1Cor 15:8

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Mon Aug 27 03:13:17 EDT 2001

> 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?

Iver Larsen

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