An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 16 May 2010; Revised 4 April 2020
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of used in this chapter commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. Unless otherwise indicated other Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited and resources consulted may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Links to ancient Jewish literature may be found at EarlyJewishWritings.com. Important Jewish sources include:
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. Online. See Barry Setterfield, The Alexandrian Septuagint History.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
• Philo: Citations of Philo of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher (20 B.C.─A.D. 50) are from The Works of Philo Judaeus, compiled by Peter Kirby, found online at Early Jewish Writings.
● Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.
● Targums: The Targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary that date from the first century. See an index of Targum texts here.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). The meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB," found online at BibleHub.com. Explanation of Greek grammatical forms and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance reference numbers are identified with "SH" for Hebrew and "SG" for Greek.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
Soteriology: God's Plan for Deliverance and Righteousness, 3:21–5:21 (cont.)
The Model of Abraham, 4:1-8
The Blessing of Abraham, 4:9-12
The Promise of Abraham, 4:13-25
The Model of Abraham, 4:1-8
1― What then shall we say Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, found?
Source: Genesis 18:3
Paul continues his response to the fictive opponent that begin in 2:1. In Chapter Three Paul affirmed to his fictive opponent that the focus of the Good News on trusting faithfulness does not destroy Torah but confirms it (3:31). In this chapter Paul will demonstrate from the life of Abraham the relationship between the Torah and faithfulness and how God reckons righteousness.
What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. then: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, "so, therefore, consequently, then." shall we say: Grk. ereō, fut., inform through utterance, here denoting speech in progress. Paul is fond of this rhetorical question (4:1; 6:1; 7:7; 8:31; 9:14, 30). He then launches into a midrash, a distinct type of Jewish commentary on Scripture, in order to illuminate the deeper meaning of righteousness (Young 76).
Abraham: Grk. Abraam, which transliterates the Heb. Avraham. The first Hebrew patriarch became the prime example of faithfulness. Abraham was the son of Terah, a descendant of Noah's son, Shem (Gen 11:27). Abraham is identified initially as a Hebrew (Gen 14:13), a name derived from Eber, a son of Shem (Gen 10:21:11:14, 16) and Abraham's ancestor (Gen 11:26). "Hebrew" became the name by which the covenant people would be distinguished from the Egyptians and Philistines (Gen 39—Ex 10; 1Sam 4-29) (TWOT 2:643). Thus, Abraham is designated as the one who would perpetuate the worship of the one true God and bring spiritual blessing to all mankind (cf. Gen 9:26-27).
Four times God declared a covenant with Abraham (Gen 12:2-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-22). God made important promises to him: (1) God would make Abraham into a great nation; (2) God would bless those who blessed Abraham and curse those who cursed him; (3) in Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed; (4) all the land that Abraham could see in all four directions and that he could walk through would belong to him and his seed forever, i.e., the land of Canaan; (5) Abram's "seed" (descendants) would be as numerous as the dust of the earth and the stars in the sky; (6) all the land between the Nile and the Euphrates, including the land of Canaan, for his descendants; and (7) he and Sarah would together produce an heir. God declared his covenant with Abraham to be everlasting.
Abraham married his half-sister, Sarah (Gen 11:29; 20:12). He later took Sarah's servant Hagar as a wife (Gen 16:1-3), but then divorced and sent her away after the birth of Isaac (Gen 21:14). After the death of Sarah Abraham apparently had at least two concubine wives, one named Keturah who bore him six sons (Gen 25:1-6). Abraham died at the age of 175 and was buried with his wife Sarah in the cave of Machpelah in Ephron by his sons Isaac and Ishmael (Gen 25:7-10). For more information on the great patriarch see my web article The Story of Abraham.
our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. forefather, Grk. propatōr, ancestor or forefather, used only here in the Besekh. according to: Grk. kata, prep., with the root meaning of "down," generally expresses measure and the idea of something associated with or conforming with something else; according to, among, by way of. the flesh: Grk. sarx, flesh, has both literal and figurative uses in reference to bodily or earthly existence and is used here of genealogical connection. In the LXX sarx stands for Heb. basar (SH-1320), with the same range of meaning, first in Genesis 2:21 (DNTT 1:672). Abraham is acknowledged in Scripture as both the biological father of the Israelites and Jews (Gen 25:19; 26:3) and a spiritual father to many in the nations (Gen 17:5).
The collective emphasis by Jews of Abraham as "our father" occurs several times in Scripture (1Chr 29:18; Matt 3:9; Luke 1:73; John 8:39, 53; Acts 3:13; 7:2; Jas 2:21). found: Grk. heuriskō, perf. inf., to find, discover or come upon after seeking, whether of things or persons. The verb may figuratively refer to intellectual discovery based upon reflection, observation, or investigation. In the LXX heuriskō chiefly serves to translate the Heb. matsa (SH-4672), to attain to or find, with the same uses, first in Genesis 2:20. In theological contexts its objects are God, grace, and mercy (Gen 18:3; 19:19; Isa 55:6) (DNTT 3:528). The verb is used of Noah finding favor in the eyes of God (Gen 6:8), but the opening question of the chapter likely hints at Genesis 18:3 where Abraham says to the divine visitor (Heb. YHVH, 18:1), "If now I have found favor in your sight."
Shulam suggests that the verb heuriskō also reflects the Hebrew root zakhah, to gain, the verbal root underlying the common rabbinic concept of the "merit of the fathers." Stern concurs and quotes from the Midrash Exodus Rabbah (AD 900-1000) as evidence.
“In the olam haba [world to come] Israel will sing a new song, as it is said, 'Sing unto Adonai a new song, for he has done marvelous things’ (Psalm 98:1). By whose z'khut [merit] will they do so? By the merit of Avraham, because he trusted in the Holy One, blessed be he, as it says, ‘And he trusted in Adonai (Genesis 15:6). [Exodus Rabbah 23.5]"
Stern asserts that in the first century the belief was widespread that Jewish descendants could benefit and even can claim salvation on the ground of their ancestors' righteousness. He suggests that Yeshua's opponents made exactly such a claim at John 8:33 and that Yochanan the Immerser rebuked his critics before they had a chance to say, "Abraham is our father" (Matt 3:9).
Against this viewpoint is that in the John 8:33 and Matthew 3:9 passages there is no verbiage that speaks of claiming salvation based on the righteousness of Abraham. The Pharisee leaders were simply expressing arrogance and pride for being descendants of Abraham. In their view descent from Abraham meant they automatically received the blessings promised in the covenant with Abraham without the necessity of repentance and spiritual change.
In biblical usage the Hebrew verb zakkah (SH-2135) means to be clear, clean or pure (BDB 269). The verb occurs only 8 times in the Tanakh (Job 15:14; 25:4; Ps 51;4; 73:14; 119:9; Prov 20:9; Isa 1:16; Mic 6:11) and is translated with five different words in the LXX: (1) amemptos, adj., "blameless" in Job 15:14; (2) apokatharizō, cleanse, purify, in Job 25:4; (3) dikaioō, "acquit, justify" in Psalm 51:4; 73:13 and Micah 6:11; (4) katharos, adj., "clean" in Prov 20:9; Isaiah 1:16; and katorthōsei, keep straight in Psalm 119:9.
In Talmudic literature the verb zakkah had the biblical meaning and adds "to be acquitted; to argue for acquittal; found not guilty" (B.M. 107b; Ber. 7b; Sanh. 30a), but also came to mean "to gain or obtain a privilege (B.M. 1:3), "to transfer blessing to" (Eduy. 2:9). In that reference the merit was transferring personal qualities from father to son. However, the meaning of "to deserve divine reward through another's merit" is only introduced in Aggadic Midrashim literature of the Middle Ages (Jastrow 398f). The Medieval aggadic commentary Avot de-Rabbi Nathan (AD 700–900) also refers to the merit of the fathers:
"MISHNA B. Rabban Gamaliel, the son of R. Jehudah the Prince, was wont to say: "Beautiful is the study of the Law when conjoined with a worldly avocation, for the efforts demanded by both stifle all inclination to sin. But study which is not associated with some worldly pursuit must eventually cease, and may lead to iniquity. All who occupy themselves with communal affairs should do it in the name of Heaven, for the merit of their fathers sustains them and their righteousness stands forever. And ye yourselves shall have reward reckoned unto you, as if ye had wrought it." (Tosefta - Avot of R. Nathan, Chap. 2)
In contrast the Midrash Psalms 8 has a pertinent critique of relying on the merits of the fathers:
"With regard to the conduct of life, men may be said to be divided into three sections. There are men who are thoroughly good, practicing righteousness for righteousness' sake. They are thankful to their Maker for having brought them to this life and endowed them with intellect to view the works of creation; they expect and ask for no reward. There is another sect who, when doing any commendable deed, book it, as it were, to their credit and expect recompense in the future life. But there is, alas! a worse section, who neither have nor seek to have any merits of their own, but look for favors to the merits of their ancestors." (Rapaport 199).
2― For if Abraham was considered righteous by works, he has something to boast about, but not toward God.
For: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The fourth use is intended here. if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker, generally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. In this case Paul's premise is in fact untrue (Robertson). Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See the previous verse. was considered righteous: Grk. dikaioō, aor. pass., can mean (1) to verify to be in the right or (2) to put into a condition or state of uprightness. As the two definitions indicate dikaioō has both an apologetic sense and a redemptive sense. The context of this important word is a righteous standard against which people are measured. See the explanatory note on the use of dikaioō in Romans 2:13.
The majority of Bible versions translate the verb here as "justified," but such a translation with its normal association with the new birth and salvation is inappropriate as applied to Abraham. Scripture does not reveal any sins or transgressions for which he needed to be pardoned, but in fact describes him as a righteous man who lived by God's commandments (Gen 26:5). Alternative translations that convey affirmation of Abraham's status include "considered righteous" (CJB), "had God's approval" (GW, NOG), "had made him acceptable" (NLT), and "reckoned to be in the right" (NTE). Santala suggests that Paul employs Hillel's second hermeneutic rule, gezerah shavah ("similar laws, similar verdicts), an argument from analogy, to lay the foundation for his argument in the next chapter (140).
by: Grk. ek, prep. used to denote derivation or separation from something with which there has been a close association, lit. "out of, from within" (Thayer). The preposition is used here to indicate a source. works: pl. of Grk. ergon generally means a deed, action or accomplishment with these applications: (a) in contrast to rest; (b) as a practical proof of something; (c) of the deeds of God and Yeshua, specifically miracles; or (d) the deeds of men, exhibiting a consistent moral character. Paul uses the term here to refer to legalistic observances of Torah as advocated by the Pharisees. See comment on 3:20. Abraham was not considered righteous by legalistic works as understood by the Pharisees, since that system did not even exist in the time of Abraham.
he has: Grk. echō, pres., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application: e.g., (1) hold in one's hands, wear, preserve, seize; (2) have as one's own or at hand, possess; (3) have with oneself or in one's company (BAG). a ground of boasting: Grk. kauchēma, a basis or ground for pride, boasting, glorying, or exultation. Paul draws an apt contrast between boasting before men and before God. P.T. Barnum is credited with the saying, "it ain't braggin' if you can do it." but: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. toward: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" and conveys motion toward (DM 110); to, toward, with.
