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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament


- Galatians

by Heinrich Meyer

















S OME account of the circumstances in which this translation has been undertaken, of the plan adopted in preparing it, and of the abbreviations used throughout, will be found prefixed to the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, which also contains a Preface specially written by Dr. Meyer for the English edition of his work.

It is unnecessary here to repeat the explanations there given except in so far as they concern the course which I have followed in presenting to the English reader Dr. Meyer’s work without subtraction or addition. In reproducing so great a masterpiece of exegesis, I have not thought it proper to omit any part of its discussions or of its references however little some of these may appear likely to be of interest or use to English scholars because an author such as Dr. Meyer is entitled to expect that his work shall not be tampered with, and I have not felt myself at liberty to assume that the judgment of others as to the expediency of any omission would coincide with my own. Nor have I deemed it necessary to append any notes of dissent from, or of warning against, the views of Dr. Meyer, even where these are decidedly at variance with opinions which I hold. Strong representations were made to me that it was desirable to annex to certain passages notes designed to counteract their effect; but it is obvious that, if I had adopted this course in some instances, I should have been held to accept or approve the author’s views in other cases, where I had not inserted any such caveat . The book is intended for, and can in fact only be used with advantage by, the professional scholar. Its general exegetical excellence far outweighs its occasional doctrinal defects; and in issuing it without note or comment, I take for granted that the reader will use it, as he ought, with discrimination. The English commentaries of Bishop Ellicott, Dr. Lightfoot, and Dr. Eadie serve admirably from different points of view philological, historical, doctrinal to supplement and, when necessary, to correct it; as does also the American edition of the Commentary in Lange’s Bibelwerk , translated and largely augmented under the superintendence of Dr. Schaff.

The translation of the present volume has been executed with care by Mr. Venables, and remains in substance his work; but, as I have revised it throughout and carried it through the press, it is only due to him that I should share the responsibility of the form in which it appears. In translating a work of this nature, the value of which mainly consists in the precision and subtlety of its exegesis, it is essential that there should be a close and careful reproduction of the form of the original; but, in looking over the sheets, I find not a few instances in which the desire to secure this fidelity has led to an undue retention of German idiom. This, I trust, may be less apparent in the volumes that follow.

In such a work it is difficult, even with great care, to avoid the occurrence of misprints, several of which have been observed by Mr. Venables and myself in glancing over the sheets. Minor errors, such as the occasional misplacing of accents, it has not been thought necessary formally to correct. We have taken the opportunity of correcting in the translation various misprints found in the original. The commentator referred to in the text as “Ambrose” (from his work on the Pauline Epistles being frequently printed with the works of that Father) ought to have been designated, as in the critical notes, “Ambrosiaster,” and is usually identified with Hilary the Deacon.

I subjoin a note of the exegetical literature of the Epistle, which may be found useful.

W. P. D.



[For commentaries embracing the whole New Testament, see Preface to the Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew; for those which deal with the Pauline, or Apostolic, Epistles generally, see Preface to the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. The following list includes only those which concern the Epistle to the Galatians in particular, or in which that Epistle holds the first place on the title page. Works mainly of a popular or practical character have not in general been included, since, however valuable they may be on their own account, they have but little affinity with the strictly exegetical character of the present work. Monographs on chapters or sections are generally noticed by Meyer in loc . The reader will find a very valuable notice of the Patristic commentaries given by Dr. Lightfoot, p. 223 ff.]

AKERSLOOT (Theodorus), Reformed minister in Holland: de Sendbrief van Paullus an de Galaten, 4to, Leyd. 1695; translated into German by Brussken. 40, Bremen, 1699.

AURIVILLIUS (Olaus): Animadversiones exegeticae et dogmatico-practicae in Epistolam S. Pauli ad Galatas. 40, Halae, 1702.

BAGGE (Henry T. J.): St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, the text revised and illustrated by a commentary. 80, Lond. 1857.

BATTUS (Bartholomäus), Professor of Theology at Greifswald: Commentarii in Epistolam ad Galatas. 40, Gryphisw. 1613.

BAUMGARTEN (Sigmund Jakob), Professor of Theology at Halle: Auslegung der Briefe Pauli an die Galater, Ephes., Philipp., Coloss., Philem., und Thessal. (Mit Beyträgen von J. S. Semler). 40, Halle, 1767.

BETULEIUS (Matthäus): Epistola Pauli ad Galatas, paraphrasi et controversiarum explicatione illustrata. 80, Halae Sax. 1617.

BORGER (Elias Annes), Professor of Greek and History at Leyden: Interpretatio Epistolae Pauli ad Galatas. 80, Leyd. 1807.

BOSTON (Thomas), minister of Ettrick: A Paraphrase upon the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians [Works, vol. vi.]. 120, Lond. 1853.

BREITHAUPT (Joachim Justus), Professor of Theology at Halle: Observationum ex Commentario Lutheri in Epistolam ad Galatas exercitationes 10; in his “Miscellanea.”

BRENTZ (Johann), Provost at Stuttgard: Explicatio Epistolae ad Galatas. 1558.

BROWN (John), D.D., Professor of Exegetical Theology to the United Presbyterian Church, Edinburgh: An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians. 80, Edin. 1853.

BUGENHAGEN (Johann), Professor of Theology at Wittenberg: Adnotationes in Epistolas ad Gal., Eph., Philipp., Coloss., Thess., Timoth., Tit., Philem., et Hebraeos. 80, Basil. [1525] 1527.

