1. Galatians 4:9 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

What are the weak and miserable principles?

Galatians 4:9 (ESV)

9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

In Greek literature, principles (otherwise translated as elements) can refer to powers of the universe, angelic powers, or astral bodies that were believed to have influence over the lives of persons. It can also refer to elementary teachings, rudimentary principles of morality and religion.1 This seems to be the way in which Paul uses the word. Weak and miserable principles are then the rules and regulations by means of which both Jews and Gentiles attempted to achieve salvation/ensure future life with God in glory.2 In this verse, Paul is primarily referring to Gentile believers who have come out of paganism. He considers a return to the old covenant (Galatians 4:10) to be equivalent to going back to paganism and renouncing the faith (2 Peter 2:22).3