Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Galatians 1:6-12

Gal 1:6  I wonder that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel.

Ver. 6.—I wonder that you are so soon removed—from Christianity to Judaism, from the liberty of the Gospel to the slavery of legal ceremonies, from the church to the synagogue. “The allusion,” says S. Jerome, “is to the Hebrew , ‘to roll,’” and hints that, “You Galatians are as easily moved as a globe or a wheel, since you suffer yourselves to be so quickly transferred from the Gospel of Christ to the law of Moses.” Elsewhere, however, S. Jerome sees an allusion to ללנּ, “milk,” and supposes that the Galatians were so called from the whiteness of their skin.

From Him that called you. You are apostates from the Gospel, nay, from God and Christ Jesus, and that to the greatest injury and contempt of God and Christ, who called you, without any merits of your own, nay, against your demerits, out of His abounding love, into grace, reconciliation, friendship with God, and salvation.  S. Jerome reads, by the grace of Christ, instead of into the grace of Christ, and so gets a more forcible rendering: I marvel that ye are so soon removed unto another Gospel from Christ, who called you by His grace, i.e., out of pure love and unmerited good-will towards you; I marvel that ye are so readily become apostates from God and from Christ, who hath called you so graciously and lovingly; that ye are so ungrateful, so heedless of His love, that ye trample on it.

Unto another gospel. Unto another doctrine about salvation, and your Saviour Christ, as though mine and Christ’s were not sufficient, as though Moses must be taken into partnership with Christ, and the ceremonial law wedded to the Gospel. For even if these Judaisers preach that the Gospel is to be embraced together with the Mosaic law, yet they, thereby preach another Gospel, and destroy the true Gospel preached by Paul. For, according to him, the true Gospel of Christ is this: The law of Christ is necessary and sufficient to salvation, nor can any other be admitted. Whoever introduces or allows to be introduced any other, is injurious to Christ and His law, as implying that it is insufficient, and he, therefore, robs Christ, his only Redeemer, of His glory, and brings in another Saviour. This is what the Judaisers did. They declared the insufficiency of the law of Christ by adding to it the law of Moses as requisite for salvation and bliss. Hence they overturned the Gospel by introducing another, nay, a contrary Gospel. Therefore the Apostle proceeds to write:

Gal 1:7  Which is not another: only there are some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

Which is not another. S. Jerome and Ephrem omit another, and interpret the clause: “You transfer yourselves to another Gospel, which indeed is no Gospel.” The meaning of the received text is “You transfer yourselves to another Gospel, which still is not another; for there is no other true Gospel save that which I have preached unto you.” To which Ephrem adds: “But as they are, so is it.” As their teachers are apostates, Judaisers, deceitful liars, so is their Gospel heretical, Judaising, deceitful, and false. If the Judaisers, who left the Gospel and teaching of Paul and the Church intact, overturned the Gospel and the Church of Christ, much more do the Protestants overturn it by introducing new dogmas contrary to the Catholic Church.

Only there are some that trouble you. This depends on I wonder in verse 6.  I wonder that ye so soon fall away from the Gospel, unless it be that there are some who are troubling you. And when I think this I partly cease to marvel, and I impute your defection to them rather than to you; for you would not have fallen away, if you had not been enticed and deceived.

That trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. To pervert is to subvert, according to Chrysostom. Properly, however, it is to invert, or to turn, as when the outside of a garment is turned inside because it is worn, and the less worn inside becomes the outside. Or, as Jerome says, when what is in front is put behind, and vice versâ. So the Church is like a garment of which the part in front or outside, and now somewhat worn thread-bare, was the old Church or the synagogue, with its Mosaic law, while the after part, or inner and sounder, is the new Church with Christ’s Gospel. This Christ so changed round that He substituted the inward for the worn outward side, so making the after or the inner part, viz., the Gospel, the front or the outer, and putting it before all, to be known and adopted as the robe of righteousness and salvation. These self-appointed teachers wished to turn again this garment inside out, and to put the law first, and to subordinate to it the Gospel—in short, to exchange the spirit of piety breathed forth by the Gospel for Jewish ceremonies. So the Judaisers perverted, i.e., inverted the Gospel of Christ by substituting for it the law of Moses, and setting that before the Gospel (S. Jerome).

Gal 1:8  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.
Gal 1:9  As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.

Understand. If that can be done; for, as a matter of fact, it is impossible, for the angels are established as in bliss so in all truth. It is an hyperbole, like that in 1Cor 13:i.: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels.” S. Jerome quotes here a happy remark of Tertullian directed against Apelles and his virgin Philumena, which latter was filled by some perverse angel with an evil spirit, to the effect that this was an angel who, long before Apelles was born, was described as accursed by the Holy Spirit, speaking through, the Apostle. Such was the angel who taught Luther, and instructed Zwingli on the Eucharist, and about whom the latter writes, that he did not know whether it was black or white. But it is certain that it was a black angel, and that against it was directed the Apostle’s anathema, as against one introducing a new Gospel, a new faith, and new dogmas, contrary to the accepted creed.

