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Thread: Faith from Hebrews 11:17-19 Paralleled to Genesis 22 to Interpret Exodus 20:20

  1. #1
    tWebber
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    Question Faith from Hebrews 11:17-19 Paralleled to Genesis 22 to Interpret Exodus 20:20

    Hi, sorry if I'm posting in the wrong section... I wasn't sure if it was ok to post here or to Christianity 201. Also, apologies if this is a long post!

    I'm looking at Hebrews 11:17 (ESV), "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son[.]"

    My questions relate to "by faith" translated from pistei and parsed as noun, dative, feminine, singular. The line I'm looking at is:

    Pistei prosenenochen Abraam ton Isaak.

    My thoughts: Abraham is the nominative of the phrase/sentence. "has offered up" (prosenenochen) is the verb by which Abraham acts toward the direct object of Isaac.

    1) Would this make "by faith" the indirect object?
    2) Because it is dative, would this particular usage be "dative of means/instrument" (by means of faith)? I don't see anything else before and after verse 17 that could indicate a different "means" or a "wielder (of the means)". Perhaps I'm missing something? But I'm thinking that if it is the indirect object, then it is essentially stand-alone.
    3) I am also a bit confused by the gender (feminine). Why is it feminine? Is it similar to how Wisdom is feminine in the Proverbs? Or cars are addressed in the feminine in English?

    The context: the reason why I'm looking at this is because I originally thought that "by faith" is from God (Greek grammar-wise). I already know that the lexicon, when drilled down to the root of the word, suggests two types of faith: human and divine given. But when I looked at the parsing, it doesn't appear to say either way. Hence my questions above, trying to figure out if "by faith" is just the indirect object with no other hints/clues as to where this faith comes from (whether by human means or from God).

    My other thoughts of where this faith comes from was to look at Genesis 22 and reading it side-by-side with Hebrews 11. From Genesis 22, I see three verses of significance: verses 5, 8, and 12.

    5: Abraham knew that he would return with Isaac.
    8: Abraham knew that God would provide the lamb offering.

    The two verses above coincide with what Hebrews 11:17-19. That is, Abraham knew that even if Isaac died, God would raise him from the dead (v 19). He knew that God could do this because God gave Abraham Isaac even though at the time, he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old. Sarah and Abraham both laughed at the notion that this could happen because of their old age (Genesis 17:15-17; 21:1-7; 18:9-14). But the impossible miracle happened nonetheless. God's other promise to Abraham is that through Isaac, Abraham's descendants would be innumerable as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:1-6; 17:19-21). God had not yet fulfilled this promise but he did fulfill Isaac's birth and at the predicted time. And this is why Abraham had his "faith". God gave him divine knowledge and the evidence to backup those claims (the impossible miracle of Isaac's birth). Therefore, Abraham's faith came from God.

    12: Abraham feared God.

    The theme of the 'fear of the Lord' is mentioned many times throughout Scripture. I'm thinking that this has significance to Exodus 20:20 where Moses says, "Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.'" I think I was able to figure out the latter part, "that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin." The former part, "Do not fear, for God has come to test you," I think can be interpreted with help from Genesis 22:12.

    fear of the Lord -> testing of faith -> true faith comes from God -> no need to fear (because the test will be passed since true faith comes from God) -> obedience to God's commands

    I don't know if I'm making sense! Hoping someone could give their two cents.

    Edit: clarified the Abraham/promise fulfillment paragraph.
    Last edited by oopsies; 05-27-2019 at 06:01 PM.

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    tWebber
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    The goal of the discussion, at least starting in Heb 10, was about being able to endure in life through faith. The discussion doesn't focus on the source and target of our faith. Yet, in Heb 10:23 we see there is the identification of the target as the one who has promised these things. (I like to emphasize that 'faith' is primarily about trust toward God rather than belief in certain ideas or doctrines.)

    I haven't looked grammatically at the details of your passage. But the idea on faith seems to be about faith as the 'means' or the 'ability' or the 'sustenance' to proceed on the unexpected command to sacrifice his son. The dative is described, in part, as "how or with what something is done" (source=http://daedalus.umkc.edu/FirstGreekBook/JWW_FGB3.html). The target and source of their faith likely was known without any elaboration within Hebrews.

    P.S., either forum would work however the Biblical Languages is generally the section for exegesis and hermeneutics whereas the Christianity section is more for theology or doctrine.
    Last edited by mikewhitney; 05-28-2019 at 01:08 PM.

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    tWebber tabibito's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oopsies View Post
    Hi, sorry if I'm posting in the wrong section... I wasn't sure if it was ok to post here or to Christianity 201. Also, apologies if this is a long post!

    I'm looking at Hebrews 11:17 (ESV), "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son[.]"

    My questions relate to "by faith" translated from pistei and parsed as noun, dative, feminine, singular. The line I'm looking at is:

    Pistei prosenenochen Abraam ton Isaak.

