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Chapter 4

4:1 So long as [eph’ hoson chronon]. “For how long a time,” incorporation of the antecedent [chronon] into the relative clause. The heir [ho klēronomos]. Old word [klēros], lot, [nemomai], to possess). Illustration from the law of inheritance carrying on the last thought in 3:29. A child [nēpios]. One that does not talk [nē, epos], word). That is a minor, an infant, immature intellectually and morally in contrast with [teleioi], full grown (1Co 3:1; 14:20; Php 3:15; Eph 4:13). From a bondservant [doulou]. Slave. Ablative case of comparison after [diapherei] for which verb see on Mt 6:26. Though he is lord of all [Kurios pantōn ōn]. Concessive participle [ōn], “being legally owner of all” (one who has the power, [ho echōn kuros].

4:2 Under guardians [hupo epitropous]. Old word from [epitrepō], to commit, to intrust. So either an overseer (Mt 20:8) or one in charge of children as here. It is common as the guardian of an orphan minor. Frequent in the papyri as guardian of minors. Stewards [oikonomous]. Old word for manager of a household whether freeborn or slave. See Lu 12:42; 1Co 4:2. Papyri show it as manager of an estate and also as treasurer like Ro 16:23. No example is known where this word is used of one in charge of a minor and no other where both occur together. Until the time appointed of the father [achri tēs prothesmias tou patros]. Supply [hēmeras] (day), for [prothesmios] is an old adjective “appointed beforehand” [pro, thesmos], from [tithēmi]. Under Roman law the tutor had charge of the child till he was fourteen when the curator took charge of him till he was twenty-five. Ramsay notes that in Graeco-Phrygia cities the same law existed except that the father in Syria appointed both tutor and curator whereas the Roman father appointed only the tutor. Burton argues plausibly that no such legal distinction is meant by Paul, but that the terms here designate two functions of one person. The point does not disturb Paul’s illustration at all.

4:3 When we were children [hote ēmen nēpioi]. Before the epoch of faith came and we (Jews and Gentiles) were under the law as paedagogue, guardian, steward, to use all of Paul’s metaphors. We were held in bondage [hēmeis ēmetha dedoulōmenoi]. Periphrastic past perfect of [douloō], to enslave, in a permanent state of bondage. Under the rudiments of the world [hupo ta stoicheia tou kosmou]. [Stoichos] is row or rank, a series. So [stoicheion] is any first thing in a [stoichos] like the letters of the alphabet, the material elements in the universe (2Pe 3:10), the heavenly bodies (some argue for that here), the rudiments of any act (Heb 5:12; Ac 15:10; Ga 5:1; 4:3,9; Col 2:8,20). The papyri illustrate all the varieties in meaning of this word. Burton has a valuable excursus on the word in his commentary. Probably here (Lightfoot) Paul has in mind the rudimentary character of the law as it applies to both Jews and Gentiles, to all the knowledge of the world [kosmos] as the orderly material universe as in Col 2:8,20). See on Mt 13:38; Ac 17:24; 1Co 3:22. All were in the elementary stage before Christ came.

4:4 The fulness of the time [to plērōma tou chronou]. Old word from [plēroō], to fill. Here the complement of the preceding time as in Eph 1:10. Some examples in the papyri in the sense of complement, to accompany. God sent forth his preexisting Son (Php 2:6) when the time for his purpose had come like the [prothesmia] of verse 2. Born of a woman [genomenon ek gunaikos]. As all men are and so true humanity, “coming from a woman.” There is, of course, no direct reference here to the Virgin Birth of Jesus, but his deity had just been affirmed by the words “his Son” [ton huion autou], so that both his deity and humanity are here stated as in Ro 1:3. Whatever view one holds about Paul’s knowledge of the Virgin Birth of Christ one must admit that Paul believed in his actual personal preexistence with God (2Co 8:9; Php 2:5-11), not a mere existence in idea. The fact of the Virgin Birth agrees perfectly with the language here. Born under the law [genomenon hupo nomon]. He not only became a man, but a Jew. The purpose [hina] of God thus was plainly to redeem [exagorasēi], as in 3:13) those under the law, and so under the curse. The further purpose [hina] was that we (Jew and Gentile) might receive [apolabōmen], second aorist active subjunctive of [apolambanō], not get back (Lu 15:27), but get from [apo] God the adoption [tēn huiothesian]. Late word common in the inscriptions (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 239) and occurs in the papyri also and in Diogenes Laertes, though not in LXX. Paul adopts this current term to express his idea (he alone in the N.T.) as to how God takes into his spiritual family both Jews and Gentiles who believe. See also Ro 8:15,23; 9:4; Eph 1:5. The Vulgate uses adoptio filiorum. It is a metaphor like the others above, but a very expressive one.

