The "Seed of Abraham" and Christian Zionism

In Galatians Paul says that God’s promises were made to Abraham and his singular offspring (Christ), rather than to many offspring (the Jews):

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many. But it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. (Gal 3:16)

On top of that, Paul implies that Gentiles (more than Jews) are Abraham’s true descendants, the rightful heirs of salvation (Gal 3:6-9). But most importantly, God’s promises were made to a singular offspring: Christ. Bruce Malina and John Pilch comment:

“One might note here that Christian Zionists who support the Israeli state because they consider it the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and his seed publicly and officiously deny what Paul says here. One wonders how they understand the basis for their Christian allegiances.” (Social Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul, p 206)

Romans presents a less radical argument, but certainly not enough to help the Zionist cause:

The promise [is] guaranteed to all Abraham’s descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham. (Rom 4:16)

Now God’s promises are made not to a singular offspring (Christ), but to Jews and Gentiles equally. In Galatians Christ is the seed, and Gentiles favored. In Romans Jews and Gentiles are the seed, equally favored. (See my Romans commentary for an account of differences between the two letters.) In either case, one must wonder, along with Malina and Pilch, what bible Christian Zionists have been reading.

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5 thoughts on “The "Seed of Abraham" and Christian Zionism

  1. Christian Zionists are probably reading (rightly or wrongly) from a dispensationalist bible in which the earthly and fleshly promises (of which the Jews are the heirs) are sharply distinguished from the heavenly and spiritual promises (of which the Christians are the heirs)

  2. ‘Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many. But it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. (Gal 3:16)’Truly appalling twisting of the sciptures by Paul, who would fail any exam on how to interpret the Bible.

  3. It is also intriguing that Paul referred to Abraham and his seed (sperma, same word as used in 1 Corinthians 15) , knowing presumably that his readers would recognise that Jesus was just Abraham transformed in some way 🙂There was physical continuity. 🙂What is the Biblical position on whether there should be a state of Israel? Is it for or against, or is the Bible of no use here?

  4. Steven wrote (re. Gal 3:16):<>Truly appalling twisting of the sciptures by Paul, who would fail any exam on how to interpret the Bible.<>I suppose this accusation could be levelled against any NT writer, or the rabbinic writers for that matter. Confessional exegesis is almost always innovative, and sometimes radical. I don’t know that it’s necessarily “appalling”.<>What is the Biblical position on whether there should be a state of Israel? Is it for or against, or is the Bible of no use here?<>As a secularist I’m not inclined to use the bible to answer a question like this. But if I were, I would say the New Testament position is anti-state period. The kingdom of God is needed to supplant the kingdoms of men. The parable of < HREF="http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/2006/06/unmerciful-servant-what-if-messiah.html" REL="nofollow">The Unmerciful Servant<>, I believe, targets Jewish kingship as much as any other.

  5. Paul had studied under Gamaliel and was sought out for slaughter by Jewish leaders of his time. He not only had ‘gone over to the other side’ but he had the knowledge of Hebrew and Scripture to support his position. In Galatians 3, he is saying that the zera used in the promise to Abraham should be the singular form of the singular collective noun. Why anyone would argue with Paul’s translation and support Talmudic rabbis instead amazes me, if they are a Christian. If not, I would still give weight to Paul, not only for his background under Gamaliel but for his personal experience and insight. All his other writings support that he clearly saw zera as the singular form of the noun, from the root verb zara.

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