Gal 3:16 as midrash (was...)

John Ronning ronning at
Fri Mar 9 15:48:47 EST 2001

"Christian M. M. Brady" wrote:

(re. Gal 3:16 as midrash)
> 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.

To be similar to Gal 3:16 (as commonly interpreted) they
would have to be making a point of a word being singular
that was always singular (thus there is no point worth
making).  Midrashes that I've seen supposedly similar to Gal
3:16 are in fact dealing with words that could be either
singular or plural.  Such is not the case with zera` or
sperma, which are always singular when used in the sense of
offspring.  And of course, I don't think you could find a
single practitioner of midrash who thought Paul's argument
in Gal 3:16 (as usually interpreted) was anything but
ridiculous (to put it mildly).

> > 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.

One cannot argue first that since "seed" in "seed of
Abraham" is singular it refers to just one person  (Christ)
and then turn around and say well actually the whole Church
is the seed of Abraham - that is in fact contradictory, not


John Ronning

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