From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Sep 30 1995 - 08:15:09 EDT

At 6:47 PM 9/29/95, Lynn Cooley wrote:
>you wrote:
>>"transgressor of (the) Law"; I would understand the prepositional phrase
>>DIA GRAMMATOS KAI PERITOMHS as "in terms of the letter and of circumcision"
>>or, if you want to turn that into adjectives, "the literal and circumcised
>>transgressor of the law."
>The understanding "in terms of" doesn't seem to fit; would you say that the
>Jew, who is circumcised, is transgressing the law in terms of the
>circumcision? The DIA almost seems to have the force of meaning "in spite
>of". And "literal ... transgressor of the law" doesn't seem to be what's
>intended either. Maybe you could refine this thot a bit?

Well, I don't know about "refining"; how's about "putting it through the

I don't think I'd want to say "in spite of" for a DIA + genitive phrase,
although that certainly conveys the right sense in English. I was trying to
find something first of all that conveyed the literal sense of the
construction without putting too much strain on English usage. How about:
"the one who with the advantage of the letter (of the Law) and circumcision
violates the law"? In still better English we could use your suggestion to
advantage and say that the startling antithesis Paul wants to make is
between the person who observes the Law although uncircumcised and without
the revelation and the other person--the Jew--who breaks the Law although
he is circumcised and knows it backwards and forwards as revealed by God"
Ah, but that's a paraphrase, and goes far beyond even "dynamic
equivalence." So I guess that "in spite of" works well in the context to
express the intent of the expression; the difficulty with it is that it
doesn't do justice to the syntax of the DIA + gen. phrase. I think Paul is
intelligible here, and he is not writing the abominable Greek of Mark [let
me reiterate that I think Mark's content is profound and his writing style
profoundly artful, but his Greek is pretty awful!], but he certainly is
straining the limits of normal usage of DIA.

I'll take the liberty of sending your message and my reply back to the list
to solicit more feedback on precisely this matter: the usage of DIA +
genitive in this expression. And many thanks to Lynn Cooley for not being
satisfied with an unsatisfactory explanation!

It does seem to me that we cannot say, since Paul didn't use the accusative
case with the DIA, that he meant the letter of the Law and circumcusion
played a CAUSAL role in the Jew's violation of the Law. So what does the
DIA with a genitive intend? I think: that he takes the "high road"--he goes
BY WAY OF the letter of the Law and circumcision, and even so (hence your
"in spite of," he breaks the Law. How would others care to explain the
exact sense and usage of this DIA + genitive construction?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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