Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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GALATIANS - Chapter 4

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Galatians 4

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  DOCTRINAL  3, 1 -- 4, 31 (continued)

2.  Christians Live in a State of Freedom  4, 1-31

4, 1-7:  Slavery and Freedom.    1.  He differs in no way from a slave: i.e., in the eyes of the law.  The father of this child is supposed to be dead.  St. Paul is only making a comparison, and every comparison is imperfect.  Our Father in heaven never dies.    2.  Guardians were controllers of his person, and stewards of his property.    3.  The application is now made.  The meaning is that the ritual of Judaism was an elementary instruction preparing the way for the perfect doctrine of Christianity.  Cf. Col. 2, 20.    4.  Fullness of time: i.e., the time appointed by God the Father for the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham.  Born under the law: born of a Hebrew mother, and therefore subject to the obligation of the Law.    5.  He was born under the Law, that He might redeem the Jews, who were under the Law.  He was born of a woman, and became our brother, that He might elevate us all, Jews and Gentiles, to the dignity of adopted sons of God.    6.  Cf. note to text.    7.  The conclusion is that the Galatians are now the adopted sons of God and heirs to the inheritance.  A better reading is: "You are no longer."

4, 8-20:  No Return to Slavery.  The Galatians had been slaves to material things.  Now that they know God since their conversion, they should not return to religious slavery, which they would do by accepting the Law.

9.  Known by God: i.e., they were the recipients of his graces.  Weak and beggarly elements: the various heathen ceremonies.  They were weak, because unable to lead men to salvation; and beggarly, since at their best they were only shadows of good to come.    10.  Here Paul speaks of some of the Jewish practices which the Galatians were following, namely Sabbaths, the observance of the new moon, and other recurring festivals of the Jewish calendar.

12.  I have also become like you: after his conversion he became a Gentile, he was free from the Law.  You have done me no wrong: i.e., since you have not injured me personally, I feel freed to plead with you.    13.  Infirmity according to the majority of the Fathers means the trials Paul had in founding the Galatian churches; according to most modern authors it means an illness of some kind, e.g., malaria, or a disease of the eyes.    14.  Instead of despising him, they received him as if he were an angel, or even Christ Himself.    15.  They congratulated themselves that they had Paul with them as their teacher.    16.  The truth refers to some preaching by Paul on his second visit which caused offense to the Galatians.    17.  They would estrange you: they would separate you from your true friends, Paul and his companions, or the Christian community.    18.  Cf. note to text.    19.  Paul regards the Galatians as through the eyes of a mother, who suffered in giving them Christian birth, and who would suffer the same pangs again to preserve them from perversion.    20.  I wish, etc.: to know more accurately their condition of mind; then he could change his voice according to the circumstances.

4, 21-31:  Ismael and Isaac.    23.  According to the flesh: according to the ordinary laws of nature.  In virtue of the promise: cf. Gen. 17, 16.19; 18, 10.    24.  Allegory: i.e., these characters have a higher meaning.  These: namely, the two women.  Two covenants: the Old and the New Testaments.  The first was from Mt. Sinai, where it was contracted between God and the Hebrews.  It brought them under the yoke of the Law, serving God as slaves and for fear of punishment.    25.  Paul shows the relation between Agar and Sinai, emphasizing the fact that she represents the Old Testament, which supposes subjection.  The Mount, situated in Arabia, is appropriately connected with the allegory of Agar, the mother of the Arabs, for from Ismael sprang the principal Arab tribe.  Many manuscripts have "For Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia"; but this reading is less probable, where Agar is a gloss that has crept into the text.  Which corresponds with the present Jerusalem: i.e., it is in the same class with the city which is now the center of Judaism, which holds her children in slavery.    26.  By above Paul does not mean exclusively the Church Triumphant, for he says that she is our mother.  Free: i.e., not subject to the Law.    27.  The barren and the desolate spiritually represent the Gentiles, while the one that has a husband is the Synagogue; although this prophecy of Isaias (54, 1) literally refers to Jerusalem during and before the captivity.  It implies that the children of the Catholic Church would be beyond all comparison more numerous than the Jewish nation.    29.  All that we read in Gen. 21, 9 is that the son of Agar played with Isaac, but from Sara's indignation as well as from Jewish tradition we may conclude that there was something offensive, something of a mockery in that playing, which Paul here calls a persecution.  Likewise, the Judaizers now persecute Paul and the faithful Christians.    30.  Sara told Abraham to cast out Agar and her son.  In like manner, the Galatians should expel the Judaizers.  Cf. Gen. 21, 10.    31.  We are not bound to the obligations of the Mosaic Law, from which Christ has emancipated us.

Confraternity Bible:

Slavery and Freedom  1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he is the master of all; 2 but he is under guardians and stewards until the time set by his father.  3* So we too, when we were children, were enslaved under the elements of the world.  4 But when the fullness of time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 that he might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.  6* And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba, Father."  7 So that he is no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, an heir also through God.

No Return to Slavery  8 But then indeed, not knowing God, you served those who really are not gods.  9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, which you desire to serve again?  10* You are observing days and months and seasons and years.  11 I fear for you, lest perhaps I have labored among you in vain.

12 Become like me, because I also have become like you, brethren, I beseech you!  You have done me no wrong.  13 And you know that on account of a physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you formerly; and though I was a trial to you in my flesh, 14 you did not reject or despise me; but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.  15 Where then is your self-congratulation?  For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your very eyes and given them to me.  16  Have I then become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?  17 They court you from no good motive; but they would estrange you, that you may court them.  18 But court the good from a good motive always, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my dear children, with whom I am in labor again, until Christ is formed in you!  20 But I wish I could be with you now, and change my tone, because I do not know what to make of you.

Ismael and Isaac  21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the Law, have you not read the Law?  22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a slave-girl and the other by a free woman.  23 And the son of the slave-girl was born according to the flesh, but the son of the free woman in virtue of the promise.  24 This is said by way of allegory.  For these are the two covenants: one indeed from Mount Sinai, bringing forth children unto bondage, which is Agar.  25* For Sinai is a mountain in Arabia, which corresponds to the present Jerusalem, and is in slavery with her children.  26* But that Jerusalem which is above is free, which is our mother.  27* For it is written,
"Rejoice thou barren, that dost not bear; break forth and cry, thou that dost not travail;

For many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that has a husband." 
28 Now we, brethren, are the children of promise, as Isaac was.  29 But as then he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the spirit, so also it is now.  30 But what does the Scripture say?  "Cast out the slave-girl and her son, for the son of the slave-girl shall not be heir with the son of the free woman."  31 Therefore, brethren, we are not children of a slave-girl, but of the free woman---in virtue of the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free.

3: The elements of the world: elementary principles of conduct, e.g., the religious laws of the Jews, and the various ceremonies of the heathens.

6: Crying, "Abba, Father": i.e., the Spirit teaches us, the adopted sons of God, to cry out: "Abba, Father."  The two words are used because St. Paul, writing the Greek word, wished to preface it with the very word our Lord had used in this doctrine which was of such great importance.

10: Their feasts under the Jewish Law.

25: The Old Testament, and the synagogue.

26: The New Testament, and the Church.

27: Isa. 54, 1.