[b-greek] Re: 1Cor 15:8

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Mon Aug 27 2001 - 06:17:30 EDT

At 9:13 AM +0200 8/27/01, Iver Larsen wrote:
>> At 9:22 AM -0700 8/26/01, Dmitriy Reznik wrote:
>> >Dear friends:
>> >
>> >I have a question about 1Cor 15:8.
>> >And last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
>> >My online lexicon gives two options for EKTRWMA:
>> >1) an abortion, abortive birth
>> >2) an untimely birth
>> >I wonder which one is the right translation.
>> I think (2) must be right here, but in checking resources I found
>> that Louw
>> & Nida have an interesting note on this word:
>> ==========
>> 23.55 EKTRWMA, TOS n: an untimely or premature birth - 'untimely birth.'
>> appeared also to me, even though I was like one who was born at the wrong
>> time' 1Cor 15:8.
>> There is a certain fundamental problem involved in the rendering of
>> EKTRWMA in 1Cor 15:8. Here Paul refers to himself, but the event in
>> question is the appearance of Jesus to Paul, evidently on the road to
>> Damascus. The reference, therefore, would seem to be his being born as a
>> Christian. This spiritual birth, however, would appear to be
>> rather late in
>> the process rather than premature. It is for this reason that it may be
>> wise to translate EKTRWMA in some instances as 'untimely birth'
>> or 'born at
>> the wrong time,' rather than indicating that he was 'born too soon.'
>> ==========
>It seems to me that Louw and Nida skirted too quickly over this problem.
>There are no other instances in the NT. And it seems to me that the key
>factor is not the time element but the fact that the child is already dead
>when it is born.
>In the three occurrences I could find in the LXX both NIV and NRSV
>consistently translate the corresponding Hebrew word (nefel) as "stillborn"
>and this sense fits the context well. (The references are listed in BAGD:
>Num 12:12, Job 3:16, Eccl 6:3. It is the same three places the Hebrew
>"nefel" occurs.) Other expressions are used in the Hebrew OT and the LXX for
>miscarriage, untimely birth or abortion when the foetus is alive.
>Are there any reasons NOT to think that the word means "stillborn" also in 1
>Cor 15:8? It would be a figure of speech, of course. Could it be like saying
>"It would have been better if I had never been born"? The whole of Job 3 has
>as its theme that Job curses the day he was born. He says he would rather
>never have been born, or have died at childbirth or even before birth so he
>would have been stillborn. In all cases he would never seen the light of day
>and experienced the tragedy he has been through. My suggestion is that Paul
>is alluding to Job 3:16.
>I am not sure how to render the meaning with this option. Maybe something
>like "Last of all he was seen by me even though I was like a person unfit to
>live. Why am I saying this? Because I am the least of the apostles, and I am
>not even worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of
>God!" (The explanatory function of GAR can be expressed by "I am saying this
>because...". It is clear that v. 9 is explaining the background for using
>the figure of speech in v. 8.)
>Is this an option?

I don't really think, Iver, that the interpretation you're suggesting
really differs from what L&N are actually asserting. "Could it be like
'It would have been better if I had never been born'?" Certainly, and I
think that IS what he is saying, FIGURATIVELY--but NOT that he was
LITERALLY still-born or was in fact aborted. Dmitriy's #2 has to be right
because it is a FIGURATIVE understanding of #1 and because a LITERAL
understanding of #1 won't fit. I'm reminded of the Shakespearean Macbeth's
confidence that he had nothing to fear from "any man of woman born"--only
to be informed by MacDuff, about to kill him, that he was not "born" but
"from [my] mother's womb untimely ripped."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months: 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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