God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). In the LXX theos renders primarily Elohim (over 2300 times), but also the tetragrammaton YHVH (over 300 times). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos (DNTT 2:67-70).
None of the Bible heroes had the temerity to boast before God of their righteousness, notwithstanding David's claim in Psalm 18:20 (Heb. tsedekh there may be understood as "acting justly." It is not a claim to moral superiority). Paul may have been alluding to the statement in Jeremiah:
"Thus says ADONAI: 'Let not the wise boast in his wisdom nor the mighty boast in his might nor the rich glory in his riches. 23 But let one who boasts boast in this: that he understands and knows Me. For I am ADONAI who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth. For in these things I delight.' It is a declaration of ADONAI." (Jer 9:22-23 TLV)
3― For what says the Scripture? "Abraham faithfully trusted God, and it was credited to him for righteousness."
Source: Genesis 15:6
For: Grk. gar, conj. See the previous verse. what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 1 above. says: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form. The verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. the: Grk. ho, definite article. Scripture: Grk. graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context meaning the sacred Hebrew Bible (24 books) referred to by the acronym Tanakh, corresponding to the Protestant Old Testament (39 books) and its translation into Greek, the Septuagint. The term "Scripture" summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired, infallible, inerrant words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi. Paul quotes from the text of the Torah containing the narrative of Abraham's life, specifically Genesis 15:6.
Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See the note on verse 1 above. faithfully trusted: Grk. pisteuō (derived from pistis, trust, faithfulness), aor., to have confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the Besekh the verb often has the sense of a personal trust in God's power and His nearness to help. In the LXX passage pisteuō translates Heb. 'aman, (SH-539), to be reliable, to stand firm, trust, believe, be faithful, (BDB 52). The Hebrew word contains the elements of believing, trusting and being faithful. In the Genesis verse the verb aman is Hiphil perfect. In the Hiphil form aman means to stand firm or trust. The perfect tense of aman indicates a complete condition, one that began in past time with continuing results to the present.
The great majority of versions have "believed," but this translation may be misleading. Abraham did not believe in the sense of an intellectual assent to a philosophical idea. Abraham had trusted God ever since he left Haran in obedience to God's direction. As a result of this trust he was faithful to God. In my view a better alternative is "put his trust in" (CJB, NLV) or "had faith in" (CEB, CEV, OJB). The NEB has "put his faith in." God: Grk. ho theos. See the previous verse. The definite article emphasizes "the only true God, the God of Israel." Paul quotes the LXX, but the Hebrew text has YHVH, the tetragrammaton with which Yeshua identified himself (John 8:58).
and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. See my note on the significance of conjunctions in the Besekh.
it was credited: Grk. logizomai, aor. pass., to count or calculate in a numerical sense, but also to infer, conclude, presume or to think upon, ponder (Mounce). In the LXX logizomai chiefly translates Heb. chashav (SH-2308, BDB 362), to think, to account, which is used in the sense of to think in a certain way, to estimate value or to calculate or compute something. Logizomai receives a new and personal slant in the LXX not present in Classical Greek. Jewish translators used logizomai with the sense of what God thinks about a person, whether regarding as righteous or guilty (cf. Gen 15:6; 2Sam 19:19; Ps 32:2) (DNTT 3:823). In Genesis 15:6 the verb chasav is a Qal Imperfect. The Qal is a simple action and the Imperfect points to action that has been going on but is not yet complete. As a word picture of arithmetic the counting had been going on coincidental with the trusting so that each time Abraham trusted it was added to the sum total representing his righteous character. In my view "considered" would be a better translation.
to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here (Thayer). for: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, here complementing the verb to indicate completion of the action. The preposition is used here to convey "for the benefit or advantage of."
righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, uprightness, righteousness, justice. The Hebrew concept of tzedakah, "righteousness" refers to right or ethical character and behavior. It is based on the character of God and His revealed standards. In the Tanakh tzedakah also carries the sense of salvation (deliverance) and judgment (justice). Righteousness primarily has human relationships as its focus and therefore righteousness strengthens the community. Paul's quotation of Genesis 15:6, is used to argue that Abraham's righteousness was not based on legalistic observance of Pharisee traditions.
Such an evaluation from God is based on actions and character of the person. In other words, in those ancient settings God did not give the label of "righteous" to an unrighteous person. God only called people righteous who kept His commandments (Gen 26:5). However, the verbiage of "reckoning" has invited a limitation on the divine declaration. The Targum Jonathan says, "And he believed in the Lord, and had faith in the (Memra) Word of the Lord, and He reckoned it to him for righteousness." Rashi, the Medieval Jewish commentator, referenced the Targum and interpreted the declaration of Genesis 15:6 to mean "The Holy One, blessed be He, accounted it to Abram as a merit and as righteousness for the faith that he believed in Him."
Some Christian commentators have extended the idea of "reckoning" to conclude that Abraham had no righteousness, but that it was imputed to him in exchange for his belief. Shulam critiques Christian misinterpretation of Paul's meaning:
"The standard Christian interpretation of this verse understands the root chashav to refer to God's "favor," according to which He gives His gift of righteousness to someone (Abraham) who does not deserve it. God thus "imputes" righteousness to Abraham without Abraham having "earned" righteousness by "works" of his own doing. The theological "imputations" given to the verse, however, have often gone far beyond proper textual and linguistic bounds, and established a dichotomous relationship between "faith" and "works" which most of the contemporary Jewish sources do not support."
Christian misinterpretation flies in the face of how God regarded the saints of the Bible. On what basis was Noah considered a righteous and blameless man (Gen 6:9)? Job was regarded as blameless, upright and righteous (Job 1:8; 2:3; 9:20). Jacob, too, was regarded as blameless, although not accorded that status in Christian Bibles (Gen 25:27; Heb. tam, perfect or complete, BDB 1070). David said, "Blessed is the one whose guilt ADONAI does not count, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Ps 32:2 TLV). David assumes the character quality is present before God's determination. Yeshua said of Nathanael, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47).
Does an unrighteous man obey God to leave all security behind and begin a trek to an unknown destination just because God told him to go (Gen 12:1-4)? Can anyone possibly believe that God would have made the five promises to Abraham recorded in Genesis 12:2-3 and 13:14-17, if he had been an unrighteous man? Does an unrighteous man build an altar to God as Abraham did upon receiving the promises? Would God have judged Pharaoh (Gen 12:17) if Abraham had been an unrighteous man? Would Melchizedek, priest-king of Salem and type of the Messiah, have brought bread and wine to Abraham after his defeat of pagan forces (14:17-20) and would Abraham have given a tenth of the spoils of war to Melchizedek if Abraham was an unrighteous man?
Paul described Abraham's life prior to Genesis 15 as a life of faith (i.e., faithfulness, Heb 11:8-9). There is not one sin attributed to Abraham, so calling him unrighteous when God does not amounts to defamation. Abraham's trusting in Genesis had no connection to salvation. Upon hearing that God promised him a son of his loins Abraham advanced to a new level of righteousness, because Abraham knew that only a creation miracle could enable him to have a son. Such trust enabled Abraham to look forward to the future with confidence. "Faith" as Paul understands it and as it is used in the Tanakh is not merely assent to a theological statement or acceptance of a promise based on the integrity of the one giving the promise, but faithfulness grounded in trust.
4― Now to the one working, the wage is credited not according to grace, but according to debt.
Now: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The second meaning applies here. to the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. working: Grk. ergazomai, pres. mid. part., to work, be at work, do, carry out, either with (1) the focus on effort itself in the course of activity or (2) the result of effort.
the wage: Grk. misthos, reciprocation for performance, which may be (1) payment for labor, pay, wages; or (2) a reward resulting from endeavors. The first meaning is intended here. Payment could be in currency as illustrated in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt 20:2) or in-kind of a percentage of the harvested produce which would then be sold and converted to currency as in the parable of the vineyard (Mark 12:2). is credited: Grk. logizomai. See the note on the previous verse.
not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 1 above. grace: Grk. charis, disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient; thus, grace, gracefulness, graciousness, favor, thanks or gratitude. In the LXX charis occurs about 190 times of which only about 75 have a Hebrew equivalent. Of the 75 charis translates seven different Hebrew words, the most of which (61) are for Heb. hên (SH-2580), favor, grace or acceptance (DNTT 2:116). The use of hēn in biblical history depicts the stronger coming to the help of the weaker who stands in need of help by reason of his circumstances or natural weakness.
but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 2 above. according to: Grk. kata. debt: Grk. opheilēma, that which is owed, (1) particularly of a financial nature, a debt, usually created by a loan; also (2) moral obligations to people or state laws. The noun occurs only twice in the Besekh, the other in the Sermon on the Mount in the Lord's Prayer (Matt 6:12). In the LXX opheilēma translates Heb. mashshaah (SH-4859), a loan given in exchange for a pledge (Deut 24:10). Paul understands that a person who works deserves (or is owed) his wage. A wage cannot be "imputed as a favor," because it lacks the element of something freely given ("grace") (Shulam). In other words, God characterized Abraham as righteous because that was what his life had produced.
5― But to the one not working, but faithfully trusting on the basis of the One acquitting the ungodly, his trusting faithfulness is credited for righteousness,
Paul now applies his analogy of Abraham, but in an unexpected direction. But: Grk. de, conj. See the previous verse. to the one: Grk. ho definite article, but used here as a definite pronoun. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. working: Grk. ergazomai, pres. mid. part. See the previous verse. The "one not working" is idiomatic for one whose life has not produced righteousness. but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 2 above. faithfully trusting: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. The present tense emphasizes a behavior that begins and continues and the participle characterizes the person. Many versions have "believes," but some have "trusts" (AMP, MSG, NIV, NRSV, RSV, TLV) or "trusting" (CJB).
on the basis of: Grk. epi, prep., with the root meaning of "upon," used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'at, by, near, on, upon, or over.' Here the preposition is used figuratively of that upon which any action, effect, condition, rests as a basis or support; properly, on the basis of, upon the ground of (Thayer). Many versions translate epi with "in" but that would require Grk. en, or eis. A few versions have "on" (ASV, CSB, KJV, NKJV). the One: Grk. ho, definite article used as a demonstrative pronoun. Most versions translate the pronoun as "Him who" or "Him that," which obscures the Hebrew idiom. Among Jews "The One" was a circumlocution for God (e.g., Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6).
acquitting: Grk. dikaioō, pres. part. See verse 2 above. Paul switches from the apologetic usage of dikaioō as applied to Abraham in verse 2 to the redemptive sense here. "The One acquitting" would be the Father (Matt 6:12, 14; Mark 11:25; Luke 23:34). the: Grk. ho. ungodly: Grk. asebēs, adj., ungodly, impious, irreverent, irreligious in an active sense. The term describes the worst sort of sinner. In the LXX asebēs translates Heb. rasha (SH-7563), which is used for (1) one guilty of crime, deserving punishment; (2) one guilty of hostility to God or his people, or (3) one guilty of sin, against either God or man. The term occurs first in Genesis 18:3 for the citizens of Sodom. The description could not be more opposite of Abraham.
