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Genesis 15:6, JPS 1985 edition.

Discussion in 'Bible Versions & Translations' started by 37818, Jun 9, 2019.

  1. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

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    Genesis 15:6.
    ". . . And because he put his trust in the LORD, He reckoned it to his merit. . . ."
    Now the 1917 edition does read,
    ". . . And he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness. . . ."
     
  2. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    Here's a bit of preliminary research for you to look over; the first three versions are by Jewish scholars.

    6 And he put his trust in יהוה, who reckoned it to his merit.
    Genesis 15:6 (JPS Contemporary Torah) 2006.
    6 And he trusted the LORD, and He reckoned it to his merit.
    Robert Alter, Genesis, 2004. p. 75
    6 Now he trusted in YHWH,
    and he deemed it as righteous-merit on his part

    (note: he deemed it: “He” refers to God.)
    Everett Fox, The Schocken Bible: Volume 1, The Five Books of Moses. 1983. p. 65
    6 He trusted in Yahweh, and he deemed it as faithfulness on his part.
    John Goldingay, The First Testament, a New Translation. 2018. p. 13.​


    He reckoned it to his merit God is the subject of the verb.* Hebrew tsedakah, usually “righteousness,” sometimes bears the sense of “merit.” The idea is that Abram’s act of faith made him worthy of God’s reward, which is secured through a covenant. This interpretation is supported by Nehemiah 9:7–8 and by the similar phraseology in Psalms 106:30f., which refers to the narrative of Numbers 25:6–13. The latter tells of the intervention of Phinehas at the affair of Baal-peor, as a result of which he was granted God’s “pact of friendship”—“for him and his descendants after him a pact of priesthood for all time.” The alternative possibility that Abram regarded “it,”—that is, the promise of posterity—as an expression of God’s righteousness and grace seems less likely.**

    * So Targ. Onk., Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Radak, Sforno.
    ** So in Deut. 9:4; 2 Sam. 19:29; Dan. 9:18. The alternative interpretation is given by Bekhor Shor, Ramban, Ralbag, Abravanel.​

    Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 113.


    An extended discussion about this verse and its translation is found in the NICOT, Genesis [LINK]

    Rob
     
  3. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

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    The early example you gave was 1983. Do you have anything earlier or even prior to 1917? Or another passage in the 1985 edition, or other translation of other than Genesis 15:6 translated "merit."

    My thinking on this is it being unmerited merit.
     
  4. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    Oddly enough the difference in translation revolves around the word “he”.
    Who is “he”?

    The Christian understanding, the one we are very familiar are with, understands that God counted Abraham’s belief as righteousness. It seems obvious to us. It fits with the interpretation Paul applied to the passage.

    The Hebrew is ambiguous as noted in the passage by Sarna. The variance in translation addresses this ambiguity.

    Rob
     
  5. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

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    Which "he?" The one who trusted or the one crediting?
     
  6. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    ...he reckoned it to his...

    Both are undefined in the Hebrew.

    True, Paul clears things up for Christians in the NT.

    Rob
     
  7. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

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    That "He" is provided by the translator in English. for the One who "reckoned." And the "his" by the translator referring to Abraham.
     
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  8. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    I don't have the 1985 JPS Torah, but I do have a later adaption, the Contemporary Torah (2006)

    GENESIS 15:6
    RASHI [1040 – 1105]
    He put his trust in the LORD. He did not ask Him for a sign confirming this promise; “how shall I know” (v. 8) is only about the promise of the land (but see my comment there). He reckoned it to his merit. The translations understand correctly. [Note: One version of Rashi’s comment says “merit”; another, “righteousness.”]

    RASHBAM [c.1085 – c.1158]
    He reckoned it to his merit. Rather, “he [Abraham] took it as charitable of Him,” giving him something he did not deserve by his own merits. That is the straightforward sense of the text.

    IBN EZRA [1089–1167]
    His merit. As the same word is used in “It will be therefore to our merit before the LORD our God to observe faithfully this whole Instruction” (Deut. 6:25). But Jewish tradition uses this word tzedakah to mean “charity.”

    KIMHI [1160–1235]
    He put his trust in the LORD. He had done so previously as well, but with the doubt that we described above. But now he trusted Him completely, with no doubts whatsoever. He reckoned it to his merit. After all, he and his wife were getting older and the promise was still delayed, yet Abram nonetheless put his trust in Him.

