Galatians 4:3
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
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(3) We.—That is, in the first instance, and specially, the Jews; but the Gentiles are also included. The Apostle is speaking from the point of view of the Christians: “all who are now Christians, whatever their antecedents.” Before the coming of Christ both Jews and Gentiles had been subject to law; and what the Apostle says of the law of Moses applies more faintly to the law of conscience and of nature.

Elements of the world.—The word translated “elements” is peculiar. The simpler word from whence it is derived means “a row.” Hence the derivative is applied to the letters of the alphabet, because they were arranged in rows. Thus it came to mean the “elements” or “rudiments” of learning, and then” elements” of any kind. The older commentators on this passage, for the most part, took it in the special sense of “the elements of nature,” “the heavenly bodies,” either as the objects of Gentile worship or as marking the times of the Jewish festivals. There is, however, little doubt that the other sense is best: “the elements (or rudiments, as in the margin) of religious teaching.” These are called “the elements of the world” because they were mundane and material; they included no clear recognition of spiritual things. The earlier forms of Gentile and even of Jewish religion were much bound up with the senses; the most important element in them was that of ritual. The same phrase, in the same sense, occurs twice in the Epistle to the Colossians (Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:20).

4:1-7 The apostle deals plainly with those who urged the law of Moses together with the gospel of Christ, and endeavoured to bring believers under its bondage. They could not fully understand the meaning of the law as given by Moses. And as that was a dispensation of darkness, so of bondage; they were tied to many burdensome rites and observances, by which they were taught and kept subject like a child under tutors and governors. We learn the happier state of Christians under the gospel dispensation. From these verses see the wonders of Divine love and mercy; particularly of God the Father, in sending his Son into the world to redeem and save us; of the Son of God, in submitting so low, and suffering so much for us; and of the Holy Spirit, in condescending to dwell in the hearts of believers, for such gracious purposes. Also, the advantages Christians enjoy under the gospel. Although by nature children of wrath and disobedience, they become by grace children of love, and partake of the nature of the children of God; for he will have all his children resemble him. Among men the eldest son is heir; but all God's children shall have the inheritance of eldest sons. May the temper and conduct of sons ever show our adoption; and may the Holy Spirit witness with our spirits that we are children and heirs of God.Even so we - We who were Jews - for so I think the word here is to be limited, and not extended to the pagan, as Bloomfield supposes. The reasons for limiting it are:

(1) That the pagans in no sense sustained such a relation to the Law and promises of Gad as is here supposed;

(2) Such an interpretation would not be pertinent to the design of Paul. He is stating reasons why there should not be subjection to the laws of Moses, and his argument is, that that condition was like that of bondage or minorship.

When we were children - (νήπιοι nēpioi). Minors; see the note at Galatians 4:1. The word is not υἱοι huioi, "sons;" but the idea is, that they were in a state of non-age; and though heirs, yet were under severe discipline and regimen. They were under a kind of government that was suited to that state, and not to the condition of those who had entered on their inheritance.

Were in bondage - In a state of servitude. Treated as servants or slaves.

Under the elements of the world - Margin, Rudiments. The word rendered "elements" (sing. στοιχεῖον stoicheion), properly means a row or series; a little step; a pin or peg, as the gnomen of a dial; and then anything "elementary," as a sound, a letter. It then denotes the elements or rudiments of any kind of instruction, and in the New Testament is applied to the first lessons or principles of religion; Hebrews 5:12. It is applied to the elements or component parts of the physical world; 2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12. Here the figure is kept up of the reference to the infant Galatians 4:1, Galatians 4:3; and the idea is, that lessons were taught under the Jewish system adapted to their nonage - to a state of childhood. They were treated as children under tutors and governors. The phrase "the elements of the world," occurs also in Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:20. In Galatians 4:9, Paul speaks of these lessons as "beggarly elements," referring to the same thing as here.

Different opinions have been held as to the reason why the Jewish institutions are here called "the elements of the world." Rosenmuller supposes it was because many of those rites were common to the Jews and to the pagan - as they also had altars, sacrifices, temples, libations, etc. Doddridge supposes it was because those rites were adapted to the low conceptions of children, who were most affected with sensible objects, and have no taste for spiritual and heavenly things. Locke supposes it was because those institutions led them not beyond this world, or into the possession and taste of their heavenly inheritance. It is probable that there is allusion to the Jewish manner of speaking, so common in the Scriptures, where this world is opposed to the kingdom of God, and where it is spoken of as transient and worthless compared with the future glory. The world is fading, unsatisfactory, temporary. In allusion to this common use of the word, the Jewish institutions are called the wordly rudiments. It is not that they were in themselves evil - for that is not true; it is not that they were adapted to foster a worldly spirit - for that is not true; it is not that they had their origin from this world - for that is not true; nor is it from the fact that they resembled the institutions of the pagan world - for that is as little true; but it is, that, like the things of the world, they were transient, temporary, and of little value. They were unsatisfactory in their nature, and were soon to pass away, and to give place to a better system - as the things of this world are soon to give place to heaven.

