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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Galatians 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. λέγω δὲ. Elsewhere in St Paul’s writings only in Galatians 5:16, where, as here, it introduces a sharp contrast; here to heirship (Galatians 3:29) and what it seems to imply; there to a wrong means of success. Contrast τοῦτο δὲ λέγω, Galatians 3:17; ἴδε ἐγὼ Παῦλος λέγω ὑμῖν, Galatians 5:2; and ἀλλὰ λέγω, Romans 10:18.

ἐφʼ ὅσον χρόνον. The full form (Romans 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:39[113]) lays the greater stress on the duration of the time; contrast Mark 2:19 and also Matthew 9:15.

ὁ κληρονόμος (generic) νήπιός ἐστιν. If St Paul were writing a legal document νήπιος would doubtless = infans, minor, who in Roman law did not attain his majority till he was twenty-five years old. But it is more natural to suppose that in this letter to the people he uses the term more generally, as it is always used in the N.T., of children in contrast to adults; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:14; Hebrews 5:13. The Vulgate rightly gives parvulus.

οὐδὲν διαφέρει. Cf. Galatians 2:6; “differs,” 1 Corinthians 15:41; not “is superior,” Matthew 6:26.

δούλον. Wetstein quotes a long and interesting passage from Dio Chrys. XV. p. 240 a, showing the power of fathers over sons, ending ἐφεῖται γὰρ αὐτοῖς ἀποκτεῖναι μήτε κρίναντας, μήτε ὅλως αἰτιασαμένους, ἀλλʼ ὅμως οὐδὲν μᾶλλον δοῦλοί εἰσι πατέρων, ἀλλὰ νἱεῖς.

κύριος πάντων ὤν. Over all the things given to him by the father. In reality, if the father is regarded as dead; potentially, if as alive. See the following notes.


Verses 1-7

1–7. (See note at Galatians 3:23.) Temporary submission to laws, by which one is in an inferior position, is common. But we have been delivered from these by Christ’s coming, as the testimony of our hearts tells us. Each believer is a son and heir by the grace of God

(Galatians 4:1) But I say (in contrast to the thought of freedom and power suggested by “heir”) while an heir is a child he does not differ from a slave though in fact lord of all. (Galatians 4:2) But he is under guardians and stewards, until the time fixed by his father. (Galatians 4:3) So we also (first we Jews, but Gentiles as well) when we were children were enslaved under the elementary rules connected with merely external things. (Galatians 4:4) But when the time was filled up—the time appointed by God, with its effect on us in discipline—God sent out from Himself His Son, who passed through the stages of humanity and entered on life as a Jew, to experience fully the claims and effect of the Law, (Galatians 4:5) in order that He might redeem those who were under His discipline of the Law, and therefore, if them, others also, in order that (this redemption being accomplished) all we believers may receive in correspondence with the promises our adoption by grace into His family (Galatians 4:6) But, to give a proof that ye now are sons, God sent out from Himself the spirit of His Son into our hearts crying (with a fervour that compels a foreign word to be translated into our mother tongue) “Abba,” “Father”! (Galatians 4:7) So that (after God’s work external and internal) thou (each believer) art no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, both facts, that of sonship and becoming an heir, being by (the power and grace, I say, of) God.


Verse 2

2. ἀλλʼ ὑπὸ ἐπιτρόπους ἐστὶ,, Matthew 20:8; Luke 8:3[114]. See Appendix, note C. ἐπ. = any person to whom authority is committed, whether a Procurator, e.g. Cumanus in Joseph. Ant. xx. 6. 2 (§ 132), or only a bailiff over labourers, Matthew 20:8. In Luke 8:3 Chuza may have been Herod’s “agent “or “factor” generally, or may have had special charge of the royal children. So Lysias was the ἐπίτροπος of Antiochus Epiphanes, 2 Maccabees 11:1; 2 Maccabees 13:2; 2 Maccabees 14:2. In our verse it is to be translated “guardians” (R.V.) or “tutors” (in the old sense of the word with no reference to teaching) according as the father is thought of as dead or as alive.

The plural both here and in οἰκονὸμους is purposely vague. It marks the father’s freedom to appoint as many as he would, either contemporaneously or successively. The singular would have meant that the heir had but one ἐπίτροπος and one οἰκονόμος.

καὶ οἰκονόμους., Luke 12:42; Luke 16:1; Luke 16:3; Luke 16:8; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10[115]. In all these passages the οἰκονόμος administers property, whether material or spiritual. So here the οἰκονόμοι are those who administer the property of the heir. But whether the father is regarded as dead or only absent is not clear. Bengel concisely differentiates the two words: ἐπιτρόπους tutores heredis, οἰκονόμους curatores bonorum.

ἄχρι τῆς προθεσμίας[116] τοῦ πατρός. Symmachus thrice translates qêtz “end” or “limit” by προθεσμία, Job 28:3; Daniel 9:26 bis (cf. his use of ἐμπροθεσμός in Ezekiel 21:25 [30] and with Aq. and Theod. in Ezekiel 35:5).

If the father is regarded as alive there is no difficulty; if as dead there is. For ordinarily under Roman law a minor came of age at twenty-five, being under a tutor till 14 and a curator till 25 (Ramsay, Gal., p. 392). But it seems that in certain cases the father was allowed some discretion in this. See Dawson Walker, The Gift of Tongues etc., pp. 118, 119, 168. Compare our own law, according to which a minor generally comes into his property at twenty-one, but not always, if the father makes special provision to the contrary. See further Appendix, note C.


Verse 3

3. οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς. We Jews primarily, though not exclusively, for the restraints were felt by all until Christ came.

ὅτε ἦμεν νήπιοι,, Galatians 4:1. What a claim for the greatness of the change brought by the Gospel!

ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμον. The full phrase is found in Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:20 (where see notes), στοιχεῖα alone in Galatians 4:9; Hebrews 5:12; 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12[117]. The phrase means not (a) the physical elements as such, nor (b) the spiritual beings, angels, directing the physical elements, but (c) the rudiments, the A, B, C of outward things, elementary beggarly rules connected with the external and the visible, e.g. the observance of sabbaths, new moons etc. (Galatians 4:10), as ordered in the Law, written or oral, or the many ceremonies of the heathen. These external checks on personal freedom answer to the ἐπίτροποι and οἰκόνομοι of Galatians 4:2.

ἤμεθα δεδουλωμἐνοι. The form is that of the periphrastic pluperfect, but the meaning is not pluperfect, but imperfect, with stress on the permanency of the result of the action.


Verse 4

4. ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν κ.τ.λ. The coming of Christ marks the beginning of the change in our personal relation to God.

τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου. On πλήρωμα see Colossians 1:19 note. The full phrase occurs here only in the Greek Bible. Compare Ephesians 1:10 τοῦ πληρώματος τῶν καιρῶν; and especially Mark 1:15 πεπλήρωται ὁ καιρός, with Dr Swete’s note. Pre-Christian time was like an unfilled measure, which each year filled, as it were drop by drop, until the fulness of it came. St Paul here speaks only of the lapse of time; he does not make any suggestion as to what determined that time, e.g. conviction of sin etc.; cf. Galatians 3:19; Galatians 3:24.

ἐξαπέστειλεν,ex caelo a sese” (Bengel). Galatians 4:6, Lukequater, Ac.septies[118]. Here only with Christ for the object. Used of the word (i.e. message) of salvation in St Paul’s speech at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:26), wherein are other thoughts even more typical of our epistle, centring round the words πληρόω, ἐπαγγελία, ξύλον, δικαιόω. See Introduction, p. xxix.

γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός, γενόμενον ὑπὸ νόμον. Not a mere parenthesis, but to show that “His Son” had likeness of nature with us, and likeness of condition under the Law (Galatians 2:16 note); even Christ passed through the stage of a νήπιος (Galatians 4:1), for only thus could He accomplish his object. Moulton and Milligan illustrate this, the “most original meaning, to be born,” from a papyrus of the 3rd cent. B.C.: κόρον ἔτεκε, δς εὐθὺς γενόμενος αὐτὸς ἀπὸ τὰς κράνας ἐλοῦτο, and refer also to John 8:58 (Expositor, VII. 6, 1908, p. 382). ὑπὸ νόμον. “As friend and Redeemer of ‘sinners’ he must go where the sense of sin was most acute” (B. W. Bacon).


Verse 5

5. ἵνα. Probably to be taken with the whole of the preceding words from ἐξαπέστειλεν, of which indeed γενόμ.… νόμον are in a sense epexegetic.

τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον, i.e. Jews, and, if them, much more others who were not under the same strict discipline. There may also be the further thought that if Jews were set free from the Law, much more were Gentiles not to be brought under it. “Tantum abest, ut eos, quibus lex lata non fuit, jugo legis subjecerit, ut et ipsos Judaeos liberatum venerit” (Wetstein).

ἐξαγοράσῃ,, Galatians 3:13; cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23. St Paul and his readers cannot have been ignorant of the method by which slaves were often set free, viz. that of the master receiving from a temple the sale-price of his slave, who has himself deposited the sum with the temple authorities for that purpose. The slave is nominally bought to become the slave of the god, but he is in reality free, with the god for his protector.

An inscription of 200/199 B.C. at Delphi runs ἐπρίατο δʼ Ἀπόλλων ὁ Πύθιος παρὰ Σωσιβίου Ἀμφισσέος ἐ πʼ ἐλευθερίαι σῶμ[α] γυναικεῖον, ἇι ὄνομα Νίκαιατιμᾶς ἀργυρίουτὴν τιμὰν ἀπέχει. τὰν δὲ ὠνὰν ἐπίστευσε Νίκαια τῶι Ἀπόλλωνι ἐπʼ ἐλευθερίαι (Deissmann, Licht vom Osten, p. 234). For ἐπʼ ἐλευθερίᾳ see the notes on Galatians 5:1; Galatians 5:13. It is less probable that St Paul was thinking of one Roman method of adoption in which the transference was made from the power of the natural father to that of the adoptive father by a series of fictitious sales (see Appendix, Note C).

ἵνα. Dependent on ἐξαγοράσῃ. Observe that by “Chiasmus” the clause of the first ἵνα answers to γενόμενος ὑπὸ νόμον, and that of the second to γενόμενος ἐκ γυναικός.

τὴν υἱοθεσίαν. The article = that νίοθ. of which we all know, or perhaps “our” νίοθ. νίοθ., Romans 8:15; Romans 8:23; Romans 9:4; Ephesians 1:5[119]. Before, we were only potentially sons (Galatians 4:1), and were in fact enslaved (Galatians 4:3), but now are both recognized as sons officially and enjoy the privileges of the position. Observe “adoption,” for strictly we have no claim. It is of God’s grace that we become members of His family in the truest sense. See Appendix, Note C.

ἀπολάβωμεν., Colossians 3:24. “we” = all believers. ἀπο = as due, Luke 6:34, i.e. corresponding to the promises. καὶ τὴν ἐτηγγελμένην ἡμῖν υἱοθεσίαν ἐδωρήσατο (Theodoret). Hardly “as children were always sons, and only receive back what was originally designed for us” (Jowett).


Verse 6

6. With this and Galatians 4:7 cf. Romans 8:15-17. Sonship implies privileges, in this case spiritual, yes, the possession of the Spirit of God’s Son with His utterance within us of dependence on the Father. In Galatians 3:26-27 sonship is connected with putting on Christ, here with receiving His Spirit.

ὅτι δέ ἐστε υἱοί. ὅτι is demonstrative “But as a proof that,” rather than strictly causal, ἐστε, for St Paul will bring the truth home to the Galatians.

ἐξαπέστειλεν., Galatians 4:4 note. The parallel is exact; as His Son into the world, so the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. For the thought compare Colossians 1:12 note on τῷ πατρί.

ὁ θεὸς τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ. Compare Isaiah 48:16, rightly translated by Bengel (on Galatians 4:4): Dominus Jehovah misit me suumque Spiritum, and so probably the LXX. κύριος Κύριος ἀπἐστειλέν με καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ. On τὸ πνεῦμα see Appendix, Note F.

εἰς τὰς καρδίας ἡμῶν. St Paul reverts quickly to the first person, cf. Galatians 2:18 note. Bp Chase writes “confirmation is the Pentecost of the individual soul” (Confirmation in the Apostolic Age, p. 88).

κρᾶζον, i.e. τὸ πνεῦμα. In Romans 8:15 St Paul has modified his words to πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας ἐν ᾦ κράζομεν Ἀββά ὁ πατήρ. The close conjunction of the Holy Spirit with our own personality forms a contrast to Mark 5:9 and parallels.

Ἀββά ὁ πατήρ. For the Aramaic Abba cf. Bar-abbas. The bilingual phrase occurs also in Romans 8:15 in a context similar to our passage, and in Mark 14:36[120], our Lord’s utterance in the Garden. Thus in all three passages it is expressive of the deepest feeling. But why both terms? In the Gospel the second may perhaps be by way of explanation for Gentile readers, but this hardly suits the thought of the Epistles. Rather Abba had lost somewhat of its original force, and the fervour of the human speaker was not satisfied without adding the equivalent in his ordinary Greek tongue. If so St Paul’s mother tongue would seem to have been not Aramaic but Greek.

For a similar case see Revelation 1:7 (ναί, ἀμήν) where the change is in the reverse order, from Greek to Hebrew, as was natural if St John was the author. Akin to this explanation is another that the readiness of the bilingual Palestinian Church to use both Aramaic and Greek in prayer had spread to other countries.

Perhaps all the passages are to be connected with the Lord’s Prayer, of course in the form answering to that of St Luke’s narrative, in which alone the first word in Aramaic would be Abba, the Aramaic being here retained from peculiar sacredness of association (Moulton, Proleg., p. 10; cf. Chase, Lord’s Prayer, p. 23). It is possible that St Paul by using both terms also wished to suggest the impartiality of the Spirit’s work in believers, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. Dr Swete thinks that if the double phrase is a reminiscence of the words used by our Lord it suggests that “the adopted children of God reveal their sonship in the same spirit of filial submission which marked the Only Son” (The Holy Spirit in the N.T. p. 205).

The only other Aramaic words employed as such by St Paul are ΄αρὰν ἀθά in 1 Corinthians 16:22.

Illustrations of similar bilingual or even trilingual expressions are given in Schoettgen on Mark 14:36 : e.g. T. B. Erubin, 53b, a Galilean woman is ridiculed as saying mâri kiri (χείριος) “my lord, my servant,” though intending mâri qiri (κύριος) “my lord, my lord,” and Shemoth R., § 46, 3, in a Mashal a physician’s son addresses a mountebank (presumably a quack) as qiri, mâri, âbi, “my lord, my lord, my father,” much to his own father’s displeasure.


Verse 7

7. ὥστε. “So that,” after God’s work in sending His Son for you and His Spirit within you, with the effect of the latter on your very language.

