Re: Phusei, Phusik-, Phusis

On Mon, 19 Sep 1994, Larry W. Hurtado wrote:

> Ah, Gregory, a MAJOR problem with your treatment is that you seem to want
> to find ONE meaning of physis (and derivatives) throughout the NT, the
> very sort of problem that Barr et alia have devastatingly criticized
> Kittel's TDNT authors for exibiting.  This is a variant on the
> etymological fallacy well identified in modern semantics study in
> linguistics.  Words acquire their meaning with any precision ONLY in
> sentences, and in many cases, the samantic fields are complex and varied. 
> Hays is thus correct to take each case as it comes.  Believe me, physis is
> a particular case of the need for careful example-by-example flexibility
> in the semantics game.
> Larry Hurtado, Religion, Univ. of Manitoba 

A very good point.  It may very well be that _phusis_ etc. may have had more 
than one meaning in the New Testament.  It certainly had more than one meaning 
in broad Greek usage.
     On the other hand, I *did* examine the contexts in which each usage 
occurred in the New Testament (I think I got them all, not quite sure), 
and I did find extreme similarities in contextual support for a single 
overall meaning.
     It is also significant to note that in his article Hays did *not* 
deal with _phusis_ and derivatives on a example-by-example basis.  He 
focused on one passage's usage and then seemed to take for granted that 
_phusis_ ought to have had a significantly different meaning in almost 
every separate use in the New Testament.  This is certainly possible, 
but Occam's razor would argue against it if the contextual evidence could 
just as easily accomodate a more homogeneous signification.  Hays makes a 
special point about the term _phusis_ in Romans 1 reflecting Stoic technical 
usage, which I didn't deal with.  He seems to concede that this is its 
only usage in this sense in Paul.  
     One of the problems with that possibility is that in Stoic usage 
_phusis_ was often paired in contrast to _nomos_ or _khrEsis_, both of the 
latter in the sense of "custom, usage."  Paul's ungainly meld of _tEn 
phusikEn khrEsin_ would have been gibberish to a Stoic: "the 
uncustomary-natural customary."  The Stoics and Hellenistic Jewish 
philosophers, as Hays notes, mainly used the phrases _para phusin_ 
and _kata phusin_, with the emphasis on _phusis_ as "Nature."  Hays is 
quite deceptive in not pointing out that neither of these phrases occur 
in Romans 1.  In the phrase _tEn para phusin_, _tEn_ does not modify 
_phusin_; it modified the understood and carried-over _khrEsin_: "that 
[khrEsis which was] against phusis."  The other uses in this passage also 
put their emphasis on _khrEsis_ with _phusis/phusik-_ limited to a 
modifying role.  So actually Hays is not even looking at an example of 
the Stoic technical terms which he lets on that he has found in Paul.
Greg Jordan

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