. There will be no difference between the common Greek and the Vulgate reading, if “temptation” be understood of the object of temptation—viz., himself, whom they might be tempted to reject, owing to the lowly state in which he presented himself, preaching the Gospel. The words, “and your temptation,” &c., are governed by the words of next verse—“You despised not, nor rejected.”

Gal 4:14. Far from rejecting or despising me, you received me with open arms, as you would an angel of God, even as Jesus Christ himself.

They received him as they would an angel, &c. Hence, he could have no cause whatever for angry or imbittered feelings against them.

Gal 4:15. Where now is that expression of happiness which you testified at my advent amongst you? For, I can bear witness regarding you, that, if nature permitted it, and if it in any way served me, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.

“Where, then, is your blessedness?” For which the reading in the common Greek text is, τις οὖν ὁ μακαρισμος ὑμῶν—how great, then, was your blessedness. The Vatican MS. supports the Vulgate, που οῦν μακαρισμος ὑμῶν—“where then your blessedness?” Our reading is most likely the correct one, and the common Greek reading a misprint, which might have been easily occasioned by the similarity in both readings. Their happiness, then, at having such a teacher was so great, that there was nothing they possessed, be it ever so dear, which they would not have given him. They would have plucked out their very eyes and given them to him, if it were allowed, or if it could have served him. “You would have plucked—and would have given,” &c., runs thus in the Greek: “having plucked out your own eyes, you would have given,” &c.

Gal 4:16. Am I, then, to be held by you in hatred and aversion for announcing to you, without disguise or reserve, the naked truth?

“Am I, then, your enemy?” &c. The Apostle did not announce to the Galatians all the truths of Christian faith; and among the truths which, from motives of apostolic prudence, he withheld from them, was that regarding the inutility of the Mosaic ceremonies.

Gal 4:17. But these feelings of aversion with which you regard me, have their true source in the wiles of the false teachers, who express the greatest zeal for you—a zeal, however, which has no existence, or which is not exercised for your welfare; since their real aim is to exclude you from the Church, and the liberty of the Gospel, in order that you, in turn, would show your zeal for them, by becoming instrumental in promoting their ostentatious glory, or, by becoming their factious adherents.

“They,” i.e., the false teachers, “are zealous in your regard,” &c.; ζηλοῦσιν ὑμᾶς i.e., they pay court to you from an anxious desire to gain you over to their party. He attributes the change of feeling which the Galatians had undergone towards him, to the seductive wiles and influence of the false teachers. “Not well,” may either mean, that the zeal of the false teachers was not real, or, that it had not their welfare in view. “That you might be zealous for them,” i.e., to induce you to become their factious adherents and supporters.

Gal 4:18. You should always show your zeal for a good teacher, such as I am myself, by your love and imitation of him in good things, and that constantly, not only in his presence, but in his absence also.

“For that which is good,” might be more correctly translated, for him that is good, or a good teacher. But this zealous imitation and defence of him are to be confined to good actions, and that “always,” not only in his presence, but also in his absence. The whole verse runs thus in the ordinary Greek: καλον δε το ζηλουσθαι εν καλῷ παντοτε, it is good to be always zealous for a good thing, or for a good person. The Codex Vaticanus has the imperative. καλον δε ζηλουσθε, but be zealous, &c., as in the Vulgate.

Gal 4:19. My little children, whom I love with the tender affection of a mother for her offspring, for whom she would a second time undergo the throes of childbirth, until the faith of Christ is again formed in you.

The tender parental affection which the Apostle expresses in this verse for the Galatians, shows the troubles and sorrow of mind he must have felt for their salvation. He had already given them a new spiritual birth in the faith; but, as they erred from the faith, he longs again, with painful anxiety and concern, to bring them back, which he terms, a second parturition.

Gal 4:20. Would that I were present amongst you at this moment, in order that I might be able to change my tone, and accommodate myself to your dispositions, with which, owing to my absence, I cannot be fully acquainted. Hence, the hesitation and perplexity with which I now address you.

“Because I am ashamed for you,” i.e., I am confounded and perplexed about the tone in which I am to address you. The Greek words mean, απορουμαι εν ὑμιν, I am perplexed regarding you. What a lesson is here given by the Apostle to all those who, like him, are engaged in the gospel ministry—with what zeal does he labour to gain over his spiritual children to Christ. At one time entreating them; at another, weeping over them; at one time rebuking them; at another, imploring them. Like him, they should frequently express the feelings of parental affection, sorrow, and uneasiness, which they entertain for their people, and accommodate, as far as possible, their language to their feelings and dispositions. Like a tender mother, they should endeavour to beget Christ in the minds of their hearers.

Gal 4:21. Answer me, you who wish to be under the Law: Have you not read the Law, and heard its teachings?—(It transfers you from itself to Christ).

The Apostle now undertakes to prove that the Jews were to be rejected from the Church and its inheritance; and, of course, he leaves it to be inferred that the Galatians, by attending to the instructions of the false teachers, were to be involved in the like misfortune. He confutes the Galatians from the very Law to which they were subjecting themselves. “Have you not read the law?” The Greek is, τον νομον ουκ ακουετε—do you not hear the Law? i.e., the teaching of the Law—as if he said, if you will not attend to me, attend to the very Law to which you wish to subject yourselves. By “the Law,” is meant the Old Testament, and not merely the Books of Moses, as some interpreters would have it.

Gal 4:22. For, it informs you of this fact, that Abraham had two sons—Ismael, whom he begot of Agar, a bond-woman, and Isaac, whom he begot of Sara, a free-woman.

“For,” is a proof of the implied proposition, viz., that the Law transfers them to Christ. “It is written.”—(Genesis 16, 21)

Gal 4:23. But Ismael, the son of the bond-woman, was born according to the natural course of things—his mother being young and prolific—whereas, Isaac, the son of the free-woman, was born of her—when old and sterile—in virtue of God’s promise on the subject.—(Genesis 17:17).

“But he of the free-woman, was by the promise.”—(Genesis 17:17).

Gal 4:24. Now, these historical facts, besides their literal signification, convey a still more profound and allegorical meaning, which consists in this: These two marriages, or wives of Abraham, signify two covenants, the one taking its rise from Mount Sina, and bringing forth children into the servitude of the Mosaic law—of which the precepts are so numerous, and the spirit, that of fear; this covenant is represented by Agar.

Which things are said by allegory; literally, ἅτινα ὲστιν ἀλληγορούμενα, which things are allegorized, i.e., the things narrated in Genesis regarding the sons and marriages of Abraham, signifying at the same time other things altogether different from themselves. By an allegory, writers on rhetoric understand a lengthened or continued metaphor. Ecclesiastical writers generally understand it to denote a figure in things, by which one thing is employed to typify or signify another of quite a different nature. “For these,” αὗται γὰρ, i.e., the marriages, or, according to others, the two wives of Abraham. “Are,” i.e., signify “the two Testaments”—viz., the New and the Old. “The one indeed from Mount Sina.” The Old Testament took its rise from Mount Sina; because, there was promulgated the Law, the observance of which was among the primary conditions of the Old Covenant. “Which bringeth forth into bondage.” The Old Testament brought forth children into the bondage of the Mosaic Law, a law of servitude, both on account of the multitude of its precepts, which neither the Jews nor their fathers could bear, as also on account of the spirit of fear which it inspired. “Which is Agar;” and this covenant is represented by Agar.

Gal 4:25. Sinai was a fit place to originate this covenant of fear; for, it is a mountain in Arabia, outside the confines of the Promised Land, and of an aspect so rugged and frightful as to inspire the beholders with fear; hence, it aptly gives rise to the covenant which begets slaves, strangers to the promised inheritance. It bears to the present earthly Jerusalem, the near relation of signification; and this Jerusalem, or Agar, in a representative capacity, is under the servitude of the Mosaic Law with her children.

He says that Sina was a fit place to give rise to this covenant of fear and servitude, both on account of its position in Arabia, outside the confines of the Land of Promise, and its appearance, which was calculated to inspire the beholders with a feeling of awe. It was, therefore, a fit place to originate a covenant which engenders slaves, who are strangers to the promised inheritance.

“Which hath affinity to that Jerusalem which now is.” The affinity referred to is not local proximity; for, Sina and Jerusalem are very far asunder; but an affinity in signification (a meaning admitted by the corresponding Greek word, συστοιχει, which literally means, “to stand in the same rank and file with”), because Jerusalem is the seat of the Law and of the covenant promulgated on Sina. And as the Jews of old imbibed the spirit of servile fear, when they received the Law at the foot of Mount Sina, so are the Jews of the present day—the children of the present earthly Jerusalem—slaves in like manner.

“Jerusalem which now is,” refers to the earthly Jerusalem, because in the following verse (26), it is opposed to “the Jerusalem which is above.”

“And is in bondage with her children.” These words are referred by some interpreters to Jerusalem, by others to Agar (verse 24), of course in a representative capacity; and then, the meaning is the same. Both interpretations are given in the Paraphrase. The latter construction is authorized by certain editions of the Bible, in which the first part of this verse is read within a parenthesis, thus: (“for Sina is a mountain: … now is Jerusalem”) “and is in bondage with her children.” These latter words are, of course, in this reading, referred to “Agar” in the preceding verse. The same is warranted by the Greek reading, which is different from the Vulgate, and runs thus: τὸ γὰρ Ἄγαρ Σινᾶ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ Αραβἰᾳ, for this Agar is Mount Sina in Arabia, &c. The Codex Vaticanus has τὸ δε Ἄγαρ, &c., but this Agar, &c., the meaning of which is, “this (word) Agar signifies Mount Sinai among the Arabians.” The Syriac version is the same. According to both Greek and Syriac readings, a reason is given from the very terms, why Agar should represent the Old Testament; because, Agar was a provincial name among the Arabians, for Mount Sina, where the covenant was established and promulgated. This is the interpretation of the Greek commentators, among the rest, of St. Chrysostom and Theophylact. The Vulgate reading is, however, the more probable, as is admitted even by Beza. It is found in several MSS., and in the Latin Fathers generally. “And is in bondage,” &c. And this Jerusalem or Agar, is in bondage with her children, as the children always follow the condition of the mother; partus sequitur ventrem. The “bondage” refers to the servitude of the Mosaic Law.

