From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Mar 22 1997 - 14:17:22 EST

At 10:16 AM -0600 3/22/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:

Well, I guess I'll have to put my own hUF down on this one! ;-)

>I'm a little baffled by this. Zerwick and BAGD disagree on the meaning of
>PROECOMEQA with the middle (or passive). Zerwick says it could mean stand
>out, be superior, or excel, and translates this as "are we (as Jews)
>superior?" He also suggests a second possibility: "are we (Jews) excelled,
>i.e. in a less good position".

Personally, I think it's middle and means "do we have an advantage?" The
active might well mean the same, since ECW is used in an idiomatic sense of
"be in a condition," particularly with an adverb. The passive reading is
possible and wouldn't greatly change the logical sequence which appears
>from 3:1 to be working at the question whether Jews have any advantage over
the Gentiles; he approaches the question from several angles and concludes,
squarely on the fence: YES and NO--Jews have an advantage that doesn't seem
to do them any good. so Paul could be saying, "Then are we at a
disadvantage?" But it doesn't make any difference because he proceeds to
say that everyone, regardless of being a Jew or not, is damned, so far as
any real claim to righteousness is concerned. Nevertheless, I think it is
more likely middle than passive, just because I think that if it were
passive the rest of the complementary aspects would be spelled out: "Are we
held at a disadvantage (scil. "by the Gentiles")? I think that would have
been spelled out.

>BAGD says that the middle could have the same meaning as the active - have
>an advantage - which I assume would mean "do we Jews have an advantage?"
>Or it could mean "hold something before oneself for protection", which I
>assume would lead to a translation something like "do we have anything to
>shield us (from God's wrath)?"

I would think we'd need an accusative object indicating what one is using
for protection: ASPIDA, ALKHN, something like that.

>BAGD also mentions that the we could be construed to mean Paul himself in
>both 9a and 9b, with the meaning "am I protecting myself" or "am I making

I don't think these fit the context so well as the possibilities first

>And BAGD says it could be taken as a passive with the meaning "are we
>excelled?" or "are we in a worse position than they?"

Discussed above.

>So many interesting meanings. Is there anything that would help me choose
>among them?

Ultimately it has to depend upon how you read the logical sequence of
Paul's developing argument--if, in fact, you think there IS a logical
sequence. I really do think so, but it would be possible to read zig-zags
of associative thought in the sequence--as if he's fencing with an
imaginary interlocutor, a fellow Jew who keeps suggesting alternatives
whereby to avoid the awful conclusion that Paul sees himself here forced
to: namely, Jews are not really any better off than Gentiles with respect
to righteousness and God plays no favorites.

In sum, I've told you how I read it, but I'll admit that it all depends on
how you read the logic of the sequence. The conclusion is obvious; less
obvious is the precise course of the argumentation.

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

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