Galatians 6:13
For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) Their insincerity is shown by the fact that they are not really careful to observe the Law. What they do is only to serve as a blind, that they may be able to point to your mutilated flesh as the visible sign of their success in gaining proselytes.

They themselves who are circumcised.—The expression in the Greek includes, not only those who were circumcised themselves, but also those who were for circumcising others.

Glory in your flesh.—Make a boast of getting this rite performed upon your bodies.

6:12-15 Proud, vain, and carnal hearts, are content with just so much religion as will help to keep up a fair show. But the apostle professes his own faith, hope, and joy; and that his principal glory was in the cross of Christ. By which is here meant, his sufferings and death on the cross, the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. By Christ, or by the cross of Christ, the world is crucified to the believer, and he to the world. The more we consider the sufferings of the Redeemer from the world, the less likely shall we be to love the world. The apostle was as little affected by its charms, as a beholder would be by any thing which had been graceful in the face of a crucified person, when he beholds it blackened in the agonies of death. He was no more affected by the objects around him, than one who is expiring would be struck with any of the prospects his dying eyes might view from the cross on which he hung. And as to those who have truly believed in Christ Jesus, all things are counted as utterly worthless compared with him. There is a new creation; old things are passed away, and new views and dispositions are brought in under the regenerating influences of God the Holy Spirit. Believers are brought into a new world, and being created in Christ Jesus unto good works, are formed to a life of holiness. It is a change of mind and heart, whereby we are enabled to believe in the Lord Jesus, and to live to God; and where this inward, practical religion is wanting, outward professions, or names, will never stand in any stead.For neither they themselves who are circumcised - The Jewish teachers, or perhaps all Jews. It was true in general that the Jews did not wholly and entirely obey the Law of Moses, but it is probable that the apostle refers particularly here to the judaizing teachers in Galatia.

Keep the law - The Law of Moses, or the Law of God. Paul's idea is, that if they were circumcised they brought themselves under obligation to keep the whole law of God; see the note at Galatians 5:3. But they did not do it.

(1) no person perfectly observes the whole law of God.

(2) the Jewish nation as such were very far from doing it.

(3) it is probable that these persons did not pretend even to keep the whole Law of Moses.

Paul insists on it that if they were circumcised, and depended on that for salvation, they were under obligation to keep the whole law. But they did not. Probably they did not offer sacrifice, or join in any of the numerous observances of the Jewish nation, except some of the more prominent, such as circumcision. This, says Paul, is inconsistent in the highest degree; and they thus show their insincerity and hypocrisy.

That they may glory in your flesh - In having you as converts, and in persuading you to be circumcised, that they may show their zeal for the Law, and thus escape persecution. The phrase "in your flesh" here, is equivalent to "in your circumcision;" making use of your circumcision to promote their own importance, and to save themselves from persecution.

13. Translate, "For not even do they who submit to circumcision, keep the law themselves (Ro 2:17-23), but they wish you (emphatical) to be circumcised," &c. They arbitrarily selected circumcision out of the whole law, as though observing it would stand instead of their non-observance of the rest of the law.

that they may glory in your flesh—namely, in the outward change (opposed to an inward change wrought by the Spirit) which they have effected in bringing you over to their own Jewish-Christian party.

In this the hypocrisy of your false teachers discovereth itself, that whereas, by their being circumcised, they had declared themselves debtors to the whole law, and under an obligation entirely to keep it if they would be saved, yet they themselves did not keep it; only they were very zealous for this one thing, not out of any love they had to the law, but that they might glory of you, as their converts, being by them persuaded to be circumcised.

But neither they themselves that are circumcised,.... That is, the pleaders for, and preachers of circumcision, whether they themselves were actually circumcised, or not; it means those that were of the circumcision, on that side of the question, whether heartily or not:

keep the law; of circumcision, as persons may preach up that, which they themselves do not practise; as did the Pharisees, the predecessors of these men; or if they did keep the law, and submit to it, yet this might be done, not out of regard unto it, and zeal for it, but for some other end; as Simon Magus submitted to baptism, and others preached Christ of envy and contention, and not of good will; or if they did do it in obedience to the law, yet this was not keeping the whole law, which circumcision obliged to; and which, unless they did so keep it, would signify nothing; and this no man is capable of keeping perfectly, and consequently no righteousness, life, and salvation, can be had hereby: besides, though these men were so zealous for the lighter matters of the law, the rites and ceremonies of it, as circumcision, &c. they disregarded the weightier and more material parts of it, as judgment, mercy, and faith; these they kept not, nor attended to: and many of them lived very dissolute lives and conversations, at least secretly, if not openly; which abundantly proved that they were far from keeping the law; and that their pleading for it, and submitting to some of the rituals of it, were not out of pure love and strict regard to it, but for some other end:

but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh; that is, in the circumcision of it; or, as the Ethiopic version, "in your bodies". Their view in bringing persons to submit to circumcision was, that they might have occasion to glory among the Jews, and boast to them of the numbers of proselytes they brought, and of the service they did to Judaism, and so increase their fame and glory among them.

