Galatians Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 4
1. What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a minor he is no different from a slave, even though he is the legal owner of the estate;
2. rather, he is subject to guardians and caretakers until the time previously set by his father.
3. So it is with us — when we were “children” we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe;
Elemental spirits of the universe (the term is used again at v. 9, also at Co 2:8, 20). We, both Jews and Gentiles, were slaves to them. Gentiles served these demonic spirits as gods. Jews, though knowing the one true God, were sometimes led astray by demonic spirits, including the demonic spirit of legalism. Jews served this spirit whenever they perverted the Torah into a legalistic system (3:23b&N). Thai Jews too were bound by demonic spirits is indicated in Ep 2:3. See also vv. 8-10&N. 

4. but when the appointed time arrived, God sent forth his Son. He was born from a woman, born into a culture in which legalistic perversion of the Torah was the norm,
5. so that he might redeem those in subjection to this legalism and thus enable us to be made God’s sons.
In a section of the Talmud that reviews a variety of Messianic speculations appears the following:
"It was taught in the school of Eliyahu that the world is to exist for six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was desolation, for two thousand years the Torah flourished, and the next two thousand years is the Messianic age. But through our many iniquities all these years have been lost." (Sanhedrin 97a-97b)

The notes to the Soncino English edition say concerning the first 2,(X)0 years that "desolation" means "no Torah." Concerning the second 2,000 years the notes state that "the Torah flourished" does not mean that the Torah ceases afterwards, but that the Torah is mentioned to distinguish this period from the next. While I agree that the Torah did not end when Yeshua the Messiah came, I believe the note is intended as a polemic against the common Christian teaching that the Torah has been abolished. On the third 2,000 years Soncino says, "I.e., Messiah will come within that period." This too is a polemic against the New Testament teaching thai he came at the beginning of it (just as "desolation" and "Torah" began their eras). Finally, a note on the concluding sentence says, "He should have come at the beginning of the last two thousand years; the delay is due to our sins." In response to this daring remark obviously directed against the idea that Yeshua is the Messiah, one must proclaim that, in terms of the above teaching, the Messiah did indeed come at the beginning of the 2,000-year Messianic era, when the appointed time arrived.

God sent forth his son. At Pp 2:6-8 Sha'ul speaks of Yeshua's pre-human existence "in the form of God." He was born from a woman. That is, he took human form. This is as close as Sha'ul comes to saying anything about the virgin birth of Yeshua (reported explicitly in Mattityahu 1-2 and Luke 1-3; compare Ro 1:3-4).

Born into a culture in which legalistic perversion of the Torah was the norm. This lengthy phrase translates "upo потоп" ("under law") differently than at 3:23b (see OOte there), because the expression that fits most of the lime misses the nuances when the focus of attention is on Yeshua the Messiah. For everyone else, "under law" is a technical term which means, "in subjection to the system which results from perverting the Torah into legalism," and perhaps even implying, "in subjection to an inner propensity to commit the sin of turning God's Torah of grace into a legalistic system." Of course Yeshua had no such propensity, nor was he "in subjection to" anything, in the sense of being oppressed in spite of himself. He willingly submitted to God's will that he be born as a Jew. in a Jewish society pervaded by legalism (as Sha'ul himself experienced when he was younger; see 1:13-14).

Why was Yeshua born into such a society? So thai he might redeem those in subjection to this legalism. ("In subjection to this legalism" again is a rendering of "upo потоп") Yeshua had to submit himself to being in the same predicament as we humans are in order to redeem humanity; therefore, he was "born from a woman." Additionally, he had to submit to being in the special circumstances Jews are in — namely, being legally bound by a covenant to obey the Torah (Exodus 24:7) and at the same time being in a culture where the norm is to pervert that Torah into a legalistic system — in order to enable us, both Jews and Gentiles, to be made God's sons, adopted by God the Father (see Ro 8:14b-16&N). Romans 8:3 and MJ 2:14-18,4:15 deal with the same subject and are essential commentary on this verse. Sha'ul's empathizing with the situations of various classes of unsaved people (1С 9:19-23&NN) may well be imitation of the Messiah (1С 11:1), as reflected in these two verses (and see v. 12&N). 

6. Now because you are sons, God has sent forth into our hearts the Spirit of his Son, the Spirit who cries out, “Abba!” (that is, “Dear Father!”).
Abba, See Mk 14:36&N, Ro 8:14b-16&N. 

7. So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son you are also an heir.
8. In the past, when you did not know God, you served as slaves beings which in reality are non-gods.
9. But now you do know God, and, more than that, you are known by God. So how is it that you turn back again to those weak and miserable elemental spirits? Do you want to enslave yourselves to them once more?
10. You observe special days, months, seasons and years!
Beings that in reality are non-gods, i.e.. idols, are one species of elemental spirits (v. 3&N). The Gentiles to whom Sha'ul is writing served them before they came to put their trust in Yeshua.

