Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 4th, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Take our poll

Bible Commentaries
Galatians 1

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verse 1

1. Of men… by man The translation should be, from men, as the source; through man, (rather than by,) as the instrument. His apostleship had no human origin, no human medium.

But by Rather, through, as the instrument.

God the Father As Christ is Son in the Trinity, the Father is still named with a through, as the agent or instrument. For though God is truly source as well as agent, yet the apostle here names him as agent, solely because it is human instrumentality he wishes to shut out from the Galatian mind, and the divine to assert.

Raised him from the dead That he might be dispenser of grace and apostleship from on high.

Dead With a from, or out from, and without the article in the plural. See note on Luke 20:35.

Verses 1-5

Superscription and Address, Galatians 1:1-5.

WHEN this epistle was read in their assemblies the Galatians would hear, in the very naming of the apostle by himself, and in his greeting, an intense assertion both of his disputed apostleship and of the atonement through Christ; both of which their apostasy to circumcision had invalidated. The keynote of the whole epistle is struck, to their ears, at the start.

Verse 2

2. Brethren… with me His retinue of friends, fellow-preachers, and supporters. To allude to them is brotherly courtesy to them, and confirmation to himself. See notes, Acts 20:4; Acts 21:16.

Churches This is, therefore, a circular letter, to be read in the Christian congregations of Ancyra, Pessinus, and Tavium, and the other Churches of the province. Such letters were carried by messengers, charged often with special verbal messages, and directed to whom to be delivered. Very probably different copies were thus distributed, each to the proper Church.

No affectionate epithet or clause is added to the word churches, and no commendations or congratulations, such as open the other epistles, enliven this. The omission is a silent rebuke, preparatory to the rebukes soon to be uttered.

Verse 3

3. Grace Though Paul omits the compliment, he does not forget the benediction, brief and rapid though it be. Though he cannot speak the Galatians well, he can wish them well. And the blessings here wished, grace and peace, they much needed.

Verse 4

4. Gave himself He was full owner of his own life: his death was a gift from him to us. So in Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; he gave his life as a ransom for many. Note, John 10:18.

For The better reading περι instead of υπερ is, on account of concerning our sins. As Paul’s titling of himself asserts his apostleship, so this clause asserts the atonement for which his apostleship existed, and both which circumcision was crowding out.

Present evil world This aeon, or time-world of sin, error, apostasy, and strife; to the misery of which the Galatic fickleness was adding its element. Where were once faith and peace, now were distrust and quarrel. Present is the same Greek word as at hand, in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, where see note. It blends the idea of present and setting in, or approach, as of a state already commencing, and as good as here. This inserting and initially present era is the same as the latter times of 1 Timothy 4:1, where see note, and the last days of 2 Timothy 3:1. Meyer says, the present world is the last part of the this world mentioned in Romans 12:2, and 1 Corinthians 1:20. But it by no means follows, as Meyer infers, that this insetting era was a brief space intervening before the then approaching second advent.

Previous to Christ the Jews used the phrases this aeon, the aeon to come, to designate the ages antecedent to, and subsequent to, the Messiah. In the New Testament the terms slid into the meanings of the periods before and after the second advent.

According to the will of God Spoken of Christ’s self-giving, and the resultant redemption through him. This, and not perpetual circumcision, is God’s will.

Verse 5

5. This complete cycle of gospel thought St. Paul rounds out with a doxology, as in Romans 11:36; Romans 9:5; Romans 16:27; Ephesians 3:21; 1 Timothy 1:17.

Be glory Rather, the glory, with the article; that is, (not, as Alford and Lightfoot, the glory belonging to him, but) the glory of so glorious a redemption. “God’s all the glory man’s the endless bliss.”

