Arguments for the proposition, 1:18-5:21

Argument #2

Part 2a


Argument #2. The impartial nature of God's righteous vindication of the just in Christ, 3:21-4:25.

Part 2a The example of Abraham: righteous by faith alone.


Paul now draws on the example of Abraham to support his contention that God's righteous vindication of the just in Christ is impartial in nature, that there is no distinction between a believer under the law (Jewish believers and their Gentile associates) and a believer without the law (Gentile believers uncommitted to the law of Moses), and thus no ground for boasting, and this because a person's justification (their being set right with God on the basis of Christ's faithfulness appropriated through faith) is not in any way influenced by their submission, or otherwise, to the law of Moses. A person's justification, and thus their full appropriation of the promised Abrahamic blessings, is apart from works of the law.

In the passage before us Paul draws on scripture to show that Abraham was set right before God on the basis of the promise of God appropriated through faith, without any support whatsoever from the law in that he was accounted righteous while he was virtually an uncircumcised Gentile.


i] Context: See 3:21-31.


ii] Background: The Nomist heresy 1:8-15.


iii] Structure: Abraham's salvation excludes works:

Paul draws on the life-example of Abraham to develop the argument that Abraham's righteousness is a gift of grace through faith.

Question, v1:

As to his justification, did Abraham have a ground for boasting?

Answer, v2-5

No! Abraham's righteousness was a gift, v2-5;

Scriptural support - Psalm 32:1-2, v6-8;

Abraham's righteousness derived from forgiveness.

Question, v9a;

Is justification only for the circumcised / Jews under the law?

Evidence examined, 9b-11a:

Abraham was circumcised after he was justified by faith

Deduction, 11b-12:

Abraham is the father of all who believe, v11b-12.


iv] Thesis: See 3:21-31.


v] Interpretation:

We are on solid ground if we follow the interpretation to this passage offered by Cranfield and Fitzmyer. They identify "glorying" as central to Paul's argument, ie. "thinking to establish a claim on God on the ground of one's works." Such "glorying is excluded" because a person's justification rests on faith. "The case of Abraham" confirms this truth.


What the commentators have to say. The difficulty faced in understanding the function of chapter 4 in Paul's argument is well illustrated by the variety of approaches suggested by the commentators:

The traditional approach is nicely summarised by Osborne. Having established universal sinfulness such that both Jews and Gentiles stand under the judgment of God, 1:18-3:20, Paul now presents "the thesis statement (of the whole epistle, building on 1:16-17) in 3:21-26; the centrality of righteousness by faith not by works in 3:27-31; and the supreme model of Abraham, who was justified by faith not works, in 4:1-25."

Morris, also reflecting a traditional interpretation, argues that 3:21-31 establishes "Paul's position that the way of salvation", of righteousness before God, is "by God's grace" through faith, apart from the law, and that the example of Abraham in 4:1-25 shows that this position "is no innovation."

Moo similarly traditional in his approach: in chapter 4 "Paul appeals to Abraham to support his insistence that righteousness can be attained only through faith", that it stemmed from God's grace and that by implication it has "inclusive" consequences.

So also Schreiner who argues that "the burden of 3:27-28 is that righteousness is by faith, not by keeping the works of the law. Verses 29-30 affirm that justification by faith applies to all people, both Jews and Gentiles. Chapter 3 concludes with the affirmation that righteousness by faith does not nullify the commands of the law; instead, it establishes and confirms them. The law is a 'law of faith' that fulfils the moral prescriptions of the law. Paul introduces Abraham in chapter 4 in order to confirm the first two themes of 3:27-31." So also Hunter, Black, Murray, O'Neill, .....

Dodd sees chapter 4 as a "digression", while Robinson argues that it as an "excursus", although Jewett holds that it is a skilfully shaped diatribe fused with a midrashic exegesis.

