Galatians 4:20
I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
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(20) I desire.—The Greek is not quite so definite: “I could indeed wish.”

Change my voice.—Rather, change my tone; speak in terms less severe.

I stand in doubt of you.—Rather, as in the margin, I am perplexed about youi.e., I do not know what to say to you—how I ought to deal with you so as to win you back from this defection. If the Apostle had been present, so as to see what effect his words were having, he would know what line to take. As it is, in writing to them he is at a loss, and fears to make matters worse instead of better.

4:19,20 The Galatians were ready to account the apostle their enemy, but he assures them he was their friend; he had the feelings of a parent toward them. He was in doubt as to their state, and was anxious to know the result of their present delusions. Nothing is so sure a proof that a sinner has passed into a state of justification, as Christ being formed in him by the renewal of the Holy Spirit; but this cannot be hoped for, while men depend on the law for acceptance with God.I desire to be present with you now - They had lost much by his absence; they had changed their views; they had in some measure become alienated from him; and he wishes that he might be again with them, as he was before. He would hope to accomplish much more by his personal presence than he could by letter.

And to change my voice - That is, from complaint and censure, to tones of entire confidence.

For I stand in doubt of you - Margin, "I am perplexed for you." On the meaning of the word used here, see the note at 2 Corinthians 4:8. The sense is plain. Paul had much reason to doubt the sincerity and the solidity of their Christian principles, and he was deeply anxious on that account.

20. Translate as Greek, "I could wish." If circumstances permitted (which they do not), I would gladly be with you [M. Stuart].

now—as I was twice already. Speaking face to face is so much more effective towards loving persuasion than writing (2Jo 12; 3Jo 13, 14).

change my voice—as a mother (Ga 4:19): adapting my tone of voice to what I saw in person your case might need. This is possible to one present, but not to one in writing [Grotius and Estius].

I stand in doubt of you—rather, "I am perplexed about you," namely, how to deal with you, what kind of words to use, gentle or severe, to bring you back to the right path.

I desire to be present with you now; I wish circumstances so concurred that I could be present with you.

And to change my voice; that I might use my tongue towards you as I saw occasion; either commending, or reproving, or exhorting, as I saw cause.

For I stand in doubt of you; for I do not know what to think of you; I am afraid of your falling away from the profession of the gospel to Judaism.

I desire to be present with you now,.... His meaning is, either that be wished he was personally present among them; that he had but an opportunity of seeing them face to face, and telling them all his mind, and in such a manner as he could not in a single epistle; or that they would consider him, when they read this epistle, as if he was really among them; and as if they saw the concern of his mind, the agonies of his soul, the looks of his countenance, and heard the different tone of his voice:

and to change my voice; when present with them, either by a different way of preaching; that whereas before he preached the Gospel of the grace of God unto them, and his voice was charming to them like that of an angel, and even of Jesus Christ himself; but they having turned their backs upon it, and slighted it, he would now thunder out the law to them they seemed to be so fond of; even that voice of words, which when, the Israelites on Mount Sinai heard, entreated they might hear no more; as these Galatians also must when they heard the true voice of it, which is no other than a declaration of wrath, curse, and damnation; or by using a different way of speaking to them, as necessity might require, either softly or roughly, beseeching or chiding them, which might more move and affect them than an epistle could:

for I stand in doubt of you, The Vulgate Latin reads it, "I am confounded in you"; and the Syriac, "I am stupefied"; and to the same sense the Arabic. He was ashamed of them for their apostasy and degeneracy; he was amazed and astonished at their conduct; or, as the word may be rendered, be was "perplexed" on their account; he did not know what to think of them, and their state; sometimes he hoped well of them, at other times he was ready to despair; nor did he well know what course to take with them, whether to use them roughly or smoothly, and what arguments might be most proper and pertinent, in order to reclaim them.

I desire to be present with you now, and to {t} change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

(t) Use other words among you.

Galatians 4:20. As to the connection of thought of the δέ with Galatians 4:18, see on Galatians 4:18.

ἤθελον] namely, if the thing were possible. Comp. Romans 9:3; Acts 25:22. See Stallbaum, ad Plat. Gorg. p. 235; Kühner, II. p. 68; Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 245.

ἄρτι] just now, presently (see on Galatians 1:9), has the emphasis.

ἀλλάξαι τὴν φωνήν μου] The emphasis is on ἀλλάξαι. But in harmony with the context (see Galatians 4:16; Galatians 4:18, and the foregoing ἄρτι), this changing can only refer to the second visit of the apostle to the Galatians, not to the language now employed in his letter, as many expositors think.[208] Erroneously, therefore—and how sharply in opposition to the previous affectionate address!

