Galatians 1:13
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:
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(13, 14) Proof that the doctrine of the Apostle is derived from God and not from man, in that it could not be accounted for by his antecedents and education, all of which told against, rather than for, a Christian belief of any kind.

(13) Ye have heard.—Rather, ye heard. It was indeed notorious; but the Apostle may be referring to the fact that he himself usually (see Acts 22:3-21; Acts 26:4-20; 1Corinthians 15:8-10) brought his own career and experiences into his preaching, so that they may have heard it from his own lips.

My conversation . . . in the Jews’ religion.—How I behaved in the days of my Judaism. The phrase “Jews’ religion” (literally, Judaism) is not used with any sense of disparagement.

Wasted it.—The same word is translated “destroyed” in Acts 9:21 : “Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name?”

Galatians 1:13-14. For ye have heard of my conversation in time past — As if he said, To convince you that I received the knowledge of the gospel by immediate revelation from Christ, I appeal to my behaviour, both before and after I was made an apostle; in the Jewish religion Εν τω Ιουδαισμω, in Judaism. The expression is well chosen; and, as L’Enfant justly observes, is not intended by the apostle of the religion originally taught by Moses, and contained in his writings and those of the prophets, but, as is evident from the latter part of the next verse, of that which was practised among the Jews at this time, and consisted in a great degree in observing the traditions of the fathers, and the commandments of men. How that beyond measure — Καθυπερβολην, exceedingly, and with the most insatiable rage; I persecuted the church of God — Whether considered as individual believers, or as persons united in religious societies and congregations; and wasted it — Ravaged it with all the fury of a beast of prey. So the word επορθουν, here used, signifies. And profited — Made proficiency in the knowledge and practice of Judaism; above many of my equals — Many of the same age with myself; in mine own nation — Or who were of the same standing in the study of the law; being more exceedingly zealous of the unwritten traditions of my fathers — Over and above the doctrines and precepts written in the law. These were what the evangelists and our Lord called the traditions of men, and their own traditions, (Mark 7:8-9,) to show that they were mere human inventions. “It was the characteristic of a Pharisee to hold these traditions as of equal authority with the precepts of the law. Nay, in many cases, they gave them the preference. Hence our Lord told them, Mark 7:9, Full well ye reject the commandments of God, that ye may keep your own traditions. The apostle mentions his knowledge of the traditions of the fathers, and his zeal for them, as things absolutely necessary to salvation, to convince the Galatians that his preaching justification without the works of the law, could be attributed to nothing but the force of truth communicated to him by revelation.” — Macknight.

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.For ye have heard of my conversation - My conduct, my mode of life, my deportment; see the note at 2 Corinthians 1:12. Probably Paul had himself made them acquainted with the events of his early years. The reason why he refers to this is, to show them that he had not derived his knowledge of the Christian religion from any instruction which he had received in his early years, or any acquaintance which he had formed with the apostles. At first, Paul had been decidedly opposed to the Lord Jesus, and had been converted only by God's wonderful grace.

In the Jews' religion - In the belief and practice of Judaism; that is, as it was understood in the time when he was educated. It was not merely in the religion of Moses, but it was in that religion as understood and practiced by the Jews in his time, when opposition to Christianity constituted a very material part of it. In that religion Paul proceeds to show that he had been more distinguished than most persons of his time.

How that beyond measure - In the highest possible degree; beyond all limits or bounds; exceedingly. The phrase which Paul uses here (καθ ̓ ὑπερβολὴν kath' huperbolēn), by hyperbole, is one which he frequently employs to denote anything that is excessive, or that cannot be expressed by ordinary language; see the Greek text in Romans 7:13; 1 Corinthians 12:31; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7, 2 Corinthians 4:17.

I persecuted the church - See Acts 8:3; Acts 9:1 ff.

And wasted it - Destroyed it. The word which is used here, means properly to waste or destroy, as when a city or country is ravaged by an army or by wild beasts. His purpose was utterly to root out and destroy the Christian religion.

13. heard—even before I came among you.

conversation—"my former way of life."

Jews' religion—The term, "Hebrew," expresses the language; "Jew," the nationality, as distinguished from the Gentiles; "Israelite," the highest title, the religious privileges, as a member of the theocracy.

the church—Here singular, marking its unity, though constituted of many particular churches, under the one Head, Christ.

of God—added to mark the greatness of his sinful alienation from God (1Co 15:19).

wasted—laid it waste: the opposite of "building it up."

