SECTION 7. — A SUBSEQUENT VISIT TO JERUSALEM.
Then, fourteen years having elapsed, again I went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking along with me also Titus. And I went up according to revelation; and I set before them the Gospel which I proclaim among the Gentiles, (privately, however, to those of repute,) lest in any way I should be running or have run in vain.
But not even Titus who was with me, he being a Greek, was compelled to receive circumcision, and that because of the false brethren privately brought in, who came in privately to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage. To whom not even for an hour did we yield by submission; that the truth of the Gospel might remain with you.
Moreover, from those reputed to be something-what kind of men they formerly were, makes no difference to me: a man’s appearance God does not accept: for to me those in repute proposed nothing: but, on the contrary, having seen that I am entrusted with the Gospel of the uncircumcision, according as Peter with that of the circumcision, (for he who wrought for Peter for apostleship of the circumcision wrought also for me for the Gentiles,) and having known the grace given to me, James and Cephas and John, the men reputed to be pillars, gave their right hands to me and Barnabas, right hands of fellowship, that we should be for the Gentiles, but they for the circumcision. Only that the poor we should remember, which very thing I have also been eager to do.
Paul’s independence of the earlier apostles, proved in §§ 5, 6, by the slightness of his intercourse with them in the years following his conversion, he now further proves by his formal intercourse with them on a later visit to Jerusalem. Of this visit, he describes (Galatians 2:2) the occasion and purpose; and the reception then given (Galatians 2:3-5) to Titus, and (Galatians 2:6-10) to himself.
Galatians 2:1. Then: a fourth stage in the narrative, following those similarly introduced in Galatians 1:18; Galatians 1:21.
Fourteen years: reckoned probably from the just-mentioned visit to Jerusalem, which visit is recalled by the word again. To this simple exposition there is no chronological objection. See Diss. i. 7; and 3, where I hope to show that this journey may be confidently identified with that in Acts 15:4.
With Barnabas: as recorded in Acts 15:2 : see note under Galatians 2:21.
Along with me; seems to reveal Paul’s consciousness that in this mission he took the chief part, and thus accords with the order of names in Acts 15:2, where compare certain others with them. Of Paul’s companions, Barnabas and Titus, and they only, are mentioned, in view of the incidents recorded in Galatians 2:3; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:13.
Also Titus: as well as Barnabas: see note under 2 Corinthians 9:5.
Galatians 2:2. Occasion and purpose of this journey.
According to revelation: in agreement with, and therefore prompted by supernatural light from God, either in a vision or in some other mode unknown to us. Cp. 2 Corinthians 12:1 ff. This was the inner and real, as Acts 15:2 states the outer and formal occasion of Paul’s visit to Jerusalem. Similarly, Peter went to Caesarea (Acts 10:20) both by request of Cornelius and by Divine revelation. We can well conceive that amid the disputes at Antioch Paul sought counsel from God, and received a special reply which moved him to undertake the journey. This revelation, guiding Paul’s movements, attests his peculiar and independent relation to God.
Set before (or presented to) them: for their judgment. Similar word in Galatians 2:6; Galatians 1:16; the same word in Acts 25:14.
To them: indefinite, followed by the more exact statement, to those in repute. The looser statement was perhaps prompted by the thought that what Paul said to the leaders at Jerusalem he said through them to the whole Church.
The Gospel which, etc.: the matter of his preaching in heathen countries.
Privately, however: manner in which Paul presented his Gospel to the Christians at Jerusalem, viz. not in a public gathering but in a private interview, and not to the whole Church but to some of its members whom all esteemed.
Those in repute: Galatians 2:6. There is no hint here that Paul presented his Gospel afterwards to the whole Church. Had he meant this, he would have said it. His words here are easily harmonised with Acts 15:12 by supposing that, before the public assembly met, Paul stated his principles privately to the leaders of the Church, and that in the assembly he merely narrated the facts of his missionary journey, leaving the exposition of Gospel principles to the earlier apostles. Possibly, to this preliminary interview was due the harmony of the assembly. See Diss. i. 3.
Lest… in vain: purpose, not only of the subordinate details of manner, viz. privately, to those in repute, but of the more important general statement I presented to them the Gospel.
In any way; suggests (cp. 1 Corinthians 9:27) Paul’s careful foresight of all contingencies.
Be running: 1 Corinthians 9:26; Philippians 2:16; i.e. along the apostolic course marked out for him by God, with all speed, and for a prize. In order that his present strenuous efforts and those of the past seventeen years, may not be in vain, Paul expounded to the Church at Jerusalem his teaching among the Gentiles.
Paul’s purpose implies that upon the approval of his teaching by the other apostles depended the permanent success of his past and present labours. And this, after the lapse of so many centuries, and without having received as yet any hint of the nature of the point in dispute, we can in some measure understand. Had there been essential diversity of teaching between Paul and the earlier apostles, Christianity would have perished in its cradle. For, the sole and sufficient proof that the Gospel as preached in the early Church was actually taught by Christ, was the unanimous testimony of the leaders of the Church. Had Paul’s Jewish opponents in Jerusalem (Acts 15:5) or Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:4) or Galatia (Galatians 1:7) been able successfully to appeal from him to Peter, their appeal would have been irresistible; and would either have discredited his teaching or have created most serious doubt as to what was the actual teaching of Christ. Such doubt would have rendered impossible the firm faith needful to inspire heroic Christian life capable of making head against the corruptions, and the tremendous hostility, of the world around. Therefore, in order that the Church might survive the storms which threatened its life, it was all-important that, by an unmistakable and formal declaration, such appeal to the earlier apostles should be rendered impossible. Discord between them and Paul would have shaken the faith of his converts, and have prevented the erection of a Church capable of enduring to the end of time. It would thus have made vain his past labours, and have blighted the hopes which were the inspiration of his life.
The foregoing exposition implies that the point in dispute was vital. For, difference of opinion about a mere detail would not have been serious. And Paul’s calm resolution to maintain to the letter his own teaching, in spite of the felt importance of harmony, proves the infinite importance of the matter in debate. This explains in some measure the tremendous condemnation in Galatians 1:8 f. And it raises to the highest degree our eagerness to know the point at issue. For we feel instinctively that a matter of such transcendent importance then must pertain to all time and to all men. It will gradually transpire as we follow the argument of the Epistle.
The purpose here stated does not necessarily imply any real fear about the result of this interview. Paul merely tells us the means he took to guard against what would otherwise have been a serious danger. Doubtless, he knew well that, whatever some other members of the Church at Jerusalem might say, the apostles would support him.
Notice that Paul’s acknowledgment that his own permanent success depended on his colleagues’ approval of his teaching was the strongest denial he could give to the insinuation that his teaching differed from theirs. His wish to work in harmony with the earlier apostles is attested by his visits, at some peril, to Jerusalem.
[The interpretation of the last words of Galatians 2:2 is open to some doubt. The indicative εδραμον suggests that also τρεχω is indicative; and that μη introduces, not a negative purpose as expounded above, but an indirect question. Cp. 1 Thessalonians 3:5. If so, Paul asks whether his present or past labours were in vain. This would be practically an appeal to his success in proof of the divine authority of his teaching. And against the exposition adopted above it is objected that an aorist indicative cannot express a purpose. On the other hand, the construction just suggested is most unusual if not unparalleled; whereas μη introducing a negative purpose is very common.
Moreover, in an appeal to the success of his work, Paul would have spoken first of his past efforts, whether I have run or am running in vain: or, rather, he would have spoken only of the past. For the results of his present efforts could not yet be tested. But here his present efforts are mentioned first. And, again, it is very doubtful whether Paul’s success among the Gentiles was sufficiently evident to his fellow-apostles to be the ground of an important argument about the truth of his teaching. It is much easier to suppose (with A.V. and R.V.) that τρεχω is subjunctive. noting a negative purpose; and that η εδραμον is an afterthought, modifying somewhat the earlier construction. At the time of his journey to Jerusalem Paul was in the midst of Gospel effort. He remembers that the permanence of the Church, and therefore the abiding success of his present efforts, depend upon the harmony of the apostles. He remembers also his long course of past effort. And, since this past effort is now matter of fact, its results only being still contingent, he speaks of it in the aorist indicative. In this he is justified by its use after μη when, (e.g. Galatians 4:10) expressing fear: for in a negative purpose the idea of fear is always present.]
Galatians 2:3-10. Result of Paul’s taking Titus to Jerusalem and presenting his Gospel to the Christians there: viz. that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised, Galatians 2:3-5 : and that the teaching of Paul and Barnabas was cordially approved by the leaders of the Church, Galatians 2:6-10.
Galatians 2:3. But, or nevertheless: although I took with me Titus, and presented the whole matter of my preaching, nevertheless, etc.
Not even Titus: as one very likely to be compelled to be circumcised. This is explained by the words (cp. Galatians 1:2, Acts 15:25) who was with me. Even though other Gentile Christians were allowed to remain uncircumcised, yet the official position of Titus, as representative to Jerusalem along with Paul of the Church at Antioch, might have been urged as a reason why he should pay respect to the ancient Covenant of God with Israel by submitting to circumcision. That this was not required from Titus, is clear proof that the Church at Jerusalem did not consider circumcision needful for the highest Christian privileges.
Greek: see under Romans 1:14.
He being a Greek: and thus uncircumcised. This guards against the inference that the Christians at Jerusalem would have tolerated (cp. Acts 21:21; Acts 16:3) an uncircumcised descendant of Abraham.
Was not compelled to be circumcised; suggests that there was pressure, in remarkable accord with Acts 15:5; but states that the pressure was not effective.
Galatians 2:4. Reason why Titus was not compelled to be circumcised; or rather a reason of something therein implied, and stated plainly in Galatians 2:5, viz. that Paul and others strenuously resisted the pressure to have Titus circumcised. In ordinary circumstances the circumcision of a Gentile convert, at the request of Jewish Christians with whom he was associated, would have been less important. But at Jerusalem were men who had intruded themselves into the Church in order to rob the Gospel of its distinctive features and thus (Galatians 1:7) overturn it, and who with this in view demanded as obligatory the circumcision of Titus. Paul here says that their demand prevented his circumcision. For it would have been an admission that the rite was still binding.
The privately-brought-in false-brethren: enemies of the Gospel, who by concealing their real opinions and pretending faith in Christ had crept into the Church at Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians 11:13 we find similar men at Corinth.
