Father Callan’s Commentary on Galatians 1:6-12

To help provide context this post contains four brief summaries. The first is on the salutation (Gal 1:1-5) not part of today’s reading. The second follows immediately upon it and is on Galatians 1:6-10. Following this the notes on verses6-10 will be given. The third summary gives an overview of Galatians 1:11-2:21 and will appear after the comments on verse 10. This broad summary will be followed by a fourth summary focusing on Galatians 1:11-24. The comments on verses 11-12 will then follow.

The Epistle to the Galatians

A Summary of Galatians 1:1-5~With his accustomed greeting St. Paul opens this letter to the Galatians, but there is noticeable an absence of the usual warmth and praise which characterize the beginnings of most of his Epistles: here it is simply, “Paul, an Apostle, . . . and the brethren … to the churches of Galatia.” At once there is manifested the tension which soon finds its full outlet in the body of the letter; for he begins by proclaiming his Apostolic authority and its divine origin, which the Judaizers had denied. Setting aside all useless and merely pleasing words he plunges immediately into his subject, asserting that he has been sent by no other authority and sanction than that of Jesus Christ and God the Father. If he wishes his readers “grace and peace,” it is because he cannot well dispense with such a formality, and also because he desires to remind the Galatians of the source of this grace and peace, which is only God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, the blessings of whose redemption they have not appreciated as they ought.


A Summary of Galatians 1:6-10~Dispensing with all oratory and circumlocutions St. Paul goes straight to his point. There is only one Gospel of Christ, that, namely, which he himself delivered to the Galatians. To add to or subtract from it, after the manner of the Judaizers, is to destroy it. He pronounces a curse against the enemies of the Gospel, declaring that, as Christ’s servant, he is concerned about pleasing Him only.

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

So soon does not mean that the Galatians fell away shortly after their conversion; it has reference rather to the ease and suddenness with which they yielded to false doctrines when they heard them. To have fallen away soon after conversion would have been more or less excusable; but to have lived and practiced their faith for some time, and then, upon the first temptation, to be willing to give it up was indeed reprehensible.

Removed (μετατιθεσθε) . Better, “On the verge of changing.” The use of the present shows that the Apostle did not consider their change complete.

From him, etc., i.e., from the heavenly Father, to whom St. Paul uniformly attributes the call to the faith (Rom 8:29-30; 1 Cor 1:9; 1 Thess 2:12; etc.).

Into the grace, etc. Better, “In the grace,” etc. (εν χαριτι χριστου), i.e., through the grace of Christ. The call is from the Father, but through the Son (St. Chrys.).

Another gospel. Literally, “A different gospel,” i.e., a pretended gospel, or no gospel at all, because it contained a serious doctrinal error.

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, etc. There is only one true Gospel of Christ, although there were certain preachers of a false gospel among the Galatians.

Would pervert. The purpose of the Judaizers was to change completely the gospel of Christ, i.e., the Gospel preached and delivered by Christ (Zahn), or the Gospel that gives the true conception of Christ (Lagrange).

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.

We, i.e., Paul and his companions.

Besides. Better, “Contrary to” (παρ).

That which, etc., refers to the Gospel Paul had preached on his first and second visits to the faithful of Galatia.

Anathema, i.e., accursed, excluded from the Kingdom of God. See on Rom 9:3. This curse of Paul was revocable upon repentance. Here is what Fr. Callan wrote on Rom 9:3~

Anathema from Christ, i.e., to be separated from Christ so as to be deprived of Christianity and of the Messianic benefits. “Anathema” literally means a thing set up to be destroyed; it comes from two Greek words signifying to place apart. To the Jews it meant a person or thing cursed, and therefore fit for destruction (Lev 27:28-29; Deut 7:26; Joshua 6:17). With St. Paul it meant cursed of God (Gal 1:8-9; 1 Cor 12:3; 1 Cor 16:22). According to Cornely, therefore, St. Paul meant to say that, for the sake of his brethren, the Jews, he was willing to be externally separated from Christ forever, and to be condemned to eternal torments, without ceasing, however, to be united to Christ through grace. But as there seems to be nothing in the context to suggest this distinction, and as there is not question of future time, but of the present (ειναι), we think it better to accept for this passage the explanation of Lagrange given above.

