|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:10-14 In preaching the gospel, the apostle sought to bring persons to the obedience, not of men, but of God. But Paul would not attempt to alter the doctrine of Christ, either to gain their favour, or to avoid their fury. In so important a matter we must not fear the frowns of men, nor seek their favour, by using words of men's wisdom. Concerning the manner wherein he received the gospel, he had it by revelation from Heaven. He was not led to Christianity, as many are, merely by education.
Verse 14. - And profited in the Jews' religion (καὶ προέκοπτον ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαι'σμῷ); and was going forward in Judaism; that is, was going on further and further in Judaism. The Greek verb (προκόπτειν) "to make way," "advance," is found also Luke 2:52; Romans 13:12; 2 Timothy 2:16; 2 Timothy 3:9, 13. "In Judaism," i.e. in the sentiments and practices of Judaism. The particular kind of Judaism which he has in view was the Pharisean form of Mosaism. A "Pharisee and son of a Pharisee," a high-caste "Hebrew sprung of Hebrews" (Acts 23:6; Philippians 3:5), Saul had thrown himself upon the study and observance, not only of all the rites and ceremonies prescribed in the written Law, but also of the doctrines, rites, and ceremonies which rabbinical teaching and tradition added thereto; outvying in strictness those who were the strictest; never satisfied without adopting whatever fresh observances the authority of a Pharisean rabbin might commend to his regard. Above many my equals in mine own nation (ὑπὲρ πολλοὺς συνηλικιώτας ἐν τῷ γένει μου)"Above," beyond; the same Greek preposition as in Acts 26:13; Philemon 1:16, 21; Hebrews 4:12. Συνηλικιώτης, synonymous with συνῆλιξ, used in the Septuagint of Daniel 1:10, is equivalent to ἡλικιώτης or ῆλιξ, the σύν being prefixed merely to make the notion of parity more emphatic. Saul was then "a young man" (Acts 7:58); and the reference which he here makes to "coevals" of his, as sharing in his Judaistic enthusiasm, but outstripped by him therein, seems to point to the rising up at that time of a party, "a young Jewry," as we might nowadays style it. especially espoused by the more youthful "Hebrews," which devoted itself to the revival and consolidation of Pharisean Judaism in its most advanced form. We may cone,lye of them as actuated by antagonism, alike to the Gentilizing spirit of the Herodians; to the rigid bare form of Mosaism cherished by the Sadducees which rejected that development of spiritual doctrine which for many generations had been going on in many pious and thoughtful minds; and finally, and perhaps most specially of all, to the new but rapidly spreading sect of the "Nazarenes." "In my nation." The apostle says "my," as conscious of the presence of the Gentiles to whom he is writing. For the like reason uses the singular possessive pronoun, "my people (τὸ ἔθνος μου) in his address to Felix and in his defense before Agrippa, this king sitting only as an assesor by compliment at the side of the heathen governor. (Acts 24:17; Acts 26:4). Elsewhere also St. Paul uses the word γένος "nation" to denote the Jewish people, whence also he employs the phrase "my kinsmen" συγγένης μου when addressing Gentiles to denote a fellow-Jew in contrast to Gentiles (Romans 9:3, 16:7, 21). In the present passage, "among my countrymen" presupposes is founded on relation to country, whereas γένος denotes a blood connection, comprising Jews of whatever country. Being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers (περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς ὑάρχω τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων) The strong adverb here used, "more excessively" περισσοτέρως which frequently occurs in St. Paul's ardent style, always retains its proper comparative sense; as e.g. 2 Corinthians 7:15; 2 Corinthians 11:23, 12:15. It means, therefore, more excessively than they." The word ζηλωτής rendered "zealous," followed by the genetive "of the traditions," has much the same meaning as in the phrases, "zealous of spirits [or, spiritual gifts];" "zealous of good works;" "zealous of the Law" (1 Corinthians 14:12; Titus 2:14; Acts 21:20); in all which passages it is rendered in the Authorized Version as here. Its meaning is illustrated by use of the verb from which it is derived in 1 Corinthians 14:1, "Desire earnestly to prophesy;" denoting, as it should seem, "admire and long to possess" "aspire after" (see below, the notes on Galatians 4:17, 18). The clause may be paraphrased, "With more excessive fervency than they, affecting [or, being devoted to] the traditions of my fathers." The only remaining passage in the New Testament in which the Greek word occurs as an adjective in Acts 22:3 (ζηλωτὴς τοῦ Θεοῦ), "zealous towards God" (Authorized Version), "zealous for God" (Revised Version); where the sense is probably still that of fervent devotion, but implying also a palliating reference to the intense zeal which the Jews were then