The Paradigm Of Abraham In Galatians 3:6-9 -- By: H. Wayne Johnson

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 08:2 (Fall 1987)
Article: The Paradigm Of Abraham In Galatians 3:6-9
Author: H. Wayne Johnson


The Paradigm Of Abraham In Galatians 3:6-9

H. Wayne Johnson

Ph.D. Candidate
Westminster Theological Seminary

In Gal 3:6–7 Paul appeals to the faith and justification of Abraham by referring to Gen 15:6: καθὼς ᾿Αβραὰμ ἐπίστευσεν τῷ θεῷ καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην γινώσκετε ἄρα ὅτι οἱ ἐκ πίστεως, οὕτοι ὑιοί εἰσιν ᾿Αβραάμ. The use of καθώς, “just as,” indiates the significance of Abraham as a paradigm in Paul’s argument. The crucial question is in what way Paul intends him to be a paradigm. Traditionally, interpreters have understood Paul to be arguing that just as Abraham was justified by faith so Gentiles are justified by possessing a similar faith. Abraham is understood as the model for Christian faith which is to be imitated in the NT period.1 Those who are ἐκ πίστεως, “out of faith,” are those who are justified as a result of faith and as such are Abraham’s children.

In spite of the popularity of this view, serious questions have been raised concerning it. The most serious is Paul’s apparent disregard for the “history of salvation” in using an OT figure as the model forNT faith. H. Boers, who accepts Paul’s use of Abraham in this way, describes it as “radically anti-historical,” reflecting a perspective in which “everything that happened between the announcement of the promise and its pre-envisioned fulfillment is understood to have had no essential relationship to either.” All the time between Abraham and the NT believer is essentially “frozen.”2

This charge might be considered even more forceful in light of the fact that Paul elsewhere emphasizes salvation history in his writings. The work of Christ is presented as the unique manifestation of God’s plan of salvation, occurring in the “fullness of time.3 Paul describes the uniqueness of this manifestation in distinction to the previous epoch of

the law4 , and describes the period of Christ’s death and resurrection as the “coming of the faith.”5

Thus some might say there is a conflict between Paul’s own emphasis on...

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