One could argue that in the Tanakh God never acquitted the ungodly, those that sinned deliberately. Indeed there were thirty-six transgressions for which the Torah provided no atonement (K'ritot 1:1; cf. Ex 30:33; 31:14; Lev 7:25-27). However, in his sermon in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch Paul proclaimed that on the basis of Yeshua's atoning sacrifice sinners may be acquitted of all sins (Acts 13:38-39).
his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 3 above. trusting faithfulness: Grk. pistis (from peithō, "to persuade, be persuaded"), incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). Christian versions uniformly translate pistis here as "faith," but the Messianic Jewish versions CJB and TLV have "trust." In the LXX pistis translates Heb. emunah (SH-530; BDB 53), firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity, and used mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). The LXX usage emphasizes that the intended meaning of pistis is faithfulness. Various writers concur that Paul uses pistis to mean "faithfulness" (Hegg xix; Nanos 262f; Shulam 162; Stern 544; Young 76).
Paul unpacked the meaning of pistis to emphasize its two elements. The first element of faithfulness is confidence or trust: "And without faithfulness it is impossible to please Him, for it behooves the one drawing near to God to trust that He is and that He becomes a rewarder to those earnestly seeking Him" (Heb 11:6 BR; cf. Heb 4:2). True faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts. The second element of faithfulness involves commitment, constancy and obedience, which includes following God’s direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10). The faithfulness of which Paul speaks is the same as the faithfulness of the great heroes that he describes in Hebrews 11.
is credited: Grk. logizomai, pres. mid. See verse 3 above. for: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 3 above. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. See verse 3 above. Paul distinguishes the "wages' that are earned from "work" from the "favor" given by God in reward for "faithfulness." Related to Paul's argument is the rabbinic concept of the "merit of the fathers" in which the "reward" comes from the "merits" of the actions committed by previous generations. The Sages associated such merit with Abraham, but Paul makes no such application. In the traditional Jewish liturgy, the Birkat haGomel says, "Blessed are You, Everpresent Lord our God, King of the universe, who rewards good to the guilty; who rewarded me with all that is good" (MW-Notes 248).
The "ungodly" are those who have no "merit" of their own and possess no righteousness before God, yet God "reckons" righteousness to them on the basis of their first act of righteousness, namely confession and repentance (cf. Isa 1:27; Rom 10:10). We should take note of what Paul does not say. Paul does not advocate a doctrine that imputes a spiritual quality to someone without the need to stop sinning, a misbelief he will confront later in this letter. Paul's language here is very precise and he presents a radical concept. When an ungodly person confesses, repents and expresses trust in the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua, that act is treated as a righteous act corresponding to Abraham's own life of trusting faithfulness toward God. A sinner does not have to clean up his life in order to come to God. Afterwards is a different matter, since repentance should produce the fruit of faithfulness.
6― just as also David declares the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
just as: Grk. kathaper, adv. with a focus on a parallel aspect; even as, just as. also: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 3 above. David: Grk. David which transliterates the Heb. David ("dah-veed") perfectly. David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears in 1Samuel 16:13 when God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as the next king. At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capitol and solidified central authority.
Perhaps most important is his accomplishments in the religious sphere. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2Sam 23:2).
God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14). Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; 2Chr 7:18; 13:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 33:21). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy of David's life: "David did what was right in the eyes of ADONAI and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." (1Kgs 15:5 BR). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).
declares: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 3 above. Paul uses another Jewish hermeneutic principle to demonstrate that the words of David offer the same perspective as the example of Abraham. the: Grk. ho, definite article. blessedness: Grk. makarismos, adj., pronouncement of privileged status or a declaration of blessedness. The term denotes the end state and not the process. of the man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind, used here of mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words (adam, ish, and enosh), generally of an adult male, husband or mankind (DNTT 2:564).
to whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 2 above. credits: Grk. logizomai, pres. mid. See verse 3 above. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. See verse 3 above. apart from: Grk. chōris, prep., in a condition or circumstance not including; without, apart from. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 2 above. The term "works" refers to legalistic observance of Torah commands or man-made traditions. Paul then quotes from Psalm 32:1-2 to make his point.
7― "Blessed are those of whom lawless deeds have been forgiven, and of whom sins have been covered.
Source: Psalm 32:1
Blessed: pl. of Grk. makarios, adj. enjoying a special advantage and may be translated as blessed, privileged, fortunate, or happy. In English "blessed" describes a state of being happy as a result of personal circumstances. However, the Hebrew viewpoint is that a "blessing" is an endowment of beneficial power (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser (DNTT 1:207). Blessedness can never be self-imposed nor come by accident. Men may bless others without particular expectation (e.g., Isaac to Jacob, Gen 27:27), but man has to do something in order to receive divine blessings, whether positive or negative (cf. Ps 1:1-2; 112:1; 119:1-2; Prov 16:20; 29:18).
The best examples are the blessings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:3-12) in which Yeshua defines the criteria by which he will dispense his Messianic favors. David then uses two different words for unrighteous behavior that together form a synonymous parallelism.
are those of whom: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See the previous verse. lawless deeds: pl. of Grk. anomia may refer either to (1) a state or condition of opposition to the plans and purposes of God or (2) action or product of a lawless mindset. In the LXX anomia occurs almost 190 times and is used to render 23 different Hebrew words. By far the most common word translated (54 times) is Heb. avon (SH-5771), iniquity, guilt or punishment for iniquity (e.g., Gen 19:15), and the second most times for Heb. toebah (SH-8441), abomination, 25 times, all in the book of Ezekiel.
The range of meaning that anomia represents in the LXX of the Hebrew words rendered includes wickedness, treacherous acts, rebellion, transgression, injustice, violence, defection, unrighteousness and destruction. The word "lawlessness" does not necessarily mean abandonment of customs or community laws, but a rejection of God's authority, God's laws.
have been forgiven: Grk. aphiēmi, aor. pass., 3p-pl., let go, release, send away. In the LXX the verb aphiēmi usually renders the Heb. nasa, to release from guilt or punishment (Gen 18:26, BDB 669), or salach, to forgive or pardon (Lev 4:20, BDB 699), but sometimes kipper, to cover or make atonement (Ex 32:30; Isa 22:14 BDB 497). Under the Old Covenant God's grace of forgiveness was experienced in priestly rituals of atonement sacrifices, so that all kinds of terms related to that system are used to express the idea (e.g., washing, cleansing, covering, etc.). and: Grk. kai, conj. of whom: pl. of Grk. hos. sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power.
Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. In Greek culture hamartia meant to miss the mark, to fail, be mistaken. A mistake is the result of ignorance. Hamartia could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking, anything that does not conform to the dominant community ethic (DNTT 3:577). However, in the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (SH-2398), miss, go wrong, lapse, sin (Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (SH-5771), iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity (Gen 15:16).
Throughout Scripture sin as a behavior is a violation of God's written commandments (Rom 3:20; 5:13; 7:7). The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether Torah commandments have been violated. Indeed, the Torah recognizes that a transgression could be unintentional (Heb. shegagah, SH-7684), sin of error or inadvertence (Lev 4:1-3, 27-28; 5:18; Num 15:22-29). Nevertheless, atonement was still required. In Scripture hamartia does not include the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, "falling short of the glory" (Rom 3:23).
have been covered: Grk. epikaluptō, aor. pass., 3p-pl., to cover over. In the LXX epikaluptō renders Heb. kasah (SH-3680), to cover, conceal or hide, used normally in a physical sense of covering or clothing something or fig. of something being overwhelmed. Only in David's psalm is the verb used in the sense of God covering sin to remove it from His sight. David's description is clearly paradoxical. How can God redemptive action remove and cover at the same time? These words convey the mystery of God's grace.
8― "Blessed is the man of whom ADONAI will not reckon sin."
Source: Psalm 32:2
Blessed: Grk. makarios, adj. See the previous verse. is the man: Grk. anēr, an adult man without regard to age or marital status. In the LXX anēr renders several Hebrew words, among which are the three words translated by anthrōpos (adam, ish, and enosh), but also ba'al, lord, husband, head of a household; gibbôr, hero, warrior; zaqen, elder; nasi, prince; and adôn, lord (DNTT 2:562). In Hebrew society a male was treated as an adult and accountable to the Torah (Heb. bar mitzvah, "son of the commandment") when he became thirteen years and a day old (Ab. 5:21; Kidd. 63b). There was no ceremony among Jews in ancient times to mark this rite of passage as today.
of whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 6 above. ADONAI: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, and in the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), it replaces Heb. YHVH as it does here (DNTT 2:511). While not reflected in Bible translations YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8). Thus, "LORD" does not actually translate YHVH, but serves as an interpretative substitution that encompassed all that the Hebrew text implied by use of the divine name.
YHVH is the Creator and Lord of the whole universe, of men, Lord of life and death. Above all He is the God of Israel and His covenant people. By choosing kurios for YHVH the LXX also emphasized the idea of legal authority. Because YHVH delivered His people from Egypt and chose them as His possession, He is the legitimate Lord of Israel. The LXX thus strengthened the tendency to avoid the utterance of the name of God. For more background information on the name of God see my web article The Blessed Name.
will not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. reckon: Grk. logizomai, aor. mid. subj. See verse 3 above. In Psalm 32 God's mercy is given to those who have sinned, and who therefore do not deserve forgiveness. In the case of David obviously no legalistic work is involved (as would be defined by the Pharisees centuries later), although he did live faithfully by the Torah, as the prophet recorded (1Kgs 15:5). sin: Grk. hamartia. See the previous verse. Of course, in the matter of Uriah the Hittite God severely punished David for his sin and even though he confessed, the negative consequences to his family and his reign were long lasting. Nevertheless, David could speak of the blessedness of forgiveness.
The Blessing of Abraham, 4:9-12
9― Is this blessedness then on the circumcision, or also on the uncircumcision? We are saying, "For the trusting faithfulness was credited to Abraham for righteousness."
Source: Genesis 15:6
Is this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. blessedness: Grk. makarismos, adj. See verse 6 above. Paul then divides the population into two groups. then: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 1 above. on: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 5 above. the: Grk. ho, definite article. circumcision: Grk. peritomē, lit. "cut around," the surgical removal of male foreskin. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant people (Gen 17:11). The great majority of versions translate the noun as a verb "circumcised." Some versions have "circumcision" (ASV, BRG, DRA, KJV, Lamsa, LITV, NET, REV, RGT, RV, YLT).