It will be no difficult thing for you to believe, that I had never preached the gospel without a Divine revelation of the truth of it, if you do but reflect upon my former conversation; for you cannot but have heard, that I was born a Jew, educated in the Jewish religion, and was a zealous defender of it, so as I persecuted the Christians beyond measure. This unmeasurable persecution is expressed by Luke more particularly, Acts 8:3: He made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women, committed them to prison; and Acts 9:1: He breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, & c. He wasted the church like an enemy that useth fire and sword, and all means to destroy. The word here used is eporyoun, which signifies to make a devastation; the word used in Acts 8:3 is elumaineto both words signify the most ruinating hostile actions. And this he saith was his conversation, or constant practice, so as they might reasonably think that something more than human had made a change in him, that he should now be a preacher of that doctrine, which he had before so abominated as that his whole business was to root out those that professed it.

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past,.... His manner and course of life, in his state of unregeneracy, how diametrically opposite his education and behaviour, his principles and practices, were to the Gospel; which show that he had not received it, nor was he taught it of men. This they might have heard of, either from himself, when he first preached among them, who was very free to acknowledge his former sins and errors; or from the Jews, who were scattered abroad in the several countries; and it may be, from them, who were forced to fly to strange cities, and perhaps to some in Galatia, on account of his persecution: now his life and conversation, before his conversion, were spent

in the Jews' religion; or "in Judaism". He was born of Jewish parents, had a Jewish education, was brought up under a Jewish doctor, in all the peculiarities of the Jewish religion, and so could have received no hints, not in a notional way, of the truths of the Gospel; which he might have done, had he been born of Christian parents, and had had a Christian education: besides, he was brought up in the religion of the Jews, not as it was founded and established by God, but as it was corrupted by them; who had lost the true sense of the oracles of God committed to them, the true use of sacrifices, and the end of the law; had added to it a load of human traditions; placed all religion in bare doing, and taught that justification and salvation lay in the observance of the law of Moses, and the traditions of the elders: add to this, that he was brought up in the sect of the Jewish religion, Pharisaism, which was the straitest sect of it, and the most averse to Christ and his Gospel; so that he could never receive it, or have any disposition to it from hence; so far from it, that he appeals to the Galatians, as what they must have heard,

how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God; which he now knew, and believed to be the church of God; though then he did not, but rather a synagogue of Satan; and this he mentions, as an aggravation of his sin, under a sense of which he was humbled all his days: when he is said to persecute it "beyond measure", the meaning is not, as if there were any lawful measure, or due bounds of persecution, but that he persecuted the saints in a most violent and outrageous manner, beyond all others that were concerned with him: the church of God at Jerusalem is particularly designed, and the members of it, the disciples of Christ; whom he hated, and committed to prison, and breathed out threatenings and slaughter against, and destroyed: wherefore it follows, and wasted it; or destroyed it; as much as in him lay, he sought to do it, though he was not able to effect it entirely; he made havoc of it, dispersed its members, caused them to flee to strange cities, persecuted them to death, gave his voice against them to have them punished and put to death: such an aversion had he to the followers of Christ, and the Christian doctrine.

{7} 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:

(7) He proves that he was extraordinarily taught by Christ himself, by this history of his former life, which the Galatians themselves knew well enough. For, he says, it is well known in what school I was brought up, even from my childhood, that is, among the deadly enemies of the Gospel. And no man may raise a frivolous objection and say that I was a scholar of the Pharisees in name only, and not in deed, for no man is ignorant of how I excelled in Pharisaism, and was suddenly changed from a Pharisee to an apostle of the Gentiles, so that I had no time to be instructed by men.

Galatians 1:13. Now begins the historical proof that he was indebted for his gospel to the ἀποκάλυψις he had mentioned, and not to human communication and instruction. In the first place, in Galatians 1:13-14, he calls to their remembrance his well-known conduct whilst a Jew; for, as a persecutor of the Christians and a Pharisaic zealot, he could not but be the less fitted for human instruction in the gospel, which must, on the contrary, have come to him in that superhuman mode.

ἠκούσατε] emphatically prefixed, indicates that what is contained in Galatians 1:13-14, is something already well known to his readers, which therefore required only to be recalled, not to be proved.

τὴν ἐμὴν ἀναστροφήν ποτε ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ] my previous course of life in Judaism, how I formerly behaved myself as a Jew. Ἰουδαϊσμός is not Judaistic zeal and activity (Matthies, “when I was still out and out a Jew;” comp. Schott), but just simply Judaism, as his national religious condition: see 2Ma 2:21; 2Ma 8:1; 2Ma 14:38; 4Ma 4:26. It forms the historical contrast to the present Χριστιανισμός of the apostle. Comp. Ignat. ad Magnes. 8, 10, Philad. 6.

ἀναστροφή in the sense of course of life, behaviour, is found, in addition to the N.T. (Ephesians 4:22; 1 Timothy 4:12, et al.) and the Apocrypha (Tob 4:14; 2Ma 5:8), only in later Greek, such as Polyb. iv. 82. 1. See Wetstein.

