In this portion of Galatians, Paul layers his discussion of “the law”—the guidelines laid out for observant Jewish practice in the Hebrew Bible—with his understanding of traditional Greek education. The word disciplinarian is a translation of the Greek word paidagogos, from which we get a word like pedagogy. A paidagogos was a special kind of slave in upper-class Grecian families. This slave guarded the activities and behaviors of the family’s boys. The boys went nowhere without their paidagogos, a chaperone and moral instructor in one. However, when the young men emerged from boyhood, they left the paidagogos behind. Society and families expected grown men to have absorbed their childhood lessons in morality and proper behavior. They no longer needed the external guidance of the paidagogos.
Paul extends this metaphor of the paidagogos. “But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.” Paul then goes on to deconstruct the various differences in identity that the believers have allowed to divide them: national origin, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender.
In our time, parents serve in the role of the paidagogos. All of us have parents. Many of us also have parents in faith—those people who played a strong role in bringing us to where we are in our spiritual journeys. Perhaps our beliefs have diverged from those faith parents. Perhaps, through our maturity in faith, we have come to different conclusions than those we were taught. The blessing of being in Christ is that we are free to experience faith for ourselves—unmediated by a paidagogos.
Eternal God, we pray that we will experience the fullness of freedom we are promised through faith in Christ. Amen.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.