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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer Fun: Word Play in Paul

I had been thinking about a good topic for summer fun. We had Psalm 68 last year, which was wonderful, but I thought we should do something Greek this year.

It must be ESP, because just this afternoon, I was thinking of all the good buddies who blog about Greek, and then I decided to choose "Word play in Paul. " And lucky for me, Iyov has given the topic a great introduction, so I don't have to do that. (As they say, great minds think alike.) So, I hereby second the opening of the summer blog play on Paul! We can do a round up at the end of the month or the end of the summer.

The object will be to write something about the language that Paul uses. Is it influenced by Hebrew, by his rabbinical training, by Greek rhetoric, or what? I have not the remotest clue, so I await your contributions eagerly. Post a sample translation or a passage or discussion of some aspect of Paul's use of language. Examples and comparisons can come from anywhere in the Bible. How does he use the Hebrew Bible, for example. Link to something you have already written, contribute whatever you like. A picture of the hippo dressed up as Paul would also count as an entry.

Here is my meager opening sample, from Romans 15:30-16:2,
    30 παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀδελφοί διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ διὰ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ πνεύματος συναγωνίσασθαί μοι ἐν ταῖς προσευχαῖς ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ πρὸς τὸν θεόν

    31 ἵνα ῥυσθῶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀπειθούντων ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ καὶ ἡ διακονία μου ἡ εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ εὐπρόσδεκτος τοῖς ἁγίοις γένηται

    32 ἵνα ἐν χαρᾷ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ συναναπαύσωμαι ὑμῖν 33 ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν ἀμήν

    16:1 συνίστημι δὲ ὑμῖν Φοίβην τὴν ἀδελφὴν ἡμῶν οὖσαν καὶ διάκονον τῆς ἐκκλησίας τῆς ἐν Κεγχρεαῖς

    2 ἵνα αὐτὴν προσδέξησθε ἐν κυρίῳ ἀξίως τῶν ἁγίων καὶ παραστῆτε αὐτῇ ἐν ᾧ ἂν ὑμῶν χρῄζῃ πράγματι καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ προστάτις πολλῶν ἐγενήθη καὶ ἐμοῦ αὐτοῦ

    30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to struggle together with me in prayers on my behalf to God.

    31 that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my ministry which is for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,

    so that I may come to you with joy by God's will and together with you be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

    16:1 I stand Phoebe with you, being a minister of the church at Cenchrea, 2 that you accept her in the Lord, in a manner worthy of the saints, and stand beside her in whatever matter she may have need of you; because she also has stood before many, even me.
a) I use "brothers" here in the sense of peers or equals, in the sense that women really are "brothers." It is also easier in a concordant translation like this.

b) Paul repeats the root words for "minister," "accept" and "saints" first for himself and then for Phoebe. Is this chance or deliberate?

c) Paul uses three three related words that create a word play that many translations have tried to imitate in part. συνίστημι - stand together, παρίστημι - stand beside, and προΐστημι - stand before. This is why you see the repeated use of "help" in some translations. Here is the RSV and other translations.
    and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well.
Of course, this is based on etymological fallacies, and some meaning may not be communicated properly, but maybe some meaning elements are clearer.

I hope to hear from some of you who are really blogging up the Greek. TC (whom I have lost momentarily, Mike, Rick, everybody. It doesn't have to contain a translation, just some insight, no matter how tangential, into Paul's use of language.

As always I owe a debt to Rotherham's Emphasized Bible.


At Sun Jun 29, 03:15:00 AM, Blogger David Ker said...

Great idea. And I'll have you know that I am a serious scholar capable of brilliant insights in addition to hippos...

At Sun Jun 29, 03:22:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am counting on you. I just wanted the hippo to know that he was also welcome - now that he has been touched by the hand of God.

At Sun Jun 29, 03:31:00 AM, Blogger Bob MacDonald said...

Yes - excellent idea. I will begin what I started for Hebrews 3 years ago - the use of the psalms in the NT - I will begin with a diagram and hope to see some of the Hebrew ideas in their first century readings.