Privately… privately: suggested rather than expressed by the first syllable of the Greek words here used. The suggestion is strengthened by the repetition, and by the word spy-out. Same compound words in 2 Peter 2:1; Romans 5:20; cp. Judges 1:4; 2 Peter 1:5. This secrecy implies that these men were a small minority of the Church at Jerusalem; and that the majority did not share or know, and would not have tolerated, their views. Else, the secrecy were needless. Consequently, these words are an indirect and courteous recognition by Paul of the soundness of their faith.
False-brethren: Christians only in pretence. Cp. 2 Corinthians 11:26; Acts 13:6; Matthew 24:24; 2 Corinthians 11:3. Contrast the weak brethren in 1 Corinthians 8:11 f. It would be unfair to assume that these false brethren were the Pharisees mentioned in Acts 15:5 : for these last are called actual believers. But the presence in the Church of converted Pharisees who had not cast off completely the prejudices of their early training would make more easy the entrance of the false brethren. Hence these passages confirm each other.
To-spy-out: same word in 2 Samuel 10:3; similar words in Hebrews 11:31; Joshua 2:1-3 : definite purpose of these men when entering the Church. They wished to learn all they could about Christianity in order to pervert it.
Our freedom: from the Mosaic Law of works, which they wished to reimpose. And this involves freedom from sin and from every humiliating restraint: cp. 1 Corinthians 7:22; 1 Corinthians 9:19; John 8:32.
Which we have, etc.; expounds and dwells upon the word our. This freedom is in Christ: i.e. objectively, through the historical facts of His death and resurrection; and subjectively in virtue of, and in proportion to, our spiritual union with Him. Thus Paul, as his wont is, anticipates Galatians 4:26; Galatians 5:1; Galatians 5:13.
Our… we… us: all Christians, specially including those at Jerusalem into whose midst the false brethren crept, and with whom Paul here associates himself as sharer of the same freedom. This is another acknowledgment of the spiritual life of the Jewish Christians. In Galatians 2:5, the Gentile Christians are specially referred to.
Us: emphatic, the mass of the Christians at Jerusalem, in contrast to the secret intruders.
Bring-into-bondage: a very strong word: they crept into our midst in order that they might crush us down into slavery.
These words are the first indication of the error disseminated by the disturbers in Galatia. For, only by supposing that they asserted the universal necessity of circumcision can we account for the mention of the rite here. That our supposition is correct, is placed beyond doubt by Galatians 5:2; Galatians 6:12; and by the whole argument of DIV. II. which reveals the spiritual consequences of this demand. We therefore infer with certainty that Galatians 2:4 would recall to Paul’s readers men in their midst essentially the same as those here described. Against both classes of false teachers, the curse of Galatians 1:8 f was valid. And their deceitfulness (cp. Galatians 4:17; Galatians 6:12) helps us to understand it.
Galatians 2:5. We did not yield; implies that, through the resistance of Paul and others, the pressure put on Titus failed. Who these others were, we are left to infer. But the secrecy needed for the entrance of the false brethren, and the full accord with Paul of the leaders at Jerusalem, suggest that these last were included, as were probably other members of the Church there.
Not even for an hour: emphatic. It implies that the demand was made at a definite time; and therefore more or less formally. It was at once resisted.
By submission: suggested by bring-into bondage. To have yielded the circumcision of Titus, would have been to how to the yoke which the secret foes sought to impose. A close coincidence with Acts 15:10.
The truth of the Gospel: Colossians 1:5 : the correspondence with reality which belongs to the good news. The teaching of the false brethren was at variance with reality. For, under the Gospel, circumcision is not actually a condition of the favour of God.
Might continue; suggests that the Galatians were in danger of losing the truth they already possessed.
With you: in contrast to we did not yield. Paul fought the battle of the Gentile Christians. This implies that the continuance of the spiritual life of Paul’s converts, which needed the truth for its nourishment, was at stake in his resistance to the demand that Titus be circumcised. Consequently, his resistance to this demand had the same purpose as his exposition (Galatians 2:2) of the Gospel he preached among the Gentiles. Hence the explanation under Galatians 2:2 is equally valid here. Moreover in DIV. II. we shall learn that this demand for the circumcision of Gentile converts involved an obligation (Galatians 2:3) to keep the whole Law, and thus made of no effect (Galatians 3:10) the Gospel promise and (Galatians 2:21) the death of Christ. Thus by matters far from Galatia Paul is preparing a way for an argument affecting most closely the spiritual interests of the Galatian Christians.
Dr. Lightfoot suggests that Galatians 2:4 begins a new unfinished sentence; and that Paul was going on to say that because of the false brethren James and Peter counselled that Titus be circumcised, but that he hesitated to say this, and broke off the sentence, merely adding in Galatians 2:5 that he resisted the demand made. But we have no right even to suggest a difference of opinion between Paul and the other apostles without some sort of proof: and of such difference of opinion we have here no trace. Moreover, when an essential part of a sentence is broken off, we expect to find its sense reappearing in another form. But of this supposed counsel we have in the following verses not the faintest hint. In Galatians 2:6-10, the concord of the earlier apostles with Paul is as complete and unhesitating as in the contemporary speeches recorded in Acts 15:6-21. Nor can Peter’s conduct at Antioch (Galatians 2:11) be accepted as an indication of his advice at Jerusalem. The reason given in Galatians 2:4 can be no other than a reason for the great decisive fact stated in Galatians 2:3 and again in Galatians 2:5, viz. that through the resistance of Paul and others Titus was not compelled to be circumcised. [Had the word δε been absent, there would be no question about the relation of Galatians 2:4 to Galatians 2:3. Its insertion merely gives independent importance to the reason thus introduced: cp. Romans 3:22; Romans 9:30; Philippians 2:8. So A.V. and R.V.]
In Galatians 2:5, the words to whom not even are omitted, reversing the sense, in the Clermont MS., both Greek and Latin. Tertullian (Against Marcion bk. v. 3) charges Marcion with having wrongly inserted the negative. Some other Latin writers accept or refer to, this omission. And in the existing Latin translation of Irenaeus (bk. iii. 13. 3) the passage is quoted without these words: but the context leaves us in doubt whether they were actually omitted by him. The omission is confined to Latin copies. This places their genuineness beyond doubt. And it is confirmed by internal evidence. For, had Paul yielded, he would not have added the humiliating words by submission. Nor can we see how his submission would have secured the permanence of Gospel truth among his readers. This is an interesting example of a very early, and rather serious, error in some copies of the New Testament.
The suggestion of Dr. Farrar (St. Paul vol. i. p. 413) that Titus was actually circumcised, and that Paul merely declare: that this was not by compulsion and was no act of submission, has no support in the Epistle; and is contradicted by the prominent position of the negatives in Galatians 2:3; Galatians 2:5 which evidently rule the entire assertions, whereas this suggestion would require them to be closely associated with the words compelled and submission. Moreover it is difficult to see how the circumcision of Titus, when once demanded, could be other than submission to compulsion.
On the apparent inconsistency of Galatians 2:3; Galatians 2:5 with Acts 16:3, see Diss. i. 5.
Galatians 2:6-10. Result of Paul’s presentation (Galatians 2:2) of his Gospel at Jerusalem to those in repute. The connection is noted by the recurrence of these last words in Galatians 2:6 twice and in Galatians 2:9.
Those reputed to be something: certain men (names given in Galatians 2:9) rightly or wrongly supposed to have special worth or special authority, of whatever kind and from whatever source: a rather fuller phrase than those in repute in Galatians 2:2.
What sort of men . . God does not accept: a parenthesis breaking off the construction. After speaking of what they were reputed to be, Paul interposes a few words about what they actually were. Even this is nothing to him: for it is nothing to God.
A man’s appearance, or face, God does not accept, or respect: His estimate and treatment of men is not determined by externals. Same teaching and almost same words in Romans 2:11. The order of the Greek words suggests the incongruity of appearances being taken into account by God. These last words imply that what sort of men they were refers to something merely external. The easiest explanation is that Paul thinks of their former relation to Christ on earth. For, that Peter and John were His chosen and intimate companions and that James was a member of His own family, would naturally give them great repute in the Church at Jerusalem. But this relation to Christ belonged only to externals. It therefore placed them neither higher nor lower in the sight of God; and had no bearing on the independent authority which Paul had received from the Risen Saviour. These words, unexpectedly interposed, suggest, as do Galatians 1:1; Galatians 1:11, that the disturbers had insinuated that Paul’s authority was inferior to that of the earlier apostles who had been personally associated with Jesus. He interrupts his argument to remind us that the difference between him and them was only external, and therefore of no weight with God.
If the above exposition be correct, the best rendering will be what they once were as in RV. margin, or more literally what sort of men they were formerly; not whatsoever they were, A.V., and RV. text. [For, the word ποτε, which in the N.T. nowhere else means ever but frequently (e.g. Galatians 1:13; Galatians 1:23 twice) formerly, would at once suggest a reference to days gone by.]
Instead of continuing and completing the sentence interrupted by the parenthesis, e.g. ‘from those reputed to be something’… I received nothing, Paul abandons it and begins a new sentence. He does so in order to weave his parenthesis into his main argument, as a general principle exemplified in his main assertion which follows it: for to me, etc. Those in repute takes up the thread broken off at those reputed to be something.
Such broken construction is common in Greek: cp. Romans 5:12.
Proposed nothing: literally presented nothing to me or set nothing before me: similar word in Galatians 2:2, same word in Galatians 1:16.
To me: very emphatic. Paul set before the men in repute at Jerusalem the Gospel he preaches among the Gentiles: but before him they set nothing, i.e. they had no correction or addition to make. This proves that their earlier relation to Christ was nothing to Paul, and illustrates the general principle that externals avail not with God. They evidently knew no more about the Gospel than he did. And, that the earlier apostles had nothing to add to, or correct in, Paul’s exposition of his Gospel, proves both his independence of them and their complete accord with him.
Galatians 2:7. But on the contrary: conduct the opposite of proposing anything to Paul. They merely acknowledged him as a fellow-worker.
Having seen that, etc.: inward motive of their action.
Having seen… and having known (Galatians 2:9) are in apposition with James and Cephas and John, which last expression is parallel to those in repute in Galatians 2:6.
Entrusted with: same word and thought in 1 Timothy 1:11; Titus 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Romans 3:2. [Contrast the perfect tense here, noting permanence, with the aorist in Romans 3:2.]
Uncircumcision: see under Romans 2:26.
Gospel of the uncircumcision, of the circumcision: difference of destination only. Cp. apostleship of circumcision in Galatians 2:8. Of any other difference, we have no hint: and all such is denied in Galatians 2:8. Moreover, God will treat (Romans 3:30) Jew and Gentile alike: and, since the Gospel announces His merciful treatment of men, it must in essence be the same to all. Consequently, the difference is only in the aim of the mission of Peter and of Paul.