οὐκέτι. Though once, yet no longer. How then can you think of going back?

εἶ. For a similar personal appeal to the individual see Galatians 6:1; Romans 12:20-21; 1 Corinthians 4:7.

δοῦλος (Galatians 4:3).

κληρονόμος (Galatians 3:29).

διὰ θεοῦ. See notes on Textual Criticism. The short and solemn ending attributes the means all to God, not to themselves, and reminds them alike of His past training under the Law and of His recent work for them. It refers not only to κληρονόμος but also to the sonship of which St Paul has been speaking; hardly however to the word υἱός as such.


Verse 8

8. This and the following verses are a “sad and startling contrast to Galatians 4:7” (Beet), seen in their turning back to the weak and beggarly elements.

ἀλλὰ. To be joined with πῶς ἐπιστρέφετε, which expresses the principal thought of the passage, the intervening words serving as a preparation for πάλιν.

τότε μὲν,, Romans 6:21. Before their conversion, which was implied in οὐκέτι εἶ δοῦλος (Galatians 4:7), St Paul here directly applying to Gentiles the language of Galatians 4:1-7, which had referred primarily to the Jews.

οὐκ εἰδότες θεὸν. For εἰδέναι θεόν see 1 Thessalonians 4:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Titus 1:16[121]. They lacked any natural or intuitive knowledge of God.

ἐδουλεύσατε. This suggests more willingness and personal action than ἤμεθα δεδουλ. in Galatians 4:3.

τοῖς φύσει (Galatians 2:15) μὴ οὖσι θεοῖς, “to them which by nature are not gods.” See notes on Textual Criticism, i.e. Whatever may be attributed to them by their worshippers; if they are gods they are not so by origin, but by man’s deification of them; cf. 1 Corinthians 8:4-5. Observe that this would include both the worship of Caesar (though so expressed that no offence could be taken) and that of demons (1 Corinthians 10:19-20), as well as all other forms of heathen worship. In Alford’s translation “to gods, which by nature exist not,” φύσει is really tautological.


Verses 8-11

8–11. Appeal; after so great a change how can you go back!

(Galatians 4:8) But—before your conversion, when you knew not God, ye were slaves to them which by origin are not gods; (Galatians 4:9) and now when you have come to know God, or rather were known by God!—how are ye turning again to the powerless and poverty-stricken rudiments, to which ye are wishing to become slaves again from the very beginning of the alphabet? (Galatians 4:10) Ye are scrupulously marking days, and new moons, and the exact times of feasts, and years! (Galatians 4:11) (Transition.) You cause me dread lest I have laboured for you for nothing.


Verse 9

9. νῦν δὲ. Since your conversion; answering to τότε μέν.

γνόντες θεόν. For the contrast with εἰδέναι see 2 Corinthians 5:16. Having learned, having come to know by personal acquaintance. Compare the quotation on προέκοπτον, Galatians 1:14. St Paul does not state the means of their knowledge, but he at once proceeds to prevent their taking any credit for it.

μᾶλλον δὲ (Romans 8:34) γνωσθέντες ὑπὸ θεοῦ. The initiative was not theirs, neither was their knowledge complete. Observe further that knowledge of them by God implies His recognition of them as His (Exodus 33:12; Exodus 33:17), cf. 1 Corinthians 8:3. Probably there is also a distinct reference to His “knowledge” of them by adopting them as sons, Galatians 4:5. “To know God as God, is to be in vital fellowship with Him, to love Him, to fulfil that relation towards Him for which we are born. And conversely to be known by God, to be the object of His knowledge, is to be in harmony with Him” (Westcott on 1 John 2:3).

πῶς ἐπιστρέφετε (contrast 1 Thessalonians 1:9) πάλιν (Galatians 5:1) ἐπὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα (Galatians 4:3 note). He does not say or mean τοὺς φύσει μὴ ὄντας θεούς (cf. Galatians 4:8), but, as always, when apparently about to repeat himself, introduces a fresh point. Thus here στοιχεῖα does not = gods, but what they represent, the mere rudiments of religion. The epithets show their lack of spiritual power and of spiritual wealth.

Observe that St Paul here regards Judaism and the heathen religions as so far alike that they both represent Law in contrast to Grace, rudiments in contrast to advanced knowledge, weakness in contrast to strength, poverty in contrast to wealth. He is not concerned with the nobler and more spiritual side of the O.T. religion, but with that which it had in common, whether by origin or only in character, with heathenism. This includes not only the ceremonial but also the moral law in so far as this is regarded apart from Christ.

Luther is essentially right in saying “Doth Paul take it to be all one thing, to fall from the promise to the law, from faith to works, and to do service unto gods which by nature are no gods? I answer: whosoever is fallen from the article of Justification, is ignorant of God, and an idolator.… The reason is, because God will or can be known no otherwise than by Christ.… There is no mean between man’s working and the knowledge of Christ. If this knowledge be darkened or defaced, it is all one whether thou be a Monk, a Turk, a Jew etc.” (on Galatians 4:8-9).

οἶς πάλιν ἄνωθεν., Wisdom of Solomon 19:6[122] ὅλη γὰρ ἡ κτίσις ἐν ἰδίῳ γένει πάλιν ἄνωθεν διετυποῦτο (“was fashioned again anew,” R.V.). Otherwise Josephus seems to be the first writer who uses it, though it is found in inscriptions of the second and first centuries B.C. See reff. in Nägeli, Der Wortschatz des Apostels Paulus, 1905, p. 39. The combination means that they purpose relapsing to the bondage of the στοιχεῖα and practising them all over again from the very beginning, cf. Barn. § 16. 8 ἐγενόμεθα καινοί, πάλιν ἐξ ἀρχῆς κτιζόμενοι.

δουλεῦσαι. The text seems to express “to enter into bondage to.” The marginal δουλεύειν rather expresses continuance in bondage.

θέλετε (Galatians 4:21).


Verse 10

10. Epexegetic of the way in which they are already showing their slavery to pre-Christian customs. Only the observance of times is mentioned here; in Colossians 2:16 this is preceded by that of foods. Notice also that here the times ascend from days to years; there they descend from yearly feasts to days.

ἡμέρας. Presumably Jewish sabbaths. On the question how far the observance of Sundays comes under St Paul’s condemnation here and in Colossians 2:16 see note there.

παρατηρεῖσθε. παρατ. properly does not signify “keep,” or “spend in proper fashion,” but “mark” or “watch,” so that they do not slip by unobserved. So in Sus. Galatians 4:15 (Th.) ἐν τῷ παρατηρεῖν αὐτοὺς ἡμέραν εὔθετον, i.e. watching for a favourable day. The word is very suitably used of the painful observance of the exact moment of the beginning and end of sacred days practised by Jews, and presumably by many heathen. Josephus, however (Ant. III. 5. 5 [§ 91]), giving the substance of the fourth commandment, seems to use it less strictly, ὁ δὲ τέταρτος παρατηρεῖν τὰς ἑβδομάδας ἀναπαυομένους ἀπὸ παντὸς ἔργου. The use of the middle voice appears to strengthen the thought of the personal effort of observing.

καὶ μῆνας. The observance of the New Moon.

καὶ καιροὺς. Hardly with reference to the heathen care for lucky days, but to Jewish feasts. See Leviticus 23:4 αὗται αἱ ἑορταὶ τῷ κυρίῳ, καὶ αὗται, ἁγίας καλέσατε αὐτὰς ἐν τοῖς καιροῖς αὐτῶν. So also probably Genesis 1:14.

