Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chapters 1, 2. (First Division of the Epistle)
The assertion of St Paul’s Apostolical Authority
For a general analysis of the Epistle see Introduction.
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)1–5. Introduction. Salutation and ascription of praise
1. Paul, an apostle] In the opening of this Epistle, as of those to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians and Timothy, St Paul designates himself an Apostle. Elsewhere he either adds no descriptive epithet to his name, or he is a bondservant of Christ Jesus (Php 1:1), or of God (Titus 1:1), or a prisoner of Christ Jesus (Philemon 1:1). In the present instance the addition is not without reference to the circumstances under which he wrote. His authority had been impugned, and a great fundamental doctrine of the Gospel perverted. The former must be asserted, that the latter may be maintained.
an apostle] Lit. ‘a messenger’. The title was given by our Lord Himself (Luke 6:13) to twelve chosen by Himself out of the number of His disciples. The qualifications for the office are (1) a Divine call (Luke 6:13; John 15:16; Acts 1:2; Acts 1:24); (2) a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus, as the Risen Saviour (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 9:6); (3) the inspiration and infallible teaching of the Holy Ghost (John 14:26; John 16:13); (4) a Divine commission (Acts 22:21; Acts 26:16-18). On the wider use of the term see Bp. Lightfoot, Gal. pp. 91–97.
not of men, … the dead] ‘Not of men’, rather, not from men. Unlike the false apostles, he did not go forth commissioned by men, as their messenger, or as deriving his authority from them; nor again was he sent ‘by man’ (abstract, not concrete; as in John 2:25). Paul commissioned others, because himself not commissioned by other men.
but by Jesus Christ] A clear proof of the proper Deity of the Lord Jesus. As Jesus was the source from which, so was He also the channel through which St Paul derived his authority. The occasion on which he received this authority was doubtless his miraculous conversion. It is however instructive to observe that even this Divine call and appointment did not supersede the outward commission and ‘investiture’ ‘through the medium of the Church’ (Acts 13:2). The latter, while owing all its value to the former, is distinctly stated to have taken place by the express direction of the Holy Ghost.
“The Apostles are both ‘from Christ’ and ‘through Christ;’ their disciples (and all regular teachers of the Church) are ‘from Christ,’ but ‘through man;’ the false teachers are ‘from men’ and ‘through man.’ Paul’s call was just as direct as that of the Twelve; but the Judaizers, in their tendency to overrate external forms and secondary causes, laid great stress upon the personal intercourse with Christ in the days of His flesh, and hence they were disposed either to declare Paul a pseudoapostle, or at least to subordinate him to the Twelve, especially to Peter and James.” Dr Schaff.
and God the Father … dead] It may at first sight surprise us that St Paul should thus closely unite God the Father with Jesus Christ, as the channel or agency by which he received his commission. But the difficulty is removed by the addition of the words, ‘Who raised Him from the dead.’ Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power … by” i.e. as the result of “the resurrection from the dead”. The hypostatic union of the Father and the Son is presupposed (John 10:30). “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.” If then St Paul had received his apostolic commission ‘by’ the Risen Christ who “appeared to him on the way”, he might truly be said to have received it ‘by’ God the Father. Luther ascribes the addition of these words to St Paul’s “burning desire to set forth even in the very entry of his epistle, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to preach the righteousness of God”. “He was raised again for our justification,” Romans 4:25.
And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:2. all the brethren which are with me] It is impossible to say with certainty who these brethren were. The expression, ‘all the brethren’ and the omission of any names, render it improbable that reference is intended only to Timothy and Titus. The words are intentionally vague, and certainly do not lend support to the view that St Paul “sought safety in numbers”. He knew that truth is generally with the minority. But he never forgot that he was a member of the Church, and not an isolated individual. The truth for which he contended was the birthright of his brethren, dear to them as to himself.
unto the churches of Galatia] The abruptness of the address is remarkable. No word of praise, no mention of privilege. Comp. the opening words of the Epistles to the Thessalonians, Ephesians, &c. Even the Corinthians receive a more kindly salutation. They had not “erred concerning the faith” as had these Galatians.