Galatians 2:8. A parenthesis explaining the phrase Gospel of the uncircumcision.
He that wrought: cp. Colossians 1:29 : God the Father, the Source of whatever power for good operates in men. So 1 Corinthians 12:6; Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 1:20; Philippians 2:13. But God operates always through the instrumentality of ( 1 Thessalonians 2:13) His word and (Ephesians 3:20) power and through the agency ( 1 Corinthians 12:4) of the Holy Spirit.
Wrought: literally inwrought: an inward activity, and putting forth of power, of God in men. It is the Greek original of the English word energy. A close parallel in Ephesians 3:7.
For Peter: not in Peter which is already implied (cp. Colossians 1:29) in the verb. The usefulness and consequent enrichment and honour of Peter were an aim of God’s work in him. And with similar aim God wrought also for Paul.
This verse implies that only inward divine energy can fit a man to discharge a divine commission.
Galatians 2:9. And having known, etc.; continues and completes, in strict grammatical sequence, the sentence interrupted by the parenthesis of Galatians 2:8. Thus this parenthesis differs from that in Galatians 2:6. Having seen in Galatians 2:7, denoting mental apprehension of a fact, forms with having known, comprehension of the significance of a fact, a climax.
The grace given to me: God’s undeserved favour revealed in the committal to Paul of the Gospel of the uncircumcision and in the corresponding divine energy at work in him. Same words and same thought in Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:7-8; Ephesians 4:7. That James is put before Cephas and John, who were disciples of Christ long before he was, implies that in the Church at Jerusalem he held a place in some respects higher than that of the most prominent of the twelve apostles. It was a courteous recognition of the Church at Jerusalem, of which James was the head, as the Mother-Church of Christendom. See note at end of DIV. I.
Reputed to be pillars; both completes the idea partly conveyed by the word reputed in Galatians 2:2; Galatians 2:6, and tells us that the men just named are those referred to there.
Pillars: 1 Timothy 3:15; Revelation 3:12. So Ep. of Clement ch. v., the greatest and most righteous pillars, viz, Peter and Paul: see my Corinthians App. A. Of the Church, which is God’s temple, they were accounted to be conspicuous supports and ornaments. A metaphor common in Jewish, Greek, and Latin writers.
Gave right hands: cp. 2 Kings 10:15; Ezra 10:19; 1 Macc. vi. 58; xi. 62. So Josephus, Antiq. bk. xviii. 9. 3, about the Parthians: “He gave his right hand, which is with all the barbarians there the greatest proof of confidence in those talking together.” The word of-fellowship is delayed, that we may think first of the outward act, viz. the shaking of hands, and then of its significance, viz. recognition that all were comrades. The order of words, me and Barnabas, (a remarkable coincidence with Acts 15:2; Acts 15:22; Acts 15:35,) suggests Paul’s consciousness that he held the first place; and this agrees with the singular number (I, me) throughout Galatians 2:6-9 a. See under Galatians 2:1.
Fellowship: literally having something in common with others. See under 1 Corinthians 10:16; Romans 15:26. ‘James and Cephas and John recognised me and Barnabas as sharers with themselves of the rank and work of apostles.’ They did so in order that, while working in harmony, each party should devote itself to its divinely (Galatians 2:8) marked out sphere of labour.
That we should be for the Gentiles: i.e. apostles to the Gentiles.
Galatians 2:10. The only exception to the wish of James, Peter, and John that Paul and Barnabas should devote themselves to the Gentiles.
The poor: or the poor ones. It implies a poverty so notorious as to make the Jewish poor a definite object of thought. And their mention by James, apparently without any special occasion, suggests that the poverty was abiding. A remarkable coincidence with Acts 11:28 f, Romans 15:26.
That we should remember: assuming that mere remembrance would evoke help. [The subjunctive present notes an abiding remembrance.] This request reveals the deplorable state of Palestine even as compared with surrounding countries.
I have also been eager to do; adds to the request Paul’s ready consent and fulfilment.
Eager: same word as earnestness (RV.) in same connection in 2 Corinthians 8:7-8. The conspicuous change from we to I forbids us to limit this expression of eagerness to the promise then made; for in such promise Barnabas would certainly join; and if so Paul could not speak of it in the singular number. His assertion of eagerness covers his own conduct to the time of writing this Epistle: whereas Barnabas left him (Acts 15:39) soon after their return from Jerusalem to Antioch. [I have therefore correctly rendered the Greek aorist, retaining its absolute indefiniteness, I have been eager.] This request may have been recalled to Paul’s mind by the great collection for the poor at Jerusalem which he was making while writing these words, and which was a conspicuous proof of their truth. Possibly, on other occasions also he had rendered help.
REVIEW. After proving negatively the independence of the Gospel he preached by the scantiness of his intercourse with the earlier apostles, Paul gives in Galatians 2:7 further proof of it by narrating their action when he met them at an important crisis in the history of the early Church, fourteen years after the visit mentioned above. This later visit to Jerusalem was undertaken by God’s direction: and Paul felt that upon its success hung the highest welfare and indeed the permanence of the Gentile Churches. The greatness of the issue moved him to present the matters in dispute, not publicly to the whole Church, but privately to its leaders. The chief point objected to in his teaching, viz. that circumcision was not binding on Gentile converts, was conceded, in spite of opposition, in the test case of Titus, a Gentile companion who had gone up with Paul to Jerusalem. And, when Paul expounded his teaching among the Gentiles, the earlier apostles had no correction or addition to suggest, but simply and readily recognised him as a fellow-worker, to whom along with Barnabas God had allotted work different from that allotted to them. They merely begged him, in his work among the Gentiles, not to forget the poverty of his fellow countrymen at home, a request with which during many years Paul had eagerly complied.
This section has revealed a specific, and as we shall see probably the most conspicuous element of the erroneous teaching which in this letter Paul combats, viz. the universal obligation of circumcision. The tremendous spiritual consequences involved in this error, we shall learn in DIV. II. To overturn it by stating and defending the truth of the Gospel, we shall find to be the chief aim of this Epistle.
SECTION 8. — PAUL’S RESISTANCE TO PETER, AND EXPOSITION OF HIS OWN PRINCIPLES
But when Cephas had come to Antioch, to the face I withstood him, because he was known to be in the wrong. For, before there came some men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they came, he began to withdraw and to separate himself fearing them of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was led away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they are not walking rightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said to Cephas before all, If thou, being a Jew, eatest as do the Gentiles and not as do the Jews, how dost thou compel the Gentiles to act as do the Jews? We, by nature Jews and not sinners from the Gentiles, yet knowing that a man is not justified by works of law but only through belief of Jesus Christ, also we believed in Christ Jesus in order that we might be justified by belief of Christ and not by works of law; because “By works of law will no flesh be justified.” (Psalms 143:2.) Now if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, also ourselves have been found to be sinners, are we to infer that Christ is a minister of sin? far from it. For, if what I pulled down these things again I build up, I present myself as a transgressor. For I through law died to law that I might live for God. With Christ I have been crucified, and it is no longer I that live, but in me Christ lives. And the life which I now live in flesh I live in faith, in belief of the Son of God who loved me and gave up Himself on my behalf. I do not set aside the grace of God: for if through law comes righteousness, then Christ died for nought.
After proving the independence of his authority as an apostle, from the scantiness of his intercourse with the earlier apostles during the years following his conversion and from the formal recognition accorded to him by them at Jerusalem, Paul now goes on to give a final and conclusive proof of the same from an incident at Antioch in which he actually resisted publicly the chief of the twelve apostles. His words to Peter flow into a description of his own spiritual life, a description which is a reply both to Peter and to the disturbers in Galatia.
Galatians 2:11. Another step (cp. Galatians 1:15) in the historical narrative.
Had come: better than (R.V.) came. For evidently Peter had been some time at Antioch, and after him others had arrived, before Paul rebuked him. [For this correct use of the aorist where we use the pluperfect, cp. Acts 21:26; Acts 1:2. The action is looked upon merely as having occurred at some indefinite past time.]
Cephas… to Antioch: a coincidence with Acts 15:35, where both Paul and Barnabas are said to have remained some time at Antioch after their return from the conference at Jerusalem. The scantiness of the narrative of the Book of Acts forbids all surprise that this incident is not recorded there.
To the face I withstood him: graphic picture.
Known to be in the wrong: same word in 1 John 3:20 f. It denotes, not spoken condemnation, but mental recognition of his guilt by those around; thus differing from the word in Romans 14:23. That Peter was known to have done wrong, moved Paul to reprove him publicly.
Otherwise the rebuke might have been private.
Galatians 2:12-13. The just-mentioned misconduct of Peter, and its effect upon others.
Came… from James: probably to be taken together. For such a phrase as they from James (cp. Acts 6:9) is not found in the New Testament: and it is not likely that Paul would speak of any men as disciples of James. Cp. Mark 5:35; 1 Thessalonians 3:6; which also forbid us to infer that these men were sent by James. But, that his name is used in this semi-local sense, reveals his influence in the Church at Jerusalem, to which these men evidently belonged. And this professed relation to James suggests that he was in less marked antagonism to them than was Paul. That these were false brethren, we have no proof. For those in Galatians 2:4 were only a secret minority of the Church at Jerusalem. But evidently (cp. Acts 11:3; Acts 15:5) these men held the restrictions of the Mosaic Law to be still binding.
He used to eat-with the Gentiles: as the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem complained that he did with Cornelius, in apposition to the practice of (Luke 15:2) the Pharisees and Scribes. The vision of Peter (Acts 10:28) implies that this refusal to eat with the Gentiles arose from fear of eating food forbidden (Leviticus 11:2 ff) in the Law. If so, by eating with Cornelius and with the Gentiles at Antioch, Peter acknowledged virtually that the Law of Moses was no longer binding even upon Jews; in direct opposition to the converted Pharisees (Acts 15:5) at Jerusalem. He thus went rather further than the Decree, which (Acts 15:24) merely refused to make the Law binding on Gentiles but said nothing about Jewish Christians. But he did so in obedience to a revelation (Acts 10:15) from God.
Drew-back: same word in Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27, from the lips of Paul. It suggests a quiet and timid retirement leading to separation.
Them of (or from) the circumcision: Romans 4:12, (cp. Galatians 2:14,) Acts 10:45; Acts 11:2 : converts from Judaism. Yet not all the converted Jews at Antioch. For in Galatians 2:13 other Jews imitated Peter’s example; and therefore could hardly be objects of fear to him. Probably Paul refers chiefly to the new comers from Jerusalem; and perhaps to others whose zeal for the Law was rekindled by their arrival. They were men whose religious life bore conspicuously the mark of their origin.