For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in {l} your flesh.

(l) That they have entangled you in Judaism, and yet he dwells on the aspect of circumcision.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Galatians 6:13. They have no other design than merely that stated in Galatians 6:12 (ἵνα τῷ σταυρῷ κ.τ.λ.). For so far from its being their aim, by the enforcement of circumcision, to re-establish the observance of the law among you, not even the circumcised (who are in question) themselves, for their own part, keep the law, but διʼ ἀνθρωπίνην φιλοτιμίαν ταῦτα πάντα γίνεται ὑπὲρ ἀρεσκείας τῶν ἀπίστων, Chrysostom.

οἱ περιτετμημένοι] is said contemptuously, and with indignation, of the fraternity of the false apostles, of whom it might at least have been expected that they themselves would combine obedience to the law with their being circumcised.1[267] Comp. Stallbaum, ad Euthyphr. p. 12; Fritzsche, ad Marc. p. 613. But the ground for their non-observance of the Mosaic law is conceived by Paul to be, neither their distance from Jerusalem (Theodoret and others; also Schott), nor the general impossibility of a complete fulfilment of the law (Jerome, Estius; comp. Usteri),—both of which would be exculpatory, and wholly unsuited to the idea of the worthlessness of the persons concerned,—but the hypocritical badness of these people (comp. Galatians 6:12). It is true that, amongst the Jews generally, notwithstanding their self-conceit, there was a deficiency in their obedience to the law (Romans 2:17-23); but an observance of the law might have been expected at all events from these περιτετμημένοι, who were such champions for circumcision and insisted on it so much (Galatians 6:12). Yet not even they themselves, etc.

ἵνα ἐν τῇ ὑμετ. σαρκί καυχ.] The σάρξ is not to be here taken again in an ethical sense, as in Galatians 6:12 (Wieseler, comp. Ewald); but, according to the close and definite connection with περιτέμνεσθαι, it must be taken as referring to the corporeal nature, so far as it is in it that circumcision takes place (Ephesians 2:11; Colossians 2:13). The emphasis is, however, on ὑμετέρᾳ;[268] hence Olshausen is the more wrong in finding a contrast—which is quite out of place here—to the souls, which those false teachers ought to have sought after. The antithetic element of τῇ ὑμετ. lies in the conceit of the περιτετμημένοι as to their own circumcision, as the correlate of which the circumcision of the Galatian Gentile Christians, to be effected by them, was to be the subject of their boasting. But this sentence of purpose is parallel to the ἵνα τῷ σταυρῷ κ.τ.λ. contained in Galatians 6:12, seeing that the pseudo-apostles in fact by this intended boasting—of their diffusion of theocratic Judaism by the circumcision of Gentile Christians which they procured—thought to avert the persecutions of the Jews; Theophylact: ἵνα ἐν τῷ κατακόπτειν τὴν ὑμετέραν σάρκα καυχήσωνται ὡς διδάσκαλοι ὑμῶν καὶ μαθητὰς ὑμᾶς ἔχοντες. It is a καυχάσθαι, in the face not of heathenism (Holsten), but of the non-Christian Judaism, from whose side the persecution on account of the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:12) was threatened.