3. we—the Jews primarily, and inclusively the Gentiles also. For the "we" in Ga 4:5 plainly refers to both Jew and Gentile believers. The Jews in their bondage to the law of Moses, as the representative people of the world, include all mankind virtually amenable to God's law (Ro 2:14, 15; compare Note, see on [2344]Ga 3:13; [2345]Ga 3:23). Even the Gentiles were under "bondage," and in a state of discipline suitable to nonage, till Christ came as the Emancipator.

were in bondage—as "servants" (Ga 4:1).

under the elements—or "rudiments"; rudimentary religion teaching of a non-Christian character: the elementary lessons of outward things (literally, "of the [outward] world"); such as the legal ordinances mentioned, Ga 4:10 (Col 2:8, 20). Our childhood's lessons [Conybeare and Howson]. Literally, The letters of the alphabet (Heb 5:12).

Such children were all believers, the seed of Abraham; from the first designed to a gospel liberty, but that was not to be fully enjoyed, until the fulness of time should come when God intended to send his Son into the world; and during the time of their nonage they were kept under the law, as a tutor and governor, leading them unto Christ. He chiefly intendeth the ceremonial law, which, Acts 15:10, Peter calleth a yoke, which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear. He calls these ordinances the elements of the world; so also Colossians 2:20: he means that discipline by which God instructed, and under which God by Moses at first tutored, the world, that is, the Jews, who were that part of the world to whom God pleased to make his oracles known. He calls those ritual observances, elements, or rudiments, because they were the first instructions God gave believers, leading them to Christ; like the first elements or rudiments in grammar learning. Even so we,.... Jews, for of such the apostle is only speaking, and to whom he applies the above case of heirs in minority; it was to the Jews he had spoken of the law, as being a military guard, a prison, and a schoolmaster to them; and then having addressed the Gentiles, as being the children of God, baptized into Christ, one in him, interested in him, the spiritual seed of Abraham, and heirs of all the blessings of grace and glory; he returns to the Jews, and represents their estate and condition under the law by the above simile, which he here makes an application of:

when we were children; not in age, but in knowledge of divine, spiritual, and evangelical things; which must be understood not of every individual person among them, for there were some grown men, men of great faith, light, knowledge, and experience; but of the bulk and generality of the people of the Jews, and that also in comparison of the clear understanding of the saints under the Gospel dispensation. The Jews were like children, peevish, froward, and perverse, and often stood in need of correction and chastisement; and as children are pleased with pictures, shows, sights, and gaudy amusements, so they were taken with an external pompous form of worship, and which they had, and was suited to their infant state; and which infant state of the Jewish church commenced from the time of their coming up out of Egypt, and lasted until the times of the Messiah; see Hosea 11:1.

Were in bondage under the elements of the world; by which are meant, not the four elements of fire, water, earth, and air; nor the angels, who by some are thought to preside over them; nor the sun and moon, according to whose revolutions the festivals of the Jews were regulated; but the several institutions of the Mosaic economy, which were to the Jews what an A B C, or an alphabet of letters, is to one that is beginning to learn; or what an accidence and grammar be to such who are learning any language, and which contain the rudiments of it; as the physical elements are the first principles of nature, and the general rules of speech and language are the rudiments thereof, so the Mosaic institutions were the elements, rudiments, or first principles of the Jewish religion, taught them by the law, as their schoolmaster, and by which they were used as children: these are called "elements", in allusion to the first principles of nature and learning; and the elements "of the world", because they lay in outward worldly and earthly things, as meats, drinks, divers washings, &c. and because that hereby God instructed the world, at least a part of it, the world of the Jews: or as the word may be rendered "beauty", or "elegancy", these were elegant elements, which in a most beautiful manner taught the people of the Jews the first principles of the doctrine of Christ: but nevertheless, whilst they were under the instructions and discipline of the law as a schoolmaster, "they were in bondage"; referring not to their bondage in Egypt, nor in the several captivities into which they were carried by their neighbours; nor to the bondage of sin and Satan, common to all men in a state of nature; but to the bondage which the law naturally gendered, led them to, induced upon them, and kept them in, through its sanctions and penalties; for, through fear of death, they were under a servile disposition, and were all their lifetime subject to bondage; they carried a yoke of bondage upon their necks, and were under a spirit of bondage unto fear; they were like children closely kept to school to learn their letters, say their lessons, and perform their tasks; and, if not, receive due correction, which kept them in continual fear and bondage.

Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the {b} elements of the world:

(b) The Law is called elements, because by the Law God instructed his Church as it were by elements, and afterward poured out his Holy Spirit most plentifully in the time of the Gospel.

Galatians 4:3. Ἡμεῖς] embraces Christians generally, the Jewish and Gentile Christians together. In favour of this view we may decisively urge, (1) the sense of στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου (see below); (2) Galatians 4:5, where the first ἵνα applies to the Jewish Christians, but the second, reverting to the first person, applies to Christians generally, because the address to the readers which follows in Galatians 4:6 represents these as a whole, and not merely the Jewish Christians among them, as included in the preceding ἵνα τὴν υἱοθεσίαν ἀπολάβωμεν; lastly, (3) that the οὐκέτι and τότε, said of the Galatians in Galatians 4:7-8, point back to the state of slavery of the ἡμεῖς in Galatians 4:3. Therefore ἡμεῖς is not to be understood as referring either merely to the Jewish Christians (Chrysostom and most expositors, including Grotius, Estius, Morus, Flatt, Usteri, Schott, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Wieseler); or—as Hofmann in consistency with his erroneous reference of Galatians 3:29 to the Gentile readers holds—to “the Old Testament church of God, which has now passed over into the New Testament church;” or to the Jewish Christians pre-eminently (Koppe, Rückert, Matthies, Olshausen); or, lastly, even to the Gentile Christians alone (Augustine).

ὅτε ἦμεν νήπιοι] characterizes, in terms of the prevailing comparison, the pre-Christian condition, which, in relation to the Christian condition of the same persons, was their age of boyhood. Elsewhere Paul has represented the condition of the Christians before the Parousia, in comparison with their state after the Parousia, as a time of boyhood. See 1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:13.

ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου ἦμεν δεδουλ.] corresponds, as application, to the οὐδὲν διαφέρει δούλουἀλλὰ ὑπὸ ἐπιτρόπους ἐστὶ καὶ οἰκον. The word στοιχεῖον—which denotes primarily a stake or peg standing in a row, then a letter of the alphabet (Plat. Theaet. p. 202 E; Xen. Mem. ii. 1. 1; Arist. Poet. ii. 2; Lucian, Jud. voc. 12), then, like ἀρχή, element (see Rudolph on Ocell. p. 402 ff.)—means here at all events element,[174] which signification has developed itself from the idea of a letter, inasmuch as a word is a series of the letters which form it (Walz, Rhetor. VI. p. 110). In itself, however, it might be used either in the physical sense of elementary substances, which Plato (Ruhnk. ad Tim. p. 283) calls also γένη (2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12; Wis 7:17; Wis 19:18; 4Ma 12:13; Plat. Tim. p. 48 B, 56 B, Polit. p. 278 C; Philo, de Opif. m. p. 7, 11, Cherub. p. 162; Clem. Hom. x. 9), as it frequently occurs in Greek authors applied to the so-called four elements (comp. Suidas, s.v.), or in the intellectual sense of rudimenta, first principles (Hebrews 5:12; Plut. de pueror. educ. 16; Isocr. p. 18 A; Nicol. ap. Stob. xiv. 7. 31; see Wetstein). In the latter sense the verb στοιχειοῦν was used to signify the instruction given to catechumens; Constitt. ap. vi. 18. 1, vii. 25. 2. Comp. our expression the A, B, C of an art or science.[175] In the physical sense—in which it is used by later Greek authors for designating the stars (Diog. L. vi. 102; Man. iv. 624; Eustath. Od. p. 1671, 53)—it was understood by most of the Fathers: either as by Augustine (de civ. D. iv. 11), who thought of the Gentile adoration of the heavenly bodies and of other nature-worship; or as by Chrysostom, Theodoret, Ambrose, Pelagius, who referred it to the Jewish observance of new moons, feasts, and Sabbaths, which was regulated by the course of the moon and sun. So, combining the Gentile and Jewish cultus, Hilgenfeld, p. 66 (comp. in his Zeitschr. 1858, p. 99; 1866, p. 314), who ascribes to the apostle the heterogeneous idea of “sidereal powers of heaven,” that is, of the stars as powerful animated beings (comp. Baur and Holsten); and Caspari (in the Strassb. Beitr. 1854, p. 206 ff.), in whose view Paul is supposed to have placed Mosaism in the category of star and nature worship; and likewise Reithmayr, although without such extravagances. But because the expression does not apply either merely to the circumstances of the heathen, or merely to those of the Jewish, cultus (see, on the contrary, Galatians 4:8-10),—to the latter of which it is in the physical sense not at all suitable, for the Jewish celebrations of days and the like were by no means a star-worship or other (possibly unconscious) worship of nature, under which man would have been in bondage, but were an imperfect worship of God—and because the context suggests nothing else than the contrast between the imperfect and the perfect religion, as well as also on account of the correlation to νήπιοι, the physical sense of ΣΤΟΙΧΕῖΟΝ is altogether to be rejected.[176] Besides, it would be difficult to perceive why Paul, if he had thought of the stars, should not have written τοῦ οὐρανοῦ instead of τοῦ κόσμου. Hence Jerome (also τινές in Theophylact, and Gennadius in Oecumenius, p. 747 D), Erasmus, Castalio, Beza, Calvin, Grotius, and most of the later expositors, though with various modifications, have correctly adhered to the sense rudimenta disciplinae, which alone corresponds to the notion of the νηπιότης (for the age of childhood does not get beyond first prineiples). The στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου are the elements of non-Christian humanity (κόσμος; see 1 Corinthians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 11:32, et al.), that is, the elementary things, the immature beginnings of religion, which occupy the minds of those who are still without the pale of Christianity. Not having attained to the perfect religion, the κόσμος has still to do with the religious elementary state, to which it is in bondage, as in the position of a servant. Rudiments of this sort are expressly mentioned in Galatians 4:10; hence we must understand the expression, not in a onesided fashion as the elementary knowledge, the beginnings of religious perception in the non-Christian world (comp. Kienlen, in the Strassb. Beitr. II. p. 133 ff.)—with which neither the idea of the relation as slavery, nor the inclusion of the Jewish and Gentile worships under one category would harmonize—but as the rudimenta ritualia, the ceremonial character of Judaism and heathenism,[177] with which, however, is also combined the corresponding imperfection of religious knowledge. Comp. Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:20. Against the explanation, “religious elementary things of the world,” the objection has been made, that this idea is not suitable either to Judaism, in so far as the latter was a divine revelation, or even to heathenism, which, according to Paul, is something foreign to religion; see especially Neander. But the latter part of the objection is erroneous (Acts 17:22-23); and the former part is disposed of, when—in the light of the pretensions put forth by the apostle’s opponents, which were chiefly based on the ceremonial side of the law—we take into account the relative character of the idea rudimenta, according to which Judaism, when compared with Christianity as the absolute religion, may, although a divine institution, yet be included under the notion of στοιχεῖα, because destined only for the νήπιοι and serving a transitory propaedeutic purpose. Comp. Baur, Paulus, II. p. 222, ed. 2; Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 289; also Ritschl, altkath. K. p. 73. Most of the older expositors, as also Olshausen, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette (with many various and mistaken interpretations of κόσμος; see Wolf and Rückert in loc.), have referred the expression merely to Judaism (the law “as a means of training calculated only for the age of childhood,” de Wette, who is followed by Wieseler), whilst Koppe and Schott only allow the analogous nature of ethnicism to be included incidentally; but, besides what has been above remarked on ἡμεῖς, these views are at variance with the idea of τοῦ κόσμου. This idea is, at all events, too wide to suit the law, which was given to the people of Israel only; whether it be taken as applying to mankind generally (de Wette, Wieseler), or to the unbelieving portion of mankind, in contrast to the ἅγιοι in a Christian sense.[178] Certainly it might appear unwise (see especially Wieseler) that Paul should have placed Judaism and heathenism in one category. But, in point of fact, he has to deal with Judaistic seductions occurring in churches chiefly Gentile-Christian: he might therefore, with the view of more effectually warning them and putting them to shame, so designate the condition of bondage to which by these seductions they were induced to revert, as to comprehend it in the same category with the heathen cultus, from the bondage of which they had been not long before liberated by Christianity. According to Hofmann, the στοιχεῖα τ. κόσμου are contrasted with the promise given to Abraham of the ΚΛΗΡΟΝΟΜΊΑ ΚΌΣΜΟΥ, Romans 4:13. He supposes that out of the destruction of the material elements of the present world (2 Peter 3:10) the οἰκουμένη μέλλουσα (Hebrews 2:5) will arise, and that this will derive its nature and character from the Spirit, the communication of which is the beginning of the fulfilment of that promise. Israel, however, has been in bondage under the material elements of which the present world is composed, inasmuch as in what it did and what it left undone it was subject to stringent laws, which had reference to the world in its existing materiality; it had to conform itself to the things of this corporeal world, whilst the promise had been made to it that it should be lord of all things. Apart from the erroneous application of ἡμεῖς (see above), every essential point in this interpretation is gratuitously introduced. In particular, the contrast on which it is based—namely, that of the new world of the αἰών which is to come—is utterly foreign not only to the whole context, but even to the words themselves; for, if Paul had had this contrast in view, he must, in order not to leave his readers wholly without a hint of it, have at least added a ΤΟΎΤΟΥ (1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 3:19; Ephesians 2:2) to ΤΟῦ ΚΌΣΜΟΥ.[179] It is, moreover, incorrect to discover in the στοιχεῖα the opposite of the future world, so far as the latter has its nature from the Spirit. The world of the αἰὼν μέλλων, as the new heaven and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13), must likewise be corporeally material, and must have its στοιχεῖα, although the σχῆμα of the old world will have passed away (comp. on 1 Corinthians 7:31).

