|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-5 Several things made the folly of the Galatian Christians worse. They had the doctrine of the cross preached, and the Lord's supper administered among them, in both which Christ crucified, and the nature of his sufferings, had been fully and clearly set forth. Had they been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, by the ministration of the law, or on account of any works done by them in obedience thereto? Was it not by their hearing and embracing the doctrine of faith in Christ alone for justification? Which of these had God owned with tokens of his favour and acceptance? It was not by the first, but the last. And those must be very unwise, who suffer themselves to be turned away from the ministry and doctrine which have been blessed to their spiritual advantage. Alas, that men should turn from the all-important doctrine of Christ crucified, to listen to useless distinctions, mere moral preaching, or wild fancies! The god of this world, by various men and means, has blinded men's eyes, lest they should learn to trust in a crucified Saviour. We may boldly demand where the fruits of the Holy Spirit are most evidently brought forth? whether among those who preach justification by the works of the law, or those who preach the doctrine of faith? Assuredly among the latter.
Verse 1. - O foolish Galatians (ω΅ ἀνόητοι Γαλάται). In thus apostrophizing them, the apostle brands their present behaviour, not any lack of intelligence on their part in general (comp. Luke 24:25). "Foolish" - to allow yourselves to be thus robbed of your happiness. The transporting feeling of elevation and joy with which, in Galatians 2:19-21, the apostle describes himself as crucified with Christ to the Law, and as living in Christ and through Christ, makes him the more keenly sensible of the senseless folly shown by the Galatians in taking up the observance of the Law. Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truths? (τίς ὑμᾶς ἐβάσκανε; [Receptus adds, τῇ ἀληθείᾳ μὴ πείθεσθαι]); who in his envy did bewitch you? With respect to the Greek text, there is now no doubt amongst editors that the words, τῇ ἀληθείᾳ μὴ πείθεσθαι, "that ye should not obey the truth," are not genuine here, being in all probability foisted in from Galatians 5:7. We have, therefore, to omit them and to read ἐβάσκανεν as before οῖς. Ἐβάσκανεν is a remarkable word, and calls for comment. In common Greek, βασκαίνειν τινά, to treat one with malignant words, means either to slander, belie, blacken character, or to cast upon him primarily words conveying baleful spells, and then, in later usage very frequently, baleful spells of any kind, and more especially spells from the "evil eye" (Aristotle, Plutarch); in the language of old English superstition, "forelook" or "overlook." Indeed, so closely did this last notion cling to the verb, as to have suggested to Greek grammarians for its etymology, φάεσι καίνειν, "to kill with the eyes." The more scientific etymologists of recent days derive it from βάζω β´ασκω, speak; as if it were "to bespeak a man." The nouns βάσκσνος βασκανία, following the senses of the verb, express the ideas, either of envious detraction or of sorcery (see Schneider; Passow; Liddell and Scott). In the New Testament the word occurs only here. In the Septuagint we meet with it in Deuteronomy 28:54, where, for the words, "His eye shall be evil towards his brother," we have Βασκανεῖ τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, meaning apparently, "He shall grudge with his eye his brother;" and so again in ver. 56, the same phrase is used analogously of the tender woman, "She shall grudge with her eye her husband;" Ecclus. 