Galatians 3:20
Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) The mention of the word “mediator” implies a contract to which there are at least two parties. But where there is a contract there must be also conditions, and if these conditions are not observed the whole falls to the ground. Such was the Law. The Law was not kept, and therefore the blessings annexed to it were forfeited. On the other hand, the promise depends upon God alone. He gave it, and He will assuredly keep it, no matter what man may do. God alone is concerned in it.

This passage is a conspicuous instance of the advance which has been made in New Testament exegesis. It is said to have received as many as 250 or 300 (according to another estimate, even 430) interpretations, but at the present moment there is a tendency to acquiesce in that given above, which, it is hoped, will be thought satisfactory.

Now a mediator is not a mediator of one.—The very idea of a mediator involves two parties at least. The Law had a mediator, therefore the Law involves two parties. In other words, it is a contract.

But God is one.—On the other hand, God, the giver of the promise, stands alone: therefore the promise is not a contract; and, resting on God, it is indefeasible.

Galatians 3:20. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one — There must be two parties, or there can be no place or use for a mediator: but God, who made the free promise to Abraham, is only one of the parties; the other, Abraham, was not present at the time of Moses. Therefore, in the affair of the promise, Moses had nothing to do: the law, wherein he was concerned, was a transaction of quite another nature. Or, as Dr. Doddridge paraphrases this difficult passage more at large, following, as he says, Mr. Locke’s interpretation, not without attentively comparing a variety of others, “A mediator is not merely the mediator of one party, but at least of two, between which he must pass, and, by the nature of his office, transact for both; but God is only one party in that covenant made with Abraham, and Abraham and his seed, including all that believe, both Jews and Gentiles, are the other. As Moses, therefore, when the law was given, stood at that time, between the Lord and Israel, (Deuteronomy 5:5,)

and did not pass between the whole collective body of Abraham’s seed and the blessed God; so nothing was transacted by him with relation to those for whom he did not appear, and consequently nothing in that covenant wherein he did mediate could disannul the promise, or affect the right accruing to any from a prior engagement, in which the Gentiles were concerned as well as the Israelites; for no covenant can be altered but by the mutual consent of both parties; and in what was done at mount Sinai by the mediation of Moses, there was none to appear for the Gentiles; so that this transaction between God and the Israelites could have no force to abrogate the promise, which extended likewise to the Gentiles, or to vacate a covenant that was made between parties of which one only was there.”

3:19-22 If that promise was enough for salvation, wherefore then serveth the law? The Israelites, though chosen to be God's peculiar people, were sinners as well as others. The law was not intended to discover a way of justification, different from that made known by the promise, but to lead men to see their need of the promise, by showing the sinfulness of sin, and to point to Christ, through whom alone they could be pardoned and justified. The promise was given by God himself; the law was given by the ministry of angels, and the hand of a mediator, even Moses. Hence the law could not be designed to set aside the promise. A mediator, as the very term signifies, is a friend that comes between two parties, and is not to act merely with and for one of them. The great design of the law was, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to those that believe; that, being convinced of their guilt, and the insufficiency of the law to effect a righteousness for them, they might be persuaded to believe on Christ, and so obtain the benefit of the promise. And it is not possible that the holy, just, and good law of God, the standard of duty to all, should be contrary to the gospel of Christ. It tends every way to promote it.Now a mediator is not a mediator of one ... - This verse has given great perplexity to commentators. "There is, unquestionably," says Bloomfield, "no passage in the New Testament that has so much, and to so little purpose, exercised the learning and ingenuity of commentators as the present, which seems to defy all attempts to elicit any satisfactory sense, except by methods so violent as to be almost the same thing as writing the passage afresh." In regard, however, to the truth of the declarations here - that "a mediator is not a mediator of one," and that "God is one" - there can be no doubt, and no difficulty. The very idea of a mediator supposes that there are two parties or persons between whom the mediator comes either to reconcile them or to bear some message from the one to the other; and it is abundantly affirmed also in the Old Testament that there is but one God; see Deuteronomy 6:4.

But the difficulty is, to see the pertinency or the bearing of the remark on the argument of the apostle. What does he intend to illustrate by the declaration? and how do the truths which he states, illustrate the point before him? It is not consistent with the design of these notes to detail the numerous opinions which have been entertained of the passage. They may be found in the larger commentaries, and particularly may be seen in Koppe, Excursus vii. on the Galatians. After referring to a number of works on the passage, Rosenmuller adopts the following interpretation, proposed by Noessett, as expressing the true sense. But he (that is, Moses) is not a mediator of one race (to wit, the Abrahamic), but God is the same God of them and of the Gentiles. The sense according to this is, that Moses had not reference in his office as mediator or as internuncius to the descendants of Abraham, or to that one seed or race, referred to in the promise.

He added the hard conditions of the Law; required its stern and severe observances; his institutions pertained to the Jews mainly. They indeed might obtain the favor of God, but by compliance with the severe laws which he had ordained. But to the one seed, the whole posterity of Abraham, they concerning whom the promise was made, the Gentiles as well as the Jews, he had no reference in his institutions: all their favors, therefore, must depend on the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. But God is one and the same in reference to all. His promise pertains to all. He is the common God to the Jews and the Gentiles. There is great difficulty in embracing this view of the passage, but it is not necessary for me to state the difficulty or to attempt to show that the view here proposed cannot be defended. Whitby has expressed substantially the same interpretation of this passage. "But this mediator (namely, Moses) was only the mediator of the Jews, and so was only the mediator of one party, to whom belonged the blessing of Abraham, Galatians 3:8, Galatians 3:14. But God, who made the promise, 'That in one should all the families of the earth be blessed,' is one; the God of the other party, the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and so as ready to justify the one as the other."

According to this interpretation, the sense is, that Moses was mediator of one part of Abraham's seed, the Israelites; but was not the mediator of the other part of that seed, the Gentiles; yet there was the same God to both parties, who was equally ready to justify both. Locke has expressed a view of the passage which differs somewhat from this, but which has quite as much plausibility. According to his exposition it means, that God was but one of the parties to the promise. The Jews and the Gentiles made up the other. But at the giving of the Law Moses was a mediator only between God and the Israelites, and, therefore, could not transact anything which would tend to the disannulling of the promise which was between God and the Jews and Gentiles together, the other party to the promise. Or in other words, at the covenant made on Mount Sinai, there was really present but one of the parties, and consequently nothing could be done that would affect the other.

Moses did not appear in behalf of the Gentiles. They had no representative there. He was engaged only for the Jews, for a part only of the one party, and that part could not transact anything for the whole. The giving of the Law, therefore, could not affect the promise which was made to Abraham, and which related to the Jews and the Gentiles as together constituting one party. This view is plausible. It has been adopted by Doddridge, and perhaps may be the true interpretation. No one can deny, however, that it is forced, and that it is far from being obvious. It seems to be making a meaning for the apostle, or furnishing him with an argument, rather than explaining the one which he has chosen to use; and it may be doubted whether Paul would have used an argument that required so much explanation as this before it could be understood. All these expositions proceed on the supposition that the word "mediator" here refers to Moses, and that the transaction here referred to was that on Mount Sinai. I would suggest a sense of the passage which I have found in none of the commentaries which I have consulted, and which I would, therefore, propose with diffidence.