Judaism, as Conservative Jewish Rabbi Abraham Heschel eloquently pointed out in his writings, is a religion based on the sanctitieation of time. Jewish communal life thrives on celebrating biblically prescribed times. The special days come once a week — Shabbat. Months are noted at Rosh-Clwdesh, the "head of the month," celebrated when the new moon becomes visible and commences a month of the Jewish calendar. Seasons include the three Pilgrim Festivals — Pesach (Passover), Shavu'ot (Weeks, Pentecost) and Sukkot (Tabernacles) — along with Rosh-HaShanah (New Year), Yom-Kippur (Day of Atonement), Chanukkah (Dedication, Lights), Purim (Lots) and other minor festivals and fasts. The years are the Sabbatical Year (every seven years), the Jubilee Year (every fifty years) and other years related to tithing; and there may be reference to the life-cycle events of milali (circumcision), pidyon-haben (dedication of the firstborn son), marriage and the ceremonies related to death. See also Co2:16-17&NN.

But when Gentiles observe these Jewish holidays neither out of joy in sharing what God has given the Jewish people nor out of spiritual identification with them, but out of fear induced by Judai/ers who have convinced them that unless they do these things, God will not accept them, then they are not obeying the Torah but subjugating themselves to legalism; and legalism is just another species of those weak and miserable elemental demonic spirits, no better than the idols left behind.

(An alternative interpretation, however, is that the "days, months, seasons and years" of this passage do not refer to the Jewish holidays at all but to pagan Gentile feasts, naturally and directly reflecting "those weak and miserable elemental spirits." According to this understanding Sha'ul was worried that his ex-pagan converts might be returning to these pagan festivals.)

Gentile Christians who choose to add a cultural identification with Jews to the spiritual identification they have already made by trusting in the Jewish Messiah, or who enjoy the beauty and significance of Jewish rituals, are, according to Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8, free to observe them. Moreover, Gentile Christians on their own have developed many adaptations of Jewish ceremonies. The very idea of a weekly Sunday church service is an adaptation of the Jewish Shabbat (see Ac 20:7&N, 1С 16:2&N). It is said that Christmas is celebrated on December 25 because Chanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. Erich Wemer wrote an entire book detailing the Jewish roots of various Christian worship practices (The Sacred Bridge: the Interdependence of Liturgy and Music in Synagogue and Church During the First Millennium, 1959).

During Holy Week, which memorializes the last days of Yeshua's life and his resurrection. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, which was a Passover Seder, thus almost any Maundy Thursday ritual bears some relationship to that of Pesach. 1 have in my files about a dozen Christian Haggadahs (Passover liturgies); they display varying degrees of resemblance to the Jewish original. Whether their fidelity to the Jewish Haggadah is greater or less is of no religious significance. Whatever brings the Gentile Christian worshipper closer to God, or makes his behavior more godly, should be judged positively; the Jewishness of the ritual and ceremony is a matter of religious indifference. But a Gentile who supposes he earns God's approval by conforming his religious ceremonies to Jewish practice violates the message of Galatians by subjugating himself to legalism. There are many cults on the fringe of Christianity that foster such legalistic Judaizing of Gentiles.

Since Sha'ul is writing to correct a Gentile error, since he is writing to the Gentiles in Galatia. since he is the emissary to the Gentiles, his remarks here have no relevance whatever to Jewish believers, except as a caution to avoid legalism in general. That is, to use these verses as a wedge to drive Jewish believers away from celebrating Shabbat, Passover, the rest of the Jewish holidays and other Jewish customs, is to misappropriate them for a purpose that contradicts Sha'ul's teaching and practice. For we know that Sha'ul himself made substantial efforts as a believer to observe the Jewish holidays (Ac 20M6&N, 1С 16:8-9&N), and that the Jerusalem Messianic community surely did so. The New Testament does not oppose Messianic Jewish observance of Jewish holidays. Messianic Jews are, at the very least, free to observe all Jewish holidays and customs without interference by other Jewish or Gentile believers, and without being subjected to any accusations or guilt feeling connected with "Judaizing," since it is impossible to Judaize Jews (2:14bN). The degree to which, the circumstances under which, and the manner in which Messianic Jews might be obligated by Torah to observe the holidays and other Jewish customs is a subject worthy of investigation by believers (for more see Messianic Jewish Manifesto, Chapter V, entitled 'Torah"). But the investigation must be conducted by believers free of anli-Torah bias.

I do not believe these verses prohibit the celebration of Christmas, Good Friday, Bagter and other events of the Christian calendars followed by various Christian denominations. In contrast with the Jewish holidays, the Bible neither requires nor gives warrant for celebrating these holidays. Therefore the principles of Romans 14 .mil I Corinthians 8 govern: those who wish to celebrate, may; and those who prefer П01 to, мшу not — all so long as whatever is done honors the Lord and builds up the ianic Community. 

11. I fear for you that my work among you has been wasted!
12. Brothers, I beg of you: put yourselves in my place — after all, I put myself in your place. It isn’t that you have done me any wrong —
I put myself in your place. There is more about Sha'ul's practice of empathizing with others, of "becoming all things to all men." at 1С 9:19-23&NN. 