4:6 Because ye are sons [hoti este huioi]. This is the reason for sending forth the Son (4:4 and here). We were “sons” in God’s elective purpose and love. [Hoti] is causal (1Co 12:15; Ro 9:7). The Spirit of his Son [to pneuma tou huioi autou]. The Holy Spirit, called the Spirit of Christ (Ro 8:9f.), the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Php 1:19). The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son (Joh 15:26). Crying, Abba, Father [krazon Abba ho patēr]. The participle agrees with [pneuma] neuter (grammatical gender), not neuter in fact. An old, though rare in present as here, onomatopoetic word to croak as a raven (Theophrastus, like Poe’s The Raven), any inarticulate cry like “the unuttered groanings” of Ro 8:26 which God understands. This cry comes from the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. [Abba] is the Aramaic word for father with the article and [ho patēr] translates it. The articular form occurs in the vocative as in Joh 20:28. It is possible that the repetition here and in Ro 8:15 may be “a sort of affectionate fondness for the very term that Jesus himself used” (Burton) in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mr 14:36). The rabbis preserve similar parallels. Most of the Jews knew both Greek and Aramaic. But there remains the question why Jesus used both in his prayer. Was it not natural for both words to come to him in his hour of agony as in his childhood? The same thing may be true here in Paul’s case.

4:7 No longer a bondservant [ouketi doulos]. Slave. He changes to the singular to drive the point home to each one. The spiritual experience (3:2) has set each one free. Each is now a son and heir.

4:8 To them which by nature are not gods [tois phusei mē ousi theois]. In 1Co 10:20 he terms them “demons,” the “so-called gods” (1Co 8:5), worshipping images made by hands (Ac 17:29).

4:9 Now that ye have come to know God [nun de gnontes]. Fine example of the ingressive second aorist active participle of [ginōskō], come to know by experience through faith in Christ. Rather to be known of God [mallon de gnōsthentes hupo theou]. First aorist passive participle of the same verb. He quickly turns it round to the standpoint of God’s elective grace reaching them (verse 6). How [pōs]. “A question full of wonder” (Bengel). See 1:6. Turn ye back again? [epistrephete palin?]. Present active indicative, “Are ye turning again?” See [metatithesthe] in 1:6. The weak and beggarly rudiments [ta asthenē kai ptōcha stoicheia]. The same [stoicheia] in verse 3 from which they had been delivered, “weak and beggarly,” still in their utter impotence from the Pharisaic legalism and the philosophical and religious legalism and the philosophical and religious quests of the heathen as shown by Angus’s The Religious Quests of the Graeco-Roman World. These were eagerly pursued by many, but they were shadows when caught. It is pitiful today to see some men and women leave Christ for will o’ the wisps of false philosophy. Over again [palin anōthen]. Old word, from above [anō] as in Mt 27:51, from the first (Lu 1:3), then “over again” as here, back to where they were before (in slavery to rites and rules).

