Interpretation of Rom 4:1

Glenn Blank glennblank at earthlink.net
Sat Jan 26 07:24:35 EST 2002




"Moon-Ryul Jung" <moon at sogang.ac.kr> wrote

>
>James Dunn in his commentary on Romans said this against Hay's rendering:
>
>The beginning of a sentence with an accusative and infinitival
>construction
>where the accusative was unstated would be rather odd.

I'm not sure what you mean by this quote.  In Iver's analysis, accusative is
left unstated:  all of the constituents are explicit.

>This problem can be solved in the following parsing:
>
>TI OUN? EROUMEN EURHKENAI ABRAAM PROPATORA HMWN KATA SARKA?
>
>In this case, the accusative (semantic subject) for infinitival 
>clause EURHKENAI ABRAAM PROPATORA HMWN KATA SARKA can be readily
>supplied from the main verb EROUMEN.

But this sounds precisely like what your quote of James Dunn seems to say is
odd:  you said the "accusative (semantic subject) for infinitival clause . .
. can be *supplied* from the main verb -- which means that the accusative is
"unstated."  Furthermore, the "subject" of the main verb is governed for
nominative, not accusative.
>
>TI OUN can be used as a sentence on its own. It makes sense without
>supplying the omitted parts. 

Granted.  But then the following clause is awkward.  Can verbs of "saying"
in NTG take an infinitive without accusative "subject" as a complement?


>When, is the possibility of the following parsing?

>> TI*  OUN  EROUMEN  {hEURHKENAI ____* ABRAAM TON PROPATOPA hHMWN DATA
SARKA}
>> "What then shall we say that Abraham our forefather . . . has found?"

>I always thought that the traditional translation of Rom
>4.1 sounds too complicated. I would be interested in knowing other
instances 
>of GREEK setences where TI is not the object of the main verb but is
>the object of the complement clause moved front from the clause.
>It seems akward for Paul to utter such a 'distorted and long sentence" at
the very
>important moment in his speech.

This seems, rather than awkward, to be the natural pattern for question
formation in NTG.  It is common to position the interrogative constituent at
the front of the question.  The very string under consideration is an
example:  TI OUN EROUMEN?  Mt. 2.2  POU ESTIN hO TECQEIS BASILEUS?  As for
an example of the interrogative constituent being moved out of the
subordinate clause to the front of the matrix clause,  Mt. 16.13

    TINA LEGOUSIN hOI ANQRWPOI EINAI TOJN hUION TOU ANQRWPOU?

This is not TI but TINA, but I think the principle is analagous.

The version of this question in Mk 8.27 has both the "subject" and "object"
of the embedded clause moved to the front of the matrix clause,

    TINA ME LEGOUSIN hOI ANQRWPOI EINAI?

With the fronted ME putting emphasis on Jesus as the topic at hand.  The
place of prominence signaled by fronting makes fronting the interrogative
constituent natural:  *of course* the piece of information being sought
would be in focus.


>It seems that "What then? Shall we say that we have found Abraham to be
>our forefather according to flesh?", to which the expected answer is no, 
>matches better the flow of Rom 3:27-31, where it is argued that God is not
>God of Jews only, but of Gentiles as well
>and thus he justifies both by
>means of faith. Romans 4 argues that Abraham is forefather of all those
>who believe,
>both Jews and Gentiles.

[snip

>In sum, Rom 4 argues that
>Gentiles can belong to Abraham claiming him forefather by faith in Jesus
>Christ. 

I disagree.  The point is not whether  we can belong to Abraham but how we
are to be saved.    He mentions only a couple of times the premise that
Abraham is the father of the Gentiles, and he mentions it as an assumption
shared with his audience as a warrant for his conclusion -- assumption 1
"God is the God of Jews and Gentiles alike" (3.9) Therefore, God's salvation
is on equal terms to both.  Assumption 2 "Abraham was justified by faith and
not by works." (4.3).  Conclusion -- we are justified by faith and not by
works (the entire rest of chapter 4).  

>So, it can be very well argued that the issue raised in Rom 4.1 was not
>what Abraham found but whether we have found Abraham to be our forefather

This argument is difficult to maintain.  The most natural interpretation is
that it is Abraham who discovered something, because the very next verse
says that Abraham should react a certain way to what he discovered (not
boast).  How would Abraham react to something that "we" are now
discovering?

The crux of the grammatical issue, though, is how questions are formed in
NTG.  I can think of many examples of questions being formed on simple
clauses.  Are there other examples of Questions being formed on a
constituent of an embedded clause?


glenn blank
Pensacola FL



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