14:6, "There is not a worse man (τοῦ βασκαίνοντος ἑαυτόν) than he that grudges his own self;" ibid. ver. 8, "Evil is (ὁ βασκαίνων ὀφαλμῷ) he that grudgeth with his eye. In Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New, and in the Apocrypha, the phrases, "the eye being evil," "the evil eye," following the Hebrew, always denote envy, ill nature, niggardliness (Deuteronomy 15:9; Deuteronomy 28:54, 56; Proverbs 23:6 [comp. Proverbs 22:9, "a bountiful eye"]; Matthew 20:15; Mark 7:22). Nowhere either in the Scriptures or in the Apocrypha is there any reference to "forelooking," unless perchance the me'onen, Deuteronomy 20:10 (Authorized Version, "observer of times"), is etymologically connected with the Hebrew word for "eye," which, however, few critics suppose. Ignatius, 'Ad Romans', 3, has Οὐδέποτε ἐβασκάνατε οὐδένα ἄλλους ἐδιδάξατε, "never grudged any man." This Septuagintal use of the verb presents, as the reader will observe, a somewhat different shade of meaning to any of those cited above from the lexicons. Following, however, its guidance, we may understand the apostle as here asking, "Whoso ill-natured jealousy was it that did light upon you?" and as intending to convey these two ideas:
(1) the envy of their once happy state which actuated the agent referred to; and,
(2) by implication, the baleful effect wrought by the envier upon them. The aorist of the verb seems to point to a decisive result. He had, it is hinted, succeeded in his wish; he had robbed them of the blessedness which had excited his jealousy. In respect to the former idea, elsewhere (Galatians 4:17, "They would fain shut you out") the apostle ascribes the action of their misleaders to sinister designs against their well-being. It is, indeed, this thought that inspires the extreme severity of his language above in Galatians 2:4; the βάσκανος, of whom he here speaks, belonged to, or derived from, them. In short, the pathetic question here before us breathes the like indignation and vexation as that in Galatians 5:7, "Ye were running on well: who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?" - the last words of which passage, though not admissible here in the text, would, however, if there, form a perfectly correct explanatory clause. The more distinctly to mark the effect actually produced by the envier, very many commentators have enwoven into their interpretation of ἐνάσκανεν, besides its Septuagiutal sense, its other sense of blasting with some kind of charm: "The malignity," Chrysostom writes, "of a demon whose spirit [or, 'breath'] had blasted their prosperous estate." Great use has been made, in particular, by many, as, e.g. Jerome and, according to Estius, by Thomas Aquinas, of the superstition of the "evil eye," which, in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean, has in all ages been so rife. Bishop Lightfoot, in his interesting note on the passage, offers the following paraphrase: "Christ's death in vain? O ye senseless Gauls, what bewitchment is this? I placarded Christ crucified before your eyes. Ye suffered them to wander from this gracious proclamation of your King. They rested on the withering eye of the sorcerer. They yielded to the fascination and were riveted there. And the life of your souls has been drained out of you by that envious gaze." It may, however, be questioned whether the apostle would have recognized his own thought in this thorough-going application of the superstition of the "evil eye." It is doubtful whether he used the verb ἐβάσκανεν with reference to any species of sorcery at all; but if he did, he may have intended no more than this: "What envious ill-wisher has by some strange, inexplicable sorcery so wrought upon you? Or, how can I explain your behaviour, except that you have been acting under some binding spell? Surely such folly is well-nigh inconceivable with men in free possession of their own souls." But
(1) each of these two renderings of the passage is open to the objection that St. Paul, in writing ἐβάσκανεν, either might have intended to express by the word "envious grudging," according to its Sep-tuagintal use, or he might have meant some kind of sorcery according to a common acceptation of the term, but could hardly have meant to convey both senses together.
(2) The introduction of the supposition is inconvenient, not only because there could not have really been any such ingredient in the actual circumstances of the present case, but also because its mention would serve to excuse the folly of the Galatians, as indeed Chrysostom observes that it does, rather than to enhance its censure, which latter would have been more to the apostle's purpose.