For ever and ever Literal Greek, into aeons of aeons into ages of ages. The phrase does not, with absolute exactness, express eternity, but only indefinite immensity. It does not absolutely deny all end, but ignores all end. It was, no doubt, the most powerful phrase to express eternity, and to explode from thought all idea of end that the language of the New Testament age knew. Hence it is here used to designate the duration of the existence of the divine glory. It may be added that the word aeon, in this phrase, is the same as that in the previous verse, which we have rendered time-world. This phrase, then, suggests that the endless future is not to be a quiet characterless stream, but a perpetual roll of stupendous revolutions.

Verse 6



1. Points stated Paul’s apostleship, and Christ’s gospel of faith, Galatians 1:6-10.

6. I marvel Rather, admire; spoken usually of admirable objects of notice; hence a more delicate word than marvel or wonder, and yet slightly suggestive of sarcasm. It was a brilliant fickleness, perhaps, yet a sad one.

So soon He admires not only their recession from the cross to the circumcision, but also the unexpected promptness with which it has been accomplished. But from what point of time is so soon (or more literally, so quickly) to be calculated? If from the time of their first conversion, that was probably a period of about four years. More likely, however, St. Paul refers to the suddenness of their conversion. They fell so quickly before the first assault as to take him by surprise. He had not time to wait for a personal intervention, but must interpose by a letter.

Him that called you The reference of this him to Paul, who, as apostle, called them to Christ, makes a very pointed meaning. But assuming that Galatians and Romans were written about the same period, then Romans 9:11 indicates a reference to God. So Wesley, and also the best modern commentators.

Verse 7

7. Not another Paul, as it were, corrects himself. His last words, another gospel, might indicate that a return to Judaistic circumcision was a parallel gospel. He now denies that it is any gospel, or good news, at all. The word another, twice used in English here, is represented by two different Greek words. The former signifies different, the latter additional.

The former might mean that there are two gospels; but Paul adds that the supposed different is none.

But It is a gospel, but only as a trouble you is a gospel.

Pervert Literally, transform. They would substitute circumcision for the crucifixion as a mode of salvation.

Pervert the gospel of Christ And make it become, essentially, the law of Moses again.

Verse 8

8. Though… an angel This is possible only as an angel from heaven is a free agent, and able, like the first angels, to forsake God. Paul had heard his gospel from Christ himself, and he felt his assurance greater even than the counter testimony of an angel from heaven. Christ’s gospel is superior to an angel’s anti-gospel. The gospel, like Christ himself, is superior to all finite worth. Should some angelic form appear at Ancyra, and say that the gospel is false, there is a delusion about it.

And so in modern days, a false demonism is abroad ignoring Christ, or demanding to transform his gospel. It can bring nothing greater than Christ; nothing truer, holier, more saving than his gospel. Let them be anathema so far as they abjure the Lord Jesus. Chrysostom finely suggests that Paul is here sweepingly answering those who were quoting Peter and James against him. Speak you of apostles? I tell you if an angel contradict the gospel he is to be rejected!

Accursed An anathema, devoted to destruction. This is the New Testament sense; the later Church sense is excommunicated, severed from true believers. In such sense it is used in the old creeds as condemning the rejecters of each given article.

Verse 9

9. As we said before On former occasions forewarned you. Paul doubtless here recalls to the memory of these misguided men how he had foretold the coming of these very intruders, and the danger of their being accepted. The time of this forewarning was probably his last visit.

Accursed The menacing repetition of this anathema indicated his own firmness, and the awfulness of their danger. The guilt of their apostasy is aggravated by the repetition of the warnings.

Verse 10

10. For The apostle seems almost to recoil from his own repeated fulminations. Shocked, are you, at my anathemas? My purpose is not now to persuade men, but to persuade God himself, that I am dealing faithfully with men.

Do I now Is it the business I am now engaged in? Am I a human flatterer? My accursed, will show that I do not flatter you.

Or God Is not my very readiness to sacrifice your good graces proof that I am true to

God? If… pleased men… not… of Christ The crisis is now arrived in which pleasing men and serving Christ are incompatible. And you know which is my choice.

