on Galatians 2 :9
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 עמוד העולם 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 שאר עמודין 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, בתשומת יד bithsumeth yad, "in giving the hand."
on Galatians 2 :9
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 Acts 15.
That we should go unto the heathen - To preach the gospel, and to establish churches. In this way the whole matter was settled, and settled as Paul desired it to be. A delightful harmony was produced between Paul and the apostles at Jerusalem; and the result showed the wisdom of the course which he had adopted. There had been no harsh contention or strife. No jealousies had been suffered to arise. Paul had sought an opportunity of a full statement of his views to them in private 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.
on Galatians 2 :9
2:9 And when James - Probably named first because he was bishop of the church in Jerusalem. And Cephas - Speaking of him at Jerusalem he calls him by his Hebrew name. And John - Hence it appears that he also was at the council, though he is not particularly named in the Acts. Who undoubtedly were pillars - The principal supporters and defenders of the gospel. Knew - After they had heard the account I gave them. The grace - Of apostleship. Which was given me, they - In the name of all. Gave to me and Barnabas - My fellow - labourer. The right hands of fellowship - They gave us their hands in token of receiving us as their fellow - labourers, mutually agreeing that we - I and those in union with me. Should go to the gentiles - Chiefly. And they - With those that were in union with them, chiefly to the circumcision - The Jews.