καὶ ἐνιαυτούς. ἐνι here only in St Paul’s writings. The reference seems to be to the Sabbatical years, hardly to the feast of the New Year with its closely subsequent Day of Atonement, and to the importance of this for welfare in the ensuing twelve months.


Verse 11

11. φοβοῦμαι ὑμᾶς. Not “I fear for you,” for φοβ. with an accusative of the person never has this meaning in the Greek Bible, and very seldom if ever (cf. Soph. Oed. R. 760 [767]) elsewhere; but “I fear you,” i.e. you cause me dread from the effect that your action will have on my work.

μή πως, “lest by any means,” cf. Galatians 2:2 with similar context. Moulton (Proleg., 1906, p. 193) translates “perhaps I have toiled in vain,” cf. Colossians 2:8 note.

εἰκῇ, “in vain”; i.e. “without due result,” Galatians 3:4.

κεκοπίακα,, Colossians 1:29 note. There also as here St Paul uses the verb of himself when turning to speak in detail of his interest in those to whom he is writing.

εἰς ὑμᾶς. κοπ. εἰς, with an accusative of the person, Romans 16:6[123]. Cf. Isaiah 30:5 (πρός). Contrast the inscription of a wife referring to her husband, τείς [= ὅστις] μοι πολλὰ ἐκοπίασεν (Deissmann, Licht vom Osten, p. 227).


Verse 12

12. γίνεσθε ὡς ἐγώ, i.e. in my freedom from the Law. St Paul is addressing Gentile Christians, as the majority of the Galatian converts undoubtedly were. Quite improbable is the explanation: Resemble me in affection; I love you, therefore do ye love me.

ὅτι κἀγὼ ὡς ὑμεῖς. For I was, or became, like you, i.e. a Gentile in my ways. St Paul probably has in his mind especially his first entrance among them and his disregard of Jewish conventionalities, in order that he might win them to Christ, 1 Corinthians 9:21.

ἀδελφοί (Galatians 1:11 note), δέομαι ὑμῶν. For the urgency of the entreaty suggested by δέομαι see 2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 8:4.

οὐδέν με ἠδικήσατε. The connexion of thought is difficult. [1] Perhaps the simplest is the best. I am encouraged to plead with you, for I never received ought but kindness at your hands, least of all when I came first among you.

[2] Ramsay (Gal. pp. 428 sq.) connects the words only with the following verses. He emphasises the aorist in contrast with their present behaviour, and also thinks that the words are an adaptation of a phrase used by the Galatians. “You say with truth in your letter that ‘you do not wrong me.’ … I bear witness that you did not … But you are doing so now (Galatians 4:16): you are troubling me (Galatians 6:17).”


Verses 12-20

12–20. A further appeal, based on his own behaviour among them, and their treatment of him

(Galatians 4:12) Become, as I became, free from the Law, like you Gentiles, as you saw me when I was among you first. I plead this, brethren, for I never had ought but kindness at your hands. (Galatians 4:13) Far from it. When because of illness I preached the Gospel to you at my first visit, (Galatians 4:14) you did not despise my illness which must have been a trial to you, but ye received me as though I had been an angel sent from God, yea, even as Christ Himself. (Galatians 4:15) Where now therefore is your congratulation of yourselves? For I gladly bear my testimony to the sincerity of your love then. You would have plucked out your very eyes and given them to me to help me in my illness! (Galatians 4:16) So that (for there must be some reason) am I to say that it is my faithful speech to you that has made me your enemy? (Galatians 4:17) The false teachers are not so conscientious. They pay court to you indeed, but not honourably. They wish to prove you shut out from salvation, that you may pay court to them! (Galatians 4:18) But it is good to be paid court to in a good cause, always, and not only when I am present with you (to exert my influence upon you, so that you may deserve to be paid court to by all), (Galatians 4:19) my little children, with whom I am once more undergoing the pangs of motherhood, until Christ be formed in you. (Galatians 4:20) But I would I were (as I said) present with you, and so speak not in severity but praise—because, as things are, I am at a loss about you.


Verse 13

13. οἴδατε δὲ. δὲ contrasts the supposition of ἠδικήσατε. So far from unkindness was your treatment of me that even when it might have been unkind, it was not.

ὅτι διʼ ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς, “that because of infirmity of the flesh.” Illness was the cause of St Paul’s first evangelistic efforts among the Galatians. Of the nature of the illness we know nothing, save that Galatians 4:15 suggests that it seriously affected his eyes. “A very early tradition defined the complaint; ‘per dolorem, ut aiunt, auriculae vel capitis’ says Tertullian, de Pudic. § 13. And this statement is copied or confirmed by Jerome (in loco) ‘tradunt eum gravissimum capitis dolorem saepe perpessum’ ” (Lightfoot, Gal. p. 183).

Ramsay (Gal. pp. 420 sqq.), in the interests of the S. Galatian theory, argues that this illness explains the visit to the interior in Acts 13:14, saying that St Paul had intended to stay on the coast, and that it was this sudden change of plan which made John Mark leave. But this is to make John Mark’s fault greater than ever, if he left St Paul when the latter was ill. It is more likely that Mark’s experience of difficulties had already been too much for him, and that as he saw they were likely to increase when St Paul followed out his plan of going inland he felt he could stand them no longer and therefore returned to Jerusalem.

There is no special difficulty in supposing that St Paul was travelling in haste through North Galatia, and was stopped in his journey by illness, and therefore preached to those among whom he was delayed. He does not say that he came, but that he preached, to them because he was ill. See Introduction, pp. xxiii. sq.

εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν τὸ πρότερον. [1] In itself this may mean “formerly” (1 Timothy 1:13; John 6:62; John 9:8; cf. Hebrews 10:32; see Blass, Gram. § 11. 5). But in each of these instances there is a sharp contrast to the present time, and τὸ πρότερον is necessary. In our verse this is not so. There is of course a contrast between this verse and Galatians 4:16 sq., but if τὸ πρότερον means “formerly,” “long ago,” it adds nothing to the thought, and is in fact tautological.

[2] Hence it must mean “the former time” (cf. R.V. marg.; Deuteronomy 9:18; cf. 1 Chronicles 15:13), in contrast to a second visit paid since. If he was writing to South Galatians the first visit was that of the first Missionary Journey, Acts 13:14 to Acts 14:23, the second that of the second Missionary Journey, Acts 16:1-5, for Mr D. Round’s interpretation is very improbable (see Introd. p. xxxi.). If he was writing to North Galatians the first visit was that of Acts 16:6 (second M. J.), and the second Acts 18:23 (third M. J.).

εὐηγγελισάμην. For naturally he would not only build up the converts but also preach to the unconverted.


Verse 14

14. καὶ τὸν πειρασμὸν ὑμῶν. See notes on Textual Criticism. “And this which was a trial to you, I mean in my flesh.” His illness tested their character, καί is of course dependent on ὅτι.

ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου. Defining the sphere in which the trial lay.

οὐκ ἐξουθενήσατε, i.e. the illness which served as your test. ἐξουθ. is used of St Paul’s λόγος (2 Corinthians 10:10), and of our Lord’s treatment by Herod (Luke 23:11; cf. Mark 9:12). So of the Servant in lowly and even leper’s form Symmachus twice, and Aquila and Theodotion once, use the epithet ἐξουδενωμένος (Isaiah 53:3).

