Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Galatians 1:6-12

Gal 1:6. I wonder that thus so quickly you are removing from him who called you into the grace of Christ, into another Gospel.

The Apostle, without further preface, plunges at once into his subject, expressing his horror and surprise at the change which had come, in so short a time, over the faith of the Galatians. The word thus is not in the Greek, and Erasmus says the phrase is absurd, but he acknowledges that it is so read by Tertullian and Saint Augustine, as it is also by Ambrose. I wonder: I cannot conceive how it has happened. That thus, after you have received God’s grace, done such good works, suffered so much for Christ: and so quickly, you are removing. Not removed. The use of the present tense is very noticeable, indicating that the apostasy he feared had not actually taken place, or at least was not general, though there was imminent danger of it. From the faith and service of Almighty God, who has called you into the grace of Christ, the communion of the Catholic Church, justification, sanctification, salvation, you are turning to another Gospel. Thus their perversion was nothing less than apostasy from God and Christ.

Gal 1:7. Which is not another; unless there are some, who trouble you, and wish to change the Gospel of Christ.

Which is not a Gospel at all, for there is but one. Those who trouble you are trying to subvert, overthrow, and destroy the Gospel of Christ. This is in reality their design and enterprise, though they disguise and conceal it by calling what they teach, the faith of Christ. The false teachers of heresy then, as false teachers of heresy always do, called the mixture of Judaism and Christianity which they had invented, and were endeavouring to get the Galatians to accept, by the name of the Christian religion. This, says Saint Chrysostom, was their craft and deceit. The nature and characteristic of the Christian faith is salvation by faith in Christ. To teach the necessity of circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic institutions, is wholly to change its nature, and subvert and overthrow the Gospel of Christ. It was not another Gospel, but it was a new religion.

Gal 1:8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a Gospel to you beyond that which we have preached to you; let him be anathema.
Gal 1:9. As we have already said, I now also say again; if any shall have preached a Gospel to you beside that you received; let him be anathema.

The heretics falsely cited the names of St. Peter, St. John, and St. James, as supporting their error. St. Paul does not name these Apostles, but by saying an angel from heaven, as St. Chrysostom observes, he includes all authority and knowledge of celestial things, while by including himself in the anathema, in case he changed his opinions, he also includes every earthly friendship, influence, and relation. The Gospel he taught them was true, and all the Angels, Apostles, and political leaders in God’s universe, could not shake its truth. Lest he should be thought to have made this statement, which certainly is a startling one, hastily and without consideration, he deliberately repeats it in the same words. The Greek  παρ ο is rendered in the Vulgate by præter and præterquam, but its meaning is different from, or inconsistent with. Further and completer instruction on the lines already laid down is not a subject of anathema, and as St. Augustine observes, the Apostle himself expressed a wish to visit the Thessalonians to supply what was wanting to their faith (1 Thess 2:17, 1 Thess 3:1-2). Heretics have distorted what Saint Paul says to the Galatians, as if it conveyed an anathema agamst the decrees of Popes and Councils, as being an addition to the faith taught by the Apostles. But the decrees of Popes and Councils, while they explain the faith, do not cross its borders; and while they teach explicitly what Scripture teaches implicitly, they contain nothing opposed to it. If the Catholic Faith in St. Paul’s days was so certain that he does not hesitate to anathematize the whole College of the Apostles, and the Angels of heaven, if they taught anything contrary to it; it is even more certain now, confirmed by the tradition of so many centuries, the innumerable miracles wrought by God in support of it, and the general consent and agreement of mankind.

Gal 1:10. For am I now trying to persuade men, or God? Or am I seeking to please men? If I still pleased men I should not be Christ’s servant.

St. Paul is sensible that the anathema he has just pronounced will give great offence in Galatia. But he does not shrink. What I have said, is said because it is God’s truth: I am quite indifferent what men may think of it. If my object in life was to please men, I should be at this moment the leader of the Jews; perhaps their king. A servant of Christ, I should never have become. St. Chrysostom says: I am not bidding for a leader’s place, nor seeking disciples, nor ambitious of your praise. I seek to please God, not men; and if I sought to please men, I should still be a persecutor of the Church of God. There is undoubtedly here a reflection on his opponents, whose judaizing tendency was adopted in the hope of conciliating the favour and support of Jews, still politically powerful in Western Asia. The Jewish religion was at that time tolerated and fostered by the Roman laws, whereas there were many indications and threatenings of the coming persecution of the Christian Church, which broke out a few years later; and the Judaizers sought to obtain in advance the protection and support of Jews. They endeavoured to persuade the Jews to countenance them; to please them by advocating the ceremonies of their law. Saint Paul sought to please God, by courageous adherence to his truth.

It is impossible to serve God and man. The bride cannot have two husbands, nor the servant two laws. God made the soul of man for himself, and admits no rival. Unum uni, una uni, was the exclamation of the ecstatic brother Aegidius, the companion of St. Francis. One heart for God, one bride for Christ. At the same time, while to please man for man’s sake is sin, to please man for God’s sake is charity. Let every one please his neighbour (Rom 15:2). I please all, in all thing (1 Cor 10:33). Man, says St. Augustine, does not please to any good purpose, unless it is for God’s sake, and that he may be pleased and glorified, in hope that his grace may be accorded by human ministry and agency. For in this case it is not man, but God, that pleases.

Gal 1:11. For I make it known to you brethren, of the Gospel which was preached by me, that it is not according to man.
Gal 1:12. For neither did I receive it from man, nor learned it: but through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The remainder of this chapter is addressed to the slander of his opponents, that he was not really an Apostle of Christ. I tell you, and wish all to know, that my Gospel is neither human in its origin, nor taught to me by men, but by direct revelation from Jesus Christ our Lord, in person. This revelation was begun at Saint Paul’s conversion, and carried out in further detail in visions during his prolonged retirement in Arabia or at Tarsus.

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