The Pedagogical Nature Of The Law In Galatians 3:19-4:7 -- By: Richard N. Longenecker

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:1 (Mar 1982)
Article: The Pedagogical Nature Of The Law In Galatians 3:19-4:7
Author: Richard N. Longenecker

The Pedagogical Nature Of The Law In Galatians

Richard N. Longenecker*

In the discussion of Christians and the Mosaic Law, the analogy of the pedagogue in Gal 3:24–25 and the illustration of a son in a patrician household in Gal 4:1–7 provide significant though somewhat puzzling points of reference. There is no doubt that the analogy and illustration are meant to be taken together. Our difficulties have to do with (1) what Paul meant by them, (2) what areas in the discussion they apply to, and (3) how seriously they should be taken. So while Gal 3:24–25 and 4:1–7 are important passages for a Christian understanding of the Mosaic Law, the analogy and illustration require careful explication if we are to grasp Paul’s point aright.

I. The Analogy Of The Pedagogue

We think today of pedagogues as teachers. In antiquity, however, a paidagōgos was distinguished from a didaskalos and had more custodial and disciplinary functions than educative or instructional. The paidagōgos was a well-known figure not only in the Greco-Roman world but also in Judaism, where the term pedagog appears as a Greek loan word. He was generally a trusted slave charged by the father of a family to supervise his son’s (or sons’) activities and conduct—i.e., as the etymology of the word suggests (pais plus agōgos), a “child-tender.”

Plato (427-347 B.C.) in The Republic speaks of “pedagogues (paidagōgōn), nurses wet and dry, beauticians, barbers, and yet again cooks and chefs” as part of the retinue of Greek patrician households1 and characterizes pedagogues as “not those who are good for nothing else, but men who by age and experience are qualified to serve as both leaders (hēgemonas) and custodians (paidagōgos) of children.2 In chap. 4 of Lysis he provides us with a fascinating glimpse into the rearing of a son in a Greek family, from which the following dialogue between the boys Socrates and Lysis is an excerpt:

Do they [i.e. Lysis’ father and mother] let you control your own self, or will they not trust you in that either? Of course they do not, he replied. But someone controls you? Yes, he said, my paidagōg...

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