οὐδὲ ἐξεπτύσατε[124]. Elsewhere only literally. It may contain an allusion to the then superstitious habit of spitting when meeting sick persons, and especially epileptics, for fear of infection from them (see Clemen, Religionsgeschichtliche Erklärung des N.T., 1909, pp. 266, 288). Used here because “St Paul is fond of repeating, not without emphasis, compounds presenting the same preposition, Galatians 2:4; Galatians 2:13; Romans 2:17; Romans 11:7 et al.” (Meyer).

ἀλλὰ ὡς ἄγγελον θεοῦ ἐδέξασθέ με. ἄγγ. Galatians 1:8. Probably “angel” (not “messenger”) as always in St Paul, though the commonness of the word prevents our laying stress on this fact. Observe that they receive him as this in spite of the illness from which he was evidently suffering at the time. This seems to exclude a reference, naturally made much of by Ramsay in support of the South Galatian theory, to the men of Lystra calling St Paul Hermes (the messenger of the gods) because he was the chief speaker (Acts 14:12). Apparently the coincidence is purely accidental. See Introd. p. xxviii.

ὡς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν. The connexion in St Paul’s mind was probably due to his reminiscence of Malachi 3:1 ἰδοὺ ἐξαποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μουκαὶ ἐξέφνης ἥξει εἰς τὸν ναὸν ἑαυτοῦ κύριος ὃν ὑμεῖς ζητεῖτε, καὶ ὁ ἄγγελος τῆς διαθήκης ὃν ὑμεῖς θέλετε, where, as here, ἄγγελος suggests both its meanings. St Paul means that they could not have received him better if he had been an angel, yea, if he had been Christ Himself.


Verse 15

15. ποῦ. See notes on Textual Criticism. What has become of it now? Romans 3:27.

οὖν. Logically it should still continue.

ὁ μακαρισμὸς ὑμῶν., Romans 4:6; Romans 4:9[125]. Cf. μακαρίζε, Luke 1:48; James 5:11. Not happiness, or “blessedness” (A.V.), which is μακαριότης, but “pronouncing blessing,” “gratulation,” R.V. The ὑμῶν is doubtless objective and reflexive, “of yourselves.” The meaning “gratulation of you” by other Christians is alien to the context, and for “your gratulation of me” (cf. Luke 1:48) as bearing so high and acceptable a message we should expect μακ. in the plural.

μαρτυρῶ γὰρ ὑμῖν. I freely bear witness to you of your love. There is no connotation of wishing to convict you of error now by my present testimony.

ὅτι εἰ δυνατὸν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑμῶν. While doubtless the eyes are carissima membra corporis (Pelag. in Zahn) it seems much more natural to find some special reason for the expression here. Apparently his eyes had been injured by the ἀσθένεια of Galatians 4:13. There is no reason for connecting it with the effect of the vision, Acts 9:17-18, nor with the σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί (2 Corinthians 12:7).

ἐξορύξαντες., Mark 2:4[126]. Of the eyes Judges 16:21 (A); 1 Samuel 11:2.

ἐδώκατέ μοι. “In hypothetical sentences, where unreality is expressed, the indicative is used both in the protasis and the apodosis; in the latter the insertion of ἄν is not obligatory, John 15:24” (Blass, Gram. § 63. 3; cf. Burton, Moods and Tenses, § 249). Perhaps its omission suggests greater certainty.


Verse 16

16. ὥστε. He argues from the fact of the change in their feelings towards him that there must be a reason for it. Has my faithful speech shown that I am an enemy to you?

ἐχθρὸς ὑμῶν γέγονα. From my second visit, when I warned you (Galatians 1:9), up to now. The phrase means an enemy towards you, not “held in enmity by you,” as Wetstein’s quotation from Lucian, Abdicat. 7 ὀργίζονται ἅπαντες τοῖς μετὰ παῤῥησίας τἀληθῆ λέγουσι would imply.

ἀληθεύων ὑμῖν; Ephesians 4:15[127] absolutely, and it would seem including more than speech. Here however predominantly, perhaps solely, of speech; cf. Genesis 42:16 εἰ ἀληθεύετε ἣ οὔ. Zahn makes the sentence a statement instead of a question, describing St Paul’s relation to them as he feels it at the moment of writing. But this is jejune.


Verse 17

17. ζηλοῦσιν ὑμᾶς οὐ καλῶς. In contrast to my plain speaking and apparent enmity, the false teachers pay court to you. The close connexion of thought with Galatians 4:16 makes Ramsay’s otherwise attractive explanation improbable, i.e. that the Galatians had in a letter used the phrase “they take a keen interest in us,” to which St Paul replies, “Yes, but in no good way; they seek to mislead you to think that they are a superior class to you by right of birth” (cf. Gal. p. 429). For this sense of “pay court to,” “take warm interest in,” cf. 1 Corinthians 12:31; 1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Corinthians 14:39. In 2 Corinthians 11:2 St Paul uses ζηλοῦν of his jealousy for his converts.

ἀλλὰ ἐκκλεῖσαι ὑμᾶς θέλουσιν. ἐκκλείω. Romans 3:27[128]. Contrast συνκλειόμενοι, Galatians 3:23. “Shut out” from what? (a) Hardly “from us,” for that itself would be a comparatively unimportant matter. Nor (b) “in fact from salvation,” St Paul saying that this will be the effect of their teaching if the Galatians listen to them, cf. Galatians 5:4. For θελουσιν then loses its force. But, as the context suggests, (c) “from salvation,” as the false teachers wished them to believe; they would be excluded from salvation unless they observed the Law.

ἵνα αὐτοὺς ζηλοῦτε. Dependent on ἐκκλ. ὑμᾶς θέλ. They wish to exclude you (according to their teaching) from salvation in order that you may pay court to them (so as to be included). It is hardly possible that the words depend on ζηλοῦσιν ὑμᾶς, and ἀλλὰθέλουσιν form a parenthesis stating the fact (see last note).

ζηλοῦτε, probably conjunctive as though ζηλῶτε, cf. φυσιοῦσθε, 1 Corinthians 4:6; see Blass, Gram. § 22. 3, § 65. 2 note. Winer-Schm. § 5. 21 f. calls attention to the interchange of ου with ω and ο in the popular Egyptian dialect, making it uncertain whether ζηλοῦτε be conjunctive or indicative. The uncial MSS. of the LXX. do not appear to confuse these sounds to any great extent (see Thackeray, Grammar, § 6, 32–34). Compare Galatians 2:4 notes on καταδουλεύσουσιν and Galatians 6:10; Galatians 6:12. See also Burton, Moods and Tenses, § 198, who takes ζηλοῦτε as indicative.


Verse 18

18. καλὸν δὲ ζηλοῦσθαι ἐν καλῷ πάντοτε. “It is good to be paid court to in a good cause always”: see notes on Textual Criticism. ζηλοῦσθαι must be passive, for the middle is found nowhere, as it appears, in Greek literature, although the verb is so common. But who is the subject? [1] Is it St Paul that ought to be courted by the Galatians? It is good for me to be the object of your zeal etc., but for some reason your affections have cooled towards me. This truth is so self-evident as to be hardly worth saying. [2] It is better therefore to understand the words to mean: “It is good for you to be paid court to always” by me or anybody else, so long as it is done in a good way. You need, that is to say, someone to take an interest in you; I do not grudge this for a moment, provided that it be taken honourably. I do not want you to be dependent on my presence for a true friend. But he implies by ἐν καλῷ what he has already stated in Galatians 4:17 that this interest has not been honourable on the part of the false teachers. Ramsay (Gal. pp. 444, 463) ingeniously, but unnecessarily, sees also in the words a hint that the Galatians had expressed their need of some such helper and guide, and that in Galatians 4:20 he foreshadows his intention of leaving a trusty representative (? Silas) with them.

