Further to our discussion about the book of GALATIANS, let us now look at GALATIANS 4:3 and 4:9-10. Paul writes,
“…we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:” and “…how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements , whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.”
The term ‘elements’ has the meaning an orderly line or the elements or first principle of matter, but has been interpreted as referring to the Law with the days, months, seasons, and years as the Sabbaths, Feasts, and Festivals of that Law. Greek Bible scholar Spiros Zodhiates’ definition in his Lexicon is word #4747 stoicheion…elements or first principles of Christian doctrine. Paul calls the ceremonial ordinances of the Mosaic Law, the elements of the world…In GAL. 4:9 he calls them weak and poor…when considered in themselves…
Perhaps without any other input such as the Word of YHWH, the Laws of YHWH may possibly be considered weak–without power–and poor. However the Word does have a lot to say about the Law which would appear to render this definition unscriptural. First, YHWH’s Laws, be they Mosaic or otherwise, are not worldly, nor referred anywhere in His entire Word as worldly, weak, poor, worthless, or enslaving. The very opposite is true:
ROMANS 7:14 …the Law is spiritual:
PSALM 119:142, 151 …Thy Law is the truth.
JOHN 8:32 …the truth shall make you free.
JAMES 1:25 …whoso looketh into the perfect Law of liberty, and continueth therein…shall be blessed.
Secondly, the Scripture says the Galatian Christians, formerly pagans and Gentiles, have turned back again to these elements which include the keeping of certain special days, months, seasons, and years. How can this be referring to the Law? The Galatian Gentile converts never before kept the Law nor were probably even aware of it. Neither does the Israelite or Jewish calendar, that is, YHWH’s Law, contain the keeping of whole months or seasons. Only prescribed therein are days: the Sabbaths; weeks: Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles; and years: the Sabbath or seventh year of rest and release of slaves; and the fiftieth year of Jubilee.
Paul also refers to the Galatian converts as children when they were enslaved by these elements of the world. Yet, I reiterate, they were not under the Law when they were still unspiritual children before they became Christians. These people were evidently returning to some of their pre-conversion worldly practices and mixing them with Christianity or Judaism, as taught by the people coming into the Galatian church.
Two passages in Paul’s Epistle to the COLOSSIANS also contain the term ‘elementary principles’ or ‘rudiments’ (KJV) of the world.
Beware lest any man spoil you (take you captive NASB) through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Messiah (2:8).
Wherefore if ye be dead with Messiah from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are we subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; which are all to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship (self-made religion NASB), and humility (self-abasement NASB), and neglecting (severe treatment) of the body, not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh (2:20-23).
Paul here is warning the Colossian Christians against Gnostic asceticism with Judaic borrowings, a heresy that plagued the early Church. Certain outward observances of the Law such as Feasts and fasts were given undue attention to the detriment of that given to Messiah. But by far the most serious deceptions were worldly, empty philosophical reasoning and traditions of men.
In the New Testament Father does nothing through routines or religious rituals. He treats each person and every situation as unique and individual. If this was not so, we would come quickly to depend for salvation on the ritual rather than YHWH himself. This is what the Jews had done. So much so that they did not even keep the rituals of the Law anymore. It was because of this that Paul in his Letter to the ROMANS (9:30-33, 10:2-4) calls what the Galatians are trying to follow ‘elements of the world’ and not YHWH’s Laws:
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even by faith. But Israel, which followed after the Law of righteousness, hath not attained that Law. Wherefore (Why)? Because they sought it not by faith, but…by…works of that Law (to look good). For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, BEHOLD I LAY IN SION A STUMBLINGSTONE AND ROCK OF OFFENCE: AND WHOEVER BELIEVETH ON HIM SHALL NOT BE ASHAMED (IS:8:14). For I bear them record that they have a zeal of YHWH but not according to knowledge (of prophecies about Yahshua). For they being ignorant of YHWH’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of YHWH. For Messiah is the end (ultimate result or goal) of the Law for righteousness for everyone that believeth.
To be righteous we must keep YHWH’s commandments (DEUT. 6:25), so obviously the Jews were not doing that. In fact they had added so many man-made laws and their own traditions to the Mosaic Law that parts of YHWH’s Law were suppressed. Those Jews in positions of authority to teach and administer the Law had no conviction of their own sin, or desire to obey the Law, so they simply made up their own, which annulled or hid the other. When Yahshua came, perfectly keeping the true Laws, He made them look very guilty, shameful, sinful, and foolish, an affront to their pride. Their options were to humble themselves–some did–or do away with Him too.
HEBREWS 9:9-11 (NASB) …both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshipper perfect in conscience…until a time of reformation…when Messiah appeared…
MARK 7:6-13 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias (Isayah) prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of YHWH, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such things ye do. And He said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandments of YHWH, that ye may keep your tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father and mother, let him die the death. But ye say, If a man shall say not to his father or mother, it is Corban, that is to say a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the Word of YHWH of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
It is obvious from this, and from COLOSSIANS 2:8 that the ‘elements’ of which Paul writes are traditions of men or man-made laws. Peter (1:18 Book of Yahweh) similarly warns of the dangers of these things:
Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, from your idolatrous way of life, handed down to you by tradition from your forefathers.