Re: Romans 12:2a translation

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Aug 06 1997 - 15:53:35 EDT

At 11:24 AM -0400 8/6/97, Eric Weiss wrote:
>Translating Romans 12:2a has me stumped!
>1. Are SUSCHMATIZESQE and METAMORFOUSQE middle or passive? Lexica and
>tranlators are willing to render SUSQHMATIZESQE as either middle or
>passive, but render METAMORFOUSQE only as passive. Is there something in
>the nature of the words themselves that, for instance, would only allow
>a passive - not a middle - rendering of METAMORFOUSQE? (Note: Louw-Nida
>list these verbs by their middle/passive form, hence implying that they
>are "deponent" - unless they do this because they only appear in the NT
>in middle/passive form. If L-N truly consider these "deponent," does
>that mean they should be translated with an active sense?)

I would deem both verbs middle/reflexive; as I have indicated in the past,
I would really rather not ever use the word "deponent." I can understand
why some might want to consider METAMORFOUSQE a passive, and I think it
almost comes out the same way as I view it, but nevertheless I think the
sense of METAMORFOUSQE is not "be transformed" but "let yourself be
transformed"--Yes, the transformation is God's doing, but the commitment is
on the part of the believers whom Paul is addressing.

>2. Should TWi AIWNI TOUTWi be translated "BY this age" (i.e., the age
>is the one doing the "patterning" or "conforming" - implying a passive
>translation of SUSCHMATIZESQE), or should it be translated "TO this age"
>(i.e., this age is the pattern to which the believer is being exhorted
>not to conform himself (middle) or be conformed (passive) to)? If TWi
>AIWNI can be translated either of these ways (there may be others), can
>METAMORFOUSQE also be translated "be changed/transformed (or
>"change/transform yourself") TO the renewal of the (your) mind" - i.e.,
>the pattern the believer is to be changed to is the thing Paul calls
>"the renewal of the mind" [more on this in the next question], rather
>than "the renewal of the mind" being the thing BY which the believer is
>to be changed/transformed, which is the more common translation?

I would understand TWi AIWNI TOUTWi as dative construed with the verb in
view of its prefix, and I would translate, "Do not conform yourselves TO
(the pattern of) this world-age ..." And I would take THi ANAKAINWSEI TOU
NOOS as instrumental: this is the MEANS whereby the transformation of
believers' selves is to be consummated. More below in response to the next

>3. What is "the renewal of the mind"? The phrase is usually translated
>"be transformed by THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND(S)" - i.e., as a
>participle, as something the believer is supposed to do, i.e., he is to
>"renew his mind," which activity is supposed to bring about the desired
>metamorphosis. But ANAKAINWSEI is a NOUN. Hence, could THi ANAKAINWSEI
>TOU NOOS be the "thing" that causes the changing? For example, could
>this mean "the renewed nature of the mind," i.e., "the (your) mind's
>newness," as THi AGAPHi TOU QEOU would mean "the love of God," i.e.,
>"God's love"? We would translate such a phrase as "rather, (let
>yourselves) be changed by God's love" - so could we likewise translate
>the Romans 12:2 phrase as "rather, (let yourselves) be changed by your
>mind's newness (i.e., your new minds)"? Elsewhere, Paul states that
>believers have the NOUS of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16).

As I noted yesterday with regard to FRONHMA and FRONHSIS, nouns formed from
verbal stems with the suffix -SIS generally refer to the process,
performance, or action of the verb in question. Here therefore, ANAKAINWSIS
means something like "radical remaking," and I think the dative here
indicates that this is the means whereby the transformation of believers'
selves is to take place. It's worth recalling that KAINOS means "brand new,
newly-fashioned"--made into something not having existed heretofore, as
opposed to "brought back to its original condition." So ANAKAINWSIS will
mean the process of the self becoming something brand new, not recovering
its pristine condition, but rather its RE-CREATION. The best commentary on
this word is probably 2 Cor 5:17: ALL' EI TIS EN CRISTWi, KAINH KTISIS. But
another text that also, I think, assists the understanding of Rom 12:2a is
for is nothing less than the adoption of the FRONHMA of Christ. According
to Mk 1:15 the comparable imperative of Jesus is METANOEITE. I don't think
that Paul in Rom 12:2a means anything different.

There's one set of options, at any rate.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(704) 675-4243 OR

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