(3) It seems especially improbable that the apostle was thinking of the "evil eye" when we consider the entire absence of its mention in the sacred writings. Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (οῖς κατ ὀφθαλμοὺς Ἰησοῦς Ξριστὸς προεγράφη ἐν ὑμῖν ἐσταυρωμένος;); to whom, before your very eyes, Jesus Christ had been (literally, was) aforetime (or, openly) set forth crucified (among you)? The genuineness of the words, ἐν ὑμῖν, "among you," is very doubtful. The Revised Greek text omits them. The words, κατ ὀφθαλμούς, "before your very eyes," are very pointed; for the Greek expression, comp. κατὰ πρόσωπον (Galatians 2:11), and Aristoph., 'Ran.,' 625, ἵνα σοι κατ ὀφθαλμοὺς λέγῃ, "that he may say it to your very face." The sense of προεγράφη is much disputed. It is not clear whether the πρὸ is the "before" of time or of place. Of the other passages in the New Testament in which this compound verb occurs, in Romans 15:4 twice, and Ephesians 3:3, πρὸ is certainly, and in Jude 1:4 probably, not so certainly (comp. 1 Macc. 10:36, "enrolled"), "before" of time. In the present passage a reference to the prophecies of the Old Testament seems out of place. It is far more suitable to the connection to suppose that the apostle is referring to his own preaching. Some commentators, retaining the words, ἐν ὑμῖν, connect them with προεγράφη in the sense of "in you," comparing "Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27), and "written in your hearts" (2 Corinthians 3:2); and so render the words thus: "written of, or described, before in you." But such an expression, sufficiently awkward in itself, would further be very unsuitably introduced after the words, "before your very eyes." Supposing we take the πρὸ as of time, there is no satisfactory explanation of the ἐγρὰφη, if understood in the sense of writing, there being no tablet (so to speak) suggested on which the writing could be conceived of as done. Γράφω, it is true, means "describe" in John 1:45 and Romans 10:5; but it is still a description in writing. We are, therefore, driven to assign to the verb the notion of portraying as in a painting, a sense which in Common Greek it certainly does sometimes bear, and which attaches to it in the διαγράφω of Ezekiel 4:1; Ezekiel 8:10 (Septuagint). We thus gain the sense, "had before been set forth or por trayed;" before (that is) the envier assailed you. This same sense, of portraying rather than of writing, would be also the best to give to the verb, supposing the πρὸ to be understood as the "before" of place; which conception of the preposition Bishop Lightfoot contends for, urging the use of the verb προγράφειν, and the nouns πρόγραμμα and προγραφή, with reference to the placards on which public notices were given of political or other matters of business. When, how ever, we consider how partial the apostle is to verbs compounded with πρὸ of time, as is seen in his use of προαιτιάομαι προακούω, προαμαρτάνω προελπίζω προενάρχομαι προεπαγγέλλομαι προτετοιμάζω προευαγγελίζομαι προκαταγγέλλω προκαταρτίζω προκυρόομαι, προπάσχω, not a few of which were probably compounded by himself as he wanted them, it appears highly probable that, to serve the present occasion, he here forms the compound προγράφω in the sense of "portraying before," the compound not existing elsewhere in the same sense. He compares, then, the idea of Christ crucified, presented to his hearers in his preaching, to a portraiture, in which the Redeemer had been so vividly and with such striking effect exhibited to his converts, that it ought in all reason have for ever safeguarded their souls against all danger from teaching of an alien character. If the phrase, ἐν ὑμῖν, be retained, it appears best, with Chrysostom and many others, to understand it as meaning, that St. Paul had presented Christ crucified in such lively colours to their view, that they had, as it were, seen him hanging on the cross in their very midst. The position of ἐσταυρωμένος, disconnected from Ἰησοῦς Ξριστὸς and at the end of the sen tence, gives it intense significance. What the idea of Christ crucified was to his own self, the apostle had just before declared; for him it at once had destroyed all spiritual connection with the ceremonial Law, the Law which bade the crucified One away from itself as accursed, and also by the infinite love to himself which he beheld manifested in Christ crucified for him, had bound him to him by spiritual ties both all-constrain ing and iudissoluble. And such (he means) should have been the effect produced by that idea upon their souls. What envier of their happiness in him could, then, possibly have torn them from him? This same portraiture of "Christ crucified" which he reminds the Galatians he had in those days presented to them, he also, as he tells the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:20, 21), had been intent on holding up before the Greeks of Achaia; while, further, he intimates to the Romans, in his Epistle to them, how eager he was to come and at Rome also hold up Christ as him whom God had set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith, by his blood (Romans 1:15, 16; Romans 3:25). Both to the Jew and to the Gentile, both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise, this, emphatically this, was the alone and the sovereign