Davies, leaning toward a new perspective position, holds that 3:27-4:2 sets out a proposition (3:31 serving as a qualification, and 4:1-2 focusing on the example of Abraham) and that 4:3-22 serves as an exegetical argument in support of the proposition. "Glorying" ("boast", NIV) is the key to Paul's polemic. Davies argues that Paul condemns the Jews' "glorying in God without obeying him", 3:27. "The root of Israel's failure" being a "lack of faith", 3:28a, a problem that "cannot be remedied by mere performance (works of the law)", 3:28b, and this because "the works, as the law requires, must be the fruit of faith - 'the obedience of faith'." "Though obedience evidences justification, 2:13, it is only faith that enables one to be justified, 3:24f. This is true for Jews and Gentiles alike, 3:28-30" The example of Abraham demonstrates "that Abraham's obedience was in no way a ground for his justification before God", rather "he was justified by faith."

Dumbrell, again reflecting a new perspective position, explains that in 3:21-31 Paul argues for the equality of access to salvation / justification of Jew and Gentile ("all humanity, and not by any ethnic or religious distinction") and this by faith. "To add force" to his argument, "Paul now (in chapter 4) appeals to the key role of Abraham within the divine plan."

Dunn proposes that the example of Abraham serves as "an exposition of the basic theme of the argument so far (summarised in 3:28) - that God justifies through faith (so Gentile as well as Jew) and does not limit his saving righteousness to the circumcised."

Barrett holds that 3:21-31 presents "Paul's discussion of justification by faith through God's act of redemption in Christ", concluding with a denial that "faith does away with the law, rather, it establishes the law." This Paul demonstrates in the example of Abraham.


"Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness", Genesis 15:6, v3. Within Judaism, Genesis 15:6 is tied to Genesis 22 producing the idea that Abraham was justified on the basis of his faith and his faithfulness. Paul's exegesis of Gen.15:6 in v4-5 seeks to separate the two ideas, tying justification to faith alone, apart from works.

The traditional view that Judaism saw justification in terms of law-obedience, is counted by new perspective commentators who argue that faithful Jews saw covenant inclusion as a matter of grace, not works, although Sanders has shifted somewhat toward a synergy of both (according to Cranfield). Sanders' contention is that the law served to progress covenant standing rather than gain covenant standing ("covenant nomism", or "sanctification", Dumbrell).

Although many of the conclusions drawn by new perspective commentators are dubious, it is more than likely that Paul is confronting the heresy of nomism rather than legalism. Although "the weak", nomist believers, affirm the truth that getting saved is by grace through faith, the business of moving forward in the Christian life, of progressing holiness for blessing, is by "works of the law" / a faithful submission to God's law.


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 4:1

Abraham was righteous through faith apart from the law, v1-12. i] Paul begins by asking how Abraham stands with regard to "works, boasting , and righteousness of faith", Schreiner, v1. For a person committed to the Law of Moses, Abraham is the perfect example of a person who was approved before God because of his faithful attention to God's commands. Paul sets out to show that Abraham's approval before God was based on his faith, without any reference whatsoever to obedience - "faith" in the sense of trust in / reliance on God's promises / God's faithfulness, and certainly not "faith" as a good work, a response action to a divine command.

oun "[what] then" - [what] therefore. Inferential, although Paul is not about to draw a conclusion, but rather to support the argument made in 3:21-31, "a kind of scriptural proof", Kuss. "From the point of view of physical descent, Abraham is our forefather. What are we to say his special discovery was?" Barclay.

eroumen (eipon) fut. "shall we say" - will we say. Deliberative future used instead of a subjunctive. The "we" is probably "we believing Jews."

hJmwn gen. pro. "our [forefather]" - [abraham the father] of us. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

kata + acc. "according to [the flesh]" - according to [flesh]. Expressing a standard; "in accordance with." Properly taken with propatora, "forefather" and not the infinitive. "According to flesh" is a comment about Abraham as the ancestor of Jews, a comment that may be disparaging. Abraham discovered that nothing is gained by "flesh", but by faith, and if that was true for Abraham, it is true for Paul and his fellow Jewish believers.

