Vincent Word Studies - Galatians 3:19 - 3:19

Online Resource Library

Commentary Index | Return to

Vincent Word Studies - Galatians 3:19 - 3:19

(Show All Books | Show All Chapters)

This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

Wherefore then serveth the law? (τί οὖν ὁ νόμος)

Lit. what then is the law, or, why then the law? What is its meaning and object? A natural question of an objector, since, according to Paul's reasoning, salvation is of promise and not of law.

It was added (προσετέθη)

Comp. παρεισῆλθεν came in beside, Rom 5:20. Not as an addition to the promise, which is contrary to Gal 3:18, but as a temporary, intermediate institution, in which only a subordinate purpose of God was expressed.

Because of transgressions (τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν)

In order to set upon already existing sins the stamp of positive transgression of law. Comp. Rom 4:5; Rom 5:13. Note the article, the transgressions, summing them up in one mass. Not, in order to give the knowledge of sins. This, it is true, would follow the revelation of sins as transgressions of law (Rom 3:20; Rom 7:13); but, 1. the phrase because of transgressions does not express that thought with sufficient definiteness. If that had been his meaning, Paul would probably have written τῆς ἀπιγνώσεως τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν on account of the knowledge of transgressions. 2. He meant to describe the office of the law as more than giving the knowledge of sins. Its office was, in revealing sin as positive transgression, to emphasize the objective, actual, contrary fact of righteousness according to the divine ideal, and to throw sin into contrast with that grand ideal.

The seed

Christ, whose advent was to introduce the fulfillment of the promise (Gal 3:16).

Ordained (διαταγεὶς)

The verb means to arrange, appoint, prescribe. Of appointing the twelve, Mat 11:1; of enjoining certain acts, Luk 8:55; Luk 17:10; 1Co 7:17; of the decree of Claudius, Act 18:2. Here, describing the form or mode in which the law was added; the arrangement made for giving it.

By angels (δἰ ἀγγέλων)

Better, through angels as agents and intermediaries. Comp. εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων with reference to arrangements of angels; or as it was ordained by angels, Act 7:53. The tradition of the giving of the law through angels appears first in Deu 33:2 (but comp. lxx and the Hebrew). See Heb 2:2; Act 7:53. In the later rabbinical schools great importance was attached to this tradition, and it was not without influence in shaping the doctrine of angelic mediation which formed one of the elements of the Colossian heresy. Josephus (Ant. 15:5, 3) relates that Herod excited the Jews to battle by a speech, in which he said that they had learned the holiest of laws from God through angels. It is a general O.T. idea that in great theophanies God appears surrounded with a heavenly host. See Hab 3:8; Isa 66:15; Zec 14:5; Joe 3:11. The idea of an angelic administration is also familiar. See Exo 23:20; Exo 32:34; Exo 33:14; Isa 63:9; Jos 5:14. The agency of angels indicates the limitations of the older dispensation; its character as a dispensation of the flesh.

In the hand of a mediator (ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου)

Ἑν χειρὶ by the agency of. A Hebraism. In this sense, not elsewhere in N.T. See lxx, Gen 38:20 Lev 16:21. In the hand of Moses, Lev 26:46; Num 4:37, Num 4:41, Num 4:45, Num 4:49. Comp. σὺν χειρὶ ἀγγέλου with the hand of the angel, Act 7:35. For μεσίτης mediator, see on 1Ti 2:5, and comp. Heb 8:6; Heb 9:15; Heb 12:24. It is a later Greek word signifying also umpire, arbitrator, and appears in lxx only in Job 9:33. The mediator here is Moses, who is often so designated by rabbinical writers. The object is not (as Meyer) to enable the reader to realize the glory of the law in the dignity and formal solemnity of its ordination, but to indicate the inferior, subordinate position held by the law in comparison with the promise, not the gospel. A glorification of the law cannot be intended, since if that were contemplated in the mention of angels and the mediator, the statement would tend to the disparagement of the promise which was given without a mediator. Paul, in the section Gal 3:6-9, Gal 3:7, aims to show that the law does not, as the Judaisers assume, stand in a relation to the divine plan of salvation as direct and positive as does the promise, and that it has not, like the promise and its fulfillment, an eternal significance. On the contrary, it has only a transitory value. This estimate of the law does not contradict Paul's assertions in Rom 7:12-25. In representing the law as subordinate and temporary he does not impugn it as a divine institution.