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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 4

Lapide's Great Biblical CommentaryLapide's Commentary

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Verses 1-31



i. He continues the argument of the preceding chapter that the Jews, like children and slaves, were under the Jewish law as a pædagague, while Christians, as sons of full age, were led, not by the law, but by the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, "Abba, Father," and that it is, therefore, unworthy of them to return to the weak and beggarly elements of the law.

ii. He Observes (ver. 13) on the eagerness with which the Galatians had formerly embraced his preaching, that he may shame them for so lightly departing from it.

iii. He introduces (ver. 21) a new argument from an allegory drawn from Abraham's history. His wife Sarah, a "free woman," bore him Isaac as his son and heir, by whom were represented Christians, the free-born sons of God, free from the bondage of the law, and in due time heirs of Abraham's blessing. His bondwoman Hagar bore him Ishmael, who was cast out, and who represented the Judaisers, to be shut out from the blessing promised by God to Abraham. Ver. 1. Now I say. This is closely connected with vers. 24 and 25 of the preceding chapter, where it was said that "the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, but after that faith is come we are no longer under a schoolmaster." He proceeds to prove this at greater length, and begins with the example of a child who is under tutors.

The heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant. An infant , as the Greek word is, who has not yet attained to years of discretion, inasmuch as he is under a tutor and a pædagogue, and cannot exercise the right of dominion over his property, is in the position of a slave rather than a lord, nay, he is subject to a slave, viz., his pædagogue, and is under tutors and governors. Ver. 2. Governors. Stewards who administer his property.

Until the time appointed. The prescribed day when the power of the tutor came to an end, i.e ., the date when the heir was twenty five years of age, which in many places is the age of majority. Ver. 3. Even so we. That is the Jews, whom he so describes in chap. iii. 25.

When we were children. Like boys untaught in the knowledge, and therefore in the love of God and His righteousness.

Under the elements of the world. 1. Serving the letter of the Old Law. For the law, as being imperfect, was first given to the world, i.e ., to the Jews, and through the Jews to all nations, to teach them the rudiments of faith and piety. But the Gospel, succeeding the law, teaches their perfection. As Justinian calls his Institutes the "elements of the law," and as we speak of the elements of grammar, philosophy, and music, so here the Apostle speaks of the law as elementary. As boys, says Anselm, learn the elements, and their conjunction, but do not understand the words and sentences composed from them until they proceed to higher branches of learning, to which they can only attain by first learning the elements, so the Jews had the elements in their ceremonies, of which they did not understand the meaning, until by these elements, as their elevators, they come to the faith of Christ.

S. Paul calls the men of the world by the name of the world. The reference is first to the Jews, then, by metonymy, to all men. God willed to open, in one corner of the world a school, where He might teach men the rudiments of faith and piety, until He should open everywhere schools where they were most learnedly taught.

2. More properly and naturally the elements of the world are the days, months, times, and years of verse 10. These he calls elements byan allusion to Gen. i., where it is said that God created the elements of the world in seven days, and then rested on the seventh day, and instituted the Sabbath as a memorial among the Jews of His creative rest. The days are thus called elements , because in them the elements were created, and their creation represented by metonymy on the Sabbath. Or they may be so called because time governs the world and all in it, as the generation, corruption, and succession of things. Accordingly, in grateful recollection of God's providence, disposing by sun and moon the succession of the seasons and of day and night, He willed that Sabbaths, new moons, and other days should be observed by the Jews, that they might continually recognise God as the Creator and Preserver of all things, through the instrumentality of these stated feasts, till, being better taught by the Gospel, they should worship God in spirit and in truth.

Erasmus, however, thinks that the world here by catachresis stands for whatever has the nature of visible and transitory things, such as the ceremonies of the Old Law, which, in Colossians 2:20 , he calls "the rudiments of the world." But this is not the usual meaning of the word with the Apostle, nor is it the meaning in Colossians 2:20 , as I will prove when I come to comment on it. Cf. also infra , notes on verse 9.

We were in bondage. Theophylact explains this from the analogy of the child under tutors. As this child differs nothing from a slave, so, when we were children in the knowledge of Christ and the love of God, we were, like slaves, under the aforesaid elements of the world, and under the tutorship of the Old Law. Ver. 4. But when the fulness of the time was come. When the time fixed beforehand for the end of the law and the beginning of the Gospel was fully come, we were transferred from the servitude of the law to the freedom of sonship. S. Bernard ( Serm . 1 de Adventu ) explains the passage somewhat differently: " The fulness and abundance of temporal things had brought about forgetfulness and famine of eternal things. It was at the moment when temporal things held sway that eternal things opportunely arrived ." But this is a symbolical rather than literal explanation. Literally, the fulness of time is not the abundance of temporal things, but the full completion of the predetermined time.