euJrhkenai (euJriskw) perf. inf. "that .... discovered in this matter" - to have discovered, found? A textual variant exists, both of position and omission, JB, NEB, indicating that it may have originally been a marginal note." The NIV ties this infinitive with the adverbial phrase "in this matter", literally "according to the flesh". It seems better to read the infinitive before "Abraham" and arrange the sentence as Barclay above. If read, the infinitive introduces a dependent statement of indirect speech, following a verb of saying, expressing what is said; "that we have found Abraham to be our forefather ...." If not read, we end up with a simple question, or better statement; "Let us consider the case of our ancestor Abraham", Pilcher.


ii] Paul goes on to answer the question posed in v1, v2-5. Abraham's righteousness, which was accounted to him, rested on God's faithfulness, not his own; it was a gift of God's covenant mercy, not a due to be paid. Right-standing by works is earned; it is not something given, rather it is earned by obedience to the law.

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause, here serving to introduce an explanation of the question in v1, so probably best left untranslated.

ei + ind. "if, in fact" - if. Introducing a conditional clause, 1st class, where the condition is assumed to be true, although here for argument's sake; "if, as is the case for argument's sake ........, then ......" The force of the argument is clearer if we set aside the condition, eg. "does Abraham really have a matter of boasting before God? Not at all, for scripture says ...." Morris.

edikaiwqh (dikaiow) "was justified" - [abraham] was declared / made right/righteous. Granted "covenant status", Dumbrell, "count / treat as right/righteous", Barrett; or in reformed terms, "confer a righteous status on", Cranfield, although better "acquit." It is clear that Paul does not intend an ethical sense such as "make virtuous." "If Abraham was set right before God by works ...."

ex + gen. "by" - by [works]. Possibly expressing source, "from", but usually taken to express means, "on the ground of = by means of." See ek, Galatians 2:16. "By works of the law"; "if Abraham was justified on the basis of obedience to the Mosaic law."

kauchma (a atoV) "something to boast about" - [then he has] a boast = a reason for pride / glorying. Usually in the sense of the content of the boast, or the object of the boast. "He hath whereof to glory", RV. Paul has already used this word of "the weak", referring to the boast of their standing before God on the basis of "works of the law." New perspective commentators argue that the boast is of their possession of the law.

alla "but" - but. A strong adversative, "but certainly not before God."

proV + acc. "before" - [not] toward [god]. Rather than movement toward, here with the sense of orientation toward. Paul's point is illusive:

iAbraham has something to boast about before men (indeed, he was held in esteem), but not before God, Sandy & Headlam;

ithe phrase serves to refute the condition stated in the "if" clause (protasis) of the conditional sentence, Cranfield;

iIf Abraham had been justified by works he would have ground for glorying, but not toward God, but rather toward himself. Only if his justification stemmed from the grace of God would his glorying rightly be directed toward God, Chrysostom .... Myer. "Only faith justifies and enables one to glory in God", Davies.


The scripture says of Abraham that he believed God, and it was this act which was credited (reckoned) to him as righteousness.

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause, in that it introduces a counter argument, supported by scripture, against the notion that Abraham had something to boast about; "but that is not how God sees him (Cranfield, v2b) for what does the passage of scripture [relevant to the matter] say", Barrett. None-the-less, gar here may be causal. If Abraham was justified by works he would have no reason to glory in God, rather, he would glory in his own achievements, but in fact, he did glory in God and this because he was justified by faith.

tiv "what" - what [says the scripture]? Interrogate pronoun.

pisteusen (pisteuw) aor "believed" - [abraham] believed. Relied, rested on the faithfulness of God.

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "God" - god. Dative of direct object after the verb "to believe"; "believed in God."

elogisqh (logizomai) aor. pas. "it was credited" - [and] it was reckoned, taken into account, considered, credited as of a credit added to an account. Divine / theological passive; God does the crediting. Righteousness, right-standing before God, is reckoned to the account of a person who trusts God, as Abraham trusted God. "God reckons his faith to him ...... for righteousness", Godet; "one may infer from reckon that God treats faith as though it were righteousness", Kasemann. Faith is as good as righteousness because it is a resting on the faithfulness / righteousness of God. "Was reckoned to him as righteousness", Cassirer.

