Galatians 4:3

Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
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AD 400
By the “elements” he means new moons and the sabbath. New moons are the lunar days that the Jews observe, while the sabbath is the day of rest. Therefore, before the promise came (that is, the gift of God’s grace) and justified believers by purifying them, we were subject, like those who are infants and imperfect, to our fellow servants as though to custodians. Our pernicious freedom was the matrix of sin.

Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
Why does Paul include his own character in this description? He says not “When you were small, you were subject to the elements of this world” but “When we were small we were in servitude under the elements of this world.” This does not have any reference to the Jews, from whom Paul derived his origin. Rather it refers to his identification with the Gentiles in this place at least, since he can properly join himself with the character of those whom he was sent to evangelize.

Cornelius a Lapide

AD 1637
Even so we. That is the Jews, whom he so describes in chap. iii25. When we were children. Like boys untaught in the knowledge, and therefore in the love of God and His righteousness. Under the elements of the world1. Serving the letter of the Old Law. For the law, as being imperfect, was first given to the world, i.e, to the Jews, and through the Jews to all nations, to teach them the rudiments of faith and piety. But the Gospel, succeeding the law, teaches their perfection. As Justinian calls his Institutes the "elements of the law," and as we speak of the elements of grammar, philosophy, and music, so here the Apostle speaks of the law as elementary. As boys, says Anselm, learn the elements, and their conjunction, but do not understand the words and sentences composed from them until they proceed to higher branches of learning, to which they can only attain by first learning the elements, so the Jews had the elements in their ceremonies, of which they did not understand the meaning...

Gaius Marius Victorinus

AD 400
The elements of the world were thought to have in themselves at the same time their own motions and, as it were, certain necessary consequences of the motion of other beings, such as stars, by whose revolution human life was brought under necessity. And so humans served the elements as the stars ordained and the course of the world required. –.

George Leo Haydock

AD 1849
Under the elements of the world. St. Chrysostom understands the exterior ceremonies and precepts of the law of Moses, with an allusion to the first elements or rudiments which children are taught. (Witham)


AD 420
He has used the name “elements of the world” for those whom he called tutors and overseers above…. Some hold that these are angels that preside over the four elements. … Many think that it is the heaven and earth with their inhabitants that are called the elements of the world, because the wise Greeks, the barbarians and the Romans, the dregs of all superstition, venerate the sun, the moon, … from which we are liberated by Christ’s coming, knowing them to be creatures and not divinities. Others interpret the elements of the world as the law of Moses and the utterances of the prophets, because, commencing and setting out with these letters, we imbibe the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom…. The Mosaic law and the prophets can be taken as the elements of writing, because through them syllables and names are put together, and they are learned not so much for their own sake as for their usefulness to others…. Regarding our interpretation of the law and the prophets as the elemen...

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation - 2 Peter 1:20

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