Gal 4:26. But the heavenly Jerusalem—viz., the Church, of which Sara, the free-woman was a type, is not, like he Synagogue, in servitude, but free. She is also fruitful in free children, among whom we are to be numbered; and hence, she is our mother.

The Apostle omits referring to the typical or allegorical signification of Sara, which he supposes to be clearly deducible from the anathesis between her and Agar. As Agar represented the Old Testament, so must Sara represent the other, viz., the New, which he supposes to bear the same near relation of signification to the heavenly Jerusalem, that the covenant established on Sina bears to the earthly. For, in heaven it took its rise; from heaven it descends; and from heaven its animating principle—viz., faith, hope, and charity (the soul of the Church), is derived. Of it, he merely says, that it is not, like the present Jerusalem, in servitude, but “free,” and also fruitful in free children—(the children always following the condition of the mother). In this respect also it differs from the other, which “is in bondage with her children.” In this respect also, it differs from the other, which “is in bondage with her children.”

“Which is our mother.” We all, both Jews and Gentiles, are among the free children, whom she has begotten to God.

Gal 4:27. This wonderful fecundity of the Church was foretold by the Prophet Isaias, when he called upon this sterile woman, the Church of God among the Gentiles, to burst forth into shouts of joy and exultation, because, although hitherto barren and husbandless, she had now more children than the Synagogue, which had a husband.

He proves this wonderful fecundity of the Church from the Prophet Isaias (Isa 54:1). This quotation from Isaias refers to the state of the Church before the coming of Christ. Before that period, the Church had but few children among the Gentiles; hence, termed “barren” by the Prophet. But, now, she begets more children than the Synagogue “that hath a husband”—that was espoused to the Mosaic Law, or to God himself, as a fearful master. This fecundity of the Church above the Synagogue is clear from the fact, that the children of the Synagogue were confined to the Jewish people alone, and her spiritual children fewer still; while the Church extends to all nations, and her spiritual children are beyond numbering.

Objection.—How could the Church be called “barren,” &c., before the coming of Christ, since she had no existence then? Should it be said, that she had existence in the faithful Jews, who lived before Christ, might it not rather be said that these were children of the Synagogue, begotten of her husband, the law? And, moreover, in the alleged supposition, where could be found the opposition referred to by the Prophet and quoted by the Apostle?

Resp.—In the first place, it may be answered, that the few just men, who lived under the Patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations, constituted the Church of Christ; since it was only through the grace of the New Law they were enabled to fulfil all their duties. And, then, the opposition or antithesis instituted by the Apostle, shall be made to consist between these few just men—(so few, that their mother, the Church of Christ, by whose aids they fulfilled their duties, might be justly termed “barren”); and the whole bulk of the Jewish nation united to the Synagogue, by the external subjection to the law, which could not of itself justify them.

In the second place, the Apostle may be said to refer here to the Church of God among the Gentiles, which, compared with the Synagogue, had but few children, and hence, termed “barren.” And, then, the opposition is between the Church as made up of but a few followers among the Gentiles, and the external followers of the Synagogue. For, although the Jews were among the first, nay, the very first, openly to join the Church of Christ; still, the Church was chiefly composed of the Gentiles, compared with whom, the Jewish converts were, in point of numbers, almost a mere nothing. This Church of the Gentiles, now far and wide extended, and embracing within its pale, almost all the nations was confined, of old, to a small number—viz., the few just.

Gal 4:28. (First application of the allegory).—We, brethren, like Isaac, the second born, are also like him the children of the promise, to the exclusion of the first born, the Jews.

In this verse, the Apostle begins to apply the allegory to his purpose. “Now we,” he speaks in the person of the faithful. “As Isaac was, we also are, the children of promise;” “born not of the will of man, nor of blood, but of God.”—(John chap. 1). In this verse, is the first application of the allegory, and from it the Apostle wishes the Galatians to conclude, that, as children of promise, and born of the free-woman, they should no longer be under the servitude of the law, like the sons of the bond-woman.

Gal 4:29. (Second application).—But, as Ismael, who was born according to the course of nature, persecuted in his day, Isaac, the child of spiritual promise, so also do the Jews of the present day, of whom Ismael was the type and figure, persecute the Christians, the heirs of Abraham’s promises, represented in Isaac.

Second application.—(See Paraphrase). “Persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit.” It is merely said in Genesis, chap. 21, to which allusion is made here, “that Sara saw the son of Agar playing with Isaac.” However, this word “playing,” may be taken to signify bodily injury, or some spiritual temptation. There is a great diversity of opinion respecting the meaning of the Hebrew word, motsēk, which the Septuagint renders, παιζοντα, “playing.” Some understand it to mean physical violence, in which sense the word is used (Gen. 39:14). Others, mocking him, as St. Augustine understands it (Sermon, de Agar et Ismaele), lusio illa illusio erat. St. Jerome understands it to mean a contentious struggle arising from the jealousy respecting the rights of primogeniture, which the rejoicings, on the occasion of the weaning of Isaac, gave Ismael grounds for suspecting to be intended for his younger brother. This conduct of Ismael was naturally viewed by Sara with jealousy; and hence, as Agar did not prevent it, both she and her son were turned out of doors.

Gal 4:30. (But the third and principal application of the allegory consists in this, and is fulfilled in the Jews).—As by the command of God sanctioning the wish of Sara, the bond-woman and her son were cast out and excluded from the inheritance; so are the Jews now, when under the bondage of the Law, excluded from the promises of Abraham.

In this verse is the principal application of the allegory intended by the Apostle. For, the allegory is introduced for the purpose of showing the Galatians, that, in making them submit to the Jewish ceremonies, the false teachers were excluding them from the inheritance promised to the children of faith, just as the bond-woman and her son were excluded from the inheritance of Abraham, by the command of God sanctioning the wish of Sara.

Gal 4:31. We should, therefore, bear in mind, brethren, that we are not the children of the bond-woman—the Synagogue—bound to the Law of Moses; but of the free-woman, viz., the Church of Christ; and hence, we are ourselves free, after the condition of our mother. But this liberty was procured for us by Christ, who, by his grace, freed us from the yoke of the Law, which he abrogated.

“Then, brethren, we are not the children of the bond-woman.” It is not easy to see the connexion of the word, “then,” or, therefore, unless it be with the words of verse 26:—“But that Jerusalem which is above is our mother.” It is, however, generally understood by Commentators to have the force of exhortation, having reference to the following chapter, rather than of argumentative conclusion. The word “brethren,” which is commonly employed by the Apostle in cases of moral exhortation, renders this view the more probable. “By the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free.” These words are made, in the ordinary Greek text, the commencement of chapter 5 verse 1. The Codex Vaticanus follows the Vulgate arrangement, and commences chapter 5 with the words, “stand fast,” &c.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 5, 2018

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


In this chapter, the Apostle, after having conveyed in feeling terms, a mild, paternal rebuke, to the Galatians (Gal 3:1), proceeds to prove by several arguments, that justification comes from faith and not from the works of the law. His first argument is derived from the experience of the Galatians themselves. The abundant gifts of the Holy Ghost were displayed amongst them, and he asks them, was it from faith these gifts were derived? and he, then, points out their utter folly in having recourse to carnal precepts for the consummation of that sanctification which commenced with faith (Gal 3:2–5). His next argument is derived from the example of Abraham, justified by faith before he received the law, and his justification is the model of ours (Gal 2:6–9). Another argument is derived from the evils entailed by the law, which, far from being the source of a blessing, is the occasion of a curse (Gal 3:10). A further proof, which may be rather termed a fuller development of the preceding, is derived from the difference of the effects flowing from faith and the works of the law (Gal 3:11-12).

He shows how we are freed from the malediction entailed by the law (Gal 3:13-14). His next argument is founded on the nature of the testament which God made with Abraham, and in a strain of reasoning which he elucidates by human examples, he shows this testament to be unchangeable, and not voidable, which would be the result, if justification were to come from the law (Gal 3:15-16). From these arguments he concludes that we are justified by Christ, or rather by faith in him, and not by the law (Gal 3:17-18). He then answers certain objections to which his doctrine and reasoning might give rise, and shows the points in which the Old Law, and the promise made regarding Christ, differed, and the excellency of the latter above the former (Gal 3:19-20). Reverting to the opposition apparently existing between the law and the promise, he shows that there was no opposition between them. They would be really opposed, if the law conferred justice, as the false teachers taught (Gal 3:21). He shows that the law served the promise, by causing men, oppressed with the yoke of sin, to look to the proper source, viz., faith in Christ, for the fruits of the promise (Gaal 3:22), and also that it prepared us for the promise, by restraining us from manifest transgressions (Gal 3:23). The law held the same relation to the promise, that the pedagogue does to the preceptor (Gal 3:24). But now its office ceases; hence, abrogated, as being useless (Gal 3:25). The Galatians arrived at once at full grown spiritual existence; and, did not, therefore, require the magisterial discipline of the pedagogue (Gal 3:26). He points out the magnitude of the blessings conferred on them in justification (Gal 3:27-29).


Gal 3:1. O senseless Galatians, slow of understanding, what magic influence could have so far bewitched you, as to give up the true faith, especially after the vivid picture, which I exhibited to you, of the death of Christ, as vivid and as striking as if he were really crucified before your eyes.