Separated himself: from the society and from the tables of the Gentile Christians; who evidently did not observe the Mosaic distinctions of food. We have here a genuine trait of Peter’s character, viz. a proneness to yield, for good or ill, to the latest influence from without. Probably the influence of Paul’s exposition of his principles (Galatians 2:2) prompted the speech recorded in Acts 15:7 ff: the influence of these new arrivals now prompts conduct quite inconsistent with that speech. See note below.
Galatians 2:13. Continues the narrative by adding the result of Peter’s conduct.
Hypocrite: an English form of the Greek word for an actor in a theatre; then in the N.T. for one who pretends to be what he is not. The denunciations of Christ (Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16, etc.) gave to the word a tremendous significance. Cp. 2 Macc. vi. 21, 24, 25.
Played-the-hypocrite-with him: in the unreal part Peter was acting, the rest of the Christian Jews at Antioch joined him. This implies that formerly they had eaten with the Gentiles; and that now, while acting as though the Mosaic restrictions were still obligatory, they knew that the obligation had passed away. All this agrees with Acts 15:31. Paul thus claims both Peter and the Jewish Christians at Antioch as in their hearts agreeing with that which in this Epistle he so earnestly advocates. The word Jews recalls the powerful influence of nationality; especially of visitors from the capital on fellow-countrymen living in a foreign land.
Even Barnabas: as though unlikely to be influenced by such an example: a courteous recognition of his superiority to those around him. And, that even he was led away, (same word in 2 Peter 3:17,) proves the strength of the influence which bore him along.
With their hypocrisy: the repetition lays great stress on the unreality of their action. Notice the different relation of Peter and Barnabas to this movement. Apparently without any outward pressure. Peter yielded at once to the silent influence of the arrivals from Jerusalem. His powerful example, as the foremost of the twelve apostles, carried along the whole body of the Jewish Christians at Antioch. And to this accumulated influence Barnabas yielded. He could not stand alone. But he was moved by the mass. Peter moved the mass.
Galatians 2:14. Paul’s view of the conduct just narrated; and his rebuke of Peter. [ 'αλλ' οτε introduces a contrast.] He thus expounds (Galatians 2:11) to the face I withstood him; as in Galatians 2:12-13 he expounded he was known to be in the wrong.
Walking aright: along a straight road.
The truth of the Gospel: as in Galatians 2:5. The Gospel corresponds with, and reveals, eternal realities. And this revealed reality is a straight line along which God designs us to go.
Before all: for his bad example had been felt by all, and therefore needed public rebuke.
As do the Gentiles: literally, in-Gentile-fashion and not in-Jewish-fashion: two modes of life placed side by side in marked contrast. Paul refers evidently to the Mosaic restrictions of animal food; the most conspicuous distinction between Jews and Gentiles, and evidently designed by God to be such. Rather than break through these restrictions, many Jews had preferred to die: 1 Macc. i. 63; 2 Macc. vi. 18f; vii. 1. In complete contrast to these traditions of martyrdom for the Jewish Law, was Peter’s conduct at Antioch before the men came from James.
How, or how is it that thou: Galatians 4:9; Romans 6:2; Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 15:12. So remarkable, because so inconsistent, was Peter’s action that Paul asks how it comes about.
To-act-as-do-the Jews: literally to Judaize; cognate to in-Jewish fashion, and Judaism in Galatians 1:13-14. Cp. Esther 8:17, many Gentiles were having themselves circumcised and were Judaizing because of the fear of the Jews: Plutarch, Cicero 8 7, “guilty of Judaizing.” It embraces whatever habits of life distinguished the Jews from other nations. By separating himself from the Gentile Christians. Peter virtually taught with apostolic authority that for the full enjoyment of the favour and covenant of God Jewish customs must be observed. And by so doing he was practically forcing the Gentile converts to live under Jewish restrictions.
Compel: the real, though undesigned, significance and tendency of Peter’s action; according to the usual sense of the Greek present, which does not indicate whether or not the influence so exerted was effectual. Cp. 2 Macc. vi. 18; “Eleazar was being compelled to eat pork;” although he refused to eat it: so 2 Macc. vii. 1.
Peter’s previous conduct, which agreed with his convictions, Paul assumes to be his normal conduct; and therefore speaks of it in the present tense, describing it for emphasis both positively and negatively. With this he contrasts the practical tendency of Peter’s later conduct. By his authoritative example he was compelling Gentiles to maintain Jewish distinctions which he, a born Jew, had systematically trampled under foot. The exposure of this inconsistency before the Christians at Antioch, who knew that Paul’s words were true, is his first argument against Peter, to whom it must have come with overwhelming force. And with equal force it bore upon the Churches in Galatia. For this question implies that both Peter and the Church at Antioch, in spite of their contrary action, agreed with Paul’s teaching, viz. that Mosaic restrictions are no longer binding.
Galatians 2:15-16. A second appeal, based on the spiritual experience of Paul and Peter, against the teaching implied in Peter’s inconsistent conduct. It is suggested by the foregoing rebuke.
We: Paul and Peter, in contrast to the Gentiles whom Peter was compelling to live like Jews.
By-nature: by birth, and apart from their own action; in contrast to proselytes who became Jews by choice. See under Romans 2:14.
By-nature Jews: parallel with, but more definite than, being a Jew in Galatians 2:14.
And not, etc.: emphatic contrast, as in Galatians 2:14.
From Gentiles: i.e. converts from heathenism.
Sinners: necessary result of heathen origin, as all Jews would readily admit: for heathenism cannot save from sin. It was a common Jewish designation of Gentiles. So 1 Macc. ii. 44, “they smote sinners in their anger and lawless men in their fury;” Tobit. xiii. 6, “His greatness to a nation of sinners;” Wisdom x. 20, referring to the Egyptians in the Red Sea: cp. Luke 6:32 f with Matthew 5:47; Matthew 26:45 with Luke 18:32. For the sake of the contrast which follows Paul assumes the point of view of Jewish self-righteousness, a point of view actually correct in this one particular. For, like all men, the Gentiles were sinners.
But knowing, etc.: in apposition with we, and continuing by a slight contrast the description begun in by-nature Jews. Although born Jews and not inheritors of the pollution of heathendom, yet we know that a man does not receive justification from works of law.
A man is-justified: as from day to day one and another receive justification.
Law: any rule of conduct. Jews would think only of the Mosaic Law.
Works of law: cp. Romans 2:15 : actions prescribed in a rule of conduct. From such actions no one derives righteousness: i.e. no one is accepted by God as righteous because he had done what some law bids. See an instructive parallel in Romans 3:28. Naturally Paul thinks of actions prescribed in the Law of Moses; actions moral or ritual, both which are prescribed in the same Law and closely interwoven. But his words in their full latitude exclude justification by anything done in obedience to a rule of conduct. If there be justification, it must be apart from the works of law.
But only (literally except, or if not) by works of law; suggests at first sight that only by faith are we justified by works of law. But this inference is not supported by Greek usage. For, inasmuch as exceptions are usually preceded by a universal assertion, positive or negative, the exception is, even when preceded by a limited assertion, sometimes taken, not to the entire assertion, but to a wide term contained in it. So Luke 4:26 f, many lepers in Israel… but not one of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian: i.e. no leper was cleansed except Naaman. So in Romans 14:14 an exception is taken, not to the statement nothing is common of itself, but simply to a wider assertion nothing is common. So Revelation 21:27 : there shall not enter into it anything common… except they that are written, etc. And that here except through faith limits, not justified by works of law, but the wider statement is not justified, is made quite certain by the clear statements in Galatians 3:11, in law no one is justified; in Romans 3:28, a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Paul merely says in the strongest way possible that a man is not justified except through faith.
Faith, or belief, of Jesus Christ: assurance that His words are true or will come true, as the case may be: see note under Romans 4:25.
Also we; takes up the word we in Galatians 2:15 and puts it in conspicuous prominence on the pedestal erected for it by the intervening words. Then follows the chief assertion of the sentence occupying Galatians 2:15-16. This is better (so A.V. and RV.) than to begin a new sentence here. For, the foregoing words, which have great force as a preparation for those following, have not sufficient independent weight to be a separate sentence. Also, or even we: in addition to the sinners from the Gentiles; in spite of being born Jews, and prompted by our knowledge that justification comes only through faith.
Believed in Christ: with Paul, only Romans 10:14; Philippians 1:29; Colossians 2:5; 1 Timothy 3:13; 2 Timothy 3:15 : very common in the 4th Gospel. See note under Romans 4:25. It denotes a confidence in Christ which assures us that He will fulfil His promises.
We believed: when we first put faith in Christ: so Romans 13:11.
In order that we might be justified, etc.: definite purpose with which we believed in Christ. On this purpose rests the weight of the argument. It is made very conspicuous by the repeated contrast, before and after, between belief of Christ, whose name is mentioned three times, and works of law. Over this contrast, Paul seems to linger. He declares emphatically that both he and Peter reposed faith in Christ because of the felt impossibility of gaining justification by works of law. [For ου in a final sentence, cp. 1 Corinthians 1:17. Paul says categorically that while seeking justification he was not seeking it from works of law.]
Because from works, etc.: reason why Paul sought justification by faith and not by actions prescribed in a rule of conduct, or rather the reason already given repeated in epigrammatical form, viz because from that source justification will never come.
No flesh: see under Romans 3:20. The Hebrew colouring of this conclusion, and its word for word agreement with Romans 3:20, which is evidently a quotation from <19E302>Psalms 143:2, prove that it is also a reference to the same. Paul’s words are thus supported by Old Testament authority. Indeed otherwise they would be empty repetition. Their exact agreement with Romans 3:20, even where they differ from the LXX., suggests that this quotation was frequent in the lips of Paul: and its appropriateness makes this very likely.
Galatians 2:15-16 give the inner side of the spiritual history of Peter and Paul. And they by no means contradict what we know of its outer side. We cannot doubt that Peter, before Andrew led him to Jesus, and Paul, before he went to Damascus, had like thousands since sought the favour of God by obedience to law, i.e. by morality or by religious duties; and that the failure of their search had taught them that not thus can it be obtained. Indeed without this preparation the words of Jesus to Peter and afterwards to Paul would have been ineffective. Until we find that morality cannot save us, we cannot trust for salvation to the word of Christ. Consequently, these words are true of all who venture to repose faith in Christ. And they were a powerful appeal to Peter’s remembrance of his own inner life. For he was now practically setting up as a condition, and in this sense as a means, of salvation that which, when he first came to Christ, he had forsaken because he had found that from it salvation could not be obtained. Paul says: Take the case of you and me. Although we were born Jews and not the offspring of idolaters and sharers of the awful immorality of heathenism, yet, inasmuch as we found by experience that no justification comes from works done in obedience to law, but only through faith, even we, born Jews and as compared with others moral men, put faith in Christ in order that from faith in Him we might have a justification not to be derived from works of law. And this motive for believing Christ, viz. that from works of law no one clothed in flesh and blood will receive justification, is frequently asserted in the Old Testament. This argument would come to Peter with force the more overwhelming because it is really a reproduction of his own earlier teaching; e.g. Acts 15:10 f; Acts 10:28; Acts 10:34; Acts 11:17.
