Re: Romans 7:24

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Apr 07 1997 - 07:11:09 EDT

At 11:18 PM -0500 4/6/97, Eric Weiss wrote:
>Romans 7:24 My lack of acquaintance with classical Greek literature is
>hurting me here, but is Paul's TALAIPWROS EGW ANQRWPOS just ordinary
>or colloquial or literary - or is it truly grammatically striking? (I
>checked BAGD and LSJ on the Internet/Perseus, as well as several
>translations, but found my question unanswered.) The first-positioning
>of TALAIPWROS combined with using just the personal pronoun (EGW)
>instead of - or instead of in combination with - the implied stative
>verb (EIMI) made this cry of his seem really anguished to me. My
>thought: "It isn't that he simply IS a wretched man; rather, his
>identity with such is so great as to warrant omitting the equative verb
>so that to say "wretched man" is the same as to say "I."
>Or did I speak over-zealously when I shared in church this morning that
>I didn't find English translations had done justice to the intensity of
>Paul's exclamation?
>Thanks for any comments.

I for one agree with you whole-heartedly, Eric. I do think that the
initial-positioning of TALAIPWROS is powerful in itself, although it is
unexceptional, from the point of view of earlier Greek wherein predicate
adjectives quite regularly come first, although this may stem from
rhetorical emphasis rather than from any predisposition to put them
first--it's simply that one quite often does want to underscore the
predicate adjective and often does omit the enclitic copula in such
instances; but the addition of ANQRWPOS also is very significant here; it's
not just the common colorless ANHR so readily appended in earlier Greek in
contexts where it is pointless to carry it over into English which wouldn't
normally use it, but the generic noun ANQRWPOS which identifies the speaker
EGW at once with the rest of the human race. It seems to me that one may
find similar exclamations in Greek tragedy, but the word would not be
TALAIPWROS but more commonly TLHMWN or TALAS (fem. TALAINA)--the phrase, W
TLHMWN EGO! strikes me as a recurrent echo in tragedy.

On the other hand, I think one could find the sentiment of Paul's
exclamation right at the heart of his own Israelite tradition in the
inaugural vision of Isaiah (Is 6): "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean
lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips!" Isn't it the
same anguished cry of confession and helplessness? I don't have the LXX
handy, but I would be surprised to see TALAIPWROS there; nevertheless I
have a gut feeling that Paul's statement echoes that of Isaiah--and if it
doesn't echo it directly, it certainly springs from the same depth of
self-condemnation in face of God's blazing pure righteousness.

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

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