4:10 Ye observe [paratēreisthe]. Present middle indicative of old verb to stand beside and watch carefully, sometimes with evil intent as in Lu 6:7, but often with scrupulous care as here (so in Dio Cassius and Josephus). The meticulous observance of the Pharisees Paul knew to a nicety. It hurt him to the quick after his own merciful deliverance to see these Gentile Christians drawn into this spider-web of Judaizing Christians, once set free, now enslaved again. Paul does not itemize the “days” (Sabbaths, fast-days, feast-days, new moons) nor the “months” (Isa 66:23) which were particularly observed in the exile nor the “seasons” (passover, pentecost, tabernacles, etc.) nor the “years” (sabbatical years every seventh year and the Year of Jubilee). Paul does not object to these observances for he kept them himself as a Jew. He objected to Gentiles taking to them as a means of salvation.

4:11 I am afraid of you [phoboumai humas]. He shudders to think of it. Lest by any means I have bestowed labour upon you in vain [mē pōs eikēi kekopiaka eis humas]. Usual construction after a verb of fearing about what has actually happened [mē pōs] and the perfect active indicative of [kopiaō], to toil wearily). A fear about the future would be expressed by the subjunctive. Paul fears that the worst has happened.

4:12 Be as I am [ginesthe hōs egō]. Present middle imperative, “Keep on becoming as I am.” He will not give them over, afraid though he is.

4:13 Because of an infirmity of the flesh [di’ astheneian tēs sarkos]. All that we can get from this statement is the fact that Paul’s preaching to the Galatians “the first time” or “the former time” [to proteron], adverbial accusative) was due to sickness of some kind whether it was eye trouble (4:15) which was a trial to them or to the thorn in the flesh (2Co 12:7) we do not know. It can be interpreted as applying to North Galatia or to South Galatia if he had an attack of malaria on coming up from Perga. But the narrative in Ac 13; 14 does not read as if Paul had planned to pass by Pisidia and by Lycaonia but for the attack of illness. The Galatians understood the allusion for Paul says “Ye know” [oidate].

4:14 A temptation to you in my flesh [ton peirasmon humōn en tēi sarki mou]. “Your temptation (or trial) in my flesh.” Peirasmon can be either as we see in Jas 1:2, 12ff. If trial here, it was a severe one. Nor rejected [oude exeptusate]. First aorist active indicative of [ekptuō], old word to spit out (Homer), to spurn, to loathe. Here only in N.T. Clemen (Primitive Christianity, p. 342) thinks it should be taken literally here since people spat out as a prophylactic custom at the sight of invalids especially epileptics. But Plutarch uses it of mere rejection. As an angel of God [hōs aggelon theou], as Christ Jesus [hōs Christon Iēsoun]. In spite of his illness and repulsive appearance, whatever it was. Not a mere “messenger” of God, but a very angel, even as Christ Jesus. We know that at Lystra Paul was at first welcomed as Hermes the god of oratory (Ac 14:12f.). But that narrative hardly applies to these words, for they turned against Paul and Barnabas then and there at the instigation of Jews from Antioch in Pisidia and Iconium.

4:15 That gratulation of yourselves [ho makarismos humōn]. “Your felicitation.” Rare word from [makarizō], to pronounce happy, in Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch. See also Ro 4:6, 9. You no longer felicitate yourselves on my presence with you. Ye would have plucked out your eves and given them to me [tous ophthalmous humōn exoruxantes edōkate moi]. This is the conclusion of a condition of the second class without [an] expressed which would have made it clearer. But see Joh 16:22,24; Ro 7:7 for similar examples where the context makes it plain without [an]. It is strong language and is saved from hyperbole by “if possible” [ei dunaton]. Did Paul not have at this time serious eye trouble?

4:16 Your enemy [echthros humōn]. Active sense of [echthros], hater with objective genitive. They looked on Paul now as an enemy to them. So the Pharisees and Judaizers generally now regarded him. Because I tell you the truth [alētheuōn humin]. Present active participle of [alētheuō], old verb from [alēthēs], true. In N.T. only here and Eph 4:15. “Speaking the truth.” It is always a risky business to speak the truth, the whole truth. It may hit and hurt.

