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

Christian M. M. Brady cbrady at
Sun Mar 4 17:58:43 EST 2001

On 3/4/01 4:02 PM, "John Ronning" <ronning at> wrote:

> "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."

I say that it is an example of "midrash" (and let us all say together, "it
is notoriously difficult to define 'midrash' as a method of exegesis" ;-)
since there are examples from rabbinic midrashim that employ a similar
attention to the singular/plural. See e.g., Shmot Rabbah to Ex. 15.1.

> 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
> Abraham.

Well, 1) it is not "my translation" it is the NRSV, but the vast majority of
translations follow it since the passage is relatively straightforward to
translate. 2) Paul is making a separate, but parallel and complementary
argument in 3.29. 

You following translations and interpretation are problematic and beyond the
scope of this list. In passing I would note that your interpretation of Paul
arguing that "Abraham [is] the 'new Adam,' received the promises on behalf
of Christ" goes counter to Paul's writings (even those that are
"undisputed"). But this too is beyond the scope of this list.

> 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
> descendants.]
> 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
> “you.”  
> 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)

Folks will have to wait for my book on the influence of contemporary Jewish
exegesis upon Paul's writings, since I have another to finish first! ;-)
(Anyone interested in Targum Lamentations? :-> )

cbrady @
My child, do not despise the LORD¹S discipline
        or be weary of his reproof,
for the LORD reproves the one he loves,
        as a father the son in whom he delights. --Prov. 3.11-2

I just wish he would love me a little less....

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