Re: The suffix -IA (James 1:21)

From: MikeBzley (
Date: Tue May 19 1998 - 13:25:42 EDT

In a message dated 18/05/98 00:39:17 GMT, Paul wrote in reply to my email:

> The three words here all appear to me to be abstract nouns. So, if I
> am interpreting this right, Robertson's characteristic of the suffix
> results in the words expressing quality. But, just when I think I
> understand this, then my logic in this situation in James falls flat.
> If, picking up on the hRUPARIA again, this word means the quality of
> dirtiness, it is different than your illustration in your response. If
> my clothes get dirty, *they* have the quality of being dirty. They are
> not, in themselves, the quality of being dirty. Yet James instructs
> here to put away, or taking off [see below], the *quality of dirty*. He
> also talks about putting away, or taking off, the *quality of
> superabundance* of the *quality of evil [or whatever the lack is
> here]*. So, to explain my question through rephrasing, and again
> selecting only the first word for sake of example, are we putting off
> something that has become dirty and so encapsulates the quality of
> dirtiness (which is the side you came down on, despite your claim to a
> third option), or are we putting off something which is dirtiness
> itself, causing us to be dirty as long as we are in contact with it?
> What is meant when -IA is characterized as expressing quality?

Dear Paul and fellow B-Greekers,

Either I misunderstood your definition of the options for translating hRUPAIA,
or you misunderstood my response. It still seems to me that there are three
possibilities, of which you described two: dirtiness as a quality of the
people to whom James is speaking; dirt as something that is defiling them, and
finally, the meaning I was trying to explain, dirtiness as a covering that can
be shed.

I go for the last because of what I understand to be the meaning of APOTIQHMI
in both B- and classical Greek - Robertson says of APOQEMENOI, "Second aorist
middle participle of [apotithemi], to put off, metaphor of removing clothing
as in Ro 13:12; Col 3:8; Eph 4:22,25; 1Pe 2:1." It seems to me that Paul,
James and Peter use the word in astonishingly similar ways, and that the image
they jointly use should determine how we translate hRUPARIA (and the other IA

Paul says, "Throw off the works of darkness, and let's put on the armour of
light." and "Throw off, as concerning your former way of life, the old man,
that grows corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that you be renewed in the
spirit of your mind, and put on the new man". The same image is used with a
different verb participle, APEKDUSAMENOI, in Colossians 3:9-10 , "You have put
off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man" - again a
clothing image.

Peter uses the same image, "Putting off therefore all wickedness, all guile,
hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes".

The most vivid example of the same image in modern English is the bit in C S
Lewis' 'Voyage of the Dawn Treader' where Aslan peels off Eustace's dragon
skin (the symbol of his greedy, dragonish throughts) to reveal the tender,
naked new-born Eustace underneath.

I interpret the image as meaning that the dead husk of the 'old man' surrounds
all Christians even though they are new-born underneath. It has to be removed
and replaced with the outward signs of the imputed righteousness within, eg.
the armour of God. It clings on, and so must be peeled off, sometimes quite
painfully, to reveal the real 'newborn babe' underneath. I believe that James
looks on PASAN hRUPARIAN KAI PERISSEIAN KAKIAS in the same light, as a
covering rather than as something that is a quality of the reader. Once the
covering has been removed, the underlying humility and fertility of the
Christian is revealed.

> Mike, I hope that I come across as desiring further discussion, not as
> being argumentative. You clearly expressed your interpretation, and I
> understand if you feel that you have expressed your opinion already.
> But I hope that you or someone else on the list might be able to help
> me understand how broad or how narrow is the significance of this very
> common suffix.
Thank you for your explanation. I'm afraid I haven't really answered your
question, but I hope my digression has been of some use. I have been struck
so powerfully by the strength and consistency of the image, which I feel
should come across in any translation of these passages.


Mike Beazley,
Bushey, Hertfordshire, UK

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:39:44 EDT