Re: Romans 7:21 TWi QELONTI EMOI, TON NOMON

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Wed Feb 19 1997 - 13:50:37 EST


At 11:56 AM -0600 2/19/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>I'm still throwing inkpots at participles, but I've gotten through Romans 7,
>and I think I now understand most of it pretty well

Do participles become better participles for having inkpots thrown at them?
(Fear not, I DO recognize the allusion).

>(thanks for all your
>help, folks!). I have one remaining grammatical question, this time on
>Romans 7:21:
>
>Romans 7:21 hEURISKW ARA TON NOMON, TWi QELONTI EMOI POIEIN TO KALON, hOTI
>EMOI TO KAKON PARAKEITAI
>
>Zerwick translates TWi QELONTI EMOI "when I want".

This is the meaning, but it's not literal, of course.

>I don't know if I
>understand the grammar well enough to follow this. Can I think of this as
>"to me, [who is] wanting to do good", or is there something else I should
>understand here?

Yes, precisely.

>How is this as an idomatically-literal translation: "Now I find this law: to
>me, wanting to do good, in me evil is present."

One major problem left: PARAKEITAI is idiomatic, meaning something like "is
an option within my power." I may be wrong, but my recollection is that
this is a Stoic term and idea, that distinction between things that are in
our power and things that are beyond our power. What Paul means is, I
think, EVEN when he wants to do good, the thing that is in his power turns
out to be evil. This is a powerful rhetorical formulation expressing his
sense of moral impotence.

>Incidentally, after reading lots of stuff on nouns with and without the
>article, I find it amusing that most translations translate this as "a law"
>rather than "the law", despite the article:
>
>Roma 7:21 (KJV) I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is
>present with me.
>Roma 7:21 (LUT) So finde ich mir nun ein Gesetz, der ich will das Gute tun,
>da mir das Bse anhangt.
>Roma 7:21 (NASB) I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the
>one who wishes to do good.
>
>The ASV finds a perfectly good way to translate it with "the law":
>
>Roma 7:21 (ASV) I find then the law, that, to me who would do good, evil is
>present.
>
>But is "the law" in ASV really any different from "a law" in KJV? I suspect
>that the sense of the Greek may be accurately conveyed by either, and maybe
>we shouldn't get too hung up about the English words used to convey
>it...opinions?

No, but there IS an important principle about the article at stake here:
the article is used when the noun it refers to is GENERALIZED, so that the
sense in this case is "I discover this general principle ...

I think I'd try to get away from "law" altogether, and go with "principle"
or "rule."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwc@oui.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/



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