Re: Gal 4:29 What type of conditional?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun May 30 1999 - 08:10:34 EDT

At 11:33 PM -0400 5/29/99, Joseph Brian Tucker wrote:
>Gal 4:29 seems to be a conditional sentence. The particles hOSPER
>(protasis) and hOUTWS (apodosis) seem to relate to TOTE (protasis) and NUN
>(apodosis). My question is, what class of conditional sentence is this?
>Secondly, what is the semantic analysis of Gal 4:29? Thirdly, what are the
>eschatological implications of identifying this sentence as a conditional?

KATA PNEUMA, hOUTWS KAI NUN. The context is Paul's allegorical
interpretation of the story of Abraham's two sons by Hagar and by Sarah
respectively as representing adherents of the Sinai Covenant and the New
Covenant respectively.

(1) Gal 4:29 is NOT really a conditional sentence at all: there is no
contingency such as would be represented by an EI/if. What we have here is
rather an assertion that two FACTS are analogous, and both clauses have
indicative verbs, assuming that we should supply DIWKEI along with the
subject and object from the TOTE clause mutatis mutandis. Nor is there any
temporal contingency between the two clauses: it's not as if the
persecution of the spiritual child by the fleshly child in antiquity were a
causal factor of the current persecution of the church by Israel; nothing
more is asserted beyond the parallelism of the two facts.

(2) I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "semantic analysis" in this
instance; in terms of grammatical structure we have parallel subjects (hO
parallel verbs (EDIWKEN and <DIWKEI>), and parallel adverbial conjunctive
phrases (hWSPER TOTE and hOUTWS KAI NUN). I would understand the referents
of the persecutor and persecuted in the parallel instances as Ishmael and
Isaac in former time, Israel and Christian believers now.

(3) Finally, I don't see how there's anything explicitly or implicitly
eschatological here, at least insofar as the analogous assertions made
about time past and time present One may say that this analogy stands
within a larger contextual assertion of Paul that the present time is the
time of fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham, but I don't think Paul
is asserting within this verse (4:29) anything more than an analogous
relationship between the fleshly child and the spiritual child, although in
the larger context his primary object would seem to be to ground yet more
completely his assertion about the free status of the spiritual child as
opposed to the enslaved status of the fleshly child. And that is already
going beyond the ordinary boundaries of B-Greek discussion, where we
endeavor to clarify the legitimate possibilities of understanding the Greek
text and leave the theological interpretation open to each individual.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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