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

eiV "as" - for. Taken at face value, the preposition here expresses advantage, although with the accusative it sometimes functions as a predicate nominative, a Semitic construction; "faith credited righteousness to him." For a good Jew "faith" is "faithfulness", but for Paul it is "faith" in the terms of belief, a reliance on God's promises realised in the faithfulness of Jesus. Possibly expressing substitution, although not that faith is equivalent to righteousness, but rather that it is "counted in lieu of righteousness, instead of it", Ziesler.

dikaiosunhn (h) "righteousness" - righteousness. Right standing before God.


Paul's compressed argument in v4-5 has caused problems. Barrett suggests that Paul wants to undermine the notion that "faith (as a meritorious work) counted for righteousness", such that "credited / reckoned" aligns with the "faith / grace" correlatives, but not with "work / debt". Yet, it does seem more likely that "reckoned" aligns with both "work" and "faith". So, Paul's point is that work produces a reward reckoned according to a debt, while faith produces a reward reckoned according to grace. Abraham's pay, which was accounted to him, namely righteousness, was the product of faith, not work - a gift of grace, not a due / debt to be paid. This, for Paul, is a substantial truth. Here is a faithful man, rich in good works, yet he stands right before God, not on the ground of his deeds, but on the ground of his faith.

de "now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument.

tw/ ergazomenw/ (ergazomai) pres. part. dat. "when a man works / to the one who works" - [the wages] to the one working. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object / interest, or reference / respect: "with respect to the man who works." The present tense is durative, so possibly "habitually works." The application of effort and talent to a task receives something in kind, here wages. "A worker has his wage counted to him as a due", Moffatt. "Wages" = "reward", ref. Gen.15:1.

kata + acc. "as [a gift]" - [is not accounted] according to [grace]. Expressing a standard; "in accordance with." The NIV surely misses the point. Paul has Abraham in mind, a man whose right-standing before God rests on the covenant mercy of God rather than his own "works", works for which right-standing would then be a "due." "To a man who works, his reward is not reckoned as a matter of grace but as something which is his due", Bruce.

alla "but" - but. Strong adversative, standing in a counterpoint construction, "not ....., but ....."

ofeilhma (a atoV) "obligation" - [according to] debt. There is an obligation to return kind for kind; payment for work undertaken. "Now the reward given to one who works to earn it is not reckoned as a favour, but as his due", Cassirer.


On the other hand, right-standing by faith is received as a gift; it rests on the principle that God reckons righteousness to the sinner who rests on the faithfulness of Christ. Under this method, justification (being set right with God) is certainly not something earned, rather it is something given.

de "however" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a contrasting point, as NIV

tw/ mh ergazomenw/ (ergazomai) pres. part. dat. "to the man / one who does not work" - to the one not working. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of reference / respect, or interest; "but with respect to the man who does not work." Obviously "work" in the sense of effort applied to the commands of God in order to overcome sin and progress holiness for blessing / merit (brownie points).

pisteuonti (pisteuw) pres. part. dat. "trusts" - [but/and] the one trusting, believing. The participle serves as a substantive, dative in agreement with ergazomenw/.

epi + gen. "-" - upon on. Spatial; "faith in, upon [God] the one who justifies." Often the preposition eiV, "to, into", is used for "direction toward", which Harris suggests is used of conversion.

ton dikaiounta (dikaiow) pres. part. "God who justifies" - the one justifying. The participle again serves as a substantive, referring to God, as NIV. As already noted, the meaning of the verb "justifies" is contentious, so for example: the one who grants "covenant acceptance", Dumbrell; "count / treat as right/righteous" Barrett; "confer a righteous status on", Cranfield. "The God who treats me JUST IF I'D never sinned", so "acquits", "forgiven", "declares the guilty to be innocent", TEV. The problem we face by moving from the "set right", or "judged right" sense (one's theological perspective determines which we choose) to that of "forgiveness", is that "the weak" probably saw justification in terms of forgiveness rather than Paul's inclusive totality of being in the right with God, yesterday, today and tomorrow, of being perfect, holy and eternally acceptable to God. For dikaiow see Galatians 2:16.

