Paul's quotations (use of "baptism into Moses" in NT)

John Ronning ronning at
Sun Mar 4 17:02:10 EST 2001

"Christian M. M. Brady" wrote:
> A prime example of midrash in NT is Gal. 3.16 'Now the promises were made to
> Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, ³And to offsprings,² as of
> many; but it says, ³And to your offspring,² that is, to one person, who is
> Christ.'

For starters, why do you call this midrash?  Sipre
Deuteronomy 8 says "to their seed" means "to their sons." 
To quote Earl Ellis, “If this is Paul’s argument, then it
must be confessed that its baseless caprice out-rabbis the
rabbis; only Akiba could applaud it and even he would
substitute something more intricate."

Secondly, Paul himself contradicts your translation given
above a few verses later in Galatians 3:29 where he says
Christians in general (not one person) are the seed of

I would translate Galatians 3:16 as follows  (with remarks):
1. To Abraham the promises were spoken - and to his seed

2. It does not say, “and to (your) seeds,” in the plural,
[Paul’s way of pointing out that Abraham had two seeds;
Isaac and Ishmael; spiritually representing the two seeds of
Gen 3:15.  The presence of wicked children among Abraham’s
descendants disqualifies him as the father of the righteous
- someone else must be the father.]

3. but in the singular, “and to the seed of you”
[the promises were not spoken to Abraham’s seeds, i.e. to
all of his children whether righteous or wicked, but rather
to those who are righteous.  Which leads to the observation
that the promises are actually to the children of Abraham
who are also the children of God - compare Rom 9:6-8 But it
is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are
not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they
all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but:
it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God,
but the children of the promise are regarded as

4. who is Christ.
[the “you” in “your seed” (lit. “seed of you”) is Christ. 
The antecedant of the relative pronoun is not “seed” but

i.e. the seed of you, which is Christ

Paul views Abraham as a figurehead for Christ, as the snake
in Genesis 3 is a figurehead for Satan.  Abraham, the “new
Adam,” received the promises on behalf of Christ.  Note also
Isa 53:10 which Paul would no doubt see as speaking of the
Church as Christ's seed]

More idiomatically, 
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  It
does not say “and to your seeds,” in the plural, but in the
singular, “and to your seed,” that is, to Christ’s seed.

More detailed discussion in my dissertation (The Curse on
the Serpent: Genesis 3:15 in Biblical Theology and
Hermeneutics, Westminster Theol Sem., Glenside, PA 1997)

John Ronning

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