Gal 3:16 SPERMASIN vs. the Collective Noun SPERMA

From: Wes Williams (
Date: Fri Feb 19 1999 - 02:22:34 EST

Gal 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and TWi SPERMATI AUTOU. It
says, not: "And TOIS SPERMASIN," as in the case of many such, but as in the
case of one: "And TWi SPERMATI SOU," who is Christ.

I have to humbly admit that I do have some difficulty seeing why Paul would
use the plural form of a collective noun to make the case that the promised
SPERMA is not a class, but rather a single individual (I readily admit that
this is my understanding from context). I am hoping that someone can clarify
the point better for me than the several commentaries I've considered.

Here is what is already known....

- SPERMA by itself can refer to an individual or a class.
- The reader knows whether the reference is an individual or class by the
accompanying number of the pronoun referent, which is inviolable in LXX
examples. For example, if in English I refer to "my offspring" and later I
say "he," all know that I am referring to an individual and not a collective
offspring. (Strongs p. 506: "A singular pronoun [used with ZE'RA`] marks an
individual, an only one, or one out of many; while a plural pronoun
represents all the descendants.")
- In Gen 22:17, it speaks of the SPERMA as possessing the gate of *his*
enemies. So, the reference is singular in this instance.
- From context, Paul excludes the natural seed (the nation) from providing
the Abrahamic blessing (v.14) and thus he appears to be emphasizing that
point in v.16 by stating OU LEGEI, KAI TOIS SPERMASIN.

Is there a clear reason or helpful explanation why Paul uses a plural here
to make the point that the reference is not a class instead of drawing
attention to the fact that the pronoun referents are singular (as in Gen

Wes Williams

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