|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:7-12 The life of a Christian is a race, wherein he must run, and hold on, if he would obtain the prize. It is not enough that we profess Christianity, but we must run well, by living up to that profession. Many who set out fairly in religion, are hindered in their progress, or turn out of the way. It concerns those who begin to turn out of the way, or to tire in it, seriously to inquire what hinders them. The opinion or persuasion, ver. 8, was, no doubt, that of mixing the works of the law with faith in Christ in justification. The apostle leaves them to judge whence it must arise, but sufficiently shows that it could be owing to none but Satan. It is dangerous for Christian churches to encourage those who follow, but especially who spread, destructive errors. And in reproving sin and error, we should always distinguish between the leaders and the led. The Jews were offended, because Christ was preached as the only salvation for sinners. If Paul and others would have admitted that the observance of the law of Moses was to be joined with faith in Christ, as necessary to salvation, then believers might have avoided many of the sufferings they underwent. The first beginnings of such leaven should be opposed. And assuredly those who persist in disturbing the church of Christ must bear their judgment.
Verse 12. - I would they were even cut off which trouble you (ὄφελον καὶ ἀποκόψονται οἱ ἀναστατοῦντες ὑμᾶς); would to God they would make themselves even as the apocopi of Cybele (Greek, would even mutilate themselves), who are casting you out of country and home! The word ὄφελον, originally a verb, had got, thus stripped of its augment, to be a mere particle of wishing. Its sense with an indicative aorist is seen 1 Corinthians 4:8, Ὄφελόν γε ἐβασιλεύσατε, "Would to God ye had come to your kingship [which is far from being really the case yet!];" Exodus 16:3; Numbers 14:2; Numbers 20:3 (Septuagint), Ὄφελον ἀπεθάνομεν, "Would to God we had died!" with an indicative imperfect, 2 Corinthians 11:1, Ὄφελον ἀνείχεσθέ μον μικρὸν ἀφροσύνης, "Would to God ye were [i.e. could be] tolerant of a little foolishness of mine! [might I hope for it?];" Revelation 3:15, Ὄφελον ψυχρὸς η΅ς, etc., "Would that thou wert cold," etc. With an indicative future (an extremely rare combination), it may still be regarded as expressing a longing that something might be looked forward to, which in reality is not to be anticipated; different from a simple desire that a thing may be, unaccompanied by the feeling that it cannot be, which is its three with an optative, as in Psalm 119:5. The tone of especially fervid aspiration, the vivacity, which usually marks wishes introduced by ὄφελον, is perhaps unduly tamed down by the rendering "I would that." In respect to the verb ἀποκόψονται, Greek scholars are pretty well agreed that the passive rendering of our Authorized Version, "were cut off," cannot be defended. There is no certain instance (Bishop Ellicott remarks) of a similar interchange of the middle voice with the passive. The sense of the verb is shown by the Septuagint rendering of Deuteronomy 23:1, Οὐκ εἰσελεύσεται θλαδίας καὶ ἀποκεκομμένος εἰς ἐκκλησίαν Θεοῦ: where the word 'to the ἀποκεκομμένος answers Hebrew keruth shophkah, rightly rendered in the Vulgate and in our English Bible (cf. Gesenius's 'Thesaurus,' and Furst, under shophkah). "This meaning is assigned to ἀποκόψονται," observes Bishop Lightfoot, "by all the Greek commentators, I believe, without exception (the Latin Fathers, who read ' abseimtantur' in their text had more latitude), and seems alone tenable." (See Grotius, in Peele's ' Synopsis.' ) This interpretation gives its full force to καί ("not only circumcise, but even," etc.): it explains the form of the aspiration as one not likely to be realized; whereas the excision from the Church of these extremely aberrant members, falling nearly if not quite under the anathema of the first chapter, was a thing quite within the apostle's own power: it harmonizes with the intense resentment which colours the phrase, οἱ ἀναστατοῦντες ἡμᾶς (see below). The sentiment, it is true, seems one which it would be impossible for a public speaker, or even a writer, amongst ourselves to give such open expression to. Nevertheless, when viewed as framed in amid the surroundings which environed it at the time, it wears none of that aspect of coarseness which would confessedly be felt to attach to it under the conditions of modern life. That the worship of Cybele at Pessinus, one of the principal cities of Galatia, was deformed by the practice of such self-mutilation on the part of some of its devotees, was a matter of universal notoriety, and we may confidently assume that the apostle, when in the neighbourhood, heard frequent mention of those apocopi as they were called, and thus was led now to allude to it as he seems to do in this malediction. For it is a malediction, as Chrysostom describes it; a malediction, however, which in severity falls far short of the anathema which has been previously pronounced. Good were it (he means) for the Church, and even perhaps themselves, if they would have the rashness to go a little further with what they call "circumcision," which in their case is mere concision (Philippians 3:2), and make it clear to all men how purely senseless and unchristian their action in this matter is. "Casting