God sent forth His Son , as His legate or Apostle, with full instructions to act on His behalf. He sent His Son, not by change of place, as though He left heaven and arrived at earth; but the Son, remaining where He was, in heaven and on earth, took a new role, viz., that of a Human Ambassador from God to man.

Made of a woman. Woman here denotes, not corruption, but the female sex, and applies as well to a virgin as to another woman. Made of a woman denotes conception without a male, from the sole substance of the mother. From this it clearly follows that Christ did not assume a heavenly body, which He brought to earth by passing through the Blessed Virgin as through a pipe, as the Valentinians formerly, and the Anabaptists now teach, but that His body was formed from the Virgin.

Made under the law. Though Christ, even as man, was not subject to the law, because He was still the Son of God, the giver of the law, yet of His own free-will He observed it, and of His own free-will submitted Himself to circumcision, and to its other ceremonial enactments. Made , therefore, denotes, not obligation, but practice; not right, but fact.

To redeem them that were under the law. By paying the price, might bestow on them Christian liberty The reference is to the bondage of the law, not of sin.

That we might receive the adoption of sons. (1.) The Son of God was made of a woman Son of man, that He might make the sons of men sons of God. " God was made man ," says S. Bernard, " that man might be made God ." (2.) This adoption is by grace, by which we obtain not only a right to be heirs of God the Father, but also participation in the Divine Nature, the Holy Spirit Himself, and sonship with God. (3.) Although all the righteous, even before Christ, were sons of God by adoption, yet the Apostle calls them all slaves ( a ) because, although the righteous were truly sons of God, yet they had not the status of sons, but only of slaves, being under the law, and consequently under the spirit of servile fear. ( b ) Because they had not the right of sonship through the law, but through their faith in Christ yet to come; and they belonged, therefore, more to the New Law than to the Old, as Augustine proves happily and exhaustively ( contra Duas Epp. Pelag. cap. 4). ( c ) Because they lacked the fruit of adoption, in being unable to discern their heavenly inheritance before Christ revealed it. ( d ) Because Christ, in setting us free from the yoke of the law, substituted for it in the New Law the one spirit of adoption and of love.

Ver. 6. The Spirit of His Son. The Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. This is an argument from effect to cause, as when we say, "Where there is smoke there is fire." God first sent forth the Spirit of His Son to us, from which it followed that we became sons of God. Because we are sons, therefore, we know that He hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son, else should we not be sons. Because , therefore, denotes not so much the efficient cause as the logical reason.

Or, better still, we may connect the particle because with the cry, " Abba, Father ." God hath sent forth His Spirit, not to make you sons, but to make you cry, " Abba, Father ."

Crying. Causing you to invoke God ardently, confidently, with filial affection. It is the clamour of the heart, not of the mouth, as in Exodus 15:15 .

Abba. The Hebrew Ab , the Syriac Abba , which in Greek and Latin becomes Abbas , denotes father. See my notes to Romans 8:15 . As this place is a terror to the lukewarm, who rarely experience this feeling of filial prayer, so does it inspire the devout, who seek it within with a hope of salvation and enjoyment of their heavenly inheritance. Ver. 8. Howbeit then. When you were pagan unbelievers, and lived in ignorance of God.

Which by nature are no gods. But only in the estimation of man. Ver. 9. But now after that ye have known God , &c. Known by God, as beloved sons of their Father. " God is ignorant of no one ," says S. Jerome, " but He is said to know those who have exchanged error for piety ." Better still, it may be rendered, made to know, taught by God , by a common Hebraism. The Hiphil ("he caused to know") and the Hophal ("he was made to know") have no exact equivalent voice in Latin or Greek, and are, therefore, expressed by a participle, with a loss of the force of the original Hebrew. Cf. 1 Cor. viii. 3. In other places, God is said to know when He makes us to know; and the Holy Spirit is said to cry aloud, or to pray, when He makes us cry aloud or pray. Cf. Romans 8:26 . The meaning of the verse is, therefore, this: Since you have been taught by God inwardly by His grace, outwardly by our preaching what is the way of salvation in Christ, why do you turn again to the elements of the law, to be taught perfection by them? You are like a metaphysician beginning again the elements of grammar, or a runner returning from the goal to the starting-point. You were once near the goal of salvation; why then go back to the place you started from? You were theologians taught by God; why do you return to the law, as though you had lost your rights and were beginning again?

To the weak and beggarly elements. What are these? 1. Augustine and Ambrose understand by the phrase the sun and moon, and the idols formerly worshipped by the Galatians, and see a reference to the false gods mentioned above in verse 3. Tertullian, in a similar vein, says ( de Præscript. c. 33): " The Apostle censures Hermogenes, who, by introducing matter as uncreated, compares it to the uncreated God, and by making a goddess as mother of the elements, sets her up as an object of worship side by side with the one God ." But the objection to this explanation is that the Galatians had no wish to return to Gentilism but to Judaism; and this the whole Epistle, with its condemnation of the Jewish ceremonies, clearly shows.