In the LXX peritomē occurs only two times: in Genesis 17:13 without Heb. equivalent regarding the circumcision of males in Abraham's household, and in Exodus 4:25-26 to render Heb. mulah, circumcision, regarding the circumcision of Moses' firstborn son. As a category the term could include both traditional Jews and Gentile proselytes. The presence of the definite article also suggests that Paul means the Circumcision Party, a sub-group of the Pharisees, since he uses peritomē elsewhere with this meaning (Rom 15:8; Gal 2:12; Col 3:11; Titus 1:10), as does Luke (Acts 10:45; 11:2; 15:1).
or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote (1) an alternative, 'or,' or (2) a comparative function, 'than.' The first usage applies here. also: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 3 above. on: Grk. epi. the uncircumcision: Grk. akrobustia, prepuce of the penis, foreskin, to have a foreskin and therefore never circumcised. In the LXX akrobustia translates Heb. arêl (SH-6189), having a foreskin, first in Genesis 17:14. It was "a reproach" for an Israelite to be uncircumcised (Gen 17:14; Josh 5:9). Hence the Heb. name arēlim (uncircumcised) became a term of contemptuous reproach, denoting the Philistines and other non-Israelites (Jdg 14:3; 1Sam 14:6;17:26; 31:4; 2Sam 1:20), and used synonymously with Heb. tamē ("unclean") for heathen (Isa 52:1).
The Heb. word arêl ("uncircumcised") is also employed for "unclean" (Lev 26:41). These verses show how abhorrent it was for a Jew not to be circumcised and their desire to maintain distance from the uncircumcised. This category could include both Hellenistic Jews and Gentiles. We are saying: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 3 above. The verb is used here in the sense of repeating the quotation from Genesis 15:6. For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. the: Grk. ho, definite article. trusting faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 5 above. was credited: Grk. logizomai, aor. See verse 3 above. to Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See verse 1 above. for: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 3 above. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. See verse 3 above. God had promised Abraham that he would be the source of blessing to the whole world. Paul clarifies that the promised blessing applied equally to the uncircumcised as well as the circumcised.
10― How then was it credited? Being in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision;
How: Grk. pōs, adv. introducing a query concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how? in what manner/way? then: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 1 above. was it credited: Grk. logizomai, aor. pass. See verse 3 above. Being: Grk. eimi, pres. part., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in," "within" or "among." The preposition is used here to denote the state or condition in which someone exists. circumcision: Grk. peritomē. See the previous verse.
or: Grk. ē, conj. See the previous verse. uncircumcision: Grk. akrobustia. See the previous verse. Not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. in: Grk. en. circumcision: Grk. peritomē. but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 2 above. in: Grk. en. uncircumcision: Grk. akrobustia. Paul's proof that the blessing of Abraham benefited both categories of people is that Abraham's trusting faithfulness occurred before his own circumcision. Indeed God's call on his life came before circumcision as did the covenant that God made with him. Circumcision did not change his character nor his relationship with God.
11― and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of trusting faithfulness while in uncircumcision, for him to be the father of all, those faithfully trusting throughout uncircumcision, for righteousness to be credited to them,
Source: Genesis 17:11
and: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 3 above. he received: Grk. lambanō, aor. The verb marks the transit of something from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take or receive. the sign: Grk. sēmeion may denote (1) universally, that by which a person or a thing is distinguished from others and known; mark, sign, token; or (2) an unusual occurrence, transcending the common course of nature; miracle, sign, portent (Thayer). The first meaning applies here. In Scripture a sign is given especially to confirm, corroborate or authenticate, and emphasizes the end-purpose which exalts the one giving it. In the LXX sēmeion predominately translates Heb. oth (SH-226), "sign, pledge, token, standard or miracle" (DNTT 2:626). Oth has its root in the verb avah, which means to sign, mark or describe with a mark (BDB 16).
While the term "sign" is used in Scripture in an ordinary sense of an ensign, pledge, or tribal standard, most of the usages of "sign" are related to miraculous wonders that only the Creator could perform, especially the many miracles for Israel's benefit (Ex 4:17; 7:3; Deut 4:34; 7:19; 11:3; 26:8). Sometimes a sign was a token that would serve as a warning or reminder, such as Aaron’s rod (Num 17:25) and the stones in the Jordan (Josh 4:6). These meanings frequently overlap and the use of the word "sign" may point backward to a historical event or even forward to the fulfillment of a promise.
The term "sign" is also used in connection with the covenants God made with mankind, the patriarchs and the nation of Israel. Covenantal signs include the stars (Gen 1:14), the rainbow (Gen 9:12-13), the Sabbaths (Ex 31:13; Ezek 20:12), salt (Num 18:19), the virgin birth (Isa 7:14; Luke 2:12) and blood (Ex 12:13; Luke 22:20). The sign was/is a visible manifestation of God’s grace and favor, and a perpetual reminder of all the promises included in the covenant. of circumcision: Grk. peritomē. See verse 9 above. Circumcision represented a divine transaction and as part of God's covenant with Abraham circumcision of babies on the eighth day after birth became a mark of God's covenantal relationship with the descendants of Abraham (Gen 17:11).
a seal: Grk. sphragis is an old word for an etched or engraved object pressed into soft wax or clay to seal a document (HELPS). The term also referred to the inscription or impression made by a seal (2Tim 2:19; Rev 9:4); and that by which anything is confirmed, proved, authenticated, as here (Robertson). Use of the term sphragis is a graphic word picture of the permanence of circumcision. of the righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. See verse 3 above. of trusting faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 5 above. Paul alludes to the character quality which God attributed to Abraham who trusted and obeyed. while in: Grk. en, prep. See the previous verse. uncircumcision: Grk. ho akrobustia. See verse 9 above.
to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See the previous verse. the father: Grk. patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor. In the LXX patēr translates ab (SH-2), generally in the literal biological sense, but used here in a fig. sense. of all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. faithfully trusting: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. throughout: Grk. dia, prep., used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, throughout, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The preposition is used here in a metaphorical sense of a state or condition in which one is passing through as through a space (Thayer). uncircumcision: Grk. ho akrobustia.
for: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 3 above. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. to be credited: Grk. logizomai, aor. pass. inf. See verse 3 above. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 3 above. Paul refers to the uncircumcised, probably meaning Gentiles, but also Hellenistic Jews who were despised by traditional Judean Jews. Abraham was the father or forerunner and prototype of righteousness by his trusting faithfulness. Abraham's circumcision was a sign of his trusting faithfulness, much as water immersion is for the disciple of Yeshua. Not only Jews, but Gentiles as well can receive God's favor on the same basis as Abraham without undergoing circumcision. After all, God promised Abraham that he would be a blessing to the nations (Gen 17:4-6).
In the end each person must trust. We cannot rely on the work of Abraham being imputed to us. As John says,
"But as many as received Him, he gave to them power to become children of God, to the ones trusting in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of a man, but of God." (John 1:12-13 BR)
12― and the father of circumcision to those not only of circumcision, but also to those in uncircumcision walking in the steps of faithfulness of our father Abraham.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the father: Grk. patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor, but also in reference to God, which emphasizes both his activity as creator and sustainer. In the LXX patēr translates ab (SH-2), which has the same range of meaning (DNTT 1:616f). of circumcision: Grk. peritomē. See verse 9 above. Paul employs an idiomatic expression, not meaning that Abraham invented circumcision, but that he was the biological father of his circumcised descendants (Gen 17:5; Matt 3:9; John 8:39, 53; Acts 7:2; Jas 2:21). to those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. only: Grk. monon, adv. marking a narrow limitation; merely, just, only. of circumcision: Grk. peritomē.
but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 9 above. also: Grk. kai. to those: pl. of Grk. ho. in: Grk. en, prep. See verse 10 above. uncircumcision: Grk. akrobustia. See verse 9 above. walking: Grk. stoicheō, pres. part., properly, walk in line, in strict accordance to a particular pace; fig. be in agreement with (HELPS). The verb originally came from a military context, to walk in file or standing in a row with others (Gal 5:25; Php 3:16) (Robertson). in the: pl. of Grk. ho. steps: pl. of Grk. ichnos, the impression made by the sole of the foot, foot-step, track. of faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 5 above. of our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. father: Grk. patēr. Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See verse 1 above.
Paul makes two important points. First, Abraham is the spiritual father of both Jews and Gentiles, which derives from the covenantal promise that Abraham would be a blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen 12:3; 17:5). Second, Abraham is only a spiritual father to those who walk in the same trusting faithfulness as he did. Paul also emphasizes the two aspects of faith. Abraham trusted God's Word while he was still uncircumcised, but then that trust manifested itself in faithfulness to God's call. That trust did not just suddenly spring up on the day the promise of a son was given. Abraham had walked by faith (literally) since the time he obeyed the call of God to leave Haran and seek a new land (Gen 12:1-4). So, if we want righteousness to characterize our lives we must walk in the steps of Abraham.
Peter expresses a parallel thought regarding the "steps of Yeshua:"
"For you were called to this, because Messiah also suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you might follow in His footsteps: 22 He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth. 23 When He was abused, He did not return the abuse. While suffering, He made no threats. Instead, He kept entrusting Himself to the One who judges righteously. 24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we, removed from sins, might live for righteousness. By His wounds you were healed." (1Pet 2:21-24 TLV)
It is one thing to follow in the steps of Abraham, quite another to follow in the steps of Yeshua.
The Promise of Abraham, 4:13-25
13― For not through legalism was the promise to Abraham or to his seed that he should be heir of the world, but through righteousness of faithfulness.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 11 above. legalism: Grk. nomos (from nemō, distribute; 'that which is generally recognized as customary') may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. In the LXX nomos translates torah, but torah does not mean simply "law" or "laws" as the English word conveys. Torah means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" and comes from the root yarah, which means to throw, to shoot (as in arrows), or to cast (as in lots) (BDB 435f).
In the Tanakh torah not only refers to commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God and given to Moses, but also custom or manners of man, e.g. direction given by priests (Deut 24:8; 33:10). Torah sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God. In normal Jewish usage in the first century the term Torah could mean the commandments given to Israel at Sinai and Moab (Matt 12:5; John 8:5) or the entire Pentateuch, especially when used in combination with "the Prophets" (Matt 22:40; John 1:45).
Interpreting nomos to mean the Torah in this verse presents a conundrum, because Paul clearly uses nomos here in a negative sense. Christian versions translate nomos as "the law" or "the Law," even though there is no definite article, by which they intend the Torah or "Law of Moses." Paul's negative use of nomos is not an indictment of the commandments God gave to Israel through Moses. In later writings Paul demonstrates a very high view of the Torah and its continuing authority (Rom 7:12, 14; 8:4; 15:4; 1Tim 1:8; 2Tim 3:16-17).
