A better translation of Rom 4:1?

Paul D. Nitz pnitz at wiss.co.mw
Tue Oct 23 07:20:30 EDT 2001


"What then shall we say that Abraham,
our forefather, discovered in this
matter?"  (NIV)

"What then shall we say?   That we have
found Abraham (to be) our forefather
(only) according to the flesh?" (Lenski

As you can see above, Lenksi* translates
Rom. 4:1much differently that the NIV
(or KJV, NASB, NET).  His main point is
that Abraham is the object and "we shall
say" (EROUMEN) supplies the subject.

Lenksi makes the following points in
defense of this interpretation:

1 - The subject "we" in the verb EROUMEN
("we shall say") supplies the subject
lacking in the infinitive EURHKENAI ("to
have found").   To quote Lenski, "It is
the commonest of rules in Greek that
infinitives take their subjects from
what precedes, and that if a different
subject is to be introduced it must be
written.  "Abraham" is the object (not
the subject of the infinitive), and "our
forefather according to the flesh" is
the predicate object with "Abraham."

2 - The point of the question is in the
KATA SARKA (according to the flesh).
Paul is leading the Jewish reader to
say, 'Of course not! Abraham is not our
ancestor just according to a bloodline,
but according to faith also.'

3 - The unique (in NT) use of the word
"forefather" (PROPATORA) instead of the
normal "father Abraham" shows that Paul
was emphasizing physical ancestry.
Thus the thought, "Is Abraham just our
physical father?!?!"

I find Lenski's argument compelling, but
then I might be biased.  Lenksi was a
Lutheran and so am I.

Rev. Paul D.  Nitz
Blantyre, Malawi  - Africa

* Lenski (The Interpretation of St.
Paul's Epistle to the Romans by R.C.H.
Lenski, Lutheran Book Concern, 1936).

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