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Romans 10:16-17 as one sentence

(Garth D. Wiebe, March 2015)

There's a popular slogan, "faith cometh by hearing," which is from Romans 10:17, often taken out of context.

Actually, it is a misquote, because the verb "cometh" is not in the original manuscript. In fact, there is no verb there at all, not even the verb "hear"!

First of all, Romans 10:16 says "Lord, who has believed our message (KJV 'report')." That word for "message/report" is the same Greek word, ακοη, (Strong's G189, "akoe") used in Romans 10:17. So, if everybody can translate it that way in verse 16, then they ought to be able to do so in verse 17.

Now, ακοη (Strong's G189, "akoe," LSJ #3405) is just the noun form of the verb ακουω (Strong's G191, "akouo," LSJ #3544), which is the verb "to hear," so the noun form just means "what-is-heard," obviously. That's why it is translated "message" or "report" in verse 16, because we don't have an English noun form for the verb "hear."

That gives us:

16: ...for Isaiah says "Lord! Who believes what-is-heard?"
17: Consequently, the belief out of what-is-heard and what-is-heard through the declaration of God.
But, what of the Romans 10:17 sentence with no verb? Putting the two verses together, it is an extension, a continuation, of Romans 10:16.

Romans 10:16 quotes the first part of Isa 53:1 exactly as rendered in the Septuagint (LXX).

Isaiah 53:1 (LXX) says "κυριε τις επιστευσεν τη ακοη ημων και ο βραχιων κυριου τινι απεκαλυφθη" and then the first word of LXX verse 2 (remember that verse numbers are not in the original) is ανηγγειλαμεν.

The word for word literal translation of Isaiah 53:1 is "1 Lord! who? believes[aorist] to-what-is-heard of-us and the arm of-the-Lord who? it-is-revealed[aorist] 2 we-message[aorist]

Keeping that in mind, if you combine Romans 10:16-17 into one sentence, it works as a parallel:

16 ...κυριε τις επιστευσεν τη ακοη ημων 17 αρα η πιστισ εξ ακοης η δε ακοη δια ρηματος χριστου/θεου
The word for word literal translation would be:
16 ...Lord! who? believes[aorist] to-the what-is-heard of-us 17 based-on the belief out of-what-is-heard the and/yet what-is-heard through of-declaration of-Christ/God
Well, that is all quite awkward, but if you read it through a few times to get your English mind accustomed to it, I think you will see that it is one complete sentence. I rendered the conjunction αρα as "based-on" which is reasonable, if you look up the lexicons for that.

Re-translating the same thing to render it in proper grammatical English (although still a bit awkward),

"[16] But not all obey the good news, for Isaiah is saying, 'Lord! Who believes what is heard?' [17] based on faith in what is heard, and yet what is heard through the declaration of Christ/God. [18] But I am saying, did not Israel know? First Moses is saying..."
So, verse 17 becomes the New Testament version of the continuation of what Isaiah said. He quotes the first part of Isa 53:1 and completes the thought in New Testament language.

My NA28 critical apparatus tool shows all known manuscripts of the New Testament scripture to be in harmony for Rom 10:16-17, except that some say "Christ" at the end and some say "God" at the end.

This also makes sense in context, because now it is a statement about Israel (vsrse 16), Israel (verse 17), Israel (verse 18)..., not Israel (verse 16), modern "faith" slogan: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (verse 17), Israel (verse 18)....

Paraphrasing (not translating) Rom 10:16-18, just to make clear what I am getting at, (and adding my own verbs):

"But not all obey the good news, for Isaiah says 'Lord! Who believes our message?' such that it would be as a consequence of faith in the message that comes through the declaration of Christ/God. But I am saying, didn't Israel know? First Moses said..."
That's quite a different rendering of Rom 10:17. Now, all that said, is there anything wrong with the slogan "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God"? Well, that depends on what you mean by it. If you mean that just hearing and hearing and hearing will impart "faith" to you, then you are sadly mistaken. But, if you mean that you must first hear before you can believe what you hear, and that what you hear needs to be from the word of God/Christ, then you are right on target.

So, I am not against the slogan, if used correctly. I am just saying that Romans 10:17 does not actually recite this slogan.

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