CAREY (Sir Stafford), M.A.: The Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians, with a paraphrase and introduction. 120, Lond. 1867.

CARPZOV (Johann Benedict), Professor of Theology and Greek at Helmstädt: Brief an die Galater übersetzt. 80, Helmstädt, 1794.

CHANDLER (Samuel), minister in London: A Paraphrase and notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, … together with a critical and practical commentary on the two Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians. 40, Lond. 1777.

CHEMNITZ (Christian), Professor of Theology at Jena: Collegium theologicum super Epistolam ad Galatas. 40, Jenae, 1656.

CHYTRAEUS [or KOCHHAFE] (David), Professor of Theology at Rostock: Enarratio in Epistolam ad Galatas. 80, Francof. 1569.

CLAUDIUS Taurinensis, Bishop of Turin, called also Altissiodorensis or Autissiodorensis: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas [in Magn. Bibl. Vet. Patr. ix.].

COCCEJUS [or KOCH] (Johann), Professor of Theology at Leyden: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas. 40, Lugd. Bat. 1665.

CRELL (Johann), Socinian teacher at Cracow: Commentarius in Epistolam Pauli ad Galatas ex praelectionibus J. Crellii conscriptus a Jon. Schlichting. 80, Racov. 1628.

EADIE (John), D.D., Professor of Biblical Literature and Exegesis to United Presbyterian Church, Glasgow: A Commentary on the Greek text of the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians. 80, Edin. 1869.

ELLICOTT (Charles John), D.D., Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol: St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians; with a critical and grammatical commentary, and a revised translation. 8vo, Lond. 1854. 4th edition corrected, 1867.

ESMARCH (Heinrich Peter Christian): Brief an die Galater übersetzt. 80, Flensb. 1784.

FERGUSON (James), minister of Kilwinning, Ayrshire: A brief Exposition of the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians. 80, Lond. 1659.

FLATT (Johann Friedrich von), Professor of Theology at Tübingen: Vorlesungen über den Brief an die Galater und Epheser, herausgegeben von Ch. F. Kling. 80, Tübing. 1828.

FRITZSCHE (Karl Friedrich August), Professor of Theology at Rostock: Commentarius de nonnullis Epistolae ad Galatas locis. 3 partes. 40, Rostoch. 1833 4 [and in Fritzschiorum Opuscula].

GRYNAEUS (Johann Jakob), Professor of Theology at Heidelberg: Analysis Epistolae ad Galatas. 40, Basil. 1583.

GWYNNE (G. J.): Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. 80, Dubl. 1863.

HALDANE (James Alexander), Edinburgh: An Exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians. 120, Lond. 1848.

HENSLER (Christian Gotthilf), Professor of Theology at Kiel: Der Brief an die Galater übersetzt mit Anmerkungen. 80, Leip. 1805.

HERMANN (Johann Gottfried Jakob), Professor of Poetry at Leipzig: De Pauli Epistolae ad Galatas tribus primis capitibus. 80, Lips. 1832.

HILGENFELD (Adolf), Professor of Theology at Jena: Der Galaterbrief übersetzt, in seinen geschichtlichen Beziehungen untersucht und erklärt.… 80, Leip. 1852.

HOFMANN (Johann Christian Konrad von), Professor of Theology at Erlangen: Die Heilige Schrift neuen Testaments zusammen-hängend untersucht. II. 1. Der Brief Pauli an die Galater. 80, Nördlingen, 1863; 2te veränderte Auflage, 1872.

HOLSTEN (Carl), Teacher in Gymnasium at Rostock: Inhalt und Gedankengang des Briefes an die Galater, 4to, Rostock 1859; also, Zum Evangelium des Paulus und Petrus. 80, Rostock, 1868.

JATHO (Georg Friedrich), Director of Gymnasium at Hildesheim: Pauli Brief an die Galater nach seinem inneren Gedankengange erläutert. 80, Hildesheim 1856.

KRAUSE (Friedrich August Wilhelm), Private Tutor at Vienna: Der Brief an die Galater übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen begleitet. 80, Frankf. 1788.

KROMAYER (Hieronymus), Professor of Theology at Leipzig: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas 40, Lips. 1670.

KUNAD (Andreas), Professor of Theology at Wittenberg: Disputationes in Epistolam ad Galatas. 40, Witteb. 1658.

LIGHTFOOT (Joseph Barber), D.D., Professor of Divinity at Cambridge: St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. A revised text, with introduction, notes, and dissertations. 80, Lond. 1865. 3d edition, 1869.

LOCKE (John), the philosopher: A Paraphrase and notes on the Epistles to Galatians , 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, and Ephesians. 40, Lond. 1733.

LUSHINGTON (Thomas), M.A., Rector of Burnham-Westgate, Norfolk: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians [said to be chiefly translated from Crell]. fol., Lond. 1650.

LUTHER (Martin): In Epistolam Pauli ad Galatas Commentarius (brevior), 4to, Lips. 1519; ab auctore recognitus, 1523. In Epist. P. ad Gal. Commentarius (major) ex praelectionibus D. M. Lutheri collectus … a Luthero recognitus et castigatus, 8vo, Viteb. 1535; jam denuo diligenter recognitus, 8vo, Viteb. 1538. Often reprinted; translated into English in 1575, and often re-issued.

LYSER [or LEYSER] (Polycarp), Professor of Theology at Wittenberg: Analysis Epistolae ad Galatas. 40, Witteb. 1586.

