[b-greek] Re: Grammatical question in Rom 4.1

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Sun Feb 04 2001 - 11:13:12 EST

I'm sorry this is so long, but I don't see how to omit any of this.

At 8:47 AM -0500 2/4/01, Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
>Dear bgreekers,
>after I posted my message, a new thought occurred to me.
>Can we parse Rom 4.1 as follows?
>We might translate it as follows:
>What then? Shall we say to have found Abraham our forefather
> according to flesh?
>What then? Shall we say to have found Abraham to be our forefather
> according to flesh?
>Though (a) and (b) are not grammatical in English, they convey the
>intended idea, I guess.
>Are both possible? If so, which one would be better?

I've been pondering the original question, chiefly trying to figure out WHY
Paul would write "What then shall we say? That we have found Abraham our
forefather according to the flesh?" What on earth would that mean in terms
of the argument offered here. More below. But as to this additional
offering, I see no problem with constituting the text that way, so that
EROUMEN immediately precedes hEURHKENAI and the TI OUN stands as a
rhetorical introduction. My problem lies rather with the meaning supposedly
derived from understanding the subject of hEURHKENAI as identical with the
subject of EROUMEN. But more below.

>Moon-Ryul Jung
>Sogang Univ, Seoul, Korea
>> What then shall we say? [Have we] found Abraham [to be]
>> our forefather according to the flesh?
>> This translation is based on the following parsing:
>> 7.7
>> >
>> (1)
>> Hays suggested the above reading. He surveyed Paul's other uses of
>> TI OUN EROUMEN, which occurs only in Romans (3.5, 6.1., 7.7,
>> 8:31, 9.14, 9.30). In every case except for 8:31, this expression
>> forms a complete sentence. This observation is the basis of the
>> above reading. But it makes the infinite clause following
>> TI OUN EROUMEN to play as a sentence. Would it be possible?
>> (2) Here the point of the passage is whether Abraham is our forefather
>> ACCORDING TO THE FLESH OR NOT. The fact that Abraham is our
>> forefather is assumed. Here the prepositional phrase is understood
>> to be adverbial. This is fine, because the article does not
>> precede the phrase. A rendering "our forefather according to
>> the flesh" which takes KATA SARKA as adjectival should be
>> considered when the other way is not feasible. In this regard,
>> the above reading seems fine.
>> (3) The typical interpretation may be represented by the following
>> rendering:
>> What then shall we say Abraham to have found according to the flesh?
>> It makes TI the object of EURHKENAI, and it makes the sentence
>> quite complicated. It seems to be a disadvantage of the typical
>> rendering?
>> (4) Wouldn't the typical rendering require the following?

To respond in reverse order (hUSTERON PROTERON):

(4) No, I don't think so; I also think that the question may have been
based upon assumption that the translation reflects something about how the
Greek word-order is understood, although I really think Moon knows far
better than that). In indirect discourse the accusative subject quite
commonly follows upon the infinitive of which it is the subject; I think,
moreover, that positioning it AFTER TON PROPATORA hHMWN and before KATA
SARKA would definitely result in making KATA SARKA belong to the predicate,
yielding the sense "that we have found in fleshly terms our forefather
Abraham." Quite frankly, I think that's a possible and even likely sense
for the clause with hEURHKENAI in its present position, IF we understand
the subject of hEURHKENAI to be identical with the subject of EROUMEN.

(3) I can't personally see the disadvantage of the standard/common way of
understanding Rom 4:1, nor do I find the word-order really complicated: TI
is in the initial position because, as interrogatives normally are, it is
in that initial position of emphasis. In terms of the word-order's
emphasis, I'd make the usual version thus: "What then shall we say that he
discovered--Abraham, that is, our forefather in fleshly terms?"

(2 & 1) Although I think that an added article before KATA SARKA would
clarify that Paul intended KATA SARKA to be attributive to TON PROPATORA
hHMWN, I think that there are sufficient instances where such a rule (of
older Attic) is not observed in Koine or by Paul, I think it more likely
that Paul DID intend KATA SARKA to be attributive to TON PROPATORA hHMWN.
IF, however, the argument is that KATA SARKA is to be understood
adverbially with an implicit verb such as GENESQAI, so that the implicit
structure of the whole thus becomes:


with TON PROPATORA hHMWN as the predicate of GENESQAI KATA SARKA--

IF that's what is meant, then I fail to understand what the point of the
question would be. Why would Paul want to assert such a discovery on our
part as that Abraham actually was in the flesh our forefather? It seems to
me that the whole point of the chapter that follows is that Abraham
DISCOVERED what it means to be righteous by faith.

Finally, I think it's worth noting that hEURHKENAI is problematic in the
text of Rom 4:1, as even the critical note in USB4 makes clear. Here's what
Metzger says in his _Textual Comm. on the GNT (2)_ on Rom 4:1:

        "Although it can be argued that the variation of position of
hEURHKENAI (before ABRAAM aleph A C D G psi 81 629 al.; after hHMWN K P 33
88 614 Byz al) indicates that the word was added at various places and that
therefore the short text (B 1739 Origen) is original, the Committee
considered that (a) there was no reason why copyists should have decided to
add hEURHKENAI at various places if it did not belong in the text
originally, and (b) hEURHKENAI after EROUMEN may have fallen out
accidentally because of the similarity of the beginning of both verbs. Of
the two readings that include the word, the sequence hHMWN hEURHKENAI was
judged inferior both ins ense and external support.
        " The word PROPATORA (which occurs nowhere else in the NT) was
replaced in the later manuscripts (K P 33 104 614 1739 Byz Lect al) by
PATERA (which is the customary designation in the NT for Abraham; see Lk
16.24, 30; Jn 8.53; Ac 7.2, Ro 4.12)."


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
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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