Elemental Spirits

It is written:

Galatians 4:3-Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.

The Bible here talks about the “elements” of the world. The Greek word used here is stoicheia, and is used in a few other passages in the New Testament (i.e., Galatians 4:9; Colossians 2:8, 20). The interesting thing about this word is that it is translated so differently in various translations. For example:

Galatians 4:3 (LEB)-So also we, when we were children, we were enslaved under the elemental spirits of the world.

The TEV translates this as “the ruling spirits of the universe.”

Why the differences in translation?

Stoicheia was used by the Gentiles and the Jews long before the time of Christ to have reference to certain demonic spirits in our realm. Arnold documents:

“The interpretation of stoicheia as personal spiritual entities is the most compelling view. Consequently this interpretation has commanded manded the consent of the majority of commentators in the history of the interpretation of the passages.12 This view is based partly on the widespread usage of stoicheia for astral spirits in the second and third centuries A.D. (and probably before). The word was used, for instance,, in the Greek magical papyri in connection with the Zodiac: “I conjure you by the 12 stoicheia of heaven and the 24 stoicheia of the world in order that you would lead me to Heracles.”13 It is important to realize that not only pagans used this word to refer to spirits, but Jews also used this word in that sense. The Jewish Testament of Solomon, written during the Roman Imperial period, includes five references to stoicheia as spirit beings. In the following passage the stoicheia are linked with the kosmokratores (cf. Eph 6:12):…These terms further reflect the wide array of vocabulary in reference to spirit beings, shared by Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul drew from this reservoir of terminology with which his readers would be readily familiar.. He showed no interest, however, in discussing what he believed to be true about the starry host. Rather, he lumped all manner of spirits together, affirmed Christ’s superiority, and encouraged believers to be prepared for their hostile intentions and attacks by reminding minding his readers of their past ability to enslave.” (Clinton Arnold, Powers Of Darkness: Principalities & Powers In Paul’s Letters, 54 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press)

There are powerful spiritual forces in this world that seek to bring us into spiritual bondage. Yet Jesus is Lord, and through Him victory may be found and maintained. Have you turned your life to Jesus (Acts 2:38)?

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