Put the Gal in Galatians 4?

The passage for this Sunday has undergone a lot of hardship in our modern day world, what with talk of inheritance, heirs and sons, well it just doesn’t sound very post modern. 

Some would say that if the Bible were truly inspired it would be timeless and without flaws like talking about sons when it should say “children.”  If God were speaking through Paul he would have been more careful about who got in on all those important pronouns and gender specific objects, you know, those who get the really good things from God.  Read it yourself—Galatians 4:4-7.  Is God picking half the population to get all the inheritance of His goodness?

Translators have struggled with this, and their task is supremely difficult.  They try to be faithful to the original text while being culturally relevant and so some translators put “children” instead of “sons” to make this passage more inclusive.  Their goal is admirable but they miss the point.  God is not excluding half the population, He doing exactly the opposite – this passage is ground breaking, rule breaking, culture breaking!  God is including all the world:

4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Everyone is included in “we might receive,”  Paul is trying to say here that formally only the firstborn son would get anything, and even in Jewish culture the firstborn male heir was primary, but now you are sons because of Jesus Christ, sons as those who receive everything good that God gives.  Forgiveness, new life, community, guidance, inner strength and eternal life are given to us, all people, regardless of race, gender, or social status.  When God gives a gift, He gives big and doesn’t exclude.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mitty1 on December 27, 2007 at 4:29 am

    One Gal Who Does Not Feel Left Out!

    I never have understood the debate on trying to update the genders in the Bible. Anyone who doubts the inspiration of the Bible is going against the beliefs of orthodox Christianity! I think people who think that the pronouns in the Bible should be updated should spend more time OMTing on the WOG (see previous article)! I think in fact that God shows His Sovernity by having the Bible written in the era it was written. If you look at other passages of scripture the church is called the Bride of Christ. This verses obviously is not just talking about women but men also. When He calls the Church the Bride He (God) is showing how like a husband He cares, protects, and sacrifices for His Bride the Church. In a more “traditional” time people would understand that this is what a husbands role was supposed to be and what a good husband would do for his wife. As you excellently pointed out in your article if you change the gender in this passage you are robbing it of its full meaning! In the Galatians passage Christ is showing how we have been given an inhertance from our Heavenly Father and we as believers are His sons. So this is one gal who doesn’t mind being a bride and a son!


  2. Posted by trinityhawaii on December 27, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    What amazes me is how easily people cave in to pressure, trying to fit it! It happens even in Biblical scholarship – the quest to be relevant destroys the gift of God’s Word. I find it interesting that the world religions often spring from some conflict or another, as an answer to the question of the cultural moment. Some have rejected medical science because at the time of the religion’s inception the medical profession was a sham. Some religions answer questions about origins, like Mormonism, which tried to explain what happened prior to the Europeans arrival in North America. Some tried to use religion to unify a scattered, nomadic people, like Islam.

    I don’t see the Bible doing that, of course you find in the letters and prophetic words a cultural element to it but it is the gathering of writings over more than a millennia, it is answering the biggest question of all, how do we overcome the problem of sin and how God answers the question through His Son, Jesus Christ).


  3. Posted by mitty1 on December 28, 2007 at 3:46 am

    You are so right what separates the Bible from the other religious books is that it is not a how to manual on how to be a good person or how to live a good life. It is all about how we are sinners in desperate need of a Savior whose name is Jesus Christ. We don’t earn our salvation through being good people. It is a gift of God’s Son Jesus and now we are His sons and heirs! I can not wait to hear your sermon!


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