Observe how great is the certainty of the faith preached by the Apostles, confirmed by God by so many signs and miracles, and transmitted to us by the continuous tradition of so many centuries, and reflect how firm and constant in it we should be. So much so that we may better deny the evidence of our senses, of our reason, of the authority of all men and angels—even if they should work miracles as proof,—impossible though this really is—then deny the teaching of faith. For faith rests on the original revelation of God, who is the First and Incommutable Truth; all else may deceive and he deceived. Nay, to state an impossibility, if God were to reveal a faith contrary to that which we have received, and which He originally revealed Himself, we should be bound to believe the first, and not the second. For if He should reveal one contrary, He would be changed and would cease to be God, and the First and Infallible Truth; but since this is impossible, it follows that God cannot give a contrary revelation, and hence that those who teach contrary doctrine get it not from God but from their own heads, or else by revelation from devils.

We have here, then, a canon of faith given us by the Apostle, to this effect. If a new dogma arise anywhere, let it be examined to see whether it agree with the ancient, received faith of the Catholic Church, first preached by Paul and the Apostles; if it be found discordant, let it be regarded as heretical and accursed. This is a canon followed by all the Fathers.

“If any dispute arise,” says Irenæus, “about any, even a small question, will it not be our duty to have recourse to the oldest churches, and to gather from them what is clear and certain with reference to the question in dispute?” (Adv. Hær. lib. iii. c. x.).

So Tertullian: “I will lay it down as a canon that what the Apostles preached, what Christ revealed, ought not to be proved except by the same churches which the Apostles themselves founded. If this is so, it is clear that all doctrine which agrees with those Apostolic churches, being the very wombs and originals of the faith, must be put down as true, and all the rest condemned as false, without further examination “(de Præs. xxi.).

And again: “What is earlier in tradition is shown by its very date to be the Lord’s and to be true; what has come in later is an importation and false” (Ibid. c. xxxi.). So Origen “Every one is to be counted a heretic who, while professing to believe in Christ, believes in a matter of faith otherwise than the traditional definition of the Church declares.” (Hom. in S. Matt. 19)

This same rule is supported by Vincent of Lerins in his golden treatise on Præscription, against the impious novelties of heretics. “Antiquity is to be followed, novelty spurned. When certain innovators were going throughout provinces and cities, offering their errors for sale, and had arrived among the Galatians; and when the Galatians had given them a hearing, and were taken with a distaste for the truth, so much so that they, as it were, vomited the manna of apostolic and Catholic teaching, and were delighted with the filth of heretical novelty, then the authority of the apostolic power made itself heard in these stern words. ‘Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.’ What is this that he saith: ‘Though we?—why not rather, ‘Though I?’ He means: ‘Though Peter, though Andrew, though John—indeed, though the whole college of Apostles preach unto you anything beside what we have preached, let them be accursed.’ An awful pronouncement! It is but a little thing to spare neither himself nor the other Apostles, so as to secure the firm continuance of the faith first preached. But he adds: ‘Though an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.’ It was not enough to bind men to preserve the faith delivered them—he must also bind angels. ‘Though we,’ he says, ‘or an angel from heaven.’ Not that the holy and heavenly angels can sin; but supposing it were possible that they should, if any one of them were to attempt to change the faith once delivered, let him be accursed” (lib. i. c. 12).

So S. John Damascene, who, like a roaring lion, attacked the iconoclastic Emperor Leo the Isaurian: “Hearken, ye peoples, tribes, tongues—men, women, boys, old men, young men, infants, the whole army of Christian saints: ‘Though any one preach unto you anything beside that which the Catholic Church has received from the Holy Apostles, from the Fathers and Councils, and has preserved to this day, hear him not, nor follow the counsel of the serpent, as Eve did, who thereby drew upon herself death. Though an angel, though a king preach unto you anything beside what you have received, stop your ears. For I fear lest the warning of Paul be fulfilled, ‘Let him be accursed’” (Orat. 2 de Imagin.). He ends thus because he knew that it was the prerogative of Bishops, not of monks, of whom he was one, to pronounce anathema, as Baronius acutely notes (Ann. A.D. 730, in fine). So S. Augustine: “I do not accept what the Blessed Cyprian held on the baptism of heretics, because the Church, for whom Cyprian shed his blood, does not accept it” (contra Cresconiuin, lib. ii. c. 31, 32). And the other Fathers follow him, and the reason they do so is clear. It is because the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1Ti_3:15). Whoever, therefore, following his own imaginations, teaches any new thing against her mind and doctrines, errs and strays from the home of truth and from truth itself, as S. Augustine urges in a fine dilemma. “Answer,” he says—”Did the Church come to an end or not?” (i.e., when Donatus arose). “Choose which you like. If she had come to an end, who was the mother who bore Donatus? If on the other hand, she could not have come to an end while so many had been gathered into her without your baptism, tell me, I pray you, what madness was it which induced the followers of Donatus to withdraw themselves from her, as if they were so avoiding communion with the wicked” (contra Gaudentium, lib. ii. c. 8).