At Sun Jun 29, 07:49:00 AM, Blogger David Ker said...

FYI He is a she sometimes known as Hannah the Hippo. ;-)

I've already planned a post for this idea as well as dredging up some old stuff out of the archives.

At Sun Jun 29, 08:34:00 PM, Blogger Nathan Stitt said...


TC has moved his blog to

At Sun Jun 29, 10:29:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks. I enjoy reading all you guys.

At Mon Jun 30, 08:52:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

David's got an interesting post saying, "Jesus never laughs. And in this instance we can see that Paul is discouraging play." (David himself never laughs when he discourages us from thinking Jesus and Paul were humans. There's no laugh track on his blog). Dave does bring in παίζω ("paizo") from Paul as the warning against how pagans play.

Got me thinking: How do we laughing pagans play with words?

Here's a word that didn't make it into our extant copies of what Paul wrote:

παίγνια / παίγνιον ("paignia" / "paignion")

The Septuagint translators used it for a Hebrew word in Judges 16:27 (for Samson's sport) and in Habakkuk 1:10 (for tyrants as toys or sport). It's used a few other places, but those two passages should do for now.

(This Greek word, παίγνια / παίγνιον ("paignia" / "paignion"), is not entirely different from David's word παίζω ["paizo"], which he says is the LXX translator's word for a related Hebrew word. And, of course, as Dave reminds us, Paul uses παίζω ["paizo"] to the Greeks in Corinth, but he does not use παίγνια / παίγνιον ("paignia" / "paignion").

The pagan Greek playwrights would play with παίγνια / παίγνιον ("paignia" / "paignion"). And so would the pagan philosophers.

Gorgias, for example, made a rather explicit use of the word as the punchline of his very serious work that put Helen on trial for running off with the Trojans. Here's an old essay I wrote to get at the nature of the word play for the Greeks.

But Plato played with παίγνια / παίγνιον ("paignia" / "paignion") also. In his treatise, the Statesman, Plato has his Younger Socrates learning from the Stranger. They're looking for a classification, a name, for certain things. The Stranger asks Socrates:

"And should we care to make a fifth class, of ornamentation and painting and all the imitations created by the use of painting and music solely for our pleasure and properly included under one name?"

The answer?

"How about we call it Play as with Words?" // "paignion" - παίγνιόν πού τι λέγεται.

Socrates replies, Sure thing! // τί μήν!!

And in the end, they come up with seven rather serious categories or classifications for most everything, except for tame animals (Go figure, Dave?) // σχεδὸν τοίνυν ὅσα ἔχεται κτήσεως, πλὴν τῶν ἡμέρων ζῴων, ἐν τούτοις ἑπτὰ οἶμαι γένεσιν εἰρῆσθαι. σκόπει δέ· ἦν γὰρ δικαιότατα μὲν (1) ἂν τεθὲν κατ’ ἀρχὰς τὸ πρωτογενὲς εἶδος, μετὰ δὲ τοῦτο (2) ὄργανον, (3) ἀγγεῖον, (4) ὄχημα, (5) πρόβλημα, (6) παίγνιον "paignion", (7) θρέμμα.

Is this pagan word "play," and just laughter, that Paul is having Greeks and Jews in Corinth avoid? Is is just laughter, Dave, that Paul and Jesus and others who try to be like them must not do? Or is Paul avoiding the other 6 "sober" categories of Plato's pagan Socrates as well?

At Mon Jun 30, 09:48:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

PS: When I was asking about us as laughing playful pagans, I meant this. Socrates might be amused by our churches (and our analyses of "the Greek").

At Wed Jul 02, 12:01:00 AM, Blogger Dannii said...

This is really more of a question than a statement, as I don't know Hebrew or Greek, so I could be on the wrong track.

In Gal 3:16 Paul makes a comment about the number of the word for seed. Problem is, in English (and so far I've found nothing to suggest it's different in Greek or Hebrew) seed is a non-count noun. What are we to make of his theological argument if his grammatical argument is (if it is) wrong?


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