Romans 11:4 (NA28 | ESV):

ἀλλὰ τί λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ χρηματισμός; κατέλιπον ἐμαυτῷ ἑπτακισχιλίους ἄνδρας, οἵτινες οὐκ ἔκαμψαν γόνυ τῇ Βάαλ.

But what is God’s reply to him? (literally: what does the χρηματισμός say to him?) “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

This is the only usage of χρηματισμός in the (NA28) New Testament. BDAG indicates that it means something like oracle here (cf. LSJ). I find three instances in the LXX – two in 2 Macc. and one in Proverbs.1 In Romans 11 in introduces a loose quotation of the LORD’s reply to Elijah in 1 Kings (3 Reigns) 19:18.

Why did Paul use χρηματισμός here rather than any of his more common formulas for introducing citations of the Hebrew Bible? Is it appropriate to translate it as “God’s reply”?


1. 31:1, where it translates maśśāʾ, elsewhere the “oracle” of the prophets, esp. Isaiah (where it is usually ὅραμα/ὅρασις or ῥῆμα), but not used in the Elijah story that I see.

  • The word in question is a verbal noun to χρηματίζω, of which the passive is used in the NT with the meaning "receive an answer, warning," (said of divine warnings or revelations). Generally, for verbs in -ίζω, the verbal noun in -ισμός denotes the action or result expressed by the verb (taken in its active sense). That would indicate that "oracle" is in general one of the possible translations, and that in this case "the response of God" is also absolutely acceptable. I do not know why the author has opted for this word in this case, but it doesn't look strange to me either. – RP_ Nov 18 '15 at 13:36
  • @René Thanks for that info. I’m not contending that it doesn’t make sense, only that it stands out against the background of just a couple very frequently recycled formulas that Paul uses elsewhere to introduce quotations from the Jewish scriptures. – Susan Nov 18 '15 at 21:38
  • Clement also uses the term (1 Clement 17:5) in discussing Exodus 3:1-9 – user33515 Jun 6 '17 at 13:25
  • I am in all ways a novice in Greek but couldn't it mean "What does [this], the response to him mean: 'I have kept for Myself'..." – Sola Gratia Jun 13 '17 at 22:10

χρῆμα [Strong 5536] is money, or, more particularly, currency. It is communicated value, exchanged one to another. χρηματίζω appears nine times in the Stephens 1550 text and χρηματισμός once as listed in Young's Concordance.

'Oracle', λόγιον, [Strong 3051] is something different although there is a connection through λογια, a matter of consolidation up to higher currency, when Paul requires it, that there be no gatherings [KJV] when he comes, 1 Corinthians 16:2; a similar concept of communicated value.

χρηματισμός, [Strong 5538], I take it, is a matter of God revealing, privately, to Elijah that he has a matter of great value in store - 7,000 items to be precise. This is a matter of value; a form of currency. God privately responds to Elijah's devotion and transmits a valuable piece of information to him, is how I take the wording myself.

"But what was privately communicated to him ?" bears the meaning of secret revelation and also the discrete transference of value, without unnecessarily mentioning the name of God - which is not actually there in the text.

  • Edited to include reference to Young. – Nigel J Oct 5 '17 at 22:24
  • Edited with lexicon references. – Nigel J Oct 6 '17 at 3:26
  • Yes, I understand. No problem. As a student of the bible, I always seek to understand how a word has been used throughout the scripture itself, so in my own studies I stay within the context of scripture. Lexicons are not for that specific purpose, as such. But here, I shall need to conform and I shall, in time, learn how to express matters within the disciplines of the website. Thank you for your comment. – Nigel J Oct 6 '17 at 5:04
  • As to lexicons themselves, Liddell & Scott (I use the one thousand page 1854 American Edition) is based largely (and Liddell & Scott freely admit it) on Passow, who, in turn followed Gottlieb, who, himself, was following Stephanus (Estienne). But what if Estienne was not accurate on a particular point ? Then we might have an error communicated for the past 450 years ! So I tread carefully. – Nigel J Oct 6 '17 at 5:12

Question Restatement

The question seems to be asking:

  • what does ὁ χρηματισμός mean in Romans 11:4?
  • why did Paul make that word choice, if any

Response

Apparently Paul coined a good many words in the NT and did not coin the word χρηματισμός. Other extant usages of the word vary but this usage seems to be what Paul has in mind:

  1. of an oracle, give a response to those who consult it, LXX Je.33(26).2, al., D.S.15.10, JAJ11.8.4, Plu.2.435c, Porph. Abst.2.48; δι’ ὕδατος Iamb.Myst.3.11; of gods, give ear to, χ. τοῖς εὐχομένοις Luc.Pseudol.8:—Pass., receive an answer, warning, in NT of divine warnings or revelations, Ev.Matt.2.12, etc.; ὑπ’ ἀγγέλου Act.Ap.10.22; ἦν αὐτῷ κεχρηματισμένον a warning had been given him, Ev.Luc.2.26; χ. ὑπὸ δαιμονίων καὶ φαντασίας εἰδώλων Vett.Val.67.5.

http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=117634&context=lsj&action=from-search

This word is used also in Jeremiah 26:2 LXX where the LORD tells Jeremiah to relate everything he commands him to say and to not omit even a single word:

NET Bible Jeremiah 26:2 The Lord said, “Go stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple. Speak out to all the people who are coming from the towns of Judah to worship in the Lord’s temple. Tell them everything I command you to tell them. Do not leave out a single word!

LXX Jeremiah 26:2 οὕτως εἶπεν κύριος στῆθι ἐν αὐλῇ οἴκου κυρίου καὶ χρηματιεῖς ἅπασι τοῖς Ιουδαίοις καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ἐρχομένοις προσκυνεῖν ἐν οἴκῳ κυρίου ἅπαντας τοὺς λόγους οὓς συνέταξά σοι αὐτοῖς χρηματίσαι μὴ ἀφέλῃς ῥῆμα

Paul, I believe, is likening the interaction of Elijah with God between the time that he mentions his predicament to the time he receives a response to consulting an oracles. It seems to me that Paul wants to "color" Elijah's exchange with God with language of "consulting an oracle".

Why? Because he understands that the one who appeared to Elijah was not God himself but rather his "go-between" aka ὁ χρηματισμός aka "the oracle" aka "the one who delivers χρησμοί ("divine messages/predictions/mysteries")", the angel:

NIV 1 Kings 19:

5Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

7The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

Continuing, with the angel acting as oracle, a divine prediction of a particular denouement is given to Elijah. I suspect that this is an example of or runs parallel to the idea of a god communicating a mystery to someone with the dire warning that they must not reveal the secret to anyone on pain of indescribable pain and suffering. Here the mystery is that God has 7000 remaining adherents.

9There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

This is the response that Paul refers to:

15The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

This, in my analysis represents the following:

  • the term in question is from the domain of "consulting of oracles"
  • oracles delivered a divine secret message via his angel
  • hence Paul's use of the jargon for the "inquiring of the oracle" - the angel was the deliverer of the message, but from God.

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