Verse 11

11. This and the verse following state the apostle’s line of defence, affirming the broad fact of the divine origin, not of the gospel merely, but of his gospel. So far as man was concerned, he was original. His original was Christ.

Certify Literally, make known, cause you to know, assure you.

After man So that man could frame it. It is not such as man would or could have framed.

Verses 11-24

2. Paul’s gospel borrowed from no apostle, Galatians 1:11-24.

Paul now, to prove that his gospel was not derived from man, gives a narrative showing that he did not obtain it from the only men supposable the apostles; nor from the Jerusalem centre. He was first wrapped in the intensest Judaism, Galatians 1:13-14; upon his conversion he visited not Jerusalem he saw no apostle for three years, Galatians 1:16-17; he then visited Peter at Jerusalem, and saw James alone besides, Galatians 1:18-20; thence departing to Syria he had no acquaintance at all with the Judean Churches, Galatians 1:21-24. His gospel, then, not being received from the apostles, if it coincided with the apostolic gospel was all the more certainly true.

Verse 12

12. Received it As a gift or deposit.

Taught it As a lesson, doctrine, or system.

Revelation Direct disclosure from Christ to Paul. The Greek word is a form of our term apocalypse; so that not only John had his apocalypse, but Paul. See Introductory note to 1 Corinthians 15:1.

Verse 13

13. Ye have heard Rather, ye heard; that is, ye heard it from me, narrated in my preaching to you. See note, Acts 22:1. Paul, by showing how he was converted, and from what deep anti-Christianity, shows men how they are to be converted. This is experimental religion.

Conversation The word implies the entire mode of life.

Jews’ religion Literally, Judaism.

Persecuted Pursued as a chasing warrior.

Wasted Devastated, usually spoken of ravaging or devastating a country or city. He paints his own sin in vivid words, prompted by deep penitence.

Verse 14

14. Profited Became proficient and eminent, even after his persecuting course had commenced, as the order of the narrative indicates.

Zealous The inspiring motive; zeal for the ancestral traditions; not merely the sacred books, but hereditary customs and rabbinical maxims, as afterwards embodied in the Talmud.

Verse 15

15. Pleased God Not the divine will blank and bare of all reason or reasons, but the divine will according with the wisest of reasons. Why Paul was then selected there is no difficulty in conjecturing. Divine providence selects its instruments from a recognition of their fitness, and a pre-recognition how they will in full freedom fulfil their mission. See notes on Romans 9:10-11.

Separated Set me apart, individualized me, as the duly endowed and fitting instrument. Nevertheless, it should be carefully noted that St. Paul, in all this passage, speaks not of his predestination to salvation, but of his providential fitting for his apostleship.

From my mother’s womb Meyer says: “Not in the womb, as Wieseler; nor ere I was born, as Ruckert; but, from my birth.” Comp. Psalms 22:10; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 49:1; Isaiah 49:5; Matthew 19:12; Acts 3:2; Acts 14:8. The very elements of his physical and mental being were such as to point him out. To be an apostle he needed to be a Jew; to be an apostle of the Gentiles, he needed to be a Gentilized Jew. He needed a powerful vitality, a piercing intellect, and an iron will. He needed to be one moulded before birth for this wonderful future. Yet we are not to suppose that Paul’s generative process or formation was supernaturally interfered with. God, as divine nature, wrought him in the course of nature. His selection and call were fixed upon him on account of the endowments and qualities that met in him.

Called Note, Romans 1:1.

Grace Favour, but not compulsion. Note, Romans 3:27. Our whole existence is based in grace; our hopes of glory are based in higher grace; the privilege of being God’s apostle on earth was based in highest grace. Paul narrates the whole to show that he is not a man’s apostle, an apostle’s apostle, but solely, God’s apostle.

Professor Lightfoot, however, entirely misses Paul’s point: which is not to show “the sole agency of God as distinct from his own efforts; but the sole agency of God as distinct from any man, as the source, either of Paul’s gospel, or his apostleship.

