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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 15
Verse 15. We who are Jews by nature. It has long been a question whether this and the following verses are to be regarded as a part of the address of Paul to Peter, or the words of Paul as a part of the epistle to the Galatians. A great variety of opinion has prevailed in regard to this. Grotius says, "Here the narrative of Paul being closed, he pursues his argument to the Galatians." In this opinion Bloomfield and many others concur. Rosenmuller, and many others, suppose that the address to Peter is continued to Ga 2:21. Such seems to be the most obvious interpretation, as there is no break or change in the style, nor any vestige of a transfer of the argument to the Galatians. But on the other hand it may be urged,
(1.) that Paul in his writings often changes his mode of address without indicating it.—Bloomfield.
(2.) That it is rather improbable that he should have gone into so long a discourse with Peter on the subject of justification; His purpose was answered by the reproof of Peter for his dissimulation; and there is something incongruous, it is said, in his instructing Peter at such length, on the subject of man's justification. Still it appears to me probable that this is to be regarded as a part of the discourse of Paul to Peter, to the close of Ga 2:21. The following reasons seem to me to require this interpretation:
(1.) It is the most natural and obvious—usually a safe rule of interpretation. The discourse proceeds as if it were an address to Peter.
(2.) There is a change at the beginning of the next chapter where Paul expressly addresses himself to the Galatians.
(3.) As to the impropriety of Paul's addressing Peter at length on the subject of justification, we are to bear in mind that he did not address him alone. The reproof was addressed to Peter particularly, but it was "before them all," Ga 2:14; that is, before the assembled church, or before the persons who had been led astray by the conduct of Peter, and who were in danger of error on the subject of justification. Nothing, therefore, was more proper than for Paul to continue his discourse for their benefit, and to state to them fully the doctrine of justification. And nothing was more pertinent or proper for him now than to report this to the Galatians as a part of his argument to them, showing that he had always, since his conversion, held and defended the same doctrine on the subject of the way in which men are to be justified in the sight of God. It is therefore, I apprehend, to be regarded as an address to Peter and the other Jews who were present. "We who were born Jews."
By nature. By birth; or, we were born Jews. We were not born in the condition of the Gentiles.
And not sinners of the Gentiles. This cannot mean that Paul did not regard the Jews as sinners, for his views on that subject he has fully expressed in Ro 2, Ro 3. But it must mean that the Jews were not born under the disadvantages of the Gentiles in regard to the true knowledge of the way of salvation, They were not left wholly in ignorance about the way of justification, as the Gentiles were. They knew, or they might know, that men could not be saved by their own works. It was also true that they were under more restraint than the Gentiles were; and though they were sinners, yet they were not abandoned to so gross and open sensuality as was the heathen world. They were not idolaters, and wholly ignorant of the law of God.
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