“Senseless.” The Greek word, ανοητοι, means stupid, or devoid of mind and understanding. “Who hath bewitched,” &c. The Galatians would appear, he says, to be under the influence of witchcraft, by which their senses were so perverted, that truth appeared as falsehood, and vice versa. “That you should not obey the truth.” These words are wanting in some Greek copies, and omitted by St. Jerome. They are admitted to be authentic by Matthæi, and others. “Jesus Christ hath been set forth,” which is read by others, “Christ hath been proscribed or condemned.” The meaning in the Paraphrase is the one more in accordance with the present Greek reading. “Set forth,” προεγραφη, præscriptus est; a pictorial term, conveying an allusion to paintings exposed for public inspection. From these words, the Apostle wishes the Galatians to understand, that the vivid picture which he drew for them of Christ’s crucifixion, should have made a lasting impression on their minds, and preserved them from error, as regarded the necessity or sufficiency of the Mosaic ceremonies, whose total abrogation the mystery of Christ’s death so loudly proclaimed.

Gal 3:2. This one point I only wish to know from you. From what source was derived the spirit of graces and miracles which you received at your justification, and abundantly displayed amongst you? Was it from faith communicated through the hearing of my preaching, or from the works of the law?

He now enters on the subject of this chapter, viz., that justification comes not from the works of the law, but from faith. The first proof of this proposition is derived from the experience of the Galatians themselves. They received “the Spirit,” i.e., the Holy Ghost, at their conversion, and his gifts of miracles, tongues, &c., which were visibly displayed amongst them. These gifts accompanied justification, and although their presence is not always a proof of sanctity in individuals, as is clear from the Gospel—“nonne in nomine tuo prophetavimus, dæmonia cjecimus?” &c. (Matt. 7), to whom the answer given is, “Amen, dico vobis, nescio vos;” still, when plenteously conferred on a multitude, it is a proof of the giving of the Holy Ghost in real and internal justification. The answer to his question, which the Apostle knew would be given, is—these gifts came from faith, since the Galatians, as being Gentiles, knew nothing of the works of the Jewish law, before their conversion.

Gal 3:3. Are you so far advanced in folly, as, contrary to all order, after having commenced your justification by spiritual means, of which faith is the basis, to attempt to perfect this by the carnal observance of a law, which brought nothing to perfection?

From the supposed answer, the Apostle shows the utter folly of the Galatians in inverting all order, by recurring in the first instance, to spiritual means for justification, and then endeavouring to perfect the justification by carnal means, such as the ceremonial law was, which effected carnal purification. Right reason pointed out the contrary order of advancing, viz., from carnal to the adoption of spiritual means.

Gal 3:4. Have you endured so many sufferings and labours in the cause of the faith without any fruit or profit? I hope, however, that by your sincere repentance, you will recover the full fruits of your former good works, which have been lost to you by sin.

They gave a further proof of their folly, in losing the merit of their past sufferings, by falling back to Jewish ceremonies. “If yet in vain.” He corrects his former saying, and expresses a hope, that their past good works and sufferings may revive by penance and prove of avail to them. On the latter words of this verse, Divines ground a probable proof of the reviviscence, by penance, of the merit of former good works performed in a state of grace, but now lost, as to their fruit, or as they are termed, mortified, owing to mortal sin. Others understood them in an exceptive sense, if it be only in vain, as if to say, it might have gone farther, and be the source of their perdition.

Gal 3:5. I now repeat my former question (Gal 3:2): Did God impart to you his Holy Spirit, and did he perform miracles of power amongst you, owing to your observance of the works of the law, or in consequence of the spirit of faith which you received from hearing my preaching? (Of course you will answer, it was owing to faith, since you knew nothing of the works of the law at the time).

He repeats the question proposed (Gal 3:2), in order to connect it with the following verse. The answer of course is, that given in Paraphrase. This answer is understood, and keeping this in mind, the Apostle proceeds to the following verse 6. “Miracles among you.” In Greek, miracles in you.

Gal 3:6. As Abraham, before he was circumcised, or before he received the law, had faith in God, and by this faith, was justified.

“It is written.” These words are omitted in the Greek, which runs thus, καθὼς Αβρααμ επιστευσεν—As Abraham believed God, &c. According to which it is not the text of Scripture, but the example of Abraham that is quoted. The second argument adduced to prove that justification comes from faith, is the example of Abraham. The reasoning of the Apostle runs thus:—Abraham was justified by faith. Now, the children of Abraham, who are to be heirs of his promises, are to be justified in the same way that he was justified. (This proposition, though not expressed, is supposed in the reasoning and conclusions of the Apostle). The necessary conclusion is: therefore, all the children of Abraham are justified by faith. (This verse is fully explained, Rom. 4, which see).

Gal 3:7. You must know, therefore, that the believers are alone the true children of Abraham, who are to inherit his promises.

“The children of Abraham,” i.e., the sons, who like Isaac, were to inherit his glorious promises.

Gal 3:8. Hence it was, that the Holy Ghost, who speaks through the Scripture, foreseeing the mode in which God would be pleased to justify the nations, viz., by faith, made the announcement of this joyous message long beforehand to Abraham, saying: All the nations of the earth shall receive the rich spiritual blessing of eternal life through thy seed, Christ, and this of course, through faith, the means of justification marked out by him.

In this verse, the Apostle points out to the Galatians, heretofore ignorant of religion, as being Gentile converts, the advantages of being sons of Abraham, of which the chief was, the receiving the benedictions promised to him. The Apostle also shows how the gracious designs of God in this respect, were long before manifested, and declared to Abraham. “The Scripture foreseeing,” &c., that is, the Holy Ghost, who spoke through the Scripture. “In thee,” which is commonly interpreted, as in Paraphrase; or, “in thee,” like thee, after the model set by thee. This interpretation admirably accords with the following verse, which, interpreted in this way, would be connected thus:—All the nations of the earth shall receive the benedictions of grace and salvation in the same way that Abraham received them, verse 8. Now, Abraham received them through faith. “Abraham believed God,” &c. (verse 6), therefore (verse 9), the believers with Abraham, shall also be blessed with him.

Gal 3:9. Therefore, it is the followers of Abraham’s faith that shall inherit the blessings promised to this father and model of all true believers.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Gal 3:10. But as for those who seek for justification from the works of the law, far from receiving a blessing, they are under a curse. For, the law itself pronounces a malediction on all who will not fully comply with every single precept written in the Book of the Law—a requisition with which no man can comply, by the sole aid furnished by the law itself, unless he be strengthened by the graces derived from faith.

It is to be borne in mind, that the Apostle supposes only two sources of justification viz., faith—the source proposed by himself,—and the works of the law proposed by the false teachers. Hence, we can see the force of the question proposed in a disjunctive form (Gal 3:5). In the foregoing verses, he proves by positive argument, that faith is the source of justification. In this verse, he proves the same, negatively, by showing that the works of the law, far from being a source of a benediction, are the occasional cause of a malediction. Similar is the doctrine (Romans 4.) Lex iram operatur. The law prescribes, under pain of malediction, the observance of all its precepts. Now, by the sole aid of the law itself, no one can fulfil the law. (This second proposition is supposed here, as being known from experience, for it was “a yoke which neither the Jews nor their fathers could bear.”—Acts 15:10). The conclusion, therefore, is, that the law, exclusive of faith, cannot be a source of justification.

Gal 3:11. Another proof, that justification is from faith, and not from the works of the law, is derived from the difference of effects flowing from faith and the works of the law. For that no one is justified before God, by the law, is plain from the Prophet Habacuc, who ascribes real and internal justification to faith—“the just man liveth by faith.”

In this verse is contained a new proof.—(Vide Paraphrase). The text from Habacuc, “the just man liveth,” &c., is explained.—(Rom. 1:17).

Gal 3:12. But this spiritual life, of which the Prophet speaks, and which he ascribes to faith, as its foundation, is quite different from the effects of the law, which only promises those who comply with its precepts, that such compliance will insure them temporal life and abundance.

“He that doth these things,” &c. The Apostle here refers to the observance of the law by natural means, and is to be understood only of the principal leading precepts, the violation of which was punishable with death; for, the full observance of the entire law shall justify; but, for this, grace and faith are necessary; because no man can observe the entire law by natural means.—(See Rom. 10:5, for further exposition of this verse).

Gal 3:13. Christ hath freed us from the malediction entailed on us by the law, owing to our inability, from our own natural strength, to fulfil all its precepts; he did so, by meriting for us the grace to fulfil them, on account of his taking upon himself the form and appearance of a malefactor and one cursed by God; for, such were they all termed in the law, who were subjected to the ignominious death inflicted on Christ: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”—(Deut. 21:13).

“Being made a curse for us.” Christ is said to be made “a curse” for us, in the same way as he was made for us, “sin,” viz., because he assumed its appearance. “He was,” according to the Prophet, “struck by God, who placed upon him the iniquity of us all.”—(Isaias, 53.) “For it is written,” &c. (Deut. 21:23). Those who were hung from a tree, as was our Redeemer, are pronounced accursed in the Law of Moses. The “hanging on a tree” refers not so much to crucifixion, as to the hanging of a body after death on stakes or crosses.—(Jos10:26). Oh! what an ineffable mystery of Divine love. The immaculate sanctity of God takes on himself the degraded form of a wretch accursed of Heaven, in order to repair our iniquities. And if God thus punished him who never sinned, for taking upon himself the mere imputability of sin, what shall be the rigours of his punishment on impenitent sinners. “If these things they do in the green wood, what shall be done in the dry?”

Gal 3:14. Christ submitted to this ignominious treatment, and assumed the appearance of a wretch cursed by God, in order that, through him, the spiritual benediction promised Abraham might be imparted to the Gentiles: that by faith we might receive the spirit of sanctification promised to all his sons.

“The promise of the Spirit,” i.e., the promised Spirit, or, the promise that we should receive the Spirit.