ποτε ἐν τῷ Ἰουδ.] a definition of time attached to τὴν ἐμὴν ἀναστροφήν, in which the repetition of τήν was not necessary. Comp. Plat. Legg. iii. p. 685 D, ἡ τῆς Τροίας ἅλωσις τὸ δεύτερον. Soph. O. R. 1043, τοῦ τυράννου τῆσδε γῆς πάλαι ποτέ. Php 1:26. Comp. also on 1 Corinthians 8:7 and on 2 Corinthians 11:23ὅτι καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν κ.τ.λ.] a more precise definition of the object of ἠκούσατε, that I, namely, beyond measure persecuted, etc. On καθʼ ὑπερβολήν, the sense of which bears a superlative relation to σφόδρα, comp. Romans 7:13; 1 Corinthians 12:31; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Bernhardy, p. 241.

τοῦ Θεοῦ] added in the painful consciousness of the wickedness and guilt of such doings. Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:13ἐπόρθουν] is not to be understood de conatu (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Menochius, and others); Paul was then actually engaged in the work of destruction (Acts 22:4, comp. Acts 9:1, Acts 26:10-11), and therefore it is not to be understood (with Beza, Piscator, Estius, Winer, Usteri, and Schott) merely as vastavi, depopulatus sum (Hom. Od. xiv. 264, ἀγροὺς πόρθεον, et al.). Paul wished to be not a mere devastator, not a mere disturber (see Luther’s translation), but a destroyer[26] of the church; and as such he was active (Hom. Il. iv. 308, πόλιας καὶ τείχεʼ ἐπόρθουν, et al.). Moreover, in the classic authors also πορθεῖν and ΠΈΡΘΕΙΝ are applied not only to things, but also to men (comp. Acts 9:21) in the sense of bringing to ruin and the like. See Heindorf, ad Plat. Prot. p. 340 A; Lobeck, ad Soph. Aj. 1187; Jacobs, Del. epigr. i. 80.

[26] [Nicht bloss Verstörer, sondern Zerstörer.]

Galatians 1:13. Ἠκούσατε. The Galatians had no doubt heard from Paul himself of his former persecution of the Church. How frequently it formed the topic of his addresses to Jewish hearers may be gathered from his defence of himself at Jerusalem in Acts 22, and before Agrippa in Acts 26—Ἰουδαϊσμῷ. The rendering of this word in our versions, Jewish religion, is unfortunate: it implies a definite separation between the two religions which did not then exist, for Christians were still habitual worshippers in the synagogue; and it puts this view into the mouth of Paul, who steadfastly persisted in identifying the faith of Christ with the national religion. The word Ἰουδαϊζειν denotes the adoption of Jewish habits, language, or policy (cf. Galatians 2:14). So here Ἰουδαϊσμός denotes Jewish partisanship, and accurately describes the bitter party spirit which prompted Saul to take the lead in the martyrdom of Stephen and the persecution of the Church. Incidentally the partisanship was based on a false view of religion, for the narrow intolerance of the Scribes and Pharisees was a prevailing curse of Jewish society at the time; but Ἰουδαϊσμός expresses the party spirit, not the religion. Still more alien to the spirit of Paul is the language attributed to him in the next verse, I profited in the Jews’ religion (A.V.): for it indicates satisfaction at the success of his Jewish career, whereas he never ceased to regard it with lifelong remorse. His real assertion here is that he advanced beyond his fellows in sectarian prejudice and persecuting zeal—a statement borne out by the history of the persecution.—ποτε. This adverb is obviously attached to the preceding substantive ἀναστροφήν.

The imperfects ἐδίωκον … describe the course of action continuously pursued by Saul down to his conversion.—ἐπόρθουν. This term is likewise applied in Acts 9:21 to the havoc wrought by Saul in the Church.

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.

Galatians 1:13. Ἠκούσατε, ye have heard) before I came to you.—ποτὲ, in time past) when Paul was no way desirous of promoting the cause of the Gospel.—ἐπόρθουν, I wasted) This word denotes what is quite the opposite of edification [the building up of the Church].

