Galatians ii.Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Then fourteen years after. That is, after my former going to Jerusalem, which was seventeen years after my conversion, an. 51[the year A.D. 51]. See Tillemont. (Witham) The cause of St. Paul’s second journey to Jerusalem was as follows. Some brethren coming from Judea to Antioch, there maintained the necessity of circumcision and the other Mosaic rites, asserting that without them salvation could not be obtained. St. Paul, upon his return to Antioch, strongly defended, in conjunction with Barnabas, the liberty of the gospel. As the contest grew warm, it was resolved to depute Paul and Barnabas to consult the other apostles and ancients of Jerusalem. By the approbation of the living and speaking tribunal, which all are commanded to hear, the Scriptures are not made true, altered or amended; they merely are declared to be the infallible word of God, a point only to be learned by authority; hence that memorable saying of St. Augustine: “I would not believe the gospel unless the authority of the Church moved me.” (Conta ep. fund. chap. v.)

Ver. 2. According to revelation, or an inspiration from the Spirit of God, and conferred with them, as an equal, says St. Jerome. — But apart to them, who seemed to be something considerable. That is, with the other apostles, lest I should run in vain, not for fear of false doctrine, says St. Chrysostom, but that others might be convinced that I preached not any thing disapproved by the apostles, which would prejudice the progress of the gospel. (Witham) — The particle but, which begins this verse, is quite useless: the Latin Vulgate and the Greek copies have it indeed, but in many copies it is not found; it is omitted also by St. Jerome and Theodoret; and this verse is united in sense with the preceding. Titus was not compelled to be circumcised on account of the false brethren, &c.

Ver. 3. Neither Titus….circumcised, who had been a Gentile. A convincing proof, says St. Chrysostom, that even according to the other apostles, the Gentiles converted, were not subject to the Jewish laws. (Witham)

Ver. 5. To whom we yielded not. St. Jerome takes notice that in some Latin copies read, to whom we yielded; but that was not the true reading by the Greek and Syriac. (Witham)

Ver. 7. As to Peter was that of the circumcision. Calvin pretends to prove by this, that St. Peter and his successors are not head of the whole Church, because St. Peter was only the apostle of the Jews. But St. Paul speaks not here of the power and jurisdiction, but of the manner that St. Peter and he were to be employed. It was judged proper that St. Peter should preach chiefly to the Jews, who had been the elect people of God, and that St. Paul should be sent to the Gentiles; yet both of them preached both to Jews and Gentiles: and St. Peter, by receiving Cornelius, first opened the gate of salvation to the Gentiles, as he says of himself, (Acts xv. 7.) that God made choice of him, that the Gentiles by his mouth should hear the gospel, and believe. That St. Peter was head of the Church, see the notes on Matthew xvi. and John xxi. (Witham)

Ver. 9. James, and Cephas, and John. No proof of any greater authority can be drawn from the placing or numbering of James first, which perhaps St. Paul might do, because of the great respect he knew the Jewish converts had for St. James, bishop of Jerusalem, where the ceremonies of the law of Moses were still observed. Several Greek copies have Peter, James, and John. So we also read in St. Jerome’s Commentary, p. 240, and St. Chrysostom in his Exposition, p. 729, has Cephas, John, and James. (Witham)