Ambrosius, Pelagius, Wetstein, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Rückert, Baumgarten-Crusius, take the sense to be: to assume a stern language of reproof. Hofmann also erroneously holds that Paul means the (in oral expression) more chastened tone of a didactic statement—aiming at the bringing the readers back from their error—after the strongly excited style in which, since the word θαυμάζω in Galatians 1:6, he had urged his readers, as one who had already been almost deprived of the fruit of his labours. As if Paul had not previously, and especially from Galatians 3:6 to Galatians 4:7, written didactically enough; and as if he had not also in the sequel (see immediately, Galatians 4:21, and chap. 5 and 4 down to the abrupt dismissal at the end) urged his readers with excitement enough! The supposition, however, which Hofmann entertains, that Paul has hitherto been answering a letter of the Galatians, and has just at this point come to the end of it, is nothing but a groundless hypothesis, for there is no trace of such a letter to be found in the epistle. No; when Paul was for the second time in Galatia, he had spoken sharply and sternly, and this had made his readers suspect him, as if he had become their enemy (Galatians 4:16): hence he wishes to be now with them, and to speak to them with a voice different from what he had then used, that is, to speak to them in a soft and gentle tone.[209] By this, of course, he means not any deviation in the substance of his teaching from the ἀληθεύειν (Galatians 4:16), but a manner of language betokening tender, mother-like love. A wish of self-denying affection, which is ready and willing, in the service of the cause and for the salvation of the persons concerned, to change form and tone, although retaining φωνὰν ψευδέων ἀγνωστόν (Pind. Ol. vi. 112). The latter was a matter of course in the case of a Paul, willingly though he became all things to all men; comp. on 1 Corinthians 9:22. Many other expositors, as Theodoret, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Grotius, Estius, Koppe, Borger, Winer, Matthies, Schott, de Wette, understand it as: to speak according to the circumstances of each case, with tenderness and affection to one, with severity and censure to another. Comp. Corn. a Lapide: “ut scilicet quasi mater nunc blandirer, nunc gemerem, nunc obsecrarem, nunc objurgarem vos.” But this cannot be expressed by the mere ἀλλάξαι τ. φ., which without addition means nothing more than to change the voice (comp. ἀλλάττειν χώραν, Plat. Parm. p. 139 A; εἶδος, Eur. Bacch. 53; χρῶμα, Eur. Phoen. 1252; στολάς, Genesis 35:2), that is, to assume another voice, to let oneself be heard otherwise, not differently. See Artem. ii. 20, iv. 56; Dio Chrysostom, lix. p. 575, in Wetstein. Comp. Romans 1:23; Wis 4:11; Wis 12:10; frequently in the LXX. Paul must have added either a more precise definition, such as εἰς πολλοὺς τρόπους, εἰς μορφὰς πλείονας (Lucian, Vit. Auct. 5), or at least some such expression as πρὸς τὴν χρείαν (Acts 28:10), πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον (1 Corinthians 12:7), πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ (Hebrews 5:14). Fritzsche incorrectly interprets it: to adopt some other voice, so that ye may believe that ye are listening to some other teacher, and not to the hated Paul. What a strange, unseemly idea, not at all in keeping with the thoughtful manner of the apostle! According to Wieseler, the sense intended is: to exchange my speaking with you; that is, to enter into mutual discourse with you, in order most surely to learn and to obviate your counter-arguments. But in this view “with you” is a pure interpolation, although it would be essentially requisite to the definition of the sense; and ἀλλάσσειν λόγους, to say nothing of ἀλλ. φωνήν, is never so used. What Wieseler means is expressed by ἀμείβεσθαί τινα λόγοις (Hom. Od. iii. 148, et al.), προσδιαλέγεσθαί τινι (Plat. Theaet. p. 161 B), συζητεῖν τινι, or πρός τινα (Acts 6:9; Luke 22:23), λόγους ἀντιβάλλειν πρός (Luke 24:17), δοῦναί τε καὶ ἀποδέξασθαι λόγον (Plat. Rep. p. 531 E).

