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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 6

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical CommentaryAlford's Greek Testament Commentary

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Verses 1-5

1 5 .] Exhortation to forbearance and humility . Brethren (bespeaks their attention by a friendly address; marking also the opening of a new subject, connected however with the foregoing: see above), if a man be even surprised ( προλημφθῇ has the emphasis, on account of the καί . This makes it necessary to assign a meaning to it which shall justify its emphatic position. And such meaning is clearly not found in the ordinary renderings. E.g. Chrysostom, ἐὰν συναρπαγῇ , so E. V. ‘ overtaken ,’ and De Wette, al., which could not be emphatic, but would be palliative: Grotius, ‘ si quis antea (h.e. antequam hæc ep. ad vos veniat) deprehensus fuerit :’ Winer, ‘ etiam si (si vel) quis antea deprehensus fuerit in peccato, eum tamen (iterum peccantem) corrigite :’ Olsh., who regards the προ - almost as expletive, betokening merely that the λαμβάνεσθαι comes in time before the καταρτίζειν . The only meaning which satisfies the emphasis is that of being caught in the fact, ‘ flagrante delicto ,’ before he can escape: which, though unusual, seems justified by ref. Wisd.: and so Meyer, Ellic., al.) in any transgression (with the meaning ‘overtaken’ for προλημφθῇ , falls also that of ‘ inadvertence ’ for παράπτωμα . The stronger meaning of ‘ sin ,’ is far commoner in St. Paul: see ref. Rom. and ib. Romans 5:15-16 ; Romans 5:20 ; 2 Corinthians 5:19 ; Ephesians 1:7 ; Ephesians 2:1 ; Ephesians 2:5 ; Col 2:13 bis), do ye, the spiritual ones (said not in irony, but bonâ fide : referring not to the clergy only, but to every believer), restore (Beza, Hammond, Bengel, al., have imagined an allusion to a dislocated limb being reduced into place: but the simple ethical sense is abundantly justified by examples: see Herodot., cited on 1 Corinthians 1:10 ; Stob. i. 85, καταρτίζειν φίλους διαφερομένους (Ellic.)) such a person (see especially 1 Corinthians 5:5 ; 1Co 5:11 ) in the spirit of meekness (beware of the silly hendiadys : Chrys. gives the right allusion, οὐκ εἶπεν “ ἐν πραότητι ,” ἀλλ ʼ “ ἐν πνεύματι πραότητος ·” δηλῶν ὅτι καὶ τῷ πνεύματι ταῦτα δοκεῖ , καὶ τὸ δύνασθαι μετ ʼ ἐπιεικείας διορθοῦν τοὺς ἁμαρτάνοντας , χαρίσματός ἐστι πνευματικοῦ : and Ellic., “ πν . here seems immediately to refer to the state of the inward Spirit as wrought upon by the Holy Spirit, and ultimately to the Holy Spirit, as the inworking power. Cf. Romans 1:4 ; Romans 8:15 ; 2 Corinthians 4:13 ; Ephesians 1:17 ; in all of which cases πι . seems to indicate the Holy Spirit, and the abstract genitive the specific χάρισμα ”), looking to thyself (we have the same singling out of individuals from a multitude previously addressed in Thucyd. i. 42, ὧν ἐνθυμηθέντες , καὶ νεώτερός τις παρὰ πρεσβυτέρον μαθών , ἀξιούτω … ἡμᾶς ἀμύνεσθαι . See more examples in Bernhardy, p. 421), lest thou also be tempted (on a similar occasion: notice the aorist).

Verse 2

2 .] ἀλλήλων , prefixed and emphatic, has not been enough attended to. You want to become disciples of that Law which imposes heavy burdens on men: if you will bear burdens, bear ONE ANOTHER’S burdens, and thus fulfil (see var. readd.: notice aorist: by this act fulfil) the law of Christ , a far higher and better law, whose only burden is love. The position of ἀλλήλων I conceive fixes this meaning, by throwing τὰ βάρη into the shade, as a term common to the two laws. As to the βάρη , the more general the meaning we give to it, the better it will accord with the sense of the command. The matter mentioned in the last verse led on to this: but this grasps far wider, extending to all the burdens which we can, by help and sympathy, bear for one another. There are some which we cannot : see below.

