Re: Gal. 4:19

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Jun 30 1998 - 07:02:40 EDT

At 11:28 PM -0400 6/29/98, Thomas Biddy wrote:
>5605. odino, o-dee'-no; from G5604; to experience the pains of
>parturition (lit. or fig.):--travail in (birth).
>(Gal 4:19 KJV) My little children, of whom I travail in birth again
>until Christ be formed in you,
>Does this refer to gestation - the nine months a baby is in it's mother's
>How does it relate to
>5040. teknion, tek-nee'-on; dimin. of G5043; an infant, i.e. (plur. fig.)
>darlings (Christian converts):--little children.
>Is he saying something like - My infants, I have to incubate you again?

Sometimes a direct citation from the KJV brings out just how archaic the
English really is in it. Nevertheless it is a clear and correct translation
of the Greek, which is what I think ought more properly to be cited here
than a version.

There are two significant antecedents here: (1) the Jewish eschatological
usage of a woman's labor in childbirth as an image of the coming-into-being
of a new world-age (cf. Rom 8:22, John 16:20-21, Mk 13:8 par, and I think
it would be easy to multiply examples in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic
literature); (2) the characteristic explanation of his educational practice
by Socrates that he was akin to a midwife, bringing to birth authentic
ideas that were gestating in the minds of his young disciples, from which
metaphor has originated the education concept of "maieutic" from the Greek
MAIEUTIKH. I'm inclined to think that it is this Socratic usage, probably
by Paul's era a matter of cultural common goods rather than something
thought of as Socratic, that is more in play in Paul's usage in Gal 4:19.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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