καὶ μὴ μόνον. Elsewhere in the N.T. οὐ μόνον with an infinitive. Burton, Moods and Tenses, § 481.

ἐν τῷ παρεῖναί με πρὸς ὑμᾶς, “when I am present with you.” παρ. πρὸς, Galatians 4:20, 2 Corinthians 11:9. In Acts 12:20 the underlying thought of motion is more evident, cf. Colossians 1:6.


Verse 19

19. τεκνία μου. τέκνα W.H. marg. See notes on Textual Criticism. The phrase, 1 John 2:1[129]; τεκνία, John 13:33; 1 John septies[130]. To be joined closely with ὑμᾶς, Galatians 4:18, a new sentence beginning with ἤθελον δὲ (Galatians 4:20).

οὓς (ad sensum) πάλιν ὠδίνω. As though the first time was a failure. “These words show too the folly of the Novatians, who close the door of repentance” (Theodoret). Cf. the Letter of the Church of Vienne and Lyons of the re-birth of those who had denied Christ: “The Virgin mother [the Church] had much joy in receiving alive those whom she had brought forth as dead” (οὓς ὡς νεκροὺς ἐξέτρωσε, cf. § 11 ὦν καὶ ἐξέτρωσαν ὡς δέκα τὸν ἀριθμόν, and ἔκτρωμα, 1 Corinthians 15:8) … “many who had denied were brought forth again and re-begotten” (ἀνεμητροῦντο καὶ ἀνεκυίσκοντο, see Heinichen for the text, Euseb. Ch. Hist. Galatians 4:1. §§ 45, 46). “The point of comparison is the loving exertion, which perseveres amidst trouble and pain in the effort to bring about the new Christian life” (Meyer). On St Paul’s comparison of himself to a father in Philemon 1:10 see note there.

μέχρις οὗ (Mark 13:30[131], contrast Galatians 3:19) μορφωθῇ[132] Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν, “until you have become Christians in whom Christ alone lives, Galatians 2:20” (Weiss). Although μορφοῦσθαι occurs here only in the Greek Bible μεταμορφοῦσθαι occurs in Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18, as well as in Mark 9:2 || Matthew 17:2. The thought is that the life of Christ in the believer may have so perfect a development that every part of the believer himself may be moulded by it and may be the outcome of it (cf. Romans 8:29). In contrast to σχῆμα, a mere external appearance having no organic connexion with that which is within, such as a dress or even a human figure carved in stone, μορφή is the outcome of the inner life. St Paul longs that Christ’s transfiguration may become true in each believer. See Lightfoot’s classical note on Philippians 2:7.


Verse 20

20. ἤθελον δὲ. “The δέ catches up the passing thought of παρεῖναι (Galatians 4:18) before it escapes” (Lightfoot); “but I would (if it were possible).” ἤθελον in itself may express a practicable or an impracticable wish (see Blass, Gram. § 63. 5). The context alone decides. Here it seems to be impracticable. He cannot come, and he has no immediate prospect of being able to do so. It seems to come under the heading of conative imperfects (cf. Moulton, Proleg., 1906, p. 128).

παρεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς (Galatians 4:18 note) ἄρτι (Galatians 1:9 note). I know how helpful I should be, and what a change it would make in our relation to each other.

καὶ ἀλλάξαι τὴν φωνήν μον. Apparently the usual meaning given to the words is right; change my voice of blame, heard in this Epistle, to one of praise and congratulation, as I am sure would be the case if I could but see you.

ὅτι. Because, as things are, and judging them at a distance.

ἀποροῦμαι ἐν ὑμῖν, “I am at a loss about you.” Cf. Genesis 32:7 [8] ἐφοβεῖτο δὲ Ἰακὼβ σφόδρα, καὶ ἠπορεῖτο. Moulton and Milligan quote from a papyrus of the 2nd cent. A.D. ὑπὸ δανειστῶν ὤλλντο καὶ ἠπόρει, “he was [being] ruined by creditors and at his wits’ end” (Expositor, VII. 6, 1908, p. 189).


Verse 21

21. Although St Paul is at a loss about the Galatians (Galatians 4:20) he will try yet another method. He appeals to the very Law itself under which they were wishing to be. The argument of the following verses is subtle, and to us seems to insist unduly on mere words, but to readers more or less accustomed to Jewish interpretations bound up with words and letters as such it had much force In any case the Jewish writings, as we shall see, afford close parallels to the modes of expression and argument employed by St Paul here It may also be assumed that the Galatians, even though converts from heathenism, would not find this kind of argument strange. Not only had they in all probability heard it employed by Pauline teachers, and also by the false teachers, both of Jewish origin, but also as heathen they will have been accustomed to deduce lessons from what we should call unimportant parts of oracles or other utterances deemed inspired.

λέγετέ μοι. Tell me; will you not listen to that very Law under which you desire to be?

οἱ ὑπὸ νόμον θέλοντες εἶναι, cf. Galatians 4:9. In itself and apart from other examples we should naturally take ὑπὸ νόμον to mean “under law” as a principle, to which τὸν νόμον forms a contrast. But in view of the many cases where νόμος, anarthrous, means the Jewish Law, it is better to understand it so here. See Galatians 2:16 note.

τὸν νόμον. The article is resumptive: cf. Galatians 3:23. The argument of the following verses put briefly is this: the Law itself tells us that natural birth is no proof of spiritual privileges. The story of Abraham himself shows this. For he had a son who was eventually driven out. All blessings are for him who was by promise.

οὐκ ἀκούετε; This may mean: (a) hear in public reading. You act as though you had never heard Abraham’s history read out loud: cf. Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 3:14; (b) hear and obey. Will ye not listen to, and act upon, the lessons of the history of Abraham? This interpretation is the simpler. For this use of ἀκούειν see Matthew 13:13. For a similar appeal to Scripture see Matthew 12:5.


Verses 21-31

21–5:1. Another appeal, based upon the principles underlying the history of Hagar and Sarah, and the birth of Isaac. Christ set us free; stand fast therefore in this freedom

(Galatians 4:21) You wish to be under the Law? Listen then to the teaching of the Law itself, (Galatians 4:22) For it stands written that in Abraham’s own children there was a difference, 1st of origin, one being by the bondservant and the other by the freewoman; 2ndly (Galatians 4:23) in the circumstances of birth, the bondmaid’s son being born in accordance with the natural impulses of the flesh, the freewoman’s by means of promise. (Galatians 4:24) Now things of this kind are written with more than their bare historical meaning. To take first the difference in the mothers. These are two Dispositions; one given forth from Mt Sinai, bearing children born into a state of spiritual bondage, (Galatians 4:25) I mean Hagar—but the idea of Hagar suits Mt Sinai in distant and desert Arabia—but though distant it is in the same class as the present Jerusalem, for Jerusalem too is in bondage literal and spiritual with those who belong spiritually to her. (Galatians 4:26) But (I do not say Sarah but rather what she represents) Jerusalem above is free—which is in fact the mother of us believers, (Galatians 4:27) She, not the present and visible Jerusalem, is our mother, as the prophet has written: Rejoice, thou barren etc., for Sarah the desolate has more children than Hagar who had Abraham; the unseen Jerusalem has more than the seen. (Galatians 4:28) I need only mention again the second point of difference, that we are also like Isaac in being children of promise. (Galatians 4:29) But we are persecuted! Yes even as Isaac, who was born after the spirit, by him who was born after the flesh. (Galatians 4:30) But Scripture says to us by way of encouragement and command: Cast out the handmaid and her son, for the son of the handmaid shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. (Remember this for your comfort, and act on it in your relation to the false teachers.) (Galatians 4:31) Therefore, as a practical conclusion, we are not children of a bondmaid but of the freewoman! (Galatians 4:1) For freedom (nothing less) Christ set us free! Stand fast therefore and do not again be held in the yoke of bondage.