[267] 1 As at any rate the false teachers are meant, and these were Jewish Christians, the reading περιτεμνόμενοι is plainly absurd. They were, in fact, not subjected to circumcision (Reithmayr), but circumcised, and could not therefore be designated, “according to their quality as Jews” (Moeller on de Wette), as περιτεμνόμενοι (present). See especially Reiche, p. 93. The idea that these people were formerly Gentiles, part of whom were still on the point of accepting circumcision, and that their adherents are included (de Wette), is quite as unhistorical (see Acts 15:1; Acts 15:5; 2 Corinthians 11:22; Acts 11:20-22) as the makeshift of Hilgenfeld is groundless: that among those false teachers (“the circumcision-people”) the act of circumcision had still continued, not merely outwardly in the reception of the newly-born and proselytes (in that case Paul must have said οἱ περιτέμνοντες), but also inwardly, by virtue of the significance ascribed to it. In his Zeitschr. 1860, p. 220, Hilgenfeld appeals to οἱ περιτεμνόμενοι in the Act. Petr. et Pauli, 63; but wrongly, because there (see the sequel) the subject is moral circumcision. The view of Neander is also mistaken, p. 366. According to Wieseler and Matthias, who likewise read περιτεμνόμενοι, the περιτεμνόμενοι were those among the Galatian Gentile Christians, who, led away by the pseudo-apostles, allowed themselves to be circumcised. In that case we must with these expositors make the seducers themselves, the pseudo-apostles, the subject of θέλουσιν. But this view is intolerable; how could Paul enable the reader to guess this change of subject? The subject of φυλάσσ. must also be the subject of θέλουσιν, or else Paul must have written as awkwardly as possible. Consequently the subject of both the verbs can only be the false apostles, who, however, were περιτετμημένοι, and not περιτεμνόμενοι.—Hofmann and Holsten are of opinion that the present participle is intended to denote the Jews generally, inasmuch as circumcision was in use among them. Against this view it may be decisively urged, that the subjects of the following θέλουσιν can be no other than οἱ περιτεμνόμενοι, and thus likewise the Israelites generally (as Hofmann consistently explains it); nevertheless these θέλοντες (ver. 13) must necessarily be the very same as those to whom the θέλουσιν in ver. 12 applies, and therefore not the Jews generally, but the Judaistic adversaries. Moreover, to these only is the οὐδέ, not even, suitable, which presupposes in those concerned a higher degree of obligation than in the case of others who were bound to obey the law. The forced expedient of Holsten is highly arbitrary: that Paul included the false teachers (consequently, according to our reading and interpretation, the περιτετμημένοι) in the category of those circumcising themselves (and therefore the περιτεμνόμενοι).

[268] Not on σαρκί (Matthias, Holsten), as if Paul had written τῇ σαρκὶ ὑμῶν. Comp. 2 Corinthians 8:8, Romans 11:31, 1 Corinthians 15:31, where the pronoun, rarely used by Paul, is likewise emphatic.

Galatians 6:13. περιτεμνόμενοι. The present participle is more appropriate than the perfect περιτετμημένοι, which is read by some MSS.: for the author has in mind the adoption of a system, as in Galatians 5:3.

13. He justifies the imputation of a bad motive, by a fact which cannot be denied. The Judaizers could not pretend that they so complied with the terms of the Law as perfectly to fulfil its requirements. They could not be justified by the Law. They acknowledged in some sense their need of Christ. And if so, why impose one of the legal ceremonies as necessary to salvation? Their real object is to gain a party triumph, that they may make Christian converts into Jewish proselytes.

neither they themselves] Better, ‘not even they themselves’.

who are circumcised] Lit. ‘the circumcised’, those on whom the rite is imposed as a condition of salvation, and therefore of course those also who imposed it. Another rendering, for which there is considerable authority, is, ‘who have been circumcised’. It does not, however, suit the argument so well as the present participle.

keep the law] This does not refer, as some suppose, to the impossibility of keeping strictly the ceremonial law, owing to the distance of many from Jerusalem and similar causes, nor to the insincerity of the men themselves, who were not enough in earnest to observe it rigorously; but, as explained above, to the moral impossibility of fulfilling the Law, on which St Paul so frequently insists, owing to the fallen nature of man.

glory in your flesh] boast in your submission to an outward ordinance. See note on Galatians 6:12. In the later history of the Church there have been instances of the same tendency on the part of those who have gloried in the number of converts admitted to Baptism, without regard to the spiritual change of which it is the token and pledge.

Galatians 6:13. Αὐτοὶ, they themselves) So far from it being their interest, that the law should be observed by you.—σαρκὶ, in your flesh) if it be circumcised.