4:17 They zealously seek you [zēlousin humas]. [Zēloō] is an old and a good word from [zēlos] (zeal, jealousy), but one can pay court with good motives or evil. So here in contrast with Paul’s plain speech the Judaizers bring their fawning flattery. To shut you out [ekkleisai humas]. From Christ as he will show (5:4). That ye may seek them [hina autous zēloute]. Probably present active indicative with [hina] as in [phusiousthe] (1Co 4:6) and [ginōskomen] (1Jo 5:20). The contraction [-oēte] would be [-ōte], not [-oute] (Robertson, Grammar, p. 325).

4:18 To be zealously sought in a good matter [zēlousthai en kalōi]. Present passive infinitive. It is only in an evil matter that it is bad as here [ou kalos]. When I am present [en tōi pareinai me]. “In the being present as to me.”

4:19 I am in travail [ōdinō]. I am in birth pangs. Old word for this powerful picture of pain. In N.T. only here, verse 27; Re 12:2. Until Christ be formed in you [mechris hou morphōthēi Christos en humin]. Future temporal clause with [mechris hou] (until which time) and the first aorist passive subjunctive of [morphoō], late and rare verb, in Plutarch, not in LXX, not in papyri, only here in N.T. This figure is the embryo developing into the child. Paul boldly represents himself as again the mother with birth pangs over them. This is better than to suppose that the Galatians are pregnant mothers (Burton) by a reversal of the picture as in 1Th 2:7.

4:20 I could with [ēthelon]. Imperfect active, I was wishing like Agrippa’s use of [eboulomēn] in Ac 25:22, “I was just wishing. I was longing to be present with you just now [arti].” To change my voice [allaxai tēn phōnēn mou]. Paul could put his heart into his voice. The pen stands between them. He knew the power of his voice on their hearts. He had tried it before. I am perplexed [aporoumai]. I am at a loss and know not what to do. [Aporeō] is from [a] privative and [poros], way. I am lost at this distance from you. About you [en humin]. In your cases. For this use of [en] see 2Co 7:16; Ga 1:24.

4:21 That desire to be under the law [hoi hupo nomon thelontes einai]. “Under law” (no article), as in 3:23; 4:4, legalistic system. Paul views them as on the point of surrender to legalism, as “wanting” [thelontes] to do it (1:6; 3:3; 4:11, 17). Paul makes direct reference to these so disposed to “hear the law.” He makes a surprising turn, but a legitimate one for the legalists by an allegorical use of Scripture.

4:22 By the handmaid [ek tēs paidiskēs]. From Ge 16:1. Feminine diminutive of [pais], boy or slave. Common word for damsel which came to be used for female slave or maidservant (Lu 12:45) or doorkeeper like Mt 26:29. So in the papyri.

4:23 Is born [gegennētai]. Perfect passive indicative of [gennaō], stand on record so. Through promise [di’ epaggelias]. In addition to being “after the flesh” [kata sarka].

4:24 Which things contain an allegory [hatina estin allēgoroumena]. Literally, “Which things are allegorized” (periphrastic present passive indicative of [allēgoreō]. Late word (Strabo, Plutarch, Philo, Josephus, ecclesiastical writers), only here in N.T. The ancient writers used [ainittomai] to speak in riddles. It is compounded of [allo], another, and [agoreuō], to speak, and so means speaking something else than what the language means, what Philo, the past-master in the use of allegory, calls the deeper spiritual sense. Paul does not deny the actual historical narrative, but he simply uses it in an allegorical sense to illustrate his point for the benefit of his readers who are tempted to go under the burden of the law. He puts a secondary meaning on the narrative just as he uses [tupikōs] in 1Co 10:11 of the narrative. We need not press unduly the difference between allegory and type, for each is used in a variety of ways. The allegory in one sense is a speaking parable like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the Prodigal Son in Lu 15, the Good Shepherd in Joh 10. But allegory was also used by Philo and by Paul here for a secret meaning not obvious at first, one not in the mind of the writer, like our illustration which throws light on the point. Paul was familiar with this rabbinical method of exegesis (Rabbi Akiba, for instance, who found a mystical sense in every hook and crook of the Hebrew letters) and makes skilful use of that knowledge here. Christian preachers in Alexandria early fell victims to Philo’s allegorical method and carried it to excess without regard to the plain sense of the narrative. That startling style of preaching survives yet to the discredit of sound preaching. Please observe that Paul says here that he is using allegory, not ordinary interpretation. It is not necessary to say that Paul intended his readers to believe that this allegory was designed by the narrative. He illustrates his point by it. For these are [hautai gar eisin]. Allegorically interpreted, he means. From Mount Sinai [apo orous Sinā]. Spoken from Mount Sinai. Bearing [gennōsa]. Present active participle of [gennaō], to beget of the male (Mt 1:1-16), more rarely as here to bear of the female (Lu 1:13, 57). Which is Hagar [hētis estin Hagar]. Allegorically interpreted.

