Re: FQONOS in Jas 4:5

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Thu May 25 2000 - 10:21:31 EDT


At 1:27 PM -0500 5/24/00, Harold R. Holmyard III wrote:
>Dear Carl,
> A gentleman named Virgil Newkirk in the Bible Translation discussion
>group has been insisting that the word FQONOS, as a word in any context,
>must have negative connotations. It seems that I have read commentators say
>that as well, but others take the word positively at Jas 4:5. BAG's various
>definitions at Jas 4:5 suggest they might have seen the possibility for a
>positive or neutral sense for PROS FQONON, which they translate as
>"jealously," based on other literature. In LSJ there is the note that the
>word is often used of the jealousy of the gods. Was this always a bad kind
>of jealousy, do you know, or could it ever be a positive kind?
> If the word cannot have a positive or neutral sense, that fact would
>simplify the translation alternatives in Jas 4:5, because we could not
>think in terms of a positive divine jealousy. Do you have any thoughts on
>this? Again Jas 4:5 is:
>
>H DOKEITE hOTI KENWS hH GRAFH LEGEI, PROS FQONON EPIPOQEI TO PNEUMA hO
>KATWiKISEN EN hHMIN,

Harold, I've read through the lengthy thread on B-Translation on this
verse; I really thought we had something significant in our own archives on
it, but I only find more questions raised than real answers suggested. For
those interested in reviewing the thread on B-Translation May 3 through May
24, it may be read at: <http://www.egroups.com/group/bible-translation>
(but you may find you have to become a subscriber in order to read the
archives).

I'm not sure that I have anything new to add to the discussion of this
passage, which seems to me to have been hashed out pretty thoroughly on
B-Translation, but I will offer my own judgment.

(a) I believe that FQONOS does indeed have a negative sense here: it is
fundamentally equivalent to Latin INVIDIA, which means "ill-will" or
"malice." The FQONOS TWN QEWN is a 'topos' in archaic Greek literature,
being found especially in Herodotus, who cites numerous examples of the
displeasure the gods take at mortals who are too prominent (as at mountain
peaks that rise too high above the plain and other peaks)--i.e. at mortals
whose status seems to obscure the immense gap that separates mortals from
the gods. There's almost a popular superstition running through ancient
(and modern?) Greek culture, that one ought not to praise any human being
too much, lest he/she be struck by lightning because of divine displeasure
aroused: praise a child to a mother's face and she'll spit on the child for
fear of what may happen to it. Interesting, and it says something about the
sense of FQONOS, but not necessarily relevant to our passage here. Perhaps
more relevant is a passage in Pericles' Funeral Speech (Thuc. 2.35) where
Pericles says it's dangerous to hold a public funeral wherein the dead who
are known the whole populace listening are eulogized, "because it's hard to
hit the happy mean even in a city where what appears to be the truth is
firmly established, seeing as one who knew and thought well of the person
is likely to think what's said falls short of what he knows and wants
stated, while one unfamiliar with the deceased is likely, out of jealousy
(DIA FQONON) to suppose too much is being said, if it goes beyond what he
himself could do." Then the remarkable judgment: "Explicit praise of others
is tolerable only to the extent that any individual thinks he himself able
to do what he has heard said of another, but what exceeds their own
abilities men tend to disbelieve at once out of jealousy (FQONOUNTES)."

(b) Of course, the most remarkable thing about this verse is that it speaks
of a scripture that is not to be found in the canonical Bible, at least not
in any form that seems close to it. UBS4 refers to Exodus 20:5 but that
hardly seems comparable to me in any way, and the verbal noun there is
ZHLWTHS.

(c) My own view is that the essential sense of PROS FQONON EPIPOQEI TO
PNEUMA hO
KATWiKISEN EN hHMIN is, "The spirit that he has made dwell in us jealously
covets." I take it that the reference is to what the rabbis called and
still do, I think," Ha YÍTSeR Ha Ra"--and I'm reminded of Martin Buber's
comment on the 10th commandment that it warns against what is at the root
of all interpersonal evildoing. If I read Paul's meaning rightly in Romans
7:7-8, Paul seems to be saying that his coming to awareness of the 10th
commandment is what made him realize that he was a helpless creature unable
to keep the law.

(d) Then what is TO PNEUMA hO KATWiKISEN EN hHMIN? I don't think it's the
Holy Spirit at all, but rather the 'natural' spirit which is understood in
terms of the Genesis 3 creation narrative as the breath of God breathed
into the clay shaped by God's hands (Gen 3:7 KAI EPLASEN hO QEOS TON
ANQRWPON COUN APO THS GHS KAI ENEFUSHSEN EIS TO PROSWPON AUTOU PNOHN ZWHS
KAI EGENETO hO ANQRWPOS EIS YUCHN ZWSAN.). Biblical Greek is not consistent
(in my opinion) in its psychological terminology, but Paul tends to use
YUCIKOS of human natural existence, i.e. unredeemed human existence. And I
think that a better clue to the meaning of PNEUMA in James 4:5 may come
from Gen 6:3, which is part of the introduction to the Flood narrative
wherein is expressed that curious "repentance" of YHWH for having created
humanity: KAI EIPEN KURIOS hO QEOS: OU MH KATAMEINHi TO PNEUMA MOU EN TOIS
ANQRWPOIS TOUTOIS EIS TON AIWNA DIA TO EINAI AUTOUS SARKAS; ESONTAI DE hAI
hHMERAI AUTWN hEKATON EIKOSI ETH. I assume that TO PNEUMA MOU here refers
to what Gen 3:7 calls PNOHN ZWHS: it is not the Holy Spirit but rather the
god-given spirit and will that quickens our bodies of flesh.

In sum then, although I may not have come to it the same way as others, I
think that I interpret James 4:5 as do most others: it refers to the
perverse envy that characterizes us so fundamentally in our interpersonal
relationships. I don't think James is implying anything about God's nature
here, but rather I think simply that James is referring to the behavior of
the human creature quickened by a portion of God's spirit, but prone to
covet jealously in the human condition.




--

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad@ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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