Paul's distinction of seed/seeds in Galatians 3:16.

Note to NT-GREEK list:

I see I was greatly mistaken in my understanding the hypocrysis
was not commonly understood as "playacting"  from all the citations
I have received it is commonly understood that way by many commentators.
My only comfort in my ignorance comes from those who wrote to tell
me it couldn't mean that, and that the idea was silly. :-)

Note to both NT-GREEK and OT-HEBREW:

On to another subject,

Gal 3:16 is one of the most interesting passages I have studied.
I would be interested in discussions regarding some ideas I have.

in Gal 3:16 Paul write concerning the Abraham story:

   Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed.
   He does not say, "And to seeds," as refering to many,
   but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is Christ

This passage has long been pointed to as evidence that the
author's of the New Testament did not concern themselves
with the mean of the Old Testament passages, but simply
engaged in the common Jewish practice of midrash, using
the text as a spring board to talk about whatever you
wanted to talk about.  (A practice common in many churches

Anyway, I spent a long time looking at Galatians and Genesis
and came up with an idea which I think is original, but I fully
expect everyone on the net to site references showing me where it
is not. :-)  Here is the thought, in brief:

1) Although Paul seems to be making a point about the grammar of
Genesis, Paul knew his Hebrew, and knew that seed in Genesis was
a collective noun which numbered (in this case) more than the
sands and the stars.  Thus Paul is not making a gramatical
argument, but an interpretive arguement.

2) Paul is arguing that not *all* of Abraham's offspring were
heirs but only some.  This is based on the quotation about through
Isaac, not Ishmael, will your offspring be named.  Thus Gal 3:16
should/could be translated "he does not refer to all, but rather
to one group"  Thus the language about seed and seeds is Paul's
short hand for a fuller arguement about all verses one group.

Take some time to think about that from the Genesis accounts,
and examine the language for many/all verses one/one group.
I think the translation many/all is misleading and the translation
all/one group (some) much better.  Help me on many/all having
verses not having the article.  Is it significant?  I think so,
but couldn't find consensus in my books.

3) The next important question is "To what group of people, does
Paul claim the promise comes to?"  Well, it comes to Abraham's
seed.  The promise to Abraham is "In your seed, all the nations of
the earth shall be blessed."  The traditional way of understanding
Paul's interpretation of this is that Paul is claiming that
through Abraham's physical offspring the Messiah Jesus would come.
BUT Paul has just finished arguing that physical offspring was not
the criteria for being Abraham's seed, otherwise Ishmael would also
be Abraham's seed.  I believe that Paul is interpreting the Genesis
text this way.  "By being in Abraham's seed, all the nations of the
earth shall be blessed."

Note to OT-HEBREW list:

Is there any reason why the "In you seed" in Hebrew couldn't
be understood as "among your seed" i.e. "by being among your seed"?
I don't see any reason why it couldn't.  Are there any examples of
it being used in a way very similar to this?

Thus Paul understands the promise to Abraham as "even the Gentiles
shall be blessed by being in the group of people known as Abraham's

And what criteria distinguishes being in Abraham's seed?  Faith of
course, and now, Paul says, faith in Christ.  Hence "if you belong
to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to
promise (Gal 3:29)"  All of the argument in Galatians reads this
way much more easily than any other interpretation.

Gal 3:16 could then be interpreted/translated:

   Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed,
   Abraham's seed could not refer to all of Abraham's offspring
   but rather to one group, that is, those who have faith in Christ.

The traditional translation "but rather to one (seed), that is Christ"
is a possible translation.  The relative pronoun "that is" does
not agree with "seed" in gender, but could agree with Christ by
attraction.  However, it could also agree with one, and have the
idea, not of one person, but of one group, those who are "of Christ"
"have faith in Christ"  Again, help me out.  I think this idea/insight
is correct, but I am not as sure of the Greek grammar questions
and exactly how to understand some of the phrases.

So questions:  Is this the right way of understanding what Paul
is claiming?  My contention is that Paul is *not* engaging is Jewish
midrash, but is actually wrestling with God's orginial intention
in His promise to Abraham, and in fact we are not giving Paul
his due when we give up looking for an interpretation which
assumes that Paul knew his collective Hebrew nouns.

If this idea is right, is it significant to the world of scholarship?
Have you ever seen this idea before?  Does it effect the way we
understand Paul?

And especially helpful for me.  How would you understand the Greek
of Gal 3:16?


David John Marotta, Medical Center Computing, Stacey Hall
Univ of Virginia (804) 982-3718 wrk INTERNET: djm5g@virginia.edu
Box 512 Med Cntr (804) 924-5261 msg   BITNET: djm5g@virginia
C'ville VA 22908 (804) 296-7209 fax   IBM US: usuvarg8