1Cor 15:8

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Tue Aug 28 03:33:36 EDT 2001

Dear Steve,

Thank you very much for your carefully made comments. Let me comment briefly
on some of them below.

> First, just a slight correction. Though "nefel" is used in Job
> 3.16 and Eccl 6.3, it is not used in Num 12.12. However, it is clear that
a stillborn
> child is in view also in Num 12.12, so the LXX translation using
> EKTRWMA, as you indicate, seems here to refer to stillborn delivery.

You are quite right. I was skipping along too quickly, noting that EKTRWMA
was used three times and "nefel" also three times, but only two of them are
the same. "Nefel" is also used in Ps 58:8, but the LXX is different here.
NRSV uses "stillborn" in the three above, but for some reason uses "untimely
birth" in Ps. 58:8. But even here, it is clear that the child is dead when
it is born. GNB says "like a baby born dead that never sees the light."
> While I would *like* to take EKTRWMA to mean "untimely birth" in a broad
> sense that would cover a "late birth" (since it fits the context and would
> save us all a lot of trouble!), I think I really need to see at least one
> unambiguous example of EKTRWMA used to refer to a *late* birth. I think it
> skirts the issue to define it simply as an "untimely birth" in
> the sense of
> a late birth, since all the examples I have seen involve a stillborn birth
> or a premature birth (BAGD, etc.). In other words, even if we define it
> broadly as an "untimely birth," it seems to me the untimeliness is early,
> not late. Until I see that unambiguous example, I have to work on the
> assumption that what is in view in 1 Cor 15.8 is either a
> stillborn birth or
> a premature birth.

Are there examples outside of the LXX where it can refer to a premature
birth where the child is alive and able to survive? ISTM that all the
examples in the LXX refer to a child that is dead already before birth, i.e.
a stillborn child. When a child dies in the womb, it is aborted by the body
soon after. In a premature birth, the child is normally alive when it is
born and may well survive, at least in modern times.
> I agree that it is a figure of speech, but I don't find the above
> explanation convincing. There is certainly evidence that Paul
> regretted his former way of life, especially his persecution of the church
(v. 9; Gal
> 1.13), but I don't think there is any evidence that he regretted
> being born. On the contrary, he believed that God had set him apart from
his "mother's
> womb" (EK KOILIAS MHTROS; Gal 1.15). Even if we interpret EK
> KOILIAS MHTROS as something like "before I was born," the fact remains
that Paul
> viewed his birth as part of God's divinely appointed plan for his life,
the plan that
> included his meeting Jesus, his whole reason for living.

I agree with you here and want to modify my earlier suggestion. I did not
intend to suggest that Paul actually regretted that he was born. What I
think Paul is referring to in a figurative way is that a stillborn child was
considered of no value. It was not given a proper burial, just thrown away
as useless rubbish. Paul tells us in Phil 3:4-11 about his view of his
former life, and he specifically includes the fact that he persecuted the
church (v. 6). He describes that former life as "rubbish", something of no
When Paul says that "(Christ) was seen by me last of all" he obviously
refers to the Damascus road experience. But I think he refers to himself in
his former state of life as someone of no value, something that is fit to be
thrown on the rubbish pile. It is through the grace of Christ that this did
not happen. Instead he was given new life and new value through his
encounter with the risen Christ.

Iver Larsen

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