This long and emphatic quotation of Paul’s words to Peter assures us that they bear very closely upon the argument of this Epistle. We have thus another indication, in addition to that detected in Galatians 2:3, of the error then prevalent in Galatia. Evidently, the disturbers not only demanded that Gentile converts be circumcised, but did so on the ground that obedience to the Mosaic Law was an abiding and universal condition of justification. That this inference is correct, will be placed beyond doubt by the argument of Galatians 3; as our inferences in Galatians 2:3 about circumcision will be verified by plain assertions in Galatians 5:3; Galatians 6:12. Thus this verse prepares the way for the main argument of the Epistle.
Galatians 2:17. An incorrect inference from Galatians 2:16 in the form of a question, suggesting an objection so serious that Paul must at once state and overturn it. It has a close parallel in Romans 6, where a similar objection is met by a similar argument: cp. Galatians 2:19 with Romans 6:6; Romans 6:11; Romans 7:4.
Justified in Christ: in His blood, Romans 5:9; through the redemption which is in Christ, Romans 3:24; in law, Galatians 3:11; Galatians 5:4; sanctified in Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:2. Justification was wrought out for us objectively in the historic Person of Christ, and subjectively appropriated by the faith which unites men to Him.
Seeking to be justified, etc.: implied in the purpose asserted in Galatians 2:16, viz. that we might be justified by belief of Christ.
We were found, or have been found: [the Greek aorist includes both senses:] cp. 1 Corinthians 15:15; Romans 7:10.
Also ourselves sinners: in addition to the sinners from the Gentiles in Galatians 2:15. It takes up also we in Galatians 2:16. The mere search for justification, apart from its success, was itself a discovery that the seekers, like the Gentiles whom they once despised, were also themselves sinners. For only sinners need justification. Consequently, this supposition is a correct inference from Galatians 2:16. Even Peter and Paul had by their turning to Christ been found to be previously sinners. Paul now asks whether from this we are to draw the further inference that Christ is a minister of sin. Cp. ministers of righteousness, 2 Corinthians 11:15, ministry of righteousness, 2 Corinthians 3:9; minister of circumcision, Romans 15:8. It is practically the same, but more dignified than servant of sin, Romans 6:20. Since the Law utterly condemns sin, and since by turning to Christ for justification we were found to be, in spite of our earnest efforts to keep the Law, sinners like other men, are we to infer that Christ is an officer in the service of sin, that His influence tends to extend its empire? This is, in another form, the ever recurring objection that the Gospel of Christ which reveals the guilt of even the most moral men is opposed to morality. Paul states it here in the form of a question in order that he may overturn it by a picture of his own life of faith.
The above exposition implies that the questioned inference, Christ a minister of sin, is incorrectly deduced from a correct hypothesis, also ourselves found to be sinners; the hypothesis being really a correct inference from Galatians 2:16. The early Greek commentators suppose the undoubtedly false inference Christ a minister of sin to be correctly deduced from, thus disproving by reductio ad absurdum the hypothesis ourselves found to be sinners. If so, Galatians 2:17 proves that believers are no longer under the penalty of sin, by saying that otherwise Christ in whom they trust for pardon is, by leaving them still under condemnation, doing the work of sin. Paul’s question would thus be a proof of the truth of the Gospel which proclaims the justification of all who believe. But this argument would need to be more clearly indicated; especially as Galatians 2:16 is not so much an assertion of the Gospel as a denial that men are justified by works; whereas, as expounded above, the hypothesis flows naturally from the foregoing assertion.
Galatians 2:18. Proof, extending to Galatians 2:21, of Paul’s indignant denial that the discovered sin of even moral seekers for salvation in Christ proves Him to be a minister of sin.
Pulled down, build up: metaphor common with Paul, Romans 14:19 f; 15:20. By eating with the Gentiles Peter was pulling down the barrier of the Mosaic restrictions: by afterwards withdrawing from them he was building it again. This express and evident reference Paul courteously veils by using the first person as though merely stating a general principle.
These again: emphatic exposure of Peter’s inconsistency.
Transgressor: one who oversteps the limits marked by law; more precise than sinner, preparing the way for the word law twice in Galatians 2:19. If by formerly pulling down the restrictions of the Law, Peter had, as Galatians 2:19 will show, been really carrying out the ultimate purpose of the Law, he is now, by maintaining the same restrictions, opposing the Law and transgressing the limits it has marked out for its own operation. His own inconsistency condemns him.
Galatians 2:19. Shows the bearing on Galatians 2:17 of the general and rather ambiguous statement in Galatians 2:18; and thus introduces the main proof that even though the Gospel brings down all men to the common level of sinners yet Christ is not a minister of sin.
As to me: the Greek emphatic pronoun, recalling us from the general statement of Galatians 2:18 to Paul’s own actual spiritual life.
I died to law: expounded in Romans 7:4, put to death to the Law through the body of Christ. By His crucified body, Paul was removed completely from the jurisdiction of law, so that God no longer treats him according to his previous obedience to a rule of conduct as though such obedience were the means of obtaining His favour. This is another way of saying that by the death of Christ God has reconciled the justification of sinners with His own justice. And this escape from the claims of the Law and separation from its rule was brought about by means of law. For it was to satisfy these claims that Christ died: and the purpose of the Law was to force men to Christ, and by so doing place them beyond its own jurisdiction. Thus objectively and subjectively Paul’s deliverance from the rule of law was brought about by the operation of law.
That I may live for God: God’s purpose in liberating Paul from law. Cp. Romans 7:4, put to death to the Law… that we may bear fruit for God: Romans 6:11, living for God in Christ Jesus. This verse embodies in a few words the most distinctive teaching of Paul.
It is now evident that, if by the operation of the Law and in accomplishment of its original purpose Paul has been set free from law and therefore from the Mosaic restrictions, to build up again the barrier erected by these restrictions is to run counter to the spirit and purpose of the Law itself, and is therefore a transgression of the Law. Just so, to re-erect the scaffolding of a finished building is to thwart the original purpose of that scaffolding, which is a building free from scaffolding. Consequently, by separating himself from the Gentile converts at Antioch, Peter was resisting the voice of Sinai: for he was hindering its real and final purpose. Again, since the purpose of this release from law is that we may live for God, it is evident that although the Gospel brings down all men to the common level of sinners yet Christ is not thereby promoting the rule of sin. For, to use for God all the powers which life gives, is (cp. Romans 6:11) the absolute opposite of sin. All this is made more evident by the description in Galatians 2:20 of the life which Paul is living.
Galatians 2:20. “The summit and marrow of Christianity:” Bengel.
Crucified-with: same word in Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32; John 19:32.
With Christ I have been crucified: Romans 6:6; Galatians 6:14 : I have shared with Christ the results of His death on the cross. For by the agony of His crucifixion Paul escaped, as did Christ, from the penalty of sin imposed by the Law. Through the death of Christ, and therefore in some sense upon His cross, Paul’s old life came to an end.
The rest of Galatians 2:20 describes the life which Paul, though crucified, still lives. Of this life, his own personality is no longer, as it once was, the principle and source. He is deeply and gratefully conscious that his own life, both in its essence and its manifestations, is infinitely above himself who lives it; and is a direct outflow (John 14:19) of the immortal life of Christ, so that Paul’s thoughts and words and acts have their true source not in him but in Christ. Thus Paul lives on earth in human flesh a life, not earthly but heavenly, not human but divine; a life which is in some sense a continuation of Christ’s life on earth.
These words are the highest development of the teaching that in us dwells the Spirit of God who is (Romans 8:9 ff) the Spirit of Christ and who breathes into those in whom He dwells the lifegiving, animating, controlling presence of Christ Himself. This inward presence of the Spirit of Christ makes us ( 1 Corinthians 12:12) members of the body of Christ. And Paul could say in Philippians 1:21 : to me to live is Christ. And if Christ lives in us as the animating principle of our life, we live in Christ as our surrounding element and home and refuge.
Notice that it is the crucified Saviour who lives in those who have shared His crucifixion. Only they whose former lives have come to an end upon the cross of Christ have Christ living in them. For union with Him implies (Romans 6:3) union with His death.
Now follows the subjective element and medium and condition of the life which Christ lives in Paul.
I now live; counterpart to no longer I live.
In flesh: in a body of flesh and blood, which in virtue of its material constitution influences and limits in so many ways the spirit within. And these limitations give occasion for a revelation in Paul’s bodily life of the grandeur of Christ, who in spite of them lives in him a life of constant victory over the flesh.
In flesh, in faith: conspicuous contrast of the local physiological sphere with the spiritual sphere of Paul’s life.
Faith, or belief, of the Son of God: as in Galatians 2:16 twice: assurance that the words of Jesus are true and will come true; in this case, an assurance that Christ will fulfil His promise by living in us as the animating principle of our life. This assurance is the surrounding element and atmosphere in which Paul lives and moves, and from which he draws his life and through which he sees objects around him on earth and above him in heaven.
Son of God: Christ in His unique and eternal relation to the Father.
Loved me etc.: close parallel in Ephesians 5:25; cp. Romans 8:37. It refers to the historical manifestation in time of Christ’s eternal love.
Gave-up: to suffering and death, as suggested by crucified-with Christ. Cp. Galatians 1:4. It denotes frequently surrender into the power of another: cp. 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Timothy 1:20. Same word also in Romans 4:25; Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 11:23; Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25.
On my behalf: for my benefit, viz. salvation. In view of the self-surrender of Christ, Paul forgets all others and remembers only that for him Christ died. Cp. 2 Corinthians 8:9. The love of Christ in its historical manifestation is a sure ground of the faith in which Paul lives. Because of His love and self-surrender we are sure that Christ will fulfil His promise to live in us: the faith thus evoked becomes the element of our life: and in proportion to our faith (but not because of it) Christ lives in our life. That such a life if lived in flesh, reveals the grandeur of Him who can inspire even flesh and blood with His own spirit.
