Vincent Word Studies - Galatians 4:3 - 4:3

Online Resource Library

Commentary Index | Return to

Vincent Word Studies - Galatians 4:3 - 4:3

(Show All Books | Show All Chapters)

This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


Not Jewish Christians only, but all Christians. For in Gal 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 Col 2:8, Col 2:20; Heb 5:12; 2Pe 3:10, 2Pe 3:12.

See on 2Pe 3:10. Interpretations differ. 1. Elements of knowledge, rudimentary religious ideas. See Heb 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 2Pe 3:10, 2Pe 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. (Gal 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 Col 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. Isa 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 Heb 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” (2Co 12:7); Satan prevents his journey to Thessalonica (1Th 2:18); the Corinthian offender is to be “delivered to Satan” (1Co 5:5); the Kingdom of God is opposed by “principalities and powers” (1Co 15:24); Christians wrestle against “the rulers of the darkness of this world; against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the upper regions” (Eph 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 Gal 4:8, “did service to them which by nature are no gods,” appears to be = “in bondage under the elements,” suggesting a personal interpretation of the latter. The Galatians had turned again to the observance of times and seasons (Gal 4:10), which were controlled by the heavenly bodies and their spirits.