MATTHIAS (G. W.), Co-rector of Gymnasium at Cassel: Der Galaterbrief griechisch und deutsch, nebst einer Erklärung seiner schwierigen Stellen. 80, Cassel, 1865.

MATTHIES (Konrad Stephan), Professor of Theology at Greifswald: Erklärung des Briefes Pauli an die Galater. 80, Greifswald, 1833.

MAYER (Ferdinand Gregorius), Professor of Greek at Vienna: Der Brief Pauli an die Galater und Deuteronomy 2:0 Brief an die Thessalonicher übersetzt mit Anmerkungen. 80, Wien, 1788.

MICHAELIS (Johann David), Professor of Philosophy at Göttingen: Paraphrase und Anmerkungen über die Briefe Pauli an die Galater, Ephes., Phil., Col., Thessal., Tim., Tit., Philem. 40, Bremen und Götting. 1750; 2te vermehrte Auflage, 1769.

MOLDENHAWER (Johann Heinrich Daniel), pastor at Hamburg: Brief an die Galater übersetzt. 80, Hamb. 1773.

MORUS (Samuel Friedrich Nathanael), Professor of Theology at Leipzig: Acroases in Epistolas Paulinas ad Galatas et Ephesios. 80, Leip. 1795.

MUSCULUS [or MEUSSLIN] (Wolfgang), Professor of Theology at Berne: In Epistolas Apostoli Pauli ad Galatas et Ephesios commentarii. fol., Basil. (1561) 1569.

PAREUS [or WAENGLER] (David), Professor of Theology at Heidelberg: In divinam S. Pauli ad Galatas Epistolam commentarius. 40, Heidelb. 1613.

PAULUS (Heinrich Eberhard Georg), Professor of Theology at Heidelberg: Des Apostel Paulus Lehrbriefe an die Galater und Römerchristen, wortgetreu übersetzt mit erläuternden Zwisch-ensätzen, einem Uberblick des Lehrinhalts und Bemerkungen über schwere Stellen. 80, Heidelb. 1831.

PERKINS (William), minister at Cambridge: A commentarie or exposition upon the five first chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians … Continued with a supplement upon the sixt chapter by Rodolfe Cudworth, B.D. [Works, vol. ii.]. 20, Lond. 1609.

PRIME (John), Fellow of New College, Oxford: Exposition and observations upon St. Paul to the Galatians. 80, Oxf. 1587.

REITHMAYR (Franz Xaver), R. C. Professor of Theology at Munich: Commentar zum Briefe an die Galater. 80, München, 1865.

RICCALTOUN (Robert), minister at Hobkirk: Notes and Observations on the Epistle to the Galatians [Works, iii.]. 80, Edin. 1771.

ROLLOCK (Robert), Principal of University of Edinburgh: Analysis logica in Epistolam ad Galatas. 80, Lond. 1602.

RÜCKERT (Leopold Immanuel), Professor of Theology at Jena: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Galater. 80, Leip. 1833.

SARDINOUX (Pierre-Auguste): Commentaire sur l’épitre aux Galates, précédé d’une introduction critique. 80, Valence, 1837.

SCHAFF (Philip), D.D., Professor of Theology at New York: An Introduction and comment on chapters i. ii. of the Epistle to the Galatians [in the Mercersburg Review, Jan. 1861].

SCHILLING (Johann Georg): Versuch einer Uebersetzung des Briefes an die Galater, mit erklärenden Bemerkungen, nach Koppe. 80, Leip. 1792.

SCHLICHTING (Jonas), Socinian minister at Cracow. See Crell (Johann).

SCHMID (Sebastian), Professor of Theology at Strassburg: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas. 40, Kiloni, 1690.

SCHMOLLER (Otto) of Urach, Würtemberg: Der Brief Pauli an die Galater theologisch-homiletisch bearbeitet [in Lange’s Bibelwerk], 8vo, Bielefeld 1862; 2te Auflage 1865. [Translated by C. C. Starbuck, A.M.; edited, with additions, by M. B. Riddle, D.D. 80, New York and Edin. 1870.]

SCHOTT (Heinrich August), Professor of Theology at Jena: Epistolae Pauli ad Thessalonicenses et Galatas. Textum Graecum recognovit et commentario perpetuo illustravit H. A. Schott. 80, Leips. 1834.

SCHÜTZE (Theodor Johann Abraham): Scholia in Epistolam ad Galatas. 40, Gerae, 1784.

SEMLER (Johann Salomon), Professor of Theology at Halle: Paraphrasis Epistolae Pauli ad, Galatas. 80, Halae, 1779.

SERIPANDO (Girolamo), Cardinal: Commentarius in Epistolam Pauli ad Galatas; ad nonnullas quaestiones ex textu Epistolae catholicae responsiones. 80, Antv. 1565.

STOLBERG (Balthasar), Professor of Greek at Wittenberg: Lectiones publicae in Epistolam ad Galatas. 40, Wittemb. 1667.

STRUENSEE (Adam), pastor at Altona: Erklärung des Briefes an die Galater. 40, Flensburg, 1764.

TRANA (August Leopold): Pauli ad Galatas Epistola. Exposuit, etc. 80, Gothob. 1857.

TURNER (Samuel Hulbeart), D.D., Professor of Biblical Interpretation at New York: The Epistle to the Galatians in Greek and English, with an analysis and exegetical commentary. 80, New York, 1856.