    My thoughts: Abraham is the nominative of the phrase/sentence. "has offered up" (prosenenochen) is the verb by which Abraham acts toward the direct object of Isaac.

    1) Would this make "by faith" the indirect object?
    2) Because it is dative, would this particular usage be "dative of means/instrument" (by means of faith)? I don't see anything else before and after verse 17 that could indicate a different "means" or a "wielder (of the means)". Perhaps I'm missing something? But I'm thinking that if it is the indirect object, then it is essentially stand-alone.
    3) I am also a bit confused by the gender (feminine). Why is it feminine? Is it similar to how Wisdom is feminine in the Proverbs? Or cars are addressed in the feminine in English?

    The context: the reason why I'm looking at this is because I originally thought that "by faith" is from God (Greek grammar-wise). I already know that the lexicon, when drilled down to the root of the word, suggests two types of faith: human and divine given. But when I looked at the parsing, it doesn't appear to say either way. Hence my questions above, trying to figure out if "by faith" is just the indirect object with no other hints/clues as to where this faith comes from (whether by human means or from God).

    My other thoughts of where this faith comes from was to look at Genesis 22 and reading it side-by-side with Hebrews 11. From Genesis 22, I see three verses of significance: verses 5, 8, and 12.

    5: Abraham knew that he would return with Isaac.
    8: Abraham knew that God would provide the lamb offering.

    The two verses above coincide with what Hebrews 11:17-19. That is, Abraham knew that even if Isaac died, God would raise him from the dead (v 19). He knew that God could do this because God gave Abraham Isaac even though at the time, he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old. Sarah and Abraham both laughed at the notion that this could happen because of their old age (Genesis 17:15-17; 21:1-7; 18:9-14). But the impossible miracle happened nonetheless. God's other promise to Abraham is that through Isaac, Abraham's descendants would be innumerable as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:1-6; 17:19-21). God had not yet fulfilled this promise but he did fulfill Isaac's birth and at the predicted time. And this is why Abraham had his "faith". God gave him divine knowledge and the evidence to backup those claims (the impossible miracle of Isaac's birth). Therefore, Abraham's faith came from God.

    12: Abraham feared God.

    The theme of the 'fear of the Lord' is mentioned many times throughout Scripture. I'm thinking that this has significance to Exodus 20:20 where Moses says, "Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.'" I think I was able to figure out the latter part, "that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin." The former part, "Do not fear, for God has come to test you," I think can be interpreted with help from Genesis 22:12.

    fear of the Lord -> testing of faith -> true faith comes from God -> no need to fear (because the test will be passed since true faith comes from God) -> obedience to God's commands

    I don't know if I'm making sense! Hoping someone could give their two cents.

    Edit: clarified the Abraham/promise fulfillment paragraph.
    No preposition is used with regard to faith - so it is translator's/interpreter's (including reader's call) - To me it seems likely that "in" and "by" would be equally appropriate ... interpreting "as an act of." Mileage will of course vary.
    1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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    tWebber
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    I think can see what the two of you mean. Lack of preposition + context suggests that the source of faith is already understood by the early church as sustenance to our spiritual lives.

    I guess my question changes then... ignoring the Greek, can we exegete in the manner I was thinking of? Or would that violate some acceptable principle of hermeneutics?

    ex) I tell you that I need to pray and repent this afternoon.

    Are we permitted to pull "pray," "repent," and "afternoon" and come up with an understanding. That is, because I used "pray" and "repent" together and posted it in the biblical languages forum, the underlying understanding is that I sinned and perhaps, the assumption is that I already regularly pray and repent as part of my Christian walk. Because I used "this afternoon," + (assumption) I already pray and repent regularly, a time element is introduced suggesting a recent sin. I don't want to use "implied" but I suppose more like an analysis of diction? Or perhaps I am assigning the wrong term to what I'm trying to get at.

    The broader question, of course, is can I stretch the analysis and link it to Exodus 20:20? Or is that too much of a lack of info and too many assumptions?

    And slight aside, if the above cannot (or should not) be done (even as best practice), then what does this say about all the books, blog articles, sermons, etc. that all use this method to interpret Scripture and develop "theology"? How can one trust any of it?

    I hope you understood what I'm saying cause I barely understand what I'm getting at!

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    tWebber tabibito's Avatar
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    Context includes cultural context of the time when these events took place, and the time when they were recorded. What was Abraham's background? what was the background of the chronicler? The chronicler's history isn't known, but a certain amount of Abram's can be stated with reasonable confidence.

    Abram was from Ur, the total pantheon for which included about 3600 gods. The "patron god" (so to speak) of Ur was the moon god Nanna/Suen/Sin (same god, different name depending on locality). Child sacrifice was much a part of the religious practices during Abram's upbringing, so he didn't have a pre-set resistance to being required to sacrifice his own son. The point where this part of the story becomes interesting - El was the chief god of Ur's pantheon, but he was believed to have no interaction with creation.

