The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bernardin de Piconio on Galatians 4:22-31 for Sunday Mass, April 3, (4th Sunday of Lent, Extraordinary Form)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2011

Since de Piconio begins a new section of his commentary with verse 21 I’ve included it in these notes.

21. Tell me, you who would be under the law, have you not read the law?
22. For it is written; that Abraham had two sons, one of a maid-servant, and one of a freewoman.
23. But he who was born of a maid-servant, was born according to the flesh: and he who of the free, through the promise.

24. Which is said in allegory. For these are the two Testaments; one indeed in Mount Sina (Sinai), generating to bondage, which is Agar (Hagar).
25. For Sina is a mountain in Arabia, which is joined to that Jerusalem which is now, and serves with her
26. But that Jerusalem which is above, is free, who is our mother.

(vs 21) Since I do not know, at this distance, your disposition towards me, or how far you are prepared to listen to what I say, tell me at least, you who are so anxious to be under the control of the law, have you not read it, the law to
which you defer? The Greek, heard it? (vs 22) For it is written in the law (Gen 16:15, 21:2-3), that Abraham had a son by Agar, and another by Sara.  Agar was young (vs 23a), and fit to become a mother, and in the birth of her son there was nothing remarkable, or beyond the ordinary course of nature. Sara was old and sterile (vs 23b), and the birth of Isaac was supernatural and miraculous, in fulfilment of the promise God had made to him long before. But these facts (vs 24), beyond their historical sense, have a higher and figurative meaning, contemplated and intended by the Holy Spirit, who dictated these inspired and ancient records. These two mothers are the Old Testament, or covenant, and the New. One in, or (in the Greek) given from Mount Sina in Arabia, has brought forth the Jews, under the yoke of the law, serving God, but doing so as slaves, and for fear of punishment.

In verse 25 the Greek text reads: Agar is Mount Sina in Arabia; and so the Syriac. The name Agar, on the testimony of St. Chrysostom and Thcophylact, is the Arabian appellation of Mount Sina, and is therefore an additional illustration of the allegory; and Grotius says the mountain, or the region in which it rises, is so called because it contains the town of Agar, or Agara, for which statement he cites Pliny, Dion, and Strabo. Hence the term Agarenes, Ps 83:7.

Mount Sina is distant from Jerusalem twenty days’ journey, and is therefore only figuratively joined to Jerusalem. The Greek text and all the interpreters have corresponds with, or answers to. The Jerusalem which now is, is a slave, like Agar, and can only be the mother of slaves. She serves with her sons.

(Vs 26)  Sara is a figure of the New Testament, or of the Church of Christ, a statement which, as being obviously implied, and therefore unnecessary, the Apostle has omitted. This is the Jerusalem which is above, or on high. I John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, descending from God, out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, Rev 21:1, because the Son of God, descending from heaven, founded the Church on earth. Jerusalem signifies the vision of peace. Peace I leave to you, my peace I give you, Jn 14:27. This Jerusalem is free, bearing children to freedom, by the spirit of adoption of sons, by which we cry Abba, Father. Lastly, she is the fruitful mother of us all, Jews and Gentiles. “Lift thine eyes all around and see; these all are assembled and come to thee; thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall spring up at thy side. Then shalt thou see, and overflow, and thy heart shall be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be turned unto thee, and the might of the nations has come to thee. Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows ? (Isa 60:4, 5, 8.) “Thy deserts and solitudes, and the land of thy ruin, shall be too narrow for its inhabitants. And the sons of thy sterility shall say in thine ears: the place is too narrow, give us space to dwell. And thou shalt say in thy heart, Who has begotten me these?” (Isa 49:19, 20.)

27. For it is written; Rejoice sterile one, who bearest not; break forth and cry, thou who dost not bring forth children; for many are the sons of the forsaken, more than of her who has a husband.