2. The explanation of Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Œcumenius is better. According to them, these elements are the sun and moon, to which the Galatians wished to return, not to serve them as gods, as they had been used to do before they embraced Christianity, but to determine by their courses the Sabbaths, New Moons, and other Jewish feasts. He calls these elements weak and beggarly with reference to God, whose support they require continually, without which they are weak, and even unable to exist. If God withdrew His hand, they would sink into the nothing from which they came. That S. Paul is referring to the sun and moon appears from the fact that they are properly the elements of the world, as he styled them in verse 3, and also because he asks, " Why turn ye again " to the things which you used to worship? Among the Galatians these of course were not the Jewish ceremonies, but the sun and moon.

3. But the best explanation is that of Jerome, Theodoret, Anselm, and Tertullian ( contra Marcion , v. 4), who understand by these elements the Sacraments, and feast-days, and other ceremonies of the Old Law, which were given to the Jews, as the first rudiments of faith and piety, and through them to the whole world, and which were, as I have said in the notes to verse 3, symbols of the creation and government of the world. They are beggarly , and, as Tertullian calls them, fallacious , because they neither contain nor confer grace, but need for this the power of Christ. They are also weak , because they are of themselves of no efficacy to justify or sanctify; for without faith in Christ they could justify no one, nay, even with that faith they did not justify by themselves and ex opere operato , but only ex opere operantis , i.e ., by the faith of the receiver. Accordingly, they were done away with when Christ came.

That this last explanation is the correct one is evident from what follows; for S. Paul goes on to say, " Ye observe days and months, and times and years ," by which he gives them to understand that these were the elements that they served.

Moreover, this explanation is much the more simple and pertinent. For these elements, that is to say, these festal days they did observe, but they did not worship the sun and moon. Nor can it be said with strict truth that whoever observes the first day of the month is a moon-worshipper, or that one who keeps the Lord's Day is a sun-worshipper, when the Lord's Day is merely identified with Sunday, because the best of all days is assigned to the chief of all the heavenly bodies.

It may be objected that the word again is opposed to the explanation, and implies that the Galatians, as being formerly worshippers of the host of heaven, had returned to this worship, and not to Jewish observances, to which they had not been addicted.

I reply that S. Paul regards all men without distinction as having been under the law as their pædagogue, and accuses the Galatians of again setting up, by their action, the obsolete rites of Judaism.

But the answer of Adam is perhaps better, who refers the word again , not to the whole but to the part, as signifying only that slavery was restored in general, but not in this or that particular. The Galatians had at one time served idols, and afterwards Judaism, and they are here exhorted not to become slaves once more, whether to demons or to Jewish shadows. So we might say to a Lutheran who had embraced the Catholic faith, and afterwards lapsed into Calvinism: How can you fall into Calvinism again, that is into heresy? It is not Calvinism that is the significant word, but lapse , and the force of the question lies in its appeal against deserting the Catholic faith for heresy of any kind whatsoever. Ver. 10 . Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years . As S. Augustine ( Ep . 119 and Enchirid. 79) and Anselm understand the elements to be the sun, moon, and idols, so do they understand this verse to mean days that were lucky or unlucky, according as astrology made them so. But Chrysostom and Jerome and others explain the days to be the Jewish Sabbaths; the months to be the new moons, and the seventh month, which was held sacred throughout; the times to be the stated feasts of the four seasons the Passover, Pentecost, the Day of Atonement, and the New Year; and the years to be the seventh year of remission of debts, and the fiftieth year of jubilee. By the observance of days, months, and years, S. Paul means the ceremonies of the Old Law as a whole.

From this appears the error of the heretics, who infer from this that the feasts of the Church are condemned. If they were, then would the heretics themselves be condemned for keeping Sunday? What is condemned here is the observance of the Jewish feasts only. These are happily distinguished from those observed by Christians, by Gregory Nazianzen, in his Whitsuntide Oration, in which he says: " The Jew keeps feast days, but it is according to the letter; for by observing the corporeal law he attains not to the spiritual. The Gentile keeps feast days, but it is according to the body, in revelling and wantonness. [Accordingly Lucian ( Saturnalia ) bids that nothing be done during the time of the feast, whether in public or in private, but what pertains to sport, to pleasure, and to lust; nay, the feasts of the heathen were obscene in themselves, witness those of Venus, Priapus, and Bacchus, in whose honour every abomination was practised]. We Christians keep feasts, but only such as are pleasing to the Spirit. "

Jerome, too, says: " Any one may say that if it is not lawful to observe days, and months, and times, and years, then we do what is forbidden in observing Wednesdays, and Good Friday, and the Lords Day, and the Lenten fast, and the Easier solemnities, and the Whitsuntide festivities, and the days set apart in different places in honour of the martyrs. A wise and simple reply to this will be that the Jewish feast-days differ from ours. We do not observe the feast of unleavened bread, but that of the Cross and the Resurrection, nor do we number our weeks to Pentecost as the Jews did, but celebrate one coming of the Holy Spirit ." From which we may observe that, in S. Jerome's time, days were set apart in honour of the martyrs, and that the practice is approved by him.

Ver. 12 . Be as I am. As you see me neglecting Jewish feasts, relying on my freedom in the Gospel, so do you neglect them and make use of the same freedom. I would be your leader into the land of liberty; follow me, therefore, and care nothing for what the Jews may say about the necessity of the Old Law.

I am as ye are. I live as a Gentile, and adapt myself to your needs, so far as I can with a safe conscience.

Ye have not injured me at all. Ifanybody, it is yourselves that you have injured. I do not say this in anger, but from love and pity. S. Jerome observes that the Apostle soothes here any feelings wounded by the rebuke of chap. iii. 1. Ver. 13. Through infirmity of the flesh I preached the Gospel unto you . S. Jerome explains this to mean that he gave them the first and weak elements only of the faith, because of their weakness with regard to spiritual things. He also gives as a second interpretation of infirmity of the flesh , Paul's sicknesses and headaches, and as a third, his persecutions, poverty, and sufferings in general, which might make him seem an Apostle, weak, miserable, and despicable, and so unable to gain the respect of the Galatians. Ver. 14. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not. Erasmus takes temptation in the active sense, viz., as though Paul had tempted the Galatians by his unattractive presence and speech. But it is better to take it passively, as being identical with the object of temptation. The meaning then is: You did not despise me in my weakness and my abject condition, which had the effect of making me a temptation to you, but you received me as an angel, nay, as Christ Himself. [ Note . The Vulgate is: "And your temptation which was in my flesh."] Ver. 15 . Your blessedness. You beatified me for my sufferings for the faith, and as it were said to yourselves: Happy are we in having such an Apostle! "Happy they who have the privilege of hearing and seeing Paul!" S. Augustine is said to have wished to see three things Christ on earth in the flesh, Rome at the height of her power, and Paul thundering in his preaching. S. Paul now asks the Galatians what had become of their former opinion of him; why they had so soon changed their minds, and given up their love for him, which was once ardent enough to make them pluck out their eyes for him; and inquires whether he had become their enemy for telling them the truth, viz., that no one is justified by the law, but only by faith in Christ.

Ver. 17. They zealously affect you. The Judaisers do all they can to woo you to espouse their cause, and to bring you into subjection to their law, but their object is not good.

They would exclude you. Some texts read include here, which gives a very good meaning. These Judaisers are like crafty wooers, who, when they are seeking to win a wealthy wife, show her every kind of honour and service, and humour her whims in everything; but when they have attained their object, they shut her up, appoint custodians of her person, and treat her as a slave. They are now promising you, Galatians, great things; but they want to shut you up under the law, and shut you out from the liberty that is in Christ.

That ye might affect them. It is not friendship that animates them. They want to gain your confidence, that you may surrender to them, and become their disciples, and give, them ground for public boasting. Ver. 18 . But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing. It is good to imitate others, but only in what is good. [The Vulgate reading is in the imperative: Be zealously affected always to the good in what is good .]

Observe that the first good can be taken in the neuter, for what is good, or in the masculine. If the latter be read, then the meaning is: Do not be zealously affected towards Judaism, which is evil, but take as your models good Christian men like myself, whose manner of life among you ye know. You followed me when I was with you; you should do the same in my absence, for a good man is always to be imitated, whether absent or present. This is a hint that in the Apostle's opinion it was his absence which had been the cause of their lapse into Judaism. Ver. 19 . My little children. I begat you to Christ by the Gospel, and now that you have left Him for Judaism, I travail in birth of you again, till you learn to look to Christ for grace and justification, and not to the law. " The Apostle here ," says Chrysostom, " Speaks of a mother's anxiety over her children. You see the feelings of a mother rather than of a father; you see his nervousness, and the cry of pain, much more agonising than that of a woman in travail ." As the Blessed Virgin bore Christ in the flesh but without pain, so did Paul labour with Christ spiritually, though with pain and grief, and strive to form the Galatians for Christ, that He might be all in all to them.