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.

As we said before, etc. St. Paul reminds his readers of the warning he and his companions had given them on a previous occasion, perhaps on his second visit, against possible perils and false teachings which, if not at that time threatening, might disturb them later.

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.

Feeling that his words so far have been harsh St. Paul observes that there is question now of pleasing, not man, but God. The word now (αρτι) does not imply that formerly, before his conversion, he tried to please men; for even when persecuting the Christians he was moved by zeal for God, and not by a desire to please men, albeit his conduct then was agreeable to the Jews. The Judaizers had said that he sought to persuade, only to win favor. The verb πειθω has the sense of the Latin suadeo, and so means to seek the favor of. The Apostle now asks his readers to judge for themselves whose favor he is seeking, whether the favor of God, or that of men. If he were trying to please men, he would be preaching Judaism, and thus would not be what in truth he is, the servant of Christ.


A Summary of Galatians 1:11-2:21~From the foregoing verses it is clear that two questions confront the Galatians: (a) The Gospel of Christ preached by Paul; (b) the so-called gospel preached by the Judaizers. The truth and reliability of the doctrines delivered turn on the authority and commission of the preacher. Claiming to have the Gospel of the Apostles at Jerusalem, which had been given to the twelve by Christ Himself, the Judaizers taught that St. Paul was only a delegate of the real Apostles, and that, having been unfaithful to his charge, he had preached a different gospel from that practiced at Jerusalem.

Against these contentions St. Paul responds, (a) that his Gospel has been revealed to him directly by Christ Himself, by whom also he has been appointed the Apostle of the Gentiles without the intervention of any man (Gal 1:11-24); (b) that his Gospel is not opposed to that of the older Apostles, having received their express approval (Gal 2:1-10); (c) far from having adulterated the Gospel teaching, he has maintained its purity and integrity, even against some lesser concessions of St. Peter himself (Gal 2:11-21).


A Summary of Galatians 1:11-24~To begin with, St. Paul maintains against his enemies, first in a negative (Gal 1:11), then in a positive way (Gal 1:12) that his Gospel is from God. In proof of this he recalls, in the first place his conduct before his conversion, when, out of zeal for Judaism, he had bitterly persecuted the Church of Christ (Gal 1:13-14). But when it pleased God to give him his call to be the Apostle of the Gentiles, his whole attitude was immediately changed and he straightway retired from the company of men to prepare for his mission (Gal 1:15-17). After three years, out of respect for the head of the Church, he paid a visit to Jerusalem, but his relations with Peter and the other Apostles in no wise altered the character of his mission which he had received directly from Jesus Christ (Gal 1:18-21). Finally, the praise given his labors in Syria and Cilicia by the churches of Judea, to which he was unknown except by reputation, was the surest proof that his mission among the Gentiles was regarded as the work of God, and that he who but lately had been the fiercest foe of the faithful of Judea had now, by the grace of God, become a duly recognized and zealous Apostle of Christ (Gal 1:22-24).

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

I give you to understand (γνωριζω) , introduces a matter of serious moment (cf. 1 Cor 12:3; 1 Cor 15:1; 2 Cor 8:1).

The gospel, i.e., the doctrine preached by Paul to the Galatians.

Not according to man, i.e., not after a human standard, not human in its nature or condition.

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

St. Paul is here not considering so much the character, whether natural or supernatural, of the revelation he had received; he is insisting mainly on the fact that it came to him by revelation on the part of God (Acts 9:5-9; Acts 26:13-18). A divine doctrine could indeed be handed on by men, as is the case with subsequent preachers of the Gospel; but St. Paul, like the other Apostles, like Moses and the Prophets before them, enjoyed a far higher dignity than that of a simple repeater and transmitter of revelation: he had received his doctrine directly from Jesus Christ.

The doctrine thus received by Paul, according to Cornely, embraced the whole preaching of Christianity, the mysteries of the life, Passion and Resurrection of Christ. Doubtless, however, the general principles of Christ’s teachings were known to him before from the Apostolic preaching; it was these doctrines that he was opposing when converted, the spiritual meaning of which was unfolded to him after his conversion by the Saviour Himself (Lagrange).

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