Verse 13. - For ye have heard (ἠκούσατε γάρ). This "for" introduces the whole statement which follows down to the end of the chapter; for the entire section is written with the view of substantiating the assertion in ver. 12, that he had not received the gospel which he preached from man, but solely through illumination imparted immediately from heaven. "Ye have heard," i.e. have been told; as Acts 11:1; John 4:1, and often. "I am only stating what ye have already been apprised of, when I tell you of," etc. That the aorist tense of the Greek word does not limit the expression to any one communication, such e.g. as one made by the apostle himself, is shown by the use of this very aorist in blurt, 5:21, 33, etc.; Luke 4:23; John 12:34; Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 4:21; 2 Timothy 1:13; James 5:11. The apostle appears to have been himself in the habit of frequently telling the wondrous story of what he once had been and of the change wrought upon him. We have instances of his doing this in fill detail in his speech from the stairs, and in his defence before Agrippa (Acts 22:1-16; Acts 26.), and with less fulness in Philippians 3:4-8; 1 Corinthians 15:8, 9. It is therefore quite supposable that he had himself said as much also in Galatia. We observe, however, that the apostle does not say, "heard from me," as he might have done if he had himself been their informant: and, further, that the effect of the words, "ye have heard," does not, in point of construction at least, of necessity extend beyond the fourteenth verse. We are therefore at liberty to surmise that what he here refers to as having been told them relates simply to his life before his conversion; and that the accounts which they had received of it bad come through unfriendly informants. These may have been either unbelieving Jews or Judaizing Christians, who wished by these statements to disparage the apostle's character as one who, if he really was not dishonest, was at all events capable of passing from one extreme of sentiments to their direct opposite with the utmost suddenness and levity, and therefore was not a man entitled to be regarded with confidence. Of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion (τὴν ἐμὴν ἀναστροφήν ποτε ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαι'σμῷ); of my manner of life formerly in Judaism. "The manner in which I once behaved myself as devoted to Judaism." The ποτε belongs to the action denoted in the verbal noun ἀναστροφήν, like ἡ τῆς Τροίας ἅλωσις τὸ δεύτερον, cited by Meyer from Plato ('Legg.,' 3:685, D). Ἀναστροφή, conversatio, which occurs repeatedly in the New Testament, is generally rendered "conversation" in Authorized Version (Ephesians 4:22; 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 4:12; Hebrews 13:7). "Judaism" means "the religious life of a Jew," which distinctively was Mosaism. It occurs in 2 Macc. 2:21 2Macc. 14:38; 4 Macc. 4:16. Ignatius ('Ad Magn.,' 8) speaks of "not living according to Judaism," as in ibid., 10, he uses the word "Christianism." St. Paul has the verb "Judaize" below, Galatians 2:14. On the objective accusative ἀναστροφὴν as defined by the following clause, "how that," etc., see note on εὐαγγέλιον in ver. 11. How that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God (ὅτι καθ ὑπερβολὴν ἐδίωκον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ); how that beyond measure I was persecuting the Church of God. The imperfect "was persecuting," as well as the following, "was making havoc and was advancing," points to what he was doing when God interposed in the manner described in vers. 15, 16. Compare the use of the aorist ἐδίωξα in 1 Corinthians 15:9, Where no such simultaneity required to be indicated. "Beyond measure" or "superlatively" (καθ' ὑπερβολὴν) was, at least about this time, a favorite phrase with St. Paul. A less eager pen might have written "exceedingly" (σφόδρα). Cf. Romans 7:13; 1 Corinthians 12:31; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7, 17; 2 Corinthians 12:7. "Of God." This is added to "the Chinch" with pathos of strong self-condemnation, as it is also in 1 Corinthians 15:9. The apostle feels now that his violence against the Church was a kind of sacrilege. The sentiment is an echo of Christ's words to him," Why persecutest thou me?" And wasted it (καὶ ἐπόρθουν αὐτήν); and making havoc of it. The Greek verb (πορθεῖν) used again in this relation below, ver. 23, is similarly employed also in Acts 9:21, "made havoc of those who called upon this Name." The verb properly denotes "devastate," "harry;" and in classical Greek is used with reference to towns, countries, and the like, being applied to persons only in the poetical style (Liddell and Scott). In the New Testament it is used only in relation to Soul's persecution, apparently marking its deadly effectiveness as well as Saul's determination if possible to extirpate the faith and its adherents. The expugnabam of the Vulgate would seem a fair equivalent. Galatians 1:13Conversation (ἀναστροφήν)

Better, manner of life. See on 1 Peter 1:15.

In the Jews' religion (ἐν τῷ Ἱουδαΐσμῷ)

Only here and Galatians 1:14. Lit. in Judaism. It signifies his national religious condition. In lxx, 2 Macc. 2:21; 8:2; 14:38; 4 Macc. 4:26.

Beyond measure (καθ' ὑπερβολὴν)

P. Lit. according to excess. The noun primarily means a casting beyond, thence superiority, excellency. See 2 Corinthians 4:7, 2 Corinthians 4:17. It is transliterated in hyperbole. For similar phrases comp. 1 Corinthians 2:1; Acts 19:20; Acts 3:17; Acts 25:23.

Wasted (ἐπόρθουν)

Better, laid waste. In Class. applied not only to things - cities, walls, fields, etc. - but also to persons. So Acts 9:21.

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