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Had cause to look at this recently. You noted that Galatians 3 is explicit that the 'seed' is singular:
'Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.'
As you said, the Spirit through Paul specifically highlights that the 'seed' is singular and explains that that singular seed is Christ. Therefore the passages in Genesis about seed being like sand on the sea for number must be talking about those who are 'in Christ':
'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.'
The 'many in one' principle - a la 1 Cor 12 etc. What do you reckon?
I guess that's what I'm trying to find out, whether the OT translations are accurate and whether Genesis is exactly what Paul says it is. I don't doubt Galatians is correct of course, but in what sense is it correct?
Could it be that the promises in Genesis have these two applications? Firstly to Abraham's descendants plural, i.e. the nation of Israel. However the final and most complete outworking is through a single descendant, who was not simply a descendant according to the flesh, (like all Israel), but who was also a child of promise, (like Isaac), and who in him we can believe, (like Abraham), and become part of his 'descendant/seed' and heirs of the same promise? (I'm sort of paraphrasing aspects of Galatians to try to see the complete picture, dangerous for me to do I know!)
I.e. the promises to Abraham would have been understood on a natural level and obviously do relate to the nation of Israel specifically at times, (Genesis 15:13-14), but the spiritual level is what Paul is commenting on.
Please don't think I'm doubting the relevance of the promises to Abraham to Christ and our faith(!) - I'm just to trying to clearly understand exactly how they relate to Christ. I've still got some thinking and reading to do I think.
From New International Commentary on Galatians
So does this suggest that the majority of translations (NET, NASB, NKJV etc) which translate the promises as to 'descendants' are correct?
And that Paul in Galatians is interpreting the promises as having a second application to Christ, based on the fact that the word can and does in some cases refer to a single descendant?
So is Paul quoting the LXX to make a point that isn't necessarily there in the Hebrew?
Or, does the fact that 'seed' is singular in the LXX demonstrate that the Hebrew should really be understood as singular, (contrary to translations such as "descendants")?
This may be straightforward but it's confusing me at the moment!
Paul seems to be quite clear in Galatians 3:16 that the promises to Abraham and his seed (KJV) / offspring (ESV) / descendant (NET) were not to a plural offspring or "seeds", but were to one descendant, i.e. Christ.
But when looking back into the record of the promises in Genesis, they all appear have the hallmarks of a plural seed.
The 'standard' explanation that I hear is that the Hebrew word for 'seed' can also be singular as well as plural, therefore it must have been singular in the passage that Paul seems to be quoting, (Genesis 13:15). But that doesn't seem to accurately reflect the context and flow of the narrative - "all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted." (Genesis 13:15-16)
Without knowing anything about Hebrew, the only section of the promises to Abraham that appear to indicate that a singular seed was in mind is Genesis 22:17 - "his" enemies in ESV and KJV, but still in most other versions this becomes "their" enemies, (NET, NASB, NIV).
Are we able to determine how the promises in Genesis should be translated, singular or plural? If they are all plural, how are we to understand Galatians 3?
Any ideas appreciated, thanks.
It should be only the start of a new wave of Christadelphian material on these subjects. We should have been publishing this stuff years ago.
I'm about 2 thirds of the way through this book and so far it's been an excellent read. The best thing about it is that it engages in the topics at an 'academic' level but generally has succeeded, (except one or two chapters perhaps), in presenting them in very accessible way, so that the majority of readers should have little difficulty understanding the issues.
Do you think you'll get it reviewed in the Christadelphian or Testimony?
Thanks to you all out there who have contributed towards it - hoping there will be more to come!
Anyone got any thoughts on the questions above?
For what it's worth, I'm coming to the conclusion that the Ephesus hypothesis is highly unlikely, and it's almost certain that Paul wrote Philippians from Rome during his first imprisonment there, (i.e. Acts 28).
Reason being that the best evidence for it being Ephesus, i.e. Timothy's presence with Paul, doesn't actually work. The plans Paul has for Timothy in Acts 19:22 & 1 Corinthians 16:10 (same time), do not match that in Philippians 2:19 as Paul is here expecting Timothy to return to him.