ἦμεν δεδουλωμ.] may be taken either together, or separately; the latter is to be preferred, because it corresponds more emphatically to the οὐδὲν διαφέρει δούλου (Galatians 4:1) and the ὑπὸ ἐπιτρόπους ἐστι (in Galatians 4:2): we were enslaved ones.

[174] A point on which almost all expositors agree. Yet Luther, 1519, following the precedent of Tertull. c. Marc. v. 4, adopted the signification of letters: “pro ipsis literis legis, quibus lex constat.… Mundi autem vocat, quod sint de iis rebus, quae in mundo sunt.” So also in 1524, and at least to a similar effect in 1538. More recently Michaelis has also explained it as letters; holding that the acts of the Levitical law were intended, because, taken as a whole, they had preached the gospel by anticipation. Similarly Nösselt, Opusc. II. p. 209, takes στοιχεῖα as signs (Arist. Eccl. 652, where it is used for the shadow of the plate on the sun-dial; comp. Lucian, Gall. 9, Cronos. 17), holding that the Jewish ceremonies are thus named because they prefigured the future Christian worship. These views are all erroneous, because the expression στοιχεῖα τ. κόσμου applies also to Gentile habits.

[175] Comp. generally, Schaubach, Commentat. quid στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου in N.T. sibi velint, Meining. 1862.

[176] With strange arbitrariness Schulthess (Engelwelt, pp. 113, 129) has recently anticipated Hilgenfeld in re-asserting this sense; holding that the stars are meant, but that Paul is glancing at the Jewish ministry of angels (Job 38:7 (!)). More thoroughly Schneckenburger (in the theol. Jahrb. 1848, p. 445 ff.) has again defended the physical reference (elements of the visible world). Comp. Holsten, z. Ev. d. Paul. u. Petr. p. 323. In this interpretation the law must be excepted (as is done by Holsten) from the στοιχεῖα,—an exception which is forbidden by the whole connection with ch. 3, and is also inconsistent with the concrete instances in vv. 8 and 10; see above. Neander also—who, however, introduces the idea of the sensuous forms of religion—would retain the physical reference, which is decidedly assumed by Lipsius (Rechtfertigungsl. p. 83), who specially commends the interpretation of Hilgenfeld; whilst Messner (Lehre d. Ap. p. 226) agrees in substance with Neander, holding that δεδουλ. ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου is “the dependence of the religious consciousness on the earthly, sensuous, perishable things, of which this earthly κόσμος, as to its fundamental elements, consists.” But why, then, the restriction “as to its fundamental elements?” And the idea of perishableness is imported. Ewald understands by it the elements of the world, into the whole of which life must be brought through the spirit, and unity and meaning through God; it comprehends the Jewish observances as to meats and days, as well as the heathen star-worship. Yet how unsuited to popular apprehension (as pertaining to natural philosophy) would the whole expression thus be! an enigmatic designation for the heathen worship, and an unsuitable one for the Jewish cultus, which is based on divine precept. As to the way in which Hofmann understands the material elements of the world, see the sequel.