USTERI (Leonhard), Professor of Theology at Berne: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Galater, nebst einer Beilage … und einigen Excursen. 80, Zürich, 1833.

VICTORINUS (C. Marius), teacher of rhetoric at Rome about A.D. 360: In Epistolam Pauli ad Galatas commentariorum libri duo [in Mai’s Scrip. Vet. Nov. Coll . iii. 2].

WEBER (Michael), Professor of Theology at Halle: Der Brief an die Galater uebersetzt, mit Anmerkungen. 80, Leip. 1778.

WEISE (Friedrich), Professor of Theology at Helmstädt: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas. 40, Helmst. 1705.

WESSELIUS (Johannes), Professor of Theology at Leyden: Commentarius analytico-exegeticus tam litteralis quam realis in Epistolam Pauli ad Galatas. 40, Lugd. Bat. 1750.

WIESELER (Karl), Professor of Theology at Göttingen: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Galater, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die Lehre und Geschichte des Apostels. 80, Götting. 1859.

WINDISCHMANN (Friedrich), R. C. Professor of Theology at Munich: Erklärung des Briefes an die Galater. 80, Mainz, 1843.

WINER (Georg Benedict), Professor of Theology at Leipzig: Pauli ad Galatas Epistola. Latine vertit et perpetua annotatione illustravit Dr. G. B. Winer. 80, Lips. 1821. Editio quarta aucta et emendata, 1859.

ZACHARIAE (Gotthilf Traugott), Professor of Theology at Kiel: Paraphrastische Erklärung der Briefe Pauli an die Galater, Ephes., Phil., Col., und Thess. 80, Götting. [1771] 1787.


S INCE the days of Luther, who, as is well known, bestowed more especial and repeated labour on the exposition of this than of any other book of the New Testament, the Epistle to the Galatians has always been held in high esteem as the Gospel’s banner of freedom. To it, and to the kindred Epistle to the Romans, we owe most directly the springing up and development of the ideas and energies of the Reformation, which have overcome the work-righteousness of Romanism with all the superstition and unbelief accompanying it, and which will in the future, by virtue of their divine life once set free, overcome all fresh resistance till they achieve complete victory. This may be affirmed even of our present position towards Rome. For, if Paul by this Epistle introduces us into the very arena of his victory; if he makes us witnesses of his not yielding, even for an hour, to the false brethren; if he bids us hear how he confronts even his gravely erring fellow-apostle with the unbending standard of divinely-revealed truth; if he breaks all the spell of hypocrisy and error by which the foolish Galatians were bound, and in the clear power of the Holy Spirit brilliantly vindicates what no angel from heaven could with impunity have assailed; how should that doctrine, which at this moment the sorely beset old man in the chair of the fallible Peter proposes to invest with the halo of divine sanction, how should the ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον from Rome, which it is now sought to push to the extremity of the most flagrant contradictio in adjecto possibly issue in any other final result than an accelerated process of self-dissolution? It is, in fact, the profoundly sad destiny which a blinded and obdurate hierarchy must, doubtless amidst unspeakable moral harm, fulfil, that it should be always digging further and further at its own grave, till it at length and now the goal seems approaching, when these dead are to bury their dead with the last stroke of the spade shall sink into that grave, to rise no more.

The Epistle to the Galatians carries us back to that first Council of the Church, which at its parting could present to the world the simple and true self-witness: ἔδοξε τῷ ἁγίῳ πνεύματι καὶ ἡμῖν . How deep a shadow of contrast this throws not merely on the Vatican Fathers, but also we cannot conceal it on our own Synods, when their proceedings are pervaded by a zeal which, carried away by carnal aims, forfeits the simplicity, clearness, and wisdom of the Holy Spirit! Under such circumstances the Spirit is silent, and no longer bears His witness to the conscience; and instead of the blessing of synodal church-life, so much hoped for, and so much subjected to question, we meet with decrees, which are mere compromises of human minds very much opposed to each other, agreements, over which such a giving the right hand of holy fellowship as we read of in this letter (Galatians 2:9 ) would be a thing impossible.

In issuing for the fifth time (the fourth edition having appeared in 1862) my exposition of this Epistle, so transcendently important alike in its doctrinal and historical bearings, I need hardly say that I have diligently endeavoured to do my duty regarding it. I have sought to improve it throughout, and to render it more complete, in accordance with its design; and, while doing so, I have striven after a clearness and definiteness of expression, which should have nothing in common with the miserable twilight-haze and intentional concealment of meaning that characterize the selection of theological language in the present day. If I have been pretty often under the necessity of opposing the more recent expositors of the Epistle or of its individual sections, I need hardly give an assurance that I, on my part, am open to, and grateful for, any contradiction, provided only some true light is elicited thereby. Even if that opposition should come from the energies of youth, which cannot yet have attained their full exegetical maturity, I gladly adopt the language of the tragedian (Aeschyl. Agam . 583 f.):

Νικώμενος λόγοισιν οὐκ ἀναίνομαι ·

Ἀεὶ γὰρ ἡβᾷ τοῖς γέρουσιν εὖ μαθεῖν .


HANNOVER, 18 th June 1870.





