Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL, THE APOSTLE,
TO THE GALATIANS.
The Galatians, soon after St. Paul had preached the gospel to them, were seduced by some false teachers, who had been Jews, and who were for obliging all Christians, even those who had been Gentiles, to observe circumcision, and the other ceremonies of the Mosaical law. In this epistle he refutes the pernicious doctrine of those teachers, and also their calumny against his mission and apostleship. The subject matter of this epistle is much the same as of that to the Romans. It was written at Ephesus, about twenty-three years after our Lord's ascension. (Challoner) --- The Galatians were originally Gauls, who under their leader, Baennus, spread themselves over Greece, and at length passed over into Asia Minor, where they settled between Cappadocia and Phrygia, in the province afterwards called from them Galatia. It seems that St. Peter preached first in those parts; but it was only to the Jews, as my be gathered from the inscription of his first epistle, which he addresses to the Jews of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. But St. Paul was the first that preached to the Gentile inhabitants of this province. When he first preached to them, he was received as an angel from heaven, or rather, as Christ himself: he visited them oftener than once, and the Church he there formed was very considerable. It was the Jewish converts of Galatia (who, as we have before mentioned, were the spiritual children of St. Peter) that caused those troubles which gave rise to this epistle. They strongly advocated the legal observances; and making a handle of the high pre-eminence of St. Peter, they decried St. Paul, even calling in question his apostleship. They taught the necessity of circumcision, and other Mosaic rites, which the apostles then in part retained. Thus divisions were raised in this infant Church. On these accounts the apostle warmly asserts his apostleship, as being called by Christ himself. He shews that his doctrine was that of the other apostles, who, in the council of Jerusalem, four years before, testified their exemption from the legal observances. He teaches, that it is not by the law, but by faith, that the blessings of salvation are imparted to them. After establishing these more important parts of the epistle, he gives them instruction on various heads. The Greek subscription to this epistle informs us, that it was written from Rome. St. Jerome says, he wrote it when in chains. Theodoret says, it was the first epistle that St. Paul wrote from Rome. This opinion has probably been adopted from a mistaken interpretation of the text: I bear the marks of the wounds of Christ in my body. By these marks they understand chains, whilst the text equally applies to the mortifications and self-denials of a Christian. The contrary opinion is, that this epistle was written from Ephesus in the year of Christ 55. This is the more probable opinion, and is maintained by St. Gregory the Great, Ludovicus, Capellanus, Estius, Usher, Pearson, and many others. The authority of the Greek copies, in assigning the places whence the letters were written, has been long rejected by the learned. We find no such information in the more ancient Greek manuscripts of St. Germanus and Clermont, &c. (Calmet)
Gal 1:1 apostle begins by asserting his apostleship which the false teachers had called in question. He was called to it by Christ himself, in his miraculous conversion, being changed "into a vessel of election to carry his name before kings and nations, and the children of Israel." Thus chosen, we see him immediately after his conversion, preaching in Damascus and Arabia. (Calmet) --- Let us beware of self-appointed teachers, who are neither called by God nor rightly ordained by men, and yet are observed to intrude themselves into the ministry. --- Not from man, neither by man. The apostle here expressly says, all the brethren who are with me; to shew that he advanced nothing which was not conformable to the belief of all the faithful. (St. Jerome) --- And again he says, (ver. 12.) neither did I receive it from man, nor did I learn it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. That is, not from him, who was a man only, but from Jesus Christ, who was both God and man. St. Jerome, who has left us a commentary on this epistle, (tom. iv. p. 222. Ed. Ben. as also St. John Chrysostom, tom. iii. p. 709. Ed. Sav.) takes notice, that Christ's divinity is proved from these expressions, that St. Paul was not an apostle, nor had his mission from man only, but from Jesus Christ, who therefore was not a man only. --- By Jesus Christ and God the Father. A second argument to shew the equality of the Son with the Father. And thirdly, it destroys another objection of the Arians, who used to pretend that the Father, being always first named, he only, and not the Son, was properly God. Fourthly, another of their arguments to prove only the Father truly God, was that he was called the God, with the Greek article; and here the Father is called God, without the said Greek article. Fifthly, they also pretended that the Son was not God, because the Father was said to deliver him to death: and here (ver. 3.) the Son is said to give and deliver himself. (Witham)
Non ab homine, on which words St. Jerome, ergo non homo tantum est Christus. See St. John Chrysostom in his commentary, or Greek: ermeneia, on this epistle, p. 713, where he takes notice against the Arians, that here God the Father is called Greek: Theos, not Greek: o Theos; so that their argument from the Greek article is of no force; Greek: choris arthrou....ouk apo tou, alla apo theou patros, &c.
