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 - ( ́ nēpioi ). Minors; see the note at Galatians 4:1. The word is not ̔ 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. ͂ 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; II Peter 3:10, II 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.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Galatians 4:3:
2 Peter 3:10
2 Peter 3:10
1 John 2:15
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