[B-Greek] Rm 9:7a Seed of Abraham or Children of Abraham

Iver Larsen iver at larsen.dk
Thu Apr 27 10:23:10 EDT 2006

Dear Oun,

In addition to what has been said, I'd like to quote the GNB for this passage.

The Greek was:

GNB has: I am not saying that the promise of God has failed; for not all the people of Israel are the people of God. Nor 
are all of Abraham's descendants the children of God. God said to Abraham, “It is through Isaac that you will have the 
descendants I promised you.”

Paul's concern from the beginning of chapter 9 is that the majority of the Jews had missed out on receiving the blessing 
promised to Abraham, because that blessing was to come through one particular descendant of Abraham, the Messiah, whom 
they had rejected. Since the majority of Jews did not see the promise of blessing fulfilled, does that mean that the 
promise was wrong?

No, he says in v. 6, the LOGOS (word/promise) has definitely not "fallen down" (failed to be fulfilled). It may look 
like failure on the surface, but Paul then goes on to give the reason why it didn't fail. The explanation is marked by 

First, it did not fail, because not all those who physically belong to Israel (i.e. physical descendants of Jacob) 
constitute "Israel" in the spiritual sense. This spiritual sense of "Israel" is rendered by GNB as "the people of God". 
NCV says: "truly God's people". The promise to Abraham like all God's promises had a condition, namely obedience and 
faith. Only a small group of the physical Israel had the faith that made them belong to the spiritual "Israel". The 
promise only applies to the spiritual Israel, and they saw it fulfilled.

Secondly, it did not fail, because not all are children (OUDE PANTES TEKNA (EISIN)), just because they are seed of 
Abraham (hOTI EISIN SPERMA ABRAAM). Again, TEKNA is here used in an extended, spiritual sense as the (true, spiritual) 
children of Abraham, or as they are sometimes called the "children of faith", i.e. those who had faith in Jesus as the 
Messiah. GNB calls them "children of God". NCV calls them "true children of Abraham". The SPERMA ABRAAM refers to the 
physical descendants of Abraham in this sentence., i.e. all Jews whether they believed in Jesus or not. The promise only 
applies to the "spiritual children", and they saw it fulfilled.

So, a literal translation could be as you originally suggested: not all (Jews are) children (of God/promise/blessing), 
(just) because they are Abraham's seed/physical descendants.

But a literal translation is hard to understand, unless one realises the contrast between the physical and spiritual 
senses of Israel, children and seed. The term "son/daughter of Abraham" similarly has a double sense, especially in 
Luke: Either (1) a person who has faith like Abraham or (2) a person who is physically descended from Abraham. These two 
groups partially overlap in the sense that some people in group 1 also belong to group 2, but there are also many people 
in group 1 who do not belong to group 2, and many people in group 2 who do not belong to group 1.

Iver Larsen

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Oun Kwon" <kwonbbl at gmail.com>
To: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Wednesday, April 26, 2006 1:00 AM
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Rm 9:7a Seed of Abraham or Children of Abraham

After my reply is sent, looking further at the rendering by George and
others, I have not gotten a clear answer about whether ABRAAM is to

George:  Nor that all children are seed of Abraham
Hays:   Not all children of Abraham are 'seed'

Similar contrast is seen between NET and NRSV:

/ nor are all the children Abraham's seed - NET;
/ not all of Abrahams' children are his seed – NRSV

Can you help me understand Gk syntax for a subtle difference?  Either
way is o.k.?

Oun Kwon.

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