Interpretation of Rom 4:1

Moon-Ryul Jung moon at sogang.ac.kr
Sun Jan 27 00:31:47 EST 2002


Dear Glenn,
Thanks for the interaction. I enjoy it very much.
Let me have several comments. 

(1)

[Moon]
 >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.
> 
[Glenn]
> I'm not sure what you mean by this quote. 
> 
> >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."  


The quote from Dunn is about Hays' proposal:

 TI OUN EROUMEN? EURHKENAI ABRAAM PROPATORA HMWN KATA SARKA?

In Hays' analysis, the second sentence BEGINS with the infinitival clause
EURHKENAI ... with its the semantic subject (accusative) unstated. The 
question comes down to: how much can the second sentence stand alone?
In this case, it does not seem that the second setence can stand alone.
To handle this problem, Hays suggests that we supply the omitted
main verb EROUMEN to the second sentence, so that we have

 [EROUMEN] EURHKENAI ABRAAM PROPATORA HMWN KATA SARKA? 

 But in order to talk about ellipsis and  to supply the omitted parts, the
qiven
 clause should be able to  stand alone on its own in the first place. For
example,
 TI OUN can stand alone,   though incomplete in form. Also, in the case of
 Rom 9:30 "TI OUN EROUMEN? hOTI ....",  the second clause, the hoti
clause,
 stand alone alone,  because what is omitted is  almost redundant.  
 But in the case of Hays' analysis, the second sentence can 
 hardly stand alone on its own.

 But in my analysis TI OUN? EROUMEN EURHKENAI ABRAAM PROPATORA HMWN KATA 
SARKA?, the second sentence can stand alone. The semantic subject of 
EURHKENAI is still unstated. But this problem could be solved
by noting that this sentence has a similar structure to 
"Tom wants to go to school", where the semantic subject to the infinival
clause
 TO GO TO SCHOOL is readily inferred from the main clause.
The only problem with this analysis is whether we can use the verb of
saying,
e.g.EROUMEN, this way. 
 
Consider 
Lu 24:23: HLQON LEGOUSAI KAI OPTASIAN AGGELWN hEWRAKENAI
          [came  saying  also vision   of angels to see] 

Here no accusative is used nor needed which functions as the semantic
subject of
the infinitive eEWRAKENAI, because the subject of the infinitive is known
from
the main verb LEGOUSAI.

In sum, practically speaking my analysis is the same as Hays'. But
I wanted to avoid a syntactic construction that BEGINS with the infinitive
and that without its semantic subject. 

[Glenn]
> Furthermore, the "subject" of the main verb is governed for
> nominative, not accusative.

See below the quotation from A. T. Robertson for this problem.

[Moon]
> >
> >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?
> 

Consider Lu 24:23 quoted above. 

> 

[2]
> >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. 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.
> 

Good. This is a good example. So, we can say that 
Rom 4.1 is obtained by moving TI to the front from the underlying
structure

EROUMEN OUN TI EURHKENAI ABRAAM TON PROTOPATORA KATA SARKA?

But my analysis seems as plausible as the traditional one. 
Any comments?

(3) Finally, about the "accusative and infinitive" construction, where
the accusative functions as the subject of the infinitive clause, A. T. 
Robertson thinks that it is a misconceived notion and hinders the reader
rather than help. In pp. 1037- 1038, A GRAMMAR OF THE GREEK NT IN THE
LIGHT OF
 HISTORICAL SESEARCH, he concludes that it is simply the "accusative of
general
 reference". Let me quote some relevant
statements (not direct quotes):

The infinitive can have no  subject, not being a finite verb (cf.
participles).
 So it tends to agree with some given constituent of the sentence, which
can play
 the role of the "semantic subject" of the infinitive. This given
constituent can
be in any case. It can be the direct object of the principal verb (e.g.
verbs of asking).
When there are no other constituents in the sentence for the infinitive
naturally
to agree with, an accusative of reference is introduced to the sentence to
agree with the infinitive. 

So, it follows that we need not worry too much about the lack of 
"accusative" of the infinitive hEURHKENAI in Rom 4.1. We can take
Rom 4.1. to say "What then? Shall we say to have found Abraham
to be our forefather according to flesh?" It has two merits.

(a) In Romans, Paul uses "TI OUN" or "TI OUN EROUMEN" a number of times to
start a new
stage of argument, often to counter-attack potential false inferences the
reader
might have drawn from the previous discourse. My analysis of Romans 4.1.
fits to this
pattern.
(b) Rom 4.1. is a good place to state a potential objection that some may
posit
with respect to the thesis of Rom 3:27-31 that God is God of Jews as well
as of
Gentiles and Gentiles can be the people of God on equal footing with Jews,
by faith in Christ.  The objection is that only Jews are children of
Arbraham
to whom the promise is made, and so Gentiles cannot be the people of God
on
equal footing with Jews. Rom 4 can be taken to counter this objection. See
below
for further arguments in this direction.

 
[4] Now about the role of Rom 4.1 in the wider context. I hope our
discussion would not go beyond the scope of this list. 

[Moon]
> >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. 
> 
[Glenn]
> 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).  
> 


[Moon]
> >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
> 
[Glenn]
> 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?
> 
> 

Glenn, you argued very well for the traditional interpretation of Rom 4
that Paul presents Abraham as a typical example of those who are justified
by faith, in order to show how a person is justified before God. But the
article
 Michael Cranford, which I referred to in my first post in this thread,
 convinced me to reject the traditional interpretation. 

According to him, in Rom. 4, Paul explains further the thesis of Romans
3:27-31 that
Gentiles can be the people of God by faith, not just the Jews.
He does that by arguing that Gentiles can be the children of Abraham by
faith to whom the promise is given that he will be the heir of the KOSMOS
(rom 4.13) and he will the father of all nations (Rom 4.17).  
If Abraham is the forefather of the people of the law only, the
circumcision
only, Gentiles are out by definition. So, it is critically important
to establish that Abraham is the father to Gentile believers 
as well as to Jews. I also find related statements in Galatians:

Know therefore that those who are of faith are children of Abraham (Gal
3:7)
If you are Christ's, you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the
promise (Gal 3:29).

I wonder if there are today any  Gentile believers who are joyful because
they
have become children of Arbraham because of Christ! Nevertheless, 
these statements indicate that the issue at hand is for Gentile believers
to be children of Abraham. 
WHY WOULD PAUL ARGUE THAT GENTILE BELIEVERS ARE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM, 
if Abraham is  only a typical example showing how one is justified?  
What would be the point of becoming children of Abraham? Well, this I do
not
understand well. But it is clear that Paul thinks it important. Perhaps
it is important in the debate with Jews, who insist that Gentiles should
become
Jews by getting circumcision and keeping Sabbath and dietary laws. 

When Paul claims that Abraham was justified by faith, his purpose was to 
claim that he was justified when he was uncircumcised (Rom 4.9-10), IN
ORDER
to be the father of Gentile believers as well as Jews (Rom 4:11-12). It is
granted
that Rom 4:2-8 is difficult to interpret from this perspective. But
the points of these verses are not as clear as the points of 4:9-12 and
the rest of
the chapter. So, we need to interpret Rom 4:2-8 in view of the rest of the
chapter
and the last paragraph of chapter 3, rather than make a particular
interpretation
of a unclear passage Rom 4:2-8  affect the other parts. 


Sincerely

Moon
Moon R. Jung
Sogang Univ, Seoul, Korea



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