Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 16, 1953

Genesis 12:3

George P. Estes, Maplewood, Missouri

(Editor's Note: Certain would-be "scholars" among us have given their verdict to the effect that they "find no evidence of modernism" in the new Revised Standard Version of the Bible. George P. Estes, the writer of this article, shows these "scholars" that they have no understanding of the problem at all; and that their scholarship is mere pretension. Brother Estes is a former student of Dr. Cadbury, one of the Committee of Nine who translated the New Testament.)

"The seventh item: 'And in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.' This word reaches back to the divided 'families' (Gen. 10:5,20,31) of the earth, divided by their sins, as well as to the curse of 3:17, which is now to be replaced by a blessing. A blessing so great that its effects shall extend to 'all the families of the earth' can be thought of only in connection with the promised Savior. This word, therefore, is definitely Messianic, and determines that the Messiah is to emerge from the line of Abram. Negative criticism, consciously or unconsciously bent on removing supernatural elements from the Old Testament, attempts to cancel the specifically Messianic thought of the passage by modifying the meaning of the word 'be blessed' (nibhrekhu). This stem is Nifal, and so passive.

"Now the claim is raised that the inherent idea of Nifal is reflexive, as the parallel Hithpaels of 22:18 and 26:4 suggest. Besides, it is claimed, the verb barakh has a passive in the Pual form which is extensively used. Yet the truth of the matter is that the passive of the Nifal stem should be adhered to as the normal thing, unless the passive sense is actually impossible. The Nifal is passive rather than reflexive. In the second place, a careful study of the Pual will reveal that it is used of blessings on the lower levels — blessings on the house, the name, the inheritance, the person, the land, or the generation of the upright. Or when the verb is used in reference to "the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21), it refers to blessings that man bestows upon it — human blessings, not divine. In our passage the case is different. Here the reference is to blessings divinely bestowed. Therefore, a distinctive verb is sought. The Hithpaels of 22:18 and 26:4 merely add another aspect to the case, namely that men shall wish for themselves (reflexive) the blessing of the seed of Abram. These two passages therefore, are not an interpretation of outs but a thought supplementary to this original promise." (Leopold: Commentary on Genesis, pages 413,14)

Now take a look at how the Revised Standard Version renders that passage, "And by you all the families of the earth will bless themselves." (Genesis 12:3) The reflexive (themselves) corresponds to the Greek middle voice, and means: "one does something directly or indirectly for self."

Most Modernists and Liberals do not believe that Genesis 12:3 is Messianic, but that its fulfillment is to be found in Joseph who supplied grain to his famine-stricken brothers and father. But, contrary to this liberalistic idea, the Apostle Paul took this very verse to refer to the Messiah, for he quotes it in Galatians 3:8, and in the succeeding verses proceeds to show how Christ fulfilled this promise.

That Genesis should be translated by the Nifal (passive) "shall be blessed" instead of the Hithpael (reflexive) "shall bless themselves" is evident from a study of the subject. Did man have part in making the plan of salvation, or was it wholly from the goodness of God? I believe it to be the latter. The grace of God is not something we merit; but it is the unmerited favor of God. The Savior was sent because God loved His creation, man, even while man was a sinner. Furthermore, Paul states that "all spiritual blessings are in Christ." (Eph. 1:13) No blessing then, can I obtain apart from Christ; by myself, by my own endeavors, I can achieve no blessing at all. But the translators of the Revised Standard Version place the emphasis upon man (themselves) "shall bless themselves" rather than upon God, "shall be blessed."

Generally, a word can be translated by two or three English words expressing the idea. But of these possibilities, the translators of the Revised Standard Version, when Christ is under consideration, invariably appear to select the one most remote from expressing His divinity. This is sheer dishonesty, and is prompted by liberal bias. When a man believes Christ is NOT divine, how can he be expected to use a word attributing divinity to Him when it is at all possible to use some other word which does not carry that idea?