ὅτι ἀποροῦμαι ἐν ὑμῖν] justifies the wish of ἀλλάξαι τὴν φων. μου. The usual interpretation is the correct one: I am perplexed about you; ἐν ὑμῖν is to be taken as in the phrase θαῤῥῶ ἐν ὑμῖν, 2 Corinthians 7:16, so that the perplexity is conceived as inherent in the readers, dependent on their condition as its cause (comp. also Galatians 1:24). The perplexity consists in this, that he at the time knows no certain ways and means by which he shall effect their re-conversion (Galatians 4:19); and this instils the wish (ὅτι) that he could now be present with them, and, in place of the severe tone which at the preceding visit had had no good effect (Galatians 4:16), could try the experiment of an altered and milder tone. The form ἀποροῦμαι is, moreover (comp. ἀπορηθείς, Dem. 830. 2, and ἀπορηθήσεται, Sir 18:7), to be taken passively (as a middle form with a passive signification), so that the state of the ἀπορεῖν is conceived of as produced on the subject, passively (Schoemann, ad Isaeum, p. 192). Fritzsche, l.c. p. 257, holds the sense to be: “Nam haeretis, quo me loco habeatis, nam sum vobis suspectus.” Thus ἐν ὑμῖν would be among you, and ἀποροῦμαι: I am an object of perplexity, according to the well-known Greek use of the personal passive of intransitive verbs (Bernhardy, p. 341; Kühner, II. p. 34 f.). Comp. Xen. de rep. Lac. xiii. 7: ὥστε τῶν δεομένων γίγνεσθαι οὐδὲν ἀπορεῖται, Plat. Soph. p. 243 B, Legg. vii. p. 799 C. But the sense: “sum vobis suspectus” is interpolated, and there is no ground for deviating from the use of ἀποροῦμαι throughout the N.T. (2 Corinthians 4:8; Luke 24:4; Acts 25:20; John 13:22); as, indeed, the idea “sum vobis suspectus” cannot give any suitable motive for the wish of the ἀλλάξαι τὴν φωνήν, unless we adopt Fritzsche’s erroneous interpretation of ἀλλάξαι. To disconnect (with Hofmann) ἐν ὑμῖν from ἀποροῦμαι, and attach it to ἀλλάξ. τ. φωνήν μου, would yield an addition entirely superfluous after παρεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς, and leave ἀποροῦμαι without any more precise definition of its bearing. And the proposal to attach ὅτι ἀπορ. ἐν ὑμῖν as protasis to the following λέγετέ μοι (Matthias) would have the effect of giving to the λέγ. μοι, which stands forth sternly and peremptorily, an enfeebling background.

[208] So also Zachariae (who is followed by Flatt): “to lay aside my present mournful language, and to adopt that of tenderness and contentment.” In this case Paul must have used δύνασθαι; for unless his readers had improved in their conduct, it would have been impossible for him to speak contentedly. Bengel, in opposition to the idea of ἀλλάξαι: “molliter scribit, sed mollius loqui vellet.” Jerome explained the passage as referring to the exchange of the vox epistolica for the vivus sermo of actual presence, which might have more effect in bringing them back ad veritatem.

[209] Not exactly weeping, as Chrysostom thinks: ποιῆσαι καὶ δακρύα καὶ πάντα εἰς θρῆνον ἐπισπάσασθαι.

Galatians 4:20. ἤθελον. This imperfect expresses a modified wish, qualified by implied conditions, like ηὐχόμην in Romans 9:3 and ἐβουλόμην in Acts 25:22. He would fain be with them now (ἄρτι) instead of waiting for some future opportunity, were it not that he was unavoidably detained by other claims.—ἀλλάξαι. This is interpreted by some as a threat of increased severity, by others as a craving for the use of gentler words; but neither interpretation agrees with the regular Greek usage of the word. The natural meaning of the Greek expression is to exchange the voice for some other means of persuasion, in this case for the pen, and this sense is clearly indicated by the context. Paul longs to come and speak to them instead of writing, and is confident of his power to clear away doubts and errors by personal intercourse.—ἀποροῦμαι. This middle voice denotes the inward distress of a mind tossed to and fro by conflicting doubts and fears.

20. I desire] Rather, “But, speaking of being present, I could wish to be present with you now”. The ‘but’ which is not expressed in the A.V. connects this verse with Galatians 4:18 in which he had referred to his presence in Galatia.

to change my voice] Most commentators understand this to mean either (1) to accommodate my speech to your requirements which I could do, were I on the spot; or (2) to change my tone from severity to gentleness. Mr Wood contends for a different explanation. He considers that St Paul’s intention in writing this Epistle, was that ‘by another’s voice he might speak to them without delay’. He understands the presence to be ‘a presence in spirit’ as in 1 Corinthians 5:3. The choice lies between the 1st and 2nd interpretation, of which perhaps the first is preferable.

I stand in doubt of you] Rather, I am perplexed about you, as R.V.

