1 Pet 3:21 EPERWTHMA

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Mon Mar 25 09:13:12 EST 2002

At 8:49 AM +0100 3/25/02, Iver Larsen wrote:
>> >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

Sorry, but I don't really follow you here either, Iver. This verse,


--at least as I read it, is fundamentally an antithetical statement
about/definition of what baptism is not and is. So I can't see how an
interrogatory sense to EPERWTHMA fits this context, even if it can derive
from the sense of EPERWTAW, "pose a question" and can mean "the question
posed" or "what the question concerns/the content of the question raised."
I think rather that the usage here derives the second sense of EPERWTAW,
"make a request" or "entreat something" and must mean "urgent appeal" or
"earnest request."

>> 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 only Latin version I have seen is the Vulgate:
1 Peter 3:21 quod et vos nunc similis formae salvos facit baptisma non
carnis depositio sordium sed conscientiae bonae interrogatio in Deum per
resurrectionem Iesu Christi"

Here INTERROGATIO must mean "questioning," not "the question being asked"
or "the question under discussion."

>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).

If, as you say, you've checked BDAG, there's no point in citing its
reference to PYadin and the scholarly literature on this verse.

>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".

On occasion I've even agreed with some of your "far-out" suggestions, but
this one doesn't make sense to me. And strictly in terms of the rhetorical
form of the key phrases, BAPTISMA is here said to be


It seems to me that EPERWTHMA ought to be formally parallel to APOQESIS.
Baptism IS NOT a mechanical ritual of cleansing, rather it IS an earnest
appeal to God. I think that the real problem is whether we are to
understand SUNEIDHSEWS AGAQHS as subjective of objective genitive, i.e.
whether the appeal is made by a "good/clean conscience" or whether it is to
gain a "good/clean conscience" from God.

>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?

Yes, there is, and it does mean "questioning, interrogation"

). 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.

I can't see this at all. In the rhetoric of the formulation, SUNEIDHSEWS
AGAQHS EPERWTHMA EIS QEON here seems to me to call for a sense that is
antithetical to SARKOS APOQESIS hRUPOU.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months:: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad at ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

More information about the B-Greek mailing list