[B-Greek] Gal 3:3 -- Question or statement?

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Wed Aug 25 06:58:09 EDT 2010


On Aug 25, 2010, at 3:02 AM, Iver Larsen wrote:

> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Stephen Carlson" <stemmatic at gmail.com>
> To: "Biblical Greek Mailing List" <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: 24. august 2010 16:33
> Subject: [B-Greek] Gal 3:3 -- Question or statement?
> 
> 
>> Galatians 3:3 is usually punctuated as a question:
>> 
>> οὕτως ἀνόητοί ἐστε, ἐναρξάμενοι πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε;
>> 
>> hOUTWS ANOHTOI ESTE, ENARXAMENOI PNEUMATI NUN SARKI EPITELEISQE?
>> 
>> "Are you so senseless? Having started in the spirit, you are now
>> finishing in the flesh?"
>> 
>> But it also seems feasible that it could be a statement, i.e.: "You
>> are senseless in this way: having stated in the spirit, you are now
>> finishing in the flesh."
>> 
>> Are there any discourse or syntactic reasons that could shed light on
>> whether Gal 3:3 is a question or statement?  Or is it merely the fact
>> that 3:3 is in the middle of a barrage of questions? (By the way, I
>> take 3.1, 2, and 5 to be questions; v. 4b is a statement; not sure
>> about v. 4a).
>> 
>> Stephen
> 
> Well, I cannot find any discourse or syntactic reasons that could decide the issue, so we are left with the more subjective pragmatic reasons (context if you want).
> 
> I agree that hOUTWS here is kataphoric - "in the following way" - but that may go somewhat against the translation tradition from KJV onwards to separate into two questions, contra the NA punctuation. KJV: Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? The Robinson-Pierpoint edition does punctuate with two question marks, but that is probably influenced by the KJV tradition.
> 
> Already in 3:1 Paul said that the Galatians were ANOHTOI, but he quickly mitigates it by accusing not so much the Galatians as those who have "bewitched" them. Paul treats the Galatians like his "children" with affection but also with frustration (4:19-20). But he is hard and uncompromising against those who want to drag the Galatians back into slavery to Jewish laws and especially circumcision as a requirement to belong to God's people (e.g. 5:12).
> 
> It is partly because of this mitigation I would take v. 3 as a question. To say "you are now finishing in the flesh" seems too unloving and hard to me, as if they matter was settled. By taking it as a question, Paul invites them to think about their situation and then change. Another reason is that it is impossible to "finish in the flesh" in Paul's theology. You can mistakenly try to do so, but you cannot actually reach the finishing line by living by the flesh. Many translations clarify the durative/imperfective aspect of the present tense by adding "trying to" (e.g. NIV, NET, NLT) while GNB says "want to" and CEV says "think you can".
> 
> I might venture: Are you so foolish (that) after having started (so well) with (the help of) the Spirit, you now want to reach the finishing line by way of your own human efforts?
> 
> Another reason as you already mentioned is that v. 3 is surrounded by questions. They are not rhetorical, rebuking questions, but rather questions that invite the Galatians to examine their past and present history and actions. I like to call them pedagogical questions. (See θέλω μαθεῖν ἀφ᾽ ὑμῶν QELW MAQEIN AF' hUMWN in 3:2.)

Granting, as Iver notes, that this all rests on "subjective pragmatic reasons," I rather like this analysis and way of understanding the whole rhetorical complex: "Can you really be that brainless, impelled by the breath of God at the outset only to depend now at last on your own feeble flesh and bones?"

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






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