ton asebh (hV) "the wicked" - the without god, impious, ungodly. The accusative object of the participle "the one justifying." One who is undeserving of divine attention. A strong word which serves to compare the two ways. One works and receives a reward, another believes and receives a reward, namely justification, and this person is ungodly and not deserving of any reward. "God is the one who can make even those who are evil right in his sight", NCV.

eiV + acc. "[his / their faith is credited] as [righteousness]" - [the faith of him is reckoned, accounted] to, into = for [righteousness]. Probably expressing advantage, "for righteousness", although Ziesler thinks that here it takes the sense of anti / uJper, expressing substitution, "counted in lieu of righteousness, instead of it", Ziesler.


iii] Paul supports his thesis from Psalm 32:1-2, "the blessed man is not the sinless man, but the one whose sins God does not count, the man whose sins he forgives", Hunter, v6-8.

kaqaper "[David says] the same thing" - as, just as, like [and = also david speaks]. Comparative. The variant kaqwV, takes the same meaning. "You get exactly this situation in David's saying", Barclay.

makarismon (oV) "the blessedness" - the happiness, blessing. Accusative of reference / respect; "David speaks with respect to blessing." "Blessing" rather than "blessedness", so Cranfield. David says the blessing, so "pronounces a blessing", RSV, although possibly "speaks of the blessedness of those ...", NRSV, as NIV, ie. "when he said the man whom God accepts as righteous is truly happy", TH .

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "of the man / one" - of the man. The genitive is adjectival, possessive "the blessedness that belongs to the man ...", although Harvey suggests verbal, objective. "So also David pronounces his blessing upon the man who has righteousness reckoned to him by God, apart from works", Cassirer.

w|/ dat. pro. "to whom" - to whom. Dative of interest, advantage; "for whom."

logizetai (logizomai) pres. "credits" - [god] reckons, counts, credits. See v3. "God accepts him as righteous", TEV.

dikaiosunhn (h) "righteousness" - righteousness. Accusative direct object of the verb "to reckon." Right-standing before God, "covenant compliance", Dumbrell, etc., see above.

cwriV + gen. "apart from" - without, apart from [works]. Expressing separation; "apart from obedience to the law of God".


The psalm expresses the happiness of a person whose sin has not been reckoned to him. Paul uses the non-crediting of sin to support his argument for the crediting of righteousness. To the Western ear, the argument is somewhat thin, but to a first century Jew, it is an acceptable form of rabbinic Biblical interpretation.

makarioi adj. "Blessed" - they are blessed, happy. Predicate adjective. Again, the meaning is illusive. The sense may be "God blesses people whose sins are forgiven ..", CEV, but taken at face value the sense is "O the bliss (happiness) of those who have broken the law and have been forgiven, whose sin has been put out of sight", Barclay, so NIV. None-the-less, it is likely that Paul is not using the word for "happiness" as such, but rather with the Old Testament sense of "blessed before God". Given the context, the promised Abrahamic blessings are not far from Paul's mind.

w|n gen. pro. "are they whose" - of whom. The genitive is partitive; "those whose iniquities are forgiven."

ai anomiai (a) "transgressions" - the lawless deeds. Nominative subject of the verb "to forgive." "Evil as a lack of conformity to God's law", Morris / "rebellion against divine authority", Cranfield.

afeqhsan (afihmi) aor. pas. "are forgiven" - were forgiven [and of whom the sins were covered over]. Divine / theological passive. Jewett argues that the punctiliar aorist indicates that the action is "now completed." It is interesting that such an important word gets only limited use by Paul - the verb 5 out of 142 NT uses, and the noun only twice. This reminds us that "the weak" are not weak when it comes to forgiveness, in fact, they probably understand justification in terms of forgiveness, so Paul has no need to argue for forgiveness. It is very unlikely that "the weak" think that "works of the law" attain forgiveness, rather they would know full-well that forgiveness rests on God's mercy in Christ appropriated through faith. Law, for "the weak", addresses what follows forgiveness. For Paul, what follows forgiveness, namely, the fullness of new life in Christ, has nothing to do with law-obedience, but is rather part of the justification package which rests on faith, Christ's faith / faithfulness and our faith in his faithfulness.


