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4:1 What then shall we say? [ti oun eroumen?]. Paul is fond of this rhetorical question (4:1; 6:1; 7:7; 8:31; 9:14, 30). Forefather [propatora]. Old word, only here in N.T. Accusative case in apposition with [Abraam] (accusative of general reference with the infinitive). Hath found [heurēkenai]. Westcott and Hort put [heurēkenai] in the margin because B omits it, a needless precaution. It is the perfect active infinitive of [heuriskō] in indirect discourse after [eroumen]. The MSS. differ in the position of [kata sarka].
4:2 The Scripture [hē graphē]. Ge 15:6. Was justified by works [ex ergōn edikaiōthē]. Condition of first class, assumed as true for the sake of argument, though untrue in fact. The rabbis had a doctrine of the merits of Abraham who had a superfluity of credits to pass on to the Jews (Lu 3:8). But not towards God [all’ ou pros theon]. Abraham deserved all the respect from men that came to him, but his relation to God was a different matter. He had there no ground of boasting at all.
4:3 It was reckoned unto him for righteousness [elogisthē eis dikaiosunēn]. First aorist passive indicative of [logizomai], old and common verb to set down accounts (literally or metaphorically). It was set down on the credit side of the ledger “for” [eis] as often) righteousness. What was set down? His believing God [episteusen tōi theōi].
4:4 But as of debt [alla kata opheilēma]. An illustration of the workman [ergazomenōi] who gets his wages due him, “not as of grace” [ou kata charin].
4:5 That justifieth the ungodly [ton dikaiounta ton asebē]. The impious, irreverent man. See 1:25. A forensic figure (Shedd). The man is taken as he is and pardoned. “The whole Pauline gospel could be summed up in this one word— God who justifies the ungodly” (Denney).
4:7 Blessed [makarioi]. See on Mt 5:3. Are forgiven [aphethēsan]. First aorist passive indicative of [aphiēmi], without augment [apheithēsan], regular form). Paul quotes Ps 32:1f. and as from David. Paul thus confirms his interpretation of Ge 15:6. Iniquities [anomiai]. Violations of law whereas [hamartiai] (sins) include all kinds. Are covered [epekaluphthēsan]. First aorist passive of [epikaluptō], old verb, to cover over (upon, [epi] as a shroud. Only here in N.T.
4:8 To whom [hōi]. But the best MSS. read [hou] like the LXX and so Westcott and Hort, “whose sin.” Will not reckon [ou mē logisētai]. Strong negation by double negative and aorist middle subjunctive.
4:9 Is this blessing then pronounced? [ho makarismos oun houtos?]. “Is this felicitation then?” There is no verb in the Greek. Paul now proceeds to show that Abraham was said in Ge 15:6 to be set right with God by faith before he was circumcised.
4:10 When he was in circumcision [en peritomēi onti]. Dative masculine singular of the present active participle of [eimi]; “to him being in a state of circumcision or in a state of uncircumcision?” A pertinent point that the average Jew had not noticed.
4:11 The sign of circumcision [sēmeion peritomēs]. It is the genitive of apposition, circumcision being the sign. A seal of the righteousness of the faith [sphragida tēs dikaiosunēs tēs pisteōs]. [Sphragis] is old word for the seal placed on books (Re 5:1), for a signet-ring (Re 7:2), the stamp made by the seal (2Ti 2:19), that by which anything is confirmed (1Co 9:2) as here. The circumcision did not convey the righteousness, but only gave outward confirmation. It came by faith and “the faith which he had while in uncircumcision” [tēs en tēi akrobustiāi], “the in the state of uncircumcision faith.” Whatever parallel exists between baptism and circumcision as here stated by Paul argues for faith before baptism and for baptism as the sign and seal of the faith already had before baptism. That he might be [eis to einai auton]. This idiom may be God’s purpose (contemplated result) as in [eis to logisthēnai] below, or even actual result (so that he was) as in 1:20. Though they be in uncircumcision [di’ akrobustias]. Simply, “of those who believe while in the condition of uncircumcision.”
4:12 The father of circumcision [patera peritomēs]. The accusative with [eis to einai] to be repeated from verse 11. Lightfoot takes it to mean, not “a father of a circumcised progeny,” but “a father belonging to circumcision,” a less natural interpretation. But who also walk [alla kai tois stoichousin]. The use of [tois] here is hard to explain, for [ou monon] and [alla kai] both come after the preceding [tois]. All the MSS. have it thus. A primitive error in a copyist is suggested by Hort who would omit the second [tois]. Lightfoot regards it less seriously and would repeat the second [tois] in the English: “To those who are, I do not say of circumcision only, but also to those who walk.” In the steps [tois ichnesin]. Locative case. See on 2Co 12:18. [Stoicheō] is military term, to walk in file as in Ga 5:25; Php 3:16.
