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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Galatians 3



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. ὦ ἀνόητοι,, Galatians 3:3. The term is suggested by the logical argument of Galatians 2:14-21. The mixture of Judaism with faith in Christ was there shown to be irrational. The Galatians ought to have had enough mental ability to see this of themselves.

Γαλάται. The personal appeal by name occurs in St Paul’s writings elsewhere only in 2 Corinthians 6:11; Philippians 4:15; 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:20, in all of which it is not due to indignation, but (certainly in 1 Tim. and probably in the other two passages) to deep emotion. Yet in none does a reproachful adjective precede, so that they are not quite like our passage, where the context suggests a holy indignation rather than extreme tenderness of affection.

On the word “Galatians” see Introd. passim.

τίς ὑμᾶς ἐβάσκανεν; “who hath bewitched you?” For the form of argument see Galatians 5:7. The aorist is timeless, idiomatically translated by our perfect. βασκαίνω and its derivatives here only in the N.T. In the O.T. generally of “envy” or “grudging,” e.g. Deuteronomy 28:54; Proverbs 23:6, and even Sirach 14:6-8. But in Wisdom of Solomon 4:12 “bewitching” in a metaphorical sense. Here also “bewitch” or “overlook” is intended, the allusion being to the “evil eye” (“fascinavit,” Vulg.) of folk-lore in perhaps all parts of the world, especially Babylon and Syria. See further in Jewish Encyc. 3:280 and Lightfoot. Compare ἀβάσκαντος in the formula of greeting in the papyri = may all mischief be kept far from thee. This adjective occurs as a proper name, or rather by-name, in an inscription found some twenty miles south of Lystra in 1909, and an additional argument for the South Galatian theory has been drawn from this fact, which, in view of the widespread character of the superstition, can hardly be maintained. If there is any notion of “envy” or “grudging” in our verse it is quite subordinate, for the following clause refers to the popular superstition. S. Seligmann’s Der böse Blick has just appeared (Dec. 1909).

οἷς κατʼ ὀφθαλμοὺς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς προεγράφη. (i) In Romans 15:4; Ephesians 3:3 προγράφειν means “to write beforehand,” and so even in Judges 1:4[88] (of ungodly men written down beforehand in the Divine tablets or perhaps in the Book of Enoch quoted by Jude, Galatians 3:14-15). So perhaps here, written beforehand either by the Prophets, or (though very improbably) by an earlier letter received by the Galatians from St Paul or others.

(ii) But the meaning of publicity is better.

(a) προγράφειν “is the common word to describe all public notices or proclamations, e.g. Arist. Av. 450 ὅ τι ἃν προγράφωμεν ἐν τοῖς πινακίοις,” sometimes of a trial or condemnation; cf. Demosth. p. 1151 τοὺς πρυτάνεις προγράφειν αὐτῷ τὴν κρίσιν ἐπὶ δύο ἡμέρας, Plut. Camill. 9 τῆς δίκης προγεγραμμένης (see Lightfoot). In this case the metaphor is that the name of Jesus Christ has been officially posted up as of one crucified.

(b) Even this, however, hardly satisfies the thought suggested by the preceding words. Although there seems to be no example of προγράφειν actually meaning “paint,” or “depict,” yet this connotation, as often with our “placard,” would suit admirably. So Pesh. quasi pingendo depictus erat; Philox. prius depictus est, and so Chrys., “who enlarges eloquently upon the several details of the picture: ὃν εἷδον ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν γυμνωθέντα, ἀνεσκολοπισμένον, προσηλωμένον, ἐμπτυόμενον, κωμῳδούμενον, ποτιζόμενον ὄξος, κατηγορούμενον ὑπὸ λῃστῶν, λόγχῃ νυττόμενον ταῦτα γὰρ πάντα ἐδήλωσε διὰ τοῦ εἰπεῖν, προεγράφη ἐν ὑμῖν ἐσταυρω μένος” (Field, Notes on N.T.). As the open red hand (still often seen on Syrian houses) wards off the evil eye, so ought this placard of Christ to have warded off for you the “fascination” of these false teachers.

ἐσταυρωμένος. See notes on textual criticism. Predicate 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:2. Contrast Matthew 28:5. Why did He die if you were to go back to the Law (Galatians 2:21)?

Verses 1-6

1–6. Your very reason, and your own experience, should tell you the all-importance of faith

(Galatians 3:1) Unreasoning Galatians! who hath “overlooked” you? when you had a full counter charm—Jesus Christ displayed in front of you as crucified!

(Galatians 3:2-5) I appeal to your own experience. (Galatians 3:2) Were the deeds of the Law the source from which you heathen converts received the Spirit at first, or was it your hearing in faith? (Galatians 3:3) Are you so utterly unreasoning? You made a beginning by the spirit and will you now make an end by the flesh? (Galatians 3:4) Are too your many sufferings for the Gospel’s sake to have been endured without due result? I cannot think it. (Galatians 3:5) So too with your present experience of the Spirit and of miracles—are they given you from deeds of the Law or from hearing in faith?

(Galatians 3:6) You know the answer, it was all from faith, even as in the case of Abraham himself, to whom the Jews are always appealing; it was his faith that brought him righteousness.

Verse 2

2. μαθεῖν. Luther insists on its strongest meaning, “Go to now, answer me, I pray you, which am your scholar (for ye are so suddenly become Doctors, that ye are my masters and teachers)” (p. 98b). But doubtless the weak sense of “be informed,” Acts 23:27, is right. The tense is punctiliar, “ascertain,” as in Acts and frequently in the papyri (Moulton, Proleg., 1906, p. 117).

ἐξ ἔργων νόμου,, Galatians 2:16, note. This was impossible, because you were heathen.

τὸ πνεῦμα ἐλάβετε. They knew this partly by the miracles that took place, Galatians 3:5. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit took place so generally that the coincidence of Acts 13:52 proves little for the South Galatian theory. Bp Chase thinks this refers to confirmation (Confirmation in the Apostolic Age, pp. 85 sqq.).

ἢ ἐξ ἀκοῆς πίστεως,, Galatians 3:5, cf. Romans 10:17; also 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:2. ἀκοή here is not passive, “the message which treats of faith” (cf. Matthew 4:24; John 12:38, a quotation, and probably Hebrews 4:2), but active, the power and exercise of hearing (1 Corinthians 12:17; 2 Timothy 4:3; 2 Peter 2:8). πίστεως is appended almost as an epithet, “hearing marked by faith.” Thus the phrase is doubly contrasted with ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, ἀκοή with ἔργα, and πίστις with νόμος. “Exquisite sic denotatur natura fidei, non operantis, sed recipients” (Beng.). Faith is receptive, works productive.

So Luther, “The Law never bringeth the Holy Ghost, but only teacheth what we ought to do: therefore it justifieth not. But the Gospel bringeth the Holy Ghost, because it teacheth what we ought to receive.… Now, to exact and to give, to take and to offer are things contrary, and cannot stand together.… Therefore if the Gospel be a gift, it requireth nothing. Contrariwise, the law giveth nothing, but it requireth and straightly exacteth of us, yea even impossible things” (p. 102a).

Verse 3

3. οὕτως (tam Hebrews 12:21). ἀνόητοι (Galatians 3:1). ἐναρξάμενοι, Philippians 1:6[89]. Frequent in LXX. and Polybius. It is a more formal term than ἄρχομαι, “having made a beginning,” cf. 1 Maccabees 9:54. ἐπιτελεῖν is joined with it also in Philippians 1:6, and with προεν. in 2 Corinthians 8:6. Both are naturally sometimes used of religions rites, but this usage is not found in the above passages, and does not seem to be probable here.

πνεύματι, “by (the) spirit.” See Appendix, note F.

νῦν σαρκὶ. This does not mean that St Paul granted that there was any spiritual growth by means of circumcision, nor does it imply that this was all that the false teachers meant, as though they said that it was necessary for the higher stages of the Christian life; but it is St Paul’s way of expressing his reductio ad absurdum. Begin by the spirit, and bringing things to completion by the flesh! In Galatians 5:2 he states plainly enough that circumcision for them would be to lose all profit in Christ.

ἐπιτελεῖσθε. In the N.T. eight times in the active voice, but here probably in the middle, corresponding to ἐναρξ., as even in 1 Peter 5:9[90]. “Are ye now making an end by (the) flesh?” So the Peshito.

Verses 3-5


Verse 4

4. He has spoken of their past experience of spiritual blessings; now he appeals to their past sufferings.

τοσαῦτα ἐπάθετε. τος., “so many”; cf. 4 Maccabees 16:4 τοσαῦτα καὶ τηλικαῦτα πάθη. The frequency of the persecutions rather than their severity. They came not from the Judaizing Christians (for we have no hint that they persecuted in the ordinary sense of the word) but from Jews. No information of these troubles has come down to us. The notices of Acts 14:2; Acts 14:5; Acts 14:22 refer to South Galatians.

εἰκῇ (“without due result,” Galatians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 15:2. If you fall away).

εἴ γε καὶ εἰκῇ,, 2 Corinthians 5:3. He cannot give up hope.

Verse 5

5. Here he appeals to their present experience. For “frequently abstract teaching may be verified by reference to our own spiritual life” (Beet).

οὖν. In logical deduction from Galatians 3:2. If the past showed that spiritual blessings came through faith, I argue that the present teaches the same lesson.

ἐπιχορηγῶν (Colossians 2:19 note). ἐνεργῶν (supra Galatians 2:8).

δυνάμεις, i.e. miracles, 1 Corinthians 12:10.

ἐν ὑμῖν. They saw them. We are told of earlier miracles among the South Galatians at Iconium, Acts 14:3, and Lystra, Acts 14:9-10, where observe πίστιν τοῦ σωθῆναι.

Verse 6

6. This verse serves both as an answer to St Paul’s question in Galatians 3:5—yes, it was by faith—and also as a transition to the next important paragraph showing the same truth from Scripture. Marcion omitted Galatians 3:6-9 (see Jerome here) in accordance with his opposition to the Old Testament.