The word ‘Church’ in the N. T. is used either (1) of the whole body of believers, “the whole congregation of Christian people dispersed throughout the whole world” (Canon lv.), (Matthew 16:18; Colossians 1:24), or (2) of a particular congregation, under the same ministry of the word and sacraments. Thus we read of the Church in Cenchreæ (1 Corinthians 16:1), of the Churches of Asia (1 Corinthians 16:19; Revelation 1:4, &c.), of the Church in a particular house (Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). (3) It is also used of an assembly of believers gathered together for worship, as 1 Corinthians 14:28. The Churches of the Thessalonians and Laodiceans are exceptions to the usual form, in which the precise locality is designated. We may assume that the Churches of Galatia were bodies of converts living in the principal cities, Ancyra, Pessinus, &c. See Introduction, p. ix.
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,3. Grace be to you … Christ] “These two words, grace and peace, comprehend in them whatsoever belongeth to Christianity. Grace releaseth sin, and peace maketh the conscience quiet.” Luther. We have here another indirect, but clear proof of the Godhead of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is with the Eternal Father the source and giver of grace and peace, and therefore He is “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10), and “the God of Peace” (Hebrews 13:20).
A similar form of salutation occurs 1 Thessalonians 1:1, and elsewhere.
Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:4. who gave himself … our Father] The Apostle here prepares the way for the discussion of his great subject. He cannot think of the Gospel—pardon, justification, acceptance with God, and eternal life—apart from the atoning death of Christ. The efficacy of that “precious death” depends on the voluntary surrender of Himself by our Blessed Lord, “to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.” (Article 11.)
who gave himself] The Father gave the Son. The Son gave Himself.
for our sins] not merely to denounce sin—Moses and the prophets had done this; not merely to set us a perfect example—this would have been to mock the misery of unpardoned, unsanctified men and women. His death was for our sins. The exact force of the preposition may fall short of asserting the vicarious nature of our Lord’s sacrifice—indeed the reading of the Original is not free from doubt. But the Apostle’s language is in entire accord with his teaching elsewhere, and must be so explained. (Comp. Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Timothy 2:6.)
that he might deliver us] Rescue us from the thraldom of, &c. The same word is used of the deliverance of Joseph (Acts 7:10) and by our Lord Himself in reference to St Paul (Acts 26:17). Freedom as the result of emancipation is the great blessing of the Gospel. See Galatians 5:1; Galatians 5:13, and comp. John 8:32-36. It is also “the keynote of this Epistle”.
from this present evil world] World, lit. age. The Greek word signifies, the present state of things, the world’s life, regarded in its transitory nature, as a condition of existence, rather than the material creation. Matter is not essentially evil. It becomes an instrument of evil by reason of man’s transgression of the law of God. There is a similar usage in the familiar expression of the Roman historian ‘Corrumpere et corrumpi sæculum vocatur,’ Tac. Germ. 17; compare ‘fecunda culpæ sæcula,’ of Horace. Two other renderings of the phrase are admissible; (1) from the present (or besetting) evil of the world; or (2) from the evil of the present world. Our Lord prayed for His disciples, not that they should be taken out of the world, but that they should be kept from the evil; and He has taught us to pray, ‘Deliver us from the evil.’ There is however a true sense in which Christians are delivered, rescued from this present evil age or dispensation, from its power and its contamination—a dispensation so often contrasted with “that world” (Luke 20:35) into which sin and defilement cannot enter. Satan, who is the god of this present evil world, will then be finally vanquished and “tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
according to the will of God and our Father] Better, of God our Father. That ‘will’ is the ultimate cause and law. Redemption is its fulfilment. Hence our Lord declares that He came to do the will of Him that sent Him. John 4:34; John 5:30, and espec. John 6:38-40; comp. Hebrews 10:7-10, “By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The will of the Father and the will of the Son are distinct, but in perfect harmony.
The will is Divine, and therefore claims our submission. It is our Father’s will, and therefore appeals to our filial love and confidence. This thought inspires the ascription,
To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.5. to whom be glory … Amen] perh. ‘the glory’. All the glory of the great work of Redemption, in its design, in its process, in its results, is His alone and shall be throughout eternity.