S. Ambrose ( de Isaac et Animâ , c. 8) says, with equal piety and point: " There [in the Cross and in baptism] did your mother travail; there did she who bore you labour. There are we born again, for they are brought forth in whom the image of Christ is formed. He tells us how Christ was formed in His Spouse. Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm. Christ is the seal upon the forehead, that we may ever confess Him; on the heart, that we may always love Him; on the arm, that we may always work for Him; so that, if it be possible, His whole likeness may be expressed in us, and He be our seal whom God the Father hath sealed ."

Let those note who desire to convert souls to Christ, that they must labour and toil like a woman in travail. Hence the question is asked in Job xxxix. 1: " Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? . . . They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows " where the reference is to the belief that the hinds suffer more acutely than most animals in parturition, a belief that was shared by Aristotle and Pliny. S. Gregory takes this passage mystically of preachers who, like hinds in labour, bring forth offspring to Christ with tears and sorrow.

" I see ," he says, " that Paul is like a hind bringing forth its young with great pain; for he says, 'My little children, of whom I travail in birth again.' See the pain, see the labour he suffered; even after he was delivered he was conspelled to give life again to his offspring when it had perished. " (Morals xxx. 21)

Let bishops, too, learn from S. Paul to be not so much fathers as mothers to their subjects, as S. Bernard says excellently ( Serm. 25 in Cant .). " Learn to be mothers, not lords, to those under your charge. Seek to be loved rather than feared; and if sometimes there is need of severity, let it be that of a father, not of a tyrant ."

Ver. 20. I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice . I would wish to say orally what a letter cannot sufficiently express; I would wish to coax, to beseech, to implore you, to treat you as a mother does her children, to manifest in every way a mother's affection, that I might persuade you to do what I wish.

See what love makes men do. Paul makes himself a father, and becomes a boy with his children. So King Agesilaus, to amuse his boy, would lay aside his purple and his sceptre, to ride on a stick for him; and when one of his court remarked on his levity, he retorted: " Hold your tongue, for when you have children of your own, then I will give you leave to laugh at your king's folly ." So here Paul would say that a mother's love knows no bounds, no shame; for it no toil is too great, nothing is too trivial or too shameful.

I stand in doubt of you. "I am ashamed," as some render it, but wrongly. The meaning is: I am perplexed; I do not know what to say to you to persuade you. Maldonatus gives two interpretations: (1.) I have not obtained the expected fruit of my preaching, therefore I am confounded; and (2.) I do not know whether you are Christians or Jews. Ver. 21. Do ye not hear the law? A vigorous question. If you will not listen to me, will you not listen to the law, that you think so much of, for it will point you from itself to Christ? Ver. 22. Abraham had two sons. Ishmael, by his handmaiden, Hagar, who was, therefore, but a wife of secondary rank; and Isaac, by Sarah, his wife of honour. The latter was his heir; the former received such gifts as the father chose to give him. Cf. Gen. xxv. 5, 6. Ver. 23 . He who was of the bondwoman. Ishmael was born according to the laws of natural generation, by which Abraham, though an old man, was able to raise up seed from his youthful bondwoman, Hagar.

He of the freewoman was by promise. Isaac was not born according to the usual laws of generation, for Sarah, his mother, was then sterile by age, so that Abraham could not in the order of nature beget a son by her. He was born by promise , i.e ., by the supernatural power of God, in fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham. Ver. 24. Which things are an allegory. An allegory with rhetoricians is a continued metaphor. With ecclesiastical writers it is identical with a type or figure in which things and events of the Old Testament represented their parallels in the New.

For these are the two covenants. Sarah and Hagar signify respectively the two covenants, the New and the Old. There are four senses of Scripture: (1.) The literal, as e.g. , when it is said that Abraham begat Ishmael of Hagar naturally, and Isaac of Sarah supernaturally; (2.) the allegorical, as when it is said, " These are the two covenants ;" (3.) the tropological, of which we find an example in verse 29; (4.) the anagogical, which is used in verse 26.

The first covenant referred to here is that made by God with Moses on Mount Sinai, in which God promised to be the God of the Hebrews, and to give them the land of Canaan, and the Hebrews on their part promised to keep the law of their God, whether moral, judicial, or ceremonial. The second covenant is that made with Christ and Christians at Jerusalem, in which God promised to be the God of the Christians, and to give them a heavenly inheritance; and the Christians on their part promised by Christ and His Apostles to preserve the faith of Christ, and to obey His precepts. This latter appears throughout the Gospels, and especially in the record of the Last Supper, given by S. John in chap. xiii. et seq. There Christ confirmed this covenant in His own blood, as is narrated by SS. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul.

The one from the Mount Sinai. The Old Covenant, given from Mount Sinai, made slaves of the Jews, by bringing them under the shadows of burdensome ceremonies, obliging them to obedience under fear of punishment, or by the promise of earthly goods, such as abundance of corn and wine and oil.