καθὼς Ἀβραὰμ ἐπίστευσεν τῷ θεῷ, καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην. From Genesis 15:6. So verbally in the LXX. A, D (B non est). In Romans 4:3; James 2:23 the only difference is ἐπίστευσεν δὲ Ἀβραάμ. In Romans 4:9 only the second half is quoted, ἐλογίσθη τῳ Ἀβραὰμ ἡ πίστις εἰς δικαιοσύνην, and this is again used in Galatians 3:22-23. The Judaizers were doubtless urging the Gentile Christians to be circumcised as Abraham was. St Paul shows, on the contrary, that he, the great forefather of the Jews, obtained his righteousness not by circumcision and works, but by faith. “The right state of mind is declared to be in God’s sight equivalent to the right action” (Mayor on James 2:23). Observe, however, that in St Paul’s usage faith does not take the place of the Law in the sense that it, in itself, is the ground of confidence. On the contrary, faith is only the hand that lays hold on Christ. On the Jewish estimation of Abraham see Sanday-Headlam on Romans 4:3-8.

Verse 7

7. γινώσκετε ἄρα, “ye perceive then.” γιν., almost certainly indicative, for the imperative never occurs in the N.T. with ἄρα, and only once with ἄρα οὖν, 2 Thessalonians 2:15; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:6.They could perceive the following truth of the all-importance of faith, and their consequent relation to Abraham, from the preceding argument clinched by Galatians 3:6.

ὅτι οἱ ἐκ πίστεως. Probably this phrase = those who take their start in religion from faith (cf. οἱ ἐξ ἐριθίας, Romans 2:8), according to the tenor of the preceding verses. Thus it is not the opposite of οἱ ἐκ περιτομῆς, which seems always to mean men of Jewish origin by birth, Galatians 2:12; Acts 10:45; Acts 11:2; Romans 4:12; Colossians 4:11, and οἱ ἐκ τῆς π., Titus 1:10[91]. Its true antitheses are οἱ ἐκ νόμου, Romans 4:14; Romans cf.16[92] (not οἱ ὑπὸ νόμον, infra Galatians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 9:20 bis, which = observant Jews) and ὅσοι ἐξ ἔργων νόμου εἰσίν, Galatians 3:10[93]. There is no need to understand υἱοὶ ὄντες (Rendall) or δικαιωθέντες (Ramsay). Observe that οἱ διὰ πίστεως does not occur. St Paul’s thought goes deeper than to the means. Faith is the human source, though the Divine means.

οὖτοι,, Romans 8:14; James 1:25.

υἱοί εἰσιν Ἀβραάμ. The Jews claimed spiritual, because physical, relationship, Matthew 3:9 (|| Luke 3:8); John 8:33; John 8:37; John 8:39. Observe not τέκνα but υἱοί, i.e. sonship with its full privileges. See Appendix, note C, for a brief consideration of Ramsay’s theory that this passage suggests acquaintance with the Greek (not Roman) law of sonship and inheritance, and so favours the South Galatian theory.

Verses 7-9

7–9. Faith makes sons of Abraham and brings the blessing promised in him

(Galatians 3:7) Ye perceive then that they who draw their spiritual life from faith—these and these only are sons of Abraham. (Galatians 3:8) But (there is more than sonship-blessing) the scripture, seeing beforehand that it is of faith that God justifies the Gentiles, gave a gospel message beforehand to Abraham, “all the Gentiles shall be blessed in thee.” (Galatians 3:9) So that (as we may conclude) they who draw their spiritual life from faith are blessed (as well as are sons) together with believing Abraham.

Verse 8

8. προϊδοῦσα δὲ. “The exact force of δέ, which is never simply connective, and never loses all shades of its true oppositive character, deserves almost more attentive consideration in these Epp. than any other particle, and will often be found to supply the only true clue to the sequence and evolution of the argument” (Ell.). Here it suggests either (a) It s nothing new that the Gentiles should be saved by faith; this was told to Abraham; or, better, (b) It is not only a question of sonship but also of blessing.

προϊδοῦσα, i.e. before the present time, Acts 2:31. It is a common figure of speech to attribute personal activity to Scripture, due ultimately, no doubt, to the sense of Personality behind it; so here “foreseeing” and “preached the Gospel beforehand”; Galatians 3:22, “shut up,” besides the common “saith.”

ἡ γραφὴ. In St John the singular = the particular passage quoted (cf. “another scripture,” John 19:37), and so generally in St Paul, even in Galatians 3:22 (see note there). If so, St Paul here meant: “the particular passage of Scripture which I am about to quote, ‘foreseeing’ etc., preached the Gospel to Abraham beforehand in its words.” But it may be doubted whether here he did not merely translate the common neo-Hebraic ‘amar ha-kâthûb, “the Scripture saith,” which means the written word generally. He afterwards gives the words in which Scripture thus speaks. πᾶσα γραφή in 2 Timothy 3:16 doubtless means every document, rather than every passage short or long.

ὅτι ἐκ πίστεως δικαιοῖ (Galatians 2:16), strictly present. Observe the emphatic position of ἐκ πίστεως.

τὰ ἔθνη. Here first directly stated though implied in Galatians 2:14 end, 16 end. δικ. τ. ἔθνη must have been an oxymoron to Jewish readers. Cf. Bengel on 1 Corinthians 1:2, Ecclesia Dei in Corintho: laetum et ingens paradoxon.

ὁ θεὸς (with δικαιοῖ). προευηγγελίσατο [94]τῷ Ἀβραὰμ. Evangelium lege antiquius (Bengel), but St Paul has hardly come to this yet (Galatians 3:17). προ- is “beforehand,” i.e. before the blessing came to the Gentiles, as in προϊδοῦσα. Note that for St Paul the Gospel necessarily involves the inclusion of the Gentiles, Galatians 3:14.

ὅτι Ἐνευλογηθήσονται ἐν σοὶ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη. ἐνευλ., Acts 3:25[95]. The quotation is a fusion of Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; cf. Genesis 22:18. In the Hebrew the verb is probably reflexive, “shall bless themselves”; in the LXX. and the N.T. passive. The blessing seems to be defined in Galatians 3:10 sqq., particularly as freedom from the curse of the Law. But more generally it is that state of friendly and covenant relation to God in which Abraham stood. ἐν σοί, in fellowship with Abraham and the truth he represents.

Verse 9

9. ὤστε, “so that,” i.e. since Abraham was justified by faith (Galatians 3:6), and those who are of faith are his sons (Galatians 3:7), and the blessings promised to the Gentiles come to them in him (Galatians 3:8). This thought is fully developed in Romans 4.

οἱ ἐκ πίστεως (Galatians 3:7 note) εὐλογοῦνται. Not ἐνευλ. (Galatians 3:8), for he is not here insisting on union with Abraham. The tense is timeless. Observe that “sons” and “blessing” are related as “seed” and “heirs” in Galatians 3:29.

σὺν τῷ πιστῷ Ἀβραάμ, “with believing Abraham,” or “with Abraham the believer.” For a full investigation of the use of πιστός see Hort on 1 Peter 1:21. In both the O.T. and Apocrypha it = “trustworthy” or “faithful,” but not “believing” or “trustful.” In the N.T. the latter meaning is still rare, but in our verse it is “a fresh application of an old epithet of Abraham.” See also in particular 2 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Timothy 4:3; Acts 16:1. The article recalls the fact that his faith has already been mentioned (Galatians 3:6), but it must be omitted in English. Similarly “faithful “no longer means “full of faith.” Thus the R.V., “the faithful Abraham,” is doubly unsatisfactory. St Paul changes ἐν to σύν when uttering his own words, probably because he was accustomed to think of blessing ἐν Χριστῷ.

Verse 10

10. So far is it from all nations sharing with Abraham in blessing by the deeds of the Law, that they themselves who are under the Law are under a curse. Thus to obtain the blessing through the Law is impossible to human nature (see Theodore).

ὅσοι (Galatians 3:27, Galatians 6:12; Galatians 6:16; Romans 2:12 bis) γὰρ ἐξ ἔργων νόμου εἰσὶν. More emphatic and, as it were, inclusive than οἱ ἐξ ἔργ. νόμ. It includes, at first sight, all Jews and such Gentiles as accepted the Law as a means of salvation. Yet both phrases are able to exclude those, whether Jews or Gentiles, who, though living under the Law, were not of it, but had faith like that of Abraham.

ὑπὸ κατάραν. In St Paul’s Epp., Galatians 3:13 bis[96]. It implies separation and departure from God, Matthew 25:41. In Deuteronomy 11:26-28 ἡ εὐλογία and ἡ κατάρα are contrasted.

εἰσίν. Verbum hoc iteratur magna vi (Bengel).

γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι κ.τ.λ. From Deuteronomy 27:26, LXX. The only important difference is the insertion of ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ. The slight differences from the Hebrew are noticed under the separate words. It is the closing verse of the curses to be pronounced on Ebal. Requiritur obedientia perfecta, in omnibus, et perpetua, permanet. Hanc nemo praestat (Bengel). On the burden of the Law and St Paul’s attitude to it see Galatians 2:16 note.

ἐπικατάρατος,, Galatians 3:13[97]. Frequent in LXX., and found also in the Inscriptions (Deissmann, Licht vom Osten, pp. 61, 219).

πᾶς. Not in the Hebrew, but a fair expansion of its meaning. Jerome thinks that it was there originally.

ὅς οὐκ ἐμμένει. So Acts 14:22; Hebrews 8:9, and of abiding in a place, Acts 28:30[98]. It is followed by the dative (without ἐν) in Acts 14:22 and generally in the LXX. On its use in legal forms with the dative of a participle see Deissmann (Bible Studies, pp. 248 sq.) and Moulton and Milligan (Expositor, VII. 6, 1909, p. 94). The Hebrew has “confirmeth not.”

πᾶσιν τοῖς γεγραμμένοις. Heb. “the words”; LXX. “all the words.”

ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ. Not in Heb. or LXX. The word means properly the. papyrus-roll (“Byblos” is probably only another form of “Papyros”), but later, in both its ordinary (βίβλος) and its diminutive (βιβλίον) forms, may mean a book of the ordinary shape. On the subject see Kenyon in Hastings, D. B. IV. 945 sqq. St Paul seems purposely to have employed words which would exclude the Oral Law.

τοῦ ποιῆσαι αὐτά. More than merely epexegetic. It marks the aim of the continuance in the things written etc., cf. Romans 6:6; Philippians 3:10. On this infinitive see Ellicott in loco, and Moulton, Proleg., 1906, pp. 216 sqq.

Verses 10-14

10–14. Works, regarded as a source of life, bring a curse, faith the blessing and the Spirit

(Galatians 3:10) (It is only faith that brings the blessing) for as many as draw their religious life from works of the Law are actually under a curse. For it stands written “cursed is every one (however religious) who continueth not in all the things that are written in the book of the Law to do them.” (Galatians 3:11) But (for it is impossible thus to live) that by living in the Law no one is justified before God is evident. Because (as we all know without my saying that it is Scripture), “He that is just by faith (cf. Galatians 2:16) shall live.” (Galatians 3:12) But (i.e. this effect is plainly not from the Law, for) the Law has no natural connexion with faith, but (with works, for) “he that doeth them shall live in them.” (Galatians 3:13) (Is there any hope then for Jews? Yes.) Christ-Messiah redeemed us Jews out of the curse of the Law by becoming a curse (i.e. entering into our state of “cursed,” Galatians 3:10, so far as even to come expressly under the curse described in the Law) for our sakes, because it stands written, “Cursed is every one who hangeth on a piece of wood.” (Galatians 3:14) The object of His redeeming Jews was that, redemption being accomplished in their case, then the blessing of (with and in) Abraham might extend as far as the Gentiles, (taking place) in Jesus Christ; in order that (by the reception of this blessing) we (all) may receive the promise of the Spirit by means of (not our works but) our faith.

Verse 11

11. ὅτι δὲ. Adversative to the possibility of continuing in the things of the Law. The opposite is shown by the existence of another source of justification and consequent life, stated in Habakkuk. Weiss suggests that this begins the protasis of a sentence of which the apodosis is Galatians 3:13, Galatians 3:11 b (δηλονότι) to Galatians 3:12 then being a parenthesis. But this is quite unnecessary.

ἐν νόμῳ. The Jewish Law, as throughout this Epistle, see Galatians 2:16, note. The phrase is to be taken closely with δικαιοῦται, and signifies in the performance of the Law, not, as it is often misunderstood, in the statement of the Law, i.e. the Prophets. It takes the place of ἐξ ἕργων νόμου.

οὐδεὶς δικαιοῦται παρὰ τῷ θεῷ. For παρά cf. Romans 2:13.

δῆλον. With the preceding; the following ὅτι = because. Some join it with the following: “Now because no one (as is evident from Galatians 3:10) is justified in (the) Law it is clear that the righteous shall live by faith.” But this form of reasoning is very un Pauline.

ὅτι. Proof: Faith (not works) justifies, and life ensues.

ὁ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται. So Romans 1:17. See also Hebrews 10:38. From Habakkuk 2:4, where it is said that, in contrast to the Chaldaean invader whose soul is lifted up in pride, the righteous (though hemmed in by the wicked, Galatians 1:4) shall live by his stedfastness, i.e. primarily his trustworthiness and faithfulness of principle. This, as the result of steady faith, is not unfairly understood as faith in the active sense by the N.T. writers, though probably not by the LXX. (see Driver, Minor Prophets, p. 63). The LXX. misreading “his” as “my” has in B ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεώς μου ζήσεται, which A modifies by inserting another μου after δίκαιός.

It is very difficult to decide whether St Paul intended the stress of ἐκ πίστεως to lie on ὁ δίκαιος or on ζήσεται. In favour of the latter is the almost certain construction of the Hebrew and of the quotation in Hebrews, and the ease with which St Paul could have modified the quotation to run ὁ ἐκ πίστεως δίκαιος. Yet the former is preferable here in view of the fact that up to this point he has been thinking of justification, and not of life (see especially Winer-Schmiedel, § 20. 5 d). How can men escape the curse (Galatians 3:10), and be righteous? By faith.

Verse 12

12. ὁ δὲ νόμος. In contrast to the effect of faith just mentioned.

οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ πίστεως. The Law has not faith, as the fundamental principle, or basis, of its existence. The phrase is even stronger than Theodoret’s words imply: ὁ νόμος οὐ πίστιν ζητεῖ, ἀλλὰ πρᾶξιν ἀπαιτεῖ, καὶ τοῖς φυλάττονσιν τὴν ζωὴν ἐπαγγέλλεται.

ἀλλʼ Ὁποιήσας αὐτὰ ζήσεται ἐν αὐτοῖς. From Leviticus 18:5, a free rendering of the Hebrew; see also Ezekiel 20:11. St Paul has the same quotation in Romans 10:5, in a slightly different form. The promise in Leviticus and Ezekiel is that in performance lies life. But what if, as is the case, performance is more than we can accomplish? “We must find our refuge in God Himself, i.e. leave the Law for Faith.

Verse 13

13. Χριστὸς. The absence of a connecting particle emphasises the greatness of this glad contrast (Colossians 2:20 note). Cf. Titus 3:4-7. Probably “Christ” here has its full meaning of “Messiah,” if, as it seems, St Paul is thinking of Jews.

ἡμᾶς. This also by its position has a secondary emphasis. He means “us Jews” (he thinks of Gentiles in Galatians 3:14, as in Galatians 4:5) who as being ἐξ ἔργων νόμον were under a curse (Galatians 3:10).

ἐξηγόρασεν ἐκ τ. κατάρας τ. νόμον. Galatians 4:5 note; Colossians 4:5 note. The prepositions lay stress on the fact that we were in the curse.

γενόμενος (“by becoming”) ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα. We should not have dared to apply such a term to Christ, and our tendency still is to minimize its meaning. But while we must be careful not to extend this unduly we cannot exaggerate its intensity. Christ did know in awful reality the effect of sin in separating from God (Matthew 27:46). Elsewhere St Paul says that He was made ἁμαρτία (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became an awful example of the inexorable rigour of the Law.

ὑπὲρ not ἀντί, though Christ Himself says that He came to give τ. ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λὐτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν (Mark 10:45 || Matthew 20:28), and St Paul says that He gave Himself ἀντίλυτρον ὑπὲρ πάντων (1 Timothy 2:6), these being the only places in the N.T. where ἀντί is used in any combination with reference to the atonement (see below). Thus St Paul avoids here and elsewhere the question, so dear to Protestant controversialists, of the manner in which the redemption acted. ἀντὶ ἡμῶν would more readily have suggested (though it would not have required) the meaning that He bore the exact equivalent of the punishment due to sinners. “A curse for our sake” is vaguer, and perhaps more suitable to our limited intelligence of the stupendous self-sacrifice on the cross.

Epiphanius says οὐκ αὐτὸς κατάρα γέγονεν, ἀλλὰ τὴν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἀνεδέξατο κατάραν (Haer. LXXVII. p. 424: in Suicer, s.v. κατάρα). Chrysostom draws out the meaning of the Apostles’ language when he writes: καθάπερ τινὸς καταδικασθέντος ἀποθανεῖν, ἒτερος ἀνεύθυνος ἑλόμενος ἀποθανείν ὑπὲρ ἐκείνου, ἐξαρπάζει τῆς τιμωρίας αὐτόν· οὕτω καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἐποίησεν.

On the possibility, however, that ὑπέρ may contain some thought of “instead of” see note at Philemon 1:13, with its illustration from the papyri, and Ell. here, also Galatians 1:4, Galatians 2:20 notes. Meyer says that this does not lie in the preposition but in the circumstances of the case. See further A. T. Robertson, Short Grammar, p. 124.

ὅτι. Proof that κατάρα is true. γέγραπται Ἐπικατάρατος (Galatians 3:10) πᾶς ὁ κρεμάμενος ἐπὶ ξύλου. From the LXX. of Deuteronomy 21:23, which however has ὑπιὸ θεοῦ after ἐπικατάρατος in accordance with the Hebrew. The curse must have been in fact ὑπὸ θεοῦ for it to have been of any validity, but St Paul naturally shrinks from saying so. Of course Deuteronomy 21:23 does not refer to crucifixion or impaling alive, but to the hanging or impaling of a dead body (Joshua 10:26; 2 Samuel 4:12) as an additional disgrace. St Paul, however, does not quote the passage to illustrate the mode of death, but the place on which a person hangs.

The above rendering of the Hebrew (lit. “he that is hanged is a curse of God”) is essentially also that of Aquila and Theodotion (κατάρα θεοῦ κρεμάμενος), and is doubtless right, but it is possible for the Hebrew to mean “is a curse, i.e. an insult, to God.” So many Jewish authorities. Rashi, for example, says “It is a slight to the King, because man is made in the likeness of His image.” The same objective construction underlies the words of Josephus, Ant. IV. 8. 6 (§ 202), ὁ δὲ βλασφημήσας θεὸν καταλευσθεὶς κρεμάσθω διʼ ἡμέρας καὶ ἀτίμως καὶ ἀφανῶς θαπτέσθω. See further Lightfoot’s additional note, p. 150, and Driver on Deut.

ἐπὶ ξύλου. So Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39; Acts 13:29; 1 Peter 2:24.

Elsewhere in the N.T., with the exception of its use in the phrase [τὸ] ξύλον [τῆς] ζωῆς, ξύλον always means dead wood. And so probably here, in accordance with Jewish law for a gibbet (see Jewish Encyclopedia III. 557).

Verse 14

14. ἵνα. The redemption of the Jews was in order that the blessing of and in Abraham might also come on the Gentiles. For if Jews, Abraham’s seed, remained under the curse Gentiles could not be delivered.