    The call to Abraham by El was a bolt out of the blue. It can be assumed from the foregoing (with reasonable confidence) that the countermand to the sacrifice was not something that Abraham would have been expecting or even wanting - it was simply something that he expected a god to require. Abraham's offering his son in sacrifice, then, was entirely real, and the event would have underscored and reinforced the point that his god wanted nothing to do with such devotions.
    Last edited by tabibito; 05-29-2019 at 06:10 AM.
    1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by oopsies View Post
    I think can see what the two of you mean. Lack of preposition + context suggests that the source of faith is already understood by the early church as sustenance to our spiritual lives.
    I was saying that 'faith' was somewhat defined in Heb 10. But its meaning was understood before Hebrews was written. The writer was now telling them to endure ...because 'faith' supplies strength to endure. Note that I would avoid speaking of 'spiritual life' because that term could be lacking a useful definition.

    On the first half of the original post (OP), you were doing decent exegetical steps to seek out understanding. It was roughly okay to ask "what is the source of Abe's faith" expressed here. But the passage isn't intending to explain the source -- only the continuation. The initial goal isn't really about asking the question "what is said about the source of faith?" but is about asking what the passage says -- and you were on the path to that.

    You also need to look at the passage in context. What is the context about? Your point on "sustenance to our spiritual lives" may be accurate to the Hebrews 11 (up to verse 24 where a transition may occur) which seems to emphasize that endurance through life via faith in God's promises. These promises may not be seen as fulfilled in our life time -- but we 'know' they are the end result.

    It does help to look at Genesis 22. But you may be reading the idea of "evidence" as the basis of faith; it is possible that Abraham didn't need evidence. Maybe "evidence" came after faith ... or helped sustain his faith --I'm just speculating here. You may find that Genesis 22 doesn't help explain the origin of faith but merely provides historical details behind the mention of Abraham in Heb 11.

    Once you understand the verses in context of the passage, you can make determinations of the insights for modern life. This is hermeneutics.
    I guess my question changes then... ignoring the Greek, can we exegete in the manner I was thinking of? Or would that violate some acceptable principle of hermeneutics?

    ex) I tell you that I need to pray and repent this afternoon.

    Are we permitted to pull "pray," "repent," and "afternoon" and come up with an understanding. That is, because I used "pray" and "repent" together and posted it in the biblical languages forum, the underlying understanding is that I sinned and perhaps, the assumption is that I already regularly pray and repent as part of my Christian walk. Because I used "this afternoon," + (assumption) I already pray and repent regularly, a time element is introduced suggesting a recent sin. I don't want to use "implied" but I suppose more like an analysis of diction? Or perhaps I am assigning the wrong term to what I'm trying to get at.

    The broader question, of course, is can I stretch the analysis and link it to Exodus 20:20? Or is that too much of a lack of info and too many assumptions?

    And slight aside, if the above cannot (or should not) be done (even as best practice), then what does this say about all the books, blog articles, sermons, etc. that all use this method to interpret Scripture and develop "theology"? How can one trust any of it?
    A sermon (or even more narrow hermeneutics) can introduce additional passages related to the initial passage discussed. In best practice, this is done with cautious verification that both passages have been interpreted carefully and that both convey the same truth-- or that the additional passage has been referred to -- in confirmation of the same truth.

    Your example about prayer and repentance would be difficult to analyze without broader context. As you suggested, the example could be referring to your response to an actual sin committed or to a general practice (to cover both known and unknown sins). So, you mention the right alternatives to examine (for interpretation of the example) but there is no way to choose from among them -- unless we have further detail of your behavior today or of your religious practices. Sometimes, another passage in scripture may shift the balance from pure ambiguity into a state of greater probability of one interpretations against a weaker one.

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    tWebber
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    And slight aside, if the above cannot (or should not) be done (even as best practice), then what does this say about all the books, blog articles, sermons, etc. that all use this method to interpret Scripture and develop "theology"? How can one trust any of it?
    First of all, the commentaries will often address the best meaning of the Greek text. So those are useful. However, disputes arise among these, so you often must work from that starting point and make decisions. This path is better than just a blind guess.

    The commentaries also provide historical details which help narrow the meaning of the text. Differences still occur. It is hard to determine which are influenced by ideologies. Sometimes the differences are a matter of emphasis -- or a view from a different angle. I think that we often discover the same doctrines despite the different vantage points. Usually there are parallel discussions (from other scriptures) which help identify the best doctrines. Partly we rely on the hermeneutical loop -- where our doctrines/creeds inform the study of the text while our study of the text helps inform our doctrines.

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    Sorry for the late reply, got really busy. Thanks for the info! I'll digest it some more!

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