T HE region of Galatia , or Gallograecia (see generally Strabo, xii. 5), bounded by Paphlagonia, Pontus, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, and having as its chief cities Ancyra, Pessinus, and Tavium, derived its name from the Gauls ( Γαλάται , which is only a later form of the original Κελτοί or Κέλται , Pausan, Galatians 1:3 ; Galatians 1:5 ). For the Gallic tribes of the Τροκμοί and Τολιστοβόγοι (Strabo, l.c . p. 566), in conjunction with the Germanic [1] tribe of the Tectosages, which, according to Strabo, was akin to them in language (Caes. B. Gall . vi. 24; Memnon in Phot. cod. 224, p. 374), after invading and devastating Macedonia and Greece (Justin. xxiv. 4) about 280 B.C., and establishing in Thrace the kingdom of Tyle (Polyb. iv. 45 f.), migrated thence under the leadership of Leonorius and Lotharius to Asia, where they received a territory from the Bithynian king Nicomedes for their services in war. This territory they soon enlarged by predatory expeditions (Liv. xxxviii. 16; Flor. ii. 11; Justin. xxv. 2; Strabo, iv. p. 187, xii. p. 566); although by Attalus, king of Pergamus, who conquered them, it was restricted to the fertile region of the Halys (Strabo, xii. p. 567; Liv. xxxviii. 16). This powerful, dreaded (Polyb. v. 53; 2Ma 8:20 ), and freedom-loving (Flor. ii. 11) people, were brought into subjection to the Romans by the consul Cn. Manlius Vulso, 189 B.C. (Liv. xxxviii. 12 ff.); but they still for a long time retained both their Celtic cantonal constitution and their own tetrarchs (Strabo, xii. pp. 541, 567), who subsequently bore the title of king (Cic. p. rege Deiotaro ; Vellei. ii. 84; Appian, v. p. 1135; Plut. Ant . 61). The last of these kings, Amyntas (put to death 26 B.C.), owed it to the favour of Antonius and Augustus that Pisidia and parts of Lycaonia [2] and of Pamphylia were added to his territory (Dio Cass. xlix. 32, liii. 26; Strabo, xii. p. 569). In the year 26 Galatia, as enlarged under Amyntas, became a Roman province (Dio Cass. 53:26; Strabo, xii. p. 569). See generally, in addition to the Commentaries and Introductions, Wernsdorf, de republ. Galatar ., Norimb. 1743; Hoffmann, Introd. theol. crit. in lect. ep. P. ad Gal. et Col ., Lips. 1750; Schulze, de Galatis , Francof. 1756; Mynster, Einl. in d. Brief an d. Gal ., in his kl. theol. Schr ., Kopenh. 1825, p. 49 if.; Hermes, rerum Galaticar. specimen , Vratisl. 1822; Baumstark, in Pauly’s Realencykl . III. p. 604 ff.; Rüetschi, in Herzog’s Encykl , IV. p. 637 f.; Contzen, Wanderungen der Celten , Leip. 1861.

[1] This serves to explain Jerome’s statement, based on personal experience ( Prol. in libr. secund. comment. in ep. ad Gal .), that the popular language, which in his time was still spoken by the Galatians along with Greek, was almost the same ( eandem paene ) with that of the Treviri . Now the Treviri were Germans (Strabo, iv. p. 194), and “circa affectationem Germanicae originis ultro ambitiosi” (Tacit. Germ . 28). Comp. Jablonski, de lingua Lycaon . p. 23. See, generally, Diefenbach, Celtica , Stuttg. 1839 f.; Rettberg, Kirchengesch. Deutschl . i. p. 19 ff. The two last, without adequate grounds, call in question the Germanic nationality of the Galatians. See, on the other side, Wieseler, p. 524 ff., and in Herzog’s Encykl . XIX. p. 524. The conversion of the Galatians is the beginning of German Church-history.

[2] Not the whole of Lycaonia, particularly not the south-eastern portion and Iconium. See Rückert, Magaz . I. p. 98 ff.

On account of the additional territories thus annexed to Galatia proper under Amyntas, it has been maintained that the readers of this epistle are not to be looked upon as the Galatians proper, but as the new Galatians , that is, Lycaonians (especially the Christians of Derbe and Lystra ) and Pisidians (Joh. Joach. Schmidt (in Michaelis); Mynster, l.c . p. 58 ff.; Niemeyer, de temp. quo ep. ad Gal. etc ., Gött. 1827; Paulus, in the Heidelb. Jahrb . 1827, p. 636 ff., and Lehrbriefe an d. Gal. u. Röm . p. 25 ff.; Ulrich, in the Stud. u. Krit . 1836, ii.; Böttger, Beitr . 1 and 3; Thiersch, Kirche im apost. Zeitalt . p. 124). But this view is decisively opposed both by the language of Acts (Acts 14:6 , comp. with Acts 16:6 ; Acts 18:23 ), in which the universally current popular mode of designation, not based on the new provincial arrangements, is employed; and also by the circumstance that Paul could not have expressed himself (Galatians 1:2 ) in a more singular and indefinite way than by ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας , if he had not meant Galatia proper, the old Galatia. Nor are any passages found in Greek authors, in which districts of Lycaonia or Pisidia are designated, in accordance with that extension of the limits of the province, by the name of Galatia. See Rückert, Magaz . I. p. 105 f.; Anger, de ratione temp . p. 132 ff.; Wieseler, Chronol. d. apost. Zeitalt . p. 281 f., and on Gal. p. 530 ff.

