[B-Greek] How we understand Greek usage

Yancy Smith yancywsmith at sbcglobal.net
Tue Apr 6 11:11:03 EDT 2010

I have lurked with interest on this thread and taken a look at all the appearances of FOBOS KAI TROMOS. The pair, as such, is almost exclusively Biblical or, more broadly, in Jewish and Christian sources. There are some interesting Classical and Hellenistic near-pairs. In every case it seems that the pair involves either:

(1) Fear of reprisal in unequal social relations.
(2) Fear of enemies or treachery.
(2) Awe and fear at the numinous (gods, demons, angels) or God or the representatives of God.

There is an element of unpredictability in all these situations. The stand out in the list of Pauline references is 1 Cor 2:3, of the cross-inspired posture of apostolic weakness that Paul adopted in approaching the Roman colony of Corinth. It effectively marks the contrast between that posture and the "demonstration of the Spirit" that supported Paul's gospel. Paul desired to communicate that evangelizing in Corinth was stressful, probably because it represented unpredictable results. Or, perhaps, because, as a representative of Christ, he desired to be a faithful steward (slave) (1 Cor 4:1).

I agree with Iver that translation strategies vary legitimately for diverse reasons.


-----Original Message-----
From: b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Carl Conrad
Sent: Tuesday, April 06, 2010 9:08 AM
To: Richard Lindeman
Cc: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] How we understand Greek usage

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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