ou| gen. pro. "whose" - [blessed is a man (= someone)] of whom. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. The variant dative of interest, advantage w|/, seems more likely, "to whom"; "blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin", NRSV.

ou mh + subj. "never" - never [the lord would account sin]. This construction forms a subjunctive of emphatic negation; "whom the Master refuses, in any way, to post his sins against him", Junkins.


iv] Having established, in the life-example of Abraham, that the righteous reign of God, his setting all things right, rests on faith (God's faithfulness appropriated through faith) and not works, Paul now identifies those who are the rightful recipients of God's "reckoned" righteousness / right standing, v9-12. He points out that Abraham's standing before God, Gen.15:6, was secured before he was circumcised, Gen.17:11. Abraham found God's acceptance when he was as uncircumcised as any Gentile, v9-10. Thus, Abraham now stands as the spiritual father of all for whom "faith is reckoned as righteousness", to both Jewish believers and Gentile believers, v11-12. In this, God's divine purpose is exposed, namely, that it has always been his intention to gather an inclusive people unto himself.

"Is" - is [this blessedness]. The verb, obviously present tense, must be assumed and is usually treated as introducing a question; "does this blessedness before God only apply to circumcised believers, or can it also apply to the uncircumcised?"

oun "-" - therefore. Possibly just resumptive and so left untranslated, or indicated by "now", but more likely inferential, drawing a logical conclusion and so indicating an important step in the argument. The quote establishes that the fullness of God's promised blessings, encapsulated in the reckoning of righteousness, rests on God's grace. "Given therefore that blessedness before God does not rest on works, but on God's grace, is this blessedness just upon the circumcised, or also upon the uncircumcised?"

epi + acc. "only for" - upon. Possibly expressing purpose, "with a view to", "for", as NIV, or reference / respect, "with respect to", although usually treated here as spatial, "on, upon".

thn peritomhn (h) "the circumcised" - the circumcised. As already noted, although Paul's argument regarding Jews may apply to covenant-committed Jews in general, he always has in mind the Israel of faith, which, in the present context, entails converted Jews, "circumcised believers."

kai "also" - [or] and = also [upon the uncircumcised]. Adjunctive.

gar "-" - for. The presence of the disjunctive h], "or", in the opening clause, implies a question (questions in the original manuscripts were only implied by the syntax and not indicated by a colon as in the later manuscripts). The problem is that the question is not answered, but then as a statement, it would not need to be. If we stay with a question, we need to add an answer, something like "Surely it is intended for all", Pilcher. The conjunction gar would then serve to introduce a causal clause explaining why this blessedness is intended for all, for the circumcised and also the uncircumcised; "because, as the scripture says 'faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. (v6, oun) Let me explain ...." Paul then proceeds with a rabbinic exegesis of the text to show how the text supports his contention that "this blessedness" is for both believing Jews and believing Gentiles.

legomen (legw) pres. "we have been saying" - we say. Again, the plural personal pronoun may indicate "we apostles", or "we members of the Pauline mission team", or more likely as a royal plural, "I say." Paul answers his question by referring to his stated argument: it was Abraham's reliance on the covenant mercy of God, God's covenant faithfulness, that accounted him right before God and therefore, being right before God, and thus blessed, has nothing to do with circumcision and its attendant requirement for a strict observance of the Mosaic law.

tw/ Abraam dat. "to him" - [the = his faith was credited, accounted] to abraham [for righteousness]. Dative of indirect object / interest.