The founder of the Galatian churches was Paul himself (Galatians 1:6-8 ; Galatians 4:13 ff.) on his second missionary journey, Acts 16:6 (not so early as Acts 14:6 ). Bodily weakness (Galatians 4:13 ) had compelled him to make a halt in Galatia, and during his stay he planted Christianity there. Looking at the involuntary character of this occasion and the unknown nature of the locality to which his first work in the country was thus, as it were, accidentally directed, it might appear doubtful whether in this case he followed his usual rule, as attested in Acts, of commencing his work of conversion with the Jews; but we must assume that he did so, [3] for the simple reason that he would be sure to seek the shelter and nursing, which in sickness he needed, in the house of one of his own nation: comp. on Galatians 4:14 . Nor was there any want of Jewish residents, possibly in considerable numbers, in Galatia (as we may with reason infer from Joseph. Antt . xii. 3. 4, xvi. 6. 2, as well as from the diffusion of the Jews over Asia generally; not, however, from 1 Peter 1:1 ); although from the epistle itself it is evident (see sec. 2) that the larger part, indeed the great majority, of its readers (not the whole, as Hilgenfeld thinks; comp. Hofmann) consisted of Gentile Christians . The arguments from the Old Testament (together with a partially rabbinical mode of interpretation), which Paul nevertheless employs, were partly based on the necessary course of the apostolic preaching which had to announce Christ as the fulfilment of Old Testament promises, as well as on the acquaintance with the Old Testament which was to be presupposed in all Christian churches (comp. on Galatians 4:21 ); partly suggested to the apostle by the special subject itself which was in question (see sec. 2); partly justified, and indeed rendered necessary, by the fact that the apostle who must, at any rate, have taken notice of the antagonistic teachers and the means of warding off their attack had to do with churches which had already for a time been worked upon by Judaists and had thus been sufficiently introduced to a knowledge of the Old Testament. The supposition of Storr, Mynster ( l.c . p. 76), and Credner, that great part of the Galatian Christians had been previously proselytes of the gate, appears thus to be unnecessary, and is destitute of proof from the epistle itself, and indeed opposed to its expressions; see on Galatians 4:9 .

[3] As also Neander, de Wette, Wieseler, and most others assume, in opposition, however, to Schneckenburger ( Zweck d. Apostelgesch . p. 104), Baur, and Hilgenfeld.


Judaizing Christian teachers with Pharisaic leanings (comp. Acts 16:1 ) emissaries from Palestine (not unbelieving Jews; Michaelis, Einl .) had made their appearance among the Galatian churches after Paul, and with their attacks upon his apostolic dignity (Galatians 1:1 ; Galatians 1:11 ; Galatians 2:14 ), and their assertion of the necessity of circumcision for Christians (Galatians 5:2 ; Galatians 5:11-12 , Galatians 6:12 f.), which involved as a necessary consequence the obligation of the whole law (Galatians 5:3 ), had found but too ready a hearing, so that the Judaizing tendency was on the point of getting the upper hand (Galatians 1:6 ; Galatians 3:1 ; Galatians 3:3 ; Galatians 4:9 ff.; Galatians 4:21 ; Galatians 5:2 ff.; Galatians 5:7 ). Now the question is, whether these anti-Pauline teachers who, however, are not, on account of Galatians 5:12 , Galatians 6:13 , to be considered either wholly or in part as proselytes (Neander, Schott, de Wette; see, on the other hand, Hilgenfeld, p. 46 f.) made their appearance before , (Credner, Rückert, Schott, Hilgenfeld, Reuss, Wieseler, and others), or not till after (Neander, de Wette, Hofmann, and others), the second visit of the apostle (Acts 18:23 ; see sec. 3). From Galatians 1:6 , Galatians 3:1 , it is evident that Paul now for the first time has to do with the church as actually perverted ; he is surprised and warmly indignant at what had taken place. Nevertheless it is evident, from Galatians 1:9 , Galatians 5:3 , Galatians 4:16 , that he had already spoken personally in Galatia against Judaizing perversion, and that with great earnestness. We must therefore assume that, when Paul was among the Galatians for the second time, the danger was only threatening , but there already existed an inclination to yield to it, and his language against it was consequently of a warning and precautionary nature. It was only after the apostle’s departure that the false teachers set to work with their perversions; and although they did not get so far as circumcision (see on Galatians 4:10 ), still they met with so much success, [4] and caused so much disturbance of peace (Galatians 5:15 ), that the accounts came upon him with all the surprise which he indicates in Galatians 1:6 , Galatians 3:1 . Comp. also Ewald, p. 54; Lechler, apost. Zeitalt . p. 383.

[4] To the extent, at any rate, of an observance of the Jewish feast-days and seasons (Galatians 4:10 ).

In accordance with this state of things which gave occasion to the letter, it was the object of Paul to defend in it his apostolic authority, and to bring his readers to a triumphant conviction of the freedom of the Christian from circumcision and the Mosaic law through the justification arising from God’s grace in Christ. But we are not entitled to assume that “in the liveliness of his zeal he represented the matter as too dangerous” (de Wette); the more especially as it involved the most vital question of Pauline Christianity, and along with it also the whole personal function and position of the apostle, who was divinely conscious of the truth of his gospel, and therefore must not be judged, in relation to his opponents, according to the usual standard of “party against party.” [5]

[5] Baur, Paulus , I. p. 282, Exodus 2:0 .