All that I can claim for it is, that it may possibly be the meaning. According to the view which I shall submit, the words here are to be regarded as used in their usual signification; and the simplest interpretation possible is to be given to the propositions in the verse. One proposition is, that a mediator is not appointed with reference to one party, but to two. This proposition is universal. Wherever there is a mediator there are always two parties. The other proposition is, that God is one; that is, that he is the same one God, in whatever form his will may be made known to people, whether by a promise as to Abraham, or by the Law as to Moses. The interpretation which I would propose embraces the following particulars:

(1) The design of the apostle is, to show that the giving of the Law could not abrogate or affect the promise made to Abraham; and to show at the same time what is its true object. It could not annul the promises, says Paul. It was given long after, and could not affect them, Galatians 3:17. It was an addition, an appendage, a subsequent enactment for a specific purpose, yet a part of the same general plan, and subordinate to the Mediator, Galatians 3:19. It was to be shown also that the Law was not against the promises of God. It was a good law Galatians 3:21; and was not designed to be an opposing system, or intended to counteract the promise, or the scheme of salvation by promise, but was a part of the same great plan.

(2) a mediator always supposes two parties. In all the transactions, therefore, where a mediator is employed, there is supposed to be two parties. When, therefore, the promise was made to Abraham with reference to the Messiah, the great Mediator; and when the Law was given in the hand of the Mediator, and under his control, there is always supposed to be two parties.

(3) the whole arrangement here referred to is under the Mediator, and with reference to him. The promise made to Abraham had reference to him and to those who should believe on him; and the Law given by Moses was also under him, and with reference to him. He was the grand object and agent of all. He was the Mediator with reference to both. Each transaction had reference to him, though in different ways the transaction with Abraham relating to him in connection with a promise; the transaction at the giving of the Law being under his control as Mediator, and being a part of the one great plan. There was an identity of plan; and the plan had reference to the Messiah, the great Mediator.

(4) God is one and the same. He is throughout one of the parties; and he does not change. However the arrangements may vary, whether in giving the Law or imparting a promise, He is the same. There is only one God in all the transaction; and He, throughout, constitutes one of the parties. The other party is man, at first receiving the promise from this one God with reference to the Mediator through Abraham, and then receiving the Law through the same Mediator on Mount Sinai. He is still the one party unchanged; and there is the same Mediator; implying all along that there are two parties.

(5) it follows, therefore, agreeably to the argument of the apostle, that the Law given so long after the promise, could not abrogate it, because they pertained to the same plan, were under the same one God, who was one unchanging party in all this transaction, and had reference to the same Mediator and were alike under his control. It followed, also, that the Law was temporary Galatians 3:19; interposed for important purposes until the "seed should come," because it was a part of the same general arrangement, and was under the control of the same Mediator, and directed by the same one God, the unchanging one party in all these transactions. It followed, further, that the one could not be against the other Galatians 3:21, because they were a part of the same plan, under the control of the same Mediator, and where the same God remained unchanged as the one party. All that is assumed in this interpretation is:

(a) That there was but one plan or arrangement; or that the transaction with Abraham and with Moses were parts of one great scheme; and,

(b) That the Mediator here referred to was not Moses, but the Messiah, the Son of God.

The following paraphrase will express the sense which I have endeavored to convey. "The giving of the Law could not annul or abrogate the promise made to Abraham. It was long after that, and it was itself subservient to that. It was given by the instrumentality of angels, and it was entirely under the control of the Mediator, the Messiah. The plan was one; and all the parts of it, in the promise made to Abraham and in the giving of the Law, were subordinate to him. A mediator always supposes two parties, and the reference to the Mediator, alike in the promise to Abraham and in the giving of the Law, supposes that there were two parties. God is one party, the same unchanging God in all the forms of the promise and of the Law. In this state of things, it is impossible that the Law should clash with the promise, or that it should supersede or modify it. It was a part of the one great plan; appointed with reference to the work which the Mediator came to do; and in accordance with the promise made to Abraham; and therefore they could not be contradictory and inconsistent." It is assumed in all this that the Messiah was contemplated in the whole arrangement, and that it was entered into with reference to him. That this may be assumed no one can deny who believes the scriptures. The whole arrangement in the Old Testament, it is supposed, was designed to be ancillary to redemption; and the interpretation which has been submitted above is based on that supposition.

20. "Now a mediator cannot be of one (but must be of two parties whom he mediates between); but God is one" (not two: owing to His essential unity not admitting of an intervening party between Him and those to be blessed; but as the One Sovereign, His own representative, giving the blessing directly by promise to Abraham, and, in its fulfilment, to Christ, "the Seed," without new condition, and without a mediator such as the law had). The conclusion understood is, Therefore a mediator cannot appertain to God; and consequently, the law, with its inseparable appendage of a mediator, cannot be the normal way of dealing of God, the one, and unchangeable God, who dealt with Abraham by direct promise, as a sovereign, not as one forming a compact with another party, with conditions and a mediator attached thereto. God would bring man into immediate communion with Him, and not have man separated from Him by a mediator that keeps back from access, as Moses and the legal priesthood did (Ex 19:12, 13, 17, 21-24; Heb 12:19-24). The law that thus interposed a mediator and conditions between man and God, was an exceptional state limited to the Jews, and parenthetically preparatory to the Gospel, God's normal mode of dealing, as He dealt with Abraham, namely, face to face directly; by promise and grace, and not conditions; to all nations united by faith in the one seed (Eph 2:14, 16, 18), and not to one people to the exclusion and severance from the One common Father, of all other nations. It is no objection to this view, that the Gospel, too, has a mediator (1Ti 2:5). For Jesus is not a mediator separating the two parties in the covenant of promise or grace, as Moses did, but One in both nature and office with both God and man (compare "God in Christ," Ga 3:17): representing the whole universal manhood (1Co 15:22, 45, 47), and also bearing in Him "all the fulness of the Godhead." Even His mediatorial office is to cease when its purpose of reconciling all things to God shall have been accomplished (1Co 15:24); and God's ONENESS (Zec 14:9), as "all in all," shall be fully manifested. Compare Joh 1:17, where the two mediators—Moses, the severing mediator of legal conditions, and Jesus, the uniting mediator of grace—are contrasted. The Jews began their worship by reciting the Schemah, opening thus, "Jehovah our God is ONE Jehovah"; which words their Rabbis (as Jarchius) interpret as teaching not only the unity of God, but the future universality of His Kingdom on earth (Zep 3:9). Paul (Ro 3:30) infers the same truth from the ONENESS of God (compare Eph 4:4-6). He, as being One, unites all believers, without distinction, to Himself (Ga 3:8, 16, 28; Eph 1:10; 2:14; compare Heb 2:11) in direct communion. The unity of God involves the unity of the people of God, and also His dealing directly without intervention of a mediator. This is a text acknowledged by all interpreters to be very obscure; not so much as considered in itself, (for all know, that a mediator speaks one that goes in the middle between two persons that are at odds, so cannot be of one), as in regard of the connection of it with what went before; where he had told us, that the law was given in the hand of a mediator. There are various senses given of this verse, and the variety much ariseth from men’s different understanding of the mediator in whose hand the law was given. To me the apostle seems to magnify the promise above the law, in that the promise was given to Abraham immediately by God, (who is one in essence), but the law was given not immediately by God, but by Moses as mediator, who in that action was a type of Christ. And God thereby showed, that the law would bring no man to life and salvation without the one and only Mediator Christ Jesus. Christ, indeed, is the Mediator of the new testament, he mediated for it, he mediateth in it; but it was men’s transgression of the law that brought them in need of a Mediator, sin being the only thing that separateth between God and man.