Ver. 11. But when Cephas, &c.[1] In most Greek copies, we read Petrus, both here and ver. 13. Nor are there any sufficient, nor even probable grounds to judge, that Cephas here mentioned was different from Peter, the prince of the apostles, as one or two later authors would make us believe. Among those who fancied Cephas different from Peter, not one can be named in the first ages[centuries], except Clemens of Alexandria, whose works were rejected as apocryphal by Pope Gelasius. The next author is Dorotheus of Tyre, in his Catalogue of the seventy-two disciples, in the fourth or fifth age[century], and after him the like, or same catalogue, in the seventh age[century], in the Chronicle, called of Alexandria, neither of which are of any authority with the learned, so many evident faults and falsehoods being found in both. St. Jerome indeed on this place says, there were some (though he does not think fit to name them) who were of that opinion; but at the same time St. Jerome ridicules and rejects it as groundless. Now as to authors that make Cephas the same with St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, we have what may be called the unexceptionable and unanimous consent of the ancient fathers and doctors of the Catholic Church, as of Tertullian, who calls this management of St. Peter, a fault of conversation, not of preaching or doctrine. Of St. Cyprian, of Origen, of the great doctors, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Great, of St. Cyril of Alexandria, of Theodoret, Pope Gelasius, Pelagius the second, St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas. In later ages, of Bellarmine, Baronius, Binius, Spondan, of Salmeron, Estius, Gagneius, Tirinus, Menochius, Alex Natalis, and a great many more: so that Cornelius a Lapide on this place says, that the Church neither knows, nor celebrates any other Cephas but St. Peter. Tertullian and most interpreters take notice, that St. Peter’s fault was only a lesser or venial sin in his conduct and conversation. Did not St. Paul on several occasions do the like, as what is here laid to St. Peter’s charge? that is, practise the Jewish ceremonies: did not he circumcise Timothy after this, an. 52[A.D. 52]? did he not shave his head in Cenchrea, an. 54? did he not by the advice of St. James (an. 58.) purify himself with the Jews in the temple, not to offend them? St. Jerome, and also St. Chrysostom,[2] give another exposition of this passage. They looked upon all this to have been done by a contrivance and a collusion betwixt these two apostles, who had agreed beforehand that St. Peter should let himself be reprehended by St. Paul, (for this they take to be signified by the Greek text) and not that St. Peter was reprehensible;[3] so that the Jews seeing St. Peter publicly blamed, and not justifying himself, might for the future eat with the Gentiles. But St. Augustine vigorously opposed this exposition of St. Jerome, as less consistent with a Christian and apostolical sincerity, and with the text in this chapter, where it is called a dissimulation, and that Cephas or Peter walked not uprightly to the truth of the gospel. After a long dispute betwixt these two doctors, St. Jerome seems to have retracted his opinion, and the opinion of St. Augustine is commonly followed, that St. Peter was guilty of a venial fault of imprudence. In the mean time, no Catholic denies but that the head of the Church may be guilty even of great sins. What we have to admire, is the humility of St. Peter on this occasion, as St. Cyprian observes,[4] who took the reprehension so mildly, without alleging the primacy, which our Lord had given him. Baronius held that St. Peter did not sin at all, which may be true, if we look upon his intention only, which was to give no offence to the Jewish converts; but if we examine the fact, he can scarce be excused from a venial indiscretion. (Witham) — I withstood, &c. The fault that is here noted in the conduct of St. Peter, was only a certain imprudence, in withdrawing himself from the table of the Gentiles, for fear of giving offence to the Jewish converts: but this in such circumstances, when his so doing might be of ill consequence to the Gentiles, who might be induced thereby to think themselves obliged to conform to the Jewish way of living, to the prejudice of their Christian liberty. Neither was St. Paul’s reprehending him any argument against his supremacy; for is such cases an inferior may, and sometimes ought, with respect, to admonish his superior. (Challoner)

Ver. 16. &c. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law. St. Paul, to the end of the chapter, seems to continue his discourse to St. Peter, but chiefly to the Jewish Galatians, to shew that both the Gentiles, whom the Jews called and looked upon as sinners, and also the Jews, when converted, could only hope to be justified and saved by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law. — But if while we seek to be justified in Christ, by faith in him, and by his grace, we ourselves also are found sinners, as the false doctors teach you, and not to be justified but by the ceremonies and works of the law of Moses, this blasphemous consequence must follow, that Christ is the minister and author of sin, by making us believe that by faith in him, and complying with his doctrine, we may be justified and saved. For thus we must be considered transgressors, unless we renew and build again what Christ and we have destroyed. — For by the law I am dead to the law. That is, says St. Jerome, by the evangelical law of Christ I am dead to the ancient law and its ceremonies. Others expound it, that by the law and its types and figures, and by the predictions contained in the law, I know the Mosaical law hath now ceased, in which sense he might say, by the law I am dead to the law. — If justice. That is, if justification and salvation be to be had, or could have been had by the works of the law; therefore Christ died in vain, and it was not necessary that he should become our Redeemer. (Witham)

Ver. 19. He here expresses the change which had been wrought in him. The law to which he had been attached, had passed away from him. Now he was so united to Christ and his cross, that he says: Not I, but Christ liveth in me. The strong expressions made use of by St. Paul with regard to the Jewish law in this chapter, may appear strange, and very capable of a wrong interpretation. But we must ever bear in mind that St. Paul speaks exclusively of the ceremonial part of the law, and not of the moral, contained in the decalogue: of this latter he says in his epistle to the Romans, (ii. 13.) the doers of the law shall be justified. But to effect this, was and is necessary the grace which Jesus Christ has merited and obtained for all, grace which God has shed on all, more or less, from the commencement of the world.