Given the Judaizer heresy, Paul uses nomos here to mean legalism, which is the misuse of Torah as an oppressive system (cf. Matt 23:4; Acts 15:10; Rom 6:14-15; 1Tim 1:8). Legalism originated from customs and traditions of the Pharisees, especially those actions of which one would boast (Luke 18:11-12). These Pharisee expectations created unreasonable burdens on people (Matt 23:4; Acts 15:10). A perfect example is the thirty-nine categories of work prohibited on the Sabbath (Shabbath 73a). The CJB translates nomos here appropriately as "legalism." See the Additional Note below on the subject of legalism.
was the: Grk. ho, definite article. promise: Grk. epangelia, promise, especially associated with God's covenantal promises to Israel. A promise from God is a guaranteed assurance. to Abraham: Grk. ho Abraam. See verse 1 above. In God's covenant with Abraham He made a total of seven promises (Gen 12:2-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:2, 4):
● God would make Abraham into a great nation.
● God would bless those who blessed Abraham and curse those who cursed him.
● God promised that in Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed.
● God promised the land of Canaan for Abraham's descendants.
● God promised that Abraham's descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the dust of the earth.
● God promised Abraham an heir from his body;
● God promised that after 400 years of being oppressed and enslaved God would deliver Abraham's descendants from the oppressor with many possessions.
or: Grk. ē, conj. See verse 9 above. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 3 above. seed: Grk. ho sperma, may refer either to the source (e.g. seed, semen) or the product of propagation (e.g., posterity, descendant). In the LXX sperma renders Heb. zera, sowing, seed for crops, semen, posterity, descendants or mankind collectively (SH-2233; BDB 282), first in Genesis 1:11. The singular sperma/zera can have a collective meaning. In the context of promises God made to Abraham, the mention of zera occurs ten times (Gen 12:7; 13:15, 16, 17; 15:5, 18; 17:7-8; 21:12; 22:17-18). Paul uses "seed" here in its ordinary figurative sense to mean Abraham’s descendants, not only his physical seed, but (at verse 16 below) his spiritual seed (Stern).
that: Grk. ho, used as a demonstrative pronoun. he: Grk. autos; i.e., Abraham. should be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 10 above. heir: Grk. klēronomos refers to that which is apportioned, an inheritor in a legal sense, heir. More frequently the word means to be a recipient of a share in something, with focus on experience of divine conferral of promised benefits. of the world: Grk. kosmos has a variety of uses in the Besekh and other Jewish literature, including (1) the orderly universe; (2) the earth as the place of habitation; (3) the world as mankind, sometimes in reference to a segment of population; and (4) representative of people and values opposed to God.
In the LXX kosmos occurs five times for Heb. tsaba, the "hosts of heaven and earth," i.e., the stars (Gen 2:1; Deut 4:19), but the meaning of kosmos as "the world of mankind" is only found in later Greek writings of the LXX (2Macc. 7:23; 8:18; 4Macc. 5:25; Sir. 6:30; 21:21; Wis. 7:17; 9:3; 11:18). A number of passages in the Besekh use "world" to refer to the nations outside the land of Israel (Matt 24:14; Luke 12:30; John 14:22), but the term is also used in some passages of the Jewish world (John 3:17; 6:14, 33; 12:47; 14:19; 16:28; 17:6).
Kosmos is used here in the sense of the inhabited world, and as Stern notes, citing Kittel (TDNT 3.888), its sense "merges into that of the nations of the world," as found in several passages (Gen 12:1–3, 15:3–5, 17:2–7, 18:18; 22:17–18). These passages are not the same as the ones in which it is promised that Abraham and his descendants would inherit the Land of Israel (Gen 12:7, 13:14–17, 15:7–21, 17:7–8, 24:7). Naming Abraham as heir of the world also includes all those considered to be the true children of Abraham, all the nations that would come to serve and worship the God of Abraham (cf. Luke 13:16; 19:9; Rom 9:6-8; Gal 3:7-8).
but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 9 above. through: Grk. dia. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. See verse 3 above. of faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 5 above. Paul again asserts that not only did God reckon righteousness to Abraham on the basis of his faithfulness, but that he would be heir of the world on the same basis. Christians typically misconstrue Paul's argument. The faulty assumption is that Abraham's faith and resulting righteousness were not based on "Law," because there was no Law; it had not been given yet. However, God's certainly gave commandments that established His standard of righteousness long before Israel entered into the covenant of Torah at Mt. Sinai (Gen 1:26-30; 2:16-17; 3:16-19; 4:11-12; 6:5-7; 9:1-7; 18:19-20; 20:3; 26:5, 10; Ex 15:26; 16:28; Job 24:14).
Additional Note: Legalism
Among Christians the term "legalism" usually means either doing good works to earn salvation and/or imposing narrow pietistic rules on believers. Many Jews in the first century ascribed to the notion of the meritorious nature of good works, particularly almsgiving, prayer and fasting (cf. Matt 6:1-5; Rom 10:3). In apocryphal works, giving alms could gain atonement and forgiveness for past sins (Tobit 12:8-9; Sirach 3:14-15). There was a rabbinic saying: "Greater is he who gives alms than he who offers all sacrifices" (Barclay 1:187). Yeshua discussed this subject in his Sermon on the Mount. See my commentary on Matthew 6:1, 4, 6, 17-18).
As serious as the subject of grace versus earning salvation is, this was not the only aspect of the controversy that flared between Yeshua and his Pharisee opponents. The foundational error in legalism was the unlawful use of the laws given to Israel in a way God never intended, as Paul says, "But we know that the Torah is good, if one uses it legitimately" (1Tim 1:8 TLV).
The misuse of the Torah, as practiced by certain Pharisees, was at least fourfold. The first misuse was the casuistic application of Torah, i.e., pitting one commandment against another or elevating some commandments over others. Yeshua condemned the hypocrisy of rigorous observance of tithing and the Sabbath while neglecting the "weightier matters" of the Torah (Matt 12:1-12; 23:23).
The second misuse of the Torah was treating man-made traditions and rules as equivalent to or more important than the written commandments given to Moses. Neither Yeshua nor Paul had any dispute with following traditions that had been created to help foster respect and obedience to Torah (Matt 23:1-3; Acts 23:6; Gal 1:14). However, Yeshua strenuously objected to using a tradition to enable disobedience of core commandments (Matt 15:1-6; 23:14).
The third misuse of the Torah was treating Torah commandments as a wall to separate the righteous from the sinners (cf. Matt 9:11-13; 23:13). In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), the Pharisee congratulates himself on being better than the worst sinners and the tax collector who was despised for his association with the hated Romans. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), the priest and Levite ignore the needs of an injured man to maintain ritual purity.
The fourth misuse of the Torah was parsing the meaning of words in the Torah in order to excuse selfish decisions and injustice, such as divorcing wives for personal expedience (Matt 19:3) and classifying healing as work and thereby condemning Yeshua's ministry on the Sabbath (Matt 12:10).
14― For if those of legalism are heirs, the faithfulness of Abraham has been made void and the promise has been nullified;
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. if: Grk. ei, conj. See verse 2 above. Paul introduces a hypothetical premise which he will then rebut. those: pl. of Grk. ho, used as a demonstrative pronoun. of: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "within." See verse 2 above. legalism: Grk. nomos. See the previous verse. Paul alludes to his fellow Pharisees in general and Judaizers in particular. are heirs: pl. of Grk. klēronomos. See the previous verse. Pharisees clearly viewed themselves as "heirs of the world" in the age to come, because of their devotion to Torah (cf. Luke 18:11). The Sages express their point of view:
"One who has acquired unto himself words of Torah has acquired for himself the life of the world to come." (Avot 2:7)
"When you behave as sons you are designated sons; if you do not behave as sons, you are not designated sons." (Kiddushin 36a)
"All Israel has a portion in the world to come." (Sanhedrin 11:1)
"R. Aba ben Elyashiv said: the statutes (chukkim) which bring a man to the life of the world to come, as it is written "And it shall come to pass that every survivor shall be in Zion, and everyone who is left, in Jerusalem; "holy" shall be said of him, everyone inscribed for life in Jerusalem." (Isaiah 4:3) Those who are occupied with Torah, which is the tree of life..." (Leviticus Rabbah 35)
Thus, the Pharisees were not relying on the merit of Abraham as Stern suggests (see the Additional Note above), but upon their own merit. The reference to "all Israel" is qualified by excluding Israelites who say the Torah was not divinely revealed. For the Pharisees the definition of "Torah" included the rulings and traditions of the great Sages. The Pharisees claimed their traditions were the result of divine revelation to Moses at Sinai, which he then transmitted to his successors (Avot 1:1; Eruvin 54b). Thus, Pharisee traditions are equivalent in authority as the written Torah (cf. Matt 15:2-6; 19:7-8; 23:2; Luke 6:2-9; 13:10; John 5:10; Acts 15:1).
the: Grk. ho, definite article. faithfulness of Abraham : Grk. pistis. See verse 5 above. The noun alludes to the faithfulness of Abraham mentioned in the previous verse. has been made void: Grk. kenoō, perf. pass., make empty, and thereby to make void and of no effect. and: Grk. kai, conj. the promise: Grk. epangelia. See the previous verse. has been nullified: Grk. katargeō, perf. pass., cause to become idle, ineffective or inoperative; annul, abolish. The verb occurs 27 times in the Besekh, all but one in the letters of Paul. Legalism is contrary to a covenantal relationship and defeats the basis used by God to reckon righteousness.
15― for the Torah brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is transgression.
for: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. the: Grk. ho, definite article. Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 13 above. The definite article indicates the Torah as the body of instruction God gave to Israel. brings about: Grk. katergazomai, pres. mid., to cause an outcome, here with focus on a result; bring about, effect, produce, accomplish. wrath: Grk. orgē, anger, indignation or wrath. In the Besekh orgē, occurring 36 times, is used of human anger (Eph 4:31), but primarily divine wrath at the end of the age (Rom 2:5; Eph 2:3; 1Th 1:10; Heb 3:11). The noun "wrath" is shorthand for the "wrath of God." In the LXX orgē is used to translate eight different Hebrew words for anger (DNTT 1:108). Greek has only two words for anger (the other being thumos, e.g., Rom 2:8).
The Hebrew words for anger are most often used of the wrath of YHVH, first against Moses (Ex 4:14), next against Egypt (Ex 15:7), next against Israel for worshipping the golden calf (Ex 32:9), and then against Israel for grumbling (Num 11:1). Moses later reminded Israel of the various occasions in the wilderness years that the Israelites provoked God's wrath (Deut 9:7-8) and announced the judgment God would take against the nation in the future for disobedience and rebellion (Deut 28:15-68; 29:22-28). Thereafter, most of the references to God's wrath in the Tanakh pertain to punishment of Israel for sinning.