Amen] A Hebrew word, signifying ‘truth,’ used to express concurrence in the prayer or praise uttered by another, especially in public worship. Deuteronomy 27:15; 1 Chronicles 16:36. From the synagogue it passed into the acts of worship of the Christian Church (1 Corinthians 14:16). Here it is employed as an emphatic affirmation of the ascription to which it is appended. Comp. Psalm 72:19; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 22:20.
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:6–10. The subject and occasion of the Epistle
6. I marvel … gospel] The contrast between the form of address here adopted and that of other letters of St Paul is (as already noted) remarkable. In writing to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, his opening words are expressive of thankfulness for the constancy of their faith and the fervour of their love. Even for the Corinthians, notwithstanding the party spirit which prevailed among them and the grievous sin which called for sharp rebuke, he has words of affection and even thankfulness. But the case of the Galatians was different. They had departed from the faith. Their error was fundamental, and if persisted in, fatal.
so soon removed] rather, so quickly passing over, transferring your allegiance.
‘So quickly’ is generally explained as, so soon after your conversion, or, after my recent visit. Commentators see an illustration of this expression in the fickleness of the national character, mentioned by Cæsar and Tacitus, and the intellectual restlessness noticed by Themistius, a writer of the 4th century a.d. But perhaps it only means ‘so readily’, with so little compunction, or resistance to the false teachers. Comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:2.
from him that called you … Christ] Luther renders, “From Christ who called you in grace.” If the word Christ (omitted by some authorities) is to be retained, this is the best rendering of the passage for the reasons which he assigns. “It liketh me, that even as Paul a little before made Christ the Redeemer, who by His death delivereth us from this present evil world; also the giver of grace and peace equally with God the Father; so he should here make Him equally the caller in grace; for Paul’s special purpose is to beat into our minds the benefit of Christ, by whom we come unto the Father.”
Our calling is in grace, i.e. in His free and unmerited favour and goodness; as opposed to all notion of salvation by moral or ceremonial righteousness. “If it be by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace ceases to be grace any longer.” Romans 11:6.
unto another gospel] rather, ‘a different’ or ‘strange gospel’, a perverted gospel. I do not call it ‘another gospel’, for that would be to admit that there could be more than one.
This strange gospel appealed for authority to the other Apostles rather than to St Paul; and it insisted on the observance of the Jewish ceremonial law as a condition of salvation, ch. Galatians 4:10-11, &c.
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.7. but there be some that trouble … Christ] Only so far can it be called another gospel, as it is a perversion of the Gospel of Christ. It does not profess to be a distinct revelation; it claims to be ‘the Gospel’, Just as we might speak of spurious coin, though it was not issued from the mint.
some that trouble you] The Judaizing teachers (ch. Galatians 5:10) who were drawing them away from their allegiance, and raising factions among them.
and would pervert] ‘Would’ is not a mere auxiliary. Their desire and determination are to ‘reverse, to change to the opposite, and so stronger than to pervert or distort’ (Lightfoot). St Paul regarded the new doctrine as subversive of the truth and utterly incompatible with the Gospel which he preached.
the gospel of Christ] Christ is at once its Author, its theme, its substance. Elsewhere it is termed the ‘Gospel of God’ (Romans 1:1), and the ‘Gospel of His Son’ (Romans 1:9).
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.8. You have listened to these false teachers. But the Gospel is one and unchangeable, admitting of no addition or modification. Even though I, Paul, and those who, as Timothy, Titus and Silas, are like minded with me—nay, even though an Angel from heaven should preach anything as supplementary to that which I have preached, let him be accursed.
any other gospel] It is impossible to translate this verse literally. The passage implies the perfection of the Gospel which Paul had preached. To add to it was to impugn this perfection. “If any man preach to you as Gospel anything besides that which we have preached.” Romanist writers contend for the rendering ‘against’. But in this case ‘besides’ is ‘against’.
accursed] lit. anathema, cut off, not from the Communion of the Church (which could not apply to an angel), but from the favour of God. It is instructive to notice that the Council of Trent pronounces anathema against those who do not regard the Apocryphal books as sacred and Canonical Scripture, or who knowingly and deliberately despise the unwritten traditions of the Church. Conc. Trid. Sess. iv.