[177] Comp. Schaubach, l.c. p. 9 ff.

[178] Olshausen, feeling the difficulty which the idea of κόσμος puts in the way of the reference to Judaism, hits upon the arbitrary expedient of taking the expression to apply to the merely external and literal way of apprehending the O. T., which confines itself merely to the actions, without considering the idea involved in them. “This was the procedure of the Judaists, and in this shape the Old Test. appeared not merely as the beginning of divine life, but also as given over to the world,” etc.

[179] He does not add τούτου in Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:20, just because the contrast suggested by Hofmann was far from his thoughts.Galatians 4:3. νήπιοι: children, i.e., spiritually children. The clause points to the stage of undeveloped spiritual life through which converts from heathenism had passed, the spiritual childhood which had been the lot of earlier generations before the time was ripe for the Advent.—στοιχεῖα. The association of this word with νήπιοι fixes on it the conception of a rudimentary training to which the world was subjected during its spiritual infancy by way of preparation for the Gospel of Christ and the dispensation of the Spirit. Before men could enter into the spirit of His teaching, they had to learn the elementary principles of religion and morality. Compulsory obedience to definite rules of justice and order was a necessary preparation for the freedom of the Spirit. This preliminary education was given to the Hebrews in the Ten Commandments and the Law, it was imparted to a wider world in Greek civilisation and philosophy, in Roman law and government, and in other forms of national and social life. These rudiments are disparaged in Galatians 4:9 as weak and beggarly in comparison with the teaching of the Spirit, for Christian men ought to have outgrown their spiritual childhood. So, again, in Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:20, they are condemned wherever their traditional hold on human society produces an antagonism to the higher teaching of Christ. But before the Advent they formed a valuable discipline for the education of the world.3. Even so we] Both Jews and Gentiles, as such, i.e. before conversion to Christ.

children] minors, as in Galatians 4:1.

the elements of the world] The exact meaning of this expression is doubtful. The word rendered ‘elements’ is translated ‘rudiments’ in Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:20, and there, as in this passage, it has the qualifying addition, ‘of the world’. The senses assigned to the word are: (1) the material elements, which are supposed to constitute the physical universe, such as earth, fire, water, air and the heavenly bodies; and (2) rudimentary instruction, the alphabet of the human race, which it was taught in times antecedent to the Gospel revelation—a system of rites and ceremonies, the picture-lessons of its childhood.

It is used in the former sense in two passages of St Peter (2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12) and is so understood in this place by most of the older commentators. Theod. Mops. explains it of the sun and moon, by which months and years are measured, and refers it to that observance of days and seasons and months, which the Apostle condemns Galatians 4:10. Others see a reference to the worship of the great powers of nature among the heathen, and the honours virtually paid to them by the Jews in their observance of weeks and years.

Most modern expositors adopt the second explanation, and suppose St Paul to represent “the religion of the world before Christ, especially the Jewish, as an elementary religion, or a religion of childhood, full of external rites and ceremonies, all of which had a certain educational significance, but pointed beyond themselves to an age of manhood in Christ”. These systems are characterised (Galatians 4:9) as ‘weak and beggarly’ (see note there). In Colossians 2:8 these ‘rudiments of the world’ are placed in parallelism with ‘the traditions of men’, and are closely associated with ‘philosophy and vain deceit’ which Clement of Alexandria explains as referring to Greek philosophy. The expression here seems to include all those systems of religion and philosophy which prevailed in the world, prior and preparatory to the dispensation of the Spirit, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Subservience to these was slavery. Of the Jewish ceremonial we read that it consisted “only in meats and drinks and divers washings and ordinances of the flesh imposed, pressing heavily on them, until the time of reformation.” Hebrews 9:10. Yet more burdensome were the requirements of Rabbinic Judaism, and of most heathen systems of religion.