    NAHMANIDES [1194–1270]
    And because he put his trust in the LORD, He reckoned it to his merit. Despite Rashi’s comment, I don’t understand what great merit it was in him [causing him] to “believe” (as OJPS correctly translates) what the Holy One said. Why would he not believe in “the true God” (Isa. 65:16)? After all, he himself was the prophet through whom this promise was given; and “God is not man to be capricious” (Num. 23:19). Besides, someone who trusted God enough to slaughter his beloved only son, not to mention all the other trials—why would he not believe a promise of reward? What I think is that the second half of the verse means something completely different: “He”—Abram—“thought it righteousness in Him.” That is, he thought that through the righteousness of the Holy One He would give him offspring no matter what, without regard to Abram’s own righteousness and not as a reward. Before this promise He had already said, “Your reward shall be very great” (v. 1), but now, reward or no, Abram would no longer have to fear that sin might cause him not to have offspring. Even though he originally thought that offspring were a conditional promise, as a reward for his actions, now that he had been told not to fear, he understood that “the matter had been determined by God” (41:32), “a firm oath that He would not renounce” (Ps. 132:11). It was a matter of the Lord’s righteousness and was irreversible: “By Myself have I sworn, from My mouth has issued righteousness, a word that shall not turn back” (Isa. 45:23). Or the second half of the verse could mean “He reckoned it righteousness in Him[self]” to have promised Abraham offspring, as in “God intended it for good” (50:20), using the same Hebrew verb as in our phrase. I would interpret Ps. 106:31 the same way.

    ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
    And because he put his trust in the LORD. Grammatically the Hebrew must mean, “And he [the “offspring” of v. 5] will put his trust in the LORD” (Abarbanel). Abram trusted the Lord to do what He said, no matter how unlikely or impossible it seemed (Sforno). He reckoned it to his merit. Abram took it as righteousness on God’s part because he knew he had in fact earned the right to be under the care of divine providence (Gersonides). He certainly deserved a son; this was the promise made to him in 12:2 (Abarbanel).

    Michael Carasik, ed., Genesis: Introduction and Commentary, trans. Michael Carasik, The Commentators’ Bible (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2018), 131.
    {dates added}

    COMPARE

    Deuteronomy 6:25 (JPS Contemporary Torah)
    It will be therefore to our merit before our God יהוה to observe faithfully this whole Instruction, as [God] has commanded us.”

    Deuteronomy 24:13 (JPS CT)
    you must return the pledge at sundown, that its owner may sleep in the cloth and bless you; and it will be to your merit before your God יהוה‎.

    Daniel 9:18 (NASB95)
    O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion.

    2 Samuel 8:15/1 Chronicles 18:14 (ESV)
    So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people.

    Rob
     
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  9. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    Here is the NET footnote:


    "20tn The nonconsecutive vav (ו) is on a perfect verbal form. If the composer of the narrative had wanted to show simple sequence, he would have used the vav consecutive with the preterite. The perfect with vav conjunctive (where one expects the preterite with vav consecutive) in narrative contexts can have a variety of discourse functions, but here it probably serves to highlight Abram’s response to God’s promise. For a detailed discussion of the vav + perfect construction in Hebrew narrative, see R. Longacre, “Weqatal Forms in Biblical Hebrew Prose: A Discourse-modular Approach,” Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics, 50-98. The Hebrew verb אָמַן (’aman) means “to confirm, to support” in the Qal verbal stem. Its derivative nouns refer to something or someone that/who provides support, such as a “pillar,” “nurse,” or “guardian, trustee.” In the Niphal stem it comes to mean “to be faithful, to be reliable, to be dependable,” or “to be firm, to be sure.” In the Hiphil, the form used here, it takes on a declarative sense: “to consider something reliable [or “dependable”].” Abram regarded the God who made this promise as reliable and fully capable of making it a reality."

    I see nothing in the passage to support something other that Abraham's faith in the promise of God was credited by God as righteousness.
     
  10. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    It would probably be a good idea to include the translation from which the note was taken, particularly since it's unique.

    Genesis 15:6 (NET)
    6 Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord considered his response of faith as proof of genuine loyalty.​

    Rob
     
  11. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    The issue was not with the NET liberal translation, the issue is who are the pronouns. The Hebrew grammar points to "Abram's response to God's promise."

    And again, the grammar points to "Abram regarded the God who made this promise as reliable and fully capable of making it a reality."
     
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  12. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    There are at least three different ways that Gen 15:6b could be understood, none of them are “liberal”.