Galatians 4:20. Δὲ, but [indeed]) although my presence is not the one and only cause which ought to kindle your zeal.—παρεῖναι, to be present) Galatians 4:18.—ἄρτι) Now it would be more necessary than formerly; comp. again, Galatians 4:19.—ἀλλάξαι) [to change] to accommodate the varying tones of the voice to the various feelings. They usually do so, who have zeal [are zealously affectionate in entreaties] whilst striving to recover the affections, that have been alienated from them. He writes mildly, Galatians 4:12; Galatians 4:19, but he would wish to speak still more mildly.—τὴν φωνήν μου, my voice) The voice may be rendered more flexible than writing, according as the case demands. The art of speaking occupies the first place, that of writing is only vicarious and subsidiary; 2 John Galatians 4:12; 3 John Galatians 4:13-14.—ἀποροῦμαι, I stand in doubt) I do not find the way of coming in and going out among you. Paul aimed at the greatest ease in speaking to the Galatians. He accommodated his discourse as much as possible to the dulness of the Galatians, with a view to convince them. The doctrine of inspiration is not endangered by this fact; see 1 Corinthians 7:25, note.

Verse 20. - I desire to be present with you now (ἤθελον δὲ παρεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἄρτι); I could wish to be present with you this very hour. The δὲ marks here simply a transition to another thought, and, as is not unfrequently the case, and as our Authorized Version assumes, needs not to be represented in translation at all. Bishop Lightfoot writes, "But, speaking of my presence, I would I had been present," etc. But this explanation is not necessary. The imperfect verb ἤθελον, like the ἐβουλόμην of Acts 25:22 and the ηὐχόμην of Romans 9:3, denotes a movement as it were which had just been stirring in the mind, but which for good reasons is now withdrawn: "I could almost wish - but long distance and pressure of other duties make it impossible." Thus much in explanation of the withdrawal of the wish. The wish itself was occasioned by the feeling that the yearning desire of his soul might perhaps be more likely to be achieved if, by being on the spot, he were enabled to adapt his treatment to a more distinct consciousness of the circumstances than he can possibly now have. "To be present with you;" the very words are repeated from ver. 18. It was well both with you and with me when I was with you: would that I could be with van now I (On ἄρτι,," this very hour," see note on ch. 1:9.) And to change my voice (καὶ ἀλλάξαι τὴν φωνήν μου). The tense of the infinitive ἀλλάξαι hardly allows us to take the word as meaning "from moment to moment according to the rapidly varying emergencies." This would have been expressed rather by ἀλλάσσειν. The question then arises - Change: from what to what? to which a great variety of answers have been proposed. The clue is probably supplied in the words, "be present with you this very hour." This ἄρτι, contrasting as it does the very present with the former occasions on which the apostle had been with them, suggests that he meant that the tone of his utterance would need to be different if amongst them just now from what it had then been. Then, it was the simple, un-anxious, joyous, exposition of the blessed gospel, untrammelled by fear of being misunderstood; such a way of speaking as one would be naturally drawn on to pursue who found himself addressing those whom he could confide in, and who were disposed frankly and lovingly, with an honest and good heart, to drink in from his lips the simple faith. Perhaps he might now find it necessary to replace that mode of utterance by guarded words, by stern reasoning, by the refuting of wilful misconceptions, by exposing and abashing cavil and objection. For I stand in doubt of you; or, I am perplexed for you (ἀποροῦμαι γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν); I am perplexed about you. Compare Θαῥῤῶ ἐν ὑμῖν, "I am in good courage concerning you" (2 Corinthians 7:16). As "in" the Corinthians the apostle found ground for good courage, so "in" the Galatians he found ground for perplexity. This explains his wishing that he were with them. He would in that case be less unable to clearly understand their state of mind. Galatians 4:20I desire (ἤθελον)

Better, I could wish, the imperfect tense referring to a suppressed conditional clause, as if it were possible. Comp. Acts 25:22; Romans 9:3.

To change my voice (ἀλλάξαι τὴν φωνήν μου)

To address you, not with my former severity, so as to make you think me your enemy, but affectionately, as a mother speaks to her children, yet still telling them the truth (ἀληθεύων).

I stand in doubt of you (ἀποροῦμαι ἐν ὑμῖν)

Lit. I am perplexed in you. For this use of ἐν, comp. 2 Corinthians 7:16; Galatians 1:24. Paul's perplexity is conceived as taking place in the readers. For the verb, see on Mark 6:20; see on 2 Corinthians 4:8. Paul means: "I am puzzled how to deal with you; how to find entrance to your hearts.

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