Rom 4:3 BLB

For what does the Scripture say? “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness.”

Rom 4:3 YLT

for what doth the writing say? 'And Abraham did believe God, and it was reckoned to him--to righteousness;'

How do we translate the word ἐλογίσθη (elogisthē)?

  • 3
    have you checked the dictionary meaning from biblehub?
    – Michael16
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 14:18
  • 3
    The OP has clearly done their homework and checked the Greek underlying the English translation. The breadth of scope of the word ἐλογίσθη requires some study, hence the question being asked.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 8:14
  • 2
    Hi Faith, as Michael is saying it would be helpful to show what you have found so far from your own investigation on this question.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 8:31

5 Answers 5


επιστευσεν δε αβρααμ τω θεω και ελογισθη αυτω εις δικαιοσυνην

[Romans 4:3 - TR (undisputed) - Beza, Stephanus, Elzevir and Scrivener are all identical]

Logizomai Strong 3049 is a deponent verb, thus it is middle voice or responsive. It is a response to an action. Some call this 'reflexive'.

The word appears in the NT several times and also in the Septuagint in regard to Abraham. The words 'Abraham believed God and it was 'accounted'/'reckoned' to him unto righteousness' appear several times in exactly the same form.

Logizomai is God's response to Abraham's faith.

Logizomai is a matter of evaluation. This can be seen in Paul's use of the word in regard to 'treasuring up' weekly contributions so that there should be no gatherings of large numbers of small denomination coins when he arrives. They should add to their savings, then 'treasure up' to a small number of high denomination coins, easily transported on Paul's further journey, 1 Corinthians 16:2.

Concentration of value is the concept lying behind the word.

A value is concentrated, and an estimation of that value is made.

'Accounting' is useful but has too much association with finance and coinage. 'Logicate' would be useful and it is available in the English language but has not been used, 'reckoning' having developed but 'reckoning' has bad connotations, a 'reckoning' behind the 'reckoning' ; a hint of deviousness in the reckoning.

Logizomai, in the way in which it is used, particularly by Paul, is a matter of the logical assessment of real value.

God sees the faith of Abraham.

In that faith he sees his own righteousness, for that is what Abraham saw. Abram, as he then was, saw that God had promised and that God was true and that God would do what he had promised . . . . because God is righteous.

And Abram believed God.

And God saw that faith and saw the content of the faith.

And 'there was' (there is no subject) 'evaluated' (logizomai) 'to' (an indirect object) 'him' . . . 'unto' (another indirect object, a prepositional clause) 'righteousness'.

... there was evaluated to him unto righteousness

Abraham had, and has, no righteousness of his own. There is evaluated to him, unto (it is always eis) the righteousness of God (at the time not stated, because there was no full revelation, then, of the source of the righteousness ; for it was yet to be revealed in Paul's gospel).

That is to say, by faith, he is justified with the righteousness of God, for it is the righteousness of God that he believes and that is what is in his faith.

God sees it in his faith. And attributes it to him.

It would be wrong not to attribute it to him.

  • Great explanation. Can you make your translation clearer in your answer as to how that verse should be translated. And should be use this understanding consistently? Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 14:53
  • I have heard it said that the potential that God see in each of us is His own potential (Eph. 4:2-7). Excellent answer! +1 Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 15:12
  • Not a comment on your overall point, but, related to your statement about 'deponent' verbs. Deponent verbs are middle/passive in FORM but active in MEANING. So, they're kind of quirky in that they look like one thing, but actually mean something different. So, I suggest an edit. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deponent_verb has a clear explanation if that's helpful to those who read your answer. Commented May 26 at 19:40
  • 1
    @MikeSangrey That theory is based on Latin, and I do not accept the theory. The deponent verbs in Greek are middle/passive in form and responsive or reflexive in meaning. I disagree with your comment. You are most welcome to disagree but I shall not be commenting any further as I do not wish to enter into debate in comment. Thank you. [I note that you did not comment on your own Wikipedia citation Koine Greek has a few verbs which have very different meanings in the active and middle/passive forms..]
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 26 at 20:02

Reading Barnes’ commentary on Rom 4:3, I was struck by his observation regarding the word ἐλογίσθη:

I have examined all the passages, and as the result of my examination have come to the conclusion, that there is not one in which the word is used in the sense of reckoning or imputing to a man what does not strictly belong to him; or of charging on him what ought not to be charged on him as a matter of personal right.