The purpose of Paul's argument, in this and the next two verses, is to show that "the blessedness of 4:6-8 applies equally to the uncircumcised", Dumbrell.

oun "-" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion, "let me explain"; "in what circumstances, then, was it so reckoned?", Cassirer.

pwV adv. "under what circumstances" - how, in what way [was it reckoned]? Here the interrogative particle expressing manner, nicely worked in the NIV.

onti (eimi) dat. pres. part. "was it after" - being. The dative participle of the verb to-be is adverbial, introducing a temporal clause, dative in agreement with Abraam, "Abraham", v9; "while he (Abraham) was ....", although Moo suggests that it is adjectival. Best treated as a question; "when this happened, was he a circumcised man?", Phillips.

en + dat. "[he was circumcised]" - in [circumcision or uncircumcision]? Local, space, "in the state of circumcision", or association, "in connection with circumcision" = "when he was circumcised", Berkeley.

all (alla) "[it was not after,] but [before]" - [not in circumcision] but [in uncircumcision]. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ...., but ....". "He was not (a circumcised man), he was still uncircumcised", Phillips.


Barrett argues that v11a is a parenthetical remark, an aside, such that the two purpose clauses modify v10, not 11a. Another possibly way of handling the verse is to treat the clause "a seal ..." as appositional to "sign", and bracket it accordingly: "Abraham received the sign of circumcision [an attestation / "seal" of the righteousness he possessed before God on the ground of faith] while he was still uncircumcised, in order that he might be the father of all who, although uncircumcised, believe, so that righteousness might be counted to them as well."

shmeion (on) "sign" - [and he received] a distinctive mark, sign, seal. Accusative direct object of the verb "to receive." See Gen.17:11 where circumcision is a sign of the covenant, although Paul sees it as a sign of the righteous that is grounded on / out of faith. Are they the same?

peritomhV (h) gen. "of circumcision" - [asign] of circumcision. Presumably the genitive is adjectival, of definition (epexegetic, Moo, appositional, Moule, "the sign which is circumcision"); "a sign consisting in circumcision", Sandy and Headlam.

sfragida (iV idoV) "a seal" - a seal. That which "confirms the validity of a reality already present", Jewett, "an attestation of", Morris.

thV dikaiosunhV (h) gen. "of the righteousness" - of the righteousness. The article, as for "the faith", is best taken as demonstrative; "of that righteousness, of that faith." The genitive may be treated as objective, giving the sense that circumcision sealed Abraham's righteousness to him, so Lenski, Harvey, but probably better adjectival, epexegetic, of definition, "consisting of that righteousness", explaining the nature of the seal as a hallmark of the right relationship Abraham had with God.

thV pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "that he had by faith" - of the = his faith. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, verbal, subjective, or ablative, source / origin, a righteousness that comes out of / rests upon faith (ek + gen.), or a righteousness that is through / by means of faith (dia + gen.). "That right relationship with God which was the result of his faith", Barclay. "Faith" here in the sense of both God's faithfulness and Abraham's faith in God's faithfulness / covenant mercy.

thV gen. "-" - the. The genitive article, standing in agreement with "righteousness", serves as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase en th/ akrobustia/ into a relative clause: "that he had while he was still uncircumcised." Cranfield thinks the article refers to "faith", while Moo thinks it refers to "righteousness."

en + dat. "while he was still" - in [uncircumcision]. Best treated as adverbial, temporal, as NIV, but still retaining its local sense; "while / at the time when he was in a state of uncircumcision." So, "he received ..... a seal of righteousness .... which was his while he was uncircumcised."

eiV to + inf. "so then" - to the = in order that [him to be]. This preposition with the articular infinitive usually forms a purpose clause, but sometimes it is consecutive, expressing result, as NIV. "In order that he might be the father of all who have faith while they are uncircumcised", Barclay. The infinitive here takes a durative present; "he is always the father of all who believe."

twn pisteuontwn (pisteuw) gen. pres. part. "of [all] who believe" - [father] of [all] the ones believing. The participle serves as a substantive, while the genitive is adjectival, relational, and the present, being durative, indicates continuing belief.

di (dia) + gen. "but [have not been circumcised]" - through [uncircumcision]. The intended sense is unclear:

iattendant circumstance, "though in a state of uncircumcision", Sandy and Headlam;

imanner of acting, Zerwick 114;

itemporal, "while they are uncircumcised", Barclay, Zerwick 115;

icf. 2:27, where the action "through", rather than the instrumental "by means of", proceeds here in a hostile environment, so "in spite of [their] uncircumcision", Lenski.

eiV to logisqhnai "in order that [righteousness] might be credited" - to the to be = in order that [the righteousness] to be reckoned [also to them]. Again, this construction, the preposition + the articular infinitive, usually forms a purpose clause. Both Dunn and Barrett opt for purpose, but it can form a consecutive clause expressing result, and this is proposed by Cranfield and Moo. "The object of this (end-view, purpose) was to make him the father of all who believe as uncircumcised persons and thus (result) have righteousness counted to them", Moffatt, so also NRSV.