As regards contents , (1) the apologetico-dogmatic portion of the epistle divides itself into two branches: ( a ) the defence of the apostolic standing and dignity of Paul, ch. 1 and 2, in connection with which the foundation of Christian freedom is also set forth in Galatians 2:15-21 ; ( b ) the proof that the Christian, through God’s grace in Christ, is independent of circumcision and Mosaism, ch. 3 and 4. Next, (2) in the hortatory portion, the readers are encouraged to hold fast to their Christian freedom, but also not to misuse it, ch. 5. Then follow other general exhortations, ch. Galatians 6:1-10 ; and finally an energetic autograph warning against the seducers (Galatians 6:11-16 ), and the conclusion. The idea that the epistle is the reply to a letter of information and inquiry from, the church (Hofmann), is neither based on any direct evidence in the epistle itself (how wholly different is the case with 1 Cor.!), nor indirectly suggested by particular passages (not even by Galatians 4:12 ); and such an assumption is by no means necessary for understanding the course and arguments of the epistle.


The date of composition may be gathered from Galatians 4:13 , compared with Acts 16:6 ; Acts 18:23 . From εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν τὸ πρότερον , Galatians 4:13 , it is most distinctly evident that, when Paul wrote, he had already twice visited Galatia and had preached the gospel there. The constant use of εὐαγγελίζεσθαι to denote oral preaching precludes us from taking (with Grotius, and Keil, Anal . IV. 2, p. 70) τὸ πρότερον as said with relation to his present written instruction. Those, therefore, are certainly in error, who assume that the epistle was composed after the first visit of the apostle, whether this first visit be placed correctly at Acts 16:6 (Michaelis) or erroneously at Acts 14:6 (Keil). As regards the latter, Keil has indeed asserted that in ch. 1 and 2. Paul continues his history only down to his second journey to Jerusalem, Acts 11:30 ; that he does not mention the apostolic conference and decree, Acts 15:0 (comp. also Ulrich, l.c .); and that in this epistle his judgment of Mosaism is more severe than after that conference. But the journey, Galatians 2:1 , is identical with that of Acts 15:0 (see the commentary); his omission to mention the apostolic conference and decree [6] is necessarily connected with the self-subsistent position wholly independent of the authority of all the other apostles, and indeed recognised by the “pillars” themselves (Galatians 2:9 f.) which Paul claimed for himself on principle in opposition to Judaizing efforts. Therefore neither in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 8:1 ff., 1 Corinthians 10:23 ff.), nor in that to the Romans (Romans 14:0 ), nor anywhere else, does he take any notice of the Jerusalem decree. [7] Assured of his own apostolic independence as a minister of Christ directly called and furnished with the revelation of the gospel for the Gentile world in particular, he has never, in any point of doctrine, cited in his favour the authority of other apostles or decrees of the church; and he was least likely to do so when, as in the present case, the matter at stake was a question not merely affecting some point of church-order, but concerning the deepest principles of the plan of salvation. [8] Moreover, the first three injunctions of that decree in particular (Acts 15:29 ) agree so little with the principle of full Christian liberty, consistently upheld in the letters of the apostle, that we must suppose the decree to have speedily with his further official experience acquired after the council lost altogether for him its provisional obligation. It is, further, a mistake to apply ἡ περίχωρος , Acts 14:6 , to Galatia, as, besides Keil, also Koppe, Borger, Niemeyer, Mynster, Paulus, Böttger, and others, have done; for this περίχωρος can only be the country round Lystra and Derbe, and it is quite inadmissible to transfer the name to the Lycaonian region (see sec. 1). Lastly, in order to prove a very early composition of the letter, soon after the conversion of the readers, appeal has been made to οὕτω ταχέως , Galatians 1:6 , but without due exegetical grounds (see the commentary); and indeed the mention of Barnabas in Galatians 2:13 ought not to have been adduced (Koppe), for a personal acquaintance of the readers with him (which they must certainly have made before Acts 15:39 ) is not at all expressed in it. If, in accordance with all these considerations, the epistle was not written after the first visit to Galatia, a date also inconsistent with the fact that its contents presuppose a church-life already developed, and an influence of the false teachers which had already been some time at work and if the first visit of the apostle is to be placed, not at Acts 14:6 , but at Acts 16:6 , [9] followed by the second visit confirming the churches, Acts 18:23 , then most modern expositors, following the earlier, are right in their conclusion that the epistle was not composed until after Acts 18:23 . So Bertholdt, Eichhorn, Hug, de Wette, Winer, Hemsen, Neander, Usteri, Schott, Rückert, Anger, Credner, Guericke, Olshausen, Wieseler, Reuss, Hilgenfeld, Ewald, Bleek, Hofmann, and others. We must reject the views, which place the date of composition between Acts 16:6 and Acts 18:23 , as maintained by Grotius (on Galatians 1:2 ), Baumgarten, Semler (on Baumg . p. 895, not in the Paraphr .), Michaelis, Koppe, Storr, Borger, Schmidt, Mynster, or which carry the epistle back to a date even before the apostolic conference , as held by Beza, Calvin, Keil, Niemeyer, Paulus, [10] Böttger, [11] Ulrich.

[6] Against the opinion that the unhistorical character of the narrative of the apostolic council and decree may be inferred from our epistle (Baur, Schwegler, Zeller, Hilgenfeld), see on Acts 15:15 f. The Tübingen school believe that in this epistle they have found “the Archimedean point of their task” (Hilgenfeld, in the Zeitschrift f. histor. Theol . 1855, p. 484).

[7] This uniform silence as to the decree in all the epistles shows that that silence in our epistle must not be explained either by the presumed acquaintance of the Galatians with it (Schaff, p. 182), or by the idea that the apostle was unwilling to supply his opponents with any weapon against him (Ebrard).

