Galatians 4:3,8,9,21;Colossians 1:16, Colossians 2:15; Titus 3:1; Ephesians 6:12.

Could we consider elements of the world as Principalities and Powers?

Galatians 4:3,8,9,21 (DRB):

3So we also, when we were children, were serving under the elements of the world.

8But then indeed, not knowing God, you served them who, by nature, are not gods. 9But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known by God: how turn you again to the weak and needy elements which you desire to serve again?

21Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, have you not read the law?

2 Answers 2


No. The context is about turning back to the law. The Judaizers were plaguing the newly converted Christians to turn back to observing the Mosaic law, preaching circumcision, and animal sacrifices.

The word translated in the English as "elements" is the Greek "στοιχεῖον", transliterated as "stoicheion". It is defined as one of a row, hence a letter (of the alphabet), by ext. the elements (of knowledge). The elements are the fundamentals, an orderly arrangement like the basic components of philosophy, structure, or first principles. It refers to the elements and rudiments of religious training and the ceremonial precepts of worship. (1) (2)

The word is rendered as “rudiments” in Col. 2:8, 20 where the traditions of men, and ordinances of men are discussed. It is translated as “principles” in Heb. 5:12 for the first principles of the gospel.

The discussion in Gal. chap 4 continues from the same discussion in Gal. chap. 3 of being under the law.

"3 so also we, when we were babes, under the elements of the world were in servitude,

4 and when the fulness of time did come, God sent forth His Son, come of a woman, come under law,

5 that those under law he may redeem, that the adoption of sons we may receive; (YLT, Gal. 4:3-5)

Notice the connection made between vs. 3 and 4 equating "under the elements of the world" to "under law". Connections are also evident in the other verses between the ones chosen above. Notice the connection again in Gal. 4:9 & 10.

"9 and now, having known God -- and rather being known by God -- how turn ye again unto the weak and poor elements to which anew ye desire to be in servitude?

10 days ye observe, and months, and times, and years! (YLT)

What verse 9 calls "the weak and poor elements" are defined in vs. 10 as days, months, and times, and years. That they were turning to them "anew", meaning again or one more time spoke of those who had been previously under the law, brought out from that servitude, and were turning back to it again.

The discussion is still of being in servitude to the law. Every commentary on Gal. 4:8 jumps this verse from the context of "we, when we were babes" of vs. 3, to the pagan idolators. However, that is not the subject of this chapter, and something else should be considered.

Keeping with the context then, the lower case "g" in "gods' of vs. 8 is from the OT use of that word for those who handled and taught the law to the people - the Levitical priesthood.

"6 I -- I have said, `Gods ye [are], And sons of the Most High -- all of you,

7 But as man ye die, and as one of the heads ye fall," (Psa. 82:6-7)

"23 Declare the things that are coming hereafter, And we know that ye [are] gods, Yea, ye may do good or do evil, And we look around and see [it] together." (Isa. 41:23, YLT)

This same meaning was used by Christ in speaking to the Jews who were going to stone Him.

"34 Jesus answered them, `Is it not having been written in your law: I said, ye are gods?" (John 10:34, YLT)

In that same context, those who were teachers of the law were handling God's word, and were called "gods" with a lower case "g" as being His representatives to the Jews and the rest of the nations.

It is best to keep to the context and background of the scripture in this instance. The elements of the world were defined in subsequent verses as being under the law. Gal. 4:1-2 defines the "babes" under servitude, and Paul was stating that going back under the Mosaic law was going back under servitude. The entire subject was denouncing the Judaizing unbelievers who were trying to seduce the people to turn away from the freedom in Christ.

Attempting to make a link to the usage of "principalities and authorities" by referencing some other verses does not fit here. Col. 1:16 discusses the entirety of the things which Christ created, and therefore is not the same subject / context of the discussion in Gal.ch. 4. Col. 2:15 speaks of Christ stripping those principalities and authorities of their power under the law as Col. 2:14 stated that Christ had removed their handwritten ordinances against us.

Again, the scriptures at Titus 3:1, and Eph. 6:12 are a different subject matter and are not in any way a part of the "elements" of the Mosaic law of Gal. 4.


  1. Strong's Gr 4747 - stoicheion - Biblehub

  2. Ellicott's Commentary - Biblehub


Colossians 2 and Ephesians above refer to angelic authorities (like the ones mentioned in Revelation 4:4), except rebellious. I gotta study more, to see if Colossians 1 also includes human rulers or authorities. Titus, above, refers, positively, only to human governments.

Galatians' 'elements' seem to be ceremonial religious laws of the 'world,' Gal 1:4, the evil religious age that Christ died to save people, Jews and Gentiles, out of. Specifically Judaism, 1:13, which was 'another gospel,' an anti-gospel, 1:6-9, to Paul's gospel which is the New Testament gospel of life, grace, peace, love, forgiveness, justification by faith, and reception of the Spirit who is Christ into one's innermost being to get to know, and live by and with, Him thus expressing God organically and naturally.

"So also we, when we were children, were kept in slavery under the elements of the world; but when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under law, that He might redeem those under law that we might receive the sonship. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father! So then you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, an heir also through God. However at that time, not knowing God, you were slaves to the gods which by nature are not gods; but now, having come to know God, or rather having been known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and poor elements, to which you desire to be enslaved yet again? You observe days and months and seasons and years"

Why does the author call laws 'gods'? Well earlier he personified the law of God, positively, as a child-conductor, 3:24-25, protecting, to the best of its ability, God's people until God Himself came in the person of His Son as their Christ, Messiah, to deliver, rescue, and save them into--each one--knowing Him personally. How did this child-conductor, or 'gods' (which are not gods) become so negative? Well now they have no excuse to be anymore. They should just go away. Their job's done. They're done. In fact they're annulled. Not the moral law, but the ceremonial laws, like circumcision, sabbath, etc. And even the principle of trying to fulfill the moral law by one's effort.

The other notion, to the same effect, is that by 'gods,' in Gal 4:8, Paul refers to the Galatians' former Gentile religion of polytheistic idol worship, to idols. (Something which anciently overtook Israel also, in the Old Testament.) And that their idol worship, like God-given Judaism, contained ceremonial ordinances such as observation of days. Thus Paul'd be saying you were saved from idolatry only to be bewitched by the Judaizers to keep the element of days and seasons again.

"What then am I saying? That what is sacrificed to an idol is anything? Or that an idol is anything? No, but that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become those who have fellowship with demons." 1 Cor 10:19-20. (A little distinction here: demons are not [fallen] angels and vice versa. Demons were confined to the ground and water. Demons never were and aren't now 'authorities.')

  • What influenced humanity to accept law (the knowledge of good and evil) as a means of sustaining and supporting human life on earth ? Was it an inanimate force . . . or was it a person (of serpentine disposition) ?
    – Nigel J
    Jun 8, 2020 at 22:47
  • 1
    amen. Evil spirits are involved with man's religion, involved with our 'best' as well as our worst, as idolatry. Colossians 2:8-23 (15 and 20); Galatians 4:8-10; are currently beyond my articulation
    – Walter S
    Jun 8, 2020 at 23:26
  • I think you might want to consult a Lexicon...
    – Ruminator
    Jun 10, 2020 at 21:20

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