[B-Greek] why is uihothesia translated "adoption"?

George F Somsel gfsomsel at yahoo.com
Sun Oct 28 19:17:36 EDT 2007

My apologies for the unintelligible Greek in the previous post.  I was using another program and didn't take that into account.  In any case, there was a transliteration and the citation was given as well so you should have no problem locating the text.  I should have checked a bit further before I posted that.  Moulton and Milligan have some information regarding this.

υἱοθεσία hUIOQESIA     5206
“adoption.” Deissmann (BS p. 239) has drawn attention to the frequency of the phrase καθʼ υἱοθεσίαν [KAQ' hUIOQESIAN] in the inscrr., which “lets us understand that Paul [Rom 8:15, Gal 4:5 al.] was availing himself of a generally intelligible figure when he utilised the term υἱοθεσία [hUIOQESIA] in the language of religion.” Exx. are Priene 372 (ii/b.c.) Εὐφανίσκος Καλλ̣ιξείνου, καθʼ ὑοθ̣[ε]σίαν δὲ Νικασιδάμου [EUFANISKOS KALLICEINOU, KAQ' uOQ{E}SIAN DE NIKASIDAMOU], Syll 269 (= 3 586)2 (b.c. 196) Ν]ικαγόρας Παμφ[ίλιδα, κα]θʼ ὑοθεσίαν δὲ [Νικαγόρα [N]]IKAGORAS PAMF[[ILIDA KA]]Q' hUOQESIAN DE [[NIKAGORA]], ib. 555 (= 3 977)7 (end ii/b.c.) Τιμ[ό]θεος Σωσικλεῦς, κατὰ δὲ ὑοθεσίαν Ἰσοπόλιος [TIM[[OQEOS SWSIKLEUS, KATA DE hUOQESIAN ISOPOIOS ]. See also Hicks CR i. p. 45f.,
 iii. p. 333, and for a literary ex. Diog. Laert. iv. 9. 53 νεανίσκων τινῶν υἱοθεσίας ποιεῖσθαι [NEANISKWN PNWN hUIOQESIAS POIEISQAI].
From the papyri we may cite P Oxy IX. 12068 (a.d. 335) ὁμολογοῦμεν ἡμῖς [μὲν ὅτ]ε̣ Ἡρακλῆς καὶ ἡ γ[υ]νὴ Εἰσάριον ἐκδεδωκέναι σοὶ τῷ Ὡρίωνι τὸν ἐξ̣ [ἡμ]ῶ̣ν υἱὸν Πατε̣ρ̣[μοῦθ]ιν ὡς ἐτῶν δύο εἰς υἱοθεσίαν, ἐμὲ δὲ τὸν [Ὡρίων]α̣ ἔ̣χ̣ε̣ι̣ν̣ [τ̣ο̣ῦτ]ο̣ν̣ γνήσιον υἱὸν πρὸς τὸ μένειν αὐτῷ τὰ ἀπ[ὸ τ]ῆς διαδοχῆς τῆς κληρονομίας μου δίκαια [hOMOLOGOUMEN hHMIS [[MEN hOT]]E hHRAKLHS KAI hH G[[U]]NH EISARION EKDEDWKENAI SOI TWi hRIWNI TON EC [[hHM]]WN hUION PATER[MOUQ]]IN hWS ETWN DUO EIS hUIOQESIAN, EME DE TON [[hHWRIWN]]A EXEIN [[TOUT]]ON GNHSION hUION PRO TO MENEIN AUTWi TA AP[[O T]]HS DIADOXHS THS KLHRONOMIAS MOU DIKAIA], “we agree, Heracles and his wife Isarion on the one part, that we have given
 away to you, Horion, for adoption our son Patermouthis, aged about two years, and I Horion on the other part, that I have him as my own son so that the rights proceeding from succession to my inheritance shall be maintained for him” (Ed.): cf. 14, 16, 20, and the editor’s introduction. We may further cite P Lips I. 2812 (a.d. 381) (= Archiv iii. p. 173ff.) ὥσ]τ̣ʼ ἐμὲ τὸν [ἀ]δελ[φ]ὸν αὐτοῦ Σιλβανὸν . . . ἔχειν [πρὸς?] υ̣ἱ̣οθεσίαν  [hWS]]T EME TON [ADEL[[F]]ON AUTOU SILBANON . . . EXEIN [[PROS?]] hUIOSQESIAN]: cf.14, 17, 22, 24, 27. This last papyrus shows also the verb υἱοθετέω [hUIOQETEW],22 τῶν ἐμῶν πραγμάτων κληρονόμον υἱοθετηθέντα μοι [TWN EMWN PRAGMATWN KLHRONOMON hUIOQETHQENTA MOI]. For υἱοποιέομαι [hUIOPOIEOMAI] see Gnomon 41 (c. a.d. 150) (= BGU V. p. 21).

Moulton, J. H., & Milligan, G. (1930). The vocabulary of the Greek Testament. Issued also in eight parts, 1914-1929. (648). London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Regarding my comment on the connection of hUIOQESIA with DIAQHKH Deissmann has a comment worth considering 

Much more might be said about the background of the New Testament figurative language, but I am not aiming here at completeness of statement. I am content to have shown by some examples the importance of the whole subject. Perhaps the most necessary investigation still waiting to be made is that relating to the word διαθήκη [DIAQHKH], which so many scholars translate unhesitatingly “covenant.” Now as the new texts help us generally to reconstruct Hellenistic family law and the law of inheritance, so in particular our knowledge of Hellenistic wills has been wonderfully increased by a number of originals on stone or papyrus. There is ample material to back me in the statement that no one in the Mediterranean world in the first century a.d. would have thought of finding in the word διαθήκη [DIAQHKH] the idea of “covenant.” St Paul would not, and in fact did not. To St. Paul the word meant what it meant in his Greek Old Testament,
 “a unilateral enactment,” in particular “a will or testament.” This one point concerns more than the merely superficial question whether we are to write “New Testament” or “New Covenant” on the title-page of the sacred volume; it becomes ultimately the great question of all religious history: a religion of grace, or a religion of works? It involves the alternative, was Pauline Christianity Augustinian or Pelagian?

Deissmann, A., & Strachan, L. R. M. (1910). Light from the ancient East the New Testament illustrated by recently discovered texts of the Graeco-Roman world (340). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Therefore, O faithful Christian, search for truth, hear truth, 
learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth, 
defend the truth till death.
- Jan Hus

----- Original Message ----
From: Mark Frost <mark at buildinghishouse.org>
To: Greek Mail List <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2007 2:32:50 PM
Subject: [B-Greek] why is uihothesia translated "adoption"?

I was wondering why most NT translations translate uihothesia (Rom. 8:15 for example) as "adoption", which seems to me to be more of an interpretation than a literal translation of "placing as an adult son".  Is there some extra-biblical Greek writing that uses uihothesia to mean what we know to be adoption, rather than what the Romans of the fist century might have known to be the Liberalia, where the son would receive the toga virilis and ceremonially become an adult son, with all the privileges and responsibilities of adulthood.  I guess what I'm asking is this: Does anyone know if there is any extra-biblical Greek documentation that supports translating the word as "adoption", where someone takes a child as their own who was born to other parents?

Thank you,
Mark Frost
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