The Pulpit Commentary* says that the word γενόμενον (KJV: made) in the phrase γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός (made of a woman) in Galatians 4:4 implies a previous state of existence, whereas "born" (so NASB, HCSB, NRSV, ESV, NIV, etc.) does not.

. Made of a woman (γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός); made to be of a woman. This, indeed, was probably the sense intended by King James's translators, when they followed Wicklife and the Geneva Bible in rendering "made of a woman;" whilst Tyndale and Cranmer, followed by the Revisers of 1881, give "born of a woman." Just the same divergency of renderings appears in the same English translations in Romans 1:3, "made of the seed of David (γενομένον ἐκ σπέρματος Δαβίδ)," except that Tyndale has "begotten" instead of "born." The difference in sense is appreciable and important: "made" implies a previous state of existence, which "born" does not. So far as the present writer can find, wherever in the New Testament the Authorized Version has "born," we have in the Greek either τεχθῆναι or γεννηθῆναι: γενέσθαι never having this sense at all. As in Galatians 3:13 (γενόμενος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα), "Being made a curse for us," and in John 1:14 (ὁ Λόγος σάρξ ἐγένετο), "The Word was made flesh;" so here God's Son is described as "made to be of a woman," the phrase, "of a woman," being nearly identical in import with the word "flesh" in St. John, distinctly implying the fact of the Incarnation. The preposition "of" (ἐκ) denotes derivation of being, as when it is found after the verb "to be" in John 8:47, "He that is of God;" "Ye are not of God," pointing back to the claim which (ver. 41) the Jews had made that they had God for their Father. The construction of γίγνομαι, to come to be, with a preposition occurs frequently, as in Luke 22:44; Acts 22:17; Romans 16:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:7. There can be no doubt that γενόμενον must be taken in the next clause with the same meaning as here.

Does the word γενόμενος indeed indeed imply previous state of existence? Is this better represented by the English "made" rather than "born"?

*Huxtable, E., "Galatians -- Exposition," The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 20 (Eerdmans), 1962.


I think the point of the commentator is that "born" does not in itself -- imply -- previous existence. By contrast, his numerous examples New Testament usage of the term "became" (used with various prepositions) is always applied to someone or something that already exists.

Generally speaking, for a thing to "become", it must already exist. On the other hand, that which is "born" -- may have -- a previous existence, but the term does not in itself indicate it.

And a general observation may also be applicable: The phrase "born of a woman" (found in numerous ancient Greek sources) is a term often used of human beings in general who have no pre-existence. Whereas "became of a woman" is never used in this way.

All these points could be debated, and different conclusions might be drawn. But I think the commentator's meaning is clear and is worth discussing.

|improve this answer|||||

Good question!

Having no particular prejudice regarding the Pulpit Commentary (either for or against), I submit that the author of the article from which you excerpted a quotation, needs to explain why and how he or she equates the phrases

made of a woman


made to be of a woman

I draw your attention to these phrases because the insertion of the infinitive to be could suggest, at least in my way of thinking, that Jesus came to be (i.e., came into existence) via a woman. Consequently, the phrase "came to be of a woman" is just as questionable vis a vis the notion of Christ's previous state of existence as the phrase "born of a woman." In other words, the two phrases are fungible--or at least could be--in what they mean. Allow me to expand on that thought.

First, what a phrase implies is indeed part and parcel of discussions involving different (i.e., varying or even opposing!) translations. Because translators will frequently differ on how to translate a word or phrase from one language into another, we as hermeneutists are faced with at least two choices: we can take the side either of the person who says the translation should be, for example, "made of a woman," or the person who says the translation should be "born of a woman."

Since the author you quoted suggested, at least twice, that "made of a woman" is fungible with "made to be of a woman," I as a hermeneutist am left a little puzzled. Consequently, I then ask the question,

Is not the implication of both phrases (viz. "made to be of a woman" and "born of a woman") that pre-existence can safely be ruled out?

Now, frankly, I do not agree with the commentator's premise that the word born does not imply preexistence as well as the word made. Granted, not being schooled in New Testament Greek, I may be handicapped in my ability to follow his argument. Nevertheless, to my ear (not to mention my presuppositions), whether our translation winds up being "born of a woman" or "made of a woman," I still believe Christ was eternally preexistent.

I am not saying, by the way, that my presupposition regarding Christ's preexistence is not controversial. Obviously, it is. Otherwise, why is the so-called Arian Controversy still in existence today, since Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, claim that Christ was created by the Father and thus had a beginning in time?

As you may have inferred, I am implying a biblical passage which is more worthy of debate is John 1:1, where the New World Translation reads

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god [In this link, there is an asterisk after the phrase "was with God," which links the reader to a footnote containing an alternative reading: "was divine."]

The vast majority of Bible translations, however, translate thusly:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (NASB Updated).

In conclusion, maybe the commentator you cite is truly onto something significant, though I tend to think he is not. Nevertheless, controversies over which is the better (or best) translation will likely remain controversial until the end of time. To be sure, the preexistence of Christ is well worthy of debate, since the identity and accomplishments of Christ are on the line, so to speak depending on which translation you favor. If Christ is not in fact preexistent, as some would suggest, but came into being when he was conceived in the womb of Mary, then I suggest the Arian Controversy still needs to be waged. After all, "everything old is new again," or as the preacher in Ecclesiastes said, "There is nothing new under the sun."

Should Galatians 4:4 be the centerpiece of the controversy? I think not.

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.