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.
One should consider Gal 4,1-7 as a sort of complement to 3,15-29. With le/gw de/ Paul introduces a second human example connected with the first (cf. 3,15): the child-heir is not better than a slave "until the date set by the father" (4,1-2). In the application of this example ("so with us", 4,3), it would seem that all Christians in Galatia have been slaves to elemental principles, either in their pagan past or kept in slavery under the Jewish law. In 4,4-7 Paul explains broadly as in 3,26-29 what has happened "when the fullness of time came": God sent his Son, born of a woman and born under the law, in order to redeem those under the law so that all might become children by adoption. God sent his Spirit into our hearts, crying "Abba, Father". Therefore, we are no longer slaves but children and heirs. Apparently the same salvation historical pattern of argument is present, be it without explicit mention of the promise: first the period of slavery and then the fullness of time with Christ. Yet the unfree condition before Christ is not only that of restriction under the law but also the pagan enslavement to beings "that are by nature no gods" (4,8).
In 4,8-11 Paul, once more in a strange way, compares and even identifies the pre-Christian condition of the Gentile believers with the judaizing lifestyle proposed by the opponents: you were in bondage to "no gods", how can you turn back "again" to the weak and poor elemental spirits? Why do you wish to enslave yourselves to them "again"? As it happens Paul twice uses the term pa/lin. In verse 11 he then complains: "I am afraid I have labored over you in vain".
The same fear can be felt in the emotional and pleading pericope which follows in 4,12-20. Paul reminds the Galatians of their previous loving attitude with regard to himself: "Have I become an enemy by telling you the truth" (v. 16). Paul continues to warn them against the dishonest "courting" of the opponents. From the preceding context one knows that they want to bring the Galatians "under the law" (cf. 4,21). It is a law which restricts and condemns, a law which is incapable of providing life (cf. 3,21).
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The reading of Gal 3,15-29 and 4,1-7 cannot but show us Pauls heavily christological emphasis. Christ is both the apex and center in the argument. One final question remains with regard to 3,13 and 5,1. While it cannot be denied that in both verses Paul, rather unexpectedly, brings in a most forceful statement about Christ, should one speak here of a conscious correction on the part of the author, or of an important complement? Neither of these options seems likely. In 3,13 and 5,1 Paul mentions Christ, it would seem, spontaneously, not as a correction21 or complement, but out of the fullness of his personal conviction, out of his most profound vision of salvation history. Yet both 3,7-9 and 4,21-31 reveal to us how easily Paul is taken up, almost completely, in the presentation of Abraham and