Jan Lambrecht, «Abraham and His Offspring. A Comparison of Galatians 5,1 with 3,13», Vol. 80 (1999) 525-536
Just as after the Abraham passage of 3,6-12 Christ is mentioned in 3,13 quite unexpectedly, so also after 4,21-31, Pauls so-called allegory which deals with the wives and sons of Abraham, the sudden statement about Christ in 5,1 cannot but surprise the reader. Although the word order differs, both vocabulary and content of parts of 3,13a and 5,1a are identical or at least similar. Abrahams faith was already, by way of anticipation, Christian faith. Moreover, "those of faith" in 3,7 and 9 implicitly are believers in Christ. This also applies to 4,26. The children of "the Jerusalem above" are free because they belong to Christ, even if in v. 26 this is not (yet) explicitly stated. Therefore, a seemingly brusque transition from the Abraham text or the allegory to Christ should not disturb the reader too much.
in a double sense, referring first to the Torah as law and then to Torah as scripture. The formula "it is written" does not introduce a literal quotation. Paul summarizes several sections from Genesis, the stories of Hagar and Sarah and their sons (cf. Gen 1625). Special attention is given to the status of the two mothers (slave and free) and to the way their respective children are born (according to the flesh and through promise). So a radical opposition prevails in the entire pericope.
The mothers are two covenants. Hagar is the covenant of Mount Sinai. It is the covenant of the law which entails lack of freedom, slavery. With this covenant Paul connects, in v. 25b, the present Jerusalem, which is in bondage with her children, the non-Christian Jews. The second part of the so-called allegory is not worked out. One is invited to supply: the other covenant is from Mount Zion; Sarah is Mount Zion, which corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is in freedom with her children, the Christians (cf. v. 26). "Above" disrupts the expected temporal antithesis "present-future". The idea of a heavenly, already existent Jerusalem stems from apocalyptic Judaism. Paul, however, may also have chosen the new spatial image because he was convinced that the "future" is no longer completely future; it is somehow present now. That the two cities are seen as "mothers" (cf. vv. 25-26) can best be understood in connection with the two mothers, Hagar and Sarah.
The time factor complicates the allegory. It is not improbable that, in Pauls opinion, both covenants can be said to be existing in the history of Hagar and of Sarah. But the data concerning the Patriarchs point, above all, to two opposing realities: law (Sinai) and fulfilment of the promise, flesh and Spirit, slavery and freedom. The first covenant was inaugurated on Mount Sinai but it is still alive in the present Jerusalem; the new covenant, however, is only brought about by Jesus, now, in these days. The Hagar-line has three time moments: Hagar-Ishmael, law-Sinai, and present Jerusalem. The Sarah-line has only two such moments: Sarah-Isaac, and new covenant-Jerusalem above.
Twice, in verses 28 and 31, the vocative "brothers" occurs, twice also the term "children". The Galatians (cf. "you" in v. 28), Paul included (cf. "we are" in v. 31), are children of promise "after the manner of Isaac" who himself was a child of promise (cf. v. 23); they are children not of the slave girl but of the free woman. The two verses, 28 and 31, clearly form an "inclusio". Yet verse 31 also refers back to verses 21-22. There, "under law" suggests lack of freedom, bondage; there, too, the two terms paidi/skh and e)leuqe/ra are used for the first time. From these literary data one is able to conclude that in 4,21-31 Paul wants to prove that the Galatians as Christians are free, free from the law. They alone, not the non-Christian Jews, are the heirs (cf. v. 30).
The allegory of Gal 4,21-31 stands out in its fierce language. Three data should be noted. (1) The allegorizing of the unfree Hagar as Mount Sinai must have been particularly odious for non-Christian Jews. It implies a clear depreciation of the giving of the law. This is confirmed by the opposition of the two covenants in which Sinai is said to bear children for slavery. (2) No less offensive is Pauls treatment of his contemporary fellow-Jews. The present Jerusalem, the mother of the non-Christian Jews,