The word ‘anathema’, rendered by ‘accursed’ in the A.V. is the Septuagint equivalent of the Hebrew חֶרֶם (Deuteronomy 7:26; Joshua 6:17-18, &c.), and is used to denote a person or thing devoted to destruction, because accursed of God. The exact expression occurs in only one other passage of the N. T., 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.” How are we to understand these strong expressions? Surely St Paul is not imprecating a curse on every man (or angel) who should propagate false doctrine, and on every professing Christian who does not love the Lord Jesus. He would have prayed for such an one, and have bidden his converts pray that God would “bring into the way of truth all such as have erred and are deceived”. His meaning is, “Let such an one be regarded by you as under wrath and curse of Almighty God.” Solemn words, so understood, and full of warning. This view of their force may be illustrated by our Lord’s language, “Let him be unto thee as a heathen and a publican,” Matthew 18:17.
As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.9. He repeats his denunciation with slight differences. (1) He does not mention ‘an angel from heaven’, (2) what in the preceding verse he put hypothetically, “should any … preach”, is now assumed to be the fact, “if any is preaching”; (3) there, it was a Gospel which St Paul had preached to them, here, it is a Gospel which they had ‘received’. This reception of the truth made its relinquishment more perilous.
As we said before] lit. as we have said before. The reference is not to Galatians 1:8, but to the teaching of St Paul and his colleagues on the occasion of his second visit to them. They had drifted away from their old position: St Paul’s position is ‘now’ the same as ‘before’.
For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.10. For do I now … men, or God?] The particle ‘for’ connects this verse with what precedes. ‘I speak thus decisively and strongly, for in the first place my motives are pure and cannot be impugned; and secondly (Galatians 1:11 foll.) the truths which I deliver are a revelation from God.’
now] ‘at this stage of my ministry.’ He could not be charged with a desire for popularity, which leads men to sinful concessions. He may be indirectly referring to the case of Peter, which is fully narrated, ch. Galatians 2:11, &c.
persuade men, or God] The one word ‘persuade’, which cannot properly be applied to God, is used with both nouns by the grammatical figure Zeugma. “Can it be said of me now, that I am courting the favour of men, or am I seeking the favour of God?” The word rendered ‘persuade’ is translated “made … their friend”, Acts 12:20. For the more common use of the verb, comp. 2 Corinthians 5:11, “we persuade men.”
if I yet … of Christ] If I any longer acted as men act by nature, before conversion to God. The ‘men-pleaser’ (Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 3:22) stands in strong contrast to the ‘servant’, the bondslave of Christ. “No man can serve (be a slave to) two masters,” Matthew 6:24. The ‘slave’ not only does the will of his master, he belongs to his master.
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.11, 12. A statement of St Paul’s claims, followed by a sketch of his life.
11. But I certify] Now I declare to you. The same verb is used in 1 Corinthians 15:1 to introduce an emphatic statement.
not after man] i.e. not in accordance with human notions or conceptions, and therefore not such as could have been evolved out of human consciousness. It was communicated to St Paul by direct revelation from God.
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.12. For I neither received it of man] ‘I’ is emphatic: I received not the Gospel, any more than did the other Apostles, from man.
neither was I taught it] St Paul might have received the Gospel from God, and yet have been more fully instructed by men. This was not the case, comp. ch. Galatians 2:6. He both received and was taught it by direct revelation. The commission to Ananias (Acts 9:10, &c.) is not at variance with this declaration. It does not appear that he made any communication of religious knowledge to St Paul (Galatians 1:18-19).
by the revelation of Jesus Christ] Rather, through the revelation. ‘Jesus Christ’ may be either the subject or the object, the Revealer or the Revealed; but probably the latter is primarily intended, see Galatians 1:16. Different opinions are held as to the time when this revelation was made. Certainly it took place at the time of his conversion, and probably on other subsequent occasions. In 2 Corinthians 12:7 he speaks of “the abundance of the revelations” which he had received; comp. 2 Corinthians 12:1.