ἀναπληρ ., thoroughly fulfil: Ellic. quotes Plut. Poplicol. ii., ἀνεπλήρωσε τὴν βουλὴν ὀλιγανδροῦσαν , ‘filled up the Senate.’

Verse 3

3 .] The chief hindrance to sympathy with the burdens of others, is self-conceit: that must be got rid of.

εἶναι τί , see reff.

μηδὲν ὤν ] there is (perhaps: but this must not be over-pressed, see Ellic.) a fine irony in the subjective μηδέν ‘being, if he would come to himself, and look on the real fact, nothing:’ whereas οὐδὲν ὤν expresses more the objective fact, his real absolute worthlessness. See examples of both expressions in Wetst. h. l.

φρεναπατᾷ ] not found elsewhere: see ref. and James 1:26 . The word seems to mean just as ἀπατῶν καρδίαν αὐτοῦ there: I should hardly hold Ellic.’s distinction: both are subjective deceits, and only to be got rid of by testing them with plain matter of fact.

Verse 4

4 .] The test applied : emphasis on τὸ ἔργον , which (as Mey.) is the complex, the whole practical result of his life, see reff.

δοκ . ] put to the trial (reff.): not ‘ render δόκιμον ,’ which the word will not bear.

κ . τότε ] And then (after he has done this) he will have his matter of boasting (the article makes it subjective: the καὐχημα , that whereof to boast , not without a slight irony, whatever matter of boasting he finds, after such a testing, will be) in reference to himself alone ( εἰς ἑαυ . μόν . emphatic corresponds to εἰς τὸν ἕτ . below), and not (as matter of fact : not μή ) in reference to the other , (or, his neighbour the man with whom he was comparing himself: general in its meaning, but particular in each case of comparison).

Verse 5

5 .] And this is the more advisable, because in the nature of things, each man’s own load (of infirmities and imperfections and sins: not of ‘ responsibility ,’ which is alien from the context) will ( in ordinary life : not ‘ at the last day ,’ which is here irrelevant, and would surely have been otherwise expressed: the βαστάσει must correspond with the βαστάζετε above, and be a taking up and carrying, not an ultimate bearing the consequences of) come upon himself to bear .

φορτίον here, hardly with any allusion to Æsop’s well-known fable (C. and H. ii. 182, edn. 2), but, as distinguished from βάρος , in which there is an idea of grievance conveyed, the load imposed on each by his own fault. The future, in this sense of that which must be in the nature of things, is discussed by Bernhardy, pp. 377 8.

Verse 6

6 .] κοινωνείτω most likely intransitive, as there does not appear to be an instance of its transitive use in the N. T. (certainly not Rom 12:13 ). But the two senses come nearly to the same: he who shares in the necessities of the saints, can only do so by making that necessity partly his own, i.e., by depriving himself to that extent, and communicating to them. On κατηχούμ . and κατηχῶν , see Suicer, Thes. sub voce. This meaning, of ‘ giving oral instruction ,’ is confined to later Greek: see Lidd. and Scott.

δέ , as bringing out a contrast to the individuality of the last verse.

τὸν λόγον , in its very usual sense of the Gospel , the word of life . It is the accusative of reference or of second government, after κατηχούμενος , as in Acts 18:25 .