showing in vindicating the honour of God against a supposed insult. "Zeal towards" an object implies also a "zeal for it;" in other words, fervent attachment and devotion has also an outward-looking aspect of resentment and resistance against any who are regarded as disposed to assail what we love. And this latter element of thought, the vindicatory, is frequently the more prominent of the two, in the use of the word "zeal" and its derivatives, in the Hellenistical Greek of both the LXX. and the New Testament; while in some cases it is not clear which for the moment is the most in the speaker's mind The latter, no doubt, forms the principal notion of the name "Zealot" as applied in the closing decades of the Jewish commonwealth to a fanatical party, who felt they had a special vocation to vindicate the honour of God and his service by deeds of rancourous violence; to which party probably at one time belonged the Simon who in Luke 6:15 is styled "Zelotes," a word no doubt, synonymous with the Chaldeian word "Cananaean" found in Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18. In the phrase, "the traditions of my fathers," the apostle has been supposed by some critics to allude to the circumstance that he was "the son of a Pharisee:" thus making it equivalent to "the traditions of my family. But the context shows that he is thinking of traditions observed likewise by those "coevals" of his to whom he refers; the "fathers," therefore, are the forefathers of the nation, equivalent to the "elders," in the phrase current among the Jews, "the tradition of the elders" (Matthew 15:2)., Comp. 1 Peter 1:18, "Your vain manner of life πατροπαραδότου handed down from your fathers." In the possessive pronoun "my" the apostle still speaks of himself as a born Jew, in contradiction to Gentiles such as he was addressing. If he had been addressing Jews, he would probably have written "our," or omitted the pronoun altogether, as in Acts 22:3; Acts 24:14; Acts 28:17. There seems to be a tone of mimesis in the phrase: q.d. "The traditions which I proudly and fondly cherished as those of my fathers." The adjective rendered "of the fathers" marks them as those who had transmitted παρέδοσαν those traditions παραδόσεις, not merely those who had possessed them. It has been questioned whether this phrase "paternal traditions" includes those transmitted religious maxims and observances which the Mosaic Law itself prescribed. Probably it does. The "customs which [the Jews said] Moses delivered παρέδωκεν to us" (Acts 6:14). as they appertained to "the fathers." at the same time, the apostle would hardly have written as he here has done, if he had had these alone in his view; he would rather have introduced the venerable name of "the Law." The expression appears chosen as comprehending, together with the prescriptions of the original Law, those transmitted maxims and usages also which are described in the Gospels (cf. Matthew 5; Matthew 15; Matthew 23; Mark 7.) as things said "by" or "to" them of old time, or as "the traditions of the elders;" the particular instances of such which are specified in the Gospels being only samples taken out of a a very large class (Mark 7:4). Our Lord himself, it is true, made a distinction between these two classes of religions doctrines or observances, rebuking specifically many of the latter class, and discountenancing the whole class in general when enforced on men's consciences as a religious obligation; in contrast with "the Word of God," these, he insisted, were "commandments" or "traditions of men" (Mark 7:7-13). But a Judaist would hardly have been disposed to make the same distinction, Rather, it would be the habit of his mind to blend and confound the two together as forming one entire system of formal religion; regarding those of the latter class simply as explanatory of the former, or as a fitting suppletion required to give to the former due coherency and entireness. He would be disposed to consider that portion of the whole tradition which in reality was of purely human device as invested with the like obligatoriness as that other portion which could truly plead the sanction of Divine authorization. It is plain that this was the case with those Judaists with whom, in the Gospels, our Lord is seen contending. And in all the references which St. Paul makes to Judaism, whether as part of his own former life, or as confronted by him in his apostolic agency, nowhere, either, is he found making any distinction between the two certainly distinguishable elements which composed it. There were, however, different schools of thought in Judaistic traditionalism, some stricter, some more lax. We must, therefore, further define our view of the particular branch of "paternal traditions" which the apostle here refers to by remembering that, as he said in his speech from the stairs (Acts 22:3), he had been "instructed according to the strict manner of the Law of their fathers;" trained, that is, to construe the requirements of the Law as these were