of the world] Not only sensuous, material, as opposed to spiritual; but as embracing under various systems the whole human race.Galatians 4:3. Ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου, under the elements of the world)—Στοιχεῖον, an element) A certain first principle, from which other things arise and are constituted; in the universe, 2 Peter 3:10, see note: and in letters (learning), Hebrews 5:12 (comp. στοιχείωσις, respecting the child in the womb, 2Ma 7:22): thence by Metonymy, elements of the world in this passage, likewise weak and beggarly elements, presently, Galatians 4:9, i.e. principles of living, which depend on times marked out by the motion of the elements, i.e. of the sun and moon; likewise principles which refer to meat, drink, and other sublunary matters, all these being only material and external objects, Galatians 3:28.—Comp. Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:16; Colossians 2:20, etc. They are called tutors in the concrete, elements in the abstract. The Son of God, sent down from heaven, and the Spirit of the Son of God, Galatians 4:6, are opposed to these worldly things.—δεδουλωμένοι, reduced to slavery [in bondage]) This answers to, He differs nothing from a slave [servant], Galatians 4:1.Verse 3. - Even so we (οὕτω καὶ ἡμεῖς); so we also. This "we" represents the same persons as before in Galatians 3:13, 24, 25 (see notes), namely, the people of God; a society preserving a continuous identity through successive stages of development, till now appearing as the Church of Christ. The plural pronoun recites, not individuals, but the community viewed as a whole, having the now subsisting "us" as its present representatives. Individually, Christians in general now, and many of those who then when the apostle wrote belonged to the Church, never were in the state of nonage or bondage here referred to. It is, however, notwithstanding this, quite supposable that St. Paul's account of the history of the whole society is in some degree tinted by the recollection of his own personal experiences. When we were children (ὅτε ῆμεν νήπιοι); that is, when we were in our nonage. The phrase is not meant to point to a state of immaturity in personal development, but simply to the period of our being withheld from the full possession of our inheritance. This is all that the course of thought now pursued requires; and we only create for ourselves superfluous embarrassment by carrying further the parallel between the figuring persons and the figured. The spiritual illumination enjoyed by the Christian Church, compared with that of the pre-Christian society, presents as great a contrast as that of a man's knowledge compared with a child's; but that is not the point here. Were in bondage under the elements (or, rudiments) of the world (ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου η΅μεν δεδουλωμένοι); were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world; or, were under the rudiments of the world brought into bond-service. This latter way of construing, separating η΅μεν from the participle δεδουλωμένοι to connect it with the words which precede, is recommended by the parallel, which the words, "were under the rudiments of the world," then present to the words," is under guardians and stewards," in ver. 2; while the participle "brought into bond-service" reproduces the notion expressed by the words, "is no better than a bond-servant," of ver. 1. The participle "brought into bond-service," then, stands apart, in the same way as the participle "shut up "does in Galatians 3:23. This, however, is only a question of style; the substantial elements of thought remain the same in either way of construing. The Greek word στοιχεῖα calls for a few remarks, founded upon the illustration of its use given by Schneider in his 'Greek Lexicon.' From the primary sense of "stakes placed in a row," for example, to fasten nets upon, the term was applied to the letters of the alphabet as placed in rows, and thence to the primary constituents of speech; then to the primary constituents of all objects in nature, as, for example, the four "elements" (see 2 Peter 3:10, 12 ); and to the "rudiments" or first "elements" of any branch of knowledge. It is in this last sense that it occurs in Hebrews 5:12, "What are the (στοιχεῖα) rudiments (of the beginning, or) of the first principles of the oracles of God" (on which compare the passage from Galen quoted by Alford at the place). This must be the meaning of the word here; it recites the rudimental instruction of children, as if the apostle had said "under the A, B, C, of the world." This is evidently intended to describe the ceremonial Law; for in ver. 5 the phrase, "those under the Law," recites the same persons as are here described as "under the rudiments of the world;" as again the "weak and beggarly rudiments," in ver. 9, are surely the same sort of" rudiments" as are illustrated in ver. 10 by the words, "Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years." Since the Law under which the people of God were placed was God's own ordinance, we must infer that, when it is here designated as "the A, B, C, of the world," the genitive can neither denote the origin of these rudiments nor yet any qualification of moral pravity, but only the qualification of imperfection and inferiority; that is, it denotes the ceremonial institution s of the Law as appertaining to this earthly material sphere of existence, as contrasted with a higher spiritual sphere. Thus "the A, B, C, of the world" is an expression as nearly as possible identical with that of "carnal ordinances" (literally, ordinances of the flesh), used to describe the external ceremonialism of the Law in Hebrews 9:10; which phrase, like the one before us, is used with a full recognition, in the word "ordinances" (δικαιώματα), of the Law as of Divine appointment, while the genitive "of the flesh" marks its comparative imperfection. They were, as Conybeare paraphrases, "their childhood's elementary lessons of outward things." This designation of Levitical ceremonies as being an "A, B, C," or "rudiments, of the world," appears to have become a set phrase with the apostle, who uses it again twice in the Colossians (Colossians 2:8, 20), where he appears, if we may judge from the context, to have in view a (perhaps mongrel) form of Jewish ceremonialism which, with circumcision (mentioned in ver. 11), conjoined other "ordinances" (δόγματα) mentioned in vers. 14, 20, relating to meats and drinks and observance of times, illustrated in vers. 16, 21. This, he tells the Colossians, might have been all very well if they were still "living in the world" (ver. 20); but now they were risen with Christ! - with Christ, who had taken that "bond" (χειρόγραφον, ver. 14) out of the way; and therefore were called to care for higher things than such merely earthly ones as these. Some suppose that the apostle has reference to the religious ceremonialisms of the idolatrous Gentiles, as well as those of the Mosaic Law. These former ceremonialisms belonged, indeed, to "the world," both in the sense above pointed out and as tinged with the moral pravity characterizing the "present evil world" in general. But these cannot be here intended, forasmuch as it was not to such that God's people were by his ordinance subjected. The other rendering of στοιχεῖα - "elements" - which the Authorized Version puts into the text, but the Revised Version into the margin, was probably selected in deference to the view of most of the Fathers, who, as Meyer observes, took the Greek word in its physical sense: Augustine referring it to the heathen worship of the heavenly bodies and the other cults of nature; Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Ambrose to the new moons and sabbaths of the Jews, viewed as determined by the motions of the sun and moon; Jerome, however, interpreting it rudimenta discipliner. On the other hand, in Colossians 2:8, 20, both of our Versions have "rudiments" in the text and "elements" in the margin; in 2 Peter 3:10, 12, "elements" only. "Brought into bend-service" (δεδουλωμένοι), namely, by the act of the supreme Father imposing upon us the yoke of his Law. We