Galatians 2:21. The grace of God: cp. 1 Corinthians 15:10. It reminds us that the life just described is a gift of the undeserved favour of God, of the favour revealed in the death of Christ.
Set-aside: strange contrast to Galatians 2:20, implying that it is possible to refuse and lose this great gift. It brings Galatians 2:20, which seemed for a moment to raise us far above all theological controversy into Heaven itself, to bear on the sad reality of the discord at Antioch.
For if etc.; explains what Paul means by rejecting the grace of God.
Righteousness: practically, the judge’s approval; see under Romans 1:17.
Through law: of any kind, moral or ritual. Righteousness through law, is the judge’s approval obtained by obedience to prescriptions of conduct. God gave Christ to die in order to reconcile with justice favour shown to men who have disobeyed. Consequently, if by obedience men may obtain the favour of God, the death of Christ was needless; and the infinite favour shown therein was wasted. In this sense, to preach justification by law, is to set aside the grace of God.
The objection in Galatians 2:17 is now completely silenced; not by exact syllogism, but by a reasoned exposition of Paul’s own spiritual life. It might seem that, by proclaiming a Gospel which reveals the failure of well-meant efforts to obtain the approval of God by keeping the Law’, Christ was an enemy of righteousness and a helper of sin. But this thought is dispelled by the fact that Christ lives in Paul and Paul lives in faith and thus lives for God; such a life being, as we at once feel instinctively, the noblest life conceivable. Paul entered this life by sharing in some sense the death of Christ and thus escaping from the jurisdiction of the Law. This escape from law was itself brought about by the operation of law. Consequently, the real transgressors are, not those who break down the Mosaic restrictions which were not designed to be permanent or universal, but those who run counter to the spirit and purpose of the Law by reinforcing these restrictions after having by their conduct broken them down. Such men trample under foot the favour of God shown in the death of Christ. For, by maintaining the Law as a condition of righteousness they say practically that men are able to keep it; and if so the death of Christ, who died to deliver us from its claims, was needless.
The connecting links of this argument, which we have in some measure supplied in exposition, will be found developed in DIV. II., for which it prepares the way.
The objection in Galatians 2:17 was probably frequent in the lips of Jewish opponents of Christianity. And the reply to it here given had as much force for the disturbers in Galatia as for Peter at Antioch. So in all ages and places a rich experience of spiritual life is the strongest condemnation of salvation by morality or by religious duties.
It has been questioned whether the whole of Galatians 2:14-21 was in substance actually spoken to Peter, or whether Paul glides away imperceptibly into a new argument with his Galatian readers. But, certainly, we and also we in Galatians 2:15-16 refer, not to the Galatians who were Gentiles, but to Paul and Peter who were Jews. And it is difficult to separate also ourselves sinners in Galatians 2:17 from sinners in Galatians 2:15 and also we in Galatians 2:16. Moreover, Galatians 2:18 is most easily explained as being a reference to Peter’s inconsistent conduct at Antioch. And the appeal in Galatians 3:1 seem to mark the point at which Paul turns to his readers in Galatia. We have, therefore, no reason to doubt that the whole paragraph, to Galatians 2:21, was in substance spoken by Paul to Peter.
That Peter yielded at once, and fully, to this appeal, we infer with confidence. For, evidently, reply was impossible. His answer, which must have been humiliating, is therefore omitted. This was the more easy because, whatever Peter said, Paul’s appeal to him is an overwhelming argument against the disturbers in Galatia. For Peter, to whom they seem to have appealed as an authority superior to Paul, admitted by his conduct that the Law was not binding on Gentiles; thus contradicting them. Moreover, so far was Peter from being an absolute authority that subsequently he acted, influenced by men like-minded to them, in opposition to his previously avowed principles. And Paul’s declaration that the powerlessness of the Law to save had driven both Peter and himself to seek salvation in Christ, was equally true of the advocates of circumcision in Galatia, so far as they were honest men.
Of DIVISION I., the only explanation is that in the churches of Galatia Jewish teachers, either mistaken or feigned disciples of Christ, had said that Paul’s authority was inferior to that of the earlier apostles, because derived from them, and that he preached a false Gospel different from that committed to him by the twelve. We also infer that they demanded the circumcision of Gentile converts, as a condition of their justification. These teachers were unfortunately successful: and, led by them, while Paul wrote, many Galatian Christians were turning away from the Gospel and from God.
In view of this false teaching which bore on its face marks of human origin, Paul declares that his own teaching is not such as man would devise; and explains this by saying that he received it, not from man, but by express revelation of Christ. Indeed, the contrast between his past and present life proclaims that Christ had been revealed to him and in him. So sufficient was this revelation that Paul sought no human counsel, but went away to Arabia; and even when returning from Arabia he did not go to Jerusalem but came back to Damascus. Only after three years did he visit the Mother-Church of Christianity. Naturally he wished to meet the chief of the earlier apostles: and he saw also James, but no others. This proves that from the apostolic college as such he had received no commission. And the length of his visit, only a fortnight, was insufficient to make Paul in any sense a disciple of Peter or James. For some time after this Paul was known only by hearsay to the Christians of Judaea. But what they heard gave them the highest satisfaction.
The independence of Paul’s authority, proved by his distance from the Palestinian apostles, is confirmed by his intercourse with them fourteen years after his first meeting with Peter. The infinite importance of harmony between himself and them, even for the success of his own mission, Paul felt deeply; and, to secure it, he set before the leaders of the church at Jerusalem privately the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles. Of the sentiments of the Christians at Jerusalem, the presence of Titus was a practical test. Although occupying a conspicuous position as Paul’s companion, and in spite of some pressure, he was allowed to remain uncircumcised. His circumcision was refused because it was demanded by guileful enemies of the Gospel. In Paul’s teaching the apostles at Jerusalem found nothing to correct and nothing defective. They simply recognised his independent mission.
Subsequently, at Antioch Paul administered to Peter public rebuke for withdrawing from the Gentiles, influenced by Jews from Jerusalem, after having fraternised with them. So great was Peter’s influence that in his withdrawal he was followed by the other Jews at Antioch and even by Barnabas. Paul showed the gross inconsistency of his conduct, and reminded him that it was because the Law could not save that both Peter and himself put faith in Christ. And to the possible objection that if the Gospel brought down even moral men to the common level of sinners then was Christ a servant of sin, he replied by describing the spiritual life which had followed his death to the Law. By the metaphor of one who pulls down and then builds up, Paul exposes still further Peter’s inconsistency; and concludes by declaring, as in DIV. II. he will prove, that the practical teaching involved in this withdrawal makes needless and useless the death of Christ and the grace of God therein revealed. To the great argument which now lies before us in Galatians 3, these last words are the best possible stepping stone.
A marked feature of DIV. I. is the number of definite allusions to men conspicuous in the early Church, making it an invaluable contribution to the biography of the New Testament. The characters here depicted we will now study.
The term BROTHER OF THE LORD which in Galatians 1:19 designates James, the first of the three pillars mentioned in Galatians 2:9, demands attention. Brothers of Christ are three times (Matthew 12:47 ff; Mark 3:31 ff; Luke 8:19 ff; Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 2:12) associated with His mother. Our first thought is that these were later sons of Joseph and Mary: and this is supported by the word firstborn in Luke 2:7. This opinion, of which however we have no certain trace earlier than Helvidius, (A.D. 380,) has been advocated lately by Meyer, Alford, Farrar, and others. The only historical objection to it, but a very serious one, is John 19:26-27. For, if Mary had four sons of her own, who though perhaps not believers when Christ died became such (Acts 1:14 : cp. 1 Corinthians 15:7) immediately afterwards, of whom one was worthy to be made (Galatians 2:9) head of the Church at Jerusalem, we cannot conceive that Christ would set aside filial obligation by committing His mother to the care of John, even though he was the beloved apostle and not improbably nephew to Mary. It is easier to believe that the word firstborn had become, in consequence (Luke 2:23) of the Levitical ritual, equivalent to which openeth the womb in Exodus 13:2, etc., Or, it might refer to a later son who died early. The perpetual virginity of Mary rests on no historical evidence; and therefore cannot be adduced as an historical argument.
That the Lord’s brothers were sons of Joseph by an earlier wife, is a conjecture without other Scripture proof, and suggested simply by John 19:25. But it would most easily account for all the known facts of the case. Mary’s step-sons would naturally be often with her. They would be called the Lord’s brothers in the sense in which even Mary in Luke 2:48 calls Joseph His father; and in recognition of their almost sacred social nearness to Christ. And, if they were not her own sons it is much more easy to conceive reasons which prompted Christ to commit her to John. This opinion was held probably by Clement of Alexandria, and certainly by Origen, Eusebius, and the early fathers generally.
Another theory was in A.D. 382 advocated, and was probably invented by Jerome; and was accepted by Augustine and the Western fathers generally; viz. that the Lord’s brothers were cousins, sons of His mother’s sister, and that consequently the word brothers is used of them only in a looser sense, as in Genesis 13:8; Genesis 29:12; Leviticus 25:48. Jerome also supposes that in Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3, James (or Jacob) and Joseph (or Joses) were identical with James the little and Joseph, sons of the other Mary, in Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; that their mother was Mary of Clopas, whom he supposes to be Christ’s mother’s sister in John 19:25; and that James the little was both the Lord’s brother in Galatians 1:19 and the son of Alphaeus in Matthew 10:3. This theory rests entirely on the supposition that Mary the mother of James and Joses (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40) was sister to our Lord’s mother: and for this there is no ground except the assumption, adopted without any proof by Meyrick in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. i., p. 920b, that in John 19:25 Mary of Clopas must necessarily be the same person as His mother’s sister. But surely it is as easy to understand this verse to mention four persons as three: cp. Acts 1:13. And it is in the highest degree unlikely, and so far as I know without parallel, that two sisters were commonly spoken of by the same name. Certainly, to suppose this, is much more difficult than to find four persons mentioned in John 19:25. That two pairs of brothers (Matthew 13:55; Matthew 27:56) bore the very common names James (or Jacob) and Joseph, cannot be accepted, even though the name Simon be added to each pair, as proving or hardly as suggesting that they were the same. The argument that, if James the Lord’s brother were not the son of Alphaeus, of this apostle nothing is known, loses all force amid the obscurity which surrounds the subsequent course of all the apostles except three. Thus vanishes New Testament support for Jerome’s theory. And it has no support in early tradition.
This theory is, moreover, open to serious objection. The title assumed in Judges 1:1 suggests or implies that Jude’s brother was the well-known leader of the Church at Jerusalem: for any other James would need to be distinctly specified. And, if he were the son of Alphaeus, we are almost compelled to believe that the apostle Jude of James was also brother of the Lord. But if two out of the four, or indeed if James the most illustrious of the four, were already enrolled among the apostles, it could not have been said, as in John 7:5, that Christ’s brothers did not believe in Him.