interpreted by the strictest of all the schools; as he said before Agrippa, "After the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee" (Acts 26:5). Here the inquiry presents itself - In what way does the substance of these two verses (13, 14) help to bear out the apostle's statement in ver. 12, that the gospel which he preached was altogether derived from God's own immediate revelation to himself? The whole complexion of the passage shows that the point which the apostle is here concerned to indicate relates to the posture of his own spirit at the time of his first receiving the gospel. The Saul of those days, he says, was animated by the sentiment of bitter hostility to the faith; by a stern resolve - the dictate, as he thought, of conscience - if possible to extirpate the Church. Was it supposable that a mind possessed with such an abhorrence of the Nazarenes was nevertheless accessible to voices and teachings coming to him out of their society? Again, an earnestly religious man according to his lights, Saul's spirit was absorbed by devotion to Judaism - to the eager carrying out in practice, and to the vindication, of those modes of religious life which the revered and fondly cherished traditions of his people recommended to him. Was it credible that he could for a moment have given a favourable hearing to statements, whether of matters of fact or of religious belief, which proceeded from a sect of latitudinarians such as these, whose teacher had notoriously been foremost both in trampling down the fences of Pharisaism in his own practice and in loudly denouncing alike its principles and its representatives? Why, anything which those men could have said would to his view be at once self-condemned because simply of the quarter from which it issued. It may be objected that words which he had heard, we may confidently believe, from the martyr Stephen, who, in the controversy between Judaism and Christianity, may be regarded as in a certain degree Paul's own forerunner, and very supposably from many another confessor of the faith of less enlightenment than St. Stephen, though at the time repelled from his acceptance through his all-absorbing Pharisaism, may nevertheless have deposited in his mind pregnant seeds of thought and instruction afterwards to be fully developed. To this objection it appears a sufficient reply that the gospel of the grace of God to all mankind, untrammelled by any Judaical restriction whatever, which was the gospel entrusted to St. Paul, and which at this present hour of conflict in Galatia he was more specifically concerned to maintain, had at the time of his conversion been as yet most imperfectly disclosed even to the most advanced disciples of the faith. This more perfectly developed form of the gospel it was not possible that he should have heretofore heard from any Christian martyr or from any Christian teacher; for at float time it was still a mystery, not patent as yet to the eyes of even apostles themselves (see Ephesians 3:1-7).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And profited in the Jews' religion,.... Or "in Judaism"; and the more he did so, or was versed in, and wedded to their principles, the more violent a persecutor he was. He was under a very considerable master, Gamaliel, a Rabbi of great note among the Jews; and he himself a youth of uncommon natural abilities, so that his proficiency in Jewish learning was very great; even, as he says,
above many my equals in mine own nation: not proselytes in other nations, but such as were natives of his own country: or were "in his own kindred", his near relations, who were his contemporaries, of the same age with him; and very modestly he says "many", not "all":
being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers: he had a zeal, but, not according to knowledge; and a greater degree of it than the rest of his countrymen; and that not so much for the written law delivered to his fathers, as for the oral law, the traditions and customs of his ancestors; which had been handed down, as they pretended, from one to another, and were now swelled to an almost infinite bulk; and mean the traditions of the elders, condemned by Christ, as making void the commandments of God: now his close attachment to, and eager zeal for these traditions, put him upon using more violent measures in persecuting the saints, and further off from the Gospel of Christ: and now from this account of himself it is a clear point, that during this period of his life he could never have received the Gospel from men, which is his view in giving it.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. profited—Greek, "I was becoming a proficient"; "I made progress."
my equals—Greek, "Of mine own age, among my countrymen."
traditions of my fathers—namely, those of the Pharisees, Paul being "a Pharisee, and son of a Pharisee" (Ac 23:6; 26:5). "MY fathers," shows that it is not to be understood generally of the traditions of the nation.
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