[8] “His word as Christ’s apostle for the Gentiles must be decree enough for them” (Thiersch, Kirche im apost. Zeitalt . p. 130. See also Wieseler, in Herzog’s Encykl . XIX. p. 528).

[9] It has been objected, indeed, that on this journey Paul only confirmed the churches, which presupposes an earlier conversion (Acts 15:36 ff; Acts 16:5 ). But Acts 16:6 begins a new stage in the historical narrative, and Phrygia and Galatia are separated from those places to which the confirming ministry referred. Nor is it to be said that in Acts 16:6 Paul was withheld by the Spirit from preaching in Galatia. For the hindrance by the Spirit affected not Galatia, but the regions along the coast of Asia Minor. See on Acts 16:6 .

[10] According to Paulus, the apostle wrote to the New-Galatians (see sec. 1), whom he converted at Acts 14:6 and visited for the second time (Galatians 4:13 ) at Acts 14:21 .

[11] According to Böttger ( Beitr . 3, § 1 11), the epistle is addressed to the New-Galatians (Lycaonians and Pisidians), and was written in the year 51, after the first missionary journey of the apostle. Böttger has repeated Keil’s arguments, and has added fresh ones, which are untenable. See their copious refutation by Rückert, Magaz . I. p. 112 ff.

As we cannot gather from the relative expression οὕτω ταχέως (Galatians 1:6 ) how soon after Acts 18:23 the epistle was composed, the year of its composition cannot be stated more precisely than (see Introd. to Acts) as about 56 or 57. [12] Ephesus appears to be the place from which it was written; for Paul proceeded thither after his second labours in Galatia (Acts 19:1 ). So Theophylact, Oecumenius, Erasmus, and most modern expositors. Rückert, however, following Hug, maintains that Paul wrote his epistle very soon after his departure from Galatia, probably even on the journey to Ephesus; but, on the other hand, the passage Galatians 4:18 indicates that after the apostle’s departure the Judaists had perverted the churches which he had warned and confirmed, and some measure of time must have been required for this, although the perversion appears still so recent that there is no adequate reason for postponing the composition of the epistle to the sojourn of the apostle at Corinth, Acts 20:3 (Bleek conjecturally).

[12] From the remarkable difference in the positions which have been assigned to our letter in the history of the apostle, Marcion (in Tertull. c. Marc . 5, and in Epiph. Hær . xlii. 9), and subsequently Michaelis, Baumgarten, Koppe, Schmidt, Keil, Mynster, Niemeyer, Paulus, Ulrich, making it the very first , and Schrader and Köhler the very last , of the Pauline epistles, it was natural that the year of composition should be fixed at the most various dates, even apart from the differences of reckoning as to the Pauline chronology. In consequence of this divergence of opinion as to its historical position, the statements as to the place of composition have necessarily been very various (Troas, Corinth, Antioch, Ephesus, Rome).

The usual subscription, which is given by the old codd. B**, K, L, says ἐγράφη ἀπὸ Ῥώμης ; and Jerome, Theodoret, Euthalius, and the Syrian church, as afterwards Baronius, Flacius, Salmasius, Estius, Calovius, and others, held this opinion, which arose simply from a misunderstanding of Galatians 4:20 , Galatians 6:11 , and especially Galatians 6:17 , and was quite unwarrantably supported by Galatians 2:10 (comp. with Romans 15:28 ). Nevertheless, recently Schrader (i. p. 216 ff.) and Köhler ( Abfassungzeit der epistol. Schriften , p. 125 ff.), the latter of whom exceeds the former in caprice, again date the epistle from Rome. For the refutation of which their arguments are not worthy, see Schott, Erörterung , pp. 63 ff., 41 ff., 116 ff.; Usteri, p. 222 ff.

The genuineness is established by external testimony (Iren. Haer . iii. 6. 5, iii. 7. 2, iii. 16. 3, v. 21. 1; Tatian, in Jerome; Clem. Alex. Strom . iii. p. 468, ed. Sylb.; Tertull. de praescr . 6, et al.; Canon Murat ., Valentinus in Irenaeus, Marcion) although the apostolic Fathers contain no trace in any measure certain, and Justin’s writings only a probable trace, of the letter [13] as well as by the completely and vividly Pauline cast of the writer’s spirit and language. It is thus so firmly established, that, except by Bruno Bauer’s wanton “Kritik” (1850), it has never been, and never can be, doubted. The numerous interpolations which, according to Weisse ( Beiträge zur Krit. d. Paulin. Briefe , edited by Sulze, 1867, p. 19 ff.), the apostolic text has undergone, depend entirely on a subjective criticism of the style, conducted with an utter disregard of external critical testimony.

[13] Even in Polycarp, Phil . 5, comp. Galatians 6:7 , there may be a quite accidental similarity of expression. Lardner appealed to Clem. ad Cor . i. 49; Ignat. ad Philad . 1, ad Magnes . 8; Just. Mart. ad Graec . p. 40, ed. Colon, and discovered in these passages allusions to Galatians 1:4 ; Galatians 1:1 ; Galatians 5:4 ; Galatians 4:12 . There appears to be an actual allusion to this last passage in Justin, where it runs: γίνεσθε ὡς ἐγώ · ὅτι κἀγὼ ἤμην ὡς ὑμεῖς . The probability of this is increased by the fact that Justin soon afterwards uses the words, ἔχθραι , ἔρεις , ζῆλος , ἐριθεῖαι , θυμοί , καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις , which look like an echo of Galatians 5:20 f.