salvation. This picturing forth of the crucified One, however, would hardly from Paul's lips concern itself much with the outward particulars of the passion; it might have been this, in a far greater degree, in St. Peter's presentment of it, who had been himself witness of those sufferings; but Paul, with his habits of thought, as we know them from his writings, who knew Christ as in the spirit rather than as in the flesh, would occupy himself more with the spiritual idea of the cross - its embodiment of perfect meekness and gentleness and self-sacrifice, of humility. of obedience to the Father's will, of love to all mankind, of especial care for his own, and its antagonism to the spirit of Levitical ceremonialism. "Such presentment," remarks Calvin, "as if in a picture, nay, as if actually crucified in the very midst of the hearers themselves, no eloquence, no artifice of rhetoric, can produce, unless that mighty working of the Spirit be assistant of which the apostle speaks in his two Epistles to the Corinthians (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:4, 5, 13, 14; 2 Corinthians 3:3, 6). If any, therefore, would fain duly discharge the ministry of the gospel, let them learn not so much to apply eloquence and declamation, as to likewise so pierce into men's consciences that these may truly feet Christ crucified and the dropping upon them of his blood. Where the Church hath painters such as these, she very little needeth any more representations in wood and stone, that is, dead images, very little any paintings; and certainly among Christians the doors of the temples were not open for the reception of images and paintings until the shepherds either had grown dumb and become mere dolls, or else did say in the pulpit no more than just a few words, and these in so cold and perfunctory a manner that the power and efficacy of the gospel ministry was utterly extinct."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
O foolish Galatians,.... Referring not to any national character, as some have thought, by which they were distinguished from others for their rudeness in knowledge, their ignorance and folly, as the Cretians for their lying, &c. nor to their former state in unregeneracy, it being common to all men, to God's elect themselves, before conversion, to be foolish in a moral and spiritual sense; but to their present stupidity about the article of justification, it being an instance of most egregious folly to leave Christ for Moses, the Gospel for the law, and the doctrine of free justification by the righteousness of Christ, which brings so much solid peace and comfort with it, for the doctrine of justification, by the works of the law, which naturally leads to bondage. Now this was said, not rashly, nor in anger, or on purpose to reproach and provoke, and so not at all contrary to Matthew 5:22 but in like manner as Christ said to his disciples, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe", &c. Luke 24:25. So the apostle here, as pitying the Galatians, grieved for them, and as one surprised and astonished that ever people of such light, that had had the Gospel so clearly preached to them, should ever give into such a notion.
Who hath bewitched you? some false teacher or another had, or it cannot be conceived how their heads should ever have been turned this way; which must be understood, not in a literal and proper sense, as Simon Magus bewitched the people of Samaria with his sorceries, but in a figurative and improper one; that as sorcerers and enchanters cast a mist before people's eyes, or, by some evil arts or juggling tricks, deceive their sight, and make objects seem to appear which do not, or in a different form than they really do, so these deceitful workers, who had transformed themselves into the apostles of Christ, as Satan sometimes transforms himself into an angel of light, had set this doctrine in a false light before them, thereby to corrupt their minds from the simplicity that is in Christ. Though the apostle reproves the Galatians for their folly and weakness in giving in so easily to such deceptions, yet he imputes the chief fault unto, and lays the greatest blame on the false teachers; whom he represents as sorcerers and enchanters, and their doctrine, particularly that of justification by works, as witchcraft; it being pleasing to men, a gratifying of carnal reason, and operating as a charm upon the pride of human nature. What Samuel said to Saul, 1 Samuel 15:22 may be applied to the present case, "to obey" the truth "is better than sacrifice", than all the rituals of the ceremonial law: "and to hearken" to the Gospel of Christ, "than the fat of rams", or any of the legal institutions; "for rebellion" against, and opposition to any of the doctrines of the Gospel, and especially to this of justification by the righteousness of Christ, "is as the sin of witchcraft". The Greek word, signifies "to envy", and hence, "to bewitch"; because the mischief, by witchcrafts, generally proceeds from envy; and so the Syriac version, which the Arabic follows, renders it, , "who hath envied you", which suggests this sense, that the false apostles envying their light and knowledge in the Gospel, their faith, peace, comfort, and happiness, had endeavoured to introduce another doctrine among them, subversive of all this.