For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:13. Nothing short of a miracle could account for the change which had taken place in the life and aims of St Paul (comp. Php 3:4-10). It was not likely that a man with such antecedents should have accepted the Gospel with its consequences on merely human testimony.
ye have heard] Rather, Ye heard from myself when I was with you, and (perhaps) from my colleagues.
my conversation] i.e. my manner of life, as Ephesians 4:22; Hebrews 13:7; James 3:13, &c. In Php 1:27; Php 3:20 the same English word represents a different word in the original, and refers to civil and political duties and privileges, rather than those which are personal and social.
the Jews’ religion] One word in the original, which does not occur elsewhere in the N. T. except in Galatians 1:14. From the use of the corresponding verb, we may regard it as referring not to the religion revealed to the Jews in the writings of Moses and the prophets, but that which was its actual development in St Paul’s day, when the word of God had been overlaid and ‘made of none effect’ by the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, and the puerile conceits of the Rabbinic expositors.
I persecuted the church of God] The same sad confession is made 1 Corinthians 15:9. There is solemnity in the addition of the words “of God”. The identical expression occurs in the Sept. version of Nehemiah 13:1.
wasted it] was laying waste, was sweeping it away, exterminating it.
And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.14. St Paul was always in earnest. In the acquisition of Rabbinic lore he outstripped most of those of his own age, not merely his fellow-disciples at Tarsus, and in the school of Gamaliel at Jerusalem (Acts 22:3), but in his own nation generally.
zealous] Lit. a zealot (Acts 21:20). St Paul by birth and by early education was associated with the extreme party of the Pharisees, who were marked by their bigoted adherence to the traditional interpretations of the Old Testament, as distinct from the written text.
traditions of my fathers] By ‘traditions’ we must understand religious teaching and precept handed down orally from father to son, whether ultimately committed to writing or not. The word occurs twelve times in the N. T. and is always used in the Gospels in a disparaging sense. Compare for example Matthew 15:6; Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:9; so Colossians 2:8.
In 1 Corinthians 11:2 (where it is rendered ‘ordinances’) and in 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, it refers to oral directions given by St Paul, of which some (as that contained in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2) were temporary and special, others subsequently embodied in writing.
Here St Paul is referring to the traditions which were held and transmitted by the ‘most straitest sect’ of the Jewish religion (Acts 26:5). Similarly St Peter, addressing the Jews of the dispersion, who had embraced Christianity, reminds them that they had been redeemed from their vain manner of life, handed down by tradition from their fathers (1 Peter 1:18).
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,15. it pleased God] The commentary of Theodore of Mopsuestia on this expression is apt. “St Paul well refers it to the Divine foreknowledge, so that before he himself had any being, this should appear the good pleasure of God concerning him; and that so his preaching might be regarded as far enough removed from novelty or human invention.” In personal religion no less than in doctrinal theology we must humbly recognise this good pleasure of God as the source of every blessing which the Gospel conveys to us.
separated me … womb] ‘Set me apart from my birth,’ comp. Jeremiah 1:5. The good pleasure was from all eternity, the setting apart was at birth, the call was on the road to Damascus, the revelation, then and subsequently.
by his grace] Comp. Art. xvii., “They be called according to God’s purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling.”
15, 16. But a wondrous change was effected in me. ‘Old things had passed away. Behold, they had become new.’ The source of this change was the purpose of God; the means, His effectual calling: the end, that St Paul might preach Christ to the Gentiles.
To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:16. to reveal his Son in me] Christ had been revealed to St Paul when He was seen by him in the flesh (1 Corinthians 9:1). But a more blessed revelation was vouchsafed, when Christ was revealed within him. Then the Light of the World lighted up the recesses of his soul, or in his own words, “God who said the light shall shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The construction is, “when it pleased God … to reveal &c.”, the words “who separated … His grace” being parenthetical.
the heathen] Rather, the Gentiles, as including the other, and as in more marked contrast to the Jews.
immediately … blood] How natural it would have been to turn for counsel and support in this great crisis of his life, to some of those in Damascus who were already ‘disciples of the Lord’! (Acts 9:1). Instead however of thus conferring with flesh and blood, or going to Jerusalem to consult the Apostles in that city, he went into Arabia.
with flesh and blood] i.e. with man, weak and fallible. A Hebraism. Matthew 16:17; Ephesians 6:12; Hebrews 2:14.
Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.17. neither went I up to Jerusalem] The situation of Jerusalem was on a hill, and it was also the Jewish metropolis, the political centre formerly, and still the religious centre of the nation. “Thither the tribes went up, the tribes of Jehovah,” Psalm 122:4. We speak of ‘going up’ to London.
to them which were apostles before me] He admits the fact of their priority in point of time, while repudiating the inference that they had any claim to greater authority than himself. In like manner the antiquity of the Roman Church is no argument for Papal supremacy, much less for Papal infallibility. For the thought, we may compare Romans 16:7, “My fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the Apostles, who also have been in Christ before me.”
into Arabia … Damascus] “A thick veil”, says Bp Lightfoot, “hangs over St Paul’s visit to Arabia.” It is not mentioned in the narrative in the Acts. The locality, the object, and the time of this visit are alike uncertain. A full discussion of them must be reserved for an Appendix (I. p. 83). In the interval between his conversion a.d. 37 and his visit to Jerusalem a.d. 40, St Paul would seem to have sought retirement in the desert of Sinai, and there by prayer and meditation and undistracted communion with God, to have equipped himself for the warfare which only terminated with his life. How much of the three years was thus spent, we are not told. At its expiration St Paul returned to Damascus, and when at length the Jews conspired to take away his life, he made his escape and fled to Jerusalem (Acts 9:23-26). He refers to this incident, 2 Corinthians 11:32.
Damascus] One of the oldest cities in the world, first mentioned in the history of Abraham (Genesis 14:15; Genesis 15:2). It was conquered by David (2 Samuel 8:5-6), but subsequently recovered by the Syrians. After various vicissitudes it succumbed to the Assyrian arms. The city was destroyed, and the people carried away captives to Assyria (2 Kings 16:9). It subsequently fell under the Macedonian and the Roman power, and in the time of St Paul it was included in the territory of Aretas, an Arabian prince (2 Corinthians 11:32) who was father-in-law of Herod Antipas, and who held his kingdom under the Romans. It is pleasantly situated at the foot of the Anti-Libanus range of mountains, distant 133 miles north of Jerusalem and 60 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, in a fertile district watered by the historic streams, Abana and Pharpar.
St Paul’s Visit to Arabia
It may be well to consider this incident under the three heads indicated in the note to ch. Galatians 1:17. The notices are slight, and though insufficient to enable us to construct a narrative of the events with definiteness or with certainty, supply material for a probable and consistent account of them.
(1) The locality. The term Arabia has been taken by some commentators in its widest signification, as extending from the Sinaitic peninsula on the south to the neighbourhood of Damascus on the north; and expressions in Justin Martyr (Dial. c. Tryph. p. 305, A.) and Tertullian (Adv. Jud. c. 9; Adv. Marc. iii. 13) are adduced in support of this view. It is argued from the silence of St Luke (Acts 9:19-25) that St Paul did not withdraw to any great distance from the city, so that though he actually went into Arabia for a time—how long, is not stated—he is regarded by the narrator as still at Damascus. The objections to this view are concisely stated by Bp Lightfoot. “It gives to ‘Arabia’ an extension, which at all events seems not to have been common, and which even the passage of Justin shews to have required some sort of justification. It separates the Arabia of the first chapters from the Arabia of the fourth. And lastly, it deprives this visit of a significance which, on a more probable hypothesis, it possesses in relation to this crisis of St Paul’s life.” By ‘Arabia’ then we understand (as in ch. Galatians 4:25) the Sinaitic peninsula.
(2) The object. Of this two accounts are given. Patristic commentators suppose that St Paul went into Arabia, as the Apostle of the Gentiles, to commence his great missionary work. No doubt ‘Arabians’ were among those who were present at the great Pentecostal miracle (Acts 2:11), and it may have been for the purpose of expounding unto them the way of God more perfectly that this journey was undertaken. But it is not likely that so marked a commencement of his labours as a missionary to the Gentiles would have been unrecorded by St Luke, especially as he is careful to tell us that St Paul “preached Christ in the synagogues”, and “how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:20; Acts 9:27).
If however we adopt the other explanation, and regard the object of St Paul’s visit as of a private and personal nature—that he might in solitude commune with his own heart and listen to the “still small voice” of God—then we can understand why, like Elijah of old, he should have journeyed ‘unto Horeb, the mount of God’. There, on the very spot where the Law was given, he was taught the use of the Law—that “by the deeds of the Law no flesh shall be justified”; that while “the Law made nothing perfect”, there was brought in “a better hope”; that “though the Law worketh wrath”, “Christ hath redeemed us from the Curse of the Law, being made a Curse for us.”