God is one; and there had been no need of mediating between him and man, but for the law which man had transgressed. Those that by the mediator, Galatians 3:19, understand Christ, make this the sense: That as a mediator supposeth two parties at odds, so Christ’s being Mediator speaks him to have respect to Jews and Gentiles. But this interpretation seems to make Christ the Mediator between Jews and Gentiles, whom (the apostle saith) he made both one, breaking down the partition-wall, Ephesians 2:14; but we do not find the name of Mediator upon this account any where given unto Christ. Many other senses are given, but the first mentioned seemeth the most probable, viz. that God made use of no mediator in giving the promise, but only in giving the law, which evidenced that justification was not to be by it; nor had there been need of a true Mediator under the gospel, but for the law, men’s transgression of which brought in a need of a Mediator; which proved that justification could not be by the law.

Now a mediator is not a mediator of one,.... A mediator supposes two parties he stands between, and these at a distance from, or disagreeing with each other; where there is but one party, there can be no need of, nor any reason for, a mediator; so Christ is the Mediator between God and men, the daysman, Job 9:33, that lays his hands upon them both; and Moses, he was the mediator between God and the Israelites:

but God is one; not in person, for there are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one, in nature and essence; so that though there are three persons, there is but one God, and who is the God both of Jews and Gentiles; who is of one mind concerning them, and has taken them into one and the same covenant, and makes use of one and the same method in the justification of them: but the true sense of the phrase here is, that whereas a mediator supposes two parties at variance, "God is one of the two"; as the Ethiopic version reads the words; he is a party offended, that stands off, and at a distance, which the law given by angels in the hand of a mediator shows; so that that is rather a sign of disagreement and alienation, and consequently that justification is not to be expected by it.

Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, {24} but God is one.

(24) A taking away of an objection, lest any man might say that sometimes by consent of the parties which have made a covenant, something is added to the covenant, or the former covenants are broken. This, the apostle says, does not come to pass in God, who is always one, and the very same, and like himself.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Galatians 3:20 down to μὴ γένοιτο, Galatians 3:21. “But from the fact that the law was ordained through a mediator, it must not at all be concluded that it is opposed to the promises of God.” The expression just used, ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου, might possibly be turned to the advantage of the law and to the prejudice of the promises, in this way, that it might be said: “Since the idea of a mediator supposes not one subject, to whom his business relates, but more than one, who have to be mutually dealt with, and yet God (who gave the law through a mediator) is one, so that there could not be one God who gave the law and another who gave the promises (for there are not more Gods than one); it might possibly be concluded that, because the law was ordained by God in a different way from the promises,—namely, by the calling in of a mediator acting between the two parties,—the earlier divine mode of justification (that of faith) opened up in the promises was abolished by the law, and instead of it, another and opposite mode of justification (that of the works of the law) was opened up by God.” Paul conceives the possibility of this inference, and therefore brings it forward, not, however, as an objection on the part of opponents, but as his own reflection; hence he expresses the concluding inference, ὁ οὖν νόμος κ.τ.λ., in an interrogative form, to which he thereupon replies by the disclaimer, μὴ γένοιτο. The explanation of the words, which in themselves are simple enough, is accordingly as follows: “But the mediator—not to leave unnoticed an inference which might possibly be drawn to the prejudice of the promises from the ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου just said—but the mediator, that is, any mediator, does not belong to a single person, but intervenes between two or more; God, on the other hand, is a single person, and not a plurality. Is it now—when these two propositions are applied in concreto to the law and the promises—is it now to be thence inferred that the law, which was given through a mediator, and in which therefore there took part more subjects than one, in point of fact two (namely, God and Israel), between whom the mediator had to deal, is opposed to the divine promises, in which the same one God, who in the case of the law acted through a mediator and so implied two parties, acted directly? God forbid! From this point of difference in the divine bestowal of the law and the promises, by no means is any such conclusion to be arrived at to the prejudice of the latter, as if now, through the law mediatorially given by the one God, another divine mode of justification were to be made valid.” In this view, Galatians 3:20 contains two loci communes, from the mutual relation of which in reference to the two concreta under discussion (the law and the promises) in Galatians 3:21 a possible inference is supposed to be drawn, and proposed by way of question for a reply. The δέ is in both cases adversative: the first introducing a supposed objection, and the second an incidental point belonging to this objection, the relation of which incidental point to the first proposition strengthens the doubt excited; ὁ μεσίτης denotes the mediator absolutely as genus (“quae multa sunt cunctis in unum colligendis,” Hermann, ad Iph. Aul. p. 15, pref.): ἑνὸς οὐκ ἔστιν is predicate, negativing the ἑνὸς εἶναι as regards the mediator, with emphatic stress laid on the prefixed ἑνός (not on the οὐκ, as Hofmann thinks), and ἑνός is masculine,[148] without requiring anything to be supplied: εἷς ἐστιν is predicate, and ΕἿς, in conformity with the axiom of monotheism here expressed, is used quite in the same purely numerical sense as ἑνός previously. Lastly, in the interrogative inference, Galatians 3:21, Ὁ ΝΌΜΟς is used, as the close annexation by ΟὖΝ sufficiently indicates, in precise correlation to Ὁ ΜΕΣΊΤΗς in Galatians 3:20 (for the law was given through a mediator, Galatians 3:19), and τῶν ἐπαγγελιῶν τοῦ Θεοῦ to ᾯ ἘΠΉΓΓΕΛΤΑΙ, Galatians 3:19; but the emphasis in this question of Galatians 3:21 is laid upon ΚΑΤΆ, for Paul will not allow it to be inferred from the two propositions expressed in Galatians 3:20 (ΜῊ ΓΈΝΟΙΤΟ), that the law stood in a relation to the promises which was antagonistic to them and opposed to their further validity as regards justification.