Paul's argument is that promises cannot be based on Law, because Law includes wrath, or God's punishment for violation. Paul implies that his Jewish opponent cannot claim the right to be an heir based on his supposed compliance with legalistic standards. Yeshua pointed out repeatedly the hypocrisy of Pharisees who violated Torah while insisting on their legalistic rules.
but: Grk. de, conj. See verse 4 above. where: Grk. hou, adv., where, whither, when, in what place. there is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 10 above. no: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. law: Grk. nomos. neither: Grk. oude, adv., negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative; neither, not even, nor. is transgression: Grk parabasis, diversion from a path; transgression, violation. The noun refers to a willful act and not a mistake of ignorance. In the LXX parabasis occurs only in Psalm 101:3 to translate the participle of Heb. sut (SH-7750), to swerve or fall away. In that context the noun refers to someone who performs wicked acts.
The second half of the verse repeats the axiom of 3:20 as a reverse proposition. See the commentary there. He will reiterate this principle in 5:13 and 7:7. Sin is a transgression of God’s Torah, the commandments given to Moses (and reiterated in the New Testament). Motive or intention does not have a bearing on whether an act violates God's commandments. For example, causing a death accidentally was still treated as a violation of Torah and required an atonement sacrifice (cf. Ex 21:12; Lev 4:1-3; Deut 19:1-6). A sin, then, can only exist if there is a law defining prohibited behavior. No law - no sin. Man's customs and traditions, no matter how religious and well-intentioned, do not have the authority to define sin.
Paul's actual point has nothing to do with the classification of sinful behavior. Rather, he is illustrating the limitation of the Law that sets up his point in verse 16. He does the same thing in Galatians 5:22-23 where he lists fruit of the Spirit and adds the curious comment, "against such things there is no law." The Law or legalistic obedience to it cannot produce faith or the fruit of the Spirit. Conversely, the Law does not restrict these spiritual attributes, especially who may exhibit them. Yeshua made this point repeatedly in his healing on the Sabbath - "so then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath," (Matt 12:12).
16― Because of this being from trusting faithfulness, that it may be according to grace for the promise to be guaranteed to all the seed, not only to those of the Torah, but also to those of the faithfulness of Abraham, who is the father of all of us,
Because of: Grk. dia, prep., used here to express causality. See verse 11 above. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 9 above. The Greek phrase "because of this" expresses the reason or cause on account of which anything is or is done, or ought to be done for this cause; for this reason; therefore; on this account; since this is so (Thayer). The phrase alludes to the basis for reckoning righteousness. being from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. trusting faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 5 above. that it may be: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 1 above. grace: Grk. charis. See verse 4 above.
for: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 3 above. the promise: Grk. epangelia. See verse 13 above. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 10 above. guaranteed: Grk. bebaios, adj. (from bainō, "to walk where it is solid"), solid or sure enough to walk on; hence, firm, unshakable; fig. absolutely dependable, giving guaranteed support (HELPS). to all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 11 above. the: Grk. ho, definite article. seed: Grk. sperma. See verse 13 above. The noun is singular but used in a collective sense. The phrase "all the seed" is equivalent to "all Israel" (Rom 9:6; 11:26), but while the covenantal promises are for all the descendants of Abraham through Isaac (Rom 9:4, 7; Gal 4:28), Paul qualifies the expression in Romans 9:6 since many Israelites in history were "cut off" from salvation because of rebellion.
not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. only: Grk. monon, adv. See verse 12 above. to those: Grk. ho, but used as a demonstrative pronoun. of the: Grk. ho. Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 13 above. Christian versions have "the Law." The phrase "those of the Torah" is idiomatic for Jewish followers of Yeshua. The phrase also affirms their continued commitment to living by Torah commandments (Acts 10:14; 21:20), which also characterized the life of Paul (Acts 21:24; 22:3; 24:14; 25:8). Paul reiterates the principle that the good news of God's covenantal grace is for the Jew first (Rom 1:16).
but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 9 above. also: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 3 above. to those: Grk. ho, but used as a demonstrative pronoun. of: Grk. ek, prep. the faithfulness: Grk. pistis. of Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See verse 1 above. The phrase "those of the faithfulness of Abraham" is idiomatic for Gentile followers of Yeshua. The phrase also affirms their devotion to living by the commandments of God as Abraham did, so that their lives manifest heart circumcision (Rom 2:26-29). Paul reiterates the principle that the good news of God's covenantal grace is also for the nations (Rom 1:5, 16). God is the God of the Gentiles also (Rom 3:29).
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 6 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 10 above. the father: Grk. patēr. See verse 11 above. of all: pl. of Grk. pas. of us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The great majority of versions translate the adjective/pronoun as "us all," but the literal "all of us" captures a nuance of meaning of the entire Body of Messiah consisting of diverse members. Congregations in the apostolic era included traditional Jews, Hellenistic Jews, Samaritan Jews, Gentile proselytes, God-fearing Gentiles, men, women, slaves, and free persons (e.g., Gal 3:28; Col 3:11).
Paul sums up the argument of verses 1-15. Righteousness is "reckoned" according to a person's faithfulness and faithfulness cannot be legalistically defined. The grace and blessing of God is intended not only for the faithful Jew but also to Gentiles who have the faithfulness of Abraham. With the declaration of Abraham being the father of all Paul sets forth the election of the Gentiles whom God intended to be a part of the commonwealth of Israel (Gen 35:11; Eph 2:11-13). As God promised the nations:
"To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. (Isa 56:5 TLV)
17― as it is written that, "A father of many nations have I made you," before whom he trusted God, the One giving life to the dead and calling the things not being even being.
Source: Genesis 17:5
as: Grk. kathōs, adv. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document. The phrase "it is written" is the standard formula in the Besekh for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, normally followed by a quote from the Tanakh. that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The third usage applies here. Paul then quotes from Genesis 17:5.
A father: Grk. patēr. See verse 11 above. The noun refers to Abraham. of many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, here of quantity. nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. In the LXX ethnos generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "nation, people" (DNTT 2:790). The plural form ethnōn, like goyim in the Tanakh, is generally used to mean non-Israelite peoples or Gentiles (e.g., Matt 6:32; Luke 12:30; Acts 4:25; 13:48; 22:21; Rom 2:14; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:9). The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations. Paul quotes from Genesis 17:5 to underscore his point. The election of Gentiles was never intended to make them a separate people from Israel. Paul elaborates on this theme later in the letter. God accomplishes the calling and inclusion of Gentiles in the same manner as in the past.
have I made: Grk. tithēmi, perf., may mean (1) to arrange for association with a site, place or put; or (2) arrange for creation of role or status, make or appoint. The second meaning applies here. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. before: Grk. katenanti, adv., marker indicating that an entity is opposite or in front of another entity; opposite, in front of, in the sight of. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 6 above. he trusted: Grk. pisteuō, aor. See verse 3 above. God: Grk. theos. See verse 2 above. the One: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun and circumlocution for God. See verse 5 above. giving life: Grk. zōopoieō, cause to be alive, make alive, give life to.
to the dead: Grk. ho nekros may be used as (1) a noun, corpse or (2) adj., without life in the physical sense, being dead. and: Grk. kai, conj. calling: Grk. kaleō, pres. part., to identify by name or give a term to; call. the things: neut. pl. of Grk. ho. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 10 above. as: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components; used here to denote a substantive transition, for practical purposes meaning "into." being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. Paul asserts the creation principle of ex nihilo ("out of nothing"). There was no "big bang," only a "Big Word" (John 1:1-3). God spoke matter into existence. The universe did not begin with matter already in existence as evolution teaches.
God said, "Let there be" (Gen 1:3) and it happened. It did not take God billions of years to speak those words. A psalmist declared: "For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" (Ps 33:9 NASB). Paul affirmed, "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible" (Heb 11:3 NASB). Most versions reverse Paul's statement with "calls into being that which does not exist" (NASB) or words to that effect. The creation principle also applies to the chosen people. The Jews were not a people until God called Abraham and gave him promises that he fulfilled in the call of Moses and the covenant at Sinai. In the same way God gives life to Gentiles, dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1).
18― who in the presence of 'hope upon hope' he trusted, for him to become a father of many nations, according to that having been spoken, "So shall be your seed."
Source: Genesis 15:5; 17:5
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 6 above. The pronoun refers to Abraham. in the presence of: Grk. para, prep., with the root meaning of beside (DM 108), conveys association between persons, things, or circumstances, which may denote (1) a point of origin, from; or (2) a close association or proximity with; alongside, beside, in the presence of. The second usage applies here. Many versions have "against," which fails to recognize the following word picture. hope: Grk. elpis, may refer to (1) a state of looking forward to something that is desirable, or (2) the basis of firm expectation. The second usage applies here. In the LXX elpis occurs over 70 times, first to translate a Hebrew construction meaning to "set one's heart on" (Deut 24:15).
It is important to note that the opening clause of this verse reflects Paul's analysis. Hebrew has four nouns meaning "hope", and four main verbs that mean to hope, all connected to the idea of longing or waiting for (DNTT 2:239). None of these Hebrew nouns or verbs appear in the narrative of Abraham. Of interest is that elpis does occur in the book of Job, a contemporary of Abraham, a dozen times to translate tiqvah (SH-8615), hope, ground of hope, things hoped for. Tiqvah also means "cord" and is used of the scarlet cord Rahab used to signal her location (Josh 2:18, 21). The cord was her hope of safety.
upon: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 5 above. hope: Grk. elpis. The specific construction elpida ep elpidi ("hope upon hope") used by Paul occurs in Isaiah 28:10, 13, where it translates qav l'qav "line upon line." The term qav (SH-6957) is used of a cord or line used for measuring, and fig. of repetition. Thus, "hope upon hope" appears to be an idiomatic expression for the experience of Abraham and Sarah of year after year enduring expectation followed by disappointment in the failure of Sarah to get pregnant. he trusted: Grk. pisteuō, aor. See verse 3 above. Abraham was not a defeated pessimist who believed it was impossible for him to father a child. Rather, Abraham was a realist given the fact that Sarah had been barren from the moment of their marriage (Gen 11:30).
Paul insists that in spite of the years of disappointment Abraham did not lessen his devotion to God. Rather he derived hope from God's promise that he would beget children and have descendants (Gen 15:4, 13-16). for: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 3 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. to become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The third meaning applies here.
a father: Grk. patēr. See verse 11 above. of many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See the previous verse. nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See the previous verse. The phrase "a father of many nations" is derived from Genesis 17:5. according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 1 above. that: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having been spoken: Grk. ereō, perf. pass. part. Paul then quotes from Genesis 15:5. So: Grk. houtōs, adv., particle used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done, is expressed or to be done; thus, so, in this manner, in this way. shall be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 10 above. your: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. seed: Grk. ho sperma. See verse 13 above. The singular noun is used here in a collective sense.
