Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 161:641 (Jan 2004) p. 105
By The Faculty and Library Staff of
Dallas Theological Seminary
Robert D. Ibach, Editor
“Galatians 3:16: What Kind of Exegete Was Paul?” C. John Collins, Tyndale Bulletin 54 (2003): 75-86.
Because the word “seed” in certain promises to Abraham is singular, the apostle Paul contended in Galatians 3:16 that Christ is the unique seed of Abraham, the recipient of these promises. But since “seed” as a collective noun can refer to one or more offspring even in the singular, Paul’s argument has long puzzled exegetes. Collins, however, uses recent grammatical studies on the word “seed” in the Old Testament to conclude that Paul’s argument is sound.
Collins begins by introducing the problem and surveying interpretations of Paul’s hermeneutic. Traditionally Christians have assumed that Paul was drawing out the true meaning of the promised seed in Genesis. Later scholars took various typological approaches. Lightfoot, for example, said that the historical meaning of the seed of Genesis was the multitude of Abraham’s descendants but that Christ, the spiritual referent of the seed, typified and replaced them. Others suggest that Paul argued in rabbinic style. Still others simply write off Paul’s argument as unjustified.
Collins recognizes that the Genesis text has proven difficult because of the paucity of words in the quotation καὶ τῷ σπέρματί σου (“and to your seed”). To solve the problem he refers to a number of passages in Genesis, suggesting that Paul may not have been quoting his source exactly. Collins discards texts that refer only to the local land promise since these texts would not easily serve Paul’s point for the Gentiles. Collins considers the possibility that Galatians 3:8 and 16 quote from the same passage since verse 8 cites the Abrahamic blessing on the nations.
The problem, as Collins acknowledges, is that Genesis 22:18 says ἐν τῷ σπέρματί σου rather than καὶ τῷ σπέρματί σου. Not all agree with Collins’s choice or his method of sifting through the blessings to Abraham to choose Paul’s text. Lightfoot and Daube prefer a text with the entire phrase καὶ τῷ σπέρματί σου exactly as written in Gala...
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