Gal 3:15. Another proof that justification comes from faith and not from the works of the law—Brethren (to borrow an illustration from human life, and from human reasonings), the last testamentary disposition even of a man, it made according to the forms marked out by law, is so firm and unchangeable, that no one can set it at nought or make any new arrangements in it; and, surely, it cannot for a moment be questioned, that the promises and covenants of God possess at least as much stability as the most inviolable of human compacts, viz., testamentary dispositions.

Another proof, that justification comes from faith and not from the works of the law, is founded on the firmness and unchangable nature of the promises of God, and the different dates at which the promise was made and the law promulgated. “Yet a man’s testament,” διαθήκην, St. Jerome remarks that the Hebrew word for “testament,” (Berith), is applicable to a covenant in general, rather than to a testament; here, however, it is used in the latter meaning.—See Hebrews, 9:16.

Gal 3:16. Now, God repeatedly made his promise of real justice and eternal inheritance to Abraham and to his seed, which word, “seed,” is expressed in the singular number, in order the more clearly to mark out the individual through whom the promise was primarily made to Abraham, and in whom it was to be fulfilled.

“He saith not, and to his seeds.” Looking to mere human reasoning, it is not easy to see the force of the Apostle’s argument founded on the use of the word, “seed,” in the singular number, “seed” being a collective term. All we can say is, that according to the Holy Spirit, speaking through St. Paul in this passage—the same by whom Moses was inspired—the word “seed,” was used in Genesis, in the singular number, for the purpose of designating the descendant of Abraham, viz., Christ in whom the promises were to be fulfilled. Hence, we can say, that the argument of the Apostle, founded on the use of the word “seed” in the singular number by Moses in the Book of Genesis, derives weight more from an authentic interpretation (which is given by the Apostle under the influence of inspiration) of the words of Genesis, than from strict human reasoning.

Gal 3:17. This, therefore, is my conclusion. Whereas, even amongst men, there are compacts of such stability, as to be unchangeable, viz., last wills and testaments, it cannot be questioned, that the compacts of God, when absolute and unconditional, are no less firm; hence, the promise or testament made by God, founded on the death of Christ, and transmitting to man an eternal inheritance, cannot be voided in its fulfilment, by a law promulgated four hundred and thirty years after it.

“This I say,” i.e., this is my conclusion. “That the testament.” &c. The word “testament,” in this verse, means the same thing, as “promises made to Abraham,” in Gal 3:16, and the word “promises,” is used in the plural, because the one promise was repeatedly made, or the same thing was repeatedly promised, and this promise may be fairly classed with what, humanly speaking, we call testaments; both because of its stability—and this founded on the death of Christ—as also, because it transmits an inheritance. This promise, repeatedly made (“promises,” verse 16), or “testament,” is to be fulfilled in Christ. It had for object, the giving through him of justice to Abraham and his spiritual posterity, “Which was made after four hundred and thirty years,” &c.; these four hundred and thirty years are to be computed from the time at which the promise was made to Abraham, to the time of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. “Confirmed by God,” In the common Greek, confirmed before by God unto Christ. “Before.” means, previous to the law. The words unto Christ, are not in the Alexandrian or Vatican MSS.

Gal 3:18. And that the promise would be rendered void and be destroyed by the Law, is quite clear, because if the inheritance came through the Law, it could be no longer from the promise; which latter assertion is by no means true, for, it was through a gratuitous promise that God’s benediction to Abraham was to come.

If the inheritance were from the law, it could be no longer from the promise. Because the law carries with it certain conditions of an onerous nature; it is reciprocal in its engagements; whereas, the promise is supposed to be quite gratuitous, absolute, and unchangeable on the part of God. Again, the inheritance coming through the law would be less extensive than that coming through the promise; because, the latter would comprise all the nations and tribes of the earth: whereas, the former would be necessarily confined to the Jewish people.

Gal 3:19. The object of the Law then, what was it? The object of the Law was to restrain, or increase the trangressions of the Jewish people, and that merely for a time, until the seed to whom the promise was made, should come (whereas the promise was given without limitation to any time—to be accomplished in all nations—to the end of the world). The Law was arranged by angels, by whom it was given, inscribed on tablets of stone—(whereas, the promise was made by God himself). The Law was promulgated by the ministry of a mediator, Moses, who told the people, I was the mediator and stood between the Lord and you.—(Deut 5:5).

“It was set.” For “set,” the Greek has, προσετεθη, superadded. The Vulgate reading, which followed ετεθη, appears the more probable. “Because of transgressions.” This may either mean, that the law had for object, to restrain and manifest trangressions, or, in a secondary sense, to increase them, so that men, seeing their own weakness and inability, would be shown the source to which they should recur for justification.—(See Paraphrase). This latter interpretation accords well with the context, and with Gal 3:21. “Until the seed should come,” points out the term or duration of the Law. After having pointed out the object of the law, the Apostle proceeds to point out its leading characteristics, and the peculiar points of disparity-between it and the promise. The characters of the promise he leaves to be inferred from the contrast and implied antithesis with the expressed characters of the Law. The Law was “ordained by angels,” and promulgated by the ministry of a “mediator,” Moses. From which we infer that the promise was not “ordained by angels”; having been ordained by God himself, and made by himself directly and immediately to Abraham.—(Genesis, 18:17). And as for a mediator, no such thing could be admitted in the promise, as is shown in next verse.

Gal 3:20. Now, in the case of the promise, a mediato could not be admitted, because a mediator supposes two parties at least, in a covenant, between whom mediation could take place; but, when there is question of a matter where only one party is concerned, no such thing can be admitted. In the fulfilment of the promise, God is the only party concerned; for, it was absolute and gratuitous, carrying with it all the aid necessary for its fulfilment.

It is by no means easy to arrive, with any degree of probability, at the meaning of this obscure passage, regarding which a great many perplexed interpretations and conjectures have been advanced by the several Commentators. The interpretation preferred in the Paraphrase, appears, of all others, to accord best with the context; it may be more fully developed thus:—The evident design of the Apostle in this verse is to show, that In the case of the promise through which the inheritance was to come rather than through the Law (Gal 3:18), no mediator could be admitted, asin the case of the Law (Gal 3:19). Why? Because, when there is but one party to a covenant, when an absolute, gratuitous promise is made by one party to another, a promise entailing no conditions for its fulfilment, which the promise itself does not contain, there is but one party concerned in it, viz., the promising party; and hence, there can be no mediator; for, this implies two parties between whom the office of mediator is to be discharged.—(“A mediator is not of one.”) Now between God and Abraham there was a purely gratuitous promise regarding the inheritance to be given to him and his posterity—a promise absolute in its nature, requiring no conditions which were not involved in the promise itself—for, it carried with it the aids and helps required for self-fulfilment. There was then but one party, viz., God (“But God is one”), and hence, no mediator, as in the case of the Law, which was an onerous contract, requiring on the part of the legislator and the subjects certain conditions, and establishing certain reciprocal relations.

Other Interpreters, conceiving the exclusion of a mediator in the case of the promise to have reference to the person to whom the promise was made, explain the words thus:—The promise made to Abraham, was primarily made to him through Christ, the promised seed. “To Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed,” (Gal 3:16). But the party promising, and the party to whom the promise was made, are not, in that case, different. “But God is one.” Hence, no mediator, as in the case of the Law. The former interpretation, in which a mediator is excluded by the nature of the promise itself, appears to be more in accordance with the context. For, all along, and especially in verse (Gal 3:18), the Apostle lays great stress on the gratuitous nature of the promise made by God to Abraham.

Gal 3:21. If then the Law had the effect of manifesting, or, of increasing man’s transgressions, is it not opposed to the promises of God? By no means; if, on the contrary, the law had the opposite effect of vivifying and producing justice, it would then be really opposed to the promise, since justice would then be really from the Law; and hence, the inheritance would not come from the promise.

From the words, “being ordained by angels,” &c., exclusively, verse 19, to this verse, may be regarded as introduced incidentally, and as having no direct bearing on the argument of the Apostle. “The promises of God.” The words “of God,” have a very emphatic meaning, implying that the promises rested immediately on God, without supposing a mediator. The question here proposed regarding the opposition between the Law and the promise is put by way of objection, grounded on the observation made by the Apostle, that they could not co-exist. Are they then really opposed? By no means. The Law ceases now, because it is useless, and cannot confer justice. If it really conferred justice, it would then be opposed to the promise, which it would render useless.

Gal 3:22. But, on the contrary, the law has served the promise, since the written law has shut up all men, even the Jews, in the prison of sin, in order that, by manifesting their iniquity, by reproving their vices, or even by serving for the increase of sin, it would cause them from a consciousness of their misery, to look to quite a different source for the fruits of the promise, viz., to faith in Jesus Christ, the blessed seed to whom the promises were made.

“But the Scripture.” By “the Scripture,” is generally understood the written Law, and Scripture of the Old Testament. It is here personified as the representative of God, by whom it was inspired. “Hath concluded all” παντα, omnia, all mankind The neuter is employed to denote the more general extension and comprehensiveness of the assertion.

Gal 3:23. But before the coming of Christ in whom we are bound to believe, and the full manifestation of his Gospel, we were kept in the service of God, and restrained from the commission of crime under the custody of the law, until the period when the faith in Christ was fully revealed in the promulgation of his Gospel, for which the law served to prepare us.

Another effect of the Law was, to prepare us for the full revelation of the Gospel, and by keeping us, through fear of punishment, from manifest transgressions, to make us aspire after the liberty promised in the Gospel, as one of the blessings of faith.

Gal 3:24. Wherefore, the law, after restraining our faults, and imbuing us with the knowledge of God, fulfilled, in our regard, the office of pedagogue, by conducting us to Christ, the teacher of true wisdom, and the source of justice, in order that by faith in him we might attain justice.

