Re: parassein ta idia in 1 Thess 4:11

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Sep 05 1997 - 06:58:30 EDT

At 1:12 AM -0500 9/5/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>At 07:28 PM 9/4/97 -0700, Loril Hawk wrote:
>>I am curious how this phrase "parassein ta idia" became translated "to mind
>>your own business"? I couldn't find in L&N.
>The verb is actually PRASSEIN, from PRASSW, which may be why you didn't find
>it in L&N, which lists three senses for the word.
>a do 42.8 [L&N...3818]
>b receive 57.65 [L&N...4288]
>c experience 90.76 [L&N...6371]
>If we take sense 'a', "do", then this could mean "attend to your own
>business", meaning "take care of the (practical) things in your life which
>need attention". This suits the context:
>1The 4:9 (NASU) Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for
>[anyone] to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one
>another; 10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in
>all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,
>11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own
>business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you
>will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.

Most people who have ever read Plato's Republic will recall the question
which the dialogue seeks to answer: What is Justice (DIKAIOSUNH--usually
translated as "righteousness" in Judaeo-Christian contexts)? Not so many
will remember the formula ultimately set forth as the answer to that
question; it is PRATTEIN TE KAI ECEIN TA hEAUTOU, "doing and having one's
own," i.e. performing those tasks within the body social for which one is
best suited and no others, and having those privileges and advantages
proper to and needful for oneself within the body social as an organic
whole. The key phrase, however, is PRATTEIN TA hEAUTOU, "doing one's own
thing" (to use 60's language, though in a very different sense), and it is
noted that a violation of this norm is POLUPRAGMOSUNH, which might best be
translated as "being a busybody" or "meddling." I rather suspect that
PRASSEIN TA IDIA in 1 Thess 4:11 is ultimately derivative from the Platonic
conception: "minding one's own business" comes very close to the same idea
of function within community in both the Platonic and the Pauline
perspective here, even if the kind of community referred to in Plato and in
1 Thess are worlds apart.

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

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