There is no thought in the context of the destruction of the Law as a barrier between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14); nor even of the fact that Jews, and therefore Gentiles, were set free from the dominion of the Law (or they would have gone back again into the curse).

εἰς τὰ ἔθνηγένηται, “might reach unto the Gentiles.” The dative would have been sufficient to say that the Gentiles got the blessing, Acts 2:43. The stronger form probably suggests more difficulty in the process, or distance in the recipients. But the fact that “in modern Greek εἰς is the usual circumlocution for the lost dative” (Blass, Gram. § 39. 5) makes it possible that it is only a more vivid, and more emphatic, way of expressing transference. There seems to be no exact parallel to the usage here. The nearest is 2 Corinthians 8:14. Contrast 1 Corinthians 15:45.

ἡ εὐλογία. Vaughan on Romans 15:29 well summarises the use of this term, (a) Speaking good of another, especially as applied to the praise of God, James 3:10; Revelation 7:12. (b) A benediction which fulfils itself in benefaction, either on the part of man, 2 Corinthians 9:5, or on that of God, Romans 15:29; Ephesians 1:3, and here.

τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ. He was blessed and others were to be blessed with him (Galatians 3:9) and in him (Galatians 3:8).

ἐν Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ. See notes on Textual Criticism. Added to concentrate St Paul’s teaching. The order suggests first the historic Personality who suffered and rose, and secondly His eternal relation to believers.

ἴνα.… The reception of the promise of the Spirit is closely connected with the inclusion of the Gentiles (Galatians 3:8 note), and here made dependent upon it logically.

τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν. See notes on Textual Criticism. The first use of a word that is very important in the following verses. It appears to have been already a technical term in Pharisaic circles for the privileges possessed by the true Israelite (see Hart, Ecclesiasticus, pp. 306 sqq.). St Paul here further defines it, and, in defining, raises it to a higher level.

τοῦ πνεύματος. The spirit was definitely promised in Joel 2:28; cf. Acts 2:16 sqq. Here it is implied that the promise had run all through Israel’s history. In a sense this is true, for Moses’ words, Numbers 11:26-29, imply the possibility of all the LORD’s people being prophets, with the LORD’s spirit upon them.

λάβωμεν. St Paul reverts to Galatians 3:2. But here, as often, St Paul hastens to identify himself with those to whom he writes. It means “we all,” Jewish and Gentile believers.

διὰ τῆς πίστεως, “by means of our faith.” Theodore, regarding the resurrection-life as already begun, is very good in his remarks on there being no place now left for the Law. “Superfluum et quidem ultra est; redditum est ei debitum a Christo, quod a nobis debebatur. Locum autem non habens, quoniam res non admittit eos qui semel transmigraverunt in futuram vitam praesentis vitae succumbere negotiis.”

Verse 15

15. Ἀδελφοί., Galatians 1:11 note. λάβωμεν (Galatians 3:14) has suggested a common relationship to Christ.

κατὰ ἄνθρωπον (Galatians 1:11) λέγω., Romans 3:5[99], which guides us to the right meaning here: I am applying human arguments as though I were speaking of the relation of man to man, although I am well aware that the reality deals with the relation of God to us. A less probable interpretation based on 1 Corinthians 9:8 is: I take an illustration from ordinary human life, in contrast to one taken from Scripture. So Chrysostom.

ὅμως, “nevertheless,” i.e. although it seems indecorous to apply human arguments to God’s procedure—even a man’s διαθ. no one treats lightly. There is no sufficient reason for reading ὁμῶς “in like manner” here and 1 Corinthians 14:7 with Blass (Gram. § 77. 14).

ἀνθρώπου κεκυρωμένην, “a man’s διαθ. when ratified,” 2 Corinthians 2:8[100]; Genesis 23:20 (of the field and the cave to Abraham). Purposely nothing is said about the manner of ratification. All is as general as possible.

διαθήκην. It is extremely difficult to determine the meaning of διαθήκη here and in Galatians 3:17 and the image intended by St Paul.

[1] The Greek word that appears to us to be the most natural translation of “covenant” (i.e. a contract or agreement between two parties) is συνθήκη, which is common from Aeschylus downwards (see L. and S.). διαθήκη on the contrary seems never to mean a covenant in Classical Greek (see the criticism of Lightfoot by Ramsay, Gal. p. 362) or in the Greek of the Papyri and Inscriptions. Deissmann writes “I can affirm … that no one in the Levant of the first century A.D. could imagine that the word διαθήκη contained the meaning of ‘covenant’[101].” In these two vast collections of Greek it means a solemn enactment or Disposition of property etc. to take effect either in lifetime or after death.

[2] Yet it is, as we may say, the only rendering of berith, “covenant,” in the LXX. For, if we take Hatch and Redpath’s Concordance as the basis, we find that berith is represented by διαθήκη 282 times, by συνθήκη only once, in 2 Kings 17:15 A, and by ἐντολαί once in 1 Kings 11:11. It is also transliterated three times. In Deuteronomy 9:15 the phrase “the two tables of the covenant” is rendered by αἱ δύο πλάκες τῶν μαρτυρίων in AF, but τ. μαρτ. is absent in B.

How are we to account for this use of διαθήκη by the LXX. in face of the evidence of the classics and the Inscriptions and Papyri? We notice that in Genesis 6:18, the first occurrence of berith, it is used of God’s promise to Noah, and obviously therefore διαθήκη is a more suitable translation than συνθήκη. If this did not actually set the tone for the use of διαθήκη rather than συνθήκη (even in cases where berith means a covenant between man and man) throughout the O.T. (and we cannot suppose this in view of the multitude of translators) yet it fell in with what must have been the current note in the Graeco-Jewish mind of the time. Hence when used of God διαθήκη would retain much of its proper meaning, a solemn Disposition; the additional notion of acceptance, and so agreement by the receiving party, being wholly subordinate. So especially Jeremiah 31:31, the new covenant of the Prophets. It may perhaps be added that it is also possible that the διά of the compounds διαθήκη and διατίθεμαι, though properly meaning thoroughness, may, by a popular etymology, have suggested to a Jew passing through the divided members of the animal connected with a covenant.

[3] The use of διαθήκη in the N.T.

(i) In no instance is it, or its verb διατίθεμαι, indisputably used of a mere contract between man and man. For this the verb συντίθεμαι is employed, Luke 22:5; John 9:22; Acts 23:20, but the substantive συνθήκη does not occur, (ii) The quotations from the O.T., or the allusions to it, in every case refer to a Divine διαθήκη. (a) With Abraham and the Fathers, Luke 1:72; Acts 3:25; Acts 7:8; Romans 9:4 (plural); Ephesians 2:12 (plural), (b) In the time of Moses, Hebrews 8:9 (vide infra); Hebrews 9:4 bis, Hebrews 9:15 b (ἡ πρώτη διαθήκη), Hebrews 9:20 and apparently Revelation 11:19. (c) The new covenant of the Prophets: Romans 11:27, taken from Isaiah 59:20-21; Hebrews 8:8-10 (from Jeremiah 31:31 sqq.), Hebrews 10:16. To this perhaps may be added Hebrews 8:6 and Hebrews 9:15 a. (iii) The reference by our Lord at the Last Supper (Mark 14:24, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ ἐκχυννόμενον ὑπὲρ πολλῶν || Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25) is to a διαθήκη by God in the O.T. sense, i.e. a Disposition by God, though the mention of blood seems to contain the connotation of acceptance by God’s people. (iv) The language of the writer of Hebrews 9:16-17 looks indeed at first sight as though the author used διαθήκη in the sense of “will” or “testament,” i.e. a Disposition to take effect only at death; but probably even there the thought of “the death of the testator “is connected with the death of Christ rather as “covenant-victim” than as testator properly so called (see Westcott in loco and especially p. 302). See also Hebrews 7:22, Hebrews 10:29, Hebrews 12:24, Hebrews 13:20.

[4] St Paul in the passages already cited and also in 2 Corinthians 3:6 (καιν. διαθ.) and 14 (τ. παλ. δ.), Ephesians 2:12, uses the word διαθήκη in the sense in which the translators of the LXX. used it with reference to God, and in which our Lord used it in the words recorded of Him, and there seems to be no reason to doubt that he used it in the same sense in our Epistle. But there is almost equally little doubt that the word “covenant” does not adequately express this sense. Some such word as “Disposition” is required if we are to bring out the supremacy and the grace connoted by διαθήκη. We may not translate “will” or “testament,” for these connote death, which διαθήκη does not necessarily do. It may, for example, include an adoption of a son during lifetime (see Ramsay, Gal. p. 351). Our “deed of gift” is perhaps the closest legal term representative of διαθήκη, cf. the quotation from Philo on p. 74. In Galatians 3:15 St Paul is thinking of a “Disposition” by man generally; in Galatians 3:17 he passes directly to the great “Disposition” made by God which governs all His dealings with Abraham and his descendants. In Galatians 4:24 he has in his mind the two “Dispositions” by God, one made on Mount Sinai, the other made through Christ.

[5] Observe further:

(a) The subject is quite general. There is no reference either to the Roman or to the Greek law of wills, if even a difference of custom existed at this time. See Appendix, Note C. In particular observe that there is no reference to adoption in these verses.

It may even be questioned whether ἡ κληρονομία (Galatians 3:18) is regarded as the result of the “Disposition”; for it is so very common a metaphor in the Old Testament.

(b) If in our verse the reference is quite general there is no occasion to ask how the question of death comes in. A “disposition” may or may not depend on the death of the testator. Thus in the reality of which the human “disposition” is a figure there is no room for objecting that God does not die, or for answering with Luther that the death of the Lord Jesus meets the difficulty. The question of death is simply not raised by St Paul, and the object of a commentary is to try and understand his thoughts, not to discuss what he never intended to suggest.

οὐδεὶς, i.e. no person other than the “disposer.” To understand it as meaning no person, no, not even the “disposer” himself, is to put an intolerable strain upon the passage. In our passage it excludes the νόμος of Galatians 3:17, personifying it.