Verse 22

22. ἔσχεν, “got,” not εἷχεν.

ἐκ τῆς παιδίσκης, “of the maidservant.” As apparently there were no free servants in early days she would necessarily be a δουλή. The article = the one mentioned in Scripture.


Verse 23

23. ἀλλʼ. There was a further difference between the two sons of the one father.

κατὰ σάρκα. In accordance with the natural impulses of the flesh.

γεγἐννηται. The perfect means either “stands in Scripture as so horn,” or, better, “still exists” (in the persons of unbelieving Jews). Contrast the aorist, Galatians 4:29.

διʼ ἐπαγγελίας,, Galatians 3:18, “by promise,” possibly “by a promise.” Flesh as such was powerless. Promise, nothing less, was the means by which Sarah was enabled to bear Isaac. The article of W.H. marg. recalls the actual promise. Chrysostom gives the sense of the phrase in saying: ὁ μὴ κατὰ σάρκα τοῦ κατὰ σάρκα γεννηθέντος τιμιώτερος ἦν.

St Paul has now stated two differences between the two sons of Abraham. Ishmael was (a) of the servant, (b) after the flesh; Isaac was (a) of the freewoman, (b) by means of promise. He first deals with (a) in Galatians 4:24 b—27; and then mentions (b) in Galatians 4:28, not dwelling on this at length, for he has already done so in c. 3.


Verse 24

24. ἅτινά, “now this class of things,” Colossians 2:23 note.

ἐστιν ἀλληγορούμενα[133], “are written with another meaning.” For the thought cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11. For the word compare Chrysostom οὐ τοῦτο δὲ μόνον παραδηλοῖ, ὄπερ φαίνεται, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἅλλα τινὰ ἀναγορεύει· διὸ καὶ ἀλληγορία κέκληται.

St Paul does not deny the literal truth of the narratives, but says that besides their literal meaning they have another. He probably would not have restricted himself to the existence of only one other meaning, if others could fairly be deduced from the narratives.

Philo, who himself professes to retain also the literal sense (e.g. On Abraham, cc. 15 (§ 68), 20 (§ 99), 24 (§ 119), 29 (§ 147)), is the great example preserved to us of a commentator who continually sees inner, in his case philosophical, meanings in Scripture, but the tendency is universal, and the method is in fact legitimate if the inner meanings are deduced from principles underlying the narratives. Rabbinic, as well as Philonic, expositions go far beyond these, deducing, by an exaggerated belief in the inspiration of every word and letter, meanings which the words, or even letters, may have in other contexts and combinations. In our passage St Paul chiefly deduces his meaning from principles; if he does from words it is but slightly.

Theodore, against Alexandrian allegorists, insists strongly on the primary sense of Scripture: “apostolus enim non interimit historiam, neque evolvit res dudum factas; sed sic posuit illa ut tunc fuerant facta, et historiam illorum quae fuerunt facta ad suum usus est intellectum.” So Theodoret οὐ γὰρ τὴν ἱστορίαν ἀνεῖλεν, ἀλλὰ τὰ ἐν τῇ ἱστορίᾳ προτυπωθέντα διδάσκει.

For Philo’s interpretation of the incident of Hagar see Ryle in Hastings’ Dict. Bible II. 278b; also Lightfoot, pp. 195 sqq.

αὗται γάρ εἰσιν, “These two women are” etc. But possibly αὗται = ταῦτα, attracted into the gender of διαθῆκαι, and so Win.-Schm. § 23. 5 a, comparing Matthew 7:12 al.

δύο διαθῆκαι. See notes on Textual Criticism. The absence of the article in the true text emphasises the fact that the women do represent “dispositions” (testaments, see note on Galatians 3:15), and indeed two. It should be noted that this is the first time in this Epistle that St Paul has called the Christian dispensation a διαθήκη (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 3:14). Previously he distinguished the διαθήκη or διαθῆκαι from the ἐπαγγελία or ἐπαγγελίαι. The corrector, however, who added αἱ was accustomed to regard the two dispensations as two διαθῆκαι, gaining his knowledge in reality from this passage.

μία μὲν. The second is not expressly mentioned, but is taken up in ἡ δὲ ἄνω Ἰερονσαλὴμ, Galatians 4:26. Cf. Win.-Schm. § 26. 7.

ἀπὸ ὂρους Σινά. Given forth from Mt Sinai, ἐκ (Galatians 4:23) would have attributed too much originating power to the place itself. It is better to retain the comma after Σινά.

εἰς δουλείαν. He cannot say that the διαθήκη at Mt Sinai was a slave (as exactness of verbal parallelism requires), but slavery is the result of being its offspring. It is probably accidental that in the metaphor the status of the child is determined by that of the mother rather than the father. This was not the custom of either the Arabs or the Hebrews, but it was of the Greeks and Romans. The Galatians, wherever they lived, would, as a non-Semitic race, probably also have had the same custom.

γεννῶσα, “bearing children unto bondage,” R.V. Of the mother, Luke 1:13 al.

ἥτις ἐστὶν Ἅγαρ, “which is Hagar.”

(a) It is probable that in this passage ἥτις has practically lost its classical distinction from , and is merely explanatory as in Luke 2:4; Luke 8:26; Luke 9:30; Luke 12:1; Acts 16:12. See Win.-Schm. § 24. 14. Moulton, Proleg., 1906, pp. 91, 92, while arguing for the existence of the distinction, is inclined to admit that it may have “worn rather thin.”

(b) The usual explanation is “inasmuch as it is Hagar.” The first covenant bears children to bondage, and therefore fairly corresponds to Hagar.


Verse 25

25. τὸ δὲ Ἅγαρ Σινὰ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ Ἀραβίᾳ. See notes on Textual Criticism.

[1] So W.H. text, which we shall consider first. “Now Hagar is Mt Sinai in Arabia.”

(a) This has been explained since the time of Chrysostom by saying that the word “Hagar” means Mt Sinai on the lips of Arabians. For “ḥagar” (חגר) in Arabic = rock, stone. But Hagar (הגר) is from a different root.

(b) It is therefore better to accept the following explanation. The thought “Hagar” (not the word and not the woman as such, but the thought of bondage suggested by her) corresponds to Mt Sinai, situated in a desert land and far away from the land of promise generally, and Jerusalem in particular. For τὸ δὲ introducing a thought rather than a word see Ephesians 4:9. No doubt the connexion of “Hagar” with Mt Sinai would the more readily suggest itself in that Hagar and her son went into Arabia. It is doubtful whether the Hagarenes (Psalms 83:6), or Hagrites (1 Chronicles 5:10; 1 Chronicles 5:19-20), were of Aramaean or Arabian origin.

[2] W.H. marg. τὸ γὰρ Σινὰ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇʼ Αραβία̣. This must be explained on the same lines as [1] (b). I say Hagar is the mother of slaves, for Mt Sinai, the place whence the first covenant (Hagar) came, is in a desert place far away from the land of promise generally, and Jerusalem in particular.

On Arabia see Galatians 1:17, where, as here, the distance from Jerusalem, and, also apparently, its non-Jewish associations, are in St Paul’s mind. See also Appendix, Note A.

