Interpretation of Rom 4:1

Moon-Ryul Jung moon at
Fri Jan 25 23:39:12 EST 2002

Dear colaborers,

There have been posts about how to translate Romans 4:1? I would like to
raise the question again. 

  In the article titled 
     in New Testament Studies 41 (1995): 71-88,


 Hays surveys Paul’s other uses of Ti oun eroumen, an expression which
occurs only in Romans (3.5; 6.1; 7.7; 8.31; 9.14; 9.30).14 In every case
but 8.31 this expression constitutes a complete sentence which is
punctuated by a question mark after eroumen. In all six cases the
expression introduces another rhetorical question which articulates an
inference which might be drawn from the foregoing discussion, and in four
of the six cases this inference is a false one.15 In light of Paul’s
relatively consistent usage of the expression in Romans, Hays recommends
punctuating Ti oun eroumen in 4.1 analogously: Ti oun eroumen? heurekenai
Abraam ton propatora hemon kata sarka? 16 Hays then offers the following
translation: ‘What then shall we say? Have we [Jews] found (on the basis
of scripture) that Abraham [is] our forefather according to the flesh?’ If
Abraham is the forefather of the Jews according to the flesh, as the Jew
of Paul’s time would typically assume, then Abraham could not also be the
forefather of Gentiles. But if he is the forefather of the Jews on some
other basis than purely ethnic terms, then he could (on the same basis) be
the forefather of certain Gentiles as well. It is precisely this point
which Paul strives to make in the remainder of this chapter.

Hays takes the sentence as follows:

Ti oun eroumen? [Eroumen] heurekenai Abraam ton propatora hemon kata
What then shall we say? [Shall we say]  to have found Abraham [to be]
our forefather according to flesh?

The debate comes down to: Is it reasonble to assume the ellipsis of
Eroumen in front of the infinitive clause "heurekenai ....."?
It is possible, but is it quite probable? Usually ellipsis is obvious
to detect. But here it does not seem so. 

To me, Hay's suggestion makes Romans 4 more understandable.
So, I would like to suggest another analysis in the spirit of Hays:

Ti oun? Eroumen heurekenai Abraam ton propatora hemon kata sarka?

Ti oun can be a sentence in its own. For example, in Rom 6:15, we have:

Ti oun; Hamarteswmen hoti ouk esmen hupo nomon alla hupo xarin;

What would said against this interpretation?

Moon R. Jung
Sogang Univ, Seoul, Korea

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