Re: Romans 3:4 and LXX: Follow UP

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Feb 19 1998 - 22:03:08 EST

At 7:57 PM -0600 2/19/98, D. Anthony Storm wrote:
>I have re-written my earlier post because I think I was unclear.
>In Romans 3:4, which quotes Psalm 51:4, the Greek says KAI VIKNSEIS EN TWi
>KRINESQAI SE. The NASB translates this as "and mightest prevail when thou
>art judged."
>The LXX also has KAI VIKNSEIS EN TWi KRINESQAI SE in Brenton's edition,
>Zondervan, 1970. The English translation supplied says, "and mighest
>overcome when thou art judged."

It seems to me that your transliteration mixes upper and lower case forms
in a confusing way; I'd prefer KAI NIKHSEIS EN TWi KRINESQAI SE. i.e., I'd
prefer N for Nu and H for Eta.

>These two translations seem to take KRINESQAI SE in the passive.
>Thus, I have two questions. How hard is it GRAMMATICALLY to support the
>middle voice, and if it can be supported why do you suppose the NASB and
>Brenton opt for a seemingly senseless translation? For after all, how can
>God be judged? Or am I missing something?
>I hope I am clearer now.

Actually I (who will defend almost any possible M/P verb as middle) think
KRINESQAI is indeed passive here. Although I can't quite put my finger on
the reason why, I also think that the positioning of the subject SE after
the infinitive makes it the more likely that the infinitive is passive.

I think the forensic context here is the sort of a trial wherein God is the
accuser and the man who claims to be righteous is the defendant. In the
ancient court the accuser and the defendant both plead their case, each
endeavoring to prove that he is right and his opponent wrong. What the
psalm being cited by Paul means in this particular text, I think, is that
any time that a righteous man and God confront each other, it will be God
who prevails because it will be shown that the righteousness of the man is
in fact worthless. Viewed this way, both the prosecutor and the defendant
are "being judged"--KRINESQAI, i.e. submitting their briefs for judgment.
But God will always win the verdict in any such courtroom encounter.

Does that make sense?

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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