Untwisting Gal. 4:9-10

Peter said in all of Paul’s epistles “are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16).  This would especially be true of Galatians—and 4:9-10.

Chubby Checkers argue that Paul said the Sabbath and Holy Days are “weak and miserable principles” (New International Version) to which the Galatians were “turning again” and becoming in “bondage.”

Not talking about God’s days

The truth is that Sabbath or Sabbaths is not mentioned anywhere in the entire book of Galatians.

It was in Galatia on Paul’s first missionary journey that the Gentiles begged Paul to preach to them “the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42).  “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God” (v. 44).  Paul didn’t tell them to meet him on Sunday instead!

Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 1:16), kept 84 Sabbaths that are recorded in the New Testament and taught Gentiles to keep them.

Twisters claim “years” in 4:10 refers to sabbatical and jubilee years of Lev. 25.  But the jubilee year was not being observed anywhere in Paul’s day, and the sabbatical year in areas outside Palestine (Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 14, p. 582; and Jewish Encyclopedia, “Sabbatical Year and Jubilee,” p. 666).

The Greek words Paul used for “days and months and seasons and years” describe normal, civil periods of time.  Whereas in Col. 2:16, Paul used very precise terms specifying the Sabbath, Holy Days and biblical observances.

The Galatian Christians were mostly Gentiles—physically uncircumcised (5:2, 6:12-13).  A key principle of true Bible study is to pay special attention to context.  Verse 8 says “When you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods.”  By this Paul referred “clearly to the idols of paganism, which, in typical Jewish idiom, Paul termed  ‘not gods'” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 1976, Vol. 10, p. 475).

Gentiles couldn’t turn back to days they had never kept!

How would the Galatians even think Paul was calling God’s law and days “weak and beggarly” when in Romans 7:12 he called them “holy and just and good.”

The Greek word for “elements” is stoicheia.  “It would seem that in Paul’s time … stoicheia … referred to the sun, moon, star and planets—all of them associated with gods or goddesses and, because they regulated the progression of the calendar, also associated with the great pagan festivals honoring the gods” (Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 1995, Vol. 8, p. 148).  Kittel said Paul was decrying those who were observing the pagan calendar and astrology.

Paul was trying to prevent the Galatians—and us—from becoming entangled again in our former pagan practices.  Let’s honestly study Galatians and not twist it.

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