Verse 16

16. Reveal To mankind.

In me By a work inwrought within me, and flowing out, in revelation, from me.

With flesh and blood With unregenerate nature, (Matthew 16:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Ephesians 6:12;) whether my own or any other man’s. For as Paul has thus far in the matter shown God’s operations, so now he shows man’s co-operations. God works and man co-works; God energizes and man synergizes. Unless both work no blessed effect results. He who shuts out God’s work becomes Pelagian and rationalistic; he who shuts out man’s work becomes predestinarian and fatalistic. As Paul tells us (Acts 9:9) that he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, so now he tells us he conferred not with flesh and blood. It was not only easy for him to become, like Judas, a fallen star, but it required all his volitional energy to keep his body under, to prevent it.

Verse 17

17. Neither Paul has thus far shown how incapable a mind like his was, from its intense Judaism, of originating the gospel. He now shows that he had no intercourse with apostles or with Jerusalem to derive it thence.

Up See note, Acts 11:2.

Arabia Strictly, the ancient land lying between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, including the Peninsula of Sinai. At different periods, however, it stretched into very different extensions, even to a bordering eastward upon Damascus itself, and including it. Prof. Lightfoot suggests, without fully avowing, a theory that Paul prosecuted a pilgrimage to Mount Sinai itself. There, where Moses gave the law, and where Elijah’s soul was strengthened to restore it. Paul receives from Christ the sublime apocalypse of his gospel. Arabia, then, will be here, as it should be, identical with Arabia in Galatians 4:25. We thereby see how the conception of that allegory arose to his mind. That meditation, the process of the forming of the true conception of the gospel, and not, as the early Christian writers assumed, preaching, was his business in the desert we may readily believe.

Returned again His stay in Arabia appears to have been brief.

Verse 18

18. Three years Styled many days by Luke. Acts 9:23. In addition to what we have there said, we add the following from Lightfoot: “ Many days in the Septuagint denotes any indefinite period, however long.

Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 14:2; 1 Kings 3:11, ‘a long life.’”

See Peter The Greek word is expressive, to be acquainted with Peter. For Peter, the better reading is Cephas, as in Galatians 2:11.

Fifteen days That is, a fortnight, including, perhaps, two sabbaths; departing doubtless on the fifteenth day. “This,” says Wordsworth, “was long enough for Peter to have detected and exposed him had he been unsound.” It was too short, Paul argues, for him to have borrowed Peter’s gospel.

Verse 19

19. Save James This is, no doubt, the James of Jerusalem. Acts 21:18, and Matthew 10:3. It is questioned, with little reason, we think, whether he is here called an apostle. The Greek may indeed be rendered: Other of the apostles saw I none, save that I saw James. But James has to be counted to make out the apostles of Acts 9:27, where see note.

Verse 20

20. Before God This earnest reminder that we speak as in God’s presence has the solemnity of an oath, but not its profanity.

Verse 21

21. Syria and Cilicia He was driven from Jerusalem by plots of the Jews, Acts 9:29-30, and so was beyond the reach of apostolic teaching.

Verse 22

22. Unknown… churches of Judea And so could not have borrowed the Judean and Jerusalemite type of gospel. He was unknown at Jerusalem, only excepting the acquaintance they acquired with him, according to his own account, during his abode with Peter. Probably his intercourse was mainly with the Hellenists at Jerusalem. See Acts 9:29, and note.

Verse 23

23. They The Judean Christians.

Had heard Rather, were hearing; that is, while he was in Syria and Cilicia. Us The sentence glides into the words of the Christians themselves.

Verse 24

24. Glorified God Rendered thanks and praise that the persecutor had become a preacher. But this was the Church from which, under pressure of the temple hierarchy, Paul’s Judaizing troublers came. Fourteen years afterwards, as he will soon say, he came to meet them at Jerusalem and settle accounts.

In me Rather, upon me; as the basis upon which their glorifying of God was founded.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Galatians 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/galatians-1.html. 1874-1909.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile