Galatians 4:8
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.

New Living Translation
Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist.

English Standard Version
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.

Berean Study Bible
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.

Berean Literal Bible
But at that time indeed, not knowing God, you were enslaved to those by nature not being gods.

New American Standard Bible
However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.

King James Bible
Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
But in the past, when you didn't know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not gods.

International Standard Version
However, in the past, when you did not know God, you were slaves to things that are not really gods at all.

NET Bible
Formerly when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods at all.

New Heart English Bible
However at that time, not knowing God, you were in bondage to those who by nature are not gods.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
For then when you had not known God, you served those which by their nature were not gods.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
When you didn't know God, you were slaves to things which are really not gods at all.

New American Standard 1977
However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.

Jubilee Bible 2000
However then, when ye did not know God, ye did service unto those who by nature are not gods.

King James 2000 Bible
But then, when you knew not God, you did service unto them which by nature are no gods.

American King James Version
However, then, when you knew not God, you did service to them which by nature are no gods.

American Standard Version
Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them that by nature are no gods:

Douay-Rheims Bible
But then indeed, not knowing God, you served them, who, by nature, are not gods.

Darby Bible Translation
But then indeed, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to those who by nature are not gods;

English Revised Version
Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them which by nature are no gods:

Webster's Bible Translation
However then, when ye knew not God, ye did service to them which by nature are no gods.

Weymouth New Testament
But at one time, you Gentiles, having no knowledge of God, were slaves to gods which in reality do not exist.

World English Bible
However at that time, not knowing God, you were in bondage to those who by nature are not gods.

Young's Literal Translation
But then, indeed, not having known God, ye were in servitude to those not by nature gods,
Study Bible
Paul's Fears for the Galatians
7So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, you are also an heir through God. 8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9But now that you know God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you are turning back to those weak and worthless principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?…
Cross References
2 Chronicles 13:9
"Have you not driven out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron and the Levites, and made for yourselves priests like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams, even he may become a priest of what are no gods.

Isaiah 37:19
and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them.

Jeremiah 2:11
"Has a nation changed gods When they were not gods? But My people have changed their glory For that which does not profit.

Jeremiah 5:7
"Why should I pardon you? Your sons have forsaken Me And sworn by those who are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, They committed adultery And trooped to the harlot's house.

Jeremiah 16:20
Can man make gods for himself? Yet they are not gods!

1 Corinthians 1:21
For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

1 Corinthians 8:4
So about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world, and that there is no God but one.

1 Corinthians 10:20
No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be participants with demons.

Galatians 4:3
So also, when we were children, we were enslaved under the basic principles of the world.

Ephesians 2:12
remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
Treasury of Scripture

However, then, when you knew not God, you did service to them which by nature are no gods.

when.

Exodus 5:2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to …

Jeremiah 10:25 Pour out your fury on the heathen that know you not, and on the families …

John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

Acts 17:23,30 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with …

Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God …

1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God…

Ephesians 2:11,12 Why remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh…

Ephesians 4:18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life …

1 Thessalonians 4:5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

2 Thessalonians 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that …

1 John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we …

ye did.

Joshua 24:2,15 And Joshua said to all the people, Thus said the LORD God of Israel, …

Psalm 115:4-8 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands…

Psalm 135:15-18 The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands…

Isaiah 44:9-20 They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable …

Jeremiah 10:3-16 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of …

Acts 14:12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he …

Acts 17:29 For as much then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to …

Romans 1:23 And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made …

1 Corinthians 8:4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered …

1 Corinthians 10:19,20 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered …

1 Corinthians 12:2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, …

1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had to you…

1 Peter 4:3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have worked the will …

(8-11) The results of the foregoing argument are now turned against the Galatians. In their old heathen state they had been in bondage to gods that were no gods. From this bondage they had been delivered. They had been raised to a true knowledge of God, and received a Father's recognition from Him. How then could they possibly think of returning to a system of mere ceremonialism. All this painful observance of times and seasons could only make the Apostle think that his labours on their behalf had been thrown away.