The Apostle points out the office of the law. Far from being opposed to the promise, it subserved to it, by fulfilling the office of pedagogue or conductor to the Gospel or faith. As it was the duty of the pedagogue or slave, charged with the care of children, to preserve them from vice, and teach them the elements of knowledge—by that means preparing them for more matured instructions under the preceptor—so, the law restrained the Jews from vice, by the fear of correction; it explained to them the elementary truths, regarding the knowledge and service of God; and by its types and ceremonies, it served to lead them gradually to the fulness of truth. The Apostle here speaks of the entire Mosaic law, without grace, to which he here opposes it.

“Our pedagogue in Christ.” In Greek, εἰς Χριστον, unto Christ. (For the meaning of “pedagogue,” see 1 Cor. 4:15).

Gal 3:25. But now after our introduction to Christ through faith, the services of the pedagogue, i.e., of the law, are to be dispensed with.

Whereas the law has fulfilled its duty, and is now become useless, it should, therefore, cease.

Gal 3:26. For you all, whether Jews or Gentiles, are, by faith in Jesus Christ, full grown sons of God, and therefore, no longer in need of a pedagogue.

Lest they might object to him and say, why should not we, too, submit, like the Jews, to be conducted to Christ, by the magisterial discipline of the pedagogue, viz., the law: the Apostle says, that faith and baptism conferred on them an adult, full grown spiritual existence; and hence, there was no need for them of a pedagogue.

Gal 3:27. For all of you who have been baptized, and by baptism incorporated with the mystic body of Christ have been transformed into him, and thus become sons of God.

They all put on Christ in baptism, and were clothed with him as with a garment; hence, they should be assimilated to him in all things. His Spirit should appear in all they do. And as the external garments with which a man is clothed, alone appear; hence, Christ alone should appear in them. As Christ ever conformed to God’s holy and adorable will (“Meus cibus est, ut faciam voluntatem ejus qui misit me. Qiæ placita sunt ei, facio semper,”) so should all Christians, who in baptism have put him on and have been incorporated with him, do the same.

Gal 3:28. Without distinction whether of origin, or condition, or sex, you have all by baptism been ingrafted on Christ, and become one mystical body of which he is head.

“There, is neither Jew nor Greek,” &c. All these distinctions are merged in the common character of children of God.—(Kenrick). How calculated are not these words to inspire all Christians with sentiments of love and humility. They should all, in whatever rank or condition of life, regard each other as one, as equal, as co members of the mystical body of Christ; hence, they should love one another, and regard one another, in the light of perfect equality.

Gal 3:29. But if you are of Christ, and one with him; then, you are with him, the sons, the spiritual seed of Abraham; and, consequently, heirs of the benedictions promised to him.

Having become members of Christ, we are sharers in his inheritance and rights, and are blessed in him. What motives of eternal gratitude and love for God, who after our sins, has made us partakers of his blessings and co-heirs with his Son! Stipendium peccati mors.—(Rom. 6:23). But it would appear from the incomprehensible goodness of God to us, that the reward of our grievous sins is not death, but life, the adoption of sons, and co-heirdom with Jesus Christ—“Tibi soli peccavi et malum coram te feci. Peccatum meum contra me est semper.” Therefore, we whom God has rescued from hell, should cry out with the same Royal Penitent: Misericordias Domini in eternum cantabo. Nisi quia Deus adjuvat me, paulo minus in inferno habitasset anima mea. Should we not then manifest our gratitude by conforming in everything to Christ, whom we have put on? In every instance, we should ask ourselves this question: How would our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ have acted, in the like circumstances?

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians Chapter 2

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 4, 2018

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s Paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Links are to the NABRE.


In this chapter, the Apostle, the better to confound the false teachers, proves that the other Apostles received and sanctioned the doctrine preached by him as perfectly harmonizing with their own; and hence, that his teaching nowise differed from theirs, as was calumniously asserted regarding him. He refers to his going up to Jerusalem in order to confer with the Apostles in the Council of Jerusalem, on the question of the legal ceremonies.—(Acts 15).

He next shows how he acted both in public and private conferences with the principal Apostles, and as a proof that they coincided in opinion with him on this subject, Titus was not subjected by them to circumcision, although an attempt was insidiously made to have it otherwise (Gal 1:5). As a second proof of the identity of his doctrine and theirs, the principal Apostles made no change, either in the way of adding or taking away, in his doctrine. They even extended the right hand of fellowship to him, and confirmed his Apostleship among the Gentiles, with the sole injunction of attending to the cause of charity towards the afflicted poor (Gal 2:5–11).

He next refers to a rebuke which, after the close of the Council of Jerusalem, on his return to Antioch, he was forced publicly to administer to St. Peter on account of his mode of acting in reference to the observance of the legal ceremonies; and this rebuke St. Peter received without attempting a reply, which proves the doctrine of St. Paul to be correct (Gal 2:11, 15)

He then adduces several reasons to prove the abrogation of the legal ceremonies. Among the rest, he shows that this inconvenience would result, viz., that Christ was the minister, nay, the moral cause of sin, and that his death was useless and unnecessary, if the legal ceremonies were not abrogated.


Gal 2:1. Then, after an interval of fourteen years, during which I preached the Gospel to the Gentiles, I went up again to Jerusalem, accompanied by Barnabas, and we took Titus also with us.

“Then after fourteen years.” The more probable opinion is, that these fourteen years are to be computed, not from his going up to Jerusalem the first time (Gal 1:18), as St. Jerome maintains, but from his conversion, which is the opinion of St. Thomas and. Baronius. From the Acts it appears, that St. Paul went up five different times to Jerusalem. The present refers to his third visit, when he assisted at the Council of Jerusalem, the occasion of which is referred to (Acts, chap. 15). With no other visit could the matter referred to here correspond. “I went up to Jerusalem.” Jerusalem was built on hilly ground; hence, our Lord says in the Gospel—“Behold we go up to Jerusalem.”

Gal 2:2. But I went up, after having been admonished by a Divine revelation; and, in public, I conferred with the faithful of Jerusalem, respecting the Gospel which I preached among the Gentiles. But, in private conferences, I communicated with the principal Apostles, not from any feeling of doubt I had of the truth of my doctrine, but in order to insure the success of my past and future labours, by avoiding even the shadow of difference between the principal Apostles and myself.

“According to revelation.” Is it not said (Acts, 15), that he was delegated by the people of Antioch to confer with the Apostles referring the necessity of imposing the observance of the legal ceremonies on the converted Gentiles? Both assertions are perfectly reconcilable, inasmuch as the revelation from God may have tended to the same object with the delegation on the part of the people of Antioch and would only confirm St. Paul in his resolve to carry it out.

“And conferred with them”—that is, the brethren at Jerusalem. Others understand “them” to have the same meaning as the following words: “but apart with them who seemed,” &c. It is better, however, with Estius and others, to understand the word as in the Paraphrase; for, there seems to be a manifest difference between this word and the following words, “who seemed to be something.” Probably, the subject about which he conferred in private with the principal Apostles, regarded the propriety of exempting not only the Gentiles from the legal ceremonies, which was publicly discussed and authoritatively decided, but the Jews also. Regarding this latter point of doctrine, it was not deemed prudent to hold discussions in public. “I conferred.” The Greek word, ανεθεμην, does not imply any doubt on his part (as in Paraphrase). “Who seemed to be something.” “Something,” is not in the Greek, which simply is, τοῖς δοκοῦσιν, but the Vulgate expresses the meaning, viz., who were of consideration or repute. “Run in vain,” by giving any grounds for believing that his labours were either without fruit or his mission not duly accredited.

Gal 2:3. And as a proof that their views perfectly coincided with mine, on the question of the necessity of extending the Jewish ceremonies to the converted Gentiles, Titus, who accompanied me, being a Gentile, was not subjected by them to circumcision.

The Apostles were aware that Titus was not circumcised (verse 4); and still, they did not subject him to circumcision—a convincing proof that they coincided in opinion with St. Paul, respecting the inutility of the Jewish ceremonies for salvation.

Gal 2:4. Even at the instigation of certain false brethren, surreptitiously admitted into the Church, acting in the capacity of spies, with a view of examining into the liberty from Jewish ceremonies into which Christ asserted us; they had only in view, to enslave us under the weight of these multiplied precepts, which neither they nor their fathers could bear.

“But because of false brethren.” Which means, even at the instigation of certain false brethren. Hence, it appears, that the Apostles were urged to have Titus circumcised. Some Interpreters reject the particle “but,” as redundant, others insert the word, not, after it in the text, thus: “but he was not circumcised at the instigation,” &c. It is better, however, to give it the signification of “even” (as in Paraphrase).

Gal 2:5. To these false brethren we did not yield for an instant, in order that the truth of the Gospel might be preserved intact amongst you. 

If the Apostle allowed Titus, a Gentile, to be circumcised, the faith of the Gentiles might be weakened. Timothy was circumcised, but he was, by the mother’s side, of Jewish origin.

Gal 2:6. Another proof of the conformity of my doctrine, with that of the principal Apostles is derived from this fact, that they had added nothing to my knowledge of the Gospel. I derived no knowledge from them (what they were formerly, viz., illiterate, ignorant fishermen, has nothing to do with my present purpose, since, in the distribution of his gifts, God regards not the person or exterior accomplishments of man, but dispenses them as he pleases). 

We have here an example of what grammarians term, anacoluthon; owing to the intervening parenthesis, the sentence concludes in a different case from that with which it began, although the same word is repeated. The ablative case, απο τῶν δοκουντῶν, “but of them” is changed into the nominative form, οἱ δοκουντες, “they that seemed to be something added nothing” (“what they were some time,” &c.) He refers to the former condition of the other Apostles, before their vocation to the apostleship, for the purpose of refuting the objection raised against himself, as being formerly a persecutor of the Church; or, for, the purpose of showing how much, humanly speaking he was their superior.