This declaration to Abraham was offered in the context of God illustrating his promise of an heir by challenging Abraham to count the stars and assuring him that his "seed" would be just as numerous. Astronomers have estimated there are 1025 (10 million billion billion) stars in the universe. Other passages also correlate the number of the patriarchal descendants to the number of stars (Gen 26:4; Ex 32:13; Deut 1:10; 10:22; 28:62; 1Chron 27:23; Neh 9:23; Heb 11:12). The Genesis narrative engages in a kind of word play because Abraham is challenged to "count" the stars.
At the time the Torah was written the population of Israel ran into the millions, but these numbers were vastly more than the number of visible stars that may be seen without the aid of a telescope, about four thousand (BBMS 156). Whether Abraham assumed that he would have descendants equivalent to the number of stars he could see in the nighttime sky is not stated. God may have meant that just as Abraham did not have the ability to count the stars, he could not possibly comprehend the numbers of his descendants, both biologically and spiritually. All Abraham wanted was a son, but God wanted him to see the big picture.
19― and not having become weak in trusting faithfulness he considered the body of himself, now having become as dead, being about a hundred years old, and the deadness of the womb of Sarah;
Source: Genesis 17:17
and: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 3 above. not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, not. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265). having become weak: Grk. astheneō, aor. part., may mean (1) experience weakness in body, be sick; or (2) lack capacity for something, be weak, be deficient; or (3) lack necessities, be in need. The second meaning applies here. in trusting faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 5 above. Paul emphasizes that Abraham's trust in God and faithfulness to God did not diminish over time.
he considered: Grk. katanoeō, aor., to pay close attention to, to take a close look at, consider carefully. the body: Grk. sōma, a structured physical unit in contrast to its parts, body of human or animal, whether living or dead, but normally of a human body. of himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person to denote that the agent and the person acted on are the same. now: Grk. ēdē, adv. with focus on temporal culmination, now, already. having become as dead: Grk. nekroō, perf. pass. part., may mean (1) to put to death in a physical sense; (2) to mortify or to subjugate (the body, passions, etc.) by abstinence, ascetic discipline, or self-inflicted suffering (LSJ). HELPS adds a third meaning, to be deprived of energizing power, which is applicable here. In this context nekroō is a functional synonym for astheneō. Abraham was not physically dead.
being: Grk. huparchō, pres. part., to function or be in a state as determined by circumstance, here of condition; be. about: Grk. pou, adverb indicating that precision about a datum is not a matter of concern; somewhere about. a hundred years old: Grk. hekatontaetēs, a hundred years. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh. Paul's observation reflects a saying of Pharisee Sages, "At a hundred, one is as one that is dead, having passed and ceased from the world" (Avot 5:22). Abraham eventually lived to become 175 years old (Gen 25:7) and Sarah 127 years (Gen 23:1). After the patriarchal age lifespan decreased significantly and reaching one hundred was considered a major milestone.
When Moses died at 120 years, Joshua noted that "his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated" (Deut 34:7 NASB). For himself Moses considered reaching the age of 70 as a normal blessing of God, but 80 was owing to special strength (Ps 90:10). In the Mishnah the Pharisee Sages described seventy as the time for white hair and eighty as the time for new or special strength of age (Avot 5:21). It should be noted that "strength" as applied to eighty means the condition of health, not one's productivity. In the time of the new earth the age of one hundred will be considered youthful (Isa 65:20).
Moses not only spoke retrospectively in Psalm 90, but as it turned out prophetically. Although there are many people today who live well past 80, modern medicine has not actually made a significant difference in the average life expectancy from birth, which as of the year 2017 in the U.S. is 78.6 years (see Centers for Disease Control, Life Expectancy). Global life expectancy is currently 73.2 years. For specific countries see the World Life Expectancy Map. Moses' analogy that man's days are like grass, which springs up in the morning and is gone by evening (Ps 90:5), is still apt.
and: Grk. kai. the deadness: Grk. nekrosis, a state of death or lifeless condition. The noun is used here to refer to barrenness. of the: Grk. ho, definite article. womb: Grk. mētra, the womb, and in anatomical terms the uterus of a woman. of Sarah: Grk. Sarra, a transliteration of Heb. Sarah (SH-8283), "princess." Sarah first appears in Scripture as the changed name for Sarai, Abraham's wife (Gen 11:29). Sarah was also a half-sister of Abraham, sharing the same father (Gen 20:12). Sarah is depicted as a strong but submissive woman (cf. Gen 18:12; 21:9-12; 1Pet 3:6). When Abraham was 100, Sarah was 90.
Paul alludes to narrative in which Abraham laughed at the announcement of God that Sarah would bear a child and wondered to himself, "Will a child be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah give birth at ninety?" (Gen 17:17 CJB). There is no evidence that Abraham was infertile. Rather, the weakness or "deadness" of Abraham was his inability to impregnate Sarah. Even Sarah assumed he could father a child by Hagar (Gen 16:1-4) and the passage to which Paul alludes occurred after the birth of Ishmael. God had effectively closed Sarah's womb (cf. Gen 20:18; 1Sam 1:5-6) and Abraham was powerless to beget life in her.
20― Indeed for the promise of God, he wavered not in unbelief but was strengthened in faithfulness, having given glory to God,
Source: Genesis 17:3
Indeed: Grk. de, conj. See verse 4 above. for: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 3 above. the promise: Grk. epangelia. See verse 13 above. of God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 2 above. God made seven promises to Abraham, but probably the promise of a son of his own body is intended here (Gen 15:4). he wavered: Grk. diakrinō, aor. pass., to judge or distinguish between categories, to discriminate, to hesitate or to waver. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. in unbelief: Grk. apistia, refusal to give credence to; lack of faith, unbelief. but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 2 above.
was strengthened: Grk. endunamoō, aor. pass., empower, enable or strengthen in a physical sense and by extension of inner strength or empowerment. in faithfulness: Grk. ho pistis. See verse 5 above. While waiting for the promise to be fulfilled Abraham was persistently loyal to God. His faithfulness was not an isolated act on one day, but a commitment manifested every day of his life. He kept on believing in spite of the evidence that would cause lesser men to doubt God.
having given: Grk. didōmi, aor. part., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity, but may be used to mean bestow, hand over, impart, entrust, yield, put, or sacrifice (BAG). In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan (SH-5414, first in Gen 1:29), to give, put or set, with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:41). glory: Grk. doxa originally meant opinion, conjecture, praise or repute in secular Greek in regard to what one thought about a person or thing. In the LXX doxa renders Heb. kabod (pronounced "kah-vohd"), "abundance, honor, glory" (SH-3519; BDB 458). Kabod does include the meanings of dignity of position, reputation of character and the reverence due to or ascribed to someone, and is frequently used for the honor brought or given to God (e.g., Ps 29:1; Isa 42:12). In the Besekh doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45).
to God: Grk. ho theos. The idiomatic expression "giving glory to God" may acclaim the might of His creative power (Ps 19:1), laud His covenant faithfulness (Ps 115:1), or extol the greatness of His kingdom (Ps 145:11-12). In legal settings giving God glory meant to openly tell the truth before the Judge of the universe (cf. Josh 7:19; 1Sam 6:5). Paul probably alludes to the narrative anecdote that when ADONAI appeared to Abraham at the age of ninety-nine and reiterated His covenant promises, Abraham "fell on his face" (Gen 17:3). The verbal description denotes falling prostrate in humble adoration and reverence. Gill offers this comment on Genesis 17:3:
"At the sight of so glorious a Person that appeared to him, and in reverence of his majesty, and as sensible of his unworthiness of such a visit, and of having such favors bestowed upon him; and not because he was not as yet circumcised, as the Targum of Jonathan expresses it; and so other Jewish writers observe, that before he was circumcised he fell, when God spoke to him, but afterwards he sat and stood, Genesis 18:1."
21 and having been fully assured that what God had promised, God is able also to perform.
and: Grk. kai, conj. having been fully assured: Grk. plērophoreō, aor. pass. part., to reach a point at which nothing is lacking, here with the focus on an inner confidence; fully convinced, totally satisfied. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse x above. what: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 6 above. God had promised: Grk. epangellomai, perf. mid., to promise something in the sense of a commitment. God is the subject of the verb. God is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 10 above. able: Grk. dunatos, adj., may mean (1) having power, competence or ability, able, powerful; or (2) capable of being realized, possible, realizable. The first meaning applies here.
also: Grk. kai. to perform: Grk. poieō, aor. inf., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX poieō renders chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity.
The background of Paul's point here is that Abraham had failed to produce a child, let alone a son. If Abraham informed Sarah of God's promise of a child from his loins (Gen 15:4), then Sarah's decision to give him Hagar makes sense (Gen 16:2). God had said nothing about ending Sarah's barrenness and Sarah rightly concluded that God had prevented her from having a child. Abraham then became a father at age 86 when Ishmael was born (Gen 16:16), but in 14 years he had not produced another child of Hagar and, of course, none with Sarah. Abraham may not have understood why he had not produced another child, but he kept his faith in God's promise. Abraham was assured by special revelation that what he wasn't able to accomplish God would perform.
22 Therefore also it was credited to him for righteousness.
Source: Genesis 15:6
Therefore: Grk. dio (from dia, "through," and hos, "which"), inferential conj., therefore, for this reason, on account of which, wherefore. also: Grk. kai, conj. Paul then repeats verbatim the affirmation about Abraham found in verse 3 above. Not only was the trusting faithfulness of Abraham reckoned as righteousness, but also his holding on to assurance that God was able to perform His promise.
23― Now it was written not for the sake of him alone that it was credited to him,
Source: Genesis 15:6
Now: Grk. de, conj. it was written: Grk. graphō, aor. pass. See verse 17 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. for the sake of: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 11 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 3 above. The pronoun refers to Abraham. alone: Grk. monon, adj. See verse 12 above. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 17 above. The conjunction is used here to introduce the quotation. it was credited: Grk. logizomai, aor. pass. See verse 3 above. to him: Grk. autos. Paul alludes to the purpose of the Hebrew Scriptures, the only Bible he knew.
but: Grk. de, conj., also: Grk. kai, conj. on account of: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 11 above. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The pronoun refers to the constituent members of the Body of Messiah, Jews and Gentiles. Since Abraham’s trusting faithfulness was considered as righteousness, so we may receive the blessing of Abraham and become a child of Abraham by trusting (and keep on trusting) in God’s salvation provision through Yeshua. to whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 6 above. it is: Grk. mellō, pres., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to, be going to, whether in the near or relatively distant future. The verb is used "in general of what is sure to happen" (Thayer).
