Re: Episteusen

From: Paul Zellmer (
Date: Sat Apr 12 1997 - 01:13:08 EDT

Mike A Porter wrote:
> What is the sense of Episteusen (aorist) in Rom 4:3 and James 2:23? I am
> trying to answer the question of when Abraham believed. Here's why:
> We hold to justification by faith. Hence, Abraham believed and was
> justified. But, the writer of Hebrews tells us that
> 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called,
> obeyed by going out to a place which he
> was to receive for an inheritance; and he
> went out, not knowing where he was going.
> and again,
> 17 By faith Abraham, when he was
> tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had
> received the promises was offering up his
> only begotten son;
> The question is when did Abraham believe. Most commonly, we will argue
> that he believed in Gen 15:6 based on the covenant.
> Not knowing Hebrew, I can't really comment on the grammar of 15:6. I was
> hoping that the greek might offer a clue. Are we mandated, especially in
> light of Romans 4, to suppose that Abraham believed in God only when God
> made the covenant with him? Or, is there an alternative explanation?
> Also, is there any comment on the hebrew from anyone?
> Mike Porter


I'm not sure that you can build a case that Gen 15:6 is a "conversion"
or "conversion-like" experience for Abraham, which is the interpretation
that you seem to be trying to make. The case cannot be made from the
Hebrew, for one thing. The most apparent interpretation of the verse in
that context is that Abram believed God's promise that a son would be
born to him who would become Abram's heir, and that his descendents
would be as innumerable. This believing was valued by God as

Even Paul and James are not making the case that this situation marked
the inception of Abraham's believing. They are, rather, calling on this
passage as a "proof-text", if you will, that Abraham *did* indeed
believe. This is why the writer of Hebrews (who I feel could well have
been Paul, but I will not get into that argument in this forum, since it
really is not that important to me) could describe an event well before
Gen 15 as an illustration of Abraham's faith.

IOW, Abraham *did* believe when God "made the covenant with him" in Gen
15, but he *did not* necessarily *start* to believe at that time.

Sorry if this doesn't give you a warm fuzzy in your inquiry,


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