Friday, July 29, 2022



Galatians 6:3 (KJV):
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

εἰ γὰρ δοκεῖ τις εἶναί τι μηδὲν ὤν, φρεναπατᾷ ἑαυτόν.
Hans Dieter Benz ad loc.:
The form as well as content of this sententia are known from the diatribe literature, and even from Plato.76 Two examples from Epictetus may suffice as illustrations: κἂν δόξῃς τις εἶναί τισιν͵ ἀπίστει σεαυτῷ ("and if you think you are somebody for some, distrust yourself");77 and δοκεῖς τις εἶναι, μωρὸς παρὰ μωροῖς ("you think you are somebody—fool among fools!").78 Another example from Lucian shows the anti-rhetorical background of the saying: σκόπει γοῦν ὁπόσοι τέως μηδὲν ὄντες ἔνδοξοι καὶ πλούσιοι καὶ νὴ Δία εὐγενέστατοι ἔδοξαν ἀπὸ τῶν λόγων ("just look how many who previously were nobodies have come to be famous and rich, and by God, even noblemen, all from their eloquence").79

The contrast between what one "appears to be" and what one "really is" was a standard topic of diatribe philosophy,80 from which the language used here comes. Paul sees in the "pneumatics" this very danger of believing oneself to be something of importance, while in reality one is "nothing." It is probably no accident that we find similar sayings at several places in 1 Corinthians (3:18; 8:2; 10:12; 14:37).81 There is nothing wrong with being "nothing" or a "nobody," because that is what one actually is. It is wrong, however, to be deluded into thinking one is "somebody." The anthropological tradition in which Paul stands goes back to early Greek thought. Usually we find it in the diatribe tradition82 in connection with the interpretation of the Delphic maxim "know yourself." Human beings must learn to accept that they really are "nothing."83 Applied to 6:3, Paul tells the Galatians: if you think you are "pneumatics" but are not, you are caught up in a dangerous and preposterous illusion. The verb φρεναπατάω ("deceive") is a hapax legomenon in primitive Christian literature.84 Hesychius85 gives as a synonym χλευάζω ("scoff at somebody"), but the meaning here might not be much different from 1 Cor 3:18: μηδεὶς ἑαυτὸν ἐξαπατάτω ("let no one deceive himself"); or from Jas 1:26: ἀπατῶν καρδίαν ἑαυτοῦ ("deceive one's own heart").86

76 See Plato Apol. 21B/C, 41B, E, and often.

77 Ench. 13; cf. also the anecdote about Socrates Diss. 2.8.24f; 4.6.24; Ench. 33.12; 48.2-3. Cf. R. Hillel, "Do not trust yourself until the day you die" ('Abot 2.5).

78 Diss. 4.8.39.

79 Lucian Rhet. praec. 2; cf. Merc. cond. 16; Dial. mort. 12.2, and often.

80 See Teles' diatribe Περὶ τοῦ δοκεῖν καὶ τοῦ εἶναι ("About appearing and being") in Teletis Reliquiae, Frag. I (ed. Otto Hense (Tübingen: Mohr,2 1909]); Chadwick, Sextus, 64. A similar saying in Midr. Qoh. 9.10 (42b) (see Str-B. 3.578) from the 3rd. c. A.D. could point to diatribe influence upon the rabbis.

81 The closest parallel is I Cor 3:18, but contrast Phil 3:4; cf. Jas 1:26.

82 See the bib. above; also Chadwick, Sextus, 97ff.

83 Cf. Paul's "confession" 2 Cor 12:11: οὐδέν εἰμι ("I am nothing"); for the interpretation of this doctrine, see Betz, Paulus, 118ff. For more references see Wettstein on Gal 6:3.

84 For later instances in Christian literature, see PGL, s.v. The noun φρεναπάτης (LSJ, s.v.: "soul-deceiver") occurs in Titus 1:10. Cf. also Bauer, s.v.

85 Lexicon (ed. Mauricius Schmidt, vol. 3; Jena: Sumptibus Frederici Maukii, 1861) 257, no. 57.

86 Cf. also Epicurus' phrase ταῖς κεναῖς δόξαις ἑαυτὸν ἀπατᾶν ("deceive oneself by empty opinions") 298, 29 Usener; and the term κενόδοξος ("boastful") in Gal 5:26.

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