SPIT OUT in Gal 4:14

From: Mark D. Nanos (nanos@gvi.net)
Date: Fri Sep 03 1999 - 11:39:26 EDT

Dmitriy Reznik wrote:
>Maybe anybody could help me to translate Gal 4:14.
I am interested how to understand EKPTUW in this context. Many versions
just translate this word metaphorically: for example, as "to reject" (and
that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or
loathe...)But some lexicons insist on literal understanding "to spit out".
They say it was a defence against evil spirits to spit having met a sick
person. If it is right, I would like to know whether they just used to spit
on the ground, or to that sick person's face, or anyhow else. I need to
know it in order to choose a proper word for translating into Russian.
Maybe anybody knows these things about usage of this Greek word and about
this ancient coustom?

Translating OUDE EXEPTUSATE with "spit," that is, "nor did you spit,"
would, I think, be sufficient, and preferred to the metaphorical
translations, which generally are redundant with the sense expressed by
translating EXOUQENHSATE.

The semantic domain in which to elaborate on what this "not spitting"
indicated is another matter, and one that is not yet resolved, being a
somewhat recent conversation among intrepreters. I take it to indicate that
they did not seek to protect themselves by way of spitting, a customary
protective measure in "evil eye cultures," both ancient and modern, still
practiced in such cultures as those of the Mediterranean region or of
Celtic descent. This would indicate that they had cause to be concerned
that Paul might represent an evil eye threat to themselves when he first
arrived, but they overcame this suspicion, and decided that he was a
messenger of good and not evil, and thus blessed instead of cursed him.

See the discussion of Elliott, John H. 1990. "Paul, Galatians, and the Evil
Eye." Currents in Theology and Mission 17:262-73, now drawn on in
Witherington's new commentary, Grace in Galatia, Eerdmans. For a different
view of the meaning of the spitting here see Goddard, A. J., and Cummins,
S. A. 1993. "Ill or Ill-Treated? Conflict and Persecution as the Context of
Paul's Original Ministry in Galatia (Galatians 4.12-20). JSNT 52:93-126. I
think Elliott makes the better case, as the tie in with 3:1 indicates an
evil eye (BASKAINW) domain at work in the letter, introduced by Paul by the
way, along with the indication that Paul's condition "in the flesh" is what
had been a PEIRASMON to themselves.

If it was in this sense that they did not spit, then it is not necessary to
translate upon whom or what the spit was directed, since such an action
could be toward the gazer (in this case Paul) or gazee (themselves or whom
or what they feared the gaze might fall). It might also be helpful to note
that, at least as this is still practiced in Greece among some people
according to the sources with which I am familiar, for example, the sound
of spitting is made perhaps in threes (pfth, pfth, pfth), without actually
expressing saliva per se. I suspect that some association with FQANOS/envy,
which is the engine of such belief systems, is indicated in this expression
of spitting, PFTH, (perhaps naming what is feared, just as the eye amulets
worn are used to protect from the evil eye that is feared).

Mark Nanos
Kansas City

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