Gal 2:7. But on the contrary, far from making any change in my doctrine, when they saw that the commission of preaching the Gospel among the Gentiles was confided to me, as that of preaching among the Jews was to Peter:
Gal 2:8. (For, the same God who manifested his power in Peter for the conversion of the Jews, by the wonderful success that attended his preaching among them, manifested the same power in me for converting the Gentiles, by the abundant success of my preaching among the latter). 

By the abundant success which attended the preaching of St. Paul among the Gentiles, and the preaching of St. Peter among the Jews, together with the miracles and other gifts of the Holy Ghost, with which they were favoured, God showed that the Apostleship of St. Paul was to be chiefly exercised among the Gentiles, and that of St. Peter among the Jews.

Gal 2:9. And when, from undoubted evidence, they became convinced of the special grace of Apostleship, among the Gentiles, which was confided to me, James, Peter, and John, the three Apostles who were in most repute, extended to myself and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship in the apostleship, which we were to exercise among the Gentiles, and they among the Jews. 

From the miraculous success with which the labours of St. Paul were blessed among the Gentiles, the Apostles became convinced of the special grace of apostleship among the Gentiles, which was confided to him. They admitted him, therefore, into fellowship, and parcelled out the Gentile world, as the theatre of his future labours. This passage does not furnish even the shadow of an argument against the Primacy over the entire Church, “lambs and sheep,” i.e., pastors and people, divinely accorded to St. Peter. For, the latter did preach among the Gentiles also, in fulfilment of the command, “kill and eat.”—(Acts, 10). And St. Paul was a vessel of election to carry the name of Christ not only “before the Gentiles” but also “before the children of Israel”—(Acts 9:15).

Gal 2:10. With this sole injunction, that we would be mindful of the poor of Jerusalem, who, by voluntary cession, or by confiscation of their property, were reduced to want—a duty, which we discharged with the utmost solicitude. 

The poor referred to here, are the faithful of Jerusalem, of whom some voluntarily surrendered their goods to be enjoyed in common; others were unjustly deprived of them, and were, in consequence, in great want. The care of the poor specially devolves on the minister of religion—they are the dearest portion of His flock, who is, “the father of orphans and the judge of widows.” Woe to him, who, through either pusillanimity, or a cowardly fear of the countenance of the mighty, or a feeling of selfish complaisance, with a view of gaining the favour, and of becoming the accepted minister at the tables of their oppressors, shall sacrifice the interests, or neglect the defence, of the afflicted poor of Jesus Christ! And this holds particularly true, if the unjust persecution of the poor be traceable, as it generally is, in this unhappy country, to religious rancour and hatred of their faith. If the poor of this unhappy country professed any other than the true faith—nay, if they were Pagans or Mahommedans—they would not be treated with the inhuman and heart-rending cruelty, which is daily exercised in their regard. Woe, eternal woe, to the pastor and ecclesiastic who turns a deaf ear to their cries, and from motives of selfishness, or worldly prudence, or love of self-ease, neglects to adopt all peaceful and constitutional means to ameliorate their unhappy condition! If they were of any other religion they would not put up with the treatment they are enduring, nor would their oppressors dare to treat them so. But they are taught to look forward for other possessions in store for “the meek,” and for those who “possess their souls in patience.”

Gal 2:11. But when, after the close of the Council of Jerusalem, Peter came to Antioch, whither I had returned (Acts, 16); I publicly and openly resisted him, because he was deserving of reprehension.
Gal 2:12. For, before the arrival of certain Jews from Jerusalem, where James presided as bishop, Peter had eaten with the Gentiles without any distinction of meats: but when the Jews arrived, he withdrew and separated himself from the company of the Gentiles, fearing to offend or scandalize the Jews. 

St. Peter silently submitted to the rebuke here dealt out to him; which was another proof that St. Paul was correct in his views on the subject of the legal ceremonies—the question at issue. St. Peter did at first, by his mode of acting, acknowledge the abolition of the legal ceremonies (verse 12). But, afterwards, by an act of inconsiderateness, which rendered him really reprehensible, he abstained from the society of the Gentiles—with whom he partook of all kinds of meats without distinction—for fear of giving offence to certain Jews, who came down from Jerusalem. This mode of acting was calculated to leave the Gentiles under an erroneous impression. Hence, the rebuke dealt out to him by St. Paul.

“Because he was blameable.” The Greek is, ὅτι κατεγνωσμενος ἦν, because he was blamed or reprehended, which is employed for “reprehensible” or “blameable,” by a Hebrew idiom, according to which the passive participle is used for the verbal adjective. The Hebrews, we are told by St. Jerome, have no verbal adjective ending in bilis.

Gal 2:13. And the other Jews dissembled along with him; and so great was the force of their example, that even Barnabas, the partner of my journeys and labours, was led to join in the same course of dissimulation. 

“And to his dissimulation the rest of the Jews consented.” The Greek word, συνυπεκριθησαν, means, dissembled together with him.

Gal 2:14. But when I saw, that, by this mode of acting, they were not conforming to the truth of the Gospel, I said publicly in the hearing of all to Peter: If you, although a Jew, and of Jewish extraction, avail yourself of the Gospel liberty of using all kinds of meat without distinction, why invite and force the Gentiles by your example to embrace and live up to the forms of the Mosaic law, which by our own former conduct you have pronounced unnecessary, even for the Jews themselves?

Their mode of acting was not walking directly or strictly in conformity with the truth of the gospel, it was rather staggering between the Gospel and the Old Law; and so, it elicited this strong reproof from St. Paul.

It was a matter of grave dispute between St. Jerome and St. Augustine, whether the Apostle really reprehended St. Peter, or only affected to do so, as the result of a preconcerted arrangement between them, in order that by a public apparent reproof of this kind, the Jews might be taught the inutility of the Mosaic ceremonies. St. Augustine, whose opinion St. Jerome appears to have afterwards adopted, maintained, that St. Peter, by such conduct, committed a sin, not of heresy, but of inconsiderateness, which was, of its own nature, venial, and that so, he was really censured by St. Paul. The words of this verse favour the opinion of St. Augustine, who holds that it was real and not pretended reproof: and although it is maintained by many that the Apostles were confirmed in grace, this still does not exclude the possibility of their falling into venial sins.

Gal 2:15. We ourselves, although Jews by birth, and not merely proselytes from among the sinful idolatrous Gentiles. 

After having proved by several arguments the perfect agreement, or rather identity of his own doctrine with that of the other Apostles, St. Paul proceeds to show the cause of the abolition of the Mosaic ceremonies, namely: their utter insufficiency and inutility for justification; hence, his reason for having recourse to another means of justification, viz., faith in Christ. It is not quite clear who they are, to whom these words are addressed; whether to St. Peter, or the other Jews, or the Galatians. The argument is in either case the same, being founded on the absurd consequences resulting from the doctrine of the false teachers. “We by nature,” &c., that is, although by birth Jews, and accustomed to Jewish ceremonies, “and not Gentiles,” &c., not merely Gentiles, without the benefit of the law.

Gal 2:16. Still, fully conscious, that justification does not come from the works of the law; but from quite a different source, viz., the faith in Jesus Christ; we, I say, embrace the faith in Christ, in order to obtain justification from the proper source, in preference to the works of the law; for, no man shall ever obtain justification from the works of the law. 

“But knowing,” &c., that is; still fully conscious, &c.—(Vide Paraphrase). “Faith of Jesus Christ,” may also mean, the faith taught by Jesus Christ. In Paraphrase, “Jesus Christ” is made the object of this faith. This verse is to be connected with the preceding, the sense of which is kept suspended with a dependence on this, as in Paraphrase. The Apostle, in this passage, supposes two sources of man’s justification, viz., faith, and the works of the law. To the latter, the false teachers attributed justification; but the Apostle wholly excludes the works of the ceremonial law from any share in justification; for, it is to the law abolished by Christ, he refers in the following verses, and this is the ceremonial law. Hence, there is no question here of good works performed by the aid of grace and faith; for, such works enter the system of justification through faith contemplated here by the Apostle, since without them, faith is dead. The works which he excludes are those to which faith, as the foundation of a quite different system of justification, is opposed.

Gal 2:17. If, then, seeking to be justified by faith in Christ to the exclusion of the ceremonies of the law: we have failed to obtain it, and still remain in sin; in other words, if faith, without the ceremonial law, be insufficient to justify us, as the false teachers inculcate, the most inconvenient consequences would result; it would follow, that Christ was ministering to the continuance of sin, having abolished the ceremonial law, a necessary means, as they allege, for removing sin. 

He points out the inconvenient results that would flow from the doctrine of the false teachers. According to them, Christ would be ministering to the continuance of sin, since, he would have abolished a necessary means for its remission, viz., the ceremonial law, which they hold to be necessary for justification.

Gal 2:18. Christ would be the minister, nay more, the moral cause of sin. For if, after holding, as a point of Christian doctrine, the ceremonial law to be unnecessary, and after ceasing to practise its precepts, thus destroying it, I have recourse to the same law for my justification—thus building it up again—do I not, by the very fact, convict myself of prevarication in my former desertion of it; and so, render Christ, whose doctrine I follow, the moral cause of sin? 

He shows how Christ would be the minister and the moral cause of sin.—(Vide Paraphrase).

Gal 2:19. For, that I destroyed the law is clear, since, by the law itself pointing out its term, Christ, in whom it should cease, I am dead to the law and exonerated from its observance, so as to begin a new life to God through Christ; and this new life had commenced from my baptism, wherein I represented Christ crucified, and spiritually crucified the old man with him. 

