I’ve been teaching through both Romans and Galatians this Fall. So I’ve been thinking about Paul’s notion of Christians being the adopted children of God. In these two letters, Paul addresses a largely Gentile audience. So it makes sense that he stressed our adoption as children of God. The Gentiles needed to find a way to be a part of the people of God so that they could receive the spiritual blessings that God has promised His people.
But I’ve been puzzling over a simple question: what about the Jews? Did Paul think that the salvation of the Jews involved the adoption of Jews? After all, the Jewish people identified themselves as the sons of God.
In his commentary on Galatians, Ben Witherington III says:
“As Moore-Crispin says, in ordinary human affairs certainly ‘the νήπιος of Gal. 4.1 could not be said to “receive adoption” at a time set by his father’, and there is no good reason why υἱοθεσία, which has a regular and clearly defined sense in Greek, should be translated ‘receive the full rights of sons’, as if Paul were speaking about the enhancement of those who were already God’s ‘sons’. The conclusion one must draw is that Paul views the status both of Jews under the Law and of Gentiles outside of the Law as the same in regard to the matter of redemption, namely that they both needed redemption and adoption as sons, neither had this as a birthright.” (283; emphasis mine)
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