Hostname: page-component-7d684dbfc8-kpkbf Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-09-28T01:43:39.110Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

An ’′EktpΩma, Though Appointed From the Womb: Paul's Apostolic Self-Description in 1 Corinthians 15 and Galatians 1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

George W. E. Nickelsburg
University of Iowa


In his undergraduate classes in New Testament Introduction, Krister Stendahl used to cite 1 Cor 15:8 as a classic example of a text with an exegetical crux that is signalled through diverse translations in the modern versions. The crucial word is ἔκτρωμα, literally “abortion,” “miscarriage,” “embryo,” or “stillborn child.” Cataloging the witnesses to the Resurrection, Paul states that the risen Christ appeared to him last, as to “an (or the) ektrðma.” But in what sense does the apostle apply the metaphor to himself?

Research Article
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1986

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 Whether τῷ should be translated as a definite article is disputed; for its translation as an indefinite article, see Björk (art. cit. in n. 2) 8; Munck (art. cit. in n. 2) 181; and Conzelmann, Hans, 1 Corinthians (trans. James W. Leitch; ed. MacRae, George W.; Hermeneia-A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975) 248, 259.Google Scholar

2 Fridrichsen, Anton, “Paulus Abortivus. Zu 1 Kor. 15,8,” in Symbolae philologicae O. A. Danielsson octogenario dicatae (Uppsala: Lundequist, 1932) 7885Google Scholar; Björk, Gudmund, “Nochmals Paulus Abortivus,” ConNT 3 (1938) 38Google Scholar; Munck, J., “Paulus Tanquam Abortivus (1 Cor. 15:8),” in New Testament Essays: Studies in Memory of Thomas Walter Manson 1893–1958, sponsored by Pupils, Colleagues, and Friends (ed. Higgins, A. J. B.; Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1959) 180–93Google Scholar; Boman, Thorleif, “Paulus abortivus,” StTh 18 (1964) 4650. See also Johannes Schneider, “ἔκτρωμα,” TDNT 2 (1964) 465–67.Google Scholar

3 Ed. Schwartz, in Nachrichten der Königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Philologisch-Historische Klasse, 1907, 276 n. 1, cited in Fridrichsen, “Paulus Abortivus,” 81–83, and Schneider, “ἔκτρωμα,” 466 n. 9.

4 Fridrichsen, “Paulus Abortivus,” 80–85; Björk, “Nochmals Paulus Abortivus,” 3–7.

5 A possible reference to the etymological sense of monster (from monstrum, “evil omen, portent”) is suggested but not developed by Fridrichsen, “Paulus Abortivus,” 80 n. 2; and Björk, “Nochmals Paulus Abortivus,” 5.

6 See The Jerusalem Bible (Garden City: Doubleday, 1966) n. b ad 1 Cor 15:8, “An allusion to the abnormal, sudden and surgical nature of Paul's birth to the apostolic family.” The translation, ”when [italics mine] no one expected it,” also incorporates the temporal element.Google ScholarPubMed

7 Schneider, ἔκτρωμα,” 466–67; Munck, “Paulus Tanquam Abortivus,” 187–88; see also Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, 259 n. 95.

8 Munck, “Paulus Tanquam Abortivus,” 183–84, 190.

9 ibid., 184–85.

10 ibid., 187–88.

11 ibid., 185–87, 190–91.

12 Boman, “Paulus Abortivus,” 49.

13 Munck, Johannes, Paulus und die Heilsgeschichte (Acta Jutlandica, Aarsskrift for Aarhus Universitet 26.1, Teologisk Serie 6; Kobenhavn: Ejnar Munksgaard, 1954) 1521Google Scholar; idem, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind (trans. Clarke, Frank; London: SCM, 1959) 2430.Google Scholar

14 “Paulus Tanquam Abortivus,” 191, 193 n. 22.

15 The relationship between the two texts, and some of their parallels, including the reference to birth, are noted briefly by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, “Tradition and Redaction in 1 Cor 15:3–7,” CBQ 43 (1981) 589 n. 41: “Precisely the same association of (1) birth language, (2) grace, and (3) time of apostolic call that we find in 1 Cor 15:8–9 appears also in Gal 1:15–17.”

16 He expresses this same concern on a number of other occasions (cf. Gal 2:2; Phil 2:16; 1 Thess 2:1; 3:5).

17 For the verb, cf. Rom 8:30; 9:11, 24; 1 Cor 1:9; 7:15, 17–18, 20–22, 24; Gal 1:6; 5:8, 13; 1 Thess 2:12; 4:7; 5:24. For the adjective, cf. Rom 1:1, 6, 7; 8:28; 1 Cor 1:1, 2, 24. The technical usage of the verb here is recognized evidently by Munck, “Paulus Tanquam Abortivus,” 191, and by Boman, “Paulus Abortivus,” 49.

18 On this whole subject, see Georgi, Dieter, The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986).Google Scholar