The Role of the Pedagogue in Galatians -- By: Michael J. Smith

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 163:650 (Apr 2006)
Article: The Role of the Pedagogue in Galatians
Author: Michael J. Smith


The Role of the Pedagogue in Galatians

Michael J. Smith

Michael J. Smith is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia.

In discussing the believer’s relationship to the Law and to God in Galatians 3:23–4:7 Paul used two figures from the culture of his day. First, he looked back and used the word “pedagogue” to describe the function of the Old Testament Law over Israel before the time of Christ: “Therefore the Law has become our tutor [παιδαγωγός] to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor [παιδαγωγόν]” (Gal. 3:24–25). Second, he looked at the relationship believers have with God and used the word “adoption” to describe the position of believers as that of sons: “so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (4:5). While the act of adoption is familiar today, the role of the pedagogue in Paul’s day is not. Therefore an examination of the meaning, person, and function of the pedagogue can help believers understand the passage in Galatians.

The purpose of this article is to investigate the cultural background of the word παιδαγωγός and to demonstrate how Paul used this figure in his argument in Galatians.

The Figure of the Pedagogue in Galatians

The Lexical Meaning of the Term Παιδαγωγός

The word παιδαγωγός occurs only three times in the New Testament, twice in Galatians 3 (vv. 24–25) and once in 1 Corinthians 4:15. The παιδαγωγός was a “ ‘boyleader,’ the man, usu. a slave. .. whose duty it was to conduct the boy or youth. .. to and from school and to superintend his conduct gener.; he was not a ‘teacher.’ ”1 Longenecker notes that the “etymology of the word suggests

(pais plus agagos), a ‘child-tender.’”2 In English the word “pedagogue” refers to a teacher, but the Greek word does not have that meaning. Like the word “tutor,” the rendering “schoolmaster” in the Kin...

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