Nor is the looser sense given by this theory to the word brother allowable in this case. For, without any hint of any unusual sense the men in question are again and again in all four Gospels, in the Book of Acts, and twice by Paul, called the Lord’s brothers; never once His cousins or kinsmen. Yet for the relation of cousin there was a definite term both (Leviticus 25:49) in Hebrew and (Colossians 4:10) in Greek. Just so, Hegesippus, quoted by Eusebius, (Church History bk. iii. 20, 32, iv. 22,) speaks of James and Jude as the Lord’s brothers, and of Simeon as His cousin, and as His uncle’s son. The occasional use, in cases open to no mistake or where the distinction was unimportant, of the word brother in the looser sense of kinsman surely does not warrant us to interpret thus this frequent and matter-of-fact designation. The effect of giving to words so indefinite a meaning is seen in Estius, who supposes that the Lord’s mother’s sister also was only her cousin. Moreover, if the Lord’s brothers were sons of Mary’s sister, it is difficult to account for their association three times with Mary without any reference (especially in John 2:12) to their own mother.
Jerome’s theory may therefore, as destitute of solid evidence in Scripture or tradition and as opposed to the plain meaning of a common word and to John 7:5, be confidently set aside. We are therefore compelled to believe that the Lord’s brothers were sons of Joseph. And we have found one strong reason, viz. the words from the cross to Mary and John, for surmising that they were his sons by an earlier wife. And this surmise we may accept, in the absence of other evidence, as the easiest explanation of the known facts of the case.
We must, accordingly, think of Jesus, not as a solitary child, but as one, probably the youngest, among four brothers and at least three sisters; and of Mary, not as devoting herself to the rapt contemplation of her one mysterious Son, but as discharging the many duties involved in the care of a large family. Into the privacy of that sacred home we are not allowed to intrude. And perhaps we need not envy its members their domestic nearness to the Saviour. It may be that even his nearness made it difficult for them to believe (John 7:5) that he whom they had known and cared for and played with in their own home as a little boy younger than themselves and needing their help was indeed the foretold deliverer and the Son of God. Perhaps it was only after He had risen and had appeared in special manner ( 1 Corinthians 15:7) to the oldest probably of the brothers that they were led (Acts 1:14) to bow to Him as their Lord.
On the whole subject see a very able dissertation in Lightfoot’s Galatians.
Of JAMES, THE LORD’S BROTHER, the notices in the New Testament are few, but harmonious and definite. The position of his name in Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3 suggests that he was the oldest of the four brothers. But this is no conclusive proof: for the order of Simon and Jude varies, showing that it is not according to age; and the subsequent fame of James would account for his place at the head of these lists. If he was Joseph’s son by an earlier wife, James was some years, if the oldest son, several years, older than Jesus. This suggests an explanation of the fact that (John 7:5) about six months before His death James and His brothers did not believe in Christ, and ventured to give Him advice. Possibly, to this unbelief refers Mark 6:4 : a prophet is not without honour except… among his kinsmen and in his own house. As to Peter who denied Him, so to His brother James who hesitated to believe in Him, the Risen Saviour ( 1 Corinthians 15:7) specially appeared. This was probably to him, as was a similar event to Paul, the turning point in life. For, immediately after the ascension (Acts 1:14) the brothers and mother of Jesus were associated with the apostles. The special message to James in Acts 12:17 suggests that he then already occupied a prominent place in the Church at Jerusalem. Still earlier Paul, on his first visit as a Christian, met James there. That at the conference at Jerusalem the name of James stands in Galatians 2:9 before those of Peter and John, seems to imply that already James held the first place in the Mother-Church. And with this agrees the decisive part taken by James at the conference, as recorded in Acts 15:13 ff. That in Galatians 2:12 some Christians are said to have come from James, implies that they sheltered themselves under his name ; and suggests that to their teaching the teaching of James was in less marked opposition than was that of Paul. And all this agrees with Acts 21:18-25, where James speaks as the recognised head and mouthpiece of the Christians at Jerusalem, all of whom are said to be zealous for the Law. From 1 Corinthians 9:5 we learn that the brothers of the Lord, and therefore presumably this most famous of them, were married. And, even by the strictest observers of the Mosaic Law, marriage was held in honour.
That the Epistle of James was written by the Lord’s brother, is suggested at once by its opening words, James, servant of God. For, his unique position in the Mother-Church of Christendom would make further designation needless for him, but imperative for any other James. And modesty might easily restrain him from using a title of honour which others freely gave to him.
The Epistle is quoted as Scripture by the Greek fathers of the fourth century. Jerome (Illustrious Men ch. ii.) says: “James, who is called the brother of the Lord, by surname the Just… wrote only one Epistle, which belongs to the seven Catholic Epistles, which also itself is said to have been edited by some one else under his name, although gradually in process of time it has obtained recognition.” Eusebius (Church History bk. iii. 25) says: “Of the books contradicted, but known nevertheless to most men, the so-called Epistle of James is in circulation, and that of Jude, and the Second Epistle of Peter, and the so-called Second and Third Epistles of John.” So bk. ii. 23: “It must be known that it is accounted spurious: at any rate not many of the old writers have mentioned it… Nevertheless we know that this with the others is publicly used in most Churches.” Origen (Comm. on John vol. xix. 6) says: “If faith is mentioned, but it be without works, such faith is dead; as we have read in the current Epistle of James.” So Notes on Exodus p. 124: “For which cause also it has been said, God cannot be tempted with evil;” word for word from James 1:13. In the Latin version of Origen by Rufinus, which however is not always reliable, we read (Homilies on Exodus viii. 4, p. 158): “But also the Apostle James says;” quoting James 1:8. And so elsewhere. We have no earlier quotations. But a passage in Hermas (Commandment ix.) suggests strongly that the writer had seen the Epistle of James. It is included in the Syrian Peshito Version, made probably earlier than the fourth century; and is quoted in existing copies of versions of the works of Ephrem, a Syrian father of the same century. These are valuable testimonies to the genuineness of the Epistle. For, it was most likely, as written for Jewish Christians probably at Jerusalem, to be known in Eastern churches using the Aramaic language.
We notice at once the difference between these somewhat doubtful testimonies and the earlier and unanimous witnesses for the genuineness of the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. And this weaker external evidence is not supported by any internal historical evidence such as that adduced for the Epistles. It is, however, supported by internal theological evidence so strong as almost to banish doubt, viz. a type of teaching differing widely from that of Paul, but in complete accord with the earlier and later surroundings, and the vocation, of the Lord’s brother.
We can easily conceive that James, the son (Matthew 1:19) of a righteous man, and trained in a home adorned by the piety of Mary, would, like Timothy, ( 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15,) receive from the Jewish Scriptures rich spiritual nourishment. The Law would be to him a guide and delight, and a promise of a better revelation to come. But his nearness to Jesus would make it difficult to accept as the promised deliverer one whom as probably a younger brother he had loved and tended. And to him the Gospel itself would be, when at last the vision of the Risen Saviour had moved him to accept it without reserve, in some sense a consummation of the Law. Just as in the Epistles of Paul the antagonism of Law and Gospel recalls the writer’s sudden transition from the one to the other, so the absence of any such antagonism in the Epistle of James is in complete accord with his gradual transition from Judaism to Christianity.
Consequently, with James the word law is always a title of honour; and even the Gospel is (James 1:25; James 2:12) a law of liberty. In short, the Epistle of James agrees so completely with the many casual but very definite references in the New Testament and (see below) in ancient tradition that we cannot doubt that it was written by the Lord’s brother.
The apparent contradiction between James and Paul about justification is discussed in Dissertation 4.
The disposition and training of James were admirably fitted for the work he had to do. He became a medium of transition from Judaism to Christianity. Sympathising deeply with all that was good in the earlier revelation, and finding even in its ritual probably abundant edification, and therefore unwilling to break away from it, he would gain and retain the confidence of the best of the Jews. At the same time his opening words are a confession that Jesus Christ is his Lord; and he places side by side the names of God and Christ. The kernel of his religion was (James 2:1) the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. And, like Paul’s converts at Thessalonica, he was waiting (James 5:7-8) for the coming of the Lord.
The chief aim of the Epistle is to rebuke those, be they Jews or Christians, who cling to some outward form, be it ritual or creed, and yet refuse to allow their religion to control their actions. That faith in Christ leads to right action, also Paul teaches constantly: cp. Galatians 5:16 ff. But by confining our attention to the practical outworking of religion as the one test of its genuineness, the Epistle of James supplements the writings of Paul, and becomes an element in the sacred volume of abiding and infinite value.
Both in its outer form and in its spiritual significance, in its silence and in its teaching, the Epistle of James agrees closely with the First Gospel, which holds a place and discharges an office among the Gospels similar to that of this Epistle among the Epistles. Compare James 1:2 with Matthew 5:10 ff; James 1:4 with Matthew 5:48; James 1:20 with Matthew 5:22; James 1:26 and James 3:2 with Matthew 12:36; James 2:8 with Matthew 22:39; James 2:13 with Matthew 9:13; James 2:14 ff with Matthew 7:21 ff; James 3:12 with Matthew 7:16; James 4:4 with Matthew 6:24; James 4:11 with Matthew 7:1; James 4:12 with Matthew 10:28; James 5:2 with Matthew 6:19; James 5:12 with Matthew 5:33 ff; etc.
By Luther, in the Preface to his German New Testament, A.D. 1522, this Epistle was rejected in strong language as unworthy of the Gospel. But the book he rejected would have saved him from many unguarded and injurious words which his enemies have used as weapons against Protestantism, and would have supplied the chief defect of his theological teaching. How serious is this defect, and how sharp are the weapons thus put into the hands of adversaries, we see in Dollinger’s Reformation, vol. iii., pp. 1-274.
Later tradition confirms, amid much which is evidently fabulous, the picture of James given above. Josephus (Antiq. xx. 9. 1) narrates that, when “James the brother of Jesus which is called Christ” was put to death by the high priest Ananus, it displeased the best men in the city and those strictest about the laws. Hegesippus, in a lost work quoted at length by Eusebius, (Church History bk. ii. 23,) says that “James the brother of the Lord … because of his surpassing righteousness was called just;” that he was a Nazarite from birth; and that he alone used to go into the temple, i.e. into the sacred house itself. Hegesippus gives also an account of his death varying from that of Josephus. This quotation, in spite of much evidently incorrect, bears reliable witness to the opinions about James current in the second century. Similar evidence of the same date is found in the Clementine writings, which, while in the interests of Judaism bitterly opposing the teaching of Paul, without mentioning his name, make friendly reference to James.
