In defending his Gospel to the Galatians, Paul makes the following statement:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law (4:4 ESV)
ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός γενόμενον ὑπὸ νόμον

Someone raised the question why Paul added what had to be obvious, namely that God's Son was born of a woman. As I consider this verse, I noticed two things. First, it employs four verbs: ἔρχομαι (come), ἐξαποστέλλω (sent forth/sent away), and γίνομαι (become) which is repeated. Second, all four are aorist but the first two, ἦλθεν and ἐξαπέστειλεν, are indicative active and the second two, γενόμενον (which is repeated), are participle middle.

Some translations reflect the difference:

But when the fullness of time came, God sent-forth His Son— having come from a woman, having come under the Law (DLNT)

The choice of ἐξαποστέλλω, sent away, rather than ἀποστέλλω, send, implies location: God's Son was with Him and sent away. Does the shift from indicative active to participle middle imply a difference in time? That is, does Paul reinforce the previous existence of God's Son (before being born of a woman) by saying He was sent away using the indicative, to be born using the participle?


1 Answer 1


Since all four verbs in Gal 4:4 are aorist, all are essentially past tense so no difference in time is implied.

However, the more important difference occurs between the distinction of the first two vs the second two as follows:

  1. ἦλθεν = "came" indicative active; whose subject is "fullness of time", ie, time fulfilled.
  2. ἐξαπέστειλεν = "sent forth" indicative active; whose subject is God the Father; ie, God did the sending
  3. & 4. γενόμενον = "was born/having been born" in middle voice; whose subject is "The Son"; that is, it was Jesus who birthed Himself (grammatically speaking).

This is consistent with the teaching in other places especially:

  • Phil 2:5-8 where we read that Jesus "humbled/emptied Himself".
  • Heb 2:14 - Now since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity, so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil,
  • John 10:15, 17 18 - And I lay down My life for the sheep. ... The reason the Father loves Me is that I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.

That is, Jesus incarnation was voluntary and unforced.

  • I have two questions 1. If Jesus "birthed Himself" grammatically speaking and if He was sent, isn't there a logical aspect which makes the first action antecedent to the second? So, God sent His Son to birth Himself. 2. Does "birthed Himself" grammatically speaking, account for Paul's use of γίνομαι rather then γεννάω (as in 4:23, 24, 29) which is another way (better way?) to describe "born?" That is, when considering γενόμενον (4:4) with γεγέννηται (4:23), Paul's meaning is more along the lines of "made Himself" rather than "birthed Himself?" Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 0:21
  • @RevelationLad - I think I agree with that - the emphasis being on the fact that Jesus' incarnation was voluntary as was His death.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 0:41

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