Re: Self Appointed Stephanas?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Apr 23 1998 - 07:49:35 EDT

<x-rich>At 9:14 PM -0500 4/22/98, Bill Ross wrote:

<excerpt>In I Corinthians 16:15, did the translators have any
linguistic reason to translate ETAXAN as "devoted" instead of
"appointed" in this verse? I suspect they didn't approve of Stephanas'
actions and so they obscured the translation.


NIV You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in
Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints.

                    I urge you, brothers,

RSV Now, brethren, you know that the household of Steph'anas were the
first converts in Acha'ia, and they have devoted themselves to the

                    service of the saints;

KJV I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it
is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to

                    ministry of the saints,)

DBY But I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that
it is the first-fruits of Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to

                    saints for service,)

YLT And I entreat you, brethren, ye have known the household of
Stephanas, that it is the first-fruit of Achaia, and to the
ministration to the

                    saints they did set themselves --


I think that the key-elements here are (a) hEAUTOUS
"themselves"--clearly indicating that the function involved here is not
one that is divinely ordained or established by a community that has
assigned it to the household of Stephans; and (b) the verb TASSW, which
can have either a concrete sense of "station" or "position" a person or
thing in a particular place, or an extended sense of "appoint,"
"assign," "establish," "put," "ordain" a person or thing for a specific
function or service.

Of the versions you have cited, I think I would say that the most
"literal" (and "wooden") version is the YLT: "they did set
themselves"--it is neutral language in that in itself it neither
approves nor disapproves of what the household of Stephanas did--it
simply DESCRIBES what they did in simple formulation without any
overtones or connotations.

KJV's phrase, "they have addicted themselves" is accurate but very
archaic English, based upon the old Latin verb SE ADDICERE, which means
"take on voluntarily a specific function or service and
formally/publicly claim to do so." It is accurate as any 17th
century-English phrase can be for its day, but in late 20th-century
English it sounds like a service of Christian ministry is being
described as something one undertakes only after a drug overdose.

The other versions have "devoted themselves." This too depends (PACE
those who scorn etymological interpretation) a Latin idiom SE DEVOVERE
which had just the sort of religious implication that seems appropriate
here: "make a formal promise (an oath to God) that one will undertake a
specific service." The religious connotation of the Latin word survives
in one sense of the word "devotion" but I think the more precise modern
English sense involved in these translations that you have cited is
"take a specific duty upon onself consciously and deliberately."

Looked at this way, it can be seen that all versions of the phrase
really do convey (at least they did originally) the sense of the Greek
ETAXAN hEAUTOUS. If some of them seem problematic, it is because of the
associations of the word read that the reader of that translation
brings with him or herself to the reading.

As for the punctuation and clause-structure, I don't care to get into
that question; it doesn't seem to me so central to the major question
you've asked.

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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