A Historical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians

By W. M. Ramsay

Part 2

Historical Commentary

Chapter 53

The Whole Law (Gal 5:2-4)

It is remarkable with what emphasis Paul urges that, “if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. If you accept that part of the Law, you are bound to obey the entire Law. You cannot accept part, and neglect part. You cannot retain the Gospel of Faith, if you trust to part of the Law.” Compare this with Gal 3:10, where he insists that a curse is pronounced against those who do not continue in all things that are written in the Law.

This seems to point to some idea among the Galatians that they might accept part of the Law, as being a useful help to them in their difficult path (see p. 444 f). Paul would hardly urge that they who adopt part of the Law are bound to adopt the whole Law, except in answer to a plea of the Galatians that they wished to adopt only part. They who are already bent on complete acceptance of the Law will not be deterred by an argument that, if they begin, they must go through to the end.

Probably, the Galatian idea was that it would be good for them to cut themselves off from the heathen society around them by a marked and irrevocable act, constituting an outward sign and symbol of their new profession; and they found such a sign in the Jewish rite. They may have explained this, and added that they would not feel bound to accept the whole Judaic Law. Unless there were some such idea in their mind, it is hard to see any force in Paul’s emphatic assertion that, if they begin, they must go on to the end.

Very often we conceive Paul’s intention clearly only when we picture to ourselves what he is denying or replying to.

This idea in the mind of the Galatians must either have been explained to Paul in a letter, or reported to him by a messenger ( LIX).

 

 

Book Navigation Title Page Preface Table of Contents Religion in Asia Minor      ► Chapter 1      ► Chapter 2      ► Chapter 3      ► Chapter 4      ► Chapter 5      ► Chapter 6      ► Chapter 7      ► Chapter 8      ► Chapter 9      ► Chapter 10      ► Chapter 11      ► Chapter 12      ► Chapter 13      ► Chapter 14      ► Chapter 15      ► Chapter 16      ► Chapter 17      ► Chapter 18      ► Chapter 19      ► Chapter 20      ► Chapter 21      ► Chapter 22      ► Chapter 23 Historical Commentary      ► Section 1      ► Section 2      ► Section 3      ► Section 4      ► Section 5      ► Section 6      ► Section 7      ► Section 8      ► Section 9      ► Section 10      ► Section 11      ► Section 12      ► Section 13      ► Section 14      ► Section 15      ► Section 16      ► Section 17      ► Section 18      ► Section 19      ► Section 20      ► Section 21      ► Section 22      ► Section 23      ► Section 24      ► Section 25      ► Section 26      ► Section 27      ► Section 28      ► Section 29      ► Section 30      ► Section 31      ► Section 32      ► Section 33      ► Section 34      ► Section 35      ► Section 36      ► Section 37      ► Section 38      ► Section 39      ► Section 40      ► Section 41      ► Section 42      ► Section 43      ► Section 44      ► Section 45      ► Section 46      ► Section 47      ► Section 48      ► Section 49      ► Section 50      ► Section 51      ► Section 52      ► Section 53      ► Section 54      ► Section 55      ► Section 56      ► Section 57      ► Section 58      ► Section 59      ► Section 60      ► Section 61      ► Section 62      ► Section 63      ► Section 64