(3) The time. We do not know at what period of the ‘three years’ the journey was made, nor how long St Paul’s sojourn in Arabia continued. St Luke’s language is somewhat vague, but not at all inconsistent with the view here adopted. It is possible that after essaying to preach to the Jews in Damascus ‘the faith which once he destroyed’, St Paul found it needful to seek fresh supplies of grace and strength for a work so difficult and so discouraging. He may have heard his Master’s call, bidding him ‘come apart into a desert place, and rest awhile’. His stay in Horeb may have lasted, like that of Moses, for forty days and forty nights—the period of time spent by Elijah in his journey from Beer-sheba to Horeb, and by the great Antitype in the wilderness. These are, it is true, only conjectures. But while they are not inconsistent with the narrative of the Acts, they are in full accord with what we know of the nature and the needs of man, and with the dealings of God with the objects of His love and the instruments of His purposes. We may long for certainty. But where Scripture is silent, we are sure that more accurate knowledge is not needed, because it is not vouchsafed.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.18. It was not till three years after his conversion that St Paul went up to Jerusalem to visit St Peter.
to see] to become personally acquainted with. The word in the original is used of those who visit great and famous cities. He was introduced to the Apostles by Barnabas (Acts 9:27).
Peter] The more probable reading is ‘Cephas’, the Aramaic equivalent of the Greek ‘Petros’, the name given by our Lord to Simon Bar-Jona (John 1:43; Matthew 16:18).
fifteen days] St Paul does not disguise the fact that he spent a fortnight in the society, perhaps as the guest of Peter. But, as Bengel observes, it was hardly long enough for him to have been made an apostle by Cephas. Part too (perhaps a great part) of the time was spent in disputation with the Grecian Jews. The visit was terminated by their conspiring to take his life (Acts 9:29-30), and by a command of the Lord in a vision to go unto the Gentiles (Acts 22:17-21).
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.19. “Other of the apostles I saw not, but James, the brother of the Lord.” The A. V. would lead to the conclusion that James was one of the Apostles, in the same sense as Peter was an Apostle, i.e. one of the Twelve. But it is almost certain that ‘save’ is an incorrect rendering, as in Luke 4:26-27 (where indeed it makes nonsense of the passage). See note on ch. Galatians 2:16. St James may still have been spoken of as an Apostle in the wider sense, in which it is now generally admitted the term is used in N. T.
James, the Lord’s brother] How are we to identify this James? And what are we to understand by the designation ‘the Lord’s brother’?
(1) Two of the Twelve bore the name of James; one, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, the other the son of Alphæus (or Cleopas). It is agreed on all hands that the former is not the James here spoken of. It is also highly improbable that he is identical with the son of Alphæus, called ‘James the less’ (literally ‘the Little’) in Mark 15:40. If St Paul had conferred with two of the number of the Twelve, his characteristic candour would have led him to state the fact distinctly. He admits that James was one of the Apostolic body, but he was not, like Cephas, one of the original Twelve. We therefore conclude that this James was the president of the Church at Jerusalem (see Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18) and distinct both from the son of Zebedee, who fell by the sword of Herod (Acts 12:2), and from the son of Alphæus. In the Book of Common Prayer ‘St James the Apostle’ is identified with the ‘brother of John’, and the other St James (coupled with St Philip) with the author of the Epistle, and brother of Jude.
 “I count it the more probable opinion that this James was not one of the Twelve”. Dr Salmon, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 478.
(2) It would seem that whatever we understand by the ‘Lord’s brethren’, they were not of the number of the Twelve. For we are expressly told that towards the close of our Lord’s earthly ministry, His brethren did not believe on Him (John 7:5).
Three views of the relationship here expressed have been held by expositors of Scripture. (a) Some contend that the expression ‘brethren’ is to be understood literally of sons of the Virgin Mary and Joseph, born after the birth of our Lord. This opinion is maintained by Archdeacon Farrar in Dict. of the Bible, Art. ‘Brother’; but it is rejected by all who with the chief Patristic writers insist on the perpetual virginity of Mary. (b) Others regard these ‘brethren’ as cousins of our Lord, the sons of Mary (sister of the Virgin) and Cleopas. This may be dismissed for the reason stated already—that one of them was of the number of the Twelve, and therefore could not be described as not believing on Him. (c) A third hypothesis is that they were sons of Joseph by a former marriage, and therefore half-brothers of our Lord. (That they were the offspring of a Levirate marriage of Joseph with Mary wife of Cleopas, after the death of the latter, may be mentioned as an instance of groundless assumption, only to be discarded.)
