Depending on your translation, the law has been either a guardian, a nursemaid, or a teacher that is supposed to bring us to Christ. That nanny's role is to guide and protect the child, as well as instruct them, not in an academic sense, but surely in a "good life" sense. (In my sermon, I ended up saying 'Nanny McPhee / Mary Poppins, minus the magic.')

But, I'm curious, what happens to the Paidagogos once the son "grows up" and becomes an heir? Is he no longer to be listened to, or does he remain a trusted advisor? Its important to understand what our relationship is to the law, once we have come to Christ.

To apply the metaphor, the question is, what is the role of the law, once we have come to Christ. Clearly we are no longer subject to the law, but to what degree are we to continue to "obey" it? Of course there, I'm getting back into Christianity.se territory, so here I just want to know what stories we have of paidagogici and if there was any expectation of what the role would be...

  • Yup, it was that one. Because it was tagged Galations instead of Galatians, I didn't find it initially. Then I was too reluctant to delete my own :) Jan 6, 2012 at 1:06
  • I guess I really did understand the question afterall. Thanks for clarifying. Jan 6, 2012 at 1:10

2 Answers 2


Cultural Setting

I don't think there are any hard-and-fast rules about whether tutors or guardians would remain to advise the grown child, but it seems more likely than not that they would remain part of the household. For one thing, tutors were often slaves owned by the patriarch (or sometimes close relations). Second, tutors usually were retained to teach other children in the household including former pupil's children. Aristotle famously tutored both Alexander the Great and two other members of Philip II's court who later became kings: Ptolemy and Cassander. It's difficult to imagine a greater level of trust than to be given authority to raise an heir-apparent, so there's good reason to think they would continue to be involved in later life.

Interpretation of the Text

Unfortunately, I don't think we can read too much into the image of a paidagogos in this text. Paul uses a number or analogies to get his argument across and this particular analogy drives home the point that now we are of age in Christ, we no longer are subject to the law. I don't think Paul would disagree that the law can still be a trusted advisor (in fact I'm sure he would agree), but that's not at all part of his reason for setting up the analogy. In Galatians, Paul works hard to show that it is God's Spirit and not the law that has authority for us. So if we try to extend the analogy to beyond the age of independence, we risk overstepping our duty as interpreters.


Pedagogues had a reputation for harshness, which was not unwarranted, as the cane, the whip, and the rod were basic accoutrements of the pedagogue's art. Severity was not the universal practice, however. Many pedagogues fulfilled their role with kindness and endeared themselves to their charges in a life-long bond. Nevertheless, whether bad or good, the pedagogue's administration always terminated when the boy came of age and became his own master.

The Figure of the Paidagogos in Art and Literature by Norman H. Young

Biblical Archaeologist, June 1990 Pg. 80

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