Verse 13. - For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the Law (οὐδὲ γὰρ οἱ περιτεμνόμενοι αὐτοὶ νόμον φυλάσσουσιν); for neither do they who are being circumcised themselves keep the Law; or, for not even. they who are being circumcised, themselves keep the Law. It is doubtful whether the οὐδὲ accentuates the main idea of the clause (see note on Galatians 1:12), or only the single term, "they who are being circumcised," as in John 7:5 it accentuates "his brethren." "For;" pointing back to the words," only that," "for no other reason than that," of the previous verse. The apostle means, it is from no zeal for the Law itself that they do what they do, for they are at no pains to keep the Law; but only with the object of currying favour with the Jews. The present participle περιτευνόμενοι is the reading more generally accepted, though the perfect περιτετμημένοι has a competing amount of documentary authentication. The perfect is so much the easier reading to understand ("not even those who have actually been circumcised") as to be much more likely to be a correction displacing περιτεμνόμενοι than the converse hypothesis of the latter being a correction of the other borrowed from ver. 3. "They who are being circumcised" may be understood of a party, including those who first set the movement ageing, who were one after another undergoing the rite. Another turn is given to this participial phrase, as meaning "who are eager for circumcision," "who are all for being circumcised, the circumcision party." Bishop Lightfoot is in favour of this view, referring to "the apt quotation" from an apocryphal book, in which the phrase appears used in this very sense (see his note). It is a sense grammatically difficult to sustain from the usage of the New Testament; for ὁ διώκων of Galatians 1:23, which has been cited on its behalf, does not bear it out. But the passion of scorn with which the apostle writes make the supposed strain upon strict grammatical propriety not altogether improbable. "Themselves;" this is inserted with allusion to the zeal shown by those men, both the first promoters and those drawn in by them, in urging upon others the observance, not indeed of the whole Law, but of certain of its prescriptions. The verb φυλάσσω is used similarly in Romans 2:26; Acts 21:24. The sense seems founded upon the notion of watching the Law to see what it requires, as one is endeavouring to carry it out. The article is wanting before νόμον, though specifically denoting the Law of Moses, as in Romans 2:25, 27, and often. But desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh (ἀλλὰ θέλουσιν ὑμᾶς περιτέμνεσθαι ἵνα ἐν τῇ ὑμετέρᾳ σαρκὶ καυχήσωνται); but they desire you to receive circumcision, that in your flesh they may have whereof to glory. The conjunction ἀλλὰ is used in its proper original sense, "instead of that." All that they want is that in their intercourse with the Jews they may have your circumcision to refer to as evidence of the high respect which they and you as influenced by them have for the Law. "See! so far from trampling upon the Law, we and these our brethren too are adopting the very badge of the servants of the Law." The word "flesh" is in this clause used in its strictly literal signification. The account which the apostle here gives of the motives actuating this particular section of Judaizing reactionaries was no doubt grounded on specific information which he had just received. But such information, both in respect to its general probability and to its grave importance, was doubtless corroborated to his own mind by large experience which he had had elsewhere among the Gentile Churches of the behaviour of unsteady and imperfectly instructed Gentile converts. In almost every important place where Gentiles were won to the faith, there were previously existing communities of Jews (Acts 15:21); and contact with these must have given rise to an endless diversity of relations both of attraction and of repulsion. Everywhere, from the very first, the contact of Christianity with Judaism gave birth to varying phases of Judaico-Christian-ism such as afterwards developed into monstrous forms of error. It was no new thing with the apostle that he should find himself called upon to check, on the part of weak or insincere brethren, a tendency to draw towards Judaism at the cost of not merely unseemly but even fundamentally fatal compliances. The peril was always very near, and had to be constantly watched and guarded against. Galatians 6:13Neither they themselves who are circumcised (οὐδὲ - οἱ περιτεμνόμενοι αὐτοὶ)

For neither, translate not even. Const. themselves with keep the law. The persons referred to are the same as those in Galatians 6:12. The participle tells nothing as to the antecedents of these persons, whether Jewish or heathen. It is general, those who are receiving circumcision. It is equals the circumcision-party; and the present participle represents them as in present activity. They are circumcised themselves, and are endeavoring to force circumcision upon others.

Keep the law (νόμον φυλάσσουσιν)

See on Galatians 5:3. They are in the same category with all who are circumcised, who do not and cannot fully observe the law. Comp. Galatians 3:10; Galatians 5:3. Hence, if circumcision develops no justifying results, it is apparent that their insistence on circumcision proceeds not from moral, but from fleshly motives.

That they may glory in your flesh (ἵνα ἐν τῇ ὑμετέρᾳ σαρκὶ καυχήσωνται)

May boast, not of your fulfilling the law, but in your ceremonial conformity; your becoming legal zealots like themselves. They desire only that you, like them, should make a fair show in the flesh. For the formula καυχᾶσθαι ἐν to glory in, see Romans 2:17; Romans 5:3; 1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:15.

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