That ye should not obey the truth. This clause is left out in the Alexandrian copy, and in some others, and in the Syriac version. By "the truth" is meant, either the whole Gospel, often so called, in opposition to the law, and the types and shadows of it; and because it is contained in the Scriptures of truth, and comes from the God of truth; the substance of it is Christ, who is the truth, and is what the Spirit of truth leads into; or else particularly the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, which is the truth the apostle is establishing, and these Galatians seemed to be going off from, through the artful insinuations of the false teachers. Formerly these people had not only heard this truth, but embraced it: they received the love of it, were strongly affected to it, and firmly believed but now they began to hesitate and doubt about it; they were not so fully persuaded of it as heretofore; they seemed ready to let it go, at least did not hold it fast, and the profession of it, without wavering as before; they were fallen from some degree of the steadfastness of their faith in, and of the obedience of it to this truth, which is what was the design of the false apostles, and is here charged upon the Galatians. The aggravations of which follow in this, and in some subsequent verses,
before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth; meaning in the ministry of the Gospel, in the clear preaching of it by the apostle; Jesus Christ was the sum and substance of his ministry, in which he was set forth and described, and, as it were, painted to the life by him; the glories and excellencies of his divine person, the nature of his office, as Mediator, the suitableness of him as a Saviour, the fulness of his grace, the efficacy of his blood, sacrifice, and righteousness, were so fully, and in such a lively manner expressed, that it was as if Christ was personally and visibly present with them; yea, he was so described in his sufferings and death, as hanging, bleeding, dying on the accursed tree, that he seemed to be as it were, as the apostle adds,
crucified among you: for this cannot be understood literally, for he was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem; nor does it respect the sin of the Galatians in departing from the Gospel, as if that was a crucifying of him again, and a putting him to open shame; nor their sufferings for the sake of Christ, as if he, in that sense, was crucified in them, and with them: but it intends the clear Gospel revelation of a crucified Christ, in the preaching of him by the apostle, which was such that no picture, no image, no crucifix would come up to, and which, where such preaching is, are altogether vain and needless; and the clear view these saints had, by faith, in the glass of the Gospel of Christ, and him crucified, which so realized the object, as if it was present and before the natural eye. Now this was an aggravation of their weakness and folly, that after such clear preaching, and clear sight, they had of the Gospel, and of Christ in it, that they should in the least degree depart from it.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ga 3:1-29. Reproof of the Galatians for Abandoning Faith for Legalism. Justification by Faith Vindicated: The Law Shown to Be Subsequent to the Promise: Believers Are the Spiritual Seed of Abraham, Who Was Justified by Faith. The Law Was Our Schoolmaster to Bring Us to Christ, that We Might Become Children of God by Faith.
1. that ye should not obey the truth—omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
bewitched—fascinated you so that you have lost your wits. Themistius says the Galatians were naturally very acute in intellect. Hence, Paul wonders they could be so misled in this case.
you—emphatical. "You, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been graphically set forth (literally, in writing, namely, by vivid portraiture in preaching) among you, crucified" (so the sense and Greek order require rather than English Version). As Christ was "crucified," so ye ought to have been by faith "crucified with Christ," and so "dead to the law" (Ga 2:19, 20). Reference to the "eyes" is appropriate, as fascination was supposed to be exercised through the eyes. The sight of Christ crucified ought to have been enough to counteract all fascination.
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