Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He said not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to your seed…
This comment of St. Paul has given rise to much discussion. It has been urged that the stress of the argument rests on a grammatical error; that, as the plural of the word here rendered σπέρμα is only used to signify "grain" or "crops," the sacred writer could not under any circumstances have said "seeds as of many." The answer to this objection is, that St. Paul is not laying stress on the particular word used, but on the fact that a singular noun of some kind, a collective term, is employed, where a plural (such as τὰ τέκνα or οἱ ἀπόγονοι) might have been substituted. Avoiding the technical terms of grammar, he could not express his meaning more simply than by the opposition, "not to thy seeds, but to thy seed." A plural substantive would be inconsistent with the interpretation given; the singular collective noun, if it admits of plurality, at the same time involves the idea of unity. The question therefore is no longer one of grammatical accuracy, but of theological interpretation. Is this a legitimate sense to assign to the seed of Abraham? Doubtless by the seed of Abraham was meant in the first instance the Jewish people, as by the inheritance was meant the land of Canaan; but in accordance with the analogy of Old Testament types and symbols, the term involves two secondary meanings:(1) With a true spiritual instinct, though the conception embodied itself at times in strangely grotesque and artificial forms; even the Rabbinical writers saw that "the Christ" was the true seed of Abraham. In Him the race was summed up, as it were. In Him it fulfilled its purpose and became a blessing to the whole earth. Without Him its separate existence as a peculiar people had no meaning. Thus He was not only the representative, but the embodiment of the race. In this way the people of Israel is the type of Christ; and in the New Testament parallels are sought in the career of the one to the life of the other. In this sense St. Paul uses "the seed of Abraham" here. But(2) according to the analogy of interpretation of the Old Testament in the New, the spiritual takes the place of the natural; the Israel after the flesh becomes the Israel after the spirit; the Jewish nation denotes the Christian Church. So St. Paul interprets the seed of Abraham (Romans 4:18; Romans 9:7; and above, ver. 7. These two interpretations are not opposed to each other; they are not independent of each other. Without Christ the Christian people have no existence. He is the source of their spiritual life. They are one in Him. By this link St. Paul at the close of the chapter (vers. 28, 29) connects together the two senses of the "seed of Abraham," dwelling once more on the unity of the seed — "ye are all one man in Christ; and if ye are part of Christ, then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise."
Parallel VersesKJV: Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.