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To: All

From: Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1

The Two Covenants: Hagar and Sarah


[22] For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a
free woman. [23] But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the
son of the free woman through promise. [24] Now this is an allegory: these wo-
men are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery;
she is Hagar. [26] But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. [27]
For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one that dost not bear; break forth and shout,
thou who art not in travail; for the desolate hath more children than she who hath
a husband.” [31] So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free wo-
man.

Christian Liberty


[1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit
again to a yoke of slavery.

*********************************************************************************************
Commentary:

21-31. The entire Old Testament narrative contains lessons for Christians. The
Apostle says as much when he declares that these things have a symbolic mea-
ning and “were written down for your instruction, upon whom the end of the ages
has come” (1 Cor 10:11). However, certain episodes and people have particular
significance, and this passage cites one (cf. Gen chaps. 16, 17 and 21). Abra-
ham had been given a promise by God that he would have a son (Gen 15:4) by
his wife Sarah (cf. Gen 17:19). However, both of them were quite old, and Sarah,
besides, was barren; so, in keeping with the ancestral customs of the tribe, Sa-
rah made Abraham take Hagar, her slave-girl, and Hagar had a son, Ishmael.
However, God told Abraham that this son was not the son of the promise (cf.
Gen 17:19). The promise was fulfilled sometime later when, through a miracle
of God, Sarah gave birth to a son. St Paul speaks to us about the allegorical
meaning of this episode: two women — Sarah, Abraham’s wife and the mother
of Isaac, and Hagar, her slave and the mother of Ishmael — stand for two stages
in Salvation History. Hagar symbolizes the stage of the Old Covenant made on
Mount Sinai, while Sarah represents the New Covenant sealed forever by the
blood of Christ, the covenant which frees us from the yoke of the Law and from
sin.

Paul’s conclusion from this is that Christians are brothers of Isaac, born of the
free woman, and therefore they are heirs of the promise made to Abraham and
his descendants.

24-26. The sacred writer wants to stress that if one continues to be subject to
the Mosaic Law it is equivalent to remaining a slave, to being a son of Hagar.
People in that position constitute the present Jerusalem who is “in slavery with
her children”. Against this there is the heavenly Jerusalem, a metaphor also
used in the Apocalypse to describe the Church triumphant in glory (cf. Rev 21:
2, 10). This metaphor also conveys the idea of the transcendent, supernatural
character of the Church.

Undoubtedly St Paul’s Jewish contemporaries would have regarded this compa-
rison of Jerusalem with Hagar as virtually blasphemous. However, we do know
that the rabbis of his time did make a distinction between the earthly Jerusalem
and the heavenly Jerusalem, the former being only a pale shadow of the latter.
The Apostle uses these teachings, which can be deduced from Sacred Scrip-
ture, to explain that those who believe in Christ are the true descendants — spi-
ritual descendants — of the lawful wife, Sarah, who prefigures the heavenly Jeru-
salem; whereas those who do not believe in Christ, although they belong racially
to the people of Israel, are no longer true descendants of the lawful wife, but ra-
ther are children of Hagar.

St Paul then makes a play on words, in typical rabbinical style: since Hagar is
one of the names of the mountainous region of Sinai, to which, according to the
geographical notions of the time, Mount Sion also belongs (Sion being the hill
on which Jerusalem is built), this earthly Jerusalem is connected with Hagar,
the slave, to whom the divine promise was not made. This whole passage, while
we may find it very odd, does reveal St Paul’s earlier training as a rabbi, a trai-
ning which divine Providence uses to show us the inner meaning of one of the
most important episodes in Old Testament history.

1-3. The Law of Moses, which was divinely revealed, was something good; it sui-
ted the circumstances of the time. Christ came to bring this Law to perfection (cf.
notes on Mt 5:17-19 and Gal 5:14-15). All the elaborate legal and ritual prescrip-
tions in the Mosaic Law were laid down by God for a specific stage in Salvation
History, that is, the stage which ended with the coming of Christ. Christians are
under no obligation to follow the letter of that Law (cf. St Thomas Aquinas,
“Summa Theologiae”, I-II, q. 108, a.3 ad 3).

Although in this letter to the Galatians the Apostle is emphasizing, as we have
seen, freedom from the Law of Moses, obviously this liberation cannot be entirely
disconnected from freedom in general. If someone submits to circumcision after
being baptized, it amounts to subjecting oneself to a series of practices which
have now no value and to depriving oneself of the fruits of Christ’s Redemption.
In other words, subjection to the Law brings with it a loss of freedom in general.
Paul is using the full might of his apostolic authority when he says, “If you re-
ceive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” Christ’s Redemption
alone is effective; it has no need of the rites of the Old Testament.

*********************************************************************************************
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.


3 posted on 10/14/2012 8:40:37 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All

From: Luke 11:29-32

The Sign of Jonah


[29] When the crowds were increasing, He (Jesus) began to say, “This genera-
tion is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except
the sign of Jonah. [30] For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will
the Son of Man be to this generation. [31] The queen of the South will arise at the
judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from
the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something
greater than Solomon is here. [32] The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment
with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah,
and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

*********************************************************************************************
Commentary:

29-32. Jonah was the prophet who led the Ninevites to do penance: his actions
and preaching they saw as signifying that God had sent him (cf. note on Mat-
thew 12:41-42).

[The note on Matthew 12:41-42 states:

41-42. Nineveh was a city in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) to which the prophet Jo-
nah was sent. The Ninevites did penance (John 3:6-9) because they recognized
the prophet and accepted his message; whereas Jerusalem does not wish to re-
cognize Jesus, of whom Jonah was merely a figure. The queen of the South was
the queen of Sheba in southwestern Arabia, who visited Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-
10) and was in awe of the wisdom with which God had endowed the King of Is-
rael. Jesus is also prefigured in Solomon, whom Jewish tradition saw as the epi-
tome of the wise man. Jesus’ reproach is accentuated by the example of pagan
converts, and gives us a glimpse of the universal scope of Christianity, which will
take root among the Gentiles.

There is a certain irony in what Jesus says about “something greater” than Jonah
or Solomon having come: really, He is infinitely greater, but Jesus prefers to tone
down the difference between Himself and any figure, no matter how important, in
the Old Testament.]

*********************************************************************************************
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.


4 posted on 10/14/2012 8:41:36 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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