Abraham now stands as the spiritual father of all for whom "faith is credited as righteousness", to both Jewish and Gentile believers. In this is God's divine purpose exposed, namely, that it has always been his intention to gather an inclusive people to himself.

kai "and he is also" - and = also. Adjunctive. Verse 12 continues the sentence begun with the purpose clause, v11. "This happened (Abraham's receiving the sign of circumcision after being reckoned righteous out of faith) in order that ("so then", NIV) ..........", he might be the father of the uncircumcised. Continuing the purpose clause in v12, "and also .........", that he might be the father of the circumcised, those circumcised who, like Abraham, rest on the faithfulness of God.

peritomhV (h) gen. "of the circumcised" - [a father] of circumcision. The genitive is adjectival, relational, limiting "father"; "Abraham is the father of the circumcision" Lenski argues that the word is being used abstractly here and treats it as an attributive, "circumcision-father"

toiV dat. art. "who" - to the ones [not of circumcision only]. The article serves as a nominalizer, turning the preposition phrase ek peritomhV monon into a nominal phrase, dative of interest, advantage; "Abraham is the father of the circumcised for those who are not of (ek, partitive use of the preposition) circumcision." The article is plural while referencing "circumcised" singular. Obviously Paul is thinking ahead to the next clause, "the ones who walk in the footsteps of ......... Abraham [while] in uncircumcision." It seems likely that Paul's qualification here limits the fatherhood of Abraham to those "who are not circumcised merely (ouk .... monon, "not merely" possessing the outward sign of circumcision), but who also walk in the footsteps of that faith which our father Abraham had when we was as yet uncircumcised", Cassirer. So, not all Jews, but rather Jews of faith. "Not to those of the circumcision only" would be written ouk toiV ek peritomhV monon. "Abraham is circumcision-father, not to all Jews, but only to the real ones, to those who are not only circumcised, but at the same time are holding to the faith which Abraham had even before he was circumcised", Lenski.

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ...., but .....".

toiV stoicousin (stoicew) dat. pres. part. "who [also] walk" - [and = also] to the ones walking. The articular participle serves as a substantive, although this does not imply a second group of children of Abraham, the first Jews and now believing Jews. Hort replaced the article with autoiV, "to those who walk" (an adjectival construction), while others have expunged it. It may be treated as "an intrusive article", Moule, although Lenski argues that it is correct Greek because in this verse Paul is speaking of the same group of people, namely, Jewish believers, and by repeating the dative article toiV he makes this clear. Again, a dative of interest, advantage; "for those who walk ..."

toiV icnesin (oV) dat. "in the footsteps" - in the tracks of, march in line = imitate, do as others do. The dative is local, expressing space, metaphorical; "walk in the tracks of faith", although Harvey suggests a dative of rule, "in conformity with the footsteps." "But also take that same way of faith as our father Abraham did", Barclay.

thV .... pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "of the faith" - of faith. Again, we have a piling up of genitives; "of the faith of the father of us." The genitive is adjectival, of definition, epexegetic, "footsteps characterised by faith", but probably not attributive, "faithful footsteps." "Of the father", as with "of us / our" is adjectival possessive.

hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - [of the father] of us. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; the "our" surely includes Gentiles, given Paul argument in this passage.

Abraam gen. (proper) "Abraham" - of abraham. Genitive, standing in apposition to father; "our father who is Abraham."

en + dat. "before" - in [uncircumcision]. The preposition is adverbial, temporal, referring to the faith Abraham had "when he was yet uncircumcised", Cassirer.


Romans Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]