Paul the Apostle, His Life Letters and Thought– Part Thirty Six

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p. 539— What does Paul mean in Gal. 4.1-11 by stoicheia—elemental spirits, elementary principles, elements of the world?

p. 540— He says they could have been controlling thoughts but probably what is meant is supernatural beings who govern the stars and so controlling powers [N.B. there is no evidence for this meaning of the term before or during the NT era, and in Hebrews it means elementary principles]

p. 541— Paul says we all become sons of God through adoption and co-heirs with Christ. Paul’s terminology does not distinguish the sonship of Christians from the Sonship of Christ. This shows Paul’s radical view about a believer becoming one with Christ though clearly he makes distinctions between the Son and the sons (which includes women) cf. Gal. 3.26; Rom. 8.14; 819.

So he translates Gal. 4.8— the weak and beggarly elementary spirits. [The reference to the religious calendar of days etc. however makes clear he is talking about elementary religious teaching] He must be talking about pagan religious celebrations but is lumping the Mosaic counterparts in with them. [Here Paul is talking about the problems of all such practices when they are practiced by fallen human beings].

p. 542— While what Paul says here about the Law and Jewish practices does not comport with what he says elsewhere we have to remember Paul is making a rhetorical argument here for effect, to prevent the Galatians from doing what the Judaizers want them to do. This is not part of his systematic reflections on the Law “he is simply trying to dissuade his converts from adopting those further practices”.

p. 543— He insists that we don’t know Paul had eye trouble from 4.12-20 [See Grace in Galatia— it is very probable we do, and Sanders says nothing about the reference here to evil eye conventions etc. which are present in the text]

There seems to be a double entendre here — the opponents would score points if they get you to remove that foreskin but it would be a victory for the ‘flesh’ as opposed to the Spirit which they already have.

p. 544— The phrase in Gal. 4.19 ‘until Christ is morphed in you’ indicates it hasn’t happened yet but Paul has been working on it. Paul has given birth to them once and hopes to do so again [nothing here about Bev Gaventa’s Paul our Mother]


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