Originally posted by NOTurTypical
reply to post by Locoman8
I suggest for like the 10th time you read Galatians. It was written to people like you.
Did Paul's Words to the Galatians Contradict His Actions?
One common interpretation of the book of Galatians is that Paul criticized the Galatians for keeping the biblical Sabbath and Holy Days. Many
theologians believe these were the days to which Paul referred when he wrote: "How is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to
which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years" (Galatians 4:9-10).
Is Paul criticizing observing the Sabbath and Holy Days here? The book of Acts provides important facts showing this clearly wasn't the case.
Paul visited several cities within the Roman province of Galatia (in what is today central Turkey) during his first journey around A.D. 46-48. He
wrote his epistle to the Galatians at some point after that journey.
But notice what Luke records in Acts 13 concerning Paul's actions during his actual visit to Antioch in Pisidia, a region in the province of Galatia:
• Paul participates in Sabbath services at the local synagogue (verse 14).
• Paul, as a guest and scholar, teaches in the synagogue (verses 15-41).
• At the conclusion of the service, "the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath" (verse 42).
• When that next Sabbath arrived, "almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God" from Paul and Barnabas (verse 44).
If one assumes that Galatians 4:9-10 condemns Sabbath-keeping, an obvious question is, why would Paul teach gentiles and Jews on the Sabbath while
visiting the Galatian churches and then, after departing, write a letter reprimanding them for observing the Sabbath day?
We should also ask, if Paul believed keeping the Sabbath and biblical Holy Days was "bondage," why didn't he take the opportunity to tell these
Sabbath-keeping Jews and gentiles this when he had such a perfect opportunity?
When they "begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath," why didn't Paul simply tell them he would teach them the very next
day—Sunday—or any other day? Instead, "almost the whole city came together" a week later to hear Paul and Barnabas—on the Sabbath day!
If in Galatians 4:9-10 Paul was attempting to condemn Sabbath-keeping as bondage, his actions as recorded in the book of Acts show that he was either
very confused or very hypocritical. On the other hand, if we really understand the true intent of Paul's words, both his actions and words are
consistent and make perfect sense.
Some view Galatians 4:9-10 as condemning Old Testament laws. In these verses Paul wrote: "But now after you have known God, or rather are known by
God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and
seasons and years."
Those who argue against God's laws see Paul's reference to "days and months and seasons and years" as pointing to the Sabbath, festivals and
sabbatical and jubilee years given in the Old Testament (Leviticus 23, 25). They view these God-given observances as the "weak and miserable
principles" (NIV) to which the Galatians were "turn[ing] again" and becoming "in bondage" (verse 9).
Is this Paul's meaning?
There is an obvious problem with viewing these verses as being critical of the Sabbath, since the Sabbath is not even mentioned here. The term
"Sabbath," "Sabbaths" and any related words do not even appear anywhere in the epistle to the Galatians.
To argue against keeping the Sabbath, some assume that the "years" referred to in Galatians 4:10 are the sabbatical and jubilee years described in
Leviticus 25. However, the jubilee year was not being observed anywhere in Paul's day, and the sabbatical year was not being observed in areas
outside Palestine (Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 14, p. 582, and Jewish Encyclopedia, p. 666, "Sabbatical Year and Jubilee"). The fact that Galatia
was in pagan Asia Minor, far outside the land of Israel, makes it illogical to imagine Paul could have been referring to the sabbatical and jubilee
The Greek words Paul used for "days and months and seasons and years" are used throughout the New Testament in describing normal, civil periods of
time. They are totally different from the precise terms Paul used in Colossians 2:16 specifying the Sabbaths and festivals of God. He used exact
terminology for biblical observances in Colossians, but used very different Greek words in Galatians—a clear indication that he was discussing
altogether different subjects.
To understand what Paul meant, we must examine both the historic and immediate contexts of these verses.
The Galatians couldn't "turn again" to days they had never observed.
The Galatian churches were composed mostly of members from a gentile, rather than Jewish, background. Paul made it clear that they were physically
uncircumcised (Galatians 5:2; 6:12-13), so they could not have been Jewish.
This background is important in understanding this controversial scripture. In Galatians 4:9-10, Paul said that the Galatians were "turn[ing] again
to the weak and beggarly elements," which included "days and months and seasons and years." Since Paul's readers were from a gentile background,
it is difficult to see how the "days and months and seasons and years" they were turning back to could be the Sabbath and other biblical festivals,
since they could not "turn again" to something they had not previously observed.
This is made even clearer by the immediate context. In verse 8, Paul said, "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).
Is it possible that these "weak and beggarly elements" they were returning to (verse 9) could be God's laws, Sabbaths and festivals? The word
translated "elements" here is the Greek word stoicheia. What does it mean? The Expositor's Bible Commentary explains:
"It would seem that in Paul's time . . . stoicheia . . . referred to the sun, moon, stars, 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. In Paul's
view these gods were demons. Hence, he would be thinking of a demonic bondage in which the Galatians had indeed been held prior to the proclamation of
the gospel . . .
"In the verses that follow, Paul goes on to speak of these three crucial subjects in quick succession: (1) 'those who by nature are not gods,'
presumably false gods or demons; (2) 'those weak and miserable principles,' again stoicheia; and (3) 'days and months and seasons and years' (vv.
9, 10). No doubt Paul would think of these demons in ways entirely different from the former thinking of the Galatians . . . Thus, this whole issue
takes on a cosmic and spiritual significance. The ultimate contrast to freedom in Christ is bondage to Satan and the evil spirits" (p. 472).
Superstitious observance of days and times
This is the context in which at least some of the Galatians were observing special "days and months and seasons and years." The word translated here
as "observe" or "observing" is the Greek word paratereo, meaning "to watch closely, [or] observe narrowly" (W.E. Vine, Vine's Complete
Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, "Observation, Observe").
This word "seems to have the sense of 'anxious, scrupulous, well-informed observance in one's interest,' which . . . fit[s] regard for points or
spans of time which are evaluated positively or negatively from the standpoint of the calendar or astrology" (Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary
of the New Testament, 1995, Vol. 8, p. 148).
Whatever "days and months and seasons and years" the Galatians were observing, they were apparently observing them in a superstitious manner, as
they had observed days and times before their conversion.
From the context, we see it is simply not logical to conclude that Paul was criticizing the observance of the biblical Sabbath and festivals, since
they were not even mentioned anywhere in this epistle. Instead, he was attacking misguided efforts to attain salvation through unnecessary
Paul tells them, "I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain" (verse 11). He was trying to prevent them from again becoming entangled
in their former pagan practices.
The issue was not whether the law of God is good or bad. It was whether keeping that law can earn forgiveness of sin and eternal life and whether
human effort can even meet God's requirements of true obedience. Paul's point was that by "works of the law" one earns nothing in regard to
justification. The very idea that one could earn personal forgiveness and salvation is absurd.
The law defines sin and sets the penalty for it. That has never changed. But the law does not and cannot forgive sin. It provides no way to buy back
or reclaim innocence after one commits sin.
So Paul explains that, once transgressions have been committed, it is futile to seek forgiveness and justification through the "works of the
law"—because "as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all
things which are written in the book of the law, to do them'" (Galatians 3:10).
Notice that the curse—the penalty of death—is placed on those who fail to do everything in the law. The law itself is not the curse. Death
through disobedience of the law is.