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.
is sharply criticized. The present Jerusalem corresponds to Mount Sinai (and the slave girl Hagar); the city is in bondage with her children; she persecutes the believers. She will be cast out and rejected; she will not have an inheritance. (3) The fact that Paul appropriates Sarah and Isaac, promise and heritage, Spirit and the Jerusalem above, i.e., all Israels glory and her privileges for the church and thus also for the Gentile majority in that church, must certainly have been offensive to his fellow-Jews.
In Rom 9,6-13 Paul stresses the idea of Gods free election. This applies to the call of Isaac and to that of Jacob. Not the children of the flesh are the children of God; only the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants (cf. v. 8). In Gal 4,21-31 it is underscored that Isaac is the son of Sarah through promise (cf. v. 23) and that he was born according to the Spirit (cf. v. 29). At the end of the pericope Paul very strongly affirms: "So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman". Like Isaac we are children of the promise. Can one suppose that on the part of the Galatians nothing good or bad has been done and that Gods purpose of election must continue, not because of works but because of his call (cf. Rom 9,11)? Since faith is not mentioned, one may have the impression that absolutely nothing is needed. The right descent meets with all the conditions: through promise, according to the Spirit. Christ does not enter on the scene; in fact, he is not even mentioned in Gal 4,21-316. Yet just as in 3,13a Christ all at once appears in 5,1a: Th|= e)leuqeri/a| h(ma=j Xristo_j h)leuqe/rwsen.
We can assume that Paul has composed 5,1a still under the influence of what he had just written in 4,31, without referring to contemporary practices of slave emancipation7. Yet, as is well known, the problems regarding Gal 5,1 are legion. First of all, there are a number of variant readings. Furthermore, the question whether this verse still belongs to the allegory or can be seen as a new beginning8 is not solved; therefore, many prefer a compromise: the verse constitutes a transition. This question is related to the other, namely whether the major parenetical part of Galatians begins with 5,1 or rather with 5,13. Much attention is also devoted to the connection between the two clauses, the indicative in verse 1a and the imperative in verse 1b. Commentators also ask how the dative at the beginning of the verse has to be taken: is it instrumental or is it the equivalent of a Hebrew absolute infinitive or, more probably, a dative of