you out of country and home." The verb ἀναστατοῦν occurs besides only in Acts 17:6 ("turned upside down" ) and Acts 21:38 ("madest an uproar" ). It is not found in classical Greek, in which we have in its stead ἀναστάτους ποιεῖν ορ τιθέναι: the verbal adjective ἀνάστατος, when it is applied, as it frequently is, to populations, meaning, "made to rise up and depart," "driven from house and home;" applied to cities, "ruined," "laid waste" (Liddell and Scott). Chrysostom observes, "Well does he say, ἀναστατοῦντες ὑμᾶς: for they compelled them to abandon their own proper country and liberty and heavenly kindred, and to seek an alien and strange one; casting them out of ' Jerusalem which is above and free,' and forcing them to wander abroad as captives and perforce emigrants." The present tense of the participle points to the action of these perverters as one which. if successful, would have this result; which (ver. 10) the apostle hopes to defeat. The selection of this particular verb, which goes far beyond the ταράσσοντες before used, and which the word "unsettle" adopted here by the Revisers, does not, as commonly used, completely represent, betokens the apostle's intense feeling of the ruinous consequences of the proposed Judaizing reaction. It shows that he adds the words aetiologically, that is, to justify his strong words, ὄφελον ἀποκόψονται. The energy of both expressions suggests the feeling that probably the apostle would not have written as he has here done except for his burning resentment on behalf of Christ's people threatened with so great a hurt. In 1 Car. 6:4 indignant feeling carries him away beyond himself to an utterance which in the next verse he virtually retracts, remarking, "I say it to move you to shame." Perhaps we have here something of the same kind.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I would they were even cut off which trouble you. These words are a solemn wish of the apostle's with respect to the false teachers, or an imprecation of the judgment of God upon them; that they might be cut off out of the land of the living by the immediate hand of God, that they might do no more mischief to the churches of Christ: this he said not out of hatred to their persons, but from a concern for the glory of God, and the good of his people. The word here used answers to the Hebrew word and which is often made use of by the Jews in solemn imprecations; we read (o) of a righteous man, , "that cut off his children": the gloss upon it is,
"he used to say, when he made any imprecation, , "may I cut off my children";''
that is, may they die, may they be cut off by the hand of God, and I bury them;
"says R. Tarphon (p), may my children be "cut off", if these books of heretics come into my hands, that I will burn them;''
and says the same Rabbi (q) may I "cut off" my children, or may my children be cut off, if this sentence or constitution is cut off, or should perish. There is another use of this word, which may have a place here, for it sometimes signifies to confute a person, or refute his notion (r).
"It is a tradition of the Rabbius, that after the departure of R. Meir, R. Judah said to his disciples, let not the disciples of R. Meir come in hither, for they are contentious; and not to learn the law do they come, but , "to cut me off"; (i.e. as the gloss says, to show how sharp they are that none can stand against them;) to confute and overcome me, by their sentences, or constitutions.''
So the apostle here might wish that the mouths of these false teachers were stopped, their notions refuted, that they might give them no more trouble; to which agrees the Arabic version; "they that trouble you I wish they were dumb"; or that their mouths were stopped, as such vain talkers should be; see Titus 1:10 or the sense of the apostle is, that it was his will and desire that these men should be cut off from the communion of the church; with which views he mentions the proverbial expression in Galatians 5:9 with which compare 1 Corinthians 5:6 or that they would cut themselves off, by withdrawing from them, going out from among them, and leaving them as these men sometimes did.
(o) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 85. 1.((p) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol, 116. 1.((q) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 17. 1. Misn. Oholot, c. 16. sect. 1. & Maimon, in Bartenora in ib. (r) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 52. 2. Nazir, fol. 49. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
12. they … which trouble you—Translate, as the Greek is different from Ga 5:10, "they who are unsettling you."
were even cut off—even as they desire your foreskin to be cut off and cast away by circumcision, so would that they were even cut off from your communion, being worthless as a castaway foreskin (Ga 1:7, 8; compare Php 3:2). The fathers, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and Chrysostom, explain it, "Would that they would even cut themselves off," that is, cut off not merely the foreskin, but the whole member: if circumcision be not enough for them, then let them have excision also; an outburst hardly suitable to the gravity of an apostle. But Ga 5:9, 10 plainly point to excommunication as the judgment threatened against the troublers: and danger of the bad "leaven" spreading, as the reason for it.
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