Lest it might be said, that the supposed assertion contained in the first part of the preceding verse, “for if I build up again the things which I have destroyed,” which supposes that he destroyed them, was not in itself quite clear; in this verse the Apostle plainly asserts that he did really destroy the ceremonial law—since by the very law itself, pointing out its term, Christ, in whom it should cease, he was dead to the law, and exempted from its observance, so as to begin a new life to God through Christ. He was dead to the ceremonial law, absolutely, and to the moral part of the law, so far as threats and menaces were concerned. This new life to God he commenced from baptism.—(See Paraphrase). Other Commentators make the connexion of this with the preceding verse, thus:—they say that in the preceding verse the words, but I am not a prevaricator, are understood; and they make the words of this verse (19) a proof of this proposition, which, according to them, is implied without being expressed in the foregoing; others, among whom is A’Lapide, say that this verse contains a second reason for the abrogation of the Mosaic Law.

Gal 2:20. This spiritual life which I now enjoy is not from myself, but from Christ, whom I so perfectly imitate, that he would appear to live in me, and to be the animating principle of my actions. But that I should enjoy a life so spiritual and divine in this mortal flesh, subject to so many miseries and sins, I am indebted, not to the law, but to my faith in the Son of God, who loved me quite gratuitously, while undeserving of his love, and this to such an extent, as to deliver himself up to death to purchase for me eternal life. 

“And I live,” &c. The words, “I live,” are repeated three different times, and each time they refer to spiritual life.

“Who loved me.” What a subject for gratitude to God! Who is the lover? God. The object loved? The creature. How is this love manifested? In “delivering himself” to an ignominious death, brought about by unheard of excruciating tortures, which he could not merit, to deliver me from the tortures and eternal death which my sins merited, and in which I would infallibly be involved, if he had not graciously substituted himself a vicarious offering in my place, and purchased for me everlasting life. He loved me first, before I was capable of loving him; before I was born; from eternity. Good God! what excessive, incomprehensible love. Ut servum redimeres, filium tradidisti. “Sic amantem quis non redamet?Diligamus Dominum Deum nostrum, quoniam ipse prior nos dilexit. Every one can, with the Apostle, apply to himself by appropriation, the merits of Christ. “He loved me … delivered himself for me.”

Gal 2:21. In my system of justification, I by no means cast away the great grace of Christ’s death, as is done by the false teachers, who, in recurring to the law, as sufficient for justification, regard the death of Christ as useless; for, if the law were sufficient for justification, the necessary conclusion should be, that the death of Christ was quite useless and unnecessary.

No commentary beyond the paraphrase is offered on this verse.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians Chapter 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 4, 2018

Text in purple indicate Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the text 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 (Gal 1:1). 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 (Gal 1:2–5). 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 (Gal 1:6–9). 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 (Gal 1:10–11). 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 (Gal 1:12-24).


Gal 1:1. Paul, whose apostleship is derived neither from purely human authority, nor from delegation on the part of God through man, but immediately from Jesus Christ himself, now glorious and immortal, and from God the Father, who by his omnipotence raised Jesus from the dead.

“An Apostle.” This word, used in its strict etymological sense, means, one sent. It also signifies, one sent by God, either in a general way, or on some special mission (2 Cor 8:23; Phil 2:25). It signifies the highest office in the Church, and denotes the supreme mission specially given and confined to the Twelve and St. Paul.—(Eph 4:12; 1 Cor 12:28). In order to be an Apostle in this latter, and most exalted, sense, it is required—Firstly, to have seen our Lord in person, (1 Cor 9:1; Acts 1:21); secondly, to be immediately chosen and sent by God, as appears from this verse, “not of men,” &c., or, immediate mission; thirdly, universal authority to teach, to bind and loose, to establish churches and propagate the ministry; fourthly, the power of miracles, this being necessary to beget “reasonable service” in their hearers; and hence, the Apostles in preaching, exhibited the seal of a Divine mission, and exercised the power of working miracles, speaking unknown tongues, &c.; fifthly, personal infallibility. The third condition was to be exercised with due subjection to the supreme jurisdiction of St. Peter. These qualities were extraordinary and personal in the other Apostles, given to them as legates, whose office, as such, ceased with themselves; and hence, was not transmitted to their successors, the bishops. But St. Peter’s was not only the extraordinary Apostolic commission granted him in common with the others, as Divine legate, in which respect his apostolic power would not be transmissible, but also the ordinary commission given him, and him alone, as Pastor, “pasce oves meas,” &c.; and this real, as well as personal, quality was transmitted to his successors in the holy Roman See, which is, therefore, the Apostolic See, in which the plenitude of Peter’s power resides, and which alone can claim the privileges conferred on the Apostles—(Vide Passaglia de Ecelesia, Liber iii.) “Not of men,” i.e., not immediately by human authority. “Neither by man,” i.e., nor mediately sent by God through human delegation. The words, “not of men, neither by man,” ουκ ἀπʼ ἀνθρωπων ουδε δἰ ανθρωπων, may also mean, not by any body of men collectively, viz., the Apostolic College, nor by any single man among them, “but by Jesus Christ,” &c. The Apostle, after showing that he was not sent either by man, or by God through the intervention of any man or body of men, now shows by whom he was immediately commissioned, viz., Jesus Christ himself, after rising from the dead and in his glorified state. That St. Paul was immediately chosen to be an Apostle, and sent by God, we know also from other passages of the New Testament, Acts 22:14, 15; Gal. 1:15, 16; Acts 9:4, 8, 15; Acts 22:21, &c. “Who raised him from the dead.” The Apostle, in his Epistles, frequently refers to Christ’s Resurrection, as being the foundation of our faith, and the consummation of the glory of his humanity. It may be asked, was not St. Paul sent by man; for (Acts, 13), we read of hands having been imposed on him by the Pastors of the Church? Resp.—Paul and Barnabas were not constituted Apostles on that occasion; all that then occurred was, that after prayer and fasting, hands being imposed upon them, they were sent to preach the gospel, to which they were before “taken” or appointed by the Holy Ghost; as Peter and John were sent by the College of the Apostles to the Samaritans, although long before elected as Apostles by our Lord; and that Paul and Barnabas were on this occasion sent by the Holy Ghost, appears quite evident from chap. 13:4. Before the period referred to, St. Paul exercised the functions of Apostle. Immediately after his baptism, he proceeded to Arabia, and preached in quality of Apostle, as sent by Christ himself. The imposition of hands at Antioch (Acts, 13.)—what, then, did it mean? It was probably, intended to show the communion of pastors and the unity of ministry in the Church, and to ratify, by some external ceremony, the mission divinely conferred on them, it might also have the effect of conferring additional grace; but, St. Paul was an Apostle before it.

Gal 1:2. Paul, I say, and all the brethren who ate with me (salute the churches of Galatia).

“To the churches of Galatia.” There were several churches in the Province, for which this Epistle was probably intended as a circular. The omission of the usual titles of honour and affection, such as, “Church of God,” or Saints, &c., was probably intentional, owing to the error of the Galatians.

Gal 1:3. May you enjoy the abundance of spiritual blessings and their undisturbed possession from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

No commentary is offered beyond the paraphrase.

Gal 1:4. Who offered himself as a propitiatory victim for our sins, to rescue us from the corruption of this world; and this oblation, although made freely, was, still, made in compliance with the will and precept of God. His Father by nature, ours, by adoption.

“The present wicked world;” “wicked,” because the greater number in it are bad and impious. In this verse the Apostle, by way of exordium, prepares us for the subject of his Epistle—namely, that it is from Christ justification comes, and from faith in him; and hence, from no source opposed to him, such as the ceremonial law of the Jews.

Gal 1:5. Eternal praise be rendered to him for so distinguished a proof of his excessive charity.

No commentary is offered beyond the paraphrase.

Gal 1:6. I wonder exceedingly that you have, so soon after your conversion, changed sides, and passed over from that God who, without any claim on your part, has gratuitously called you to the grace and faith of his Son, Jesus Christ, to embrace another gospel so different from the one preached to you.

He now enters on the subject matter of the Epistle, by rebuking them for their conduct. The words “from him,” are referred by some to God the Father; others by a change of construction, refer them to Christ, thus:—“Removed from that Christ who called you to his grace.” This latter construction is admitted by the Greek, μετατιθεσθε ἀπὸ τοῦ χαλεσαντος ὑμας Χριστοῦ.

Gal 1:7. Not that I mean to say, that there is really another gospel, but that there are some persons who endeavour to unsettle your faith, and wish to subvert the true gospel of Christ.

When he speaks of another gospel, he is not to be understood as meaning that there is any such thing in reality, but that there are persons endeavouring “to pervert the (true) gospel of Christ.” The Greek word, μεταστεψαι, means, to convert the gospel, which word, convert, is clearly allusive to the nature of their errors—namely, their preposterous attempt to superadd the types, after the establishment of the reality.

Gal 1:8. But should we ourselves, from some change of mind, or, were it possible, an angel from heaven, preach to you anything contrary to what we have already preached, let him be accursed.

In the strongest form of hyperbole, he inculcates the unchangeable truth of the gospel preached by himself. “Were an angel from heaven to preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached”—(a thing evidently impossible)—“let him be anathema.” The word “anathema” means the separation of a thing from human uses, and its total, utter destruction, as abominable and execrable.—(See Rom. 9:3). From this verse, as well as from 1 Cor 16:22, is derived the form of dogmatic canons:—Si quis dixerit … anathema sit; so frequently adopted by the Councils of the Church. St. Paul does not here pronounce a sentence of excommunication; he only pronounces the person transgressing, to be deserving of eternal damnation.

Gal 1:9. As I have already said, so now I again repeat, should any one announce to you a gospel different from that which you have received from us, let him be anathema, or accursed.

The repetition of the same strong form of expression, shows the deliberate earnestness of the Apostle.