Though I agree with Barnes that ἐλογίσθη refers to the act of believing, I cannot see why it is necessary to credit to man something that already belongs to him. If faith belongs “strictly” to man, if it is his as a matter of personal right, then why the need to state that it is reckoned or credited to him? That faith was imputed to Abraham suggests that man, in fact, cannot claim full rights of ownership. In other words, faith is not man’s by right but by imputation. Faith, after all, is a response to God’s call (Jn 6:44 & 65, Rom 10:17). It is God who initiates and God who guides the way, but faith is credited to man out of God’s abundant grace and goodness.

Given these considerations, I prefer the NKJ’s rendering, which has Abraham’s faith as “accounted to” him and “for” righteousness.

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

  • Very insightful. +1
    – Steve can help
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 0:18
  • Is there a Faith for salvation, and another for miracles? Commented May 28 at 11:41
  • @FaithMendel - I don't think there are different faiths for different purposes. That said, the phrase "Abraham believed God" expresses two thoughts at once: 1/ belief in God and 2/ trust in His word. From this I understand that there are different aspects of the same faith.
    – Nhi
    Commented May 29 at 11:33

The lexical form of the operative verb in Rom 4:3 is λογίζομαι (logizomai), which, according to BDAG means:

  1. to determine by mathematical process, reckon, calculate, eg, 1 Cor 13:5, 2 Cor 5:19, Rom 4:3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 22, etc
  2. to give careful thought to a matter, think (about), consider, ponder, let one's mind dwell upon, eg, John 11:50, Heb 11:19, 2 Cor 10:11, 7, 2a, etc
  3. to hold a view about something, think, believe, be of the opinion, eg, Rom 8:8, 2:3, 14:14, etc.

Obviously BDAG allocates the first meaning as #1 above in Rom 4:3.

This is part of Paul's larger point where he uses an accounting term as a metaphor for justification. “Credit”, “account”, “imputed”, or “reckoned” (Greek: logizomai) is a financial or accounting term used in the market place but was employed by Paul to denote the act of God in crediting Abraham (and sinners generally) as righteous when they trusted in God, apart from the works of the law, as a free gift. The idea is based upon the assumption that sin creates a debt to God which must be repaid (Col 2:13-15, Matt 6:12).

Again, it is only an analogue, metaphor or figure of speech and so is not literally true. (Rom 4:3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24, 2 Cor 5:19, Gal 3:6, James 2:23. See also Gen 15:6.) That is, the righteousness of God is “imputed” to the undeserving sinner, freely. Thus, God “cancels the debt” (Matt 18:21-35).

  • 4
    Not so. Justification is not based on a notion, or a grammatical expression, that is not 'literally true'. Justification is firmly based on the righteousness of God, and His view of faith and what faith contains.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 12:29
  • @NigelJ - I fully agree - the idea of commercial credit is the metaphor - paying a "debt" is the metaphor - to whom does God pay the debt and to whom is it owed - that is what is not literally true. Otherwise, we have God paying a debt to (say) Satan or someone for our sins.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 19:36
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    It is the Mediator who takes the debt upon himself, Christ Jesus, and suffers the wrath and indignation of the Deity, bearing sins in his own body on the tree. Faith sees this demonstration of the righteousness of God (sparing not his Son) and believes. And to such who have this kind of faith God sees within that faith His Own Righteousness . . . . and attributes it to them.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 8:06
  • @NigelJ - that is all true and couched in very metaphorical language. To whom is the debt paid and what is paid? Or, in the language of Rom 3, is a legal acquittal? Or is it a free gift? Or is it a manumission? Or is it a cloak of righteousness? Or is it a propitiation? Or, in the language of Matt 20:28, Rom 5:19, 2 Cor 5:21 is it a penal substitutionary execution? etc,etc,
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 9:06
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    The debt is owed to God by us and paid to God by God for us. That is justification, acquittal, free gift, manumission, cloak, propitiation, substitution, ... Earthly words attempting to encapsulate heavenly things. +1 Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 15:20

Here are the senses of λογίζομαι in the New Testament.