For it is written: Isa 54:1. The sterile one and the forsaken is the Gentile world, which before the coming of Christ brought forth no fruit to God. She who has a husband is the synagogue, and the prophecy implies that the children of the Catholic Church would be beyond all comparison more numerous than the Jewish nation, a prediction which had only begun to be fulfilled when these words of Saint Paul were written. The Apostle proceeds
to give three applications of his parable.

28. And we, brethren, like Isaac are sons of promise.

We, like Isaac, are the children of promise, the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham that in him, and in Christ, who was to descend from him, all nations should be blessed. This the Jews cannot claim, for the benediction of all nations is through Christ alone; any more than Ismael could claim it of old.

29. But as then he who was born after the flesh persecuted him who was born after the spirit, so also now.

He who was born after the flesh persecuted him who was born after the Spirit. The words referred to in Gen 21:9, are, Sara saw the son of Agar the Egyptian playing with Isaac her son. This is variously explained as a quarrel about the inheritance, in which Isaac, as the younger, would of course be worsted; or that Ismael mocked at the piety of Isaac; or that Ismael had made
gods of clay, after the Egyptian fashion, and endeavoured to induce Isaac to worship them; or by other conjectures. It was undoubtedly persecution, corporal or spiritual, and stands for a figurative representation of the persecution of the early Christian Church by the Jews. So also now.

30. But what says the Scripture? Cast out the maidservant and her son; for the son of the maidservant shall not be heir, with the son of the free.

What says the Scripture? Gen 21:10: Cast out the maidservant and her son. This is the third and principal application of the allegory, and signifies the exclusion of the synagogue and the unbelieving portion of the Jewish nation from the communion of the Church of God, into which admittance can be found only through faith in Christ. The Galatians could not but see that the synagogue being cast out, or repudiated, they had reason to dread the loss of their inheritance, like Ishmael, if by persisting; in legal observances, they made themselves children of the synagogue, and therefore slaves.

31. Therefore, brethren, we are not sons of the maidservant, but of the free; for with this liberty Christ has made us free.

You therefore, Galatian Christians, are not sons of the synagogue, nor bound to the rites and obligations of the Jewish law; but to the commands of God, as your Father, and the precepts of the Church of Christ, your spiritual mother, who is free. And this freedom we owe, not to merit of our own, but to the grace of Christ, who by his passion and death has emancipated us from the
yoke of that law which, in fulfilling, he has abrogated and done away with.

It may be observed, with reference to this allegory, that the Scriptures of the Old Testament have throughout a prophetic reference to the New, and are intended to be read with that fact in view. This prophetic meaning was doubtless not always known to the ancient writers, who could not have had within their mental vision the whole series of the events of future times; but it was known to, and intended by, the Spirit of God, who inspired and dictated the sacred records. Neither is it confined to such notices and references to the Old Testament as the writings of the New Testament contain; for the whole of the ancient narrative is full of such applications, which may often be found by those who look for them diligently, and are sometimes striking and startling. Nevertheless, this imposes upon students of the Old Testament the obligation of carefully observing that these typical correspondences and coincidences are to be found and noted for edification only, and as probable and reasonable conjectures, and are never absolutely certain, except where
they are confirmed by the authority of Christ, or the sacred writers of the New Testament, or other writers of approved authority. Subject to this caution, any reader can find many for himself, or study with profit and pleasure those which have been collected by Catholic writers. The acts and proceedings of the patriarchs, kings, and leaders of the ancient people of Israel, very often have this prophetic character, and the incidents in their lives which have not, are generally omitted in the sacred narrative, in which many are inserted which, but for this prophetic reference, would not seem to be greatly important ; such as the comparatively trivial incident of Esau’s pretending to sell his birthright for pottage.


One Response to “Bernardin de Piconio on Galatians 4:22-31 for Sunday Mass, April 3, (4th Sunday of Lent, Extraordinary Form)”

  1. […] UPDATE: Bernardin de Piconio on Galatians 4:22-31. […]

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