Updated: Apr 24
Does Pa’al really Condemn Observing Yah's Holy Days?
by Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Edited by Free of the House of Payne (2020)
Through the centuries, theologians have devised many arguments to do away with the observance of Yah’s holy days. They propose that various scriptures in the New Covenant obviate the need for Followers to keep the days which Yah’s law specifically says are holy to Him (Leviticus 23:2).
A favorite target of theirs is Galatians 4:9-10, in which Pa’al expresses his frustration with the Galatians because they had returned to certain religious practices. He calls these practices "weak and beggarly elements" and says they were again "in bondage" to them.
In verse 10 he defines these practices as observances of "days and months and seasons and years." The argument begins at this point because some contend that these observances refer to Yah’s holy days commanded in the Old Covenant. Indeed, YAHUAH established specific "days" (Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, etc.), "months" (new moons, sacred calendar), "seasons" ("appointed times [seasons, KJV]"—Leviticus 23:4; see also Deuteronomy 16:16; Genesis 1:14) and "years" (Jubilee and Sabbatical years—Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 25:13) to be kept.
The traditional, mainstream Protestant explanation of Galatians 4:9-10 is that Pa’al is reprimanding the Galatians for returning to Old Testament observances that were a form of "bondage." Insisting that Pa’al taught that the Old Testament law was "done away with or abolished," they conclude that true followers should not keep the days that Yah had commanded Israel to keep.
Is this what Pa’al was telling the Galatians? Does the message of the letter and the context of his statements confirm this to be the correct explanation? If not, what were these "weak and beggarly elements" that Pa’al warns them about? Let's examine these verses and understand what Pa’al really says in this highly disputed section of Scripture.
Galatia and Gnosticism
Whenever we are studying scriptures that are difficult to understand, we must consider the cultural and historical context. Galatia was not a city but a province in Asia Minor. The church body was undoubtedly composed mainly of Gentiles, and the males were physically uncircumcised (Galatians 5:2; 6:12-13). In looking at Pa’al's initial dealings with these people, we find that they had a history of worshipping pagan deities.
In Lystra, YAHUAH healed a crippled man through Pa’al (Acts 14:8-18). The people of the area were so astonished at this miracle that they supposed Barnabas and Pa’al, whom they called Zeus and Hermes (verse 12), to be pagan alahiym! They wanted to sacrifice to them, and would have, if the apostles had not stopped them (verses 13-18). This shows that the people in Galatia were generally superstitious and worshipped pagan alahiym.
Further, the major thrust of the Galatian epistle is to put them "back on the track" because someone had been teaching "a different Besorah," a perversion of the besorah of Yahusha (Galatians 1:6-7). The Galatians had become completely derailed on their understanding of how sinners are justified. To be justified means to have one's sins forgiven and to be brought into a right relationship with Alahiym. False teachers in Galatia taught that one was justified by doing physical works of some kind.
In dealing with this matter, Pa’al felt an urgency to emphasize that we are justified by faith in the sacrifice of Yahusha Ha’Mashiach :
We who are Yahudiym by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Yahusha Ha’Mashiach, even we have believed in Master Yahusha, that we might be justified by faith in Ha’Mashiach and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16)
One of the "works of the law" that the false teachers insisted was necessary for justification was obviously circumcision (Galatians 5:2-3, 11). But it was not just the Old Covenant regulations that were being enjoined upon the Galatians because Pa’al says the false teachers themselves did not even keep the law (Galatians 6:13). Evidently, the false teachings produced a licentious (sexually immoral) lifestyle (Galatians 5:13-21).
The preponderance of evidence indicates that the false teachers were teaching a blend of Judaism and Gnosticism. The philosophy of Gnosticism taught that everything physical was evil and that people could attain a higher spiritual understanding through effort. (real common in American theology today)It was the type of philosophy that its adherents thought could be used to enhance or improve anyone's religion. In Paul's letter to the Colossians, we read of this same philosophy having an influence on the body of believers there. It was characterized by strict legalism, a "taste not, touch not" attitude, neglect of the body, worship of angels and a false humility (Colossians 2:18-23).
Contrary to Gnosticism, Pa’al tells the Galatians that they should not listen to even an angel from heaven who taught a false Besorah (Galatians 1:8). Also, even though the Gnostics taught a strict discipline of the body, it could sometimes lead to a licentious lifestyle. The idea that the physical, evil body was separate from the spirit often led to the attitude that what one did with the body made no difference.
