"Don't curse": but Paul does! :(

Shaughn Daniel (shaughn.daniel@student.uni-tuebingen.de)
Mon, 18 Mar 1996 13:00:27 +0100

If you have Louw-Nida, then please, for the NT rundown: 1:442 (33.470-33.475)

EULOGEW EULOGIA KATEULOGEW = "to ask God to bestow divine favor on, with
the implication that the verbal act itself constitutes a significant
renderings of "to bless, blessing"

KATARAOMAI, KATARA = "to cause injury of harm by means of a statement
regarded as having some supernatural power, often because a diety or
supernatural force has been evoked"; renderings of "to curse, curse"

"to invoke divine harm if what is said is not true or if one does not carry
out what has been promised -- to curse; the content of what is expressed in
a curse; that which has been cursed, cursed, accursed, pertaining to being

* James 3:9f "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we
curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come
praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be."
* Romans 12:14 "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."
* Mt 5:44 "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you."

THE LEXICAL STUDIES: No matter which way you slice up and put into buckets
the variety of Greek and Hebrew vocabulary--from the curses starting in Ge
3, the classical and hellenistic materials (close to 40 Greek words that
can be rendered as "curse"), the renderings and translational
guesses/techniques(?) in the LXX, the NT's usage of the LXX and/or HB, and
even Paul, diced up into the proper synchronic and diachronic studies--you
come to the point that ANATHEMA = KATARATOS = EPIKATATOS = EPARA =
PARADOROUMENOI TW SATANA = whatever other word or phrase in context = CURSE
by the time of Paul.

THE POINT: THEREFORE, WHEN Paul curses in Galatians 1:8f, 3:10ff, 1Co 5:5,
1Co 16:22 and Ro 9:3--and it really doesn't matter what curse word(s) he
chooses because his usages all do, indeed, in his letters, mean, imply,
and/or engender "excommunication", "something to avoid", "something that is
taboo", which is "cursing", which is "invoking divine displeasure on
someone's behavior or message" in order to "remove an enemy/antagonist's
influence" and/or "harm them spiritually and/or physically and/or
economically" in all types of contexts from religious to political to
whatever--THEN he is breaking his own law, contradicting himself, and has
undermined his apostleship and calling. Even if one states that the gospel
includes blessing/cursing in itself as a given, and that Paul doesn't have
anything to do with the "cursing" because it is already built-in, so to
speak, before it is revealed to him, then when he preaches that gospel,
then he is breaking his own command "not to curse". In other words, one
can't exhort "don't curse" while "cursing" the living daylights out of your
enemies regardless of the vocabulary one picks!

LAST THOUGHT: I'm not fooled into thinking that terms "hold" meaning, but
rather, they "mean/work" in contexts. Most, if not all, of the patterns and
differences in the terms have collapsed under the multiplex of function by
the time of Paul and he gives little clues that he is distinguishing them,
or had even thought about it. He has the "if anyone preaches another
gospel" phrase in Galatians and then the ANATHEMA ESTW and then in
Corinthians he, for some unknown reason, doesn't put the ANATHEMA ESTW in,
but "and you put up with it well enough", on through Romans where he would
be ANATHEMA for the sake of his people. So, Paul curses with ANATHEMA
(Galatians), then he reconsiders and lightens the statement by dropping
ANATHEMA altogether for rhetorical show (Corinthians), and then just curses
himself as ANATHEMA out of self-persecuting love (Romans)! Maybe that is
the development of ANATHEMA in the letters of Paul, but doesn't that sound
just a little far-fetched? The only other thing in writing that I've seen
is by Igor Kiss, a small article, where he sees the tension and solves it
by taking the designation of "curse" out of ANATHEMA, but that is simply
not being honest with the vocabulary and function, IMO and also goes
against my grain because Galatians "isn't supposed to contradict" Romans or
anything else in Paul's thoughts in the Hauptbriefe. Only the four and you
would expect for them to be compatible, but they aren't!

I get the feeling that if one disagreed with Paul more than once, then one
was thrown out of his "circle", or rather "cursed out." Maybe the tone of
Galatians is as sharp as it is because he is just responding in rage with
moments of ingenious interpretation thrown in here and there while the
opponents really have won in discrediting Paul and circumcising Gentiles.
Sorry for the length. Hoping for some thoughts. Please post to me privately
as well because I'm in digest mode here and would like to get any responses
outside the digest.

Shaughn Daniel
Tuebingen, Germany