Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Galatians 2:9

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars - Οἱ δοκουντες στυλοι ειναι· Who were known to be very eminent, and acknowledged as chief men among the apostles. See the note on Luke 8:18, for the meaning of the verb δοκειν, and see before on Galatians 2:6; (note).

Among the Jews, persons of great eminence and importance are represented as pillars and foundations of the world. So Abraham is said to be העולם עמוד ammud heolam, "the pillar of the universe; for by him to this day are the earth and heavens supported." Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 29.

"Rabbi Simeon said, Behold, we are the pillars of the world." Idra Rabba, s. 23.

"When Rabbi Jochanan ben Zachai was near death, he wept with a loud voice. His disciples said unto him, O Rabbi, thou high pillar, thou light of the world, thou strong hammer, why dost thou weep?" Aboth. R. Nathan, chap. 24.

So, in Sohar Genes, fol. 5, it is said: "And he saw that Rab. Eleazar went up, and stood there, and with him עמודין שאר shear ammudin, the rest of the pillars (eminent men) who sat there."

Ibid., fol. 13: "These are the seven righteous men who cleave to the holy blessed God with a pure heart, and they are the seven pillars of the world."

Ibid., fol. 21, on the words bearing fruit, Genesis 1:11, it is said: "By this we are to understand the just one, who is the pillar of the world." See Schoettgen, who adds: "These pillars must be distinguished from the foundation. The foundation of the Church is Jesus Christ alone; the pillars are the more eminent teachers, which, without the foundation, are of no value."

The right hands of fellowship - Giving the right hand to another was the mark of confidence, friendship, and fellowship. See Leviticus 6:2; : If a soul - lie unto his neighbor in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, יד בתשומת bithsumeth yad, "in giving the hand."

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars - That is, pillars or supports in the church. The word rendered “pillars” ( στύλοι stuloi) means properly firm support; then persons of influence and authority, as in a church, or that support a church as a pillar or column does an edifice. In regard to James, see the note at Galatians 1:19; compare Acts 15:13. Cephas or Peter was the most aged of the apostles, and regarded as at the head of the apostolical college. John was the beloved disciple, and his influence in the church must of necessity have been great. Paul felt that if he had the countenance of these men, it would be an important proof to the churches of Galatia that he had a right to regard himself as an apostle. Their countenance was expressed in the most full and decisive manner.

Perceived the grace that was given unto me - That is, the favor that had been shown to me by the great Head of the church, in so abundantly blessing my labors among the Gentiles.

They gave unto me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship - The right-hand in token of fellowship or favor. They thus publicly acknowledged us as fellow-laborers, and expressed the utmost confidence in us. To give the right-hand with us is a token of friendly salutation, and it seems that it was a mode of salutation not unknown in the times of the apostles. They were thus recognised as associated with the apostles in the great work of spreading the gospel around the world. Whether this was done in a public manner is not certainly known; but it was probably in the presence of the church, or possibly at the close of the council referred to in Galatians 2:2, and they had been entirely satisfied that God had called him and Barnabas to the work of making known the gospel among the pagan. Instead of being jealous at their success, they had rejoiced in it; and instead of throwing any obstacle in their way, they cordially gave them the right hand. How easy would it be always to prevent jealousies and strifes in the same way! If there was, on the one hand, the same readiness for a full and frank explanation; and if, on the other, the same freedom from envy at remarkable success, how many strifes that have disgraced the church might have been avoided! The true way to avoid strife is just that which is here proposed. Let there be on both sides perfect frankness; let there be a willingness to explain and state things just as they are; and let there be a disposition to rejoice in the talents, and zeal, and success of others, even though it should far outstrip our own, and contention in the church would cease, and every devoted and successful minister of the gospel would receive the right-hand of fellowship from all - however venerable by age or authority - who love the cause of true religion.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Observe the apostle's faithfulness in giving a full account of the doctrine he had preached among the Gentiles, and was still resolved to preach, that of Christianity, free from all mixture of Judaism. This doctrine would be ungrateful to many, yet he was not afraid to own it. His care was, lest the success of his past labours should be lessened, or his future usefulness be hindered. While we simply depend upon God for success to our labours, we should use every proper caution to remove mistakes, and against opposers. There are things which may lawfully be complied with, yet, when they cannot be done without betraying the truth, they ought to be refused. We must not give place to any conduct, whereby the truth of the gospel would be reflected upon. Though Paul conversed with the other apostles, yet he did not receive any addition to his knowledge, or authority, from them. Perceiving the grace given to him, they gave unto him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, whereby they acknowledged that he was designed to the honour and office of an apostle as well as themselves. They agreed that these two should go to the heathen, while they continued to preach to the Jews; judging it agreeable to the mind of Christ, so to divide their work. Here we learn that the gospel is not ours, but God's; and that men are but the keepers of it; for this we are to praise God. The apostle showed his charitable disposition, and how ready he was to own the Jewish converts as brethren, though many would scarcely allow the like favour to the converted Gentiles; but mere difference of opinion was no reason to him why he should not help them. Herein is a pattern of Christian charity, which we should extend to all the disciples of Christ.
Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1108-9

6, 7. Trouble in Galatia—In almost every church there were some members who were Jews by birth. To these converts the Jewish teachers found ready access, and through them gained a foothold in the churches. It was impossible, by scriptural arguments, to overthrow the doctrines taught by Paul; hence they resorted to the most unscrupulous measures to counteract his influence and weaken his authority. They declared that he had not been a disciple of Jesus, and had received no commission from Him; yet he had presumed to teach doctrines directly opposed to those held by Peter, James, and the other apostles. Thus the emissaries of Judaism succeeded in alienating many of the Christian converts from their teacher in the gospel. Having gained this point, they induced them to return to the observance of the ceremonial law as essential to salvation. Faith in Christ, and obedience to the law of ten commandments, were regarded as of minor importance. Division, heresy, and sensualism were rapidly gaining ground among the believers in Galatia. 6BC 1108.1

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