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Galatians 3:15-17 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

The Law Did Not Nullify the Promise. 15 [a]Brothers, in human terms I say that no one can annul or amend even a human will once ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant.[b] It does not say, “And to descendants,” as referring to many, but as referring to one, “And to your descendant,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward,[c] does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to cancel the promise.


  1. 3:15–18 A third argument to support Paul’s position that salvation is not through the law but by promise (Gal 3:1–14) comes from legal practice and scriptural history. A legal agreement or human will, duly ratified, is unalterable (Gal 3:15). God’s covenant with Abraham and its repeated promises (Gn 12:2–3, 7; 13:15; 17:7–8; 22:16–18; 24:7) is not superseded by the law, which came much later, in the time of Moses. The inheritance (of the Spirit and the blessings) is by promise, not by law (Gal 3:18). Paul’s argument hinges on the fact that the same Greek word, diathēkē, can be rendered as will or testament (Gal 3:15) and as covenant (Gal 3:17).
  2. 3:16 Descendant: literally, “and to his seed.” The Hebrew, as in Gn 12:7; 15:18; 22:17–18, is a collective singular, traditionally rendered as a plural, descendants, but taken by Paul in its literal number to refer to Christ as descendant of Abraham.
  3. 3:17 Four hundred and thirty years afterward: follows Ex 12:40 in the Greek (Septuagint) version, in contrast to Gn 15:13 and Acts 7:6, for chronology.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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