The numerous different interpretations of this passage—and it has had to undergo above 250 of them—have specially multiplied in modern times: for the Fathers of the Church pass but lightly over the words which in themselves are clear, without taking into consideration their difficulties in relation to the general scope of the passage,—mostly applying the ὁ δὲ μεσίτης ἑνὸς οὐκ ἔστιν, taken correctly and generally, to Christ,[149] who is the Mediator between God and man, and partly casting side-glances at the opponents of Christ’s divinity (see Chrysostom); although a diversity of interpretation (some referring μεσίτης to Moses, and others to Christ) is expressly mentioned by Oecumenius. Although no special dogmatic interest attached to the passage, nevertheless in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (see Poole’s Synopsis) the variety of interpretations was already such that almost every interpreter of importance (yet, as a rule, without polemical controversy, because the dogmatic element did not come into play) took a way of his own. It became, however, still greater after the middle of the eighteenth century (especially after grammatico-historical exegesis gained ground, but with an abundant intermixture of its philological aberrations), and is even now continually increasing. How often have the most mistaken fancies and the crudest conjectures sought to gain acceptance in connection with our passage, the explanation of which was regarded as a feat of exegetical skill! For a general view of the mass of interpretations, the following works are of service:

Koppe, Exc. VII. p. 128 ff. ed. Galatians 3 : Bonitz, Plurimor. de I. Galatians 3:20 sententiae examinatae novaque ejus interpr. tentata, Lips. 1800; also his Spicileg. observatt. ad Galatians 3:20, Lips. 1802: Anton, Diss. I. Galatians 3:20 critice, historice, et exeg. tract. in Pott’s Sylloge, V. p. 141 ff.: Keil (seven programmes), in his Opusc. I. p. 211 ff.: Winer, Exc. III.: Schott, p. 455 ff.: Wieseler, and de Wette ed. Möller, in loc. It is enough that out of the multitude of various interpretations—omitting the criticism in detail of the earlier views down to Keil[150]—we specify the more recent literature, and adduce the following: 1. Keil, who comes nearest to our view, explains thus (see Opusc. I. p. 365 ff.): “Mediatorem quidem non unius sed duarum certe partium esse, Deum autem, qui Abrahamo beneficii aliquid promiserit, unum modo fuisse; hincque apostolum id a lectoribus suis colligi voluisse, in lege ista Mos. pactum mutuum Deum inter atque populum Israelit. mediatoris opera intercedente initum fuisse, contra vero in promissione rem ab unius tantum (Dei sc., qui solus eam dederit) voluntate pendentem transactam, hincque legi isti nihil plane cum hac rei fuisse, adeoque nec potuisse ea novam illius promissionis implendae conditionem constitui, eoque ipso promissionem hanc omnino tolli.” But (a) to take the second half of the verse not generally, like the first, but historically, as if ἦν was written, is an arbitrary deviation from the parallelism; and (b) the conclusion professedly to be drawn by the reader, hincque legi isti nihil, etc., is quite without warrant, for Paul himself puts as a question in Galatians 3:21 the inference which he conceives may be possibly drawn from Galatians 3:20. 2. Schleiermacher’s explanation is essentially similar (in Usteri, Lehrbegr. p. 186 ff.): “The mediator of an agreement does not exist where there is only one person, but always presupposes two persons; these were God and the Jewish nation. But God is One in reference to His promises; that is, God therein acts quite freely, unconditionally, independently, and for Himself alone, as One numerically, because it is no agreement between two, but His free gift (χάρις). Does the law therefore conflict, etc.?”[151] But in this view (a) the application of Galatians 3:20 to the concreta of the law and the promises, which is in fact not made until Galatians 3:21, is imported into and anticipated in Galatians 3:20. Moreover, (b) εἷς imperceptibly changes from its numerical sense into the idea of aloneness and independence; and (c) the idea of free grace is arbitrarily introduced, and is not expressed by Paul. Nearest to this interpretation of Schleiermacher and Usteri comes Hilgenfeld, whose interpretation,[152] accompanied essentially by the same difficulties, ultimately amounts to the non-Pauline idea, that the position of God as a party in regard to the law is not in harmony with the divine unity (that is, with the divine monarchy). Comp. also Lipsius, Rechtfertigungsl. p. 77, according to whom Paul negatively “strikes the law to the ground as incompatible with the sole agency of God.” But how could Paul desire to strike to the ground the law, which to him was ἅγιος, ἀγαθός, and πνευματικός (Romans 7:12; Romans 7:14)? No, all he desires to show is, that, notwithstanding the diversity of its divine bestowal from the mode of giving the promise, it is not opposed to the promise. 3. Winer: “Non potest μεσίτης cogitari aut fingi, qui sit ἑνός, unius h. e. unius partis: ὁ δὲ Θεὸς εἷς ἐστι, Deus est unus, una (altera) tantummodo pars; ita quaenam est altera? gens Israel. Jam si hoc, sponte efficitur, legem Mos. pertinere etiam ad Judaeos, hosque legi isti observandae adstrictos fuisse.”[153] Thus Galatians 3:20 contains only a parenthetical idea, Paul having in view to re-establish the dignity of the law, which appeared weakened by τῶν παραβ. χάριν προσετέθη: “Lex Mos. data fuit peccatorum gratia; propterea vero non est, quod quis eam tanquam ista ἐπαγγελίᾳ longe inferiorem contemnat; data enim et ipsa est auctoritate divina

