Re: [asa] Interpretive Question for Polygenists

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Wed Oct 24 2007 - 11:38:30 EDT

But other textual variants (which seem to be the preferred variants because
this is the main text of the United Bible Society Greek New Testament) have
anthropon, one "man." And the logic of the argument is that since God made
the nations, we are all God's offspring, and all may seek God (there is an
interesting bit of natural theology here as Paul appeals apologetically to
the Greeks), but likewise, God will through an appointed man (Christ) judge
the nations. Some of the crowd was offended by the very non-Greek idea that
this appointed judge has risen from the dead.

So the logic seems to be that God appointed a man through whom he
established the nations so that men might seek God, and that he also
appointed a man who will judge the nations. I've seen at least one
commentator who suggests that Paul probably has the table of nations from
Gen. 10 and 11 in mind.

I suppose one could argue that the nations were ultimately established
through the line of Adam even if some of the people within the nations were
not direct descendants of Adam. Those who founded and administered at least
the early nations were in the direct line of Adam even if others within the
first group of humans (assuming polygenism), who also became part of those
nations, were not.

I suppose one could also argue that although some universal language is used
here, the reference is only a general statement about God's dealings with
those nations that became the civilization known to Paul and his hearers,
and shouldn't be stretched into something that bears more broadly on
population genetics. This would be a hermenuetical argument about what is
intended to be authoritatively taught here. I don't feel confident enough
in my exegetical skills to make these determinations.

On 10/24/07, <> wrote:
> The Alexandrian text says "from one" without saying one what. So that
> doesn't help much.
> I never thought about this before, but in light of this interesting
> discussion I think the context does show us that it means one "nation"
> rather than one "individual".
> It specifically says in the same sentence that God made all the _nations_
> from one, not that he made all the _humans_ from one, so that implies that
> the "one" is speaking of nations. It also says that God set the boundaries
> of these nations, so again it is dealing with the concerns of nations rather
> than individuals.
> Plus, the historical setting supports Paul's concern with nations rather
> than individuals: Paul is dealing with a non-Jewish nation that was very
> proud of its uniqueness. Paul is concerned lest these Greeks will see the
> gospel message as merely the ideas of a foreign nation and thus beneath
> them. So Paul is pulling the proud Greek identity into a biblical
> worldview, stating that all of the nations are connected to one another in
> an original, single people group (one "nation"), and that it was the
> biblical God who had ordained the Greeks and other nations to split out from
> this beginning to achieve their uniqueness, and that the Greeks' world-wide
> boundaries of cultural domination (achieved by Alexander the Great) was
> ordained by God. It is all about the Greek nation's relationship to the
> Biblical God -- nations, not individuals.
> Also, I think Paul's "one" couldn't have been a reference to "one
> individual" unless Paul was being insensitive to the Greek mind. The Greeks
> would not understand this to be one individual because their mythology did
> not include such an idea. We, by way of contrast, immediately jump to the
> assumption that Paul meant "one individual" because Adam is a famous part of
> our own cultural context. But in the Greek mythology, the sea & sky gods
> emerged from the chaos and then gave birth to the second generation of
> gods. The chief of this second generation, Zeus, killed his father Uranus
> the sky god and defeated the Titans that had been made by his mother the sea
> god. (Lots of similiarities to the Babylonian myths, here, but not to the
> Biblical worldview.) The class of humans were made by these Titans, as I
> recall. There was no individual in a garden of Eden. Instead, Pandora gave
> the class of men a box that unleashed evil into their midst. The Titan
> Prometheus later saved the men from the gods' wrath through a single
> individual at the time of the Flood. So there are analogies to the
> bilibical worldview in the Fall of man, in the rebellion among gods (Satan),
> and in the Flood with a single individual being the appointed savior, but
> there is no analogy to a single individual at the origin of humanity. So if
> Paul meant "individual" then he was introducing a foreign concept and didn't
> do a very good job of clarifying what he meant. Given their cultural
> assumptions, the Greeks would have understood it to mean "nation" despite
> what Paul meant.
> Furthermore, if Paul had meant "individual", then not only would the
> Greeks fail to understand what he meant, but it would have been an
> unnecessary concept for Paul to bring up, in the first place. The weaker
> claim that humanity came from a single nation, which would resonate with the
> Greek mythology, would be sufficient for Paul's purpose. No need to bring
> up a much stronger claim that we came from a single _individual_ when the
> much weaker claim would be more effective and was all that Paul needed. So
> if Paul understood the Greek mind, then likely he actually meant "one
> nation" since that would be sufficient for his argument, would resonate with
> his audience, would be what his audience understood him to mean anyhow, and
> would not unnecessarily bring up foreign ideas that would be
> counter-productive. We know that Paul was raised in a thoroughly Greek
> culture, was educated, and even quoted minor Greek poets in the Bible, and
> so surely he understood the Greek mind.
> So all-in-all I think it is a good conclusion that Paul meant "one nation"
> in this context. Even if "harma" was not in Paul's original wording, then
> whatever scribe may have inserted "harma" may have done so as clarification
> of what Paul meant.
> Phil
> -----Original Message-----
> From: gordon brown <gbrown@Colorado.EDU>
> To:
> Sent: Tue, 23 Oct 2007 11:01 pm
> Subject: RE: [asa] Interpretive Question for Polygenists
> On Tue, 23 Oct 2007, Jon Tandy wrote:
> > I think it's the result of a bad translation. Acts 17:26 says, "He made
> > from one blood (haima) all nations of men..." Haima means blood or
> kindred,
> > not necessarily one individual man. This could certainly be true for
> either
> > a recent or ancient development of mankind.
> >
> >
> > Jon Tandy
> >
> The Alexandrian text says "from one" without saying one what. So that
> doesn't help much.
> Gordon Brown (ASA member)
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Received on Wed Oct 24 11:39:21 2007

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