Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Paul's exegesis of Genesis 22:18 in Galatians 3:16

Note:  Here's another excerpt from my notes for the sermon I did on Galatians 3:15-22, focusing on Paul's model exegesis of Genesis 22:18 in Galatians 3:16:

"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.  He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Galatians 3:16).

In v. 16 a Paul reminds us that covenant promises were made to Abraham (cf. Gen 12:1-3; 22:18:  “And in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.”).  Underneath all this is the implied question: Will God keep his promise to Abraham?  The answer, of course, is, “Yes, yes, he will.”

 Paul then engages in an exegetical examination of Genesis 22:18.  Actually, his focus is on a single word.  He makes the point that in the original text, the Lord does not say to Abraham, “And in thy seeds (plural)” but “in thy seed (singular).”

Notice here:

First, Paul’s concern is for every word of Scripture.  Jesus taught that the Lord would not allow one jot or tittle to pass from his written word till all was fulfilled (Matt 5:18).  We call this the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture.  Paul’s concern here is over whether a single word (“seed”) should be singular or plural.  That distinction makes all the difference in interpretation.

Second, Paul is modeling the importance of studying and expositing the Scriptures.

Third, Paul is making a sophisticated logical argument against the Judaizers.  They had wanted to go back to Moses and law.  But he trumps them by going back even farther to God’s covenant with Abraham.  Furthermore, the promise to Abraham was not that his seeds (plural) would be blessed but his seed (singular).  Not all the physical offspring of Abraham would be blessed but one from his line.  And that one of which Genesis 22:18 is Christ.  Compare the genealogies of Matthew 1 (vv. 1-2) and Luke 3 (v. 34), both of which show Jesus as having descended through the line of Abraham.  The still further implication that Paul will draw later in chapter 3 as the argument unfolds is that all those who are in Christ as the seed of Abraham will also be blessed by virtue of the fact that they are in him (in union with him; see Galatians 3:29).  What matters then is not whether or not you are of the physical descendents of Abraham, but whether or not you are in Christ.


AJ said...

Paul's arguments here really seem to do much harm to the hermeneutic of a classical dispensationalist. I've always wondered how they deal with this 3rd chapter.

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Yes, I'd say it demolishes it. I wonder why even so-called "progressive dispensationalists" want to hang on to any part of that misguided system. Along these lines the T. Johnson illustration is also helpful to understand who is a "true Israelite."