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NLT and Galatians 3:16

I am studying Galatians this morning and came across, what I believe to be, a huge miss for the NLT. It occurs in Galatians 3:16 –

God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn’t say “to his children,” as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says “to his child” –and that, of course, means Christ. (NLT)

Compare with a traditional rendering –

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. (NKJV)

Now I am not arguing for the traditional word “seed.” In fact, I think it is good to replace that word with something more understandable. The problem is with the translation of the Greek word, “sperma” (seed, NKJV). Every book I can find in my library says that sperma is a collective noun.

Expositor’s Bible Commentary: For the singular form has a collective significance and does, in fact, generally denote more than one person. The nearest English equivalent is the word “offspring.”

Truth Commentary: The noun is a collective noun, even as our English word is. The single “seed” can refer to a number of people (e.g., the seed of Abraham means the descendants of Abraham) or to one person (e.g., the seed of Abraham can mean one descendant of Abraham).

New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT): For the word translated seed in our version has a collective significance, also in the Hebrew and the Greek (cf. Rom. 4:13, 18, and Gal. 3:29), and it might be supposed, therefore that this ground alone hardly suffices to prove that but one descendant or one portion of the seed of Abraham was intended.

New Testament Commentary by William Hendriksen: Does not Paul know that even in the Hebrew the word seed is a collective noun, so that no plural is needed to indicate more than one? … And as to the Greek word for seed, namely, sperma, does the apostle not realize that this word also is a collective noun (Matt. 22:24; Rom. 4:18; Acts 7:6; 2 Cor. 11:22), so that spermata (seeds) would have been unnecessary in any case?

I am just trying to show that the word is a collective noun. “Child” as used by the NLT is not a collective noun and does not carry “a collective significance.” The problem reaches deeper because in Galatians 3:29 Paul argues that those who are Christ’s are “Abraham’s seed.” The collective noun is not merely identifying Christ but also the family/offspring that belongs to Christ. There are not multiple families/offspring that would be blessed, only Abraham’s family/offspring through Christ.

The ESV’s and NRSV’s use of “offspring” is probably the best word, as the Expositor’s Bible Commentary also argues for “offspring.”

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one,  “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. (ESV)

In any case, the rendering “child” by the NLT appears to be insufficient. The word “child” rules out the understanding of a collective of people being under consideration, which is clearly the case since Paul argues in Galatians 3:29 that we are part of that “seed,” “offspring,” or “family.”

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