Figure 1. Senses of λογίζομαι in the New Testament (generated with Logos Bible Software) enter image description here

However, remember Paul was quoting the Old Testament (Gen. 15:6). Thus, λογίζομαι translates the Hebrew word חשׁב. We can narrow down the meaning by the overlap between the two words.

Figure 2. Senses of חשׁב in the Old Testament. enter image description here

Thus, to consider (reckon) is the overlap. However, this does have a positive sense like credit. It is not the Hebrew word שׁקל which means to weigh or to consider in the sense of still evaluating; that is, the evaluation was finished.

  • 1
    The evaluation was finished ... and then He called Abram! +1 Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 15:14

As I understand it, the most literal translation of Romans 4:3 is, "For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it (or, “this”) reasoned him unto righteousness.”

The active verb is "believed," "episteusen." It is a verb in the aorist indicative active tense. The word often translated “credited,” “elogisthē,” is a verb in the aorist indicative passive tense. This is critical because it shows that “elogisthē” is caused by "episteusen." This means that Abraham's belief is causing the action of “elogisthē”, and " elogisthē" means “it reasoned” or, “this reasoned.” It is not to credit.

Also, the word "to" in the phrase, "to him as righteousness” is not in Greek! It would be the Greek preposition "pros". This is indeed necessary if Abraham's faith is causing God to credit the righteousness of Christ to, "pros," him. However, this verse can be translated as it is, as it does not need this additional word, and is actually more faithful to the text to leave it out.

Another significant consideration is in the phrase "to him as [eis] righteousness.” The Greek word "eis" means "into" or "unto," but most translations use the more ambiguous word "as" or "for." Therefore, the most accurate rendering of the phrase, "to him as righteousness" should be, "him unto righteousness."

On this basis, I argue that the most literal translation of Romans 4:3 is, "For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it [his active faith] reasoned him unto righteousness.”

Is there a grammatical reason this is incorrect?

  • Welcome to the forum, Kevin. Please note that any assertions need to be supported. For example, you wrote, "It is not to credit." Can you support this assertion? The semantic range of elogisthē includes many definitions such as to reckon, reason, consider, compute, count, credit, etc. and the word chosen in English would be based on context. You also asserted that "the word 'to' in the phrase, 'to him as righteousness' is not in the Greek!" However, language translation is often NOT word-for-word since word order and prepositions can result in different meanings. Resist eisegesis! :-)
    – Dieter
    Commented May 26 at 19:36
  • Yes, welcome to the Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange. We are glad you are here. Please take a moment to take the site tour and check out what we are looking for in answers and the FAQs. We tend to look for answers that show effort, research, and references. Consider an edit to add citations and reliable sources that support the assertions made here.
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  • The Exchange did not send me a notification so I did not realize there was an answer. Maybe there is a notification setting I missed. Commented May 28 at 2:36
  • Paul had multiple words available to make "credit" clear. He could have used one of these: Prostithémi means to add, used in Mat. 6:33, "…these things will be added to you." (Also Acts 2:41, 47, 5:14, Gal. 3:19, etc.) Auxanó means to grow, to increase, used in 2 Cor. 9:10, "…increase the harvest of your righteousness." (Also 2 Cor. 10:15, Eph. 2:21, etc.) Arithmos, number, used in Acts 11:21, "…a great number who believed turned to the Lord." (Also used in Rom. 9:27, Acts 4:4, 5:36, 6:7,16:5, etc.) Pséphizó, to count, to calculate, used in Luke 14:28, "…sit down and count the cost…" Commented May 28 at 2:47
  • Everywhere “logizomai” is used, and it always involve thinking and reasoning (except, conveniently, when the doctrine of "justification by faith" is under consideration!): Romans 12:1, Romans 2:3, Romans 3:28, Romans 6:11, Romans 8:18, “…to him who thinks [logizomenō] anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” Romans 14:14 “I do not consider [logizomai] myself to have attained…” Philippians 3:13 "…think [logizesthe] about these things." Philippians 4:8 “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned [elogizomēn] like a child.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 Commented May 28 at 2:50

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