The great majority of versions treat the verb as referring to a future event, "will be," but this leaves Paul's intention uncertain. When is "will be?" In Greek literature the verb was also used to mean "to be destined or likely to, indicating an estimated certainty or strong probability in the present" (LSJ). being credited: Grk. logizomai, pres. pass. inf. See verse 3 above. The KJV and NKJV have "imputed," but most versions have "credited." Paul does not refer to an event that has already happened, but a present and ongoing transaction. Thus, the phrase mellei logiszesthai is treated as a concurrent activity with the following verb. to those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. trusting: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. Those actively trusting are being simultaneously credited.
on: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 5 above. the One: Grk. ho, but used here as a circumlocution for the Heavenly Father. having resurrected: Grk. egeirō, aor. part., to rise or raise from a recumbent or lower position. Egeirō appears frequently in the Besekh in reference to resurrection. As a Pharisee Paul already believed in resurrection to occur on the last day, but meeting Yeshua on the Damascus Road convinced him that Yeshua had indeed conquered death. The verb egeirō appears in Yeshua's prophecies of being raised on the third day from his arrest (Matt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Luke 9:22; 24:6). The verb graphically depicts the prone corpse of Yeshua lying on a tomb shelf being reanimated and transformed by the return of his spirit so that he could rise to an erect position and leave the tomb.
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For more information on the meaning of his name and his titles, see my article Who is Yeshua?
our: Grk. hēmeis. Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, the great majority of times to replace Heb. YHVH (DNTT 2:511). Luke probably intends the title as a reference to Yeshua. Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry. The frequent use of kurios to address Yeshua in the flesh would not have considered deity. The apostles meant kurios in the sense of Heb. adôn, because Yeshua is the owner-master of his disciples.
from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. death: Grk. nekros may be used as (1) a noun, corpse or (2) adj., without life in the physical sense, being dead. The term, of course, applies to Yeshua's body, not his spirit. There is no equivocation in the apostolic narratives and letters that Yeshua was dead when he was taken down from the cross and laid in a tomb. Although nekros lacks the definite article most versions render the term as a noun "the dead," which may be misleading. When people die the spirit goes either to Heaven or Hades (Luke 16:22). Many Christians believe that Yeshua went to Hades after he died and was resurrected from there as declared in the Apostles' Creed.
However, Scripture does not say anywhere that Yeshua descended into Hades, which is a place of torment and punishment and the abode of demons and fallen angels. (For this unbiblical claim see my article Is the Apostles' Creed Apostolic?) Paul means "death" as a condition or state. Several versions render nekros here as "death" (ERV, GNB, ICB, NMB, WE). Unlike previously resurrected people who had to die again, Yeshua was given victory over death so that he could never die again. Paul asserts numerous times that it was God who raised Yeshua from the dead (Acts 26:8; Rom 6:4, 9; 7:4; 8:11, 34; 10:9; 1Cor 6:14; 15:4, 12-17, 20; 2Cor 4:14; 5:15; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:20; Col 2:12; 1Thess 1:10; 2Tim 2:8). Yeshua did not resurrect himself.
25― who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was resurrected for the sake of our righteousification.
Paul concludes this section of his letter with a traditional liturgical phrase, which functions almost as a benediction (Shulam). This verse actually continues the thought of the previous verse. Paul asserts two important truths that not only are a reminder of two historical events in their chronological order but are also parallel to one another in their purpose and outcome.
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun; i.e., Yeshua. was delivered: Grk. paradidōmi, aor. pass., to convey from one position to another, in general "to hand over," in this case a reference to subjecting Yeshua to arrest and a judicial process (Matt 17:22; 20:18; 27:2). Some versions add "to death" (CJB, GW, NOG, NIV, NRSV, RSV), although the Greek term is not used in connected with the verb. The verb also carries the nuance of betrayal and treachery (John 6:64). Paul omits any mention of the betrayer's name here as the verb is associated in the apostolic narratives with Judas Iscariot (Matt 26:25; Mark 14:10; Luke 22:48; John 13:2). Paul does use the verb in the sense of the betrayal of Yeshua in his instruction on the Lord's Supper (1Cor 11:23).
The verb does not occur in any of Paul's sermons recorded in Acts, but elsewhere Paul employs paradidōmi to say that the Father delivered Yeshua (Rom 8:32) and that Yeshua delivered himself as a sacrificial offering (Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2, 25). In contrast Peter used the verb to rebuke Paul's Pharisee colleagues and to graphically summarize their wicked actions involved in precipitating the execution of Yeshua (Acts 3:13). In his Pentecost sermon Peter charged the Judean rulers with unlawful killing in the death of Yeshua (Acts 2:23), as did Stephen (Acts 7:52). Paul generally prefers to say simply that Yeshua died for us (Rom 5:6, 8; 6:10; 8:34; 14:9; 1Cor 8:11; 15:3; 2Cor 5:14; Gal 2:21; 1Th 5:10).
because of: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 11 above. Paul is not using the preposition to indicate agency, because he has already warned that man's unrighteousness cannot make a claim on God's grace (Rom 3:5-6). The preposition is key to understanding the parallel nature as well as the distinction between the important verbs in the two truths. With the following noun in the accusative case the preposition denotes the ground or reason on account of which the action was taken; by reason of, because of (Thayer). The great majority of versions translate the preposition simply as "for."
our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Paul may have meant the personal pronoun "our" in the sense of identification with the Sanhedrin who conducted the illegal trial and condemnation of Yeshua. There is no evidence that Paul was present, but he was in agreement with their decision at the time. However, Paul is not providing a basis for blaming the entire Jewish people to whom he belonged. A great tragedy of history is that the Church used the rhetoric of the apostles to justify the false charge that the Jewish people are guilty of deicide. The charge of deicide, which became the basis for institutional discrimination and persecution of Jews by Christians, persisted for centuries. Not until 1965 did the Roman Catholic Church officially repudiate the deicide charge. (See the declaration of Pope Paul VI.)
transgressions: pl. of Grk. paraptōma, transgression, a falling along side, a false step (Rienecker). The word points to violation of Torah commandments. The term does not imply the degree of intention. Paul has already established the reality that all have sinned and sinners deserve death (1:18-32; 3:10-18, 23). This term reinforces the truth that the Torah had not been canceled, since Torah is the standard by which sin is defined (Rom 3:20; 4:15; 7:7). Many Christians prefer the Torah to be canceled in order to make themselves the final arbiter of morality and exercise the freedom to choose which commands of Yeshua and the apostles to obey. To cancel the Torah is nothing less than an excuse for sinning.
The clause "delivered because of our transgressions" summarizes the reason for the death of Yeshua. God wanted fellowship with human beings but the sinfulness of mankind had separated people from their Creator. Motivated by love God determined to provide a remedy in order to bring about reconciliation. The remedy, shocking in its conception, was graphically predicted by David in Psalm 22 and by Isaiah in the Servant Song of Isaiah 53. Paul essentially repeats the assertion of Isaiah 53:5, "He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities" (TLV).
Christian interpretation treats the first clause in this verse as laying the basis for the imputation of righteousness (Murray). Yet, according to Isaiah 53:5 the voluntary surrender to death was to provide spiritual healing for the soul and the nation of Israel, not just to provide a legal acquittal of the charge of sin and the basis for treating someone as righteous without their being righteous. The blood of Yeshua is completely efficacious to satisfy the justice of God, to remove the stain of sin, to cleanse the conscience and to produce a new creation (Eph 1:7; 2:13; Col 1:20; Heb 9:14; 13:12).
and: Grk. kai, conj. was resurrected: Grk. egeirō, aor. pass. See the previous verse. The aorist tense denotes a completed event in the past and the passive voice again emphasizes that Yeshua did not resurrect himself. for the sake of: Grk. dia, prep. The repetition of the preposition accomplishes the same purpose as its previous mention. The plan of God was not limited to just atoning for sins, but just as important made provision for the transformation of lives. our: Grk. hēmeis. The pronoun refers first to the Jewish people and then to Gentiles as the object of God's redemptive actions (Rom 1:16).
righteousification: Grk. dikaiōsis, justification, vindication, or acquittal as a process as well as its result (BAG). LSJ has "setting right, doing justice to." In Classical Greek the term has a range of meaning including (a) condemnation, punishment; (b) acquittal; (c) just claim; (d) discretion or judgment as to what is just or unjust (DNTT 3:354). In classical usage the term is closely associated with the pressing need to be released from deserved punishment (HELPS). The word occurs only twice in the Besekh (also at Rom 5:18).
In the LXX dikaiōsis occurs only in Leviticus 24:22 where it renders mishpat, justice. This verse espouses the "one law" principle of the Torah, "You are to have one standard of justice [Heb. mishpat] for the outsider as well as the native-born, for I am ADONAI your God" (TLV). BAG notes that the term is found in the translation of Psalm 34:23 (22) by Symmachus ben Joseph, a 2nd century Jewish scholar. Symmachus is mentioned in the Mishnah ("Sumkos," Eruvin 3:1; Baba Metzia 6:5; Ḥullin 5:3), but Jewish scholars rebut the identification likely because the theory and method of Symmachus was the opposite of Aquila, the father of Rabbinic Judaism.
Paul's use of dikaiōsis represents the outcome of Yeshua's resurrection. Christian interpretation views the result as imputation of righteousness. Murray explains that this work of grace would only be possible by having the living Lord as the object of our faith. Only as active through resurrection can any virtue proceed from Yeshua to us and only with a living Messiah can union have efficacy. Then, only as the living one can the Messiah be the embodiment of righteousness and be made to us righteousness from God. It is through the mediation of Messiah that we come to stand in the grace of justification (Rom 5:2), but the mediation of Messiah could not be operative if he were still under the power of death.
While Murray's analysis has much to recommend it, he fails to recognize that God's desired outcome is more than imputation. Stern translates the verse as "Yeshua, who was delivered over to death because of our offences and raised to life in order to make us righteous." Just consider that God could have just declared people righteous by fiat. Abraham was reckoned as righteous without resurrection being involved. God's plan was to solve the sin problem and then the resurrection of Yeshua released the transformative power of God to accomplish a regenerative result. Thus, my translation of "righteousification" is intended to express the qualitative transformation by the resurrection power of God.
ABP: The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, trans. Charles Van Der Pool. The Apostolic Press, 2006. An interlinear of the Septuagint with English translation. Online.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown, Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Harrison: Everett F. Harrison, Romans, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
Hegg: Tim Hegg, Letter Writer: Paul's Background and Torah Perspective. 2nd ed. TorahResource, 2008.
Jastrow: Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1903, 1926. Online.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
MW-Notes: Daniel Gruber, The Messianic Writings. Elijah Publishing, 2011. Annotations by the author.
Nanos: Mark D. Nanos, Annotations on "Romans," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Rapaport: Samuel Rapaport, Tales and Maxims from the Midrash. E.P. Dutton & Co., 1907. Online.
Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, "Romans," A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Santala: Risto Santala, Paul: The Man and the Teacher in the Light of Jewish Sources. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1995. Online.
Shulam: Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans, Lederer Books, 1997.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TDNT: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 10 vols. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1967. Online.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R. Laird Harris, ed. 2 Vols. Moody Press, 1980.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889. online.
Young: Brad H. Young, Paul the Jewish Theologian, Hendrickson Pub., 1997.
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