Which is Agar. Hagar the slave typifies the covenant of slavery. Ver. 25. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia. Mount Sinai was called Hagar by the Arabs, according to Chrysostom and others. But this explanation is forced, and leaves a gap in the argument. As we have just seen, Hagar represents the Old Covenant given on Mount Sinai, and this is the sense of the passage.

In Arabia. Even the Arabs typify this Jewish slavery, for they themselves are subject to it. Hence the saying, "the Arabian pipe," mentioned by Julius Pollux, which shows their servile condition, since slaves only (and they for the most part came from Arabia) used to practise the art of music. The Old Covenant of slavery was, therefore, fitly entered into in Arabia, i.e ., on Mount Sinai. Chrysostom adds: " Hagar in Hebrew denotes dwelling, Sinai temptation, Arabia falling, Ishmael the hearing of God ." Jerome says: " Hagar shows by its meaning that the Old Covenant would not be for ever; Sinai, that it would be a temptation; Arabia, that it would perish; Ishmael, as the name of one who heard only the commandments of God but did not do them, a rough man, a man of blood, the enemy of his brethren, that the Jews would be hard and harsh, enemies of Christians, hearers only of the law, and not doers ."

S. Jerome again says tropologically: " Those Christians are born of Hagar who look only at the shell of Holy Scripture, and serve the Lord in fear. Those are born of Sarah who treat the Old Covenant as an allegory, and seek for its spirit, and who serve the Lord in love ." See also the remarks of S. Augustine ( contra Duas Epp. Pelag. cap . 4), where he lays down that Abraham, Noah, Moses, and all the righteous men of the Old Covenant, were really children of the New, inasmuch as they were justified by the same faith in the Incarnation and Passion of Christ as Christians, and lived by the same grace and the same love of Christ; while, on the other hand, Christians who keep the law from fear of punishment are children of the Old and not of the New Covenant.

Which is joined to that which now is Jerusalem. So the Vulgate. S. Jerome and Chrysostom take it of a literal vicinity to Jerusalem, inasmuch as Jerusalem borders on the desert in which Sinai is situated, the hills of Idumæa alone intervening. But these hills comprise the whole of Idumæa, which is a large tract, and, therefore, it cannot be said Sinai is joined to Judæa. It would be more accurate to say that it was widely separated from it.

S. Thomas interprets it to mean that Sinai is joined to Jerusalem, not by nearness, but by a continuous road, because the Hebrews went from Egypt by a straight road through Sinai into Judæa. But this is too far fetched. In the same way the Red Sea, and Egypt itself, might be said to be joined to Judæa.

Accordingly, it is better to understand the words to mean that the conjunction is not of place but of likeness.

With this agrees the Greek word here, συστοιχεί , which means kinship or likeness. Στοίχειν means to go forward in order, or to stand in one's place. So grammarians call the letters of the alphabet στοιχει̃α , because they are joined in a certain order. Philosophers call the elements earth, air, fire, and water by the same name, because each of them has its due place, and its relation to the others. Also verses are called στίχοι , and lines in order, στίχαι . Hence, as Budæus says, kindred things are called σύστοιχα , and συστοιχία is a series of similar things duly arranged. So here, of Mount Sinai it is said that it, συστοιχει̃ , i.e ., it has a similarity, it is in the same series or order of things as Jerusalem, because it represents it by a convenient type.

This it does (1.) because, as Mount Sinai is sterile in the desert, so is Jerusalem in its ceremonies. Moreover, the law was given in the first, preserved in the second. (2.) Sinai was outside the Promised land; the Jerusalem of the law is outside the Church of Christ, whether militant or triumphant. (3.) Which is more germane to the Apostle's purpose; as Sinai nourished and brought up slaves whether Jews or Arabs, and as from it proceeded a servile law, with the sound of the trumpet, with thundering and earthquake, which, therefore, suitably drove its votaries into obedience by fear; so is now Jerusalem, so far as its life and doctrine are concerned, Sinaitic, and produces slaves to the shadows of the law, who obey through fear only. (4.) Sinai is related to Jerusalem also, because the Jews, who received the law at Sinai, were the fathers of those who kept it in Jerusalem; and as the I fathers were, so are the sons.

By metonymy, Sinai and Jerusalem are put for their inhabitants. As Hagar the bondwoman signified the bondage of the Old Covenant, so Mount Sinai, in bringing forth slaves, typified Jerusalem, which did the same. Such as Sinai was, such is Jerusalem. The former was the parent of the slaves, so too is the latter.

Subjoined is a tabular statement of the typology used here:

SLAVERY FREEDOM Hagar the bondwoman

Ishmael, a slave, born after the flesh

The law given at Sinai

The earthly Jerusalem, the synagogue of the Jews, in bondage

The Jews immersed in the shadows of the ceremonial law. Two wives

Two sons

Two covenants

Two cities

Two sons Sarah the freewoman.