ἐν πᾶσ . ἀγ . ] in all good things : the things of this life mainly, as the context shews. Nor does this meaning produce an abrupt break between Galatians 6:5-6 ; Galatians 6:6-7 , as Meyer (who understands ἀγαθά of moral good; ‘ share with your teachers in all virtues :’ i.e. ‘ imitate their virtues ’) maintains. From the mention of bearing one another’s burdens, he naturally passes to one way, and one case, in which those burdens may be borne viz. by relieving the necessities of their ministers (thus almost all Commentators); and then,

Verses 6-10

6 10 .] Exhortation (in pursuance of the command in Galatians 6:2 , see below), to liberality towards their teachers, and to beneficence in general .

Verse 7

7 .] regarding our good deeds done for Christ as a seed sown for eternity, he warns them not to be deceived: in this, as in other seed-times, God’s order of things cannot be set at nought: whatever we sow, that same shall we reap.

οὐ μυκτηρ . ] is not mocked : though men subjectively mock God, this mocking has no objective existence: there is no such thing as mocking of God in reality. μυκτηρίζειν λέγομεν τοὺς ἐν τῷ διαπαίζειν τινὰς τοῦτό πως τὸ μέρος ( μυκτῆρα ) ἐπισπῶντας , Etym. Mag. (cited by Ellic.) Pollux quotes the word from Lysias: in medicine it is used for bleeding at the nose (Hippocrat. p. 1240 D).

γάρ , ‘and in this it will be shewn.’

σπείρῃ , present subjunctive (cf. σπείρων below).

τοῦτ . κ . θ . ] this (emphatic, this and nothing else) shall he also (by the same rule) reap , viz. eventually, at the great harvest. The final judgment is necessarily now introduced by the similitude ( ὁ θερισμὸς συντέλεια αἰῶνός ἐστιν , Mat 13:39 ), but does not any the more belong to the context in Galatians 6:5 .

Verse 8

8 .] ὅτι , for i.e. and this will be an example of the universal rule.

ὁ σπείρων , he that (now) soweth, is now sowing .

εἰς , unto, with a view to not local, ‘ drops his seed into ,’ ‘tanquam in agrum,’ Bengel: this in the N. T. is given by ἐν (Matthew 13:24 ; Matthew 13:27 . Mar 4:15 ), or ἐπί (Matthew 13:20 ; Matthew 13:23 .Mark 4:16; Mark 4:16 ; Mark 4:20 ; Mar 4:31 ): εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας (Matthew 13:22 . Mar 4:18 ) rather being ‘ among the thorns ’ (see Ellic.).

ἑαυτοῦ , not apparently with any especial emphasis to his own flesh .

φθοράν ] (not ἀπώλειαν as Php 3:19 ) corruption because the flesh is a prey to corruption, and with it all fleshly desires and practices come to nothing (De W.): see 1 Corinthians 6:13 ; 1 Corinthians 15:50 : or perhaps in the stronger sense of φθορά (see 1 Corinthians 3:17 ; 2Pe 2:12 ), destruction (Meyer).

ἐκ τ . πν . ] See Romans 8:11 ; Romans 8:15-17 .

Verse 9

9 .] But (in our case, let there be no chance of the alternative: see Hartung, Partikell. i. 166) in well-doing (stress on καλόν ) let us not be faint-hearted (on ἐγκ . and ἐκ κ ., see note, 2 Corinthians 4:1 . It seems doubtful, whether such a word as ἐκκακέω exists at all in Greek, and whether its use by later writers and place in lexicons is not entirely due to these doubtful readings. See Ellic.’s note): for in due time (an expression of the pastoral Epistles, see reff., and Prolegomena to those Epistles, § i. 32, and note) we shall reap, if we do not faint (so reff., and Isocr., p. 322 a, ἵν ʼ οὖν μὴ παντάπασιν ἐκλυθῶ , πολλῶν ἔτι μοι λεκτέων ὄντων ). Thdrt., al., join μὴ ἐκλ . with θερίσομεν , πόνου δίχα θερίσομεν τὰ σπειρόμενα · … ἐπὶ μὲν γὰρ τῶν αἰσθητῶν σπερμάτων καὶ ὁ σπόρος ἔχει πόνου , κ . ὁ ἀμητὸς ὡσαύτως · διαλύει γὰρ πολλάκις τοὺς ἀμῶντας κ . τὸ τῆς ὥρας θερμόν · ἀλλ ʼ ἐκεῖνος οὐ τοιοῦτος ὁ ἀμητός · πόνου γάρ ἐστι κ . ἱδρῶτος ἐλεύθερος . But though such a rendering would be unobjectionable (not requiring οὐ for μή , as Rück., al., for as Mey. rightly, the particle being subjective, μή would be in place), it would give a very vapid sense: whereas the other eminently suits the exhortation μὴ ἐγκ .

