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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 4


1 2 I mean that as long as the heir is not of age, he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything,


but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father.


In the same way we also, when we were not of age, were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world. 3


But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,


to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.


As proof that you are children, 4 God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"


So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.


5 6 At a time when you did not know God, you became slaves to things that by nature are not gods;


but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and destitute elemental powers? Do you want to be slaves to them all over again?


You are observing days, months, seasons, and years. 7


I am afraid on your account that perhaps I have labored for you in vain. 8


9 10 I implore you, brothers, be as I am, because I have also become as you are. You did me no wrong;


you know that it was because of a physical illness 11 that I originally preached the gospel to you,


and you did not show disdain or contempt because of the trial caused you by my physical condition, but rather you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.


Where now is that blessedness of yours? 12 Indeed, I can testify to you that, if it had been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.


So now have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?


They show interest in you, but not in a good way; they want to isolate you, 13 so that you may show interest in them.


Now it is good to be shown interest for good reason at all times, and not only when I am with you.


My children, for whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you!


I would like to be with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed because of you.


14 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?


For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the freeborn woman.


The son of the slave woman was born naturally, the son of the freeborn through a promise.


Now this is an allegory. These women represent two covenants. One was from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; this is Hagar.


Hagar represents Sinai, 15 a mountain in Arabia; it corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery along with her children.


But the Jerusalem above is freeborn, and she is our mother.


For it is written: "Rejoice, you barren one who bore no children; break forth and shout, you who were not in labor; for more numerous are the children of the deserted one than of her who has a husband." 16


Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of the promise.


But just as then the child of the flesh persecuted the child of the spirit, it is the same now.


But what does the scripture say? "Drive out the slave woman and her son! For the son of the slave woman shall not share the inheritance with the son" of the freeborn.


Therefore, brothers, we are children not of the slave woman but of the freeborn woman.



1 [1-7] What Paul has argued in Gal 3:26-29 is now elaborated in terms of the Christian as the heir ( Gal 4:1, 7; cf Gal 3:18, 29) freed from control by others. Again, as in Gal 3:2-5, the proof that Christians are children of God is the gift of the Spirit of Christ relating them intimately to God.

2 [1,3] Not of age: an infant or minor.

3 [3] The elemental powers of the world: while the term can refer to the "elements" like earth, air, fire, and water or to elementary forms of religion, the sense here is more likely that of celestial beings that were thought in pagan circles to control the world; cf Gal 4:8; Col 2:8, 20.

4 [6] Children: see the note on Gal 3:26; here in contrast to the infant or young person not of age ( Gal 3:1, 3). Abba: cf Mark 14:36 and the note; Romans 8:15.

5 [8-11] On the basis of the arguments advanced from Gal 3:1 through Gal 4:7, Paul now launches his appeal to the Galatians with the question, how can you turn back to the slavery of the law ( Gal 4:9)? The question is posed with reference to bondage to the elemental powers (see the note on Gal 4:3) because the Galatians had originally been converted to Christianity from paganism, not Judaism ( Gal 4:8). The use of the direct question is like Gal 3, 3-5.

6 [8] Things that by nature are not gods: or "gods that by nature do not exist."

7 [10] This is likely a reference to ritual observances from the Old Testament, promoted by opponents: sabbaths or Yom Kippur, new moon, Passover or Pentecost, sabbatical years.

8 [11] Cf Gal 2:2. If the Galatians become slaves . . . all over again to the law ( Gal 4:9), Paul will have worked in vain among them.

9 [12-20] A strongly personal section. Paul appeals to past ties between the Galatians and himself. He speaks sharply of the opponents ( Gal 4:17-18) and pastorally to the Galatians ( Gal 4:19-20).

10 [12] Because I have also become as you are: a terse phrase in Greek, meaning "Be as I, Paul, am," i.e., living by faith, independent of the law, for, in spite of my background in Judaism ( Gal 1:13), I have become as you Galatians are now, a brother in Christ.

11 [13] Physical illness: because its nature is not described, some assume an eye disease ( Gal 4:15); others, epilepsy; some relate it to 2 Cor 12:7-9. Originally: this may also be translated "formerly" or "on the first (of two) visit(s)"; cf Acts 16:6; 18:23.

12 [15] That blessedness of yours: possibly a reference to the Galatians' initial happy reception of Paul ( Gal 4:14) and of his gospel ( Gal 1:6; 3:1-4) and their felicitation at such blessedness, but the phrase could also refer ironically to earlier praise by Paul of the Galatians, no longer possible when they turn from the gospel to the claims of the opponents ( Gal 4:17-18; 1:7). If the word is a more literal reference to a beatitude, Gal 3:26-28 may be in view.

13 [17] Isolate you: that is, from the blessings of the gospel and/or from Paul.

14 [21-31] Paul supports his appeal for the gospel ( Gal 4:9; 1:6-9; 2:16; 3:2) by a further argument from scripture (cf Gal 3:6-18). It involves the relationship of Abraham ( Gal 3:6-16) to his wife, Sarah, the freeborn woman, and to Hagar, the slave woman, and the contrast between the sons born to each, Isaac, child of promise, and Ishmael, son of Hagar (Genesis 16; 21). Only through Isaac is the promise of God preserved. This allegory ( Gal 4:24), with its equation of the Sinai covenant and Mosaic law with slavery and of the promise of God with freedom, Paul uses only in light of previous arguments. His quotation of Genesis 21:10 at Gal 4:30 suggests on a scriptural basis that the Galatians should expel those who are troubling them ( Gal 1:7).

15 [25] Hagar represents Sinai . . . : some manuscripts have what seems a geographical note, "For Sinai is a mountain in Arabia."

16 [27] Isaiah 54:1 in the Septuagint translation is applied to Sarah as the barren one (in Genesis 15) who ultimately becomes the mother not only of Isaac but now of numerous children, i.e., of all those who believe, the children of the promise ( Gal 4:28).

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