“Besides that which you have received.” “Besides,” has the signification of contrary to; otherwise, the greatest inconvenience would result. St. John, who wrote his Gospel and Apocalypse after this, and put forward many things not referred to by others, would be “anathema;” so would St. Paul himself, who, in this Epistle, advances many things not preached by him to the Galatians. And, looking to the economy always observed by the Apostles and the Church in preaching the gospel, is it not exceedingly probable, if not morally certain, that at his first preaching, St. Paul withheld from the neophyte Galatians many exalted truths of faith from which they were incapable of deriving profit, just as he acted in reference to the Corinthians, from whom he withheld the bread of the strong, giving them only the milk of babes? And will it be said, that if an angel from heaven, or a missionary from earth were to give them a fuller explanation of the Christian tenets suited to their spiritual growth, he would fall under the denunciation of “anathema?” Did not St. Paul himself write many things after this?—and are we to reject as so many ananthemas, the private revelations which God may be pleased to make from time to time, as it is piously believed he did to St. Bridget, regarding his sacred Passion? It is, moreover, clear from the entire context, that St. Paul speaks of such additions or changes, as would make the true gospel “another gospel,” in its very essence, contrary and opposed to the true gospel which he himself preached. The word “besides,” then, signifies “contrary to,” otherwise the most inconvenient consequences would follow.

Secondly, the Greek word for “besides,” παρα has this signification in several passages of St. Paul—(Rom 4:18; 11:24), and it is frequently taken in the same sense by profane authors, with whom παρα and κατα τους νομους, are antithesised. Why, then, did not the Apostle employ contrary to, instead of “besides”? The answer, simply, is, that the latter term more clearly expressed the contrariety of the doctrines here impugned, which consisted in superadding the ceremonial precepts of the Jewish law, as a matter of necessity to the gospel; and also, as is remarked by St. Chrysostom, to show that adding false doctrines no less destroys the gospel than does subtracting or taking away from it. Again, the gospel being a law, is violated by transgressions, or going beyond it. “Besides,” therefore, means, contrary to. Hence, our traditions being nowise contrary to the gospel, could not be excluded here, or contemplated at all by the Apostle.

Gal 1:10. In writing thus, do I, now, in my converted state, plead my cause before man or before God? Or am I anxious to please man rather than God? Were I still desirous of pleasing men, and of conciliating them, so as to obtain a favourable verdict. I would remain as I was, and not become enlisted in the service of Christ, from which I incurred the hatred of the greater part of my countrymen.

“Persuade,” πειθω, plead his cause, and endeavour to please. As it is not to please man that he writes, he is not anxious to employ bland, or conciliatory, or tolerant language. The false teachers, on the other hand, proclaimed the necessity of the Mosaic ceremonies, in order to please the Jews. He subjected himself to much obloquy from his own nation by embracing the gospel, and by preaching it in order to please God. “If I yet pleased men,” &c. God will not be content with a half-service; we must be his entirely or not at all. No one can serve him, and be the slave of human passions or customs, at the same time.

Gal 1:11. 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.

Gal 1:12. 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.

Gal 1:13. 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.

Gal 1:14. 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.

Gal 1:15. 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.

Gal 1:16. 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.

Objection.—Why, then, should not Luther. Calvin &c. preach the Gospel without consulting the head of the Church?

Resp.—They should have proved their mission by miracles, as St. Paul did.

Gal 1:17. 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.

Gal 1:18. 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” (Acts 9:23), 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.

Gal 1:19. 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.”

Gal 1:20. All these things I assert on the solemn assurance of an oath, of which I make God the witness.

No commentary is offered beyond the paraphrase.

Gal 1:21. After that I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia (without making a sufficient stay in Judea to learn the Gospel there).

The Apostle delayed not in Judea, and, therefore, could have had no opportunity of learning the Gospel there.

Gal 1:22. I was even personally a stranger to the Christian churches of Judea.

He adds this, to confute the statement of the false teachers, that among the Jews, he taught the necessity of circumcision, and of observing the law.

Gal 1:23. All they knew of me, was from a rumour regarding me to this effect:—The man who heretofore was our persecutor, is now a most zealous preacher of the faith which he formerly attempted to destroy.

All their knowledge of him was derived from hearsay.

“Which he once impugned.” The Greek word, επορθει, means, destroyed or attempted to extirpate.

Gal 1:24. And seeing me become a pastor from being a wolf destroying the fold, they took occasion to glorify God.

No commentary is offered beyond the paraphrase.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Galatians Chapter 6

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 2, 2018

A Summary of Galatians 6:1-6

Paul now shows the Galatians how they are to regulate their conduct toward others. They should correct with meekness those who err, should help to carry others’ burdens, should be on their guard against self-deception, should let their own deeds speak for them, and give material assistance to those who have instructed them.

Gal 6:1 Brethren, and if a man be overtaken in any fault, you, who are spiritual, instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Life by the spirit is not an impeccable existence; and hence the Apostle tells the Christians that if one of their number should out of frailty commit some fault, they ought with kindness and humility to instruct him.

Be overtaken, i.e., be surprised by sin, yielding to it through weakness.

You, who are spiritual, etc. This is addressed to all the Christians, whose conscience testifies to them that they are living spiritual lives.

Instruct, i.e., correct, render perfect again.

Thyself. The change from plural to singular is calculated to emphasize the need of personal vigilance and sympathy in correcting others.

Gal 6:2. Bear ye one another’s burdens; and so you shall fulfil the law of Christ.

Having spoken of sympathetic correction and of common weakness in the preceding verse St. Paul now exhorts to further help.

Bear ye (βασταζετε = bastazete), i.e., help to carry one another’s burdens. By burdens here are meant moral defects, or the inclinations that lead to, and the remorse that follows such defects. To bear with others’ defects and faults is to practice charity, and this means to fulfil the whole law of Christ, because all precepts are reducible to charity (see Gal 5:14).


Gal 6:3. For if any man think himself to be some thing, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

This verse can be connected with verse 1, but in that case verse 2 would be a parenthesis. St. Jerome shows the connection between verses 2 and 3: “He who refuses to bear the burdens of another doubtless thinks that he has no need of being assisted himself, in which he deceives himself.”

He is nothing, if joined with what precedes, means: “Although he is nothing”; but if with what follows, the meaning is: “Because he is nothing.”

He deceiveth, etc., i.e., “he deceives his own mind” (St. Jerome), because he attributes to his own efforts and merits what really belongs to God. Pride makes one blind, unmerciful and uncharitable.

Gal 6:4. But let everyone prove his own work, and so he shall have glory in himself only, and not in another.

But let, etc. In place of deceiving one’s self, let each one examine himself by something external and objective, by his own work, i.e., his own life and actions; then he will see what he is in reality. If he discovers something good, as is possible, he will have reason within himself for rejoicing moderately, and not by comparing himself with another whom he considers beneath him. This is the explanation of St. Chrysostom, which seems to agree perfectly with the text.

Gal 6:5. For everyone shall bear his own burden.

To explain how this verse is not out of harmony with verse 2 Cornely, following some of the Fathers, thinks there is question here of bearing one’s personal responsibilities before the judgment-seat of God; whereas in verse 2 there was question of helping to bear the burdens of this present life. Fr. Lagrange, however, thinks the thought of the judgment is not in the context; and he consequently explains this verse by saying that the burden (φορτιον = phortion) which each one must bear is the performance of the duty imposed on each one in verse 2.

A Summary of Galatians 6:7-10

As a last and supreme motive why the Galatians should be zealous and instant in good of every kind St. Paul reminds them of the judgment to come. Reflection on this salutary truth will give weight and fuller meaning to all the advice he has given them.

Gal 6:7. Be not deceived, God is not mocked.

Some scholars connect this verse and its severe warning with what has been said in the preceding verse regarding the duty of giving temporal assistance in exchange for spiritual benefits. But since that duty, while certain, is after all not of the most serious nature and not the most definite and precise, it would seem that the grave admonition of the present verse has reference rather to the obligation of living a Christian life in general, of living by the spirit and not according to the flesh. To profess Christianity, and yet obey the lusts and promptings of the lower nature is surely to mock God, and to prepare for one’s self a terrible judgment.

Gal 6:8. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting.

This verse is explanatory of the preceding one. The harvest depends chiefly upon the kind of seed that is sown and upon the soil in which it is sown. If one sows in the flesh, then he must expect the corruption which alone the flesh can produce; but if, in the spirit, i.e., if one performs good works which proceed from the grace of God in his soul, he will reap as his harvest life everlasting. This verse is a proof that good works done in and through grace can merit eternal life as their recompense.

Spirit here does not mean the Holy Ghost, but grace, the supernatural principle of the spiritual life.

Gal 6:9. And in doing good, let us not fail. For in due time we shall reap, not failing.

There is question here of perseverance in doing good, in performing those acts and deeds that proceed from God’s grace in the soul.

Let us not fail, i.e., let us not grow weary or faint-hearted, for at the time appointed by the Master of the field we shall reap our eternal harvest, provided we persevere.

The Greek Fathers give a peculiar interpretation to not failing, namely, that the reaping of the heavenly harvest will be without lassitude or fatigue.

Gal 6:10. Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

The practical conclusion now drawn is that during the present life we should try to do as much good as possible (Cornely, Lightfoot) to all the world, but in particular to those of the faith of Christ. Christians are considered as members of the household of God.

A Summary of Galatians 6:11-18

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

Gal 6:11. See what a letter I have written to you with my own hand.

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

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

Gal 6:12. For as many as desire to please in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer the persecution of the cross of Christ.

As many as. These words refer to the false teachers.

In the flesh, i.e., among men (St. Chrysostom), or in a worldly way, or according to the flesh and an earthly standard.

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

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

Gal 6:13. For neither they themselves who are circumcised, keep the law; but they will have you to be circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

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

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

Gal 6:14. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.

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

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

Gal 6:15. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

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

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

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

Gal 6:16. And whosoever shall follow this rule, peace on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

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

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

Gal 6:17. From henceforth let no man be troublesome to me; for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body.

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

Gal 6:18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

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

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

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