"Elements of the World"
What, then, were the "days, months, seasons and years" that Pa’al criticizes the Galatians for observing? First, Pa’al nowhere in the entire letter mentions Yah’s holy days. Second, the apostle would never refer to holy days that YAHUAH instituted as "weak and beggarly elements." He honored and revered The Torah of Alahiym (Romans 7:12, 14, 16). Besides, he taught the Corinthians to observe Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (I Corinthians 5:7-8), and he kept the Sabbath and holy days himself (Acts 16:13; 18:21; 20:6, I Corinthians 16:8).
When the scriptures in question are put into context, the explanation of what these days were becomes clear. In chapter 3, Pa’al shows the Galatians that salvation through faith in Ha’Mashiach is a fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham (Galatians 3:14-18). In verses 19-25, he explains the purpose of the Old Covenant and that, now that Yahusha has come, we are no longer bound by the Old Covenant rules and regulations. He then shows that all Followers, both Jew and Gentile, are spiritually children of Abraham and will inherit the promises made to him (verses 26-29).
He continues the same thought in chapter 4. In verses 1-5, Pa’al draws an analogy in which he likens the Jew to a child who is waiting to come into an inheritance and the Gentile to a slave in the same household. He explains how, before the coming of Ha’Mashiach, the spiritual state of the Jew was no different from the Gentile because neither had had their sins forgiven nor had they received the Ruach Ha’qodesh. Prior to the coming of Ha’Mashiach, both Jews and Gentiles were "in bondage under the elements of the world" (verse 3).
The word "elements" is the Greek stoicheion, which means any first thing or principal. "In bondage under the elements of the world" refers to the fact that the unconverted mind is subject to the influence of Satan and his demons, the rulers of this world and the authors of all idolatrous worship. Satan and his demons are the origin, the underlying cause, of the evil ways of this world, and all unconverted humans are under their sway. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against Yah; for it is not subject to the Torah of YAHUAH, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Paul is saying that both Jews and Gentiles had been in bondage to sin.
The apostle explains to the Galatians how their lives and destiny have been changed through their faith in Mashiach:
And because you [Gentiles] are sons, YAHUAH has sent forth the Ruach of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you [Gentiles] are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of YAHUAH through Mashiach. (Galatians 4:6-7)
He refers to the analogy he made in verse 1 where he pictured the Gentiles like a slave in a household. He shows them how they have become heirs of the promises of YAHUAH through their faith in Mashiach and that they have The Ruach Ha’qodesh just like the converted Jews.
In verse 8, Pa’al brings up the subject of the idolatry and paganism that they had participated in before their conversion. "But then, indeed, when you did not know YAHUAH, you served those which by nature are not YAHUAH ." This obviously refers to the worship of pagan deities just as we saw in Acts 14. He is making it clear that Yah had called them out of that way of life.
With this thought in mind, he continues in verse 9:
But now after you have known YAHUAH, or rather are known by YAHUAH, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?
Clearly, Pa’al's concern was that the Galatians were returning to the way of life from which YAHUAH had called them. As we have shown, the "weak and beggarly elements" were demon-inspired, idolatrous practices. "Elements" here is the same word, stoicheion, translated "elements" in verse 3. An extension of stoicheion can refer to the heavenly bodies that regulate the calendar and are associated with pagan festivals. The apostle condemns the practices and way of life that had been inspired by Satan and his demons, the principal cause of all the world's evil. Pa’al recognized that the Galatians had begun to return to their former slavish, sinful practices.
Called Out Completely
Now it becomes plain what Pa’al refers to in verse 10. The "days, months, seasons and years" were the pagan, idolatrous festivals and observances that the Galatian Gentiles had observed before their conversion! They could not possibly be Yah’s holy days because these Gentiles had never observed them before being called. Rather, they were turning back to their old, heathen way of life that included keeping various superstitious holidays connected to the worship of pagan deities!
So we see that, far from doing away with Yah’s holy days, these scriptures show that we should not be observing "days, months, seasons and years" that have their roots in paganism! These would obviously include such days as Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween and any other days that originated from the worship of pagan alahiym. (Every American holiday is pagan in origin) The very calendar and days of the week we currently use are named after false alahiym! ALL OF THEM! Sadly, the very scriptures that warn against returning to these un-holy holidays are being used by some today to persuade members of the churches to forsake Yah’s commanded holy days and keep this world's holidays!
The lesson to be learned from these scriptures is that YAHUAH has called us completely out of the ways of this world including the pagan customs and traditions of the world. We should have nothing to do with such "weak and beggarly elements." The customs and traditions of true followers of Yahusha Ha’Mashiach are the same ones that He himself observed—Yah’s holy days which He has commanded to be observed in His holy Word. These are the days that we rejoice in as we walk in the footsteps of Yahusha Ha’Mashiach, living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of YAHUAH!