Isaac, a freeman, born according to promise.

The Gospel given at Sion.

The heavenly Jerusalem, by grace the mother of all the faithful, free.

The faithful who enjoy the grace of Christ. Jerusalem which now is. The earthly Jerusalem is contrasted with the heavenly, the transitory with that which is to endure for ever.

It may be noted that Jerusalem is not compounded of Jebus and Salem , as Erasmus and others have thought, but of a Hebrew word meaning he shall see , and Salem, in allusion to Genesis 22:14 . Hence the meaning of the word is the vision of peace .

And is in bondage with her children. The reference is of course to Hager. As she, a bondwoman, bore Ishmael, he and his descendants inherit their mother's status; so does the Old Covenant, typified by her, bring forth bondmen. On the other hand, as Sarah was a free woman, her children are free, as are the children of the New Covenant.

The slavery of the Old Covenant consisted mainly in two things, in its obliging men to obedience by fear, and in burdening them with a multitude of dumb ceremonies, which were of no avail to justification. On the other hand, the liberty of the Gospel consists in its leading us to obedience through love, and in teaching us to worship God in spirit and in truth. It has no doubt its own ceremonies, nut they are all aids only to the spiritual life. Ver. 26. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. The Christian Church, typified by Sarah, the mistress, is contrasted with the Jewish synagogue, typified by Hagar, the bondwoman, in four points: It is above; it is Jerusalem; it is free; it is a fruitful mother.

1. Why is it said to be above? Because ( a ) Christ, its Head, descended from heaven, and thither ascended to rule the Church from above. ( b ) Because the Church is perfected by heavenly things, faith, hope, and charity, which come from above ( c ) Because, the efficacy of the Sacraments is from above, and shows God Himself present in His Church, as though He had come down from above. ( d ) Because her conversation is in heaven, and there with her Spouse are her heart and treasure. ( e ) Because she is striving for her eternal crown laid up in heaven. Cf. Revelation 21:2 .

2. Why is she called Jerusalem? Because Jerusalem means the vision of peace. This God provides for His Church, so that she rejoices, not in earthly but in heavenly peace, according to the promise of her Lord. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you" (S. John xiv. 27). This peace comes from a good conscience towards God, self, and all men. Literally too the Church is entitled to be called Jerusalem, because there she had her beginning, as the Jewish Church had at Sinai. Hence the prophets repeatedly designate the Christian Church by the names of Sion or Jerusalem.

3. Why is she called free ? Freedom is fourfold: ( a ) Civil , to which is opposed the status of slaves. ( b ) Moral , by which is excluded slavery to passion and lust, to the fear of adversity. In this the Stoics placed the perfection of happiness, and desired that every man should be able to say of himself: Though the world were shattered around him, its fragments would strike, but not daunt him ( Hor. Odes, iii. 3, 7). ( c ) Spiritual , springing from that perfect charity which casts out fear, by which we are able to serve God, not in servile fear, but in filial love; not with material ceremonies, but in spirit and in truth. This is the freedom in the Apostle's mind here. ( d ) Celestial , which excludes all slavery of mind or body to pain, and is the perfect bliss of mankind.

The Church already enjoys moral and spiritual liberty; by hope and desire it tastes beforehand the heavenly freedom it is one day to possess.

4. Why is she called a mother? Because out of Gentile barrenness, which was subject to devils, the Church has been collected, and has borne, and still bears, many spiritual children to Christ, and this not from Jews alone, but from Jews and Gentiles, without distinction. Ver. 27. Rejoice, thou barren. Rejoice, 0 Church, called out of the Gentiles; thou who wast once barren, without faith in God, and formerly not wont to bear children to Him now that thou art espoused to Him break forth and cry. The synagogue, whose husband was the law, or even God Himself, not as a father tender, but as a lawgiver terrible, brought forth Jews only according to the flesh. But the Church embraces as a mother all the nations that believe on Christ. Therefore the synagogue has borne to God comparatively a small number of spiritual children. She bare the Prophets, the Patriarchs, and a few other righteous men, and that not in her own strength, but by the power of Christ, the father of the New Covenant.

