1 Pet 3:21 EPERWTHMA

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Mon Mar 25 02:49:35 EST 2002

> >I am stuck on EPERWTHMA. Maybe this has been discussed on b-greek before.
> >
> >Baptism is contrasted to an ordinary bath which is a question of removing
> >dirt from the body, but baptism is different, although it can be compared
> >with a bath in a certain sense.
> >Can it be understood as "but (baptism) is a question of
> (having/gaining?) a good conscience towards God"?

> In any case, "question" is
> not the right sense here, inasmuch as the context is not interrogatory.

I don't follow you here. The context involves a contentious issue and
implies the asking of many questions as well as giving various answers and

> LSJ:
> eperôt-êma , Ion. epeir- , atos, to, question, Hdt. 6.67, Th.3.53,68,
> Epicur.Sent.Vat.71.
> 2.  answer to inquiry put to higher authority: hence, sanction, kata to e.
> tôn Areopagitôn SIG 856.6 (ii A.D.), cf. 1008.4 (iii A.D.).
> 3.  = Lat. stipulatio, PCair. Preis.1.16 (ii A.D.), Cod.Just.
> (pl.): hence prob., pledge, suneidêseôs agathês e. eis theon 1
> Ep.Pet.3.21 .

I notice the "hence prob.". Is this sense 3 beyond question or debate? I
don't have access to those sources to check the context and the arguments
for this sense, but it is so different from the other two senses that it
raises a red flag to me. Did the Latin translations use stipulatio in this

The word "question" in English (and Danish) can refer to an implied question
or debate. I don't want to argue for a Greek sense from the English, but for
a rare noun like EPERWTHMA I would seek clarification from the common
corresponding verb EPERWTAW (or EPIERWTAW in LXX). The verb is never used to
mean appeal or make a pledge as far as I know (and according to L&N, and
Bauer which I have checked). It can mean "challenge by posing questions"
(Matt 16:1).

Since I enjoy challenging translation tradition, I am exploring the
possibility that Greek is like English and Danish in that the word
"question" can be used in the sense of "matter for debate" or "question
under discussion".
If I remember correctly, the -(H)MA ending probably corresponds not to sense
1 of English "question", that is "the action of inquiring or asking" (Is
there a Greek word EPERWTHSIS?). It more likely corresponds to sense 2, that
is "what is asked or inquired about". For this sense 2 my Oxford English
dict. has three subsenses:
1) The interrogative statement of some point to be investigated or
discussed; a problem; the matter forming the basis of a problem; a subject
involving more or less difficulty
2) A subject of discussion, debate or strife
3) An interrogation, query, inquiry

The significance of baptism is obviously a matter of discussion and debate,
and has always been even in the NT itself. It seems to me that Peter is
saying that it is not a question of getting a clean body through a normal
bath, but it is question of getting a clean conscience or an inner
cleansing, based on a the fact of and belief in the resurrection of Jesus
The last half of the verse says:

The sentence is in apposition to BAPTISMA and is no longer on the topic of
salvation through water and Noah, but appears to be on the question of the
meaning of baptism as an inward cleansing as compared to an outward
cleansing through a normal bath.

So, I still have the question whether it would not be possible to translate
EPERWTHMA with English "question". It would make better sense to me than
pledge and appeal.

Iver Larsen

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