13. you know that it was because I was ill that I proclaimed the Good News to you at first;
14. and even though my physical condition must have tempted you to treat me with scorn, you did not display any sign of disdain or disgust. No, you welcomed me as if I had been an angel of God, as if I had been the Messiah Yeshua himself!
15. So what has become of the joy you felt? For I bear you witness that had it been possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.
For some speculation on what Sha'ul's physical condition was, see 2C 12:7N on his "thorn in the flesh." 

16. Have I now become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
17. True, these teachers are zealous for you, but their motives are not good. They want to separate you from us so that you will become zealous for them.
18. To be zealous is good, provided always that the cause is good. Indeed, whether I am present with you or not,
On zeal, see Ro IO:2&N; also 1 Ke 3:13, "For who will hurt you if you become zealots for what is good?" 

19. my dear children, I am suffering the pains of giving birth to you all over again — and this will go on until the Messiah takes shape in you.
20. I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone of voice. I don’t know what to do with you.
21. Tell me, you who want to be in subjection to the system that results from perverting the Torah into legalism, don’t you hear what the Torah itself says?
In subjection to the system that results from perverting the Torah into legalism.
See 3:23bN. 

22. It says that Avraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and one by the free woman.
23. The one by the slave woman was born according to the limited capabilities of human beings, but the one by the free woman was born through the miracle-working power of God fulfilling his promise.
See Genesis 16 and 21:1-21 for what the Torah says about Avraham and his two sons. One. Ishmael, was born by the slave woman Hagar. Avraham and Sarah's fear that God would not give them a child induced them to make use of their maidservant Hagar's childbearing capacity. Their way of forcing God's hand, of producing their own feeble pseudo-fulfillment of God's promise, was all too much according to the limited capabilities of human beings (literally, "according to flesh"; see Ro 7:5N).

On the other hand, the other one, Isaac, was born by the free woman Sarah through the miracle-working power of God fulfilling his promise (literally, "through the promise"), which he made to her at Genesis 18:9-15. 

24. Now, to make a midrash on these things: the two women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and bears children for slavery — this is Hagar.
То make a midrash on, Greek alligoroumena. "being allegorized." Hebrew midrash means "study, interpretation"; it derives from "lidrosh," "to search." Most of Jewish midrashic literature brings out ethical and devotional aspects of the Bible, sometimes drawing out and applying what is manifestly there, and sometimes imposing meanings on the texts, although the norm in Judaism is not to make a midrash that violates the p'shat (simple sense) of the text (see Mt 2:I5N). Here Sha'ul goes beyond the p'shat of the Genesis texts, though without violating them. His application of them is bold and shocking; for although the Judaizers can claim physical descent from Sarah, Sha'ul calls them spiritual descendants of Hagar. Revelation 11:8 has an equally surprising reversal of traditional Jewish identifications. But such shocks are not limited to the New Testament— see Ezekiel 23, 34 and Hosea 1-2 for comparable examples in the Tanakh. 

25. Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Yerushalayim, for she serves as a slave along with her children.
The two women are two covenants. Sha'ul does not spell everything out but counts on his readers to get his point anyway. So the one covenant referred to is from Mount Sinai, the Torah of Moshe. It bears children for slavery, but not because it is bad (nowhere does the account in Genesis denigrate Hagar); hence there is no reason to demean the Mosaic Law on the basis of this passage. The Mosaic Law bears children for "slavery," to be enslaved to the "weak and miserable elemental spirits" (v. 9) of le-galism, because people pervert the Torah into a legalistic system (vv. 21-23&NN). Who does this? The present Yerushalayim, that is, the non-Messianic Jewish community of the first century, both its establishment and the people loyal to that establishment. The Judaizers, the would-be Messianic Jews who insist that Gentiles become legalists, do the same thing. She, Hagar, the present Jerusalem, serves as a slave, along with her children, the legalists. 

26. But the Yerushalayim above is free, and she is our mother;
27. for the Tanakh says, "Rejoice, you barren woman who does not bear children! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the deserted wife will have more children than the one whose husband is with her!" (Isaiah 54:1)
28. You, brothers, like Yitz’chak, are children referred to in a promise of God.
But the Yerushalayim above, corresponding to Sarah, is free (see 5:IN on "freedom"); and she is our mother, the mother of all who have the trusting faithfulness that Abraham and Yeshua had (2:16cN), whether Messianic Jews or Messianic Gentiles. 

29. But just as then the one born according to limited human capability persecuted the one born through the Spirit’s supernatural power, so it is now.
30. Nevertheless, what does the Tanakh say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for by no means will the son of the slave woman inherit along with the son of the free woman!" (Genesis 21:10)
31. So, brothers, we are children not of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Non-Messianic Jews and Judaizers who pretend to be Messianic Jews (2:4—5) but actually come with a false gospel (1:6-9) may persecute genuine Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles (v. 29), but they themselves will by no means... inherit eternal life. 

next chapter...