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CUSTODIAN kus tō’ di ən (παιδαγωγός, G4080, a guide or guardian of a boy). The paidagogós was a trusted, often well-educated slave who was given constant supervision of a boy between the ages of six and sixteen. He was responsible for the disciplined training and the moral development of his charge, going to and from school with him and assisting with his home studies. This practice was characteristically Gr. and was adopted by the Romans and modified to include some teaching. The reference in Galatians 3:24 denotes a high grade of culture in the Galatian churches, more strongly Gr. than Rom.

Paul spoke of the law as a “custodian.” Its purpose in the economy of God was to prepare a people, and thereby perfect His plan, for the coming of Christ. It was necessary to place upon them severe restrictions in order to develop their racial and cultural identity, and to lay them under the moral discipline of the law. In addition, they needed to be instructed in the “promises” which pointed to Christ. The intent of the law went no farther than this.

Israel’s perverted interpretation of the law as a means of justification produced a conflict of functions between the law and Christ. Justification is by faith, not by deeds of the law; first in the “promises” and then in Christ. The law and Christ represent complementary categories in the redemptive plan of God. Paul sought to point out both the purpose and the limitations of the law in his teaching on justification by faith.

In 1 Corinthians 4:15, paidagogós is not used as an analogy of the law but in reference to the many people who were proclaiming the Gospel, with the strong inference that their teaching was less than acceptable in comparison to the truth. They can be identified with the “false brethren” in 2 Corinthians 11:26.


G. G. Findlay, The Epistle to the Galatians, ExB (1889), 211-226; W. M. Ramsay, Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (1900), 381-385; J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (1905), 148, 149; E. D. Burton, Galatians, ICC (1920), 200, 201; R. A. Cole, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, Tyndale (1965).