Jerome, Commentary on Galatians, [J.P. Migne, Editor]. Patrologiae Tomus XXVI. Paris: D’Ambroise, Pres La Barriere D’Enfer, ou Petit-Montrouge, 1845. pp. 307-438.
In Galatians 4:11, Paul reflects on the fact that he endures persecution for the sake of the cross. It could stop if he preached circumcision. Jerome recalls how Paul, as described in Acts, regularly endured persecution specifically because he didn’t require circumcision for Gentiles (Jerome, Galatians, 404). The persecution is in Jerome’s opinion because the cross is a stumbling block to those who hope in the Law. If it fulfilled the Law, there is not more need for circumcision. The persecution is a sign that the people are still scandalized by the cross of Christ (Jerome, Galatians, 405). In verse 12 Paul even suggests that it would be a good idea for the troublers of the Galatians to “be cut off.” Jerome recognizes the double meaning of emasculation and of being cast out of God’s covenant. He remarks that it is a forceful statement coming from the one who said, in Romans 12, to bless those who curse you (Jerome, Galatians, 405). Jerome takes this to be said not from hatred of the opponents but as a way of defending and nurturing the Galatians, whom he loves. The concern is that the opponents could cause the Galatians to stumble in their faith, and thus condemn themselves (Matthew 18). Jerome observes this is precisely why Marcion and Valentinus were condemned as heretics, because their doctrine could harm the Church and thus condemn them themselves (Jerome, Galatians, 406).
Verse 13 returns more directly to the difference between Christian liberty and depending on the Law. Jerome observes that the flow of Paul’s thought here is difficult to follow, so some editors and commentators think the verse belongs elsewhere. Yet he doesn’t speculate much about that. He does quote Origen extensively, saying that those who are free should follow the truth of their freedom in Christ (Jerome, Galatians, 406). At issue is the Galatians’ use of their liberty to pursue “the flesh” rather than to serve their neighbors. This is what Jerome understands as “walking by the Spirit” (Jerome, Galatians, 407). The great concern is that, as with the ancient Israelites, those who trust in the flesh could turn away to the works of the flesh and be just like those who followed idols. Jerome lists numerous examples of Old Testament people who fell into sin while trusting their own works. This is a way of falling from grace into the law, exactly what Paul cautioned against (Jerome, Galatians, 408).