    (1) Abram trusted the promise and considered Yahweh righteous;
    With this view tsedaqah would refer to God’s righteousness, and Abram’s acceptance of God’s promise and Abram’s trust that God would prove righteous in keeping His word. Grammatically possible.
    See note by KIMHI in a previous post​
    (2) Yahweh reckoned Abram as righteous based on his faith; the person who acts rightly is esteemed as righteous.
    (3) Yahweh reckoned Abram’s faith as a righteous act, making him worthy of the reward and the covenant.
    (a) See Sarna’s commentary note (second post in this thread)
    (b) John H. Walton writes,
    Genesis 15:6 should be seen as the premise on which the covenant is ratified. Because Abram takes God at his word, God credits him with a legacy on the basis of the “rightness” of this faith. He accomplishes this by formally establishing the covenant with him. Recognized righteousness becomes the basis for blessing.” Genesis, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 422.​
    (c) And the position taken in the New English Translation (NET) of Genesis 15:6 (and that of the translations that use the term, "merit").
    “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord considered his response of faith as proof of genuine loyalty.”​
    "In the second option, tsedaqah essentially means “vindication” or “acquittal,” and Abram’s faith has resulted in God’s justification and restoration of right relationship (Hughes 2004, 221–25; Mathews 2005, 168; McKeown 2008, 91). This second option is the traditional Christian interpretation of the verse, reading Genesis through the lens of Pauline soteriology (see Skinner 1910, 280; Wenham 1987, 330).
    A third option takes tsedaqah as a reference to Abram’s merit or worthiness to receive the reward or blessing from Yahweh (Sarna 1989, 113). Walton (2001, 422) finds the OT context of this phrase to be more suggestive of the third option, which distances the interpretation from Pauline categories of soteriology. Abram’s righteous act brings benefits to his descendants through the establishment of a covenant. The OT basis for this interpretation (found in both Sarna and Walton) comes from Psa 106:30–31 and Num 25:12–13."
    Douglas Mangum, Miles Custis, and Wendy Widder, Genesis 12–50, Lexham Bible Guide (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013), Ge 15:1–21.​

    :Cool In either case the interpretation of this text leads us to the same application: We are to take God at his word —believing that what he says will become reality and then act on that belief.

    I used this passage today in Adult Bible class while teaching a summary of Isaiah 1-23, a mini Gospel of Isaiah. The application follows from Genesis through the whole NT!

    Rob
     
  13. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    Interesting take of the text from a commentary offered this month by Faithlife in Verbum's monthly sale [LINK]

    The clear turning point of the story is 15:6: “And he believed the LORD, and he reckoned it to him as righteousness” (wĕheʾĕmin bayhwh wayyaḥšĕbehā lô ṣĕdāqâ). What is not clear is why Abram believed, what belief means in this context, why God reckoned this to him as righteousness, and what exactly righteousness means here.
    One will look in vain here for a definition of faith. This is a fine example of the narrative device of showing rather than telling: the reader is shown, in Abram, what faith is. The root ʾmn means “to believe,” “to have faith.” It can be used in Qal, Niphal, or Hiphil. The root occurs numerous times in the Hiphil.
    The general sense of the word in the Hipʿil is “to be firmly set in/on something.” With the preposition b it means to have confidence (1 Sam 29:11), and with the preposition l it seems to mean “to hold something to be true,” “to believe” (Gen 45:26). Three significant passages occur with the Hipʿil. The first is Gen 15:6, “And [Abraham] believed in Yahweh and He counted it as righteousness in him.” … In these instances the sense of trusting and having confidence is most noticeable.
    In Abram then we see what it means to have faith; it means to trust in relationship even when trust seems unwarranted. But why did he believe? Because he chose to trust. In the ongoing testing that is Abram’s life, we begin to see growth and development in the character. The one who was only partially obedient in Genesis 12 has made progress. This progress is what God perceives and so credits him with righteousness. Perhaps most concisely, “faith” can be seen to mean mutual trust. Abram trusts that YHWH will give him progeny. In response YHWH trusts that Abram will remain faithful to him. The moment makes most sense if, as this commentary argues, Abram is not seen as perfectly obedient at the moment of his call but as growing in his faith. This moment, then, marks a milestone in mutually developing trust. Abram allows himself to trust God, and God allows himself to trust Abram.

    David W. Cotter, Genesis, ed. Jerome T. Walsh, Chris Franke, and David W. Cotter, Berit Olam Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2003), 100.
     
  14. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

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    ". . . For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. . . ." -- Romans 4:2-5.
     
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  15. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    So then the question is, if I have faith (trust, belief), is that a work?
    The answer appears to be a resounding, NO.

    Faith is trusting Someone else’s abilities.

    Rob
     
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  16. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    Faith is not "works" as in "works of the Law" and therefore does not "earn" merit, because salvation is by grace and not works. OTOH, faith appears to be a "work" singular, an action or deed done by the person putting their faith, trust and full commitment in Christ.

    A certain group tries to conflate the "work of faith" with works, so as to support their bogus claim that faith must be given and instilled.

    John 6:29 appears to indicate the work God requires of us is to put our faith in Christ.
     
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