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Seed or seeds?


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#1 Dan

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 06:44 AM

Hi all

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. :)

#2 Huldah

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 07:09 AM

Is this a situation where the LXX is different to the Masoretic text in the OT, and says 'seed' as in singular? Just a thought.
"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4.14

#3 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 08:36 AM

It's singular in Genesis 13:15 LXX.

#4 Huldah

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 12:37 AM

Ah. There ya go!
"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4.14

#5 Dan

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 02:06 AM

Thanks

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")?

#6 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 03:48 AM

Thanks

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")?


Ah, that's a whole big tin of questions you've opened there. :newspaper:

#7 Dan

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 06:09 AM

Questions worth exploring?

I'm keen to hear any explanations anyone may have.

#8 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 06:25 AM

Questions worth exploring?


Yes, but I would have to spend half a day writing answers. There's an entire network of issues here.

I'm keen to hear any explanations anyone may have.


Pick a thread and we'll start with that; relationship of the Old Greek to the Hebrew, use of the Old Testament in the New, inspiration, Second Temple Period exegesis, or what you want.

#9 Dan

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 06:52 AM

There's no rush.

How about Paul's use of the Hebrew OT and/or LXX?

Anything really that helps to accurately explain the promises passages and Galatians 3.

Thanks

#10 Davvers

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 07:06 AM

Dan

Thisay be helpful...

16 Next, Paul draws attention to a fact of biblical history, namely, that “the promises were pronounced to Abraham and to his `issue.’ ” The plural “promises” refers to God’s promise to Abraham as this was repeated on several occasions and couched in different expressions;13 but in view of the association of the “inheritance” with the promise in v. 18, Paul may have in mind particularly that clause in the promise which concerned the giving of the land to Abraham and his descendants as an everlasting possession (Gen. 13:15; 17:8; cf. 12:7; 15:7).14 Paul doubtless understands this in a spiritual sense,15 although he does not pause to make this explicit.
Paul interprets the “issue” as a reference to Christ. He is well aware of the collective sense of sperma (Greek) or zera` (Hebrew) in the Genesis passages;16 his identification of the “issue” spoken of in the promise as the Christ of history is not derived from a direct exegesis of the OT texts, but rather from an interpretation of them in the light of the Christ-event. His argument seems to be this: in the promise to Abraham, “it” (the subject of “does not say” is probably Scripture, as in v. 8, or possibly God) does not use the plural “issues,” referring to many, but “issue,” which, being a noun in the singular number, can refer to a single person—in fact, it does refer primarily to one individual, Christ.17
This piece of Pauline interpretation18 is charged with being “allegorical in the sense that it no longer takes into account the original meaning of the words and has overstepped the limits set to allegory in rabbinical hermeneutics.”19 Over against this, however, it should be remembered that (a) the word “issue,” both in Hebrew and in Greek, can be used to designate one definite descendant (e.g. Gen. 4:25; 1 Sam. 1:11);20 (b) parallel arguments based on the singular or plural of Heb. zera` are not wanting in rabbinic literature;21 and © Paul is speaking from the standpoint of fulfilled prophecy in the conviction that the “issue” of the original promise can, in the event, refer only to Christ.22 According to Paul’s reading of history, then, Christ “is the true Heir of the promise, of the universal inheritance, and He determines the fellow-heirs”23—as vv. 26–29 will show.

From New International Commentary on Galatians

#11 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 07:51 AM

How about Paul's use of the Hebrew OT and/or LXX?


:nono: Massive subject.

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#12 Dan

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 04:24 AM

......

From New International Commentary on Galatians


Thanks

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?

#13 Dan

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 04:27 AM

How about Paul's use of the Hebrew OT and/or LXX?


:nono: Massive subject.


Yep I realise that! Thanks for the docs - I'll have a look when I've got a spare few hours/days!.

#14 Fortigurn

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 04:57 AM

So does this suggest that the majority of translations (NET, NASB, NKJV etc) which translate the promises as to 'descendants' are correct?


In the Old Testament? Yes.

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?


Yes.

#15 Jon

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 10:09 AM

Hi Dan,

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?

Edited by Jon, 23 September 2011 - 10:11 AM.


#16 Dan

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 04:01 AM

Hi Dan,

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?



Thanks Jon.

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. :book:

#17 mji

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 01:30 AM

It's singular in Genesis 13:15 LXX.

A quick flick through the promises to Abraham section in the LXX and I didn't spot any plural "seeds".

#18 Fortigurn

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 02:12 AM


It's singular in Genesis 13:15 LXX.

A quick flick through the promises to Abraham section in the LXX and I didn't spot any plural "seeds".


Like I said, "It's singular in Genesis 13:15 LXX".

#19 mji

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 02:33 AM



It's singular in Genesis 13:15 LXX.

A quick flick through the promises to Abraham section in the LXX and I didn't spot any plural "seeds".


Like I said, "It's singular in Genesis 13:15 LXX".

Like you said.

#20 Jehonadab

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 03:02 AM

I once a gain see something so simple being made complicated by our fallen human desire to show ourselves approved through reasoning.

There is a subtle difference between humble reasoning and reasoning based upon a format that we are qualified to know. When we trust the interpretation our reasoning so that our reasoning becomes the basis to criticize or judge each step we take as to whether it is good or bad, all we do is put tinted glasses upon ourselves which then color and change colors with each step we take.

Humble reasoning learns to gather all of the pieces necessary to understand without judging each piece prematurely.

Paul's mind-set is that Christ is the last Adam: 1 Corinthians 15:45  "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit."

Paul knew that: Acts 17:26  "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.." Indeed, that is the blood of the one man, Adam.

Paul had faithfully followed the scripture rather than losing sight of what was first said: Genesis 3:14-15  "And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."

Now there is the interesting paradox. At Genesis 3:15 it becomes clear that the serpent's seed is many, even as the serpent is one but his seed many. But it was one singular seed that the serpent fell all mankind through: Romans 5:12  "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.."

Romans 5:15  "But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many."

1 Corinthians 15:21-22  "For since by [one] man came death, by [one] man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

*** *** *** *** *** *** ***

I have given but a small example there above as to how to connect the scriptures so that the scriptures themselves give us the answers we seek.

But now I wish to address the real reason why so many prefer to judge and thus unwittingly color the picture of each piece before they get to the full picture:

Pride in the flesh.

The flesh desires to be special by fleshly inheritance rather than to accept that spiritual inheritance in no way is dependent upon the flesh. That way the flesh can imagine it is OK due to being treasured as something peculiarly special to God and so the flesh can ignore it's decrepit true situation due to it being responsible for carrying on sin and thus keeping sin alive in this world.

But in the one seed the flesh would not be allowed to due that, even as John points out: 1 John 3:6-10  "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
7  Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
8  He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
9  Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
10  In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."

The crux of the matter is that if we cannot come to life in that one seed then we have no life. Out side of being born again through the last Adam we remain dead with the first Adam.

Edited by Jehonadab, 20 June 2013 - 03:07 AM.





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