Scripture Backdrops - Relevant Historical Insights into Scripture

The Law was our Schoolmaster

Gal 3:24 "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

The Law Was Our "Schoolmaster" To Bring Us Unto Christ

The Trustworthy Greek Attendant

Paul, the writer of Galatians, shifts gears in this verse using a metaphor about the Jewish Law, the Greek word "paedagogos" which was in ancient Greece, a trustworthy attendant for children. 

The "schoolmaster" in the historical context of this Scripture was not the teacher, but rather the slave, who cared for his master's son's from around the age of 6 or 7 until they reached puberty. The servant (usually elderly) would escort the child to school and care for his safety in his immaturity making sure he was instructed, seeing that this child too was his master. Once the child grew up, he was no longer required to obey his servant. 

The technical duty of the attendant, according to historians, was to guard the children from evil, both physical and moral, rather than instruction. He went with them to and from the school and the gymnasium, and was personally responsible for their safety and protected them from any bad company. (See Smith's "Dictionary of Antiquities" about Paedagogus). 

The Law Pointed to Jesus, the Real Teacher

This is a striking imagery of how the Law was primarily given for a certain purpose as an attendant to lead us to Jesus, who is the real teacher. Paul makes it clear that the Law was never given to teach us (we could never obey it), but rather it was a finger pointing to the One who is the only teacher, Jesus. 

Bibliography on Ancient Customs

The Art of Ancient Egypt, Revised by Robins, 272 Pages, Pub. 2008

Return to Ancient Customs

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