< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Galatians 4:21- 5:1

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Galatians 4:21- 5:1

Galatians 4:21- 5:1 “Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.

These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: "Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son.” Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

To devout and scholarly Jews and especially Rabbis, scripture had more than one meaning, and the literal meaning was often regarded as the least important.

Peshat would be the simple, or literal meaning
Remaz the suggested meaning
Derush the meaning evolved and deduced by investigation
Sod the allegorical meaning

The first letters of these four words, PRDS, are the consonants of the word Paradise. They said that when man had succeeded in penetrating into these four different meanings he had realized the joy of paradise. They loved playing these word games! So a Rabbi would take a simple bit of historical narrative from the Old Testament and read into it, inner meanings. These meanings would seem rather fantastic to us today, but convincing to the people back then.

The story of Sarah and Hagar in Genesis is pretty straightforward. Paul allegorizes it to illustrate his point. As a devout Jew, this is the way he had been taught, but it was also something the readers would expect and understand.

Chapter 5 verse 1 reminds us that it is the power of our love for God, not the constraint of the law that keeps us right.

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