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.
Galatians 3:1, in which Paul asks the Galatians who “bewitched” them, is a striking statement by any measure. Jerome identifies a double meaning in the text. While some Galatians may be considered “senseless” some may be this way because of their desire to continue in the faith by carnam means, Jerome finds that the people may be “senseless” because of the tremendous diversity of backgrounds making for an indistinct identity (Jerome, Galatians, 347). He goes on to quote several Latin authors’ statements about Galatians, in no way favorable. For this reason, Jerome takes the negative statement of Paul as unsurprising. The word normally translated “bewitched” is reported by Jerome as fascinavit. The idea of grabbing attention is quite the same in English. Jerome’s conclusion is that this fascination results in harm to those subjected to it, in a way similar to ingesting poison (Jerome, Galatians, 348). He further compares it to the sight of mythic monsters which could strike fear into the viewer. From this concept he points out the other thing theGalatians have seen, Christ condemned and crucified for them.
In verse two, Paul asks the pointed question - whether they received the Spirit by works or by faith. Jerome notes that there was no reasonable way the Galatians could deny they received the Spirit by faith (Jerome, Galatians, 348). The attitude of earning or keeping salvation by the works of the Law is ridiculous to Paul. To illustrate this, Jerome makes reference to Romans 3 (Jerome, Galatians, 349). The substantive difference which Jerome sees is that the Christian engages in good works willingly, as an act of gratitude for the saving work of Christ. The good works from faith are inspired by having God’s word, which creates faith in the hearer.
Paul’s confrontatin of the Galatians continues in verse three, when he asks them if they are truly as foolish as their dependence on the flesh would indicate. Jerome continues the question before answering from Scripture, demonstrating the futility of trusting in the flesh (Jerome, Galatians, 350). The tone perhaps moderates somewhat in verse four, as Paul essentially laments the futility of the fleshly hopes. Jerome agrees that it is a sad state of affairs, since the Galatians were working very hard to justify themselves when it was actually impossible to do so. He points out that they did once know Christ was crucified for them and that they could trust him. Yet they fell back into sins, those of trusting themselves (Jerome, Galatians, 351).