διαταγ. διʼ ἀγγέλωνgentique Hebr. tanquam agendi norma proposita ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτ. ὃς οὐκ ἔστιν ἑνός.” It cannot be urged against Winer, that Paul must necessarily have written ὁ εἷς (see Winer, Gramm. p. 110 [E. T. 144]). But (a) in the logically exact chain of argument there is no indication at all that Galatians 3:20 is to be taken as a parenthesis. (b) Since ὁ μεσίτης is subject, ὁ Θεός, which likewise is placed at the beginning of the sentence, may not be arbitrarily understood as predicate. (c) It must have been more precisely indicated by Paul, if it were intended that the first ἐστίν should be understood as the copula of a general judgment, and the second as historical (appears in the giving of the law); for every reader, if he had understood the first half of the verse as a general judgment, would naturally understand the second in like manner. (d) It would not occur to any reader to refer εἷς to a suppressed ὁ ἕτερος: for ἑνός had just been used absolutely in a numerical sense, in which therefore εἷς at once presents itself; and this the more, because the first sentence, by its negative form, has prepared the way for an antithesis to follow. (e) The idea which ὁ δὲ Θεὸς εἷς ἐστιν is supposed to indicate: therefore the law is obligatory on the Israelites, conveys something which is so entirely a matter of course, that it could not be made use of at all as an element of the dignity of the law; for the law was, in fact, given to the Israelites, and even to think of that obligation as non-existent would have been incongruous. And (f) even assuming such a superfluous idea, in what a strangely mysterious way would Paul have intimated it! That which he meant to say, he would wholly without reason have concealed, and have given out as it were a riddle. Apart from the unsuitableness of the idea generally, and from the inappropriate εἷς, he must have said: ὁ δὲ Ἰσραὴλ εἷς ἐστιν. 4. Schulthess has sought to vindicate his interpretation (proposed in Keil and Tzschirner’s Anal. II. 3, p. 133 ff.) in his Engelwelt, Engelgesetz und Engeldienst, Zürich 1833, and in de G. Hermanno, enodatore ep. P. ad Gal., Zürich 1835, viz.: “Hic mediator (Moses) non est mediator unius, i.e. communis illius Dei, qui olim Abrahamo spopondit, per eum aliquando gentes beatum iri, et qui est unus, s. communis omnium parens, sed est potius mediator angelorum.”[154] But (a) how erroneous it is to assume that the anarthrous ἑνός should denote the universal God of men, and how alien this reference is to the context! (b) How opposed is the διʼ ἀγγέλων to the notion, that Moses was “mediator angelorum”! (c) How at variance is the idea of the law as the work of angels with the conception throughout the Bible (comp. on Galatians 3:19) of the law as the work of God! In how wholly different a way must Paul have spoken of and proved such a paradox, and how frequently would he have reverted to it (especially in the Epistle to the Romans) in his antinomistic discussions! 5. Akin to this, as far as the idea is concerned, is the interpretation of Schmieder (Nova interpr. I. Paul. Galatians 3:19 f., Numb. 1826, and in Tholuck’s literar. Anz. 1830, No. 54): “Quivis minister vel multorum est vel unius: atqui mediator non est unius: ergo est multorum minister. Qui multorum est minister, ad quod genus mediator pertinet, non est unius: atqui Deus (absolute) unus est: ergo cum multorum sit mediator, non est Dei minister.” The connection is supposed to be: “Concedo legem per angelos datam esse a Deo, non humana arte inventam, sed eo ipso, quod per angelos ministros, non per Deum aut Dei filium promulgata est, inferior est evangelio.”[155] This interpretation is objectionable, (a) in a general point of view, because it rests wholly on the erroneous view that μεσίτου in Galatians 3:19 applies not to Moses, but to the angelus mediator; (b) because Paul could not have expressed so peculiar an antinomistic argument more obscurely or more enigmatically than by thus omitting the essential points; (c) because the idea of μεσίτης by no means implies that the ΜΕΣΊΤΗς is the “minister multorum:” he may be commissioned as well by one as by many, as, in fact, Christ was commissioned as a μεσίτης by One, viz. by God. See also, in opposition to Schmieder, Lücke in the Stud. u. Krit. 1828, p. 95 ff.; Winer, Exc. III. p. 171 ff. 6. Steudel, in Bengel’s Archiv I. p. 124 ff., supposes that Galatians 3:19 is an opponent’s question: “To what purpose then serves the law? Was it bestowed merely somehow as an additional gift on account of transgressions (in order to be transgressed), until the seed should come to whom the promise applied? And yet was it made known through angels, and by the ministry of a mediator?” To which Paul answers, “Certainly through the ministry of a mediator; only he was not the mediator of an united seed (of the σπέρματος τῶν πιστεύοντων, Galatians 3:16), but God is one (not another for the Gentiles).” But (a) there is nothing that indicates any such division of the passage into dialogue; and (b) how strange it would be that Paul should have grasped, and furnished a reply to, nothing but the last part of the opponent’s question, ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου, which, moreover, would be only a subordinate part of it! (c) The article must be added to ἑνός, if it is to apply to the ΣΠΈΡΜΑ already spoken of (as assumed also by Jatho); but no supplement whatever to ἑνός is suggested by the context;[156] and if τοῦ ἑνὸς σπέρματος were read, then, according to Galatians 3:16, it would mean not the body of Christians, but Christ Himself.[157] (d) ἑνός and εἷς would be taken in different senses: united and one.[158] 7. Sack (in the Tüb. Zeitschr. 1831, I. p. 106 f.) supposes that Paul avails himself of the idea of a mediator to limit the recognition of the law, which perhaps some Jewish Christians were disposed to assert to an exaggerated extent, and says: “The mediator, however, is not of one kind, but God is One and the same. For us Christians there is certainly another mediator than Moses; but God, the God in both Testaments, is nevertheless One and the same.” But it is obvious that ἑνός ἐστιν cannot mean unius generis est, and it is equally evident that the clause, “for us Christians there is certainly,” etc., is arbitrarily brought in. See also Schneckenburger, Beitr. p. 187 f., and (in opposition to Steudel, Kern, and Sack) Winer, Zeitschr. f. wissensch. Theol. II. 1, p. 31 ff. 8. Hermann: “Interventor non est unius (i. e. interventor ubi est, duos minimum esse oportet, inter quos ille interveniat); Deus autem unus est: ergo apud Deum non cogitari potest interventor; esset enim is, qui intercederet inter Deum et Deum, quod absurdum est.” And the connection is: “Id agebat P. ut ostenderet, legem Mosis, quae nihil neque cum promissione Abrahamo data neque cum praesente effectione promissionis commune haberet, dumtaxat interim valuisse, jam autem non amplius valere. Rationem reddit hanc, quod superaddita sit (ideo προσετέθη dixit), eoque non pertineat ad testamentum, cui non liceat quidquam addi; deinde quod non, sicut testamentum illud, ab ipso Deo condita et data, sed disposita per angelos allataque sit manu interventoris: atqui interventori, quod interventor non sit unius, non esse locum apud Deum, qui unus sit, utpote testator, cujus unius ex voluntate nemine intercedente haereditatem capiat haeres.” But (a) it could not be expected that the reader should derive from Galatians 3:20 the idea that no mediator is conceivable in the case of God on account of His oneness; nor could it be so conceived by Paul himself, for, in fact, with the one God a mediator may certainly have a place,—not, however, “inter Deum et Deum,” into which absurdity no one could fall, unless Paul so expressed it, but inter Deum et homines, in which office the history of the theocracy showed so many mediators and at last Christ Himself. (b) The question in Galatians 3:21 (οὖν), with the answer expressive of horror, ΜῊ ΓΈΝΟΙΤΟ, presupposes that the subject-matter of this question—consequently an antagonistic relation of the law to the promises—might possibly (although quite unduly) be derived from Galatians 3:20. But according to Hermann, Paul in Galatians 3:19-20 has already proved that an antagonism of the law to the promises does not exist, that the law was no longer valid, and had nothing at all in common with the promises. So, in a logical point of view, the question in Galatians 3:21, ὁ οὖν νόμος κ.τ.λ., could not be asked, nor could the answer ΜῊ ΓΈΝΟΙΤΟ be made. (c) It may, besides, be urged against Hermann, that not only is διʼ ἀγγ. ἐν χειρὶ μεσ. regarded as lowering the authority of the law, but a quite undue stress is also laid upon ΠΡΟΣΕΤΈΘΗ; for in Galatians 3:19 the emphasis lies on ΤῶΝ ΠΑΡΑΒ. ΧΆΡΙΝ. 9. Matthies (as in substance also Rinck, Lucubr. crit. p. 172 ff., and in the Stud. u. Krit. 1834, p. 309 ff.) interprets: “But the mediator … does not relate to one, for his nature is in fact divided or disunited, since he is placed between two sides or parties opposed to one another; and therefore in connection with him we cannot think of unity, but only of duality, or of the variance subsisting between two parties; but God is One, comprehends in Himself nothing but unity, so that His nature contains no variance or disunion.” Thus also, in the main, de Wette,[159] and among the older expositors Jac. Cappellus. But the simple numerical conception of unity is thus arbitrarily transformed into the philosophical idea, and the contrast of plurality is turned into the contrast of disunion. How could a reader discover in ὁ Θεὸς εἷς ἐστιν anything else than the popular doctrine of Monotheism? 10. Schott: “Mediator quidem non uni tantum (eidemque immutabili) addictus est homini s. parti, i. e. in quavis causa humana, quae mediatore indiget, duae certe adsunt partes, quibus μεσίτης inserviat, sive res inter duos tantum homines singulos transigatur, sive multitudo sit ingens eorum, qui alterutram vel utramque partem constituant (v. c. populus) … ubi plures imo multi ejusdem foederis participes sunt et fiunt (praesertim ubi maxima est singulorum vicissitudo, dum mortuis succedunt posteri), facile etiam mutatis animorum consiliis atque propositis, foedus mutatur aut tollitur, μεσίτη cujus ope constitutum fuerat haud impediente … proinde ex eo quidem, quod lex Sinaitica ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου promulgata est (Galatians 3:19), non sequitur auctoritatem ei competere perpetuam [his verbis P. corrigere voluit perversam eorum opinionem, qui in defendenda legis auctoritate perpetua valitura ad personam Mosis mediatoris provocarent] … attamen Deus