(8) Them which by nature are no gods.--The gods of the heathen are called by St. Paul "devils." (See 1Corinthians 10:20 : "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to devils, and not to God.")

Verse 8. - Howbeit (ἀλλά); a strongly adversative conjunction, belonging to the whole sentence comprised in this and the next verse, which are closely welded together by the particles μὲν and δέ. In contravention of God's work of grace just described, they were renouncing their sonship and making themselves slaves afresh. Then (τότε μέν). The μέν, with its balancing δέ, here, as often is the case, unites together sentences not in their main substance strictly adverse to each other, but only in subordinate details contrasted, of which we have an exemplary instance in Romans 8:17, Κληρονόμους μὲν Θεοῦ συγκληρονόμους δὲ Ξριστοῦ. In such cases we have often no resource in English but to leave the μὲν untranslated, as our Authorized Version commonly does; "indeed" or "truly," for example, would be more or less misleading. The truth is, the apostle in these two verses is heaping reproach upon the Galatian Judaizers; first, in this verse, for their former (guilty) ignorance of God and their idolatries, and then, in the next verse, for their slighting that blessed friendship with God which they owed only to his preventing grace. In dealing with Gentile Christians the apostle repeatedly is found referring to their former heathenism, for the purpose of enforcing humility or abashing presumption, as for example in Romans 11:17-25; Romans 15:8, 9; 1 Corinthians 12:2; Ephesians 2:11-13, 17. In the case of the Galatians his indignation prompts him to use a degree of outspoken severity which he was generally disposed to forbear employing. The "then" is not defined, as English readers might perhaps misconstrue the Authorized Version as intending, by the following clause, "not knowing God," which in that version is "when ye knew not God" - a construction of the words which the use of the participle would hardly warrant; rather the time referred to by the adverb is the time of which he has before been speaking, when God's people were under the pedagogy of the Law. This, though when compared with Christ's liberty a state of bondage, was, however (the apostle feels), a position of high advancement as compared with that of heathen idolaters. These last were "far off," while the Israelites were "nigh" (compare the passages just now referred to). During that time of legal pedagogy the Galatians and their forefathers, all in the apostle's view forming one class, were wallowing in the mire of heathenism. When ye knew not God (ou)k ei)do/te Qeo/n); ye knew not God and, etc. "Knowing not God" describes the condition of heathens also in 1 Thessalonians 4:5," Not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles which know not (τὰ μὴ εἰδότα) God;" 2 Thessalonians 1:8, "Rendering vengeance to them that know not (τοῖς μὴ εἰδόσιν) God." Both of these passages favour the view that the apostle does not in the least intend in the present clause to excuse the idolatries which he goes on to speak of, but rather to describe a condition of godlessness which, as being positive rather than merely negative, inferred utter pravity and guiltiness. He uses οὐκ with the participle here, in place of the μὴ in the two passages cited from the Thessalonians, as intending to state an historical fact viewed absolutely - a sense which is made clear in English by substituting an indicative verb for the participle. Ye did service unto (ἐδουλεύσατε); served; devoted yourselves to. The verb is, perhaps, used here in that milder sense in which it frequently occurs; as in Matthew 6:24; Luke 15:29; Luke 16:13; Acts 20:19; Romans 7:6, 25; Romans 14:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:9. The Revised Version, however, gives "were in bondage to" in the present instance, but "serve" in the passages now cited. The aorist, instead of an imperfect, describes the form of religious life which they then led as a whole. Them which by nature are no gods (toi = fu/sei mh\ ou = si θεοῖς). The Textus Receptus has τοῖς μὴ φύσει οϋσι θεοῖς, which would apparently mean "which arc not gods by nature, but only in your imagination;" like "There be that are called gods," in 1 Corinthians 8:5 - Zeus, Apollo, Here, etc., mere figments of imagination (comp. 1 Corinthians 8:4). The more approved reading suggests rather the idea that the objects they worshipped might not be non-existent, but were certainly not of a Divine nature; "by nature," that is, in the kind of being to which they belong (Ephesians 2:3; Wisd. 13:1, μάταιοι φύσει). The question may be asked - If they were not gods, what then were they? The apostle would probably have answered, "Demons;" for thus he writes to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 10:20): "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to devils (δαιμονίοις), and not to God." Alford renders, "to gods which by nature exist not," etc.; but the more obvious sense of οϋσιν is that of a copula merely (comp. 2 Chronicles 13:9, Septuagint, "He became a priest (τῷ μὴ ὄντι θεῷ)"). Howbeit then, when ye know not God,.... Whilst in Gentilism, and in a state of unregeneracy, they had no true knowledge of God; though they might know by the light of nature, and works of creation, that there was a God, yet they did not know who he was, but called either mortal men, or some one or other of the creatures, or stocks, and stones, and images of men's device, by this name; they knew not the God of Israel; they did not know God in Christ, and are therefore said to be without him; and a common description of them it is, that they knew not God: and whilst this was their case, what follows was true of them,

ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods; only by name, and in the opinion of men, but have no divinity in them, are only called gods, mere nominal, fictitious deities, who have nothing of the nature and essence of God in them; for there is but one God by nature and essence, the Father, Son, and Spirit; all others have only the name and appearance, but not the truth of deity; and these the Gentiles in their times of ignorance did "service" to, which is what the Jews call , "strange service"; that is, idolatry, concerning which there is a whole treatise in the Talmud, and which bears that name (o). This service lay in paying homage to them, worshipping of them, and performing various rites and ceremonies in a way of adoration, and which they reckoned religious service; and which, comparatively speaking, whilst in this state of blindness, was excusable in them; though it is a wonderful instance of grace that such idolaters should be the sons of God.

(o) Aveda Zara. 8-11. Appeal to them not to turn back from their privileges as free sons, to legal bondage again.

then—when ye were "servants" (Ga 4:7).

ye knew not God—not opposed to Ro 1:21. The heathen originally knew God, as Ro 1:21 states, but did not choose to retain God in their knowledge, and so corrupted the original truth. They might still have known Him, in a measure, from His works, but as a matter of fact they knew Him not, so far as His eternity, His power as the Creator, and His holiness, are concerned.

are no gods—that is, have no existence, such as their worshippers attribute to them, in the nature of things, but only in the corrupt imaginations of their worshippers (see on [2347]1Co 8:4; [2348]1Co 10:19, 20; 2Ch 13:9). Your "service" was a different bondage from that of the Jews, which was a true service. Yet theirs, like yours, was a burdensome yoke; how then is it ye wish to resume the yoke after that God has transferred both Jews and Gentiles to a free service?4:8-11 The happy change whereby the Galatians were turned from idols to the living God, and through Christ had received the adoption of sons, was the effect of his free and rich grace; they were laid under the greater obligation to keep to the liberty wherewith he had made them free. All our knowledge of God begins on his part; we know him because we are known of him. Though our religion forbids idolatry, yet many practise spiritual idolatry in their hearts. For what a man loves most, and cares most for, that is his god: some have their riches for their god, some their pleasures, and some their lusts. And many ignorantly worship a god of their own making; a god made all of mercy and no justice. For they persuade themselves that there is mercy for them with God, though they repent not, but go on in their sins. It is possible for those who have made great professions of religion, to be afterwards drawn aside from purity and simplicity. And the more mercy God has shown, in bringing any to know the gospel, and the liberties and privileges of it, the greater their sin and folly in suffering themselves to be deprived of them. Hence all who are members of the outward church should learn to fear and to suspect themselves. We must not be content because we have some good things in ourselves. Paul fears lest his labour is in vain, yet he still labours; and thus to do, whatever follows, is true wisdom and the fear of God. This every man must remember in his place and calling.
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