The “Born of a Woman” / Galatians 4:4 INDEX

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by Neil Godfrey

Proper indexing of my posts has fallen behind. One small step towards correcting this has been to collate all Vridar posts that have dealt with Galatians 4:4 and the famous “born of a woman” phrase.

First I list persons whose various views have been presented here. Then . . .  well, you can see how the list is structured.

If you want to know what my own view on the passage is then I can only say I am not dogmatic on any position. Even the absence of the text from Tertullian’s rebuttal of Marcion’s copy of Galatians is not necessarily decisive given that the word translated “born” could even more validly be rendered “made”. That is, Tertullian may have ignored the passage because it potentially favoured a docetic interpretation. See the Ehrman entry below for details.

Nonetheless, I do strongly favour the view that the expression is, as Hoffmann himself once wrote, “the language of myth”. No-one but a poet or a theologian explains that so-and-so “was born of a woman”! If anything in this context it is a credal statement. And if it’s a credal statement then it is not the quotidian data New Testament scholars like McGrath and Hurtado (and now Hoffmann) insist is evidence for a fact of history.


Paul-Louis Couchoud


Epistle to the Galatians — Couchoud’s view  

This post makes special reference to Couchoud’s article (in which he says that Gal 4:4 is an echo from the Gospel of Luke’s first chapters to counter Marcion’s view of Christ) posted in full on Herman Detering’s site:

“And again in a passage about the descent of Christ he includes a profession of faith in the birth of Christ in the flesh as a Jew among Jews. Gal. 4 : 4:

“God sent his Son,
to redeem those under law.”

Between those two lines he interpolates: “born of a woman, born under the law,”, a line which comes from the same current as the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke.

Christ’s birth in the flesh stands in contradiction to the passages that proclaim his celestial, not terrestrial birth, e.g. to 1 Cor. 15 : 45; 47 . . . .”

Earl Doherty

Supplementary Articles – No. 15: “Born of Woman”? – Reexamining Galatians 4:4  (Earl Doherty’s website. I have only made references to this in my posts here and always left it to anyone interested to read Doherty’s own words. Note Doherty explains how his view has changed somewhat since his first publication, The Jesus Puzzle.)

Bart Ehrman


Hoffmann’s Mamzer-Jesus Solution to Paul’s “Born of a Woman” — link is to the subsection “No serious suggestion of interpolation?” quoting Ehrman in full.

R. Joseph Hoffmann

First two links are Hoffmann’s arguments from his days as a mythicist. The latter are from his more recent forays into attempting to break New Testament scholarship out of its dismal efforts to counter mythicist arguments.


THE JESUS TOMB DEBACLE: RIP   (This is on Hoffmann’s site; I referenced it in my post on Hurtado’s views)

“(a) The earliest Christian literature, that written by Paul, knows the names of none of Jesus’ family members. It is sometimes pointed out that Paul makes reference (Galatians 4.4) to Jesus having “been born of a woman, under the law,” but it is widely believed that these words are an insertion into the text of Galatians: Marcion, our earliest witness, does not know them, and as Hilgenfeld once noted, if his opponent, Tertullian, could have quoted them against Marcion, a docetist thinker, to prove the essential humanity of Jesus, he would have. We are left with the bare fact that Paul knows nothing of the human family of Jesus. He does know the names of some of Jesus’ followers, and in the same epistle uses the phrase “James the brother of Lord,” which makes it the more remarkable that he would not know of an extended family with a strong female influence operating in Jerusalem. As suggested below, Paul’s use of the term “brother” is not dispositive since he is not using it in reference to a biological relationship.”


6 sound basic premises of early Jesus Mythicism — & the end of scholarly mythicism

Hoffmann calls it the “language of myth

English: A biker making a backflip. Español: U...
Backflip. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Hoffmann’s Mamzer-Jesus Solution to Paul’s “Born of a Woman”

Reply to Hoffmann’s “On Not Explaining ‘Born of a Woman’”


The Gospels Assure Us (Relatively) That the Hoffmann Jesus Is True


Initial response to Hoffmann’s latest

Larry Hurtado


Larry Hurtado’s Wearying Historical Jesus Question

In this post I direct readers to R. Joseph Hoffmann’s discussion of this point. See “The Jesus Tomb Debacle: RIP” post under Hoffmann above.

Gerd Lüdemann


Paul as a Witness to the Historical Jesus: Gerd Ludemann

J.C. (John Cochrane) O’Neill


“Born of a Woman” — Sober Scholarship Questioning the Authenticity of Galatians 4:4

Roger Parvus


A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 4: Excursus on Marcion, Valentinians, and the Pauline Letters

“a Catholic gloss intended to refute Marcionite belief that Jesus descended fully grown from heaven.”

John Shelby Spong


How Joseph was piously invented to be the “father” of Jesus

Tom Verenna


Was Paul’s Jesus an Historical Figure? — ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’ ch. 8

Frank Zindler


Did Jesus Have A Body?


That Second Question Frank Zindler Wanted to Ask Bart Ehrman

In the Richard Carrier-Mark Goodacre Exchange


The Carrier-Goodacre Exchange (part 1) on the Historicity of Jesus


Carrier-Goodacre (part 2) on the Historicity of Jesus

In the Earl Doherty-James McGrath Exchange


Doherty’s chapter 7 (2): reviewing McGrath’s review

“Born of a woman” and Bayes’ Theorem


Real Historians Do Bayes!

