Re: Phusis, Romans 11:16ff

On 21 Sep 1994 David.Wigtil@hq.doe.gov wrote:

> Maybe KATA FUSIN would be rendered sensibly as "built-in," and PARA FUSIN 
> could then be "not built-in" or some less cumbersome equivalent.  These 
> terms are more mechanistic or clinical and so lack the moralizing overtones 
> that we seem to hear when we use "nature/natural/unnatural."

I agree with the idea of completely rejecting the English word "nature" 
in translating _phusis_.  The phrase "built-in" though for _kata phusin_ 
still implies an inherent, unchanging quality of a person or thing, which 
the usage elsewhere in the NT unanimously contradicts.  I'm tentatively 
thinking of "according to appearances; according to evident behavior" and 
"aside from appearances; contrary to evident behavior" or something like 

> I also find it curious that the theology of original sin and its 
> concomitant portrait of Nature permeated by human sinfulness is stood on 
> its head in renditions of Romans.  In the latter, Nature is good rather 
> than polluted, if we accept "nature" in our English translations.  This 
> contradicts much of what Paul writes elsewhere; translators and Greek 
> students might do better to avoid confusing themselves and their Anglophone 
> audiences.

It seems like the English senses of "nature" include notions brought over 
from Stoicism and Epicureanism, pagan philosophies that were coopted by 
Hellenistic Jews but which do not seem to have been coopted by Paul.  
When Paul talks about the world, he uses _ktisis_, emphasizing its 
creation by God, and if he wants to talk about God's purpose for that 
creation, he does so explicitly, in terms of "God", "purpose", and other 
concepts like "nomos/law" etc.  Nowhere does Paul seem to use the idea of 
a semi-divine Nature whose laws are more basic than God ("natural" as 
opposed to "legal").  It is creation and creatures that are fallen.  
Outward appearances and behavior (phusis) can change due to volition, as 
in the case of repentance and conversion to God.  I'm not sure what Paul 
would have done with the concept of an unchanging inherent quality of people 
or things - he might even have denied it as an evil lie (thus making him a 
proleptic postmodernist?), but whatever the case may be, he certainly 
didn't use _phusis_ in this sense.

Greg Jordan