Re: PARA in Paul

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Sep 04 1997 - 20:30:50 EDT

At 4:38 PM -0500 9/4/97, Stevens, Charles C wrote:
>While on the subject of Romans 1, I have read a wide variety of
>arguments on the subject of what exactly is meant by PARA FUSIN here.
>(1) FUSIN, typically translated "nature", in this period had not been
>generalized in common usage -- for example, to "Nature" as distinct
>from "<one's own> nature". The concept of "Nature" is a much later
>idea. Not being within the confines of FUSIN does not have the negative
>connotations we have since ascribed to it, and the use of this word in
>an identical context in Romans 11:24 with a *positive* connotation
>supports that observation.

How early is the first pre-Socratic treatise of many entitled PERI FUSEWS?
I think it will be found in a pretty general sense in Democritus and then
even in early Cynics and Stoics--and I rather think it is from Stoic usage
that Paul draws here: PARA FUSIN means simply "not KATA FUSIN"--and KATA
FUSIN means "natural."

>(2) PARA basically means "parallel to", "beside", "along with", "by",
>"alongside" and the like, and perhaps even "beyond", but ascribing a
>connotation of "in opposition to", "in conflict with" and so forth would
>be suspect.
>(3) Specifically in disagreement with (2), I have read that while
>*generally* PARA carries the former connotations, Romans 1:26 represents
>a unique case in which it obviously carries the latter (this I ran into
>in a grammar of Biblical Greek; I forget which grammar it was.).
>(1) and (2) strike me as plausible here, and (3) implausible (and
>further as a case in which a particular view may be influencing the
>choice of English equivalents!).
>PARA TON NOMON in Acts 18:13 could be considered supportive of (3), but
>being outside the confines of the law has serious connotations for Jews
>of the period that would not necessarily apply to other uses of PARA.
>Moreover, it strikes me there are plenty of Greek words implying
>opposition (e.g., ENANTIOS and its intensive hUPENANTIOS, ANTIKEIMAI,
>APENANTI) that Paul would have been more likey to use had he intended
>the connotation of opposition.
>Comments on the semantics of PARA FUSIN here and in Romans 11:24, and of
>PARA in for example Romans 16:17 (PARA THN DIDAXHN), specifically with
>respect to the "at cross purposes with" connotation that many
>translators seem to impute on PARA in these contexts?

This is what I've pulled from the Perseus site, the "middle Liddell":

Liddell & Scott Intermediate Lexicon
[*i.] prep. with gen., dat., and acc.: *radical sense 3beside:
[*c.] *w*i*t*h *a*c*c*u*s. to the side of an object, or motion alongside of it:
[*i.] of *place,
[c.] contrary to, against, para moiran contrary to destiny, *hom.; par'
aisan, para tas spondas *thuc.; para doxan contrary to opinion, id=*thuc.;
par' elpidas *soph

I wanted to check this before replying, but I was pretty sure there were
plenty of examples from pretty early of PARA in the sense of "against,"
"counter to" --and behold, it's already in Homer. PARA DOXAN is pretty
common, so is PARA PROSDOKIAN, "counter to expectation." In our instances
in Romans I think that PARA FUSIN is simply the opposite of the Cynic and
Stoic phrase KATA FUSIN which occurs in so many different contexts, as, for
instance, ZHN KATA FUSIN "to live in accordance with nature"

Chuck is quite right about the root sense of PARA, which is something like
"facing"--but very early this can take the sense of "antithetical to," "on
the opposite side of/from."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:27 EDT