4:25 This Hagar [to Hagar]. Neuter article and so referring to the word Hagar (not to the woman, [] Hagar) as applied to the mountain. There is great variety in the MSS. here. The Arabians are descendants of Abraham and Hagar (her name meaning wanderer or fugitive). Answereth to [suntoichei]. Late word in Polybius for keeping step in line (military term) and in papyri in figurative sense as here. Lightfoot refers to the Pythagorean parallels of opposing principles [sunstoichiai] as shown here by Paul (Hagar and Sarah, Ishmael and Isaac, the old covenant and the new covenant, the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly Jerusalem). That is true, and there is a correlative correspondence as the line is carried on.

4:26 The Jerusalem that is above [hē anō Ierousalēm]. Paul uses the rabbinical idea that the heavenly Jerusalem corresponds to the one here to illustrate his point without endorsing their ideas. See also Re 21:2. He uses the city of Jerusalem to represent the whole Jewish race (Vincent).

4:27 Which is our mother [hētis estin mētēr hēmōn]. The mother of us Christians, apply the allegory of Hagar and Sarah to us. The Jerusalem above is the picture of the Kingdom of God. Paul illustrates the allegory by quoting Isa 54:1, a song of triumph looking for deliverance from a foreign yoke. Rejoice [euphranthēti]. First aorist passive imperative of [euphrainō]. Break forth [rēxon]. First aorist active imperative of [rēgnumi], to rend, to burst asunder. Supply [euphrosunēn] (joy) as in Isa 49:13. The desolate [tēs erēmou]. The prophet refers to Sarah’s prolonged barrenness and Paul uses this fact as a figure for the progress and glory of Christianity (the new Jerusalem of freedom) in contrast with the old Jerusalem of bondage (the current Judaism). His thought has moved rapidly, but he does not lose his line.

4:28 Now we [hēmeis de]. Some MSS. have [humeis de] (now ye). In either case Paul means that Christians (Jews and Gentiles) are children of the promise as Isaac was [kata Isaak], after the manner of Isaac).

4:29 Persecuted [ediōken]. Imperfect active of [diōkō], to pursue, to persecute. Ge 21:9 has in Hebrew “laughing,” but the LXX has “mocking.” The Jewish tradition represents Ishmael as shooting arrows at Isaac. So now [houtos kai nun] the Jews were persecuting Paul and all Christians (1Th 2:15f.).

4:30 Cast out [ekbale]. Second aorist active imperative of [ekballō]. Quotation from Ge 21:10 (Sarah to Abraham) and confirmed in 21:12 by God’s command to Abraham. Paul gives allegorical warning thus to the persecuting Jews and Judaizers. Shall not inherit [ou mē klēronomēsei]. Strong negative [ou mē] and future indicative). “The law and the gospel cannot co-exist. The law must disappear before the gospel” (Lightfoot). See 3:18, 29 for the word “inherit.”

4:31 But of the freewoman [alla tēs eleutheras]. We are children of Abraham by faith (3:7).

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