From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Apr 23 1997 - 15:46:57 EDT

At 12:35 PM -0500 4/23/97, Jeffrey Gibson wrote:
>On Wed, 23 Apr 1997, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>> ... why I don't think that understanding PAQHMATA TWN hAMARTIWN in
>> terms of the irrational psychic factors overwhelming the self is going
>> far afield in a letter that Paul writes to a congregation in Rome. I
>> still would not insist on its being the only conceivable way to
>> interpret the phrase, but I hardly think it can be deemed far-fetched.
>I by no means meant to suggest that these considerations are "far
>fetched". All I was saying when I asked "why go so far afield" was to
>raise the issue of which of the two proposals for interpreting
>the terminology of Rom 7 - Stoic psychological views or the tradition
>of Zeal for the Law and Paul's firsthand knowledge of what Zeal can do
>in misdirecting one's obedience to God - seemed *the more likely* especially
>given (1) that Paul in Rom 7 is (in my reading of the text) arguing about
>the corrupting influenece of Sin to turn obedience into disobedience and
>(2) that Paul's explicit testimony elsewhere - and
>in letters which have similar themes as Romans - is that his own
>experience of Sin was bound up not with internal
>struggles or an "introspective conscience", but with his certainty
>that obedience meant following the path of Zeal, a path that he now
>realizes caused him to be an enemy of God and to frustrate the very
>purposes that with all of his heart, mind, and soul he had dedicated
>himself to advancing.
>There is the question, too, (though it is a side issue to the point I am
>trying to elucidate here) about whether the earlier chapers of Romans
>show direct borrowing from Stoicism or from the Wisdom of Solomon. If the
>latter, then Paul is still working from within a Jewish (albeit admittedly a
>Hellenized Jewish) context for his arguments in Romans.
>How familiar Paul was with the tenents of Stoicism or how much impact the
>Greek philosophical tradition had upon Paul and his circle,
>let alone whether I am naive about how pervasive Stoicim (or Cynicism)
>was in 1 CE, isn't really the question here, is it?

Jeffrey, I wonder whether we are missing each other's points in this
discussion. I don't really think this is a matter of either/or--one
understanding of PAQHMATA vs the other, but rather of more than a single
element entering into the way the word (PAQHMATA) is being used. I do very
definitely think that Paul understands the very will to do what is
righteous as a potential snare, a trap laid by Sin as a sort of demonic
power out to get us one way or another. But the notion of demonic powers,
be they minions of Satan or spirits resident in the planetary spheres and
exercising control (KOSMOKRATORES THS PAROUSHS SKOTIAS), is another
constituent element of Hellenistic culture, as is the worship of the
goddess TYCHE and the sense of enslavement to hEIMARMENH that some

Nor was I arguing that Paul borrows DIRECTLY from Stoic philosophers in
Romans 2. And yes, I do indeed think that there are allusions to Wisdom of
Solomon there, but I don't think that exhausts the sources in contemporary
thought upon which Paul is drawing. I'm not arguing either that Stoicism or
Cynicism was pervasive in the first century, but rather that an eclectic
amalgam of elements of Stoic belief in providence and the universal LOGOS,
of Platonic dualism, of a Stoic-Cynic notion of a life in accordance with
nature, of Stoic and Epicurean notions of emotions as powerful forces to
which one may readily be enslaved--that these are elements in a cultural
atmosphere, elements that one could be easily familiar with without having
attended one of the schools in Athens or Cos or Rhodes or Alexandria.

If we are at odds here, I think it is more likely over what you and I mean
by Hellenized Judaism. I think this is something that may mean different
things in Palestine and in Alexandria and in Asia Minor--Paul's Tarsus--and
in Greece and Italy, but my guess is that you and I have different ideas
about the extent to which Hellenized Judaism is a fundamentally
ethnocentric and xenophobic phenomenon. I rather think it runs the whole
spectrum from extremely conservative Jews who don't speak Greek at all and
imagine that they are altogether immune from the taint of Hellenism to
radical Jews who see the Mosaic tradition as one of the competing
philosophic systems, more like each other than distinct, by which humanity
seeks to orient itself in the universe. Where does Paul belong on that
spectrum? Probably a pretty complex and conflicted young man, I would
think, even before his transformation, whether that be called a "call" or a
"conversion," from a fanatical persecutor of Jewish Christians who are
proselytizing Gentiles to the foremost fanatical proselytizer in their

But really, I don't think we are arguing at cross-purposes here so much as
each underscoring the importance of one aspect of the background of Paul's
psychology of sinfulness.

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

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