est unus, qui semper idem manet Deus immutabilis, foedus legislationis Sinaiticae non fuit humanae, sed divinae auctoritatis, neque ab arbitrio hominum, sed a voluntate Dei pendebat immutabilis. His perpendendis quaestio excitabatur
(Galatians 3:21), an forte haec legislatio Sinait. auctoritate divina insignis ipso Deo jubente promissionem Abrahamo datam ejusmodi limitibus circumscribere (mutare) voluerit, ut non amplius esset promissio, cujus eventus liberae tantum Dei gratiae adnecteretur.” How much is supplied by the expositor in this interpretation so copiously provided with modifying clauses! But it is decidedly erroneous, on account of the sense of εἷς and ἙΝΌς being changed into the idea of immutabilis (for which Schott should not have appealed to Romans 3:30, Php 1:27); and also because the proposition ὁ δὲ μεσίτης ἑνὸς οὐκ ἔστιν is limited to causae humanae, and yet the inference is supposed to be therein conveyed that the Sinaitic legislation is not always valid. Paul assuredly could never have thus illogically corrected the zealots for the law, and then in the very same breath have set aside the inference by attamen Deus est unus. 11. Gurlitt (in the Stud. u. Krit. 1837, p. 805 ff.; 1843, p. 715 ff.) refers ἑνός to the Gentile Christians, as one of the two divisions of the σπέρμα Ἀβρ.: “The law was given through angels and through a mediator, and God indeed is throughout only One; what proceeds from Him, therefore, demands in every case equal recognition. It must nevertheless be taken into consideration, that the mediator is no mediator of those who were previously Gentiles, and that therefore the law was not destined for the latter by God Himself.” But, apart from the fact that in this view of ἑνός there must have been previous mention of a twofold posterity of Abraham and ΤΟῦ ἙΝΌς must have been here used, and not to mention that the ἙΝΌς and ΕἿς are not taken as alike in sense, the interpretation must be at once pronounced decidedly wrong, because it depends upon the erroneous view that the ΣΠΈΡΜΑ, Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:19, means not merely Christ Himself, but also the corpus mysticum of Christ. 12. Olshausen, taking ὁ δὲ Θεὸς εἷς ἐστιν as: God is one or a single one, and consequently only one party, explains it thus: “Mediation presupposes a state of separation, and there can be no mediation in the case of one; since God is the one party, there must also have been a second, viz. men, who were separated from God. In the gospel it is otherwise: in Christ, the representative of the Church, all are one; all separations and distinctions are done away in Him” (Galatians 3:28). Thus Paul, in order to call attention to the inferiority of the law to the gospel, gives a cursory, parenthetic explanation as to the idea of a mediator. This is (1) unsuitable to the context; for in Galatians 3:19, διαταγ. διʼ ἀγγέλων ἐν χειρὶ μεσ. has set forth the glory of the giving of the law. (2) The idea: and consequently also only one party, is quite arbitrarily added to ὁ δὲ Θεὸς εἷς ἐστιν. (3) In like manner, all the rest which is supposed properly to constitute the sense of the words (“men, who were separated from God;” “in the gospel it is otherwise,” etc.) is the pure invention of the expositor. 13. Matthias,[160] correctly explaining the first half of the verse, sees in Ὁ ΔῈ ΘΕῸς ΕἿς ἘΣΤΙΝ the minor premiss of an enthymeme, which has to be completed by supplying the major premiss and conclusion: “If God is one of those two parties, the law, although ordained by angels, is nevertheless an ordinance of God; but God is this; and consequently the law, etc., is an ordinance, not of angels, but of God.” Against this interpretation we may urge that the special connection with the point διαταγεὶς διʼ ἀγγέλων is not conveyed by the text; that the explanation of εἷς by alter is contrary to the context; that Galatians 3:21 would be unsuitably subjoined from a logical point of view (see on κατά, Galatians 3:21); and lastly, that the idea of the law being an ordinance of God was one altogether undisputed and not needing any proof. 14. Ewald (comp. also his Jahrb. IV. p. 109) assumes that Paul with this “quick flash of thought” intended to say: “The idea of the mediator necessarily presupposes two different living beings between whom, as being at variance or separated, mediation has to take place; because the mediator of one is not, does not exist at all, is an impossibility. But since God is in strictness only One, and does not consist of two inwardly different Gods or of an earlier and later God, it is evident that Moses as mediator did not mediate between the God of the promise and the God of the law, and thereby mix up the law with the promise and cancel the promise by the later law; but he only mediated (as is well known) between God and the people of that time.” But even this interpretation, the thought of which would probably have been expressed most simply by Paul writing ὁ δὲ μεσίτης Θεοῦ ἐστιν, ὁ δὲ Θεὸς εἷς ἐστιν, is liable to the objections urged above (under 8) against Hermann’s explanation. 15. According to Hofmann (compare also his Schrifitbew. II. 2, p. 55 ff.), the first half of the verse is intended to affirm that, where there is only one to whom something is to be given, there is no room for mediatorship; such an individual recipient may receive it directly. Now, as the promise ran to Abraham’s posterity as an unity, it is evident that the giving of the law, just because it was destined for a plurality of individuals, could be no fulfilment of the promise. The second half of the verse, which with δέ passes on to the divine side of the event, places the unity of God in contradistinction to the plurality of angels; that which comes to men through the latter must be of a different kind from the promised gift, which the One was to give to the One—the one God to the one Christ. Thus on this side also it is clear that the giving of the law was not the fulfilment of the promise, but was only ordained for the time, until Christ should come. But (a) all this artificial interpretation must at once fall to the ground, because it conceives ἑνός to be opposed to a plurality of recipient subjects; for it is not true that the bestowal through a mediator presupposes such a plurality, seeing that it may take place just as well with one as with, many recipients. (b) It is incorrect that the unity of God is placed in contrast with the plurality of angels (which is not even marked, by πολλῶν ἀγγ. or the like): it stands in contrast to the ἙΝῸς ΟὐΚ ἜΣΤΙΝ, and it is untrue that the “mediateness of the giving involved its taking place through many”—just as if the mediate giving could not with equal fitness take place through one, as in fact it has very often been given by God through one! (c) Paul’s intention is, not to show that the giving of the law was not the fulfilment of the promise, but, as is clearly evident from Galatians 3:21Galatians 3:20. The rendering of the first clause in our versions, Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, reduces it to an unmeaning truism. The author is not treating of mediators in the abstract, but writes of Moses the mediator of the Law that he was not mediator of one chosen family; and so contrasts God’s revelation through him with the previous covenant. That covenant had been made with Abraham in person, and embraced a single chosen family (cf. Galatians 3:16) restricted from generation to generation by continuous selection of God’s elect until it centred in Christ Himself. Not so the covenant of Sinai: it was addressed, not to one family (ἑνὸς, sc. σπέρματος), but to many families of Abraham’s children after the flesh. This change of recipients involved a vital change in the revelation also whereas the promise had quickened faith by an appeal to gratitude and love, the Law used threats of wrath and punishment to deter corrupt and carnal natures from indulging the vices of the flesh.