Enough has now been said to prove that the character, position and influence, and writings of James deserve the most careful study of all who wish to understand the early development of Christianity.
Of PETER, the notices here accord exactly with those in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts, in reference both to his position in the Church and to his personal character.
In the Gospels, not only do we find him in the inner circle of three disciples at the raising of Jairus’ daughter, at the Transfiguration, and in the agony of Gethsemane, but in all lists of the apostles his name is placed first: so Matthew 10:2; Matthew 17:1; Matthew 26:37; Mark 3:16; Mark 9:2; Mark 13:3; Mark 14:33; Luke 6:14; Luke 8:51; Luke 9:28; John 21:2; Acts 1:13; John 1:45
being apparently the only exception. This remarkable uniformity suggests that among the twelve he was in some sense first. And this is put beyond doubt by Matthew 16:17-19; where the words Upon this rock I will build My Church, following the emphatic words Blessed art thou Simon son of Jonah… and I say to THEE that THOU art Rock and followed by I will give to thee the keys etc. refer certainly to Peter himself, designating him for a unique position in the Church. They were evidently designed to prepare Peter for special service, and to mark him out to his fellow-apostles as their divinely appointed leader. They are confirmed by the remarkable change in Luke 22:31 from Satan has asked for YOU, to I have made petition for THEE that THY faith fail not. And do THOU, when once thou hast turned again, make THY brethren firm. But the true explanation of these words is in Acts 1-5, where we find Peter acting as the recognised leader and mouthpiece of the apostles and throwing wide open to all seekers for salvation the gates of the Kingdom of God, and where we see resting upon his immoveable courage the entire interests, and indeed the existence, of the infant Church. See The Expositor for April 1884.
In close agreement with all this, the motive of Paul’s first journey to Jerusalem after his conversion is in Galatians 1:18 said to be, to see Peter. And, even when surrounded by other apostles, Peter is in Galatians 2:8 spoken of singly as entrusted with apostleship of the circumcision, in a sense similar to Paul’s unique commission for the Gentiles. This is the more remarkable because immediately afterwards (Galatians 2:9) the name of James is placed before that of Peter. The best explanation is that James was head of the Church at Jerusalem, whereas the twelve were sent to proclaim the Gospel to the world; and that among the twelve Peter held the first place.
The personal notices of Peter present a similar agreement. His concurrence, in Galatians 2:9, with the teaching of Paul is a remarkable coincidence with Acts 15:7 ff, where similar teaching is attributed to Peter himself; and with Acts 11:17. And that, through fear of new comers from Jerusalem, Peter contradicted by action his own previous words, is in exact accord with his denial of Christ under the sudden influence of a servant maid. His subsequent almost reckless courage, contrasted with his timidity then, has often and justly been appealed to as the effect in him of the Spirit given at Pentecost. His weakness at Antioch is but another proof, in addition to thousands in all ages and circumstances, that the weaknesses of earlier days are an abiding source of danger even to those who have received the impulse of new spiritual life. As an embodiment of this lesson the incident referred to is of immense value.
These coincidences confirm strongly the genuineness of the Epistle to the Galatians and the correctness of the narratives in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.
Of the two Epistles attributed to Peter, the former was accepted as undoubtedly genuine by all early Christian writers, and may be received with confidence as the voice of the Apostle of the Circumcision. The genuineness of the Second Epistle is surrounded by difficulties which cannot be discussed here.
Touching Peter’s relation to the Church at Rome, Jerome (Illustrious Men ch. ii.) says: “Simon Peter… Prince of the apostles… in the second year of Claudius (i.e. A.D. 42)… went to Rome and there for twenty-five years occupied the priestly chair, until the last, i.e. the fourteenth, year (i.e. A.D. 67) of Nero. By Nero he was affixed to a cross, and thus was crowned with martyrdom, his head turned to the earth and his feet lifted high, inasmuch as he declared himself to be unworthy to be crucified like his Master.” Eusebius (in the Armenian text of his Chronicon) gives the same date for the beginning of Peter’s episcopate. But these statements are made unlikely in the last degree by (see Diss. i. 3, 7) Peter’s imprisonment at Jerusalem in A.D. 44 and his presence in A.D. 51 at the conference mentioned in Galatians 2:1-10; and by the absence of all reference to him in the Epistle to the Romans, and in that to the Philippians which was undoubtedly written from Rome.
About the death of Peter, we read in Eusebius, Church History bk. iii. I, on the authority of Origen: “At the end, having come to Rome, he was empaled head downwards, himself having demanded to suffer thus.” So bk. ii. 25; and Demonstration of the Gospel, bk. iii. 5, vol. iv. p. 116. In his Church History, bk. ii. 25, Eusebius quotes Caius of Rome (A.D. 210 about) as saying: “If thou wilt go to the Vatican or to the Ostian Way thou wilt find the monuments of those (Peter and Paul) who founded this Church.” He quotes also a letter of the same date to the Roman Church from Dionysius, bishop of Corinth saying that at both Corinth and Rome both Peter and Paul preached. Tertullian (Against Marcion bk. iv. 5) says: “the Romans… to whom Peter and Paul left the Gospel sealed by their own blood.” Similarly, in his Prescriptions against Heretics ch. 36. Also Irenaeus, On Heresies bk. iii. 1: “While Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome and founding the Church.” So ch. 3. We see then that within little more than a hundred years of his death, in places so far apart as Corinth and Carthage, Rome and Gaul, and soon afterwards in Syria, it was confidently believed that Peter died at, or visited, Rome. And the literature of the early Church presents no trace of a contrary tradition. These testimonies and this silence admit of no explanation except that this belief was true. Had he died elsewhere it is most unlikely that no claim to this honour would have been put forward. Now if Peter died at Rome, it is easy to believe that to some extent he preached there. And this might easily give rise to the incorrect tradition that he and Paul founded the Church at Rome.
Many reasons unknown to us may have brought Peter to Rome. Possibly he came at Paul’s request, that the Jewish and Gentile Christians might see, in the concord of the apostles of the circumcision and the uncircumcision the oneness of the Gospel which both preached.
From the above, which is a fairly complete statement of the evidence, it is clear that we have no historical proof that the bishops of Rome are in any sense successors of Peter and inheritors of the prerogatives given to him. Consequently, the primacy of Peter among the twelve apostles in no way supports the claim, put forward by the Bishops of Rome, to the primacy of the universal Church.
Of JOHN, the solitary mention in Galatians 2:9 accords with the scanty reference to him in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts. During the life of Christ we find him frequently associated with his brother James and with Peter; with Peter only, in Luke 22:8 and (as we confidently infer) in John 18:15; John 20:3. But only once (Mark 9:38; Luke 9:49) do we hear his voice; except once more (Luke 9:54) along with James, who if we may trust the constant order of names was his older brother. As in John 18:15 he had with apparently unwavering courage entered the judgment hall with Jesus, so in Acts 3:1 to Acts 4:20 he bravely stands by Peter in great peril, and sanctions his bold words to the Sanhedrin: but again his voice is not heard. In remarkable agreement with all this we find him in Galatians 2:9 present among the men of repute at Paul’s private interview at Jerusalem: but we have no recorded word from his lips. Similarly, in Acts 15:6 ff, assuming him to be present, he gives only silent approval to the words of Peter and James.
The long silence of John was at length broken by a voice which will never more be silent, viz. his Gospel and First Epistle. See further in Dissertation 5.
Of this intimate companion of Jesus and profound student of His teaching, whose words re-echoing and expounding the most precious words of his Master are light and life now to millions and will be so, probably in increasing measure, to the end of time, the only mention in the writings of Paul is Galatians 2:9. And possibly the only meeting of these two greatest theologians of the New Testament was at this conference at Jerusalem.
BARNABAS was (Acts 4:36 f) a Levite, born at Cyprus but afterwards a member of the Church at Jerusalem and owning land there. So prominent was he as a preacher that he received from the apostles the name he afterwards always bore: Son of prophecy. Cp. Acts 13:1, where among the prophets and teachers his name stands first. He knew (Acts 9:27) the story of Paul’s conversion, recognised him at Jerusalem, and introduced him to the apostles. When the work began (Acts 11:21) at Antioch, the apostles wisely sent there Barnabas, as being from childhood associated with Gentiles. In the infant Church he used his gift of exhortation with delight and success. But, feeling the greatness of the work, and appreciating the powers of Paul, Barnabas persuaded him to come to Antioch: and for a whole year the two preachers laboured together. He went with Paul to Jerusalem taking alms for the poor; and then on his first missionary journey. That Barnabas was at that time looked upon as holding a place in the first rank in the Church, is implied in the title apostle given to him, jointly with Paul, in Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14. With Paul, Barnabas went to the conference at Jerusalem, and returned with him to Antioch. But after this he betrayed a momentary weakness by following the example of the Jewish Christians at Antioch who imitate Peter in withdrawing from the Gentiles. Paul’s words in Galatians 2:13, even Barnabas, seem to betray surprise at the defection of his old comrade. Possibly this made Paul less reluctant to separate from Barnabas when the latter wished (Acts 15:37) to take on their contemplated missionary journey John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, who had deserted them on a former journey. After the dispute, Barnabas went with Mark to Cyprus, his native island, doubtless to labour there in the Gospel. He now vanishes from view, except that in 1 Corinthians 9:6 he is spoken of by Paul as a fellow-worker and as, like Paul, refusing to be maintained by those to whom he preached. These courteous words suggest that the parted comrades were afterwards reconciled.
Barnabas is spoken of with confidence by Tertullian (On Modesty ch. 20) as author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. And at the end of the Sinai MS. of the New Testament and in some other Greek and Latin MSS. is an epistle commonly called by his name, and attributed to him frequently and confidently (e.g. Stromata bk. ii. 6, p. 161: 20, p. 177) by Clement of Alexandria and (Against Celsus bk. 1. 63) by Origen. But it is reckoned apocryphal by Eusebius (Church History bk. iii. 25) and by (Illustrious Men ch. 6) Jerome. Neither of these works can make good a claim to be from his pen.
Such are our scanty notices of one who occupied a front place in the founding of Gentile Christianity; and whose character is summed up (Acts 11:24) in words which are a pattern of Christian eulogy, he was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. The past tense suggests perhaps that when those words were written he had passed away.
We may therefore call them written on the imperishable page of Holy Scripture, the Epitaph of Barnabas.
On TITUS see note under 2 Corinthians 9:3.
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Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Galatians 2". Joseph Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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