The choice then lies between the first and the third view. In a case where the arguments are almost evenly balanced, it is not easy to decide, but on the whole they seem to favour the conclusion that the ‘brethren’ were sons of Joseph by a former marriage, and therefore ‘half-brothers’ or step-brothers of our Lord. In support of this conclusion we note that if Joseph is called the father of our Lord (Luke 2:48), Joseph’s sons may without great violence be called His brethren. For a full discussion of the subject, see Dict. of the Bible, ut supra, Bp Lightfoot, Dissertation II, Alford on Matthew 13:56.
The other Apostles were probably absent from Jerusalem at this time, on a missionary tour, visiting and confirming the Churches of Judæa and Galilee and Samaria.
Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.20. Considering that the vital question of St Paul’s credentials was at stake, we need not wonder at this solemn asseveration and appeal to the judgment of God.
Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;21. In the Acts we are told that when the brethren knew of the plot against St Paul’s life, they “brought him down to Cæsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus”. This is in agreement with the statement of the text. Cæsarea was the port from which in all probability St Paul sailed to Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia. The expression “the regions of Syria and Cilicia” must not be pressed as describing the order in which he visited the two countries. We learn from Acts 11:25-30 that Barnabas went to Tarsus, and, having found Saul, brought him to Antioch, the capital of Syria, where he continued teaching for a whole year.
And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:22. and was unknown] rather, and I continued unknown. So far from his having learned the truths which he taught from the other Apostles, the Churches of Judæa, to which they principally ministered at this time, did not know him even by sight. It is not certain whether the Church of Jerusalem is included among these. Bengel says, “outside Jerusalem.” But it is quite possible that during the fortnight spent in Jerusalem he had not become personally known to the brethren there.
which were in Christ] The word Church (= ecclesia, an assembly, Acts 19:32; Acts 19:39; Acts 19:41) had not yet acquired the exclusively restricted sense of a Christian congregation. The Church of God (with its component churches or congregations) had existed in the patriarchal age and in subsequent times (even in the dark days when “they that feared the Lord spake often one to another”), until the coming of Christ. But they were not ‘in Christ’, until they had believed in and confessed the faith of Christ crucified.
But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.23. the faith] Three principal senses attach to this word in the N. T.:
(1) Truth, or truthfulness, trustworthiness; e.g. Romans 3:3, “the faith of God.”
(2) Belief of, or confidence in a Person or thing. This is its most common meaning.
(3) The revelation of the character, will and purpose of God ‘who cannot lie’—the only thing certain and permanent in a mutable and transitory world, and therefore worthy of hearty belief and implicit confidence. So here, the Gospel of Christ as taught and accepted by believers.
23, 24. They only heard reports to the effect that, Our former persecutor is now preaching the faith which he once was seeking to destroy.
And they glorified God in me.24. The conduct of the Judæan Christians is noteworthy, not only as in marked contrast with that of the Judaizing party in Galatia, but as testifying to the soundness of the Apostle’s teaching. The Gospel which he preached, though independent of them as to its source, was identical with that which they had themselves welcomed. And they ascribed the glory to God in the grace given to His servant.
This is a sure test of the reality of our faith and love:—when we read or hear of men being raised up to “preach the faith” in days that are past, or in distant lands (as, for example, in the great missionary work of the Church), do we glorify God in them? This was well understood by the English Reformers.
In the Commemoration Service (dating from the time of Q. Elizabeth, and not improbably drawn up by Abp Parker) which is used in the University, and some, if not all of the Colleges of Cambridge, there is a prayer commencing, ‘O Lord, we glorify Thee in these Thy servants our Benefactors departed out of this present life.’ No better commentary on the expression can be found than the Collect for the Conversion of St Paul. Compare also our Lord’s words, “All mine (neut. but including masc. and fem.) are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.”