Galatians 4:1-10

Now we start Chapter 4.

1Λέγω δέ, ἐφ’ ὅσον χρόνον ὁ κληρονόμος νήπιός ἐστιν, οὐδὲν διαφέρει δούλου κύριος πάντων ὤν,

But I say, for however much time the heir is underage ( = a child), he does not differ from a slave (despite) being the lord,

1 Dico autem: Quanto tempore heres parvulus est, nihil differt a servo, cum sit dominus omnium,

2ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ ἐπιτρόπους ἐστὶν καὶ οἰκονόμους ἄχρι τῆς προθεσμίας τοῦ πατρός.

But he is under a tutor and a steward until the (time) appointed by his father.

2 sed sub tutoribus est et actoribus usque ad praefinitum tempus a patre.

3οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς, ὅτε ἦμεν νήπιοι, ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου ἤμεθα δεδουλωμένοι:

And it was when we, being underage (minors), under the elements of the world, we being enslaved.

3 Ita et nos, cum essemus parvuli, sub elementis mundi eramus servientes;

4ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου, ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ, γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός, γενόμενον ὑπὸ νόμον,

But when the fulfillment of time came, God sent his son, being born of a woman, being born under the law.

4 at ubi venit plenitudo temporis, misit Deus Filium suum, factum ex muliere, factum sub lege,

5ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον ἐξαγοράσῃ, ἵνα τὴν υἱοθεσίαν ἀπολάβωμεν.

In order that those under the law were bought out (of the Law), so that we received the adoption of sons (we became adopted as sons of God)

We get << ἐξαγοράσῃ >> again.  In this usage,  I can see it under either translation: simply ‘purchasing’ or ‘redeeming.’  Is there really a distinction here that makes a difference?  Somehow, I think so.  Otherwise, why didn’t Paul use the base verb without the prefix?  Had it just become the fad to add the preposition?  As in, using ‘utilize’ when ‘use’ works perfectly well, or using ‘functionality’ when you mean ‘function’. These words are faddish of the business world.

Purchase vs redeem.  Is there a difference?  Yes.  Does it matter in this case?  I say it does, if only because of the subsequent discussion that ensued among the Church.  “Redeem” has the implication of being in hock, or in debt, or maybe even in slavery.  Was Paul’s thinking already that advanced?  This was a topic that raged several hundred years later, as the implications of words became fixed and their meaning was more critical as the Church ossified into place.  What should a Christian believe? What exactly?  

Paul continues explaining the role of the Law, how it was preparation of a sort, or a sort of tutor for what was to come: the Christ.  Really, from a rhetorical standpoint, it’s a great analogy and a persuasive argument, cast in terms that most people could understand.  In short, it’s rather a parable.

Become ‘adopted’ as sons of God. This is an interesting word.  Or perhaps concept. It implies that we are not ‘children of God’ by birth. That another step is necessary. This is, needless to say, something different than the Church came to teach as dogma. It also, pretty much by definition, requires that God choose us to be his children, since God has to initiate the process of adoption.  This again foreshadows, or reinforces, the idea of Predestination, of God choosing those whom he will save ‘from (our) mother’s womb’, as Paul said of himself, if not ‘from the foundations of the world’ as Augustine would put it later.

My next step may be reading into the text.  Mark begins with Jesus’ baptism, not his birth. This has led to a position known as ‘Adoptionism’, which believes that Jesus only became the Son of God, and The Christ, upon being adopted by God at his baptism.  As we will see when we get to Mark, there is reason to believe that Mark may not have seen Jesus as fully divine. Akenson, in the book I referenced, presents a decent case that Paul saw Jesus becoming the Christ only after the Resurrection. So the use of ‘adoption’ here may be significant. If we don’t start as children of God, perhaps Jesus didn’t either.

5 ut eos, qui sub lege erant, redimeret, ut adoptionem filiorum reciperemus.

6Οτι δέ ἐστε υἱοί, ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰς καρδίας ἡμῶν, κρᾶζον, Αββα ὁ πατήρ.

And since you are sons, God sent the spirit of his son into our hearts, crying “Abba!  Father!”

6 Quoniam autem estis filii, misit Deus Spiritum Filii sui in corda nostra clamantem: “ Abba, Pater! ”.

7ὥστε οὐκέτι εἶ δοῦλος ἀλλὰ υἱός: εἰ δὲ υἱός, καὶ κληρονόμος διὰ θεοῦ.

Thus you are no longer a slave, but a son: you are a son, and an heir because of/through God.

7 Itaque iam non es servus sed filius; quod si filius, et heres per Deum.

8Ἀλλὰ τότε μὲν οὐκ εἰδότες θεὸν ἐδουλεύσατε τοῖς φύσει μὴ οὖσιν θεοῖς:

But then, on the one hand, you did not know God, being enslaved to those by nature are not gods.

 Are/were they pagan, then?  See comment to 3:10.  There’s a lot of talk about circumcision, which makes me think that the Galatians are Gentiles. It wouldn’t be an issue if they were already Jews.  But I could be convinced one way or the other.

8 Sed tunc quidem ignorantes Deum, his, qui natura non sunt dii, servistis;

9νῦν δὲ γνόντες θεόν, μᾶλλον δὲ γνωσθέντες ὑπὸ θεοῦ, πῶς ἐπιστρέφετε πάλιν ἐπὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα, οἷς πάλιν ἄνωθεν δουλεύειν θέλετε;

But now, knowing God, or better, being known by God, how can you turn back again unto the weak and poor elements (of nature/of the universe/of the world), wishing to become enslaved to them again?

9 nunc autem, cum cognoveritis Deum, immo cogniti sitis a Deo, quomodo convertimini iterum ad infirma et egena elementa, quibus rursus ut antea servire vultis?

10ἡμέρας παρατηρεῖσθε καὶ μῆνας καὶ καιροὺς καὶ ἐνιαυτούς.

You observe days and months and seasons and years. 

This means that they follow the religious calendar of a specific group.  So they observe the days, etc as holy or sacred or of the divine.  Going back to the weak and poor elements, we may (or may not, but seems likely) be talking about the pagan calendar.  IOW, it seems like the Galatians are following the pagan feasts, but the reference could be to the Jewish calendar, too.

10 Dies observatis et menses et tempora et annos!


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on October 16, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I think your reasoning about pagans as the target audience is correct. Verse 10 leaves out the most important time observance to Jews – the sabbath or the week. This was very distinctive and was the cause of tension, indirectly, when it came to service in the army. Like the other clues, though, it is not definitive.

    This leads to the question: Was Paul ever successful with the Jews, except for the odd member of the synagogue who helped him after his beatings?

  2. For whatever reason(s), Paul never talks about any positive experiences he had as a Jew after his conversion. Overall, I sort of feel like Paul wasn’t the most pleasant chap you could meet. Thus, once he gave of the zeal of being Jewish and converted to the zeal of the Christ, I suspect he didn’t have a lot of kind words for any Jews who didn’t see things his way. I mean, he’s not exactly cordial with James and Cephas, both of whom had converted, so imagine what he must have been like around a Jewish crowd who didn’t think much of Jesus.

    So, I don’t know if Paul had any success with Jews, but I would tend to doubt it. But that’s all speculation.

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