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.
A survey of parallel affirmations in the letter to the Galatians reveals both the kernel of Pauls thought and the possible variations and images11. In 1,4 it is said that Christ "gave himself (do/ntoj e(auto/n) for our sins to deliver (o#pwj e)ce/lhtai) us from the present evil age"12. The verb used in 2,16 for that which is produced through or by faith in Christ (cf. 2,17: "in Christ") is, of course, dikaiou=mai. As stated already, in 3,13a Paul maintains that "Christ redeemed (e)chgo/rasen) us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us". One may, finally, also refer to 4,5 in which the same verb occurs: When the time has come, God sent his son "to redeem ( i#na ... e)cagora/sh|) those who were under the law". Consequently, that Christ gave himself for our sins can be expressed equally well by justification, by deliverance from the evil age, by redemption from the curse of the law, and by liberation, i.e. setting us free from the slavery of the law. In each case, Christ is the agent of these actions. On 5,1a E. Burton writes: "The sentence is, in fact, an epitome of the contention of the whole letter"13.
The similarities between 5,1a and 3,13a are very impressive: absence of a connecting particle and presence of "Christ", "us" and a verb in the aorist. In both clauses the verb indicates an act by Christ which saves us out of a negative situation. Further, just as "curse" in 3,13a takes up that term from 3,11, so also the "freedom" terminology links 5,1a with 4,30-31.26 and 22-23. One should, however, not keep silent about the differences. The metaphorical language is after all not the same: redemption from the curse of the law in 3,13a over against liberation (from slavery) in 5,1a. In 3,13a Christ is said to have become a curse for us; a similar statement which points to his vicarious death on the cross is missing in 5,1a. In 3,13a the position "Christ" at the beginning of the clause is very prominent; in 5,1a "Christ" comes only as the fourth word. One could be tempted to say that in 5,1a Christ is mentioned almost unintentionally. Yet the threefold repetition of "Christ" in 5,2-6 hardly occurs by accident; it betrays Pauls design.