Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Nanos and The Polytheist Identity of the 'Weak'

Loren Rosen III has done us all a favour by drawing attention to Mark Nanos' new article, "The Polytheist Identity of the 'Weak,' And Paul's Strategy to 'Gain' Them: A New Reading of I Corinthians 8:1-11:1". His position, that the weak mentioned in 1 Corinthians 8 were not Christ-believers at all but polytheists, is an option I toyed with for a short while after thinking on 8:7. There Paul writes:

VAllV ouvk evn pa/sin h` gnw/sij\ tine.j de. th/ sunhqei,a e[wj a;rti tou/ eivdw,lou w`j eivdwlo,quton evsqi,ousin( kai. h` sunei,dhsij auvtw/n avsqenh.j ou=sa molu,netaiÅ

With the genitive eivdw,lou, sunh,qeia is usually translated as something like 'accustomed to' idols. So the NRSV has 'It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled'.

However, BDAG has as the first meaning of sunh,qeia the following:

'a relationship in which the participants are compatible because of shared interests, friendship, fellowship, intimacy'

This would gel rather well with the use of mete,cw and koinwni,a used with the genitive in 1 Cor 10 in a few places. Hence I tried to make the following translation work:

'But not in all is the knowledge, but some, being in fellowship with idols until now, eat food as food sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled'

This was part of a translation I worked on a few weeks ago. However, I dropped the idea given a few points that I will perhaps mention on the blog in a few days in more detailed critical reflection on Nanos' essay. Despite the fact that I think Nanos had a couple of good points, I was far less impressed than Loren Rosen.

By the way, there have been some hilarious comments to my previous post, so do give them a read if you haven't yet!


At 1/23/2008 1:25 AM, Anonymous Nick Norelli said...


Can't wait to see your reflections in the days to come. I would urge you however to switch to Unicode over the BW fonts (so everyone can see the Greek/Hebrew you post without having to download anything). If you want to know the easiest way to do it then let me know.

Ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἐν πᾶσιν ἡ γνῶσις· τινὲς δὲ τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου ὡς εἰδωλόθυτον ἐσθίουσιν, καὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτῶν ἀσθενὴς οὖσα μολύνεται. <<-- See how nice?

At 1/23/2008 1:27 PM, Anonymous James said...

Have you read Nanos' "Mystery of Romans"? Got it on Monday, it looks great!

At 1/23/2008 9:42 PM, Anonymous Jason Pratt said...

Incidentally, while I have no objection to the 1 Cor 8 identification at all (indeed I really don't think it needs more than a local topical context check to see that Paul has to be talking about polytheist's there), I've been dropping comments in Loren's thread dissenting against the topical identification of Rom 14 (and 15, and apparently 12 and 13, too?) as being relationships with non-Christian Jews.

Aside from my two rather lengthy analyses already posted up in Loren's comments, I'm planning to do a test-case importation of that topic into Rom 14-15, to see how well it holds up. (Could be tomorrow before it arrives, though; 'work' work and all that. {s})

I'd be interested in some equally in-depth counterrebutals to my rebuttal. So far I haven't really received any.


At 1/23/2008 9:49 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi James, no not yet. I have been meaning to and since a friend of mine have been chatting about it recently, I really want to get a copy. Of that or his 2002 Galatians book.

Jason, I don't think I buy Nanos' thesis here.


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