συνστοιχεῖ δὲ. συνστ.[134], cf. στοιχεῖν, Galatians 5:25, Galatians 6:16 and στοιχεῖα, Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9, “is in the same rank with,” i.e. the same category. Polybius uses συνστοιχεῖν literally of soldiers, συζυγοῦντας καὶ συστοιχοῦντας διαμένειν (x. 23 [21]. 7). Compare σύστοιχος of the same class, e.g. ὁ γλυκὺς καὶ λιπαρὸς καὶ ὅσοι σύστοιχοι τούτοις (Theophr. de Caus. Plant. 6. 4. 2). “The place of the giving of the Law belongs to the same grade or stratum of the development of the world as the present Jerusalem, the metropolis of the Jews, and not to the higher grade, on which stands the future Jerusalem, the Jerusalem that now exists in heaven” (Zahn, p. 236). The force of the δέ is: But though distant it corresponds in character with etc.

τῇ νῦν Ἰερουσαλήμ. νῦν the earthly and visible, not without reference to the position of enmity towards Christ taken by its representatives. In this and the following verse the Hebrew form of the name is used (see Galatians 1:17 note) because of its sacred and theological associations.

δουλεύει γὰρ. Although in strict grammar the subject is Hagar or the first διαθήκη, yet, as neither could be said to be in bondage, the thought is of Jerusalem, subservient to Rome, typical of worse bondage under the Law, and indeed to an evil master (cf. John 8:31-35).

μετὰ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς, i.e. with those who belong spiritually to her.


Verse 26

26. ἡ δὲ. Corresponding to the μἑν of Galatians 4:24, but imperfectly in form, for instead of speaking now of the second covenant, St Paul takes up the contrast to the present Jerusalem, and speaks of the Jerusalem above to which the members under the second covenant belong.

ἄνω Ἰερουσαλὴμ. On Revelation 21:2 Dr Swete gives many references illustrating the belief in the celestial city, e.g. Apoc. Baruch iv. 2 ff. (Ed. Charles, pp. 6 ff.): “Dost thou think that this is that city of which I said: ‘On the palms of My hands have I graven thee’? It is not this building which is now built in your midst; it is that which will be revealed with Me, that which was prepared beforehand here from the time when I took counsel to make Paradise … and now, behold, it is preserved with Me.” The expression is common in the Rabbinic writings, e.g. T. B. Chagigah, 12b. To the earthly Jerusalem corresponds the entirely heavenly and spiritual Jerusalem, and to this believers belong; cf. Philippians 3:20.

ἥτις. Probably in the same loose sense as in Galatians 4:24, see note there. Otherwise, free in that she answers to the freedom which we her children possess.

ἐστὶν μήτηρ ἡμῶν. See notes on Textual Criticism. The Text. Rec. spoils the thought. For it suggests that the Jerusalem above is the mother of all whatever the nationality, whereas St Paul meant to emphasise the thought that it is the mother of us Christians, those who are under the second covenant only.


Verse 27

27. γέγραπται γὰρ. γὰρ. I say that not the visible, but the invisible Jerusalem is our mother, for this stands prophesied of her, in Isaiah 54:1. The quotation is taken verbally from the LXX., which represents the Hebrew accurately, save that for the simple ῥῆξον the latter has “break forth into singing.” The prophet is speaking of the greater population etc. of the restored Zion than of the earlier. It is to have the experience of Sarah, to possess a progeny far greater than that of Hagar (with a silent reference to Genesis 16:2-4). The prophet refers however to Zion in words transcending the fulfilment in the return from Babylon. Thus St Paul’s quotation is more than a play on words; it gives the essential part of the original meaning, that there is to be a Jerusalem other than that which we now see, and that the number of its children is to be far greater.


Verse 28

28. Having shown in Galatians 4:23-27 that we as believers are like Isaac, children of the free woman, indeed the Jerusalem above, St Paul in this one verse recalls the fact that we, also like Isaac, have our origin in promise, a subject already discussed at length in Galatians 3:16-29.

ἡμεῖς δὲἐσμέν. See notes on Textual Criticism, ἡμ. emphatic as in Galatians 4:26.

ἀδελφοί (Galatians 1:11). St Paul gladly returns to this term of faith in their real and present standing. There can hardly be any thought in the word of all believers, you Gentiles and we Jews, being brothers as sons of one mother, as Zahn suggests (p. 241).

κατὰ Ἰσαὰκ. Apparently after the category of Isaac, cf. Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 7:11.

ἐπαγγελίας τέκνα ἐσμέν,, Romans 9:8. We are not dependent on the Law, but on God’s promise, Galatians 3:22.


Verse 29

29. ἀλλʼ. In contrast to what we might have expected as God’s chosen, Why wonder at persecution? Isaac had to bear it at Ishmael’s hands. It should be observed that by this further evidence of the applicability of the narrative to present circumstances St Paul justifies afresh his interpretation of the identification of Isaac with believers, and Ishmael with unbelieving Jews.

ὁ κατὰ σάρκα γεννηθεὶς. Cf. Galatians 4:23.

ἐδίωκε. In those far-off days. The word but slightly exaggerates the meaning of the Hebrew tzaḥaq “mocking.” An old Rabbinic exposition (A.D. 90–120, in Gen. R. Parasha 53 on Genesis 21:9) says that Ishmael pretended to play, but shot at Isaac with a bow and arrow, really intending to kill him; illustrating this meaning of tzaḥaq from the similar word saḥaq in 2 Samuel 2:14 (see Zahn).

τὸν κατὰ πνεῦμα. For the special help of God is implied in the circumstances of Isaac’s birth, cf. Romans 4:17-21.


Verse 30

30. ἀλλὰ. In contrast to the domineering action of Ishmael, and the present circumstances of believers in the world.

τί λέγει ἡ γραφή, The question makes the contrast all the sharper. On ἡ γραφή see Galatians 3:8 note.

ἔκβαλε κ.τ.λ. Sarah’s words in Genesis 21:10, verbally from the LXX. which = Hebr. The quotation serves at once as an encouragement to faith in the future (the persecution shall not continue), and a peremptory summons to the Galatians to set themselves free from the domineering attitude of the false teachers. For this use of ἐκβάλλειν Moulton and Milligan compare 3 John 1:10 and a marriage contract of the time of Augustus, where a man is bound over not to ill-treat his wife, μηδʼ ἐγβαλεῖν (sic), “nor to divorce her” (Expositor, VII. 7, 1909, p. 89).

οὐ γὰρ μὴ κληρονομήσει. The double thought of both promise and command is carried on; cf. Moulton, Proleg., 1906, p. 177.

τῆς ἐλευθέρας. St Paul’s explanatory substitute for μον Ἰσαάκ; necessary, as the words are put into the mouth of ἡ γραφή.


Verse 31

31. διό. Always of practical result rather than argumentative inference (οὖν); a deduction from the preceding Galatians 4:21-30, which must be carried out in daily life (thus forming the transition to the next section); we are therefore free.

ἀδελφοί. Once more, see Galatians 4:28 note.

παιδίσκης, “a mere bondmaid.”

τῆς ἐλευθέρας. The absence of the article before παιδίσκης, and its insertion here, rhetorically direct attention (see Milligan on 1 Thessalonians 4:8) and also suggest the unique character of the Jerusalem above, cf. Galatians 1:10 (τὸν θεόν). This is our true and proper position, to be and behave as—children of the free!

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Galatians 4:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/galatians-4.html. 1896.

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