The stress laid on the unity of the chosen seed in Galatians 3:16 and the ellipsis of σπέρματα with τὰ πάνατα in Galatians 3:22 justify us in understanding σπέρματος here with ἑνός.—ὁ δὲ Θεὸς εἷς ἐστιν. The recurrence of the same phrase εἷς ὁ Θεός with a corresponding force in Romans 3:30 suggests its true force and connection with the context in this place. The Apostle is there urging the real harmony of God’s dealings with Jews and Gentiles, however different the method employed for justifying the two severally; and argues that it is nevertheless one and the same God who will justify both. So here after differentiating the revelation made through Moses from that to Abraham, he is careful to add that the God of Sinai is one with the God of Abraham, however distinct might be the two revelations. The true force of the clause may be expressed as follows, but the God (sc. the God of Sinai) is one with the God of promise. The twofold revelation of the name of God to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and as the eternal God I am that I am, suggests the same thought of the divine unity in spite of the various aspects in which God reveals Himself to successive generations of men.

20. Probably no verse of Scripture has more exercised the ingenuity of commentators. Certainly of none other can it be said that it ‘has received 430 interpretations’ (Jowett), if by that expression contrariant or different interpretations are meant. Some notice of these is reserved for an Appendix (Appendix v. p. 89). The verse may be paraphrased as follows: Now the very fact that at the giving of the Law a Mediator was needed, marks the nature of the transaction as a compact entered into between two parties. The very term Mediator implies two parties between whom he intervenes. But the God of the promise is One and One only. He reveals Himself as the bestower of a free gift to the world. ‘The Giver is everything, the recipient nothing’ (Lightfoot). Hence there was no place in the Gospel revelation for a mediator in the sense in which Moses was mediator between God and the people of Israel. It may be observed that this view of the scope of the passage (which is all that is necessary to its connexion with the preceding and following context) does not militate against, nor is it inconsistent with, the declaration that there is ‘One Mediator between God and man’, (1 Timothy 2:5). The young student of theology needs to be cautioned against the too common mistake of treating a verse of Scripture as if it were an isolated proposition, instead of regarding it in its relation to the train of thought to the expression of which it contributes.

On Chapter Galatians 3:20Of the many explanations which have been given of this passage a few of the most important may be noticed. They may be classified in three divisions, according to the supposed reference in the term Mediator:—

1. The earlier expositors understood the term Mediator in the passage before us to refer to Christ. In favour of this view it may of course be urged that in all other passages of the N. T. (see note on Galatians 3:19) where the word occurs it refers to our Lord Jesus Christ. But it no more follows that the word thus applied to our Lord so loses its primary meaning as to be appropriated exclusively to Him, than that the words ‘shepherd’ and ‘bishop’ must necessarily refer to Him in every passage where they occur, because He is ‘the Shepherd and Bishop’ of our souls. Even if the reference to Christ could be established as a simple and natural explanation of the passage, taken by itself, the connexion with the context is obscured or lost, and the force of the Apostle’s argument impaired thereby.

2. More probable is the opinion that in Galatians 3:20, as in Galatians 3:19, the Mediator is Moses. (The definite article in the Greek may lend equal support to this and to the next explanation.) This opinion, entertained by eminent commentators, both ancient and modern, is in full accord with the scope of the passage. But the reference, though suggested by, is not therefore limited to the giving of the Law. ‘The mediator,’ just spoken of (Galatians 3:19), is undoubtedly Moses, but what was true of him in that capacity is also true of every other human mediator.

3. Lastly, we may regard the first portion of the verse as laying down a general proposition. Those who hold this view adopt the rendering of the English Bible, both A.V. and R.V. alike, as correct, and understand it to express ‘the idea, the specific type,’ and to state a characteristic of the Mediator, as such. The very idea of mediation implies a transaction involving the existence of at least two parties, and mutual conditions. But the Gospel is a promise, the gift of grace. God alone is its author, and its fulfilment depends on His faithfulness—on Himself alone.

Under each of these general divisions (especially the last) a great many explanations, differing in some particulars, are found. Many of these, so far from being destructive of one another, are not inconsistent or irreconcilable with one another. The slighter differences help to illustrate and confirm the great truth which St Paul is enforcing, rather than to obscure his meaning or render it uncertain. A more detailed account of these, with the names of their principal authors, may be found in Dr Schaffe’s Commentary, Excursus, p. 38, who gives the following extract from Reuss’s French Commentary, which clearly expresses one, and perhaps the best-supported, view of the passage under consideration: “A mediator implies two contracting parties, consequently two wills, which may be united, but may also disagree; a law therefore given by mediation is conditional and imperfect: but the promise, emanating from God alone, and having His will for its sole source and guarantee, is infinitely more sure and more elevated. The law, then, cannot set aside the promise, its aim can only be secondary.”