4:13 That he should be the heir of the world [to klēronomon auton einai kosmou]. The articular infinitive [to einai] with the accusative of general reference in loose apposition with [hē epaggelia] (the promise). But where is that promise? Not just Ge 12:7, but the whole chain of promises about his son, his descendants like the stars in heaven, the Messiah and the blessing to the world through him. In these verses (13-17) Paul employs (Sanday and Headlam) the keywords of his gospel (faith, promise, grace) and arrays them against the current Jewish theology (law, works, merit).
4:14 Be heirs [klēronomoi]. No predicate in the Greek [eisin]. See on Ga 4:1. If legalists are heirs of the Messianic promise to Abraham (condition of first class, assumed as true for argument’s sake), the faith is emptied of all meaning [kekenōtai], perfect passive indicative of [kenoō] and the promise to Abraham is made permanently idle [katērgētai].
4:15 Worketh wrath [orgēn katergazetai]. Because of disobedience to it. Neither is there transgression [oude parabasis]. There is no responsibility for the violation of a non-existent law.
4:16 Of faith [ek pisteōs]. As the source. According to grace [kata charin]. As the pattern. To the end that [eis to einai]. Purpose again as in 11. Sure [bebaian]. Stable, fast, firm. Old adjective from [bainō], to walk. Not to that only which is of the law [ou tōi ek tou nomou monon]. Another instance where [monon] (see verse 12) seems in the wrong place. Normally the order would be, [ou monon tōi ek tou nomou, alla kai ktl].
4:17 A father of many nations [patera pollōn ethnōn]. Quotation from Ge 17:5. Only true in the sense of spiritual children as already explained, father of believers in God. Before him whom he believed even God [katenanti hou episteusen theou]. Incorporation of antecedent into the relative clause and attraction of the relative [hōi] into [hou]. See Mr 11:2 for [katenanti], “right in front of.” Calleth the things that are not as though they were [kalountos ta mē onta hōs onta]. “Summons the non-existing as existing.” Abraham’s body was old and decrepit. God rejuvenated him and Sarah (Heb 11:19).
4:18 In hope believed against hope [par’ elpida ep’ elpidi episteusen]. “Past hope in (upon) hope he trusted.” Graphic picture. To the end that he might become [eis to genesthai auton]. Purpose clause again with [eis] to and the infinitive as in verses 11-16.
4:19 Without being weakened in faith [mē asthenēsas tēi pistei]. “Not becoming weak in faith.” Ingressive first aorist active participle with negative [mē]. Now as good as dead [ēdē nenekrōmenon]. Perfect passive participle of [nekroō], “now already dead.” B omits [ēdē]. He was, he knew, too old to become father of a child. About [pou]. The addition of [pou] (somewhere, about) “qualifies the exactness of the preceding numeral” (Vaughan). The first promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah came (Ge 15:3f.) before the birth of Ishmael (86 when Ishmael was born). The second promise came when Abraham was 99 years old (Ge 17:1), calling himself 100 (Ge 17:17).
4:20 He wavered not through unbelief [ou diekrithē tēi apistiāi]. First aorist passive indicative of old and common verb [diakrinō], to separate, to distinguish between, to decide between, to desert, to dispute, to be divided in one’s own mind. This last sense occurs here as in Mt 21:22; Mr 11:23; Ro 14:23; Jas 1:6. “He was not divided in his mind by unbelief” (instrumental case). Waxed strong through faith [enedunamōthē tēi pistei]. First aorist passive again of [endunamoō], late word to empower, to put power in, in LXX and Paul and Ac 9:22.
4:21 Being fully assured [plērophorētheis]. First aorist passive participle of [plērophoreō], from [plērophoros] and this from [plērēs] and [pherō], to bear or bring full (full measure), to settle fully. Late word, first in LXX but frequent in papyri in sense of finishing off or paying off. See on Lu 1:1; Ro 14:5. What he had promised [ho epēggeltai]. Perfect middle indicative of [epaggellomai], to promise, retained in indirect discourse according to usual Greek idiom. He was able [dunatos estin]. Present active indicative retained in indirect discourse. The verbal adjective [dunatos] with [estin] is here used in sense of the verb [dunatai] (Lu 14:31; Ac 11:17).
4:23 That [hoti]. Either recitative or declarative [hoti]. It makes sense either way.
4:24 Him that raised up Jesus [ton egeiranta Iēsoun]. First aorist active articular participle of [egeirō], to raise up. The fact of the Resurrection of Jesus is central in Paul’s gospel (1Co 15:4ff.).
4:25 For our justification [dia tēn dikaiōsin hēmōn]. The first clause [paredothē dia ta paraptōmata] is from Isa 53:12. The first [dia] with [paraptōmata] is probably retrospective, though it will make sense as prospective (to make atonement for our transgressions). The second [dia] is quite clearly prospective with a view to our justification. Paul does not mean to separate the resurrection from the death of Christ in the work of atonement, but simply to show that the resurrection is at one with the death on the Cross in proof of Christ’s claims.
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