στοιχεῖα (Colossians 2, Galatians 4) -> elementary principles, Torah ritual observances, a b c's

thureos

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Reading the New Testament letter of Paul to the Colossians, in chapter 2, verse 8 the word Στοιχεία is used. It has been translated as basic principles of the world. Would it be a misinterpretation to translate that as common morality?
« Last Edit: 07 Jun, 2015, 03:57:47 by billberg23 »


billberg23

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Welcome to the Forum, thureos!  The ancient commentators on Paul would tend, I think, to lean in your direction of interpretation, though with more specific reference to the Jews' own "common morality," i.e. the codified morality of the Torah, and with "morality" being not so much right vs. wrong as correct ritual observances.  In Colossians, in Galatians, and in Romans Paul's main objection is to the "works" of the Torah — circumcision first, then Sabbaths and other mandated holidays, οn down through dietary requirements.  Eusebius of Emesa (4th cent.), commenting on the identical expression (στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου) in Galatians 4:3, writes στοιχεῖα δέ φησι, τὰ νόμιμα ("By στοιχεῖα Paul means Torah regulations") — literally, "things of the Law" (Cramer's Catena 62.33).  It's easy to be confused by Paul's use of this term, especially in Galatians 4, where he sometimes seems to be talking about legal (=Torah) principles, and sometimes about basic elements in nature (i.e. his references to the movements of the sun and moon).  In the latter case, I think we're on safe ground in interpreting στοιχεῖα not as those natural phenomena themselves, but as Torah regulations based on those phenomena (e.g. Sabbaths based on lunar months), and in fact regulations based on anything from the material world (τοῦ κόσμου), e.g. circumcision (which is the really big bone of contention in Galatians, no pun intended).
« Last Edit: 07 Jun, 2015, 04:01:29 by billberg23 »



thureos

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What I am aiming at is to understand how that idea "στοιχεῖα" would be used by ancient Greek speakers (and mainly Paul) today. Would the twelve steps of AA fall under that definition. I don't want to misinterpret the word or drive a point based on a misinterpretation of a word.


billberg23

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The original and primary meaning of στοιχεῖα is "letters of the alphabet" (a b c, alpha beta gamma, etc.).  The word ultimately came to mean "elements in a substance";  think of how our alphabet came to be used to express chemical formulae.  Paul uses στοιχεῖα to refer to the "a b c's" of the Torah.
As for A.A., there's no need to exhume ancient Greek speakers to know how the "twelve steps" would be designated today in Greek.  The Greek word for "step" is and has always been βῆμα, so modern Greek members of A.A. call them the ΔΩΔΕΚΑ ΒΗΜΑΤΑ, the "twelve steps" (to learn more, google "Έλληνες Α.Α." on the Internet).
The Twelve Steps would have nothing to do with Paul's στοιχεῖα of the Torah.  For Paul, there was only one step — baptism, as a sign of "putting on" the Messiah and becoming a member of the Faith.
« Last Edit: 07 Jun, 2015, 04:03:57 by billberg23 »



 

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