“Sons Of Abraham” In Galatians 3:7 As A Spiritual, Qualitative Designation -- By: Michael H. Burer
BSac 173:691 July-September 2016) p. 337
“Sons Of Abraham” In Galatians 3:7 As A Spiritual, Qualitative Designation
Michael H. Burer is Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.
The phrase υἱοὶ Ἀβραάμ in Galatians 3:7 is a spiritual, qualitative designation that highlights the character of those related to Abraham. A survey of conceptually similar phrases in the biblical text shows that in addition to being an ethnic qualifier “sons of Abraham” can reference spiritual attitude. The word order in Galatians 3:7, with υἱοί as an anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominative, marks the noun as qualitative, not definite or indefinite. It thus emphasizes character traits. Paul’s argument in the context stresses the individual’s faith toward God; these features of the phrase υἱοὶ Ἀβραάμ further highlight faith as Paul’s central concern while at the same time maintaining ethnic distinctions between Jew and Gentile.
The phrase υἱοὶ Ἀβραάμ, “sons of Abraham,” in Galatians 3:7 is a key part of Paul’s argument that those who believe in Jesus Christ are properly related to God without doing the works of the Law. It is the central assertion he wants to make about the Galatians specifically and Christian Gentiles more broadly: concerning “those who are of faith, these are sons of Abraham.”1 In this context Paul intends υἱοὶ Ἀβραάμ to serve as a spiritual, qualitative designation about the nature of those who have faith towards God. Two lines of argument help prove this
BSac 173:691 July-September 2016) p. 338
point. First, a survey of conceptually related phrases elsewhere in the biblical text shows that language in the Old Testament that referred to ethnic descendants of Abraham expanded in the New Testament to refer to people rightly related to God spiritually. Second, the word order of the phrase has υἱοί as an anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominative, separated from its genitive adjunct Ἀβραάμ by the copulative verb.2 This word order indicates that υἱοὶ Ἀβραάμ should be taken as a qualitative designation, not as definite...
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