[B-Greek] How we understand Greek usage

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Tue Apr 6 10:07:45 EDT 2010

On Apr 5, 2010, at 8:10 PM, Richard Lindeman wrote:
> In Ephesians 6:5f there truly does appear to be a dignity and nobility that
> St. Paul associates in encouraging FOBOS KAI TROMOS of the slave toward his
> earthly master hWS TWi CRISTWi. And I am not sure if it has more to do with:
> 1. A broader and generally more positive range of meanings connected with
> the Greek word FOBOS as opposed to the much narrower and more negative range
> of meanings associated with the English word "fear" or...
> 2. A specialized usage of FOBOS KAI TROMOS by St. Paul within this context
> that we are unaware of. or
> 3. St. Paul's desire to inspire and uplift the lowly estate of slaves in his
> day and spur them on to the obedience of faith. Or...
> 4. St. Paul's unbounded enthusiasm and focus upon the glory of Christ.
> I suspect that St. Paul did not consult BDAG before writing the epistle.
> However, I'm really not sure how to second guess or bypass the Lexicon in a
> case like this. Perhaps someday new manuscript evidence will appear to cause
> a revision in our understanding of Pauline usage of FOBOS KAI TROMOS in this
> passage.

I don't know whether or not the above exegesis implies that obedience of a
slave who is a believer  to a human master is a dignified and noble thing  in 
Hellenistic-Roman society -- or in any other society. That, I suppose, is subject to 
interpretation, as is, of course, Paul's advice concerning  constituted earthly 
authorities in Rom. 13:1 Πᾶσα ψυχὴ ἐξουσίαις ὑπερεχούσαις ὑποτασσέσθω. 
οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ἐξουσία εἰ μὴ ὑπὸ θεοῦ, αἱ δὲ οὖσαι ὑπὸ θεοῦ τεταγμέναι εἰσίν. 
 2 ὥστε ὁ ἀντιτασσόμενος τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ τῇ τοῦ θεοῦ διαταγῇ ἀνθέστηκεν, 
οἱ δὲ ἀνθεστηκότες ἑαυτοῖς κρίμα λήμψονται. ... 

>> ------------------------------
>> Message: 11
>> Date: Mon, 05 Apr 2010 11:05:01 -0400
>> From: Carl Conrad <cwconrad2 at mac.com>
>> Subject: [B-Greek] How we understand Greek usage (was "Re: FOBOS in
>> Eph 5:6")
>> To: B-Greek <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
>> Message-ID: <A3E23175-13DB-4443-BC4D-18E558C9F922 at mac.com>
>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252
>> I think several have found the thread on FOBOS in Ephesians 5:6 to be of
>> interest, perhaps not solely in terms of the Greek usage but also in terms of
>> our understanding of the emotion and stance of the believer indicated or
>> implied in the choice of words in the text under discussion. I have personally
>> found the thread interesting especially in what it indicates about the way we
>> approach a question such as that raised originally by Elizabeth about FOBOS or
>> FOBOS KAI TROMOS as an emotional stance associataed with a slave's
>> subservience to a master hWS TWi CRISTWi. What are the assumptions and
>> methodologies that we bring with us to an endeavor to understand the usage
>> here? I'm not sure that others will find these reflections of interest, but
>> for what it's worth, I found them to be so. I did not myself participate in
>> the thread except in the silly banter over "fear of fear." Where able, I have
>> tried in the summary below to cite succinct statemen blical Greek usage in
>> context
>> 1.  FOBOS implies a strong feeling, but how strong? Does English ?fear?
>> adequately convey or even suggest the range of feelings that a subordinate
>> should, according to Paul, feel with respect to another or other persons of
>> authority? Commentators on the relevant Pauline texts seem to be reflecting
>> their own culture on this question.
>> 2. Perhaps a minimal sense for FOBOS might be ?respect? or ?reverence? and for
>> TROMOS a minimal sense might be ?nervousness or hesitancy.? But how can we be
>> confident that these words of Paul SHOULD be understood in this ?minimal?
>> sense?
>> 3. This is one of those instances (they aren?t that infrequent, are they?)
>> where we feel inclined to question the judgment of BDAG and other lexica. That
>> is not to say that we would want to be without those lexica, but we are often
>> enough aware that they do not really resolve all our questions about the
>> meaning of a word.
>> 4. I think we can agree that an attempt to assess the precise sense of a Greek
>> word on the basis of how any English word may represent it in one or more
>> contexts is just simply wrong-headed. ? The semantic range must be established
>> within the source language,? as Iver notes.
>> 5. Even after one has reached a satisfactory resolution of the question of the
>> meaning of the original word, carrying its meaning over into a target language
>> is an altogether different matter. ?There are many reasons for a particular
>> translation choice, whether linguistic, cultural or theological, ? writes
>> Iver, ?but ... the concept of fear and its interplay with respect and
>> obedience varies a lot with different cultures.?
>> 6. The Zeitgeist he/she/it is a changing. Notes Elizabeth: ?Several
>> generations ago there would have been no problem in talking about terror as
>> the human response to the holiness of God. C.S. Lewis had on problem with it.
>> Now days it is out style. Lexical semantics in NT studies is sometimes a
>> reflection of contemporary culture.?
>> 7. The question under consideration deserves some reflection and questioning
>> of assumptions. Says Elizabeth, ?Would "reverential respect" generate a
>> physical response (Eph. 6:5 META FOBOU KAI TROMOU ... hWS TWi CRISTWi). It
>> seems to me that physical shaking is not generally associated with reverence.
>> Is Paul indulging in hyperbole??

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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