ἀθετεῖ, “sets aside,” Galatians 2:21 note.

ἢ ἐπιδιατάσσεται[102], i.e. adds an additional clause, a codicil, or a later deed, an ἐπιδιαθήκη. Cf. Joseph. B.J. II. 2. 3 (§ 20) of Antipas ἀξιῶν τῆς ἐπιδιαθἠκης κυριωτέραυ εἶναι τὴν διαθήκην, and, for the contrary opinion of Archelaus and his advocate, 6 (§ 35). In Inscriptions found in Asia Minor διατάσσομαι is technically used of making testamentary dispositions (Deissmann, Licht vom Osten, p. 57). The statement is general, but as referring to God’s action it is implied that the Law is not an addition to the promise in the sense that it affects the latter.

Verses 15-18

15–18. The relation of the promise to the Law; the latter cannot hinder the former

“Having shown that faith is older than the Law, he teaches again that the Law cannot become a hindrance to the divine promises” (Theodoret).

(Galatians 3:15) Brethren, I use human imagery—terms understood by all—and though they come short of the reality I say even a man’s disposition of his goods when confirmed no one else sets aside or adds to. (Galatians 3:16) But (for I turn to higher things) to Abraham the many promises were solemnly spoken and to his seed. Yet notice how the very form of the word “seed” points to other than the individual descendants. It sums up all in one Person, even Christ. (Galatians 3:17) I mean this by the figure of speech employed in Galatians 3:15 : a Disposition confirmed long since by God the Law that has come into existence 430 years afterwards cannot annul, so as to make the promise inoperative. (Galatians 3:18) For (Law and Promise being incompatible) if the inheritance is from the Law it is no more of promise. But in fact to Abraham God has given the inheritance by promise, and the gift stands, a gift of God.

Verse 16

16. The verse shows (a) the antiquity of the διαθήκη; it was given to Abraham: (b) its character; it consisted of promises: (c) the truths underlying its form; (α) it was not limited to Abraham personally but extended to his seed; (β) and in fact the word “seed” strictly interpreted indicated a reference to one person, i.e. Christ.

αἱ ἐπαγγελίαι. Plural, because the one promise was often repeated, Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 13:17; Genesis 17:7-10; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 24:7. Of these Genesis 17:7-10 seems to be most in St Paul’s mind because the word διαθήκη occurs there.

κ. τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ. The διαθ. was not determined by Abraham’s own life. It extends to his descendants. St Paul does not here discuss who these are, partly because he has already shown that they who are of faith are his sons in the truest sense, Galatians 3:7, but chiefly because the words suggest to him another thought that is even further-reaching.

οὐ λἑγει, i.e. Scripture. So λέγει, Romans 15:10 (where it serves as a change of expression from γέγραπται); Ephesians 4:8 and perhaps even Galatians 5:14.

Καὶ τοῖς σπέρμασιν, ὡς ἐπὶ πολλῶν, ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐφʼ ἑνός Καὶ τῷ σπέρματί σου. The plural is used of persons in Daniel 11:31 (Theodotion) καί σπέρματα ἐξ αὐτοῦ ἀναστήσονται, where it is a harsh rendering of a wrongly vocalised Hebrew term (zerô‘im as though zerâ‘im). In 4 Maccabees 18:1 (ὦ τῶν Ἀβραμιαίων σπερμάτων ἀπόγονοι παῖδες Ἰσραηλεῖται) the plural seems to regard Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as so many “Abrahamic seeds.” Plato, Laws, p. 853 c, is also quoted. But, practically speaking, the plural either of the Greek or of the Hebrew word could not be used of human progeny. The Apostle knew this and more Rabbinico calls attention to the fact that a word was chosen which (whether perforce or not makes no difference) was in fact employed in the singular. There is, he says, a spiritual meaning in this: all Abraham’s descendants are summed up in one, I say one Person, even Christ. See note at the end of this chapter.

An illustration has been drawn from Philo, who, in his explanation of the allegorical meaning of the promise, Genesis 17:16 (εὐλογήσω δὲ αὐτήν, καὶ δώσω σοι ἐξ αὐτῆς τέκνον), lays stress on the singular τἑκνον instead of τέκνα, as signifying τὸ καλόν in, apparently, its ideal (De Mut. Nom., 26 §§ 145 sqq.). But this is really an interpretation of the fact “one child” rather than of the verbal form per se.

But precisely similar in principle to St Paul’s words is the reverse argument of the force of the plural demey (bloods) instead of the singular dăm (blood) in Genesis 4:10. This means, it is said, Abel’s own blood and the blood of his descendants; or that Abel’s blood was cast on the trees and on the stones (Mishna, Sanhedrin IV. 5 = T. B. Sanhedr. 37 a). Even more similar is the insistence on the singular rish‘a (“wickedness”) in Deuteronomy 25:2 instead of the impossible plural resha‘ôth (“wickednesses”), T. B. Kethuboth, 37 a. (These references are due to Surenhusius, Biblos Catallages, pp. 85 sq.) It may also be worth mentioning that “seed” in Genesis 4:25 is said to refer to Messiah in Bereshith R., Parasha XXIII. 7, and in Genesis 19:32 in Bereshith R., Parasha LI. 10, while the Targum of Isaiah 53:10 renders “he shall see (his) seed” by “they shall see the kingdom of their Messiah.” Observe particularly that Christ is mentioned here not as He through whom the blessing is obtained, but as He to whom the promise was given, i.e. He is regarded as the recipient of the promise. If so it is evident that others, whether Jews or Gentiles, can receive it only in Him. They who are “of works” and not “of faith” on Christ lose all share in the promise.

Verse 17

17. τοῦτο δὲ λέγω. Now what I mean, by using the figure in Galatians 3:15.

διαθήκην. St Paul here distinctly passes from the general notion of διαθήκη (Galatians 3:15 note) to the special, i.e. to God’s great disposition to Abraham.

προκεκυρωμένην[103]. The preposition strengthens the thought of time already lying in the perfect. The confirmation may be seen in the vision of the burning lamp (Genesis 15), or the repetition of the promise, or the oath (Hebrews 6:13-14 referring to Genesis 22:16-17).

ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ. See notes on Textual Criticism.

ὁ μετὰ τετρακόσια καὶ τριάκοντα ἔτη γεγονὼς νόμος. St Paul is not concerned with the question as to who gave the Law, or with that of its being “given” at all, but only with the fact of its having come into existence (γεγονώς).

St Paul’s period of 430 years from Abraham to the exodus is practically that of the LXX. in Exodus 12:40 sq. (ἡ δὲ κατοίκησις τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ ἣν κατῴκησαν ἐν γῇ Αἰγύπτῳ καὶ ἐν γῇ Χανάαν ἔτη τετρακόσια τριάκοντα [+ πέντε Β*]), which is also that of the Samaritan Pentateuch, Josephus, Ant. II. 15. 2 (§ 318), Jerusalem Targum on Exodus 12:40 (the Fragmenten-targum does not contain this verse). Compare also Charles’ note on the Book of Jubilees 14:13. But St Stephen, Acts 7:6 (though using “400” as a round number), follows the Hebrew of Exodus 12:40, according to which the 430 years were all spent in Egypt, and so Philo (Quis rer. div. her. 54, § 269) and Josephus (Ant. II. 9. 1 [§ 204]; B.J. v. 9. 4 [§ 382]). So also Genesis 15:13.

οὐκ ἀκυροῖ, “does not repeal,” Matthew 15:6 || Mark 7:13[104]; stronger than ἀθετεῖ, Galatians 3:15. See Swete on Mark 7:13. Cf. the juristic formula in the papyri εἰς ἀθέτησιν καὶ ἀκύρωσιν (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 228, and Moulton and Milligan in Expositor, VII. 5, 1908, p. 177).

εἰς τὸ καταργῆσαι (Galatians 5:4; Galatians 5:11) τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν. “So as to make the promise of none effect” (R.V.). Compare Romans 4:14. The force of εἰς τὸ is to express the “measure of effect, or result” (see Moulton, Proleg., 1906, p. 219).

Verse 18

18. εἰ γὰρ ἐκ νόμου κ.τ.λ. I say καταργ. τ. ἐπαγ. for the Law and the promise are so fundamentally different in their nature that if the inheritance promised in the διαθήκη after all springs from the Law (or perhaps “from law”), it no longer springs from promise. The anarthrous ἐπαγγελίας (contrast Galatians 3:17), i.e. promise as such, probably determines in this verse the meaning of νόμου, i.e. law as such.

ἡ κληρονομία. While we must keep “inheritance” as a translation (rather than any such word as “apportionment”) because of its connexion with “heirs,” Galatians 3:29, Galatians 4:1; Galatians 4:7, it must be remembered that according to Hort (see his important note on 1 Peter 1:4) it “apparently contains no implication of hereditary succession, as it does usually in classical Greek. The sense is rather ‘sanctioned and settled possession.’ ” The κληρονομία of Israel was originally the land of Canaan, as is implied in Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 13:17; Genesis 17:8; Genesis 24:7, but the word readily lent itself to include, as here, all spiritual privileges present and future, which are “the fulfilment of ancient longings of men and ancient promises of God.” See also Westcott, Hebrews, pp. 167 sqq.

τῷ δὲ Ἀβραὰμ διʼ ἐπαγγελίας. The fact is certain. It was by promise not law.

κεχάρισται ὁ θεός. God not only promised the inheritance, but He has given it freely by promise and the gift abides. St Paul’s fresh word emphasises the freeness of the gift and the tense its permanence. So Acts 27:24; Romans 8:32 : Philemon 1:22. The fact that God’s disposition has been given once for all by promise forbids any essential alteration of it. “A διαθήκη,” says Philo, “is a symbol of grace, which God has placed between Himself who proffers it and man who receives it; and this is the very extravagance of beneficence, that there is nothing between God and the soul except His own virgin grace” (De Mut. Nom., 6 §§ 52 sq., Young’s translation).