In the same way I will now conclude as follows: On the rise of Luther, Calvin, Menno, and other Protestants, either the Church and the true faith came to an end or they did not. For these two—the true Church and the true faith—are necessarily connected, so much so that if in a single point, say the Invocation of Saints, the Church were to leave the track of the true faith, she must become heretical, and the Church, not of God but of Satan; just as any individual who maintains a single heresy, even though he be otherwise orthodox, is a heretic. I repeat therefore, when Calvin arose, either the Church came to an end or she did not; if she did, and had not existed since the time of Gregory the Great, as the Protestants say, then the Church had been extinct for 900 years, that is to say, the world for 900 years was without true faith, true religion, sacraments, Church, and salvation; therefore for 900 years Christ deserted His Bride; therefore the Eternal Kingdom of Christ had fallen, for Christ reigns in His Church; therefore the gates of hell had prevailed against His Church; therefore Calvin was born outside the Church, was no member of the Church, but an unbeliever, a heretic, or a pagan; therefore he had not claim to be received by the people, by the world, and listened to as one of the faithful, but he should have been despised and rejected as an unbeliever not belonging, to the Church. If, however, the Church had not come to an end, and Calvin was born, baptized, educated, and brought up in the true Church—then, since he was born, baptized, educated, and brought up in the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church, that Church was clearly a true Church, holding the true faith. Therefore, when he withdrew from her, and shut himself up in his new dogmas, he separated himself from the true faith and from the Church, and became an apostate. Therefore, when he established another and a reformed Church, it was not a true, apostolic, but an apostate, schismatical, heretical Church that he founded—a mistress and school, not of the faith, but of new doctrines and heresies. Let a fair-minded reader, who sincerely seeks in ignorance the true faith, outside which no one can be saved, consider and weigh the force of this dilemma, and ask himself whether there is any escape from its conclusions, whether the rule here given is not a touchstone of what is true in doctrine and in faith.

A gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.  The Protestants hence conclude: Therefore the decrees of councils and the canons of pontiffs are accursed, because they contain many things not in the Gospel, and are consequently a Gospel other than that preached.

I reply: Other (præterquam) is here what is contrary to the accepted faith, such as are the doctrines of heretics.

1. This appears, firstly, because Paul is writing against the Judaisers, who were trying to introduce Judaism beside (præter), that is, against the Gospel. It was just as if any one were to try to add Calvinism or Mohammedanism to Christianity. He would be introducing a new law and society beside, i.e., against Christianity. Accordingly, in ver. 6, he calls this another Gospel, and in ver. 7 he says that the preachers of it pervert, or, as Chrysostom styles it overturn the Gospel of Christ.

2. It is clear and certain that not only an angel but Paul himself knew more, and consequently might have preached more truths than he did (2Cor 12:1 and 2Cor 12:6).

3. Paul constantly orders, as Christ did, the commands of Apostles and superiors to be obeyed (Acts 16:4; Heb 13:17).

4. Moreover, Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Œcumenius explain the phrase as I have done. In 1 Cor. 2 the Apostle uses παρά (præter) in the sense of against, when he writes: “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ;” for he would set up another Christ, just as one who makes another Pope sets up an, anti-Pope, or he who invites another king into a kingdom sets up an enemy of the true king and a tyrant. Similarly, in Rom_11:24: “If thou wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive-tree”—contrary to nature is παρά φύσιν (præter naturam).Even in Latin we often use the same meiosis. For example, Terence (Andria) says, “Præter civium morem atque legem,” i.e., against law and custom. So, too, in Greek, as, e.g., Aristotle (de Cælo, lib. i. c. i) says παρά φύοιν, beside, i.e., against nature; παρά νόμον, beside, i.e., against law.

With this compare Deut. 4. “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it.” Ye shall not add to the precepts which I shall give you anything contradictory of them, especially, ye shall not add the worship of some new deity, for this the whole chapter, and indeed the whole Book of Deuteronomy, intends to forbid. Nor shall ye add, in the sense of saying that your words are mine; for to no one is it allowed to put forth his own writings or commands, as the commands of God or as the Holy Scriptures.

