Re: Romans 4:17

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Nov 03 1995 - 21:14:27 EST

At 2:39 PM 11/3/95, wrote:
>1. "...calling things which do not exist as existing."
>2. "...calling things which do not exist into being."
>1. Dunn states that KALEW has the strong sense of summons
>and that WS expresses a consequence. So, his translation runs:
>"...who calls things that have no existence into existence." (p. 218.)
>2. Max G. indicates that WS ONTA is "not speaking of non-existent
>things as if they existed, but 'calling' them 'into existence'" (p. 468).
>1. Is it acceptable to translate this as follows: "...calling the
>non-existent things 'as if' existing"?
>2. Is there any difference between the "non-existent" and the "existent"
>when faith, in effect, equals reality?
>3. This is important for me because the very definition of faith hinges
>on the difference between the "seen" and the "unseen." Or, perhaps
>it's more accurate to say that the two, in the final analysis, are

I'm not sure whether this gets to the heart of the question you are asking
about this text, but it seems to me that, whichever of these alternative
versions one prefers, this part of the verse is concerned not with the
nature of the faith but rather with the nature of the God in whom one puts
one's trust (and as a matter of interpretation here, I don't think that the
faith here is a matter of cognitive assent to a proposition so much as it
is personal trust in God to keep his promises. Now it also seems to me that
this part of the verse is emphasizing that the God in whom Abraham puts his
trust is both Creator and Redeemer: he is the God who makes what is dead
come alive whether that be Abraham's own SWMA NENEKRWMENON or the NEKRWSIN
THS MHTRAS SARRAS. This God makes the dead come alive and summons things
that are unreal into reality or that are not into being. I think that the
parallelism between the two participial phrases qualifying TOU QEOU is
ONTA; it is the God who raises the dead and who calls into being. I think
that what Paul is trying to underscore here is that Abraham's trust is in
the God who raises Jesus from the dead and who brings to life the
generative seed in Abraham himself and the generative womb in Sarah. As I
see it, the emphasis is on the proposition that trust in God the Creator is
at the same time trust in God the Redeemer.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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