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Hebrews 11:11

Michael Abernathy » July 26th, 2013, 11:35 am

In Hebrews 11:11 αὐτὴ Σάρρα looks like the subject but δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβεν refers to a man’s part in procreation. The United Bible Society’s textual commentary suggests that καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα στεῖρα should be understood as a Hebraic circumstantial clause. I can accept that but it seems out of character with the excellent Greek used throughout Hebrews.
A second explanation is that the text omitted an iota subscript and it should have been understood as a dative of accompaniment. That makes sense but it calls for a slight emendation in the text.
Any suggestions for interpreting this passage that don’t alter biology, grammar, or the text?Sincerely,
Michael Abernathy

 David Lim » July 27th, 2013, 8:12 am

Michael Abernathy wrote:In Hebrews 11:11 αὐτὴ Σάρρα looks like the subject but δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβεν refers to a man’s part in procreation. The United Bible Society’s textual commentary suggests that καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα στεῖρα should be understood as a Hebraic circumstantial clause. I can accept that but it seems out of character with the excellent Greek used throughout Hebrews.
A second explanation is that the text omitted an iota subscript and it should have been understood as a dative of accompaniment. That makes sense but it calls for a slight emendation in the text.
Any suggestions for interpreting this passage that don’t alter biology, grammar, or the text?

What if the verbal idea in “εις καταβολην σπερματος” does not have Sarah as its subject but simply refers to the event itself? For another example, Matt 3:11 records John saying “εγω μεν βαπτιζω υμας εν υδατι εις μετανοιαν”, where the verbal idea in “εις μετανοιαν” does not have John as its subject. Likewise in Heb 11:11, “εις καταβολην σπερματος” could simply denote the reason for the power that Sarah received and not what she could do having it.

Iver Larsen » July 27th, 2013, 10:03 am

Michael Abernathy wrote:In Hebrews 11:11 αὐτὴ Σάρρα looks like the subject but δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβεν refers to a man’s part in procreation. The United Bible Society’s textual commentary suggests that καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα στεῖρα should be understood as a Hebraic circumstantial clause. I can accept that but it seems out of character with the excellent Greek used throughout Hebrews.
A second explanation is that the text omitted an iota subscript and it should have been understood as a dative of accompaniment. That makes sense but it calls for a slight emendation in the text.
Any suggestions for interpreting this passage that don’t alter biology, grammar, or the text?Sincerely,
Michael Abernathy

Another option is to take καταβολή in the general and basic sense as listed in BDAG:
① the act of laying someth. down, with implication of providing a base for someth., foundation. Readily connected with the idea of founding is the sense beginning

The same can be done to σπέρμα which is commonly used in the Bible simply to mean “descendants, children, posterity”.

Sarah received power to become the founding mother for many descendants. (Compare Gal 4:26-27).

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