Verse 19

19. τί οὖν ὁ νόμος; If the Law does not modify the disposition, i.e. the Promise, what therefore is its essential character and aim? For we may assume that it was not given superfluously, or as Luther puts it: “When we teach that a man is justified without the Law and works, then doth this question necessarily follow: If the Law do not justify, why was it given?”

τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν προσετέθη. παραβ., Romans 2:23; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:14; 1 Timothy 2:14; Hebrews 2:2; Hebrews 9:15[105]. παραβάτης, Galatians 2:18. The article is probably possessive, i.e. “the transgressions of it.” For χάριν cf. 1 John 3:12.

προσετέθη. Only here in St Paul’s writings, but frequent in Luke and Acts, twice in Matt, and once in Mk. and Heb.

The clause is patient of two interpretations:

(a) The transgressions of the promise made the Law necessary lest the promise should be lost. God gave the Law in order that the promise might be maintained.

(b) The Law was added to bring out before the conscience the transgressions of itself, to show the tendency of human nature as a dam shows the force of the stream. This is to be preferred as being certainly the meaning of the kindred passages, Romans 4:13-15; Romans 5:20; Romans 7:7-12 and as virtually stated in Galatians 3:22 infra. Perhaps St Paul had already dwelt upon this in his oral teaching, for he assumes that his meaning will be intelligible to his readers. Here it was sufficient to indicate the cause of this temporary addition to the promise, which he says the Law was.

ἂχρις ἂν ἒλθῃ. W.H. marg. gives οὗ for ἄν, compare Galatians 4:19. Cf. Genesis 49:10, especially the Latin renderings there for Shiloh: semen quod ei repositum est (Tractatus de sanctis scripturis), and semen cui repositum est (Hilary).

Luther points out that St Paul’s statement is true both literally, i.e. the Law lasted only until Christ came, and spiritually, i.e. in the individual the Law does not reign in the conscience after Christ is admitted.

τὸ σπέρμα. Christ as already defined in Galatians 3:16.

ᾦ ἐπήγγελται, “to whom He has made the promise.” So elsewhere in the N.T. where the perfect occurs, Romans 4:21; Hebrews 12:26[106].

διαταγεὶς κ.τ.λ. The clause is added to show the inferiority of the Law to the Promise. The Promise was given directly by God to Abraham; the Law was given indirectly, and indeed doubly so, (a) by means of angels, (b) through Moses.

Another reason for the addition of the clause has been found. It enhances in the mind of the reader the dignity of the Law and the solemnity of its ordination, as though “the glory of the Law glorified the glory of the promise.” But St Paul is here rather belittling the Law than magnifying the promise, and he is about to point out the inferiority of a mediator.

διαταγ. “appointed” as in 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 16:1. Probably in the technical sense mentioned in the note on ἐπιδιατάσσεται, Galatians 3:15. The tense is synchronous with προσετέθη. Ramsay (Gal. p. 381) strangely thinks that it marks a further step after προσετέθη.

διʼ ἀγγέλων. The earliest mention of angels as the media through whom the Law was given to Moses appears to be Jubilees I. 27 (where see Charles): “and He said to the angel of the presence [perhaps Michael]: ‘Write for Moses from the beginning of creation till My sanctuary has been built among them for all eternity.’ ” Compare Josephus, Ant. XV. 5. 3 (§ 136) ἡμῶν δὲ τὰ κάλλιστα τῶν δογμάτων καὶ τὰ ὁσιώτατα τῶν ἐν τοῖς νόμοις διʼ ἀγγέλων παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ μαθότων. So also Acts 7:53; Hebrews 2:2. The mention of angels in Deuteronomy 33:2 in connexion with the giving of the Law, especially in the LXX. where they are said to have been on the right hand of the LORD, marks an earlier stage in the doctrine. Luther expresses the thought of our passage when he writes, “The Law is the voice of the servants, but the Gospel is the voice of the Lord Himself.”

ἐν χειρὶ. Hardly the common Hebraism (“by the hand of” = “by”) employed to avoid the repetition of διά. It suggests the reception by Moses of the tables into his hands.

μεσίτου,, Galatians 3:20, 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24; Job 9:33[107]: cf. μεσιτεύω, Hebrews 6:17[108]. In Test. XII. Patr., Daniel 6 the angel that intercedes for Israel is called “the mediator between God and men” (μεσίτης θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων), but in our Epistle the word evidently refers to Moses, as in the Assumption of Moses, i. 14, iii. 12. St Paul, that is to say, regards the angels as media, not as mediators; as taking no active part in praying or proclaiming. Thus a second medium is employed between God and Israel, first angels as representing God, and then Moses as representing the people (cf. Deuteronomy 5:5).

Verses 19-22

19–22. The true place and purpose of the Law. It was subordinate to the promise, and preparatory, by developing the sense of sin

(Galatians 3:19) (If the inheritance is by the Promise, not by the Law) What in that case is the essential character of the Law? It was added for the sake of the transgressions of it (i.e. it was to show the tendency of human nature), and was to last only until the Seed (Christ) should come, to Whom (as we saw) the promise has been made, being appointed (on God’s side) by the means of angels and (on man’s side) received in the hands of a mediator (Moses), (Galatians 3:20) But (so far from a mediator being a good thing) a mediator suggests a lack of unity, while God is Unity itself. What requires a mediator therefore does not wholly correspond to God’s nature, (Galatians 3:21) Is the Law therefore against the many promises that God has given? God forbid (this would imply a contradiction in God Himself). As law nothing can be better, for if a law had ever been given which could have made men live, righteousness would indeed have been in the Law. (Galatians 3:22) But (so far is it from bringing righteousness that) the scripture in the passage already quoted enclosed all the results of the Law under sin, in order that the promise to Abraham should, as a result of faith in Jesus Christ, be given to those who have faith, the Law thus ultimately not being opposed to the promises, but actually securing their fulfilment.

Verse 20

20. ὁ δὲ μεσίτης, “but a mediator.” The article is generic, or, perhaps better, recalls the mediator just mentioned: cf. Galatians 3:23; Galatians 3:25.

δέ, adversative, probably to the thought that a mediator is in itself good, or possibly to the Jewish glorification of Moses as mediator.

ἑνὸς οὐκ ἔστιν, i.e. does not belong to the category of “one.” In a promise God acts alone; when a mediator is employed in any act of His there is an implication of plurality and separation from Himself so long as the thing mediated is in force.

ὁ δὲ θεὸς εἷς ἐστίν. But God is essentially one in His nature and character. The idea of unity in word and act is most consonant with Him. St Paul would doubtless have written ἕν if this would not have suggested to his readers too material and impersonal a thought to be connected with God.

The verse thus serves to bring out the superiority of the Promise over the Law. It is in fuller agreement with God’s own character than was the Law. For the Promise was given directly by God to Abraham and his seed: the Law was given mediately, through Angels and by Moses. This mediation is a mark of inferiority set upon it.

The verse is so difficult that it is said to have received above 250 (Meyer) or 430 (Jowett) interpretations. The most important source of differences lies in the second half, many expositors explaining it as “God is one party and the Israelites are a second,” i.e. the Law depends for its fulfilment upon the ability of the second party to keep it, and is in this respect inferior to the unconditioned character of the Promise. But though at first sight the masculine εἷς suggests this interpretation, yet this is not so closely connected with the immediate context as that given above.

Observe [1] St Paul’s purpose in this verse is not to state, much less to prove, monotheism. He assumes this, and does not even mention it save in so far as it is included under the unity of God’s nature. [2] Galatians 3:19-20 are not opposed to the Christian doctrine of the mediatorship of Christ. St Paul would thoroughly agree with the ordinary Jewish view that a mediatorship in the sense of an intermediate being between God and man is unnecessary. Nay, he says here as much, for, though a believer in Christ, he speaks disparagingly of such a mediator. The fact is that to him, as to us, Christ is not distinct from God, but is God. When on the other hand he speaks of ἄνθρωπος Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς as μεσίτης θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων (1 Timothy 2:5) he is regarding Him in His humanity, putting, for the moment, His Godhead out of sight. See the quotation from a letter by Archbishop Temple, Appendix, Note D.


Archbishop Temple on Galatians 3:20

“I prefer to take the argument in this sense. The law was ordained for a temporary purpose and showed its temporary character by being given through a Mediator. For God, being the eternal unity, can make no abiding covenant with any except those whom He so unites with Himself as to exclude the notion of a Mediator altogether. Or to put it in another way—a mediator implies separation, and a covenant made through a mediator implies perpetual separation while the covenant lasts. Such a covenant therefore cannot be eternal, for God the Eternal One cannot allow perpetual separation from Himself.” A letter in 1852 to the Rev. Robert Scott, afterwards Dean of Rochester (Life of Archbishop Temple, II. p. 494).

Verse 21

21. ὁ οὖν νόμος. Seeing therefore that the Law is inferior to the Promise (Galatians 3:19-20) are we to conclude that there is opposition between these two expressions of God’s mind? Is, that is to say, the Law by its very nature contradictory to the Promises?

κατὰ τῶν ἐπαγγελιῶν (Galatians 3:16) [τοῦ θεοῦ]. See notes on Textual Criticism.

μὴ γένοιτο. St Paul is so horrified because it would imply a contradiction in the mind and character of God.

εἰ γὰρ κ.τ.λ. No, for the Law as far as it goes is good.

ἐδόθη νόμος, “if a law had ever been given.”

ὁ δυνάμενος ζωοποιῆσαι. For the article cf. Romans 1:18; Acts 10:41.

ὄντως, “in reality,” as opposed to mere pretence. Found only here, 1 Corinthians 14:25; 1 Timothy 5:3; 1 Timothy 5:5; 1 Timothy 5:16; 1 Timothy 6:19, in St Paul’s writings.

