From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Jan 24 2000 - 21:19:23 EST

<x-rich>This message appears to have been sitting here all day long without
anyone tackling it while instead we go on talking around and about the
Greek and other foreign language learning questions. I have a feeling
that this is one of those questions about which any who have seriously
considered it are waiting for someone else to take a stab at it, after
which they'll pounce on it.

I always have to have the whole Greek text in question in front of me:


At 8:59 AM -0600 1/24/00, Mark D. Nanos wrote:

<excerpt><fontfamily><param>Geneva</param><bigger>Dear List,

I am seeking help for how to translate and understand hOI
PERITEMNOMENOI, by which Paul identifies those who are advocating the
addressees' circumcision in 6:13.

A list of the prevailing views found in commentaries with a few of my
own additional suggestions for possibilities (#'s 3-5):

1 Present middle causative, thus emphasis on the influencers' advocacy
of circumcision of addressees is the focus: "those who cause to be
circumcised," or "the ones causing receipt of circumcision," or simply,
"the advocates of circumcision."


</bigger></fontfamily>I don't think this is right, primarily because I
take the middle-voice form (and I think it IS middle rather than
passive--I ALWAYS think we should try to understand these
middle/passive forms as middles and accept them as passives only if we
have some agent or instrumental element that points in that direction).
I think that those who advocate circumcision for others would be active

<excerpt><fontfamily><param>Geneva</param><bigger>2 Present middle
permissive, which highlights the present sense of the action with a
passive twist, thus it could be translated as "those who receive
circumcision," "those presently getting circumcised themselves," or
"those who let themselves be circumcised."


</bigger></fontfamily>This is what I think comes closest to the right
sense, only I don't think I'd call it simply permissive--I'd call it
outright reflexive: "those who get themselves circumcised."

<excerpt><fontfamily><param>Geneva</param><bigger>3 Present middle
habitual would signify a temporal habitual force at work, "those who
customarily circumcise," or "those who are customarily circumcising."


</bigger></fontfamily>Don't think so; again, the reason being that I
think an active form is what would be called for in this sense: hOI
PERITEMNONTES: I think hOI PERITEMNOMENOI has to be those who do it to
themselves or get it done to themselves.

<excerpt><fontfamily><param>Geneva</param><bigger>4 Present middle
concessive would focus upon the connection by accentuating the
exception that it involves, bringing to bear the opening OUDE: "even
the ones who are circumcised," or "even the ones who circumcise."


</bigger></fontfamily>O.K. but I'd understand the OUDE as KAI hOI
PERITEMNOMENOI OU ... "Even the ones who get themselves circumcised
don't keep the law ..." That is to say, I think, that in my view Paul
is saying "although they should, insofar as they go through the ritual
motions of becoming Jewish, endeavor to keep the Law, they don't ..."

<excerpt><fontfamily><param>Geneva</param><bigger>5 Present middle
circumstances attendant brings out the action of the main verb, in this
case, the accusation following that focuses upon the connection between
their identity by way of this substantive participle and the
undermining "revelation" that these ones do not themselves "keep/guard"
the Law, thus: "the ones who are circumcising," or simply "the ones
circumcising" do not "keep/guard" that which they would be expected to
thus hold most dear.


</bigger></fontfamily>Again, I really don't feel that the behavior
indicated by the substantive ptc. hOI PERITEMNOMENOI goes beyond their
having themselves circumcised; I don't think this participial phrase
implies anything about what these people do to others; rather that's in
the next clause (QELOUSIN hUMAS PERITEMNESQAI), which is not "they want
to circumcise you" but rather "they want YOU to get YOURSELVES
circumcised." Now you may say this amounts to the same thing: they
undergo circumcision themselves and want others to do the same, so
really hOI PERITEMNOMENOI are "circumcisers" in effect, not just
"self-circumcisers." But I think that either overcomplicates or
oversimplifies matters. Rather, as I see it, these guys are proud of
their operation (perhaps they like to show it off like some weird sort
of flashers?) and they're trying to get other guys to have the same
operation--and the final clause in what I take to be a very sarcastic
verse 13 indicates what these guys are really after: they want to gloat
over the fact that you guys have done just what they have done--they've
made you commit yourselves through a definitive act of self-mutilation
to show the world that you are a card-carrying member of their
party--and it's all a game of numbers and partisan pride and has
absolutely nothing with observance of the Torah.

<excerpt><fontfamily><param>Geneva</param><bigger>6 Present passive,
thus emphasizing the influencers own receipt of circumcision. This may
be translated as "the ones who receive circumcision."


</bigger></fontfamily>As I've said above, I can't see passivity here:
their "receipt" of circumcision is active and passionately reflexive:
they don't just "let" themselves be done, but they "get" themselves

<excerpt><fontfamily><param>Geneva</param><bigger>7 Perfect passive, or
hOI PERITETMNHMENOI, a variant construction actually attested in a few
important manuscripts (including [P46), focuses on the condition which
results from a previous action, and would translate "those who have
been circumcised," or "those in the state of circumcision.


</bigger></fontfamily>Here again I'd prefer the middle sense, the more
so in the perfect tense, I think, than if the reading we had here were
PERITMHQENTES, which might with more justification be deemed
authentically passive.

<excerpt><fontfamily><param>Geneva</param><bigger>Are the above options
the only ones that should be sorted through? And following Carl's
observation that passive is a form of middle, so passive-middle
perhaps, what difference might this make?

In this case it does seem that the active middle choice is redundant,
Paul has already said clearly that they "would compel you to be
circumcised," so why the substantive participle here in the next
verse," or is that just why, because it is the already defined


</bigger></fontfamily>Yes, I think that's it: this is a class of people
that I think Paul means to be describing with a pejorative term as
something like "self-mutilators (cf. 5:12). I don't really mean to say
at all that Paul despises circumcision, but it seems to me that he here
makes crystal-clear that he despises those who are NOT ethnic Jews who
suppose that they have to LOOK like ethnic Jews in every respect and
want other Gentiles to join their party.

<excerpt><fontfamily><param>Geneva</param><bigger>On the other hand,
might not their own identity as circumcised, perhaps even by choice
(i.e., that they are themselves proselytes who now seek the proselyte
conversion of the addressees), be implied in this participle, so that
it is not a restatement of their advocacy as much as of their
culpability, which is what the rest of the verbal phrase undermines.
That is, that in spite of their indebtedness as circumcised ones to
observe the whole Law (5:3), which is living with the interests of
one's neighbor in view (5:14), that their advocacy of circumcision of
the addressees is a violation of this principle, since it is, in Paul's
view, a violation of what is in the best interests of these gentiles,
because it for them render's meaningless the death of Christ for them
as gentiles, representatives of the Nations. I mean to express no
judgement of whether Paul's judgement of these people or groups is
correct or not; I take his interest here to be a part of a larger
rhetorical discussion that would have to be considered.


</bigger></fontfamily>If I understand rightly what seems a very
convoluted sentence/paragraph, I think I agree with this, and I think
that's what I've argued above: these people aren't concerned with what
it means to be a Jew or a "believer" at all: their game is
politics--it's putting numbers of new recruits on the board and scoring
brownie points for those who can bring in the most recruits. At least,
that's the way I read it.

<excerpt><fontfamily><param>Geneva</param><bigger>Any feedback would be


And now, as my son would say, " the Chalupa has been dropped," and
others can move in and have a go at it.

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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