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.
Jerome takes Paul’s confrontation of Peter in the matter of eating with gentiles to be a move to educate those of the circumcision group (Jerome, Galatians, 342). He notes that Peter had withdrawn so as not to offend the Jews, but that Paul’s attitude was that the Jews needed to be confronted with the truth. They further needed to be aware that Peter knew that circumcision was not required for the Gentiles. Otherwise, the Judaizers could think Peter would agree with them.
Jerome says that Paul’s statement in verse 15 about Jews not being from the naturally sinful gentiles has been interpreted “ineptly” to mean that Paul didn’t think Jews ever sinned. He compares the reason of this argument to that which says a good olive branch cannot be broken - utter nonsense (Jerome, Galatians, 342). Rather, erome takes Paul’s argument to be that the Jews were the historic recipients of God’s promises, which gave them the benefit of God’s Law and examples of grace, not available to others (Jerome, Galatians, 343). The true advantage is in the salvation by faith in Christ. However, this has been made very clear to the Jews through the Law and Prophets. This is explicated in verse 16, where Paul affirms that nobody is justified except by faith in Christ. Jerome sees this as a very strong caution to the Galatians, realized by Abraham and Moses. Isaiah also made persuasive arguments for salvation by faith (Jerome, Galatians, 344). The entirety of Scripture makes the concept clear. God’s Law makes many demands, but salvation is by grace, not the law.
Galatians 2:17-18 is Paul’s classic statement that Christ, as our forgiver, is not, in fact, a minister of sin. He is rather the one who does away with sin. Jerome does little beyond restating Paul’s words. He goes on, though, in verse 19, to explain the significance of death to sin and life to God. The Law, which makes demands, still presents itself as what we would live by. We are unable to do so, and we are bound to the law. Yet the fruit of the law in us is bad. For this reason, Christ, who was able to keep the law, died in our place. In that Jesus was raised from the dead, he lives to God, and so do we (Jerome, Galatians, 345). Verse 20 emphasizes the idea that true life is found in Christ’s life. Jerome finds the crux of this life to be in the fact that Jesus gave himself for Paul, trading places, as it were (Jerome, Galatians, 346). It is significant to Jerome that when humans “traded” Jesus they betrayed him to death but when Jesus is the one “trading” it leads to life. This, in verse 21, is a sign of the grace of God, which we dare not despise. Jerome refers to numerous other passages where God’s grace is commanded.