Not Jewish Christians only, but all Christians. For in Galatians 4:5, Jewish Christians are distinctly characterized as those under the law, while the following we, subjects of Christian adoption, points back to the we in this verse. Again, elements of the world is too wide a conception to suit the law, which was given to Israel only.

Elements of the world (τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου)

For the word στοιχεῖα in N.T. see Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:20; Hebrews 5:12; 2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12.

See on 2 Peter 3:10. Interpretations differ. 1. Elements of knowledge, rudimentary religious ideas. See Hebrews 5:12. The meaning of world will then be, the material as distinguished from the spiritual realm. Elements of the world will be the crude beginnings of religion, suited to the condition of children, and pertaining to those who are not Christians: elementary religious truths belonging to mankind in general. Thus the Jewish economy was of the world as appealing to the senses, and affording only the first elements of a spiritual system. The child-heir was taught only faint outlines of spiritual truth, and was taught them by worldly symbols. 2. Elements of nature - of the physical world, especially the heavenly bodies. See 2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12; Wisd. 7:17. According to this explanation, the point would be that the ordering of the religious life was regulated by the order of nature; "the days, months, times," etc. (Galatians 4:10), as well as the heathen festivals, being dependent on the movements of the heavenly bodies. This was the patristic view (Ambrose, Augustine, Chrysostom, Theodoret). 3. The elements of the world are the personal, elemental spirits. This seems to be the preferable explanation, both here and in Colossians 2:8. According to Jewish ideas, all things had their special angels. In the Book of Jubilees, chapter 2, appear, the angel of the presence (comp. Isaiah 63:9); the angel of adoration; the spirits of the wind, the clouds, darkness, hail, frost, thunder and lightning, winter and spring, cold and heat. In the Book of Enoch, 82:10-14, appear the angels of the stars, who keep watch that the stars may appear at the appointed time, and who are punished if the stars do not appear (18:15). In the Revelation of John we find four angels of the winds (14:18); the angel of the waters (16:5); the angel in the sun (19:17). In Hebrews 1:7 we read, "who maketh his angels winds." Paul also recognizes elemental forces of the spiritual world. The thorn is "a messenger of Satan" (2 Corinthians 12:7); Satan prevents his journey to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:18); the Corinthian offender is to be "delivered to Satan" (1 Corinthians 5:5); the Kingdom of God is opposed by "principalities and powers" (1 Corinthians 15:24); Christians wrestle against "the rulers of the darkness of this world; against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the upper regions" (Ephesians 6:12). In this passage the elements of the world are compared with overseers and stewards. This would seem to require a personal interpretation. In Galatians 4:8, "did service to them which by nature are no gods," appears to be equals "in bondage under the elements," suggesting a personal interpretation of the latter. The Galatians had turned again to the observance of times and seasons (Galatians 4:10), which were controlled by the heavenly bodies and their spirits.

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