Verse 10

10 .] ἄρα οὖν , so then : “the proper meaning of ἄρα , ‘ rebus ita comparatis ,’ is here distinctly apparent: its weaker ratiocinative force being supported by the collective power of οὖν .” Ellic.

ὡς ] not ‘ while ’ (Olsh., al.), nor, ‘ according as ,’ i.e. ‘ quotiescunque ,’ nor, ‘since,’ causal (De W., Winer, al.), but as , i.e. in proportion as : let our beneficence be in proportion to our καιρός let the seed-time have its καιρὸς ἴδιος , as well as the harvest, Galatians 6:9 . Thus καιρός is a common term between the two verses.

τὸ ἀγ . ] the good thing : as we say, ‘he did the right thing:’ that which is (in each case) good.

τ . οἰκείους τ . πίστ . ] those who belong to the faith : there does not seem to be any allusion to a household, as in E. V. In Isaiah 58:7 ‘thy fellow-men’ are called οἱ οἰκεῖοι τοῦ σπέρματός σου : so also in the examples from the later classics in Wetst., οἰκεῖοι φιλοσοφίας , γεωγραφίας , ὀλιγαρχίας , τυραννίδος , τρυφῆς .

Verse 11

11 .] See in how large letters (in what great and apparently unsightly characters: see note on next verse. πηλίκοις will not bear the rendering (1) ‘ how many ,’ πόσοις , or (2) ‘ what sort ,’ ποίοις : but only (3) how great (reff.). Nor can (3) be made to mean (1) by taking γράμματα for ‘Epistle,’ a sense unknown to St. Paul) I wrote (not strictly the epistolary scribebam , nor referring to the following verses only: but the aorist spoken as at the time when they would receive the Epistle, and referring I believe to the whole of it, see also below) with my own hand . I do not see how it is possible to avoid the inference that these words apply to the whole Epistle. If they had reference only to the passage in which they occur, would not γράφω have been used, as in 2Th 3:17 ? Again, there is no break in style here, indicating the end of the dictated portion, and the beginning of the written, as in Rom 16:25 ; 2Th 3:17 al. I should rather believe, that on account of the peculiar character of this Epistle, St. Paul wrote it all with his own hand, as he did the pastoral Epistles: and I find confirmation of this, in the partial resemblance of its style to those Epistles. (See Prolegomena, as above on Galatians 6:9 .) And he wrote it, whether from weakness of his eyes, or from choice, in large characters.

Verse 12

12 .] As my Epistle, so my practice: I have no desire to make a fair show outwardly: my γράμματα are not εὐπρόσωπα (is there a further allusion to the same point in ὅσοι τῷ κανόνι τούτῳ στοιχήσουσιν , and even in στίγματα , below?) and I have no sympathy with these θέλοντες εὐπροσωπῆσαι ἐν σαρκί . The word εὐπροσωπεῖν occurs only here: but we have φαινοπροσωπεῖν , Cic. Att. vii. 21; xiv. 21: σεμνοπροσωπεῖν , Aristoph. Nub. 363.

ἐν σαρκί , not merely ‘ in the flesh ,’ but in outward things , which belong to man’s natural state: see ch. Galatians 5:19 .

οὗτοι , it is these who : see Galatians 6:7 .