ἐν νόμῳ. See notes on Textual Criticism. Almost certainly (a) “in the Law” (Galatians 2:16 note on ἔργων νόμου). The Mosaic Law would have brought righteousness. But possibly (b) “in law” as such. The Mosaic Law was a failure because righteousness is not to be found in law at all, but in faith. The marginal ἐκ νόμου is in favour of (b). There does not seem to be sufficient reason for taking ἐν as instrumental.

ἂ ἦν ἡ δικαιοσύνη. The article is difficult. Either it means the righteousness required, and even revealed, in the Law but not obtained in it, or, and more probably, it consciously takes up the thought of the righteousness suggested in Galatians 3:11. In either case it is the necessary condition of the life implied in ζωοποιῆσαι.

Verse 22

22. ἀλλὰ. In contradiction to the hypothesis in Galatians 3:21 b, the statement of Scripture is otherwise.

συνέκλεισεν., Galatians 3:23, Romans 11:32; Luke 5:6[109]. For its metaphorical use in the LXX. see Psalms 30 [31]:9, 77 [78]:50, 62. The preposition refers not to the things enclosed, i.e. “together,” but to the completeness of the closure, “complete custody, so that the enclosed are absolutely and entirely held in by the barriers in question” (Meyer).

ἡ γραφὴ., Galatians 3:8 note. The passage here referred to is Deuteronomy 27:26, quoted in Galatians 3:10, or, less probably, Psalms 142 [143]:2, quoted in Galatians 2:16.

τὰ πάντα. Not strictly in the sense of “all things,” as in Colossians 1:20. Perhaps it is safest to understand it of the whole results of the dispensation of the Law, but persons may be referred to by the neuter in abstract speech: see John 6:37; 1 John 5:4. So Thuc. III. 11. 4 τὰ κράτιστα ἐπὶ τοὺς ὑποδεεστέρους πρώτους ξυνεπῆγον; Xen. Anab. VII. 3. 11 τὰ μὲν φεύγουτα καὶ ἀποδιδράσκοντα ἡμεῖς ἱκανοί ἐσόμεθα διώκεινἢν δέ τις ἀνθιστῆται κ.τ.λ. See Winer-Schmiedel, § 28. 1; Blass, § 32. 1. For the thought cf. Romans 11:32.

ἵνα, strictly telic. Cf. Chrysostom εἰ δὲ διὰ τοῦτο ἐδόθη [ό νόμος], ἴνα συγκλείσῃ πάντας, τουτέστιν, ἵνα ἐλέγξῃ καὶ δείξῃ τὰ οἰκεῖα αὐτῶν πλημμελήματα, οὐ μόνον οὐ κωλύει σε τοῦ τυχεῖν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας, ἀλλὰ καὶ συμπράττει πρὸς τὸ τυχεῖνἐπειδὴ γὰρ Ἰουδαῖοι οὐδὲ τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων ᾐσθάνοντο τῶν οἰκείων, μὴ αἰσθανόμενοι δὲ οὐδὲ ἀφέσεως ἐπεθύμουν, ἔδωκε τὸν νόμον ἐλέγχοντα τὰ τραύματα, ἵνα ποθήσωσι τὸν ἰατρόν.

ἡ ἐπαγγελία ἐκ πίστεως Ἰ. Χρ. δοθῇ. ἐκ π., cf. the marginal ἐκ νόμου, Galatians 3:21. ἐκ π. . Χρ., cf. Galatians 2:16. It is possible to take the phrase ἐκ π. . Χρ. closely with ἡ ἐπαγγελία (so Ell.), the promise belonging to faith not to works (for the omission of the article after ἐπαγγελία see Colossians 1:8 note, Blass, § 47. 7 sq.); but as this hardly brings out the full meaning of ἐκ it is better to join the phrase with δοθῇ: “in order that the promise should, as a result of faith in Jesus Christ, be given to them that believe.” Had the Law brought righteousness this would not have been necessary, but the Scripture included all under sin for this express purpose. It could not be given till Christ came; cf. Galatians 3:23.

τοῖς πιστεύουσιν. In one emphatic word he sums up the argument of Galatians 3:7-22.

Verse 23

23. πρὸ τοῦ δὲ ἐλθεῖν τὴν πίστιν., Galatians 3:22 suggests to St Paul that he should (Galatians 3:23-24) dwell on the temporary and preparative character of the Law, a point which he touched upon in Galatians 3:19 ἄχρις ἂν ἔλθῃ κ.τ.λ. τὴν π. The article resumes the πίστις of Galatians 3:22. It is almost “this faith of which I speak,” hardly “the dispensation of faith.”

ὑπὸ νόμον ἐφρουρούμεθα. φρουρ.: 2 Corinthians 11:32; Philippians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:5[110]. “We” = we Jews, who alone were under the Law. In the last two of these three passages φρουρεῖν has the connotation of protecting rather than keeping in prison. So probably here. The various laws were, as Chrysostom and Theodoret say, a wall to the Israelites, or, as Jewish writers say, a “hedge” against sins of the heathen (see Schechter, Some Aspects, pp. 206 sq.).

συνκλειόμενοι,, Galatians 3:22 note. See notes on Textual Criticism. It is the “present participle of identical action”: cf. John 6:6 (Burton, § 120). It describes the nature of the imprisonment; we were shut up.

εἰς κ.τ.λ. Preferably with the principal verb ἐφρουρούμεθα. The guard of the Law was with the aim that we should pass over into faith.

τὴν μέλλουσαν πίστιν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι. For the construction see Romans 8:18. Contrast 1 Peter 5:1. The position of μέλλουσαν suggests the length of the period during which we were in ward. Only here, as it seems, are πίστις and ἀποκαλύπτεσθαι coupled. Here also πίστις can hardly be “the dispensation of faith.”

Verse 23-24

23, 24. A more positive answer to the question of v.19. The Law was distinctly preparative

(Galatians 3:23) We Jews were protected—the Law leaving us no room to escape from its power—that we should at last be brought into the faith that was about to be revealed. (Galatians 3:24) So that the Law has become our moral guide unto Christ (Messiah), in order that we should be justified of faith.

Verses 23-29

23–4:7. The contrast between our former state of pupillage under the Law, and our present state in Christ, full sonship

This is brought out under two aspects:

I. Galatians 3:23-29. The preparative character of the Law; faith in Christ makes us Abraham’s seed, (a) Galatians 3:23-24. We were protected by the Law with the hope of the future faith. The Law has been our paedagogue, leading us to Christ. (b) Galatians 3:25-29. Now we are all sons of God by our faith in Christ, and therefore Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.

II. Galatians 4:1-7. Temporary submission to laws, for those who are in an inferior position, is common. But Christ has delivered us and brought us into full sonship, as our experience tells us.

Verse 24

24. A change of metaphor from protection by a guard to a “tutor,” i.e. here the beneficent action of the Law is more directly indicated. In all probability too we should place a full stop at the end of this verse, joining Galatians 3:25 closely with the following verses. On the other hand the thought of the παιδαγωγός is too akin to much of the contents of Galatians 3:25 to Galatians 4:7 to warrant our making (with Weiss) Galatians 3:24 the end of a section beginning at Galatians 3:15. It naturally leads on to νἱοί.

ὥστε. Though about to change the metaphor St Paul draws his conclusion from Galatians 3:23.

ὁ νόμος. The nominative without the article would have been very ambiguous (Galatians 2:16 note), and even have suggested a law (or law), Galatians 5:23, rather than the Mosaic Law which St Paul here intends.

παιδαγωγὸς ἡμῶν. παιδ.: Galatians 3:25, 1 Corinthians 4:15[111]. Much material for studying the use of the word is given in Suicer II. 543 sq. and s.v. νόμος II. 421. Lightfoot quotes a long and instructive passage from Plato, Lysis, p. 208 c. The Paedagogus looked after boys from seven to seventeen years of age, his duties being in Greek households solely moral and disciplinary, in Roman also, and perhaps chiefly, educational. Here there is no hint of instruction being given by him, but of his disciplinary protection such as φρουρεῖν might suggest. It is however unreasonable to deduce from this (with Ramsay, Gal. pp. 381 sqq.) that the Epistle was written to Churches in South Galatia where Greek influence was more prevalent. For it is very doubtful whether the North Galatians had definitely Roman customs. Compare, for the subject generally, Appendix, Note C.

It is worthy of note that in the Rabbinic writings the word is used in the same disciplinary sense as here, e.g. as a king sends his son’s Paedagogue to turn him back from his evil ways, so God sends Jeremiah to Israel (Debarim R. Parasha 2 on Deuteronomy 4:30).

Thus the Law is described as exercising a sound moral influence over us with the view of bringing us to Christ. Except that Christ is not here regarded as a schoolmaster Theodoret’s words are excellent: παιδαγωγοῦ γὰρ ἡμῖν ἐπλήρωσε χρείαν· καὶ τῆς μὲν προτέρας ἡμᾶς ἠλευθέρωσεν ἀσεβείας, θεογνωσίαν δὲ παιδεύσας, οἶόν τινι σοφῷ διδασκάλῳ προσφέρει τῷ δεσπότῃ Χριστῷ, ἵνα τέλεια παρʼ αὐτοῦ παιδευθῶμεν μαθήματα, καὶ τὴν διὰ τῆς πίστεως δικαιοσύνην κτησώμεθα.

γἐγονεν has proved itself so in our case.

εἰς Χριστόν, not Ἰησοῦς, because not the historical person but the expected Messiah is under consideration.

ἵνα (Galatians 3:22) ἐκ πίστεως δικαιωθῶμεν,, Galatians 2:16 note.

Verse 25

25. To he joined with the following, not the preceding, verses. St Paul is always practical. He will, if possible, wean the Galatians from the error of going back to the Law, and he here begins to state their privileges in Christ.

ἐλθούσης δὲ τῆς πίστεως. The article is resumptive as in Galatians 3:20; Galatians 3:23. The aorist is probably not “punctiliar,” but refers to that time in the past already mentioned. But in turning to express the present effect of that coming he breaks the natural consecution of tenses.