Gal 1:6-7 was about three or four years after their conversion. The apostle knowing very well how to suit his discourse to his auditors, in this epistle makes use of a more severe and harsh address than is observable in his other epistles. The reason is, the Galatians were a less civilized people, and had already shewn the little attachment they had to their spiritual father. (Calmet) --- To another gospel: which is not  another. That is, it is not properly another, because they pretended to be Christians, and teach the faith: and yet it was in some measure another, because changed by such teachers with a mixture of errors, particularly that all converted Gentiles were to observe the Jewish law: and in this sense, they are said to subvert, or destroy the gospel of Christ: so that the apostle hesitates not to pronounce and repeat an anathema, a curse upon all that preach any thing besides, that is, in point of religion, not agreeing with what he had taught. I cannot omit here a reflection, which St. John Chrysostom makes on the 7th verse. Where are they, saith he, who condemn us (Catholics) for the differences we have with heretics? and who pretend there is no such essential difference betwixt us and them, so as to judge them excluded from the communion of the Catholic Church, out of which there is no salvation, unless perhaps through ignorance. --- Let them hear what St. Paul says, that they destroyed the gospel who made any such innovations: to wit, by introducing again as necessary some of the Jewish ceremonies, even at a time when the Christians, who had been Jews, might lawfully use them, and even they who had been Gentiles. St. Paul says, this is to change and destroy the gospel; he repeats anathema against them. Let them hear, and take notice of this, who pretend that the unity of the one Catholic faith is sufficiently maintained by all Christian societies, that agreeing, as they say, in fundamentals, their faith is a saving faith: that the council of Trent, without reason, pronounced such anathemas against them: that all Catholics are uncharitable for denying them to be in the way to salvation, when they make Scripture alone, as interpreted by their private judgment, the only rule of their faith. They may as well accuse not only St. John Chrysostom but also St. Paul, of uncharitableness, &c. (Witham)
In aliud Evangelium, quod non est aliud; Greek: eis eteron euaggelion, o ouk estin allo. Volunt convertere, Greek: metastrepsai, invertere, evertere, pervertere. St. John Chrysostom, Lat. edit. p. 812. E. ubi sunt igitur, qui nos ut contentiosos damnant, eo quod cum hæreticis habemus dissidium, dictitantque nullum esse discrimen inter nos & illos.... Audiant Paulum (p. 813. A.) illos subvertisse Evangelium, qui paululum quiddam rerum novarum invexerant. And in the Greek edition of Savil, p. 717, linea 3, Greek: pou nun eisin, &c. ....akouetosan ti phesin o Paulos, &c.
Gal 1:9 terrible sentence awarded by St. Paul, bears equally strong against modern as against ancient innovators in religion.
If I did yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ. I should not have embraced the Christian faith, I who was so zealous against it, and who by changing have exposed himself to persecutions, &c. (Witham)
Gal 1:14 here alludes to his being a Pharisee, as he himself mentions more openly in Acts xxiii. 6. A Pharisee, and son of Pharisees. This sect always distinguished itself by its zeal for ancient traditions, which shews evidently that he was very far from being instructed in a religion of which he was the sworn enemy; nor since his conversion did he apply for instruction. What he delivered, he learned not of man, but of God. See below.
I condescended not to flesh and blood. Literally, I did not acquiesce to flesh and blood. I had no regard to temporal friends or advantages. Some expound it, I did not think it necessary to consult the other apostles, men who were my countrymen: and so it follows, I came not to Jerusalem to the apostles, to be instructed by them, having been instructed by Christ himself. (Witham)
Gal 1:17 far from receiving his apostleship from the other apostles, he saw none of them, till he had spent three years in announcing the word of God. (Calmet) --- In this epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul treats the same matter as in his epistle to the Romans; to the former he writes less exactly and more briefly, as very rude and uncivilized; to the latter, with more precision, and with greater copiousness, as replenished with all knowledge: repleti omni scientia. (Romans xv. 14.)
Then three years after, I came to Jerusalem to see (and as St. John Chrysostom says, out of respect to make a visit to) Peter, but staid only at Jerusalem fifteen days, and saw none of the apostles except him, and James, the brother, or cousin of our Lord; so that I was yet unknown by face to the Christian churches in Judea. (Witham)