ἀναγκάζουσιν ] are compelling: go about to compel .

τῷ σταυρῷ ] dative of the cause, see reff. Winer would understand ‘ should be persecuted with the Cross (i.e. with sufferings like the Cross) of Christ .’ But apart from other objections which I do not feel, however, so strongly as Ellic.), surely this would have been otherwise expressed by τοῖς παθήμασιν or the like.

Verse 13

13 .] For (proof that they wish only to escape persecution) not even they who are being circumcised (who are the adopters and instigators of circumcision, cf. ἀναγκάζουσιν above) themselves keep the law ( νόμον emphatic: the words contain a matter of fact, not known to us otherwise, that these preachers of legal conformity extended it not to the whole law, but selected from it at their own caprice), but wish you (emphatic) to be circumcised, that in your (emphatic) flesh they may make their boast ( ἵνα ἐν τῷ κατακόπτειν τὴν ὑμετέραν σάρκα καυχήσωνται ὡς διδάσκαλοι ὑμῶν , i.e., μαθητὰς ὑμᾶς ἔχοντες , Thl. In this way they escaped the scandal of the Cross at the hands of the Jews, by making in fact their Christian converts into Jewish proselytes).

Verse 14

14 .] But to me let it not happen to boast (on the construction, see reff. Meyer quotes Xen. Cyr. vi. 3. 11, ὦ Ζεῦ μέγιστε , λαβεῖν μοι γένοιτο αὐτόν ), except in the Cross (the atoning death, as my means of reconcilement with God) of our Lord Jesus Christ (the full name for solemnity, and ἡμῶν to involve his readers in the duty of the same abjuration), by means of whom (not so well, ‘of which ’ ( τοῦ σταυροῦ ) as many Commentators; the greater antecedent, τοῦ κυρ . ἡμ . . χ . , coming after the σταυρῷ , has thrown it into the shade. Besides, it could hardly be said of the Cross, δι ʼ οὗ ) the world (the whole system of unspiritual and unchristian men and things. Notice the absorption of the article in a word which had become almost a proper name: so with ἥλιος , γῆ , πόλις , &c.) has been (and is ) crucified (not merely ‘ dead :’ he chooses, in relation to σταυρός above, this stronger word, which at once brings in his union with the death of Christ, besides his relation to the world) to me ( ἐμοί , dative of ethical relation: so μόνῳ Μαικήνᾳ καθεύδω , Plut. Erot. p. 760 A: see other examples in Bernhardy, p. 85), and I to the world . Ellic. quotes from Schött., ‘alter pro mortuo habet alterum.’

Verse 15

15 .] See ch. Galatians 5:6 . Confirmation of last verse : so far are such things from me as a ground of boasting, that they are nothing : the new birth by the Spirit is all in all.

κτίσις (see note on 2Co 5:17 ), creation : and therefore the result, as regards an individual, is, that he is a new creature : so that the word comes to be used in both significations.

Verse 16

16 .] And as many (reference to the ὅσοι of Galatians 6:12 ; and in κανόνι to the εὐπροσωπ . and πηλίκοις γράμμ .? see above) as shall walk by this rule (of Galatians 6:15 . κανών is a ‘straight rule,’ to detect crookedness: hence a norma vivendi . The dative is normal ), peace be (not ‘ is :’ it is the apostolic blessing, so common in the beginnings of his Epistles: see also Eph 6:23 ) upon them (come on them from God; reff., and Luke 2:25 ; Luk 2:40 al. freq.) and (and indeed, ‘ und zwar :’ the καὶ explicative, as it is called: see reff.) upon the Israel of God (the subject of the whole Epistle seems to have given rise to this expression. Not the Israel after the flesh, among whom these teachers wish to enrol you, are blessed: but the ISRAEL OF GOD, described ch. 3. ult., εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς χριστοῦ , ἄρα τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ σπέρμα ἐστέ . Jowett compares, though not exactly parallel, yet for a similar apparent though not actual distinction, 1Co 10:32 ).