[1] Ver. 11. That Peter and Cephas were the same, see Tertullian, lib. de pręscrip. chap. 23, p. 210. Ed. Rig.; Origen in Joan. Ed. Gręcč et Latinč, p. 381.; St. Cyprian, Epist. 71. ad Quintum, p. 120.; St. Jerome on this Ep. to the Galatians, as also St. Chrysostom; St. Augustine. See his epistles on this passage to St. Jerome.; St. Gregory, lib. 2. in Ezech. tom. 1, p. 1368.; Gelasius apud Labb. T. 4. Conc. p. 1217.; Pelagius, the 2d apud Labb. t. 5. p. 622.; St. Cyril of Alexandria, hom. ix. cont. Julianum, t. 6, p. 325.; Theodoret in 2. ad Gal. iv. 3. p. 268.; St. Anselm in 2 ad Gal. p. 236.; St. Thomas Aquinas, lib. 2. q. 103. a. 4. ad 2dum. — St. Jerome’s words: Sunt qui Cepham non putent Apostolum Petrum, sed alium de 70 Discipulis….quibus primum respondendum, alterius nescio cujus Cephę nescire nos nomen, nisi ejus, qui et in Evangelio, et in aliis Pauli Epistolis, et in hac quoque ipsa, modo Cephas, modo Petrus scribitur….deinde totum argumentum Epistolę….huic intelligentię repugnare, &c.

[2] Ver. 11. St. Chrysostom by a contrivance, eikonomon. p. 730, &c.

[3] Ver. 11. Kategnosmenos may signfiy reprehensus, as well as reprehensibilis; and he says it is to be referred to others, and not to St. Paul: all upo ton allon.

[4] Ver. 11. St. Cyprian, Ep. ad Quintum, p. 120. Petrus….non arroganter assumpsit, ut diceret se primatum tenere, &c.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

The apostle’s preaching was approved of by the other apostles. The Gentiles were not to be constrained to the observation of the law.

1 Then *after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me.

2 And I went up according to revelation; and communicated to them the gospel, which I preach among the Gentiles, but apart to them who seemed to be something: lest, perhaps, I should run, or had run in vain.

3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Gentile, was compelled to be circumcised:

4 But because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privately to spy our liberty, which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

5 To whom we yielded not by subjection, no not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you:

6 But of them who seemed to be something, (what they were some time, it is nothing to me, *God accepteth not the person of man) for to me, they that seemed to be something, added nothing.

7 But on the contrary, when they had seen that to me was committed the gospel of the uncircumcision, as to Peter was that of the circumcision:

8 (For he who wrought in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, wrought in me also among the Gentiles:)

9 And when they had known the grace that was given to me, James, and Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision:

10 Only that we should be mindful of the poor; which same thing also I was careful to do.

11 But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was blameable.

12 For before that some came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.

13 And to his dissimulation the rest of the Jews consented, so that Barnabas also was led by them into that dissimulation.

14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly unto the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all: If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not of the Jews, how dost thou compel the Gentiles to live as Jews?

15 We, by nature, are Jews, and not of the Gentiles, sinners.

16 But knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; *because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

17 But if while we seek to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ then the minister of sin? God forbid.

18 For if I build up again the things which I have destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

19 For I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I may live to God: with Christ I am nailed to the cross.

20 And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself for me.

21 I cast not away the grace of God. For if justice be by the law, then Christ died in vain.



1: about the year A.D. 51.

6: Deuteronomy x. 17.; Job xxxiv. 19.; Wisdom vi. 8.; Ecclesiasticus xxxv. 15.; Acts x. 34.; Romans ii. 11.; Ephesians vi. 9.; Colossians iii. 25.; 1 Peter i. 17.

16: Romans iii. 20.