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

By W. M. Ramsay

Part 2

Historical Commentary

Chapter 44

The Address at Pisidian Antioch1

It is evident from the Epistle, that Paul must have insisted orally to the Galatians on the preparatory character of the Jewish Law; and must have shown them in his first preaching how the history of the Jews becomes intelligible only as leading onward to a further development and to a fuller stage. That is the whole burden of the address reported in brief by Luke.2 The typical words, “the fulness of time” (τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου, Gal 4:4), are echoed in the words of that address: John was fulfilling his course (ἐπλήρου τὸν δρόμον); the Jews fulfilled the words of the prophets by condemning Jesus (ἐπλήρωσαν κρίναντες); God hath fulfilled His Promise (ἐπαγγελίαν . . . ἐκπεπλήρωκεν).

Further, Paul must have previously laid special stress in addressing the Galatian Churches on the fact that the Promise made to the ancestors of the Jews cannot be performed except through the coming of Christ; that Christ’s coming is the fulfilment of the Promise; that Christ is the true seed of Abraham; that men cannot be placed in a position to receive the ratification of the Promise except by being identified with Christ and becoming a part of Christ; and that in this way only do they become fully the sons and heirs who actually succeed to the inheritance.

This, which is the burden of the Epistle, is also the burden of the address: “ye could not be justified by the Law,” “through (the action of) Jesus every one that hath faith is justified.”3 That idea is urged and reiterated, time after time, in the Epistle; it is specially emphasised in the address; the word in which it is expressed, δικαιόω, is never used in Acts except in the address; it occurs with extraordinary frequency in the Epistle and in the kindred letter to the Romans, but is rarely used elsewhere by Paul.

The address twice declares that Jesus came as the fulfilment of the Promise, Gal 4:23 and Gal 4:28 f. It lays stress on His being of the seed of David (therefore ultimately of Abraham). It is plain what a decisive part in the conversion of Paul, and in the message to the Galatians presupposed in the Epistle (see XXX), was played by his coming to realise for himself, and his declaring to others, that Jesus was not dead. In the address the same truth is insisted on at length as fundamental in the message which God has sent.

The word “inheritance” is not used in the address with the same prominence as in the Epistle; the more explanatory and the more Petrine4 “remission of sins” appears instead of it. “Inheritance” is used only of the Promised Land (κατεκληρουνόμησεν).

The Epistle points out how the hanging upon a tree was necessary as a step in the working out of the duty for which Christ was sent; and the address describes how, when the Jewish leaders “had fulfilled all things that were written of Him, they took Him down from the tree”. Paul never uses this expression “the tree,” ξύλον, in this sense in any other Epistle. Peter uses it twice in Act 5:30 and Act 10:39, as well as in his first Epistle 1Pe 2:24.

We notice, in this connexion, that Peter also uses the word “fulfil” (Act 3:18) in a way remarkably similar to that which Paul emphasised to the Galatians, and that his addresses there and in Act 5:30 ff. are remarkably similar to Paul’s Galatian address. Is not the similarity in their view the reason why Paul specially turned to Peter, and why he went to Jerusalem at first with the single intention of interviewing Peter (ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν, Gal 1:18)? Finally the resemblance between their addresses at the beginning of their career finds its confirmation at the end, when Peter’s Epistle is so instinct with Pauline feeling that Lightfoot believes (as every one, surely, must believe) he had read at least Rom. and Eph. Hence he inherited the care of Paul’s churches and the services of Paul’s coadjutors (1Pe 1:1; 1Pe 5:12-13).

The coincidences between the Epistle and the address at Pisidian Antioch are so striking as to make each the best commentary on the other. It may be said in explanation that the topics common to them are those which are fundamental in Paul’s Gospel and must appear in every address. But there is no such close resemblance between the Epistle and any other of Paul’s addresses reported in Acts, and the Antiochian address stands in closer relation to this than to any other of Paul’s Epistles.


[1] See XLIII. This section was suggested by Mr. A. Souter.

[2] Act 13:16-41.

[3] διὰ τούτου, i.e., Christ. This phrase is characteristically Pauline.

[4] Act 2:38; Act 5:31; Act 10:43 (Petrine): Paul in Act 26:18; Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.

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