The Apostle quotes Isa. liv. 1. The Jews indeed interpret the passage of their return to the earthly Jerusalem. The Millenarians understood it of the thousand years of sensual happiness which they pretended that the Saints would spend on earth after the Day of judgment, as Jerome testifies of them. S. Paul, however, makes it clear that Isaiah was speaking of the happiness and fruitfulness of the Christian Church. Of this S. Ambrose writes very beautifully ( de Virgin. lib. i.): " The Church is immaculate in conception, fruitful in offspring, a virgin in chastity, a mother in her family. We are born of a virgin who has been impregnated, not by a man but by the Spirit; who brings forth, not with bodily pain but with angelic rejoicing; who feeds her children with milk, not of earth but of the Apostles. She is a virgin in the Sacraments, and a mother in the virtues she produces. She is a mother to the nations, and Scripture testifies to her fruitfulness, saying: 'The desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.' Whether we interpret this of the Church among the nations, or the soul of each individual, in either case she is married to her heavenly Spouse by the word of God, without any deviation from the path of chastity ." S. Jerome, too, says, in his comments on this passage: " The Church, long time barren, bore no children before Christ was born of the Virgin; but when she bore to Abraham, i.e., the elect father, Christ as Isaac, the laughter of the world, whose very name spoke of heavenly mysteries, then she brought forth many children to God. "

Abraham in Hebrew is (according to Jerome) the elect father, with a mighty sound.

1. Abraham was first called Abram, the lofty father , and as such begat Ishmael from Hagar. Then when he entered into a covenant with God, and received the promise of the birth of Isaac, and of the possession by his seed of the land of Canaan, his name was changed to Abraham, the father of a great multitude , i.e ., of a numerous offspring, to be begotten of Isaac according to the flesh, and of Christ according to the spirit. This is a sounder interpretation of the name than that given by Jerome.

2. Symbolically, Abraham represents God. From Hagar, the bondwoman, i.e ., from the synagogue, he begat Ishmael, the bondservant, i.e ., Moses and the Jews, who were under subjection to the Old Law. To them Abraham was a lofty father, giving the law in thunder from the heights of Sinai, and manifesting himself as a great and terrible Lord. On the other band, Abraham, i.e ., God, begat from Sarah, the freewoman, i.e ., the Church, Isaac, laughter, who represented Christ and His followers, heirs of the promises. To them Abraham was the father of a great multitude, gathered by Christ out of all nations, and regenerated by faith and baptism. Or if we take S. Jerome's interpretation of Abraham as denoting the elect father with a mighty sound, then we see the fulfilment of the name in the preaching of John Baptist, of Christ, and the Apostles, who with a loud voice called all nations to enter into the kingdom of God.

3. Isaac, i.e ., Christ, is said to be born of Sarah, i.e ., the Church, not as though the Church were actually the mother of Christ, or existed before Him, but because, in the Divine mind, the Church was, as it were, prior to Christ, and stood for His mother. For God first called the synagogue into existence, and then substituted for it the Church. Consequently, He had in His mind the idea of the synagogue first, of the Church second; and out of this He decreed that Moses should be born as the eldest son of this idea, and that he should reduce to actuality the remaining parts of the idea by instituting the synagogue. Similarly, He willed the creation of the Church, and the birth of Christ, as the first-born of His idea of the Church, who should carry out the idea, and found the Church of which He should be Himself the chief cornerstone. Hence Christ and Christians are called children of the promise and of the predestined purpose of God , because their existence was the product of the Divine will as the father, and of the Divine thought as the mother. Ver. 28 . Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. Since he was born of one barren through age not according to the flesh, but according to the promise of God. Ver. 29. He that was born after the flesh. Ishmael, born naturally of Hagar, persecuted Isaac, born supernaturally of Sarah, according to the Divine promise, and so a type of the spiritual children of the New Law. The reference is to Gen. xxi. 9. From a comparison of these two passages it is evident that the mockery mentioned was a sort of persecution, the sort of sport that cats have with mice. So in 2 Samuel 2:14 : "Abner said to Joab, Let the young men now arise and play before us," where the play was a mortal combat. Jerome and others think that the reason why Ishmael persecuted Isaac was because his envy was stirred up by the festivities indulged in at Isaac's weaning, and because he was jealous of the birthright assigned to his brother by promise. Hence it appears that he was hostile to the promised Seed, i.e ., to Christ.

So it is now. As formerly Ishmael mocked and persecuted Isaac, so now have the Jews mocked and crucified Christ, the King of liberty, and are still pursuing with bitter hatred His followers. So too are they persecuting you, 0 Galatians, that they may enslave you, and turn you from the right way. See the comments of Jerome and Rupert on Genesis 21:9 . Ver. 30. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son. Although Abraham shrank from this proposal of Sarah, yet God approved it, and bade Abraham do as Sarah demanded, not only because her demand was lawful and right, but also because his action would be a type of future events. The rejection of Hagar and Ishmael would typify the rejection of the Jewish synagogue, and its exclusion from the blessings of the Church, for persecuting Christ and His followers. Allegorically, Christians, as freemen, are inheritors of Abraham's blessing, while the Jews are shut out from it, because they are envious bondmen, persecutors of Christian freemen, just as Ishmael was forbidden to share with Isaac the paternal roof. The bondman was driven away from the freeman.

Bibliographical Information
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Galatians 4". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/clc/galatians-4.html. 1890.
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