Re: Phil 2:1 Question (revised subject-header)

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Sep 06 1999 - 10:30:12 EDT

(I've taken the liberty of revising the subject-header here; I don't
normally use "Phi" as my abbreviation for Philippians and I like to make it
easier to find stuff in the archives at some subsequent date.)

At 10:14 PM -0500 9/5/99, David A Bielby wrote:
>Paraklesis typically is translated as encouragement or comfort in Phi
>2:1. I've been intrigued by AT Robertson's view that it should be
>translated, ["ground of appeal to you in Christ." See 1Co 1:10; Eph
>4:1]....from Word Pictures.
>I can see a clear contextual reason from the letter for this...people
>facing persecution would be praying for deliverance, and would probably
>have testimonies of answered prayer in that it would make sense
>as a first class conditional phrase. The Philippians would feel a need
>for God's love to comfort them in light of persecution. So, I can see a
>sequence with the next phrase being translated as "comfort of love".
>But none of the major translations treat this phrase that way. Is there a
>clear reason for this?

I'm glad you have brought this back to us a second time, David, after
getting no responses to your first try a week ago (August 29); I started
doing a little word-study on that, thinking it was an interesting question
and one definitely worth pursuing, not least because it's related in some
ways to the question of how we are best to understand the word PARAKLHTOS
in John's gospel as a preferred epithet for the Holy Spirit. I gathered
some preliminary lexicographical evidence and started sifting through it
but never got finished and thought somebody else would surely respond
before I could do the work that needed to be done before I could respond.
The information I had gathered are primarily from Louw & Nida (25.150;
33.168; 33.310; and 33.315, comprising all usages of PARAKALEW and
PARAKLHSIS) and from LSJ (s.v. PARAKALEW and PARAKLHSIS). I won't reproduce
those lengthy articles here, but I've given the references if anyone is
interested enough to examine them and the passages, particularly the
far-ranging passages from Greek literature cited by LSJ.

What has surprised me most has been the degree of consistency in the RANGE
of meanings in which the verb and noun have been used in both classical and
in Hellenistic Greek. Indeed, I'm not a little reminded of the fact that,
however much one wants to disregard etymology, often rightly so, BOHQEW
never seems to completely dislodge itself from its roots in BOH and QEW and
the notion of "hasten to respond to a cry of distress" and hence, "render
assistance to ..." PARAKALEW is a distinct verb in its own right, but it
too never seems too far removed from the notion of 'calling' on one or more
persons, with whom one feels intimate enough to anticipate a sympathetic
response, to do one a favor or bring one encouragement or assistance. It
seems to me to overlap the senses of the two German verbs BETEN and BITTEN
in expressing a notion of urgent entreaty to behave in a way that is
acceptable or comforting or positively helpful to the person making the
entreaty. It is used particularly in medical and juridical contexts (the
latter more than the former); the peculiar thing is that it seems to have
an element of reciprocity in its use in that it can mean "urge to comfort"
or "comfort when urged."

In Philippians 2:1 Paul seems to lay down one of his rhetorical lists of
near-synonymus expressions ("whatsoever things are good, kind, x, x, x,
..."), in this instance to establish a common ground with his addressees
for himself to express an urgent appeal and for them to pay attention to
it. EI TIS ... PARAKLHSIS EN CRISTWi heads the list here and must, I think,
means something pretty close to "If in Christ you and I have reason to
trust each other and request anything of each other ..." That looks pretty
close, IMHO, to ATR's suggested "ground of appeal to you in Christ."
Wherefore, I wouldn't object to seeing that in a formal translation of
Philippians. But I'm not sitting on a translation committee, and I would
suppose that one who does has to do a pretty stiff job of persuasion to win
other committee members to what most deem a "new departure" in translating
a word or phrase.

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

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