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

John Ronning ronning at
Sun Mar 18 08:50:23 EST 2001

Christian, you wrote:
> And in any event,
> your interpretation is *not* consistent with what Paul says "everywhere
> else" since he most certainly would not equate Abraham as the "new Adam."
> That was Jesus alone.

Christian, you must have forgotten - Paul was a midrashist
who was quite happy to hold two mutually inconsistent
opinions.  So you can't object to Paul saying Abraham is a
new Adam in one place and Christ is a new Adam in another

You can't say Paul in Galatians 3 must be consistent with
Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, but then also say that within
Galatians 3 itself Paul proposes two contradictory opinions
within a few verses of each other, and explain it as OK
because it's midrash.

Or are you yourself a midrashist (no derogatory tone
intended) - holding two contradictory views of Paul at the
same time and holding that they are both true (personally
I'd call that post-modern, not midrash).

However, it is not correct to say that viewing Abraham as a
figurehead of Christ (the new Adam) would be inconsistent
with viewing Christ as the new Adam.  In Genesis 17 (one of
two places where the exact phraseology "and to your seed"
quoted in Gal 3:16 is found), it is patently obvious that
Abraham is portrayed as a new Adam:

Gen 1:28 be fruitful
Gen 17:6 I will make you very fruitful

Gen 1:28 multiply
Gen 17:2 I will multiply you exceedingly; 

Gen 1:28 fill the earth
Gen 17:5 you will be father of many nations

Gen 1:28 and subdue it; rule ...
Gen 17:6 kings will come forth from you

Paul does not explicitly say Abraham is viewed as a new
Adam, but it is implicit in his statement (no doubt based in
part on this correspondence to the creation mandate in
Genesis 17) that Abraham received a promise that he would
inherit the world (Rom 4:13).

Now, as you say, Paul views Christ as the new Adam (or as he
puts it, the last Adam).  Consequently, since Abraham is
spoken to in Genesis 17 as if he is the new Adam, it is
natural to infer that Paul would see these words ultimately
addressed to Christ; that Abraham is a figurehead for
Christ, just as the animal snake in the garden is a
figurehead for Satan, the ultimate recipient of the curse
(Gen 3:15).  Thus the "you" in "seed of you" addressed to
Abraham is actually Christ.

Abraham is actually just one of the "new Adams" in the OT,
Noah being the first (the creation mandate being repeated to
him almost verbatim after the flood).  Jacob also (Genesis
35), and then Israel appears to begin to fulfill the mandate
in Exodus 1 (except that they are enslaved rather than
having dominion).  Not quite so clear is David, but 2 Samuel
7 can be seen as containing the same elements of the
creation mandate (fruitfulness and dominion); I maintain
that David's response to Natahn's oracle is based on this
similarity  (this is the law of Adam!; David was before
Wellhausen so he didn't know that Genesis 1 hadn't been
written yet).

The theme of the new Adam comes up, in my view, with a
question that arises in connection with the interpretation
of Gen 3:15.  Genesis 4 shows us the enmity predicted
between the two seeds, which reveals that the seeds are not
to be interpreted literally as snakes and mankind, but as
righteous and wicked among mankind.  Following up on that
conclusion leads to the question - who then is actually the
progenitor of the righteous seed?  Short answer - God
himself (in my dissertation I point out the use of creation
language in Genesis 4 in connection with Abel).  Long answer
- Christ, the God-man.  I view the "new Adam" theme in the
OT as preparation for the "long answer."

An interesting pattern emerges with all these OT new Adams -
they seem to be portrayed as the new Adam, but they don't
"live up to" such billing.  They have two disqualifiers: (1)
they have sins that are portrayed as like those of the first
Adam; (2) they have both seeds at enmity (like Cain and
Abel) among their offspring.  Or more suuccinctly, they are
disqualified by their sins and their sons.

Noah's sin after the flood draws upon some themes from
Genesis 3 - nakedness, consumption of fruit.

Abraham: Genesis 16 (Abram and Hagar) borrows phraseology
from Genesis 3 - "she took ... and gave to her husband" and
"he listened to the voice of his wife."  In Genesis 12 and
20 (the wife-sister stories) Abraham violates the marriage
ordinance given in Eden.  Note the echo of the Lord's words
in Genesis 3 by Pharaoh in Genesis 12 "What is this you have

Isaac repeats the second of these offences, Jacob the first.

David's sin with Bathsheba is an aggravated version of the
second; specifically Genesis 20 (Abraham and Abimelech). 
Aggrevated because David is not like Abraham or Isaac, the
righteous foreigner afraid of his life in a pagan land where
there is no fear of God because of his beautiful wife. 
David shows up as the pagan king who takes the beautiful
wife of a pious foreigner and kills him (note how the author
brings up the name of Abimelech in 2 Samuel 11 in order to
help us make this connection).

Sons (the two seeds):
Noah: The two seeds are seen among Shem, Ham, and Japheth -
Ham like the serpent exposing the nakedness of his father.

Abraham: the enmity between Isaac and Ishmael; Ishmael
expelled (like Cain in Genesis 4)

Isaac: Jacob and Esau (Esau wants to kill Jacob because of
the favour shown him - again, like Cain).

Jacob: Joseph and his brothers - same thing.

David: Solomon and his brothers (Adonijah's usurpation,
Amnon's rape of Tamar showing the first born son of David to
be worse than Shechem the pagan in Genesis 34 (from which
Tamar quotes while being attacked).

So can you see how "seeds" would come to Paul's mind? 
Abraham received the promises of the new Adam, but he can't
be the new Adam - he had two seeds, and the promise is only
to "your seed" i.e. the seed of the true new Adam.

The true new Adam does not have either of the two
disqualifiers mentioned above:
Sins - tested in all points, etc.  Of special interest is
how the gospel inverts Abraham's and Isaac's behaviour
towards their wives.  They subjected their wives to
potential defilement in order to save their own lives.  Paul
may have had this in mind as he penned Eph 5:25-26 "Christ
loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her
holy."  All the more remarkable considering his bride is not
the model bride like Rebekah, but the very model of an
unworthy bride (see John 4 re. the Samaritan woman as a
recapitulation of Genesis 24, a courtship scene).

Sons - all of his children are righteous, because they are
born from above.

Whether one agrees with any of the above or not, there is
plenty of reason to see Paul thinking along these lines;
thus "it does not say `and to seeds, in the plural'" -
points to one of the disqualifiers of Abraham as the new
Adam - he had "seeds" (the two seeds of gen 3:15) among his

I realize a lot of the above may be too concise - I'll
expand if necessary.


John Ronning

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