Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Galatians 6:11-18

11. See with what letters I have written to you with my hand.

See how long a letter I have written to you, not as usual, by the hand of another, but throughout with my own hand. For though this Epistle is not so long as several others of St. Paul, the longer ones were written by an anuuiuensis at his dictation. There is, however, much difference of opinion as to the meaning of these words.  Saint Jerome thinks that up to this point the letter was dictated to a writer, and that Saint Paul only added the concluding verses, from this point to the end, with his own hand. The Greek πηλικοις υμιν γραμμασιν  signify with letters of how large a size, as if the Apostle had some affection of the eyes which injured his sight, and compelled him, whenever he wrote, to write very large. The words of the Vulgate, qualihiis literis, seem to imply that the Latin translator took this view, as also did St. Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Theophylact, except that these three writers differ from St. Jerome in thinking that the Epistle was written throughout by the Apostle with his own hand. St. Chrysostom says it refers to the unskilful manner in which the letters were formed, as if the writer had said, I have written all this with my own hand, though I do not write well, and do not form the Greek, characters correctly; and that he calls attention to the circumstance to prove that the document was reall}- hisown, and not a forgery passed off by another person in his name. Saint Anselm, on the other hand, has the singular idea that Saint Paul is directing their attention to the beauty of the letters he forms, as if he would have said, see how well I write Greek. Yet the word πηλικοις  is an adjective of quantity, and cannot refer to anything but the size of the letters. However this may be, it iscertain that the Apostle’s writing with his own hand was a mark of regard and affection for the Galatian Christians; and that he certainly wrote with his own hand the remainder of the Epistle from this point to the end.

12. For whoever aim at pleasing in the flesh, these desire you to be circumcised; only that they may not suffer the persecution of the cross of Christ.
13. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law; but wish you to be circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

St. Paul states at once, without apology or circumlocution, the real motive of those who were endeavouring to lead the Christians of Galatia astray. They wished not to offend the Jews, who were at that time influential and powerful, so that they might avoid the annoyance and persecution which commonly overtook the preachers of the Gospel of Christ. The Jews cared very little whether Christ was preached or not, so long as circumcision and the law of Moses were not abolished: because these were national customs, on the maintenance of which their influence and organization depended. These heretical teachers therefore preached Christ for gain, and circumcision and the law at the same time, to please the Jews. Not that they cared to observe the law; but they would have you circumcised that they may boast of you to the chiefs of the Jewish party as converts to Judaism.

14. But for me, God forbid I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom to me the world is crucified, and I to the world.

God forbid that I should glory. The Apostle puts his own motives, principles, and conduct in contrast with those of the men whom he has been describing. God forbid I should do anything, change anything in the doctrine of the religion of Christ, to avoid persecution, or obtain the goodwill and the praise of men. For all my glory, and all my rejoicing, is in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, believing it, preaching it, in my measure sharing it. This is all my joy and all my glory.  For the love of Christ our Lord all the universe is no more to me than the dead body of one who has been crucified, worthless and good for nothing, an object even of detestation and abhorrence, so far as there is any danger of its drawing awav to itself, for one moment, or in the smallest degree, any part of the allegiance and adoration of my heart and soul, which is consecrated to him. And for his sake I am not only willing, but proud and joyful, and make it my highest boast and glorying, to be myself regarded by the world, as on his account I am regarded, and by all who love this world, as an outcast, beneath notice, utterly unworthy of consideration and regard, an object of scorn, detestation, and abhorrence, like the body of one who has been crucified. In anything but this, God forbid that I should glory. The world is crucified to me, and I to the world.

15. For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision of any value, nor uncircumcision, but new creation.

This verse contains in a few words what is in effect an epitome of the whole Epistle. In Christ Jesus, in the Christian religion, and before the presence of God, circumcision has no value, nor uncircumcision, nor will either condition affect salvation; which depends upon the renewal of the soul by grace. The word cretura, like the Greek word to which it corresponds, may be rendered either in the abstract or the concrete: the act of creation, or the thing created. The new creature is the soul exteriorly regenerated by baptism, interiorly renewed by grace, walking in newness of life, under the guidance of the Spirit of God, and for charity observing his commands.

16. And whoever shall have followed this rule; peace on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Those who observe this rule of life, the Syriac, those who walk along this path, just described, and further explained in the teaching of this Epistle, peace and mercy be upon them, whether they have been Jews or Gentiles before their conversion to Christ. Eor the true Israel of God are those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the son promised to Abraham, and in him look for justification and salvation.

17. For the rest let no one give me trouble; for I bear in my body the stigmata of the Lord Jesus.

17. Henceforward let no one, whether a Judaizer or any other, give me further trouble, the Syriac, impose further toil or labour upon me, with regard to this question of circumcision, or Hebrew rites and ceremonies; for I have fully stated the mind and teaching of Jesus Christ on this subject. If they are circumcised, so am I; but what is far greater, and an infinitely higher privilege, I bear in my body the marks which prove that I have been partaker of the sufferings of Jesus Christ, who was in a sense circumcised in his whole body. From the sole of his foot to the head there was no soundness, by the thorns that tore his head, the nails that pierced his hands and feet, the gashes of the scourge, the thrust of the lance. Marks, more or less, like these I also bear in my body, and if they glory in their circumcision, I will glory in sharing Christ’s sufferings. They can show nothing of this sort. The very purpose for which they preach circumcision is that they may escape all risk of ever doing so. Saint Paul had been thrice beaten with rods, to which perhaps he here particularly refers. At the very time he wrote these words he was living under arrest, in the city of Rome, and very probably fastened by a chain and handcuff to the soldier who guarded him.

18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. In all the other Epistles, except the second to Timothy and that to Philemon, Saint Paul says, be with you. Saint Chrysostom thinks he here whites expressly with your spirit, in order to remind the Galatians that it is by faith, which is a spiritual act, not by any exterior ceremonies of the Hebrew law, that they were to look for salvation in Jesus Christ; and that they had received the Holy Spirit of God by faith, not by the law.

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One Response to Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Galatians 6:11-18

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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