George F Somsel gfsomsel at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 17 01:16:52 EDT 2007

In his Hermeneia commentary on Hebrews Attridge notes 
11* The reference to Sarah50 has long been a crux.51 The problem is particularly acute if the reading of the mss is retained and Sarah (καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα) is taken as the subject of the sentence. She would then be said to receive “power for depositing seed” (δύναμιν εἰς καταβολήν σπέρματος). The phrase is as odd in Greek as in English, since καταβολὴ σπέρματος is the normal idiom for the masculine role in generation.52 
11 By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 
Hebrews 11:11 (NRSV)
50 Cf. Gen 17:15–18:15*; 21:1–7*.
51 Swetnam (Jesus and Isaac, 98–101) provides a useful survey of opinions, although his own solution is unconvincing. For later history of the text, see Joyce Irwin, “The Use of Hebrews 11:11* as Embryological Proof-Text,” HTR 71 (1978) 312–16.
mss manuscripts
52 A good example of the usage is Apoc. Ezra 5.12: ὥσπερ γεωργὸς καταβάλλει τὸν σπόρον τοῦ σίτου ἐν τῇ γῇ, οὕτως καὶ ὁ ἄνθρωπος καταβάλλει τὸ σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ τῆς γυναικός, “Just as a farmer casts down the seed of corn into the earth, so a man casts down his seed into a woman’s place” (OTP 1.576). Cf. also Philo Op. mund. 132; Cher. 49; Ebr. 211; Epictetus Diss. 1.13.3; Corp. Herm. 9.6.; Marcus Aurelius Med. 4.36; and see Friedrich Hauck, “καταβολή,” TDNT 3 (1965) 620–21.

Attridge, H. W., & Koester, H. (1989). The Epistle to the Hebrews : A commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Spine title: Hebrews. Hermeneia--a critical and historical commentary on the Bible (324). Philadelphia: Fortress Press  


See especially note 52 above.  It seems the Apoc. Ezra 5.12 reference rather determines the matter.  I think R & R are probably simply trying to make Sarah the subject of the sentence rather than a part of a parenthetical remark.
Therefore, O faithful Christian, search for truth, hear truth, 
learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth, 
defend the truth till death.
- Jan Hus

----- Original Message ----
From: Kevin Riley <klriley at alphalink.com.au>
To: B Greek <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, July 16, 2007 11:32:31 PM

In Hebrew 11:11 there is the phrase "DUNAMIN EIS KATABOLHN SPERMATOS".  Some
translate it as "power to deposit/sow seed", but Rienecker and Rogers claim
it is an idiom meaning "power to receive the sowing of seed".  I was
wondering if anyone knew the basis for the claim that this is an idiom?  I
am presuming they did not fabricate the idiom themselves.


Kevin Riley
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