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

Oun Kwon kwonbbl at gmail.com
Fri Apr 28 18:06:38 EDT 2006

On 4/27/06, Iver Larsen <iver at larsen.dk> wrote:


> 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
> GAR.
> 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

Thanks to all, Iver, Harold, and George:

With the sentence relatively simple still makes my brain swirl. There
are in the text, contrast between 'Seed' and 'Children' and their
extended meaning all vying their attention, with different
understanding of hOTI ('because' vs. 'that') thrown in.

I think the solution is in appreciating what holds the thematic focus
(theme) within the context. In v. 7b the quotation <It is through
Isaac that 'your seed' shall be raised> tells us that 'seed'  (as God
promised to Abraham) is the one commanding the focus.  Consequently,
Hays' rendering (though more difficult understanding of the Gk syntax)
<not that all children of Abraham are 'his seed'> appears to be a
better choice than the other rendering <because they are Abraham's
seed, all are not children> (which shifts the focus to 'children).

Oun Kwon.

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