Other Vridar posts


Paul’s understanding of the Earthly Leprechaun (not necessarily Historical) Jesus


Seed of David, born of woman, and mythicism


Born of a woman in heaven: cosmic origin of the Messiah


In passing

Luke’s Infancy Narratives (Luke 1:5-2:52) as an integrated response to Marcionism

Jesus’ life in eclipse: Reviewing chapter 6 of Doherty’s Jesus Neither God Nor Man

Jesus: the Same in both Paul and the Gospels

How could Ehrman possibly have read the books he cites? and The Facts of the Matter: Carrier 9, Ehrman 1 (my review, part 2)

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Neil Godfrey

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13 thoughts on “The “Born of a Woman” / Galatians 4:4 INDEX”

  1. Historicists are fond of speculating that the reason Paul never discusses anything Jesus said or did is because everybody knew it already. However, they get very upset by the suggestion that it might have been necessary to point out that Jesus was “born of a woman” because that was a point about which there might have been some uncertainty.

  2. Wow, great compilations (“indexing”) — it helped me, in one quick view” to get a feel for the outline and then means to explore further.

    I have used Indexing since the beginning of my blog to organize my posts — not being fond of categories. And as you do here, “annotated indexing” is my favorite. And to perfect the indexing, I created a “Table of Contents” for the right side column of my blog with the big categories and then links to Index and sub-indexes.

    For instance, if I ever want to find this wonderful index on “Galatians 4:4” I’d have to search your whole blog. But if you had a table of contents I may be able to get there much more easily.

    Further, a table of contents is a great way to organize for possible future posts, books, paper or stabs at YouTube (my dream).

    Again, good organizing Neil — nicely done!

  3. Neil wrote:
    “Nonetheless, I do strongly favour the view that the expression is, as Hoffmann himself once wrote, “the language of myth”. No-one but a poet or a theologian explains that so-and-so “was born of a woman”! If anything in this context it is a credal statement. And if it’s a credal statement then it is not the quotidian data New Testament scholars like McGrath and Hurtado (and now Hoffmann) insist is evidence for a fact of history.”

    I interpret the sentence in Galatians as intending reassurance to skeptical non-believers. Further, I think there may be a clue, in the original Greek, but my own language skills are far too limited to offer anything definitive:

    μενοι οτε δε ηλθε  το πληρωμα του  χρονου εξαπεϲτι λεν ο θϲ τον υν αυ του γενομενον εκ  γυναικοϲ γενομε νον ϋπο νομον

    At least to my eye, this sentence, Galatians 4:4 is not written as one would typically juxtapose a normal birth process to a supernatural, metaphysical existence.

    Some blog participant, who is both fluent in Greek, and who knows Aristotle and Hippocrates, could easily refute me. Perhaps this is exactly how the ancient Greeks would have described the situation.

    I think this is written by someone who had cleverly introduced alliteration, where none had been required, i.e. poetry in terms of Neil’s observation. There is a rhythm in the last half of the sentence, a melody which is absent in English, or Latin for that matter. Perhaps there is no substitute for “nomon”?

    genomenon ek gynaikos genomenon hypo nomon

    But, maybe there is no other method/vocabulary that would permit expression of the same notion:
    ‘A boy was born in the typical manner consistent with ordinary human reproduction.’, a sentence which, today, would be interpreted as suggesting a normal vaginal delivery, rather than a Caesarean section, but which the authors of Galatians intended to explain the genuinely human character of the supernatural deity’s offspring, here defined as a Greek demigod.

  4. Neil,

    Have you read Price’s The Amazing Colossal Apostle? On Gal 4:4 he says, “…is a Catholic gloss intended to refute the Marcionite belief that Jesus descended fully grown from heaven. Otherwise, why mention it at all? Only in this case could it be remotely appropriate to affirm the most elementary fact about a person: he was born! Someone is denying it, so it is no longer uncontroversial. Not surprisingly, patristic commentators tell us that Marcion lacked verses 1-2. His version lacked 7 as well, and this cannot be because he omitted it since it fits Marcionite theology perfectly”. page 426

    Price, Robert. The Amazing Colossal Apostle: the Search for the Historical Paul. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2012. Print.

  5. I do think this is the best explanation for the “born of a woman” phrase, though Robert Price was by no means the first to introduce the argument. It has been well known (at least among the more critical scholars) before his book. At the same time, we have to concede that we can never be absolutely sure of anything when it comes to original wording of the texts we have. So it is important, to me at least, to explore such questions from all possible angles given a range of possibilities.

  6. In Galatians 4, Paul says Jesus was born of a woman, born under the law.

    This is replaced in many minds with a claim that Jesus was Jewish. (Because ‘born under the law’ means being Jewish. obviously. What else could this theologically-loaded statement mean?)


    When Paul immediately follows it up by claiming Jesus was born under the law so that the Gentile Christians he was writing to would no longer be slaves to the law.

    If you have to be Jewish to be ‘born under the law’, why were Gentiles slaves to the law before Jesus?

  7. Steven,

    Though Paul does express the idea that, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed” (Gal. 3:28-29), I think his concern throughout the letter was that the Galatians were *desiring* to be under the law (due to the influence of a pro-law faction), not that they were born under it:

    1:6-7: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel … Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”

    2:16: “[A] person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”

    2:21: “[I]f righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

    3:1-3: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? … Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? … After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”

    4:17: “Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us.”

    4:21: “Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?”

    5:4: “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ.”

    5:7-8: “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.”

    5:12: “As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”

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