[B-Greek] KATABOLH SPERMATOS/WN (was "Translating Hebrews 11:11")

yancywsmith at sbcglobal.net yancywsmith at sbcglobal.net
Sun May 3 17:02:46 EDT 2009

I can see Iver's point. As a Bible translator, I am sympathetic to  
favoring LXX background and NT usage for understanding difficult  
phrases and concepts in the NT. Here, however, I suggest all the other  
uses of KATABOLH in the NT are irrelevant. They all form part of the  
set phrase "KATABOLH KOSMOU," referring to the creation. The same is  
true about KATABOLH in the LXX (only once, 2 Macc. 2:29). This  
context, BTW seems to be the only one where KATABALLW means "to found"  
something in the LXX). On the other hand, In Iver's favor, SPERMA  
could suggest a collective for descendants. Heb. 11:10 already brings  
up the image of "foundations"--"For [Abraham] was waiting for a city  
with foundations whose builder and designer is God.  
ἐξεδέχετο γὰρ τὴν τοὺς θεμελίους  
ἔχουσαν πόλιν ἧς τεχνίτης καὶ  
extending the metaphor of city to "seed" as Iver is suggesting.  
Otherwise, I confess that I see the phrase "founding seed" using  
KATABOLH as quite a collocational clash especially when KATABOLH with  
SPERMA[-TWN/-TOS] is well understood as planting seed either as an  
agricultural or a sexual act. It is not so rare as KATABOLH SPERMATOS  
meaning "found posterity."
In the New Testament we find for this idea:
ἐξανάστημι σπέρμα EXANASTHMI SPERMA
In the LXX:
ἀνάστημι σπέρμα ANASTHMI SPERMA
Representing either
קום זרע
QUM ZR' (Gen 38:8, the case of Onan; 2 Sam 7:12; 1 Chron 17:11)
KUN ZR' (Ps 89:5, where it means to "establish" but only in the sense  
of preserve "seed.")
כון זרע

That is, the metaphorical direction for "establishing seed" is UP. The  
metaphorical direction for planting seed (agriculturally or sexual) is  
DOWN. If the writer of Hebrews intended his readers to understand  
KATABOLH as "founding" in the sense of laying down a foundation of  
future posterity, I get it but only with considerable explanation. In  
other words, I wonder if the processing necessary to get to this  
understanding is so difficult, that it becomes unlikely. If this is  
the intended meaning, it appears to have left his readers somewhat at  
a loss, to say the least. An APOROS LOGOS among the cruces interpretum  
if there ever was one. I am inclined to think that the audience would  
follow an interpretive process that immediately assumes the author was  
speaking of Abraham and Sarah's ability to conceive, as did Jerome.

Yancy Smith, PhD
yancywsmith at sbcglobal.net
5636 Wedgworth Rd.
Fort Worth, TX 76133

I suppose it is impossible to write any 'story' that is not  
allegorical in proportion as it 'comes to life'; since each of us is  
an allegory, embodying in a particular tale and clothed in the  
garments of time and place, universal truth and everlasting life.
	J.R.R. Tolkien (7 June 1955)

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