Galatians 3:20. Ὁ δὲ μεσίτης, now a Mediator) The article has the meaning of the relative. That Mediator, Moses, who was far later than the promise, and at the same time severe.—ἑνὸς, of one) The middle term of the syllogism, of which the major and minor proposition is expressed, the conclusion is understood, One does not make use of that Mediator (that is, whosoever is one [one and the same unchanging being] does not transact first without a mediator, then the same one through a mediator; nor does he afterwards withdraw himself [after having first dealt with His people immediately and directly], so as to transact through a mediator; for familiar acquaintance does not generally decrease, but increase): but God is one. Therefore God did not transact first without a mediator, then through a mediator. Therefore that party, to which the mediator belonged, is not one and the same with God, but different from God, namely the law.[28]—ὁ δὲ Θεὸς εἷς ἐστιν, but God is one) There is not one God before and another after the giving of the law, but one and the same God. Before the law He transacted without a mediator; therefore the mediator at Mount Sinai does not belong to God, but to the law; whereas the promise belongs to God; comp. on the unity of God, in reference to the same subject, Romans 3:30; also 1 Timothy 2:5 : and the oneness of God before and after the law agrees most beautifully with the oneness of the seed before and after the law. Thus Paul infers from the very manner of giving the law, that the law was given on account of sin; and thus the new objection in the following verse is in consonance.

[28] The syllogism is one of the first figure in Ferio. The major prop. is: One does not make use of that mediator. The minor is: But God is one; and the conclusion is, therefore God does not use that mediator. But the conclusion drawn by Bengel is not directly from the major prop., but from the explanation of it within the parenthesis, and is perfectly sound according to his statement. The conclusion in the last sentence is not quite so clear. Let it be remembered, however, that there was a double mediation. God delegated the law to angels, who gave it to Moses: therefore Moses came between the law and the people.—TRANSL.

Verse 20. - This verse, closing the short paragraph commencing the verse which precedes it, appears designed to mark the difference of the relations which subsisted between the Lord and Israel at the time of the giving of the Law, compared with those which subsist between God and Abraham's seed in the covenant of grace. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one (ὁ δὲ μεσίτης ἑνὸς οὐκ ἔστιν). The article with μεσίτης, literally, "the mediator," marks the noun as a class noun, giving it the sense, "a mediator as such." Compare the use of the article in τοῦ ἀποστόλου, in "the signs of an apostle" (2 Corinthians 12:12); in ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος, "a good man" (Matthew 12:25); in ὁ ἐργάτης, "the labourer is worthy of his hire" (Luke 10:7). The clause means this: a mediator implies the existence of more than one party, of two parties at least, for him to mediate between; of two parties not at one, but standing on such terms towards each other as make his intervention necessary. So far as it characterized the giving of the Law viewed in contrast with the establishment of the covenant of grace, the mediation of Moses, as has been already observed, did not put an end to the estrangement between the Lord and Israel: the estrangement went on throughout Moses' life; throughout, the Israelites stand marked with the brand of "transgression." The genitive ἑνός, "of one," is the same as the genitive in μεσίτης Θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων, literally, "Mediator of God and men," in 1 Timothy 2:5: it marks the party or parties towards whom the function of mediation is exercised; so that what the apostle here affirms is that there cannot be only one such party. But God is one (ὁ δὲ Θεὸς εῖς ἔστιν). When we consider the number of interpretations given of this clause in connection with the preceding, which have literally been computed by hundreds (the reader will find a spieilegium of some sixty or eighty of them in Meyer), we may infer with certainty that the sense which the apostle intended to convey is not an obvious one - not one which lies near the surface. So much appears, however, in the highest degree probable, that he refers either to some disadvantageous circumstance attaching to the Law or to some advantageous circumstance attaching to the covenant of promise, and is viewing the two in contrast the one with the other. On these grounds the present writer has long since acquiesced in the view propounded by Windischmann in his Commentary on this Epistle, and which is accepted by Bishop Ellicott, that the unity here predicated of God is the oneness subsisting between the Father and the Son. God is one in the Father and in his Son - Christ our Lord. The fact is now present to the apostle's mind, and is presently after stated by him (Galatians 4:4), that the Son has been "sent forth" by God to redeem us and make us sons, and has thus become the "Christ," that "Seed of Abraham" to which the promises had been made (ver. 29 of this chapter). Hereby the most perfect oneness is established between God and the heirs of the promise; for these are "clothed with Christ" (ver. 27) the Son of God; and he being one with the Father, they in and through him are really and permanently "reconciled into God," as the apostle writes in Colossians 1:20. Compare our Lord's words in his intercessory prayer (John 17:21, 23), "That they all may be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us. I in them, and thou in me; that they may be perfected into one." That this sense lies deep down in the apostle's words and would not have readily been presented by them to the minds of his readers, forms no valid objection to this interpretation; for the history of the exegesis of the passage proves that this must have been the case with the sense which the apostle really designed to indicate, whatever that was. On the other hand, it is a sense which perfectly suits the requirement of the context; for it illustrates the superiority of the covenant of the promise to the covenant of the Law in the strongest manner possible. The nut has a very hard shell, but it yields a delicious kernel. Galatians 3:20Now a mediator is not a mediator of one (ὁ δὲ μεσίτης ἐνὸς οὐκ ἔστιν)

Observe, 1. Δὲ is explanatory, not antithetic. The verse illustrates the conception of mediator. 2. The article, the mediator, has a generic force: the mediator according to the general and proper conception of his function. Comp. the apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12); the shepherd, the good (John 10:11). 3. Ἑνὸς of one, is to be explained by the following εἷς, so that it is masculine and personal. We are not to supply party or law. The meaning is: the conception of mediator does not belong to an individual considered singly. One is not a mediator of his single self, but he is a mediator between two contracting parties; in this case between God and the people of Israel, as Leviticus 26:46; thus differing from Christ, who is called the mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24). The new covenant, the gospel, was not a contract. Accordingly Galatians 3:20 serves to define the true conception of a mediator, and through this definition to make clearer the difference between the law, which required a mediator, and the promise, which is the simple expression of God's will. The very idea of mediation supposes two parties. The law is of the nature of a contract between God and the Jewish people. The validity of the contract depends on its fulfillment by both parties. Hence it is contingent, not absolute.

But God is one (ὁ δὲ θεὸς εἷς ἀστίν)

God does not need a mediator to make his promise valid. His promise is not of the nature of a contract between two parties. His promise depends on his own individual decree. He dealt with Abraham singly and directly, without a mediator. The dignity of the law is thus inferior to that of the promise.

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