Abram’s Amen -- By: Meredith G. Kline

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 31:1 (Nov 1968)
Article: Abram’s Amen
Author: Meredith G. Kline

Abram’s Amen

Meredith G. Kline

“And he believed (in) the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6). Viewing this classic theological text as thus traditionally translated, von Rad concludes that it is the statement of a “mental occurrence on the part of Abraham first and Yahweh second,”1 a statement with almost “the quality of a general theological tenet.”2 He maintains that this verse is the product of the revisionist’s reflection on old narrative materials and that he has inserted it in them as a programmatic index to their theological significance. However, a satisfying explanation does not readily suggest itself as to why such a theological observation would have been introduced at this particular point, where the context has spoken only of Abram’s plaint (15:2f; cf. verse 8), rather than in connection with some other episode where Abram’s confidence in the Lord is plainly manifested (as, for example, at Gen 12:3f or 14:21–24).

This difficulty remains so long as we hold to the inner, “mental” nature of the verse 6 event. We do not avoid it even when we regard the verse not as an appended editorial opinion but as an actual moment in the particular historical episode described in Gen 15. For while Abram would know his own psychological reaction to God’s word of promise and could have introduced an observation concerning his belief into the tradition, this seems improbable. Moreover, even Abram would not have known about an unexpressed, purely “mental” divine reckoning of righteousness to him. And to assume that such an unexpressed response of God to the faith

of Abram on this occasion was later communicated to either a traditionist or to the author of Genesis by a special revelation appears too artificial a reconstruction of the course of the inspired recording of the history.

There is reason, therefore, to take another look at Gen 15:6, alert to the desirability of discovering some outward occurrences that will account for what is said about both Abram and Yahweh. The historiographical problem encountered in Gen 15:6 arises, of course, whenever an act of believing is recorded, and a survey of such passages employing

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