Original Research - Special Collection: Foundation subjects - Old and New Testament Studies

What ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ are the στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου?

Dieter T. Roth
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 70, No 1 | a2676 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v70i1.2676 | © 2014 Dieter T. Roth | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 April 2014 | Published: 15 August 2014

About the author(s)

Dieter T. Roth, Faculty of Protestant Theology, Johannes Guttenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany;Department of New Testament Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa


The expression τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου is one of the most discussed, and most disputed, phrases in Galatians. In the following article, insight into the meaning of this phrase is sought by first of all clarifying and summarising the full scope of issues which must be explained by any interpretation of the phrase. Such a summary overview has often not appeared in various scholarly discussions. Subsequently, the primary proposed interpretations are discussed with the argument ultimately being made that it is Paul’s conception of ‘the world’ which provides the key to a solution to the interpretive conundrum that best satisfies the entire context of Paul’s letter and argument.


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