οὐκέτι ὑπὸ παιδαγωγόν ἐσμεν. “Nam paedagogi utiles quidem sunt puerulis parvulis propter parvulitatem eorum. Non sunt autem necessarii, quando puer in usu effectus ad perfectam profecerit doctrinam” (Theodore of Mopsuestia). Thus the Law is not opposed to grace by preparing for it; it is only opposed to it if we stay in it after grace has come (cf. Chrys.). ἐσμεν. Probably St Paul has here passed to thinking of all believers. In Galatians 3:26 he turns directly to the Galatians.

Verses 25-29

25–29. See note at Galatians 3:23

(Galatians 3:25) But when that faith came—we believers are no longer under a paedagogue. (Galatians 3:26) For all (not Jews only) of you are sons of God (with full privileges) by means of your faith in Messiah who has come, I mean Jesus. (Galatians 3:27) I say “all,” for as many of you as were baptized into union with Christ, put on Christ with all He is and has. (Galatians 3:28) I say “all” in the fullest sense of the word, for in our relation to Christ distinctions of nationality and social standing cease to be, and even those of sex are not counted, for you all are one person in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:29) What does this imply? Nothing less than that if you, even you Galatians, are Christ’s then ye are (as He is) Abraham’s seed, and in accordance with promise (not in accordance with the Law) heirs of all that is promised to Abraham’s seed.

Verse 26

26. πάντες γὰρ κ.τ.λ. It has been thought that Galatians 3:26-29 are an appeal to the experience of the Galatians; having, as they have found, all these privileges, they surely cannot be any more under the Law. But it is questionable whether this does not assume too much experimental religion on the part of the Galatians, and also there is no appeal (as in Galatians 3:2; Galatians 3:5) to their reception of the Spirit or the existence of miraculous or other gifts. It is better therefore to understand the verses as laying down principles. You are no longer under a paedagogue, for, as I must remind you, you are already sons of God in Christ, yes, all are received in Him, and if you are in Him then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.

πάντες. Primarily whether Jews or Gentiles, but it serves as an occasion for mentioning various conditions of life in Galatians 3:28.

γὰρ. Not merely giving he reason for saying πάντες (“why he ranks Galatians and Jews together”), but for speaking of their freedom in Galatians 3:25.

νἱοὶ. More than τέκνα (Galatians 3:7 note), and even παῖδες (a word not employed by St Paul but suggested by the previous παιδαγωγός), which in the present context would be almost equivalent to νήπιοι (Galatians 4:1).

θεοῦ. Here added not in contrast to Abraham (Galatians 3:7) as being greater, but rather as being the fundamental privilege of believers, which proves itself eventually to carry with it the further privilege (which has been so much under discussion) of being sons of Abraham (Galatians 3:29). But in itself it does not bear the emphasis of the sentence. That is chiefly on νἱοί (in contrast to those under a paedagogus), though formally on πάντες.

διὰ τῆς πίστεως. Here probably “your faith.”

ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ: faith centred on Christ and resting in Him, Colossians 1:4; Ephesians 1:15. These parallels make it improbable that ἐν Χρ. Ἰης. are to be taken with νἱοὶ θεοῦ ἐστε as R.V.; cf. also Galatians 3:22. The names are in this order (contrast Galatians 3:22) because Χρ. takes up Galatians 3:24, and Ἰης. is an addition expressly identifying Messiah with Jesus.

Verse 27

27. In Galatians 3:27-28 St Paul shows how they obtained their sonship (Theodoret).

ὅσοι, epexegetic of πάντες. γὰρ, beginning to prove the truth of the whole statement in Galatians 3:26.

εἰς Χριστὸν ἐβαπτίσθητε. Cf. Colossians 2:12. For βαπτίζομαι εἰς a person, see Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 10:2. Cf. βαπτίζ. εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, Matthew 28:19 al. Christ was the aim and purpose of your baptism, and through it you obtained union with even Him.

Χριστὸν ἐνεδύσασθε, i.e. you appropriated the relation to God in which Christ stands, you received all that Christ is. There is no thought here of putting off the old man of sinful desires (Colossians 3:8-12), but only of leaving the previous state of pupillage by union with Christ.

Verse 28

28. οὐκ ἔνι, “there cannot be,” see Hort on James 1:17, p. 30. St Paul mentions differences of nation, social standing, and sex.

Ἰονδαῖος οὐδὲ Ἕλλην. In Colossians 3:11 καί, i.e. the peculiarities of both remain but are not reckoned; here peculiarities disappear in Christ.

οὐκ ἔνι, not repeated in Col.

δοῦλος οὐδὲ ἐλεύθερος. These form a more marked division than in Col., where δοῦλος, ἐλεύθερος occur only at the end of a list.

οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ, not in Col. He does not say οὐδέ, for these peculiarities must remain, but they are not regarded as forming separate entities, two of a series, when in relation to Christ. St Paul’s words strike at the root of that belief in the superiority of the male sex in religious privileges and powers which marks the lower types of religion, even Mohammadanism and popular Judaism down to our own day, included as it doubtless is under the well-known daily prayer of the Jew, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast not made me a woman” (Authorised Daily Prayer Book, ed. Singer, p. 6), where, as here, it follows the mention of heathen and slaves. This makes it unlikely that St Paul had in his mind the sayings current in the Greek schools, of gratitude for being a man rather than a woman. For there the mention of a dumb animal had come first. See quotations in C. Taylor’s Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, 2nd edit. pp. 26, 137 sqq.

Ramsay (pp. 389 sqq.) adduces these words in support of the South Galatian theory, stating that in that district the position of woman was unusually high, and that therefore St Paul could make this statement in writing to them, for his “allusion to the equality of the sexes in the perfect form which the Church must ultimately attain would not seem to the people of these Graeco-Phrygian cities to be so entirely revolutionary and destructive of existing social conditions as it must have seemed to the Greeks,” e.g. at Corinth. This seems fanciful, especially as it does not appear that there is any reason for thinking it would have been disliked at Colossae (see above).

πάντες γὰρ, emphatic repetition from Galatians 3:26.

ὑμεῖς, even you Galatians in all your various national, social, and even family relations.

εἷς ἐστὲ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Apparently St Paul means “one man” as expressly in Ephesians 2:15, on which Dean Arm. Robinson writes (p. 65): “Henceforth God deals with man as a whole, as a single individual, in Christ. Not as Two Men, the privileged and unprivileged—Two, parted one from the other by a barrier in the most sacred of all the relations of life: but as One Man, united iu a peace, which is no mere alliance of elements naturally distinct, but a con-corporation, the common life of a single organism.” Wetstein has a remarkable quotation from Lucian, Toxaris 46 (§ 53), showing how others ought to treat us as though they formed one man with us, not professing gratitude to us any more than our left hand should profess gratitude to our right etc.

Chrysostom understands by it only that all believers have μίαν μορφήν, ἔνα τύπου, τὸν τοῦ Χριστοῦ; each, whether Jew or Gentile etc., walking with the form not of an angel or archangel, but of the Lord of all, showing Christ in himself. But, beautiful as this thought is, it comes short of St Paul’s meaning.

Verse 29

29. εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς Χριστοῦ. Observe the emphasis on ὑμεῖς. If ye, ye Galatians, Gentiles though you are, are Christ’s, then etc. If you belong to Christ, as surely you do after the close relation implied in your faith in Him (Galatians 3:26), your baptism into Him, your putting of Him on (Galatians 3:27), your union in Him (Galatians 3:28), then we must conclude that you are Abraham’s seed, with all that this implies of promise and heirship. St Paul insists once more that the blessing of Abraham is only to be obtained in Christ, and is obtained in Him.

ἄρα (Galatians 2:21) τοῦ Αβραὰμ σπέρμα ἐστέ. οὐχ οἶόν τε τὴν μὲν κεφαλὴν ἐκείνον (Abraham) νομίζεσθαι, τὸ δὲ σῶμα ἂλλου τινός (Theodoret).

κατʼ ἐπαγγελίαν. The phrase occurs absolutely elsewhere in Acts 13:23, and with the addition of ζωῆς, 2 Timothy 1:1[112]. According to promise (not “the promise,” A.V.) in contrast to the Law and its deeds.

κληρονόμοι. The closing and emphatic word, implying possession actually received, not merely in expectancy. St Paul has mentioned heirship definitely only in Galatians 3:18, where see note, though he has implied it in Galatians 3:24-26. You want to be heirs of all that true relationship to Abraham brings—you have obtained it in Christ.

Then, characteristically enough, St Paul takes up this word κληρονόμος, and makes it a starting-point for further thoughts about God’s dealings with us in the past and present.

Note on Galatians 3:16

Dr Driver has been kind enough to call my attention to an article in the Expositor for January, 1889, in which he adopts an explanation of this passage proposed by Abraham Geiger, and accepted by Delitzsch. It is to the effect that we find in the Mishna and the Targum of Onqelos derivatives of the root zera’ which must be translated “seeds,” and mean successive generations of men. So in the Mishna, Sanh. IV. 5 [11], “his own blood, and the blood of his seeds (zar‘iyyothayw) to the end of the world.” Thus of Cain: “ ‘the bloods of thy brother cry unto me from the ground.’ The text does not say ‘blood,’ but ‘bloods’; i.e. Abel’s own blood, and the blood of his seeds (zar‘iyyothayw).” Similarly in the Targum of Onqelos on Genesis 4:10 : “the blood of the seeds (zera‘ayan) which were destined to spring from thy brother.” [See also Jastrow, Talmudic Dictionary, 1903, p. 414b.] Hence it is probable (Dr Driver thinks) that to St Paul the use of the plural of substantives formed from the root zera‘, in the sense of successive generations of men, seemed to be nothing extraordinary, and, regardless of the usage of the Hebrew Bible, the Apostle therefore called attention to the fact that the actual wording of the passage in Genesis 22:18 excluded, strictly speaking, the performance of the promise in successive generations of Israelites, and required its fulfilment in one generation, which was summed up in Christ.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Galatians 3:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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