From: James H. Vellenga (
Date: Wed Sep 24 1997 - 09:44:52 EDT

On August 5, in response to a hasty conclusion on my part as to the
meaning of FRONEW, Carl Conrad wrote:
> I'm afraid I'd have to dissent from this. FRONEW is a verb of long and
> venerable history in Greek, even if one want to argue that much of that
> history is irrelevant to NT usage. In the archaic era and in tragedy it
> tends to mean "to exercise moral wisdom"--in which case it is synonymous
> with SWFRONEIN, "to be of sound mind." FRONEIN is what, according to
> Aeschylus in the Agamemnon, Zeus leads humanity toward through suffering.
> In Aristotle, FRONHSIS is the word for moral virtue as an exercise of
> intelligence in the consistent choice of the mean between excess and
> deficiency. In the NT FRONEW more or less consistently means "to think" in
> the sense of "focus one's thinking." FRONHMA is fundamentally a "mind-set."
> In my view all the genitives that Eric has asked about are subjective
> genitives. It should not be so puzzling that SARX has a FRONHMA, if one
> considers that SARX is not itself the "material" aspect of selfhood so much
> as it is the MENTALITY of a selfhood alienated from one's PNEUMA as a
> consequence of sin. Gal 5:19-21 is a loose catalogue of ERGA THS SARKOX
> from which it can be seen that most of these ERGA are clearly identifiable
> as self-destructive and other-destructive urges--they are aspects of a
> self-destructive mind-set.

I have found this to be very helpful, and have again gone through the
NT usages of FRONEW, this time thinking of it as having the meaning of
"to focus on." This does seem to work a lot better than my original
working hypothesis.

My questions have to do with its usage (and that of hUPERFRONEW) in Rom.
12.3. BAGD (my wife got me one for my birthday this month) divides the
basic meanings of FRONEW into three parts. The second basic meaning --
"set one's mind on, be intent on" -- corresponds to the idea of
"focusing on." BAGD relegates Rom 12.3 to the first basic meaning of
"think, for or hold an opinion, judge" -- as in

  not to keep thinking of yourselves more highly than you ought to
  think, but to keep thinking with sound thinking.

But it seems to me that, since Rom 12 -- at least vv. 1-8 -- have to
do with presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice and exercising
CARISMATA (gifts, charters), one might easily read the FRONEINs above
as having the second basic meaning of "to focus on," as in

  not to keep high-focusing beyond what you have to keep focusing
  on, but to keep focusing on keeping a clear focus

That is, in Rom 12.3, Paul would be urging us to focus in our personal
responsibilities without getting distracted by the responsibilities of

So Question 1 is

1) Is this alternative interpretation of Rom 12.3 possible, reasonable,
and/or even likely? What other factors influence the choice?

My other question has to do with hUPERFRONEIN. It occurs (I think) only
once in the NT. The traditional interpretation treats the prefix hUPER-
as denoting high or lofty. But in many words the prefix seems to be
like "over-" in the sense of excessive. So question 2 is

2) Could hUPERFRONEIN mean "overly focused" (that is, "too intense")
rather than "loftily focused" (that is, "ambitious")? Why or why not?

Thanks for your help.

Jim Vellenga

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