There is a similar phrase in Rev 22:18: “I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” As a matter of fact, prophets and Apostles have added many things to this Scripture. Nay, Moses, in Deut. 42, would contradict himself in Deut. 17:12, where he orders the words of the priest to be obeyed. Accordingly S. Augustine excellently explains this passage: “The Apostle does not say, ‘More than you have received,’ but, ‘Beside that which you have received.’ For if he had used the former phrase, he would condemn himself for saying that he wished to come to the Thessalonians to supply what was wanting to their faith. But he who supplies what is lacking merely adds, he does not take away what is already there. He, however, who oversteps the rule of faith does not approach the goal in the road, but departs from the road” (Tract. in Joan. 99).

You will say perhaps: “Why, then, did the Apostle not say against instead of beside?” Chrysostom’s answer is that he wanted to make it clear that any is accursed who even indirectly undermines the least important doctrine of the Gospel. But there is another reason, and that is, the Judaisers, against whom this passage is primarily directed, were introducing their Judaism beside the Gospel, i.e., their Jewish rites and sacraments, which by this very attempt became contrary to the Gospel and the New Law of Christ, as I said before.

We preach. I.e., by word or by writing. He does not, therefore, exclude, but rather includes traditions given by word of mouth only, for these he expressly orders to be observed in 2Th 2:14.

Anathema. Heb. cherem. See comment on this word under Rom 9:3.

Gal 1:10  For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

Do I now persuade men, or God? Theophylact, Vatablus, and Erasmus explain this to mean: “Am I now persuading you to human things or to Divine?”—as though the Apostle were showing, not the persons he was addressing, but his subject-matter, i.e., what he is putting forward to be believed. For the Judaisers were boasting that they followed Peter, John, James, who, by their example, seemed to teach the observance of the Old Law. In contrast to them Paul exclaims that he follows not men, or the doctrine of men, but God and His doctrine, and persuades others to do the same. It is from God that I have received what I have preached, and therefore I preach not human things, but Divine.

There is a second interpretation, which is not amiss, whatever Beza may say, which has S. Chrysostom’s support. “Am I pleading a cause before men or before God?” For the word persuade (πείθειν) is a forensic term, and implies a cause pleaded before judges. Hence S. Augustine interprets it here to mean, “I desire to render myself approved,” and S. Ambrose renders it by I satisfy. When this Greek term is used in the sense of persuade, it is, as Beza admits, followed by an accusative of the person. Persuade is then here used in the sense of an inchoate act, “I try to persuade,” according to my canon 32.

That this sense is the more apt appears: (1.) Because to persuade God and men is a phrase referring rather to the men persuaded than to the subject-matter—this last interpretation would make the sentence obscure and involved. (2.) Because the next clause illustrates this when it says, “Or do I seek to please men?” which implies that as he does not seek to please men, so he does not seek to persuade them. So S. Jerome says that “any one is said to persuade when he tries to instill into others what he has himself imbibed and still keeps.”

The sense then is this: I, Paul, speak so boldly and sincerely, and denounce a curse on Judaisers and all who preach another Gospel, because, although I once contended vigorously against the Gospel on behalf of Jews and their religion, yet now, illuminated by the Gospel-light, it is not to men, least of all to Jews, that I do my best to approve myself and my Gospel, but to God, whom alone I seek to please, that I may give a true and good account before His tribunal. In other words, I do not care what the Jews or others think of me, as being too bigoted, or an enemy of my country and its religion, for I seek to please God alone. Formerly I pleased them but displeased Him; and if I wished now to please them, I should again displease Him, for I should be establishing the law of Moses and destroying the grace of Christ.

If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. S. Jerome and Anselm remark that the desire to please men is a vice whereby a man so yields to others, so seeks their favour and good-will, that he is prepared to break the law of God and offend Him. But whoever seeks to please men, in such a way and with such an end in view as to lead them to God and His service, seeks not so much to please men as God.  S. Augustine says: “A man does not please others to any useful end, save when he is pleasing for God’s sake; i.e., when it is God in him that pleases and is glorified, as when it is His gifts in a man that are regarded, or that are received through man’s instrumentality. For when a man is pleasing in this way, it is not now man that is pleasing but God.” So S. Paul says, in 1 Cor. ix. 19-22, that he is made all things to all men, that he might gain all to Christ, S. Chrysostom, in his Hom. 29 in Epist. 2 ad. Corin., remarks how useless and contemptible are the favour and good report of this world; and S. Jerome devoutly and stoutly wrote to Asella, that he thanked God for being worthy of the world’s hatred.

Gal 1:11  For I give you to understand, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.

That the Gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. It is not a human but a Divine Gospel; it is not man’s but God’s, or, as Ephrem puts it, it is not from man, i.e., it does not spring from man’s opinions or from man’s invention, but from God. Hence he adds:

Gal 1:12  For neither did I receive it of man: nor did I learn it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Viz., when I was carried by Him into the third heaven (2Cor 12:1). This strike me as too narrow an interpretation. Certainly other revelatory experiences must be taken account of, e.g., the Damascus Road experience (Acts 9).

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