Verse 17

17 .] τοῦ λοιποῦ , as E. V., henceforth : scil., χρόνου . So Herod. iii. 15, ἔνθα τοῦ λοιποῦ διαιτᾶτο : see numerous other examples in Wetstein. “ τὸ λοιπόν continuum et perpetuum tempus significat, ut apud Xen. Cyr. viii. 5. 24; τοῦ λοιποῦ autem repetitionem ejusdem facti reliquo tempore indicat, ut apud Aristoph. in Pace, v. 1684 (1050 Bekk.).” Hermann ad Viger., p. 706. But the above example from Herod. hardly seems to bear this out. Rather is a thing happening in time regarded as belonging to the period including it, and the genitive is one of possession. Against this Ellic., viewing the gen. as simply partitive, refers to Donalds. Gram. § 451: who however defines his meaning by saying “partitive, or, what is the same thing, possessive.” This indeed must be the clear and only account of a partitive genitive.

κόπ . παρεχ . ] How? Thdrt. (hardly Chrys.), al., understand it of the trouble of writing more epistles οὐκέτι , φησί , γράψαι τὶ πάλιν ἀνέξομαι · ἀντὶ δὲ γραμμάτων τοὺς μώλωπας δείκνυμι , κ . τῶν αἰκισμῶν τὰ σημεῖα . But it seems much more natural to take it of giving him trouble by rebellious conduct and denying his apostolic authority, seeing that it was stamped with so powerful a seal as he proceeds to state.

ἐγὼ γάρ ] for it is I (not the Judaizing teachers) who carry (perhaps as in Galatians 6:5 , and ch. Galatians 5:10 , bear, as a burden: but Chrys.’s idea seems more adapted to the ‘ feierlich ’ character of the sentence: οὐκ εἶπεν , ἔχω , ἀλλά , βαστάζω , ὥσπερ τις ἐπὶ τροπαίοις μέγα φρονῶν ἢ σημείοις βασιλικοῖς : see reff. (2)) in (on) my body the marks of Jesus .

τὰ στίγματα , the marks branded on slaves to indicate their owners. So Herod. vii. 233, τοὺς πλεῦνας αὐτέων , κελεύσαντος Ξ έρξεω , ἔστιζον στίγματα βασιλήϊα : and in another place (ii. 113) is a passage singularly in point: ὅτεῳ ἀνθρώπων ἐπιβάληται στίγματα ἱρά , ἑωϋτὸν διδοὺς τῷ θεῷ , οὐκ ἔξεστι τούτου ἅψασθαι . See many more examples in Wetst. These marks, in St. Paul’s case, were of course the scars of his wounds received in the service of his Master cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23 ff.

Ἰησοῦ is the genitive of possession, answering to the possessive βασιλήϊα in the extract above. There is no allusion whatever to any similarity between himself and our Lord, ‘the marks which Jesus bore;’ such an allusion would be quite irrelevant: and with its irrelevancy falls a whole fabric of Romanist superstition which has been raised on this verse, and which the fair and learned Windischmann, giving as he does the honest interpretation here, yet attempts to defend in a supplemental note.

Neither can we naturally suppose any comparison intended between these his στίγματα as Christ’s servant, and circumcision : for he is not now on that subject, but on his authority as sealed by Christ : and such a comparison is alien from the majesty of the sentence.

Verse 18

18 .] THE APOSTOLIC BLESSING. No special intention need be suspected in πνεύματος ( ἀπάγων αὐτοὺς τῶν σαρκικῶν , Chrys.), as the same expression occurs at the end of other Epistles (reff.). I should rather regard it as a deep expression of his Christian love, which is further carried on by ἀδελφοί , the last word, parting from them, after an Epistle of such rebuke and warning, in the fulness of brotherhood in Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Galatians 6". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hac/galatians-6.html. 1863-1878.
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