Where does “by the mercy shown to you” belong in Romans 11:31? is a question that is principally an expression of wonderment over why a verse is rendered by, in the words of the questioner, "nearly all translations" in the way it is.

This wonderment is clearly related to the questioner's lack of understanding of some aspect of the Greek language, which surely would be better resolved by asking a question in a different place.

In this answer to the question, "What is hermeneutics?", which has 3 upvotes -- the only answer, and the accepted answer -- the poster says (emphasis mine):

Exegesis is a necessary first step because how can you make sense of a verse, a chapter, a book, and all the books if you do not know what the words mean? Obviously, you cannot. Once you have a handle, more or less, on the meaning of individual words and phrases, you are in a better position to understand through hermeneutics the import of the message, at least to the original audience.

So, "The import of the message, at least to the original audience" is what differentiates hermeneutics from exegesis.

However, the Romans 11:31 questioner is not concerned about "the import of the message", only about a problem associated with her grasp of the Greek language.

In my answer, I used elementary hermeneutics (all that was needed) to demonstrate how the "nearly all translations" had arrived at their English rendering of the text, and for my effort I received 3 downvotes within half an hour.

BTW, the Romans 11:31 question has 6 upvotes. That's 30 reputation points for a question that, at best, has limited potential for the application of hermeneutics.

How is this possible? And why is a legitimate answer to the question downvoted so quickly and so strongly?


Since posting this question I have received another downvote on my answer, by the commenter (time of comment synchronises with time of downvote), who said

@enegue - A.) Please be respectful of people in our community. Accusing people of being "bogged down in in the minutia of Greek" - is inappropriate. B.) This is an academic community, not a religious organization; When we want to discuss topics outside of the "minutia of what the texts actually say" - we use other sites; C.) Given all of your comments, you may be more comfortable in the Christianity.Stack, or other sites; – elika kohen 7 hours ago

Given all my comments? What comments? I had only made one comment at that time and it was a response to the questioner's discontent about a suggestion I gave in my answer.

The commenter was clearly referring to my answer, which was about the context and meaning of Romans 11:31, and how elementary hermeneutics enabled one to arrive at the conclusion "nearly all translations" had.

This commenter, too, clearly has no interest in the "The import of the message, at least to the original audience" of Romans 11:31.

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    Hi enegue, just FYI since part of your concern seems to be that it's a silly question reflecting my personal and idiosyncratic hang-up with Greek: since posting the question, I've looked at Dan's link and also Cranfield's commentary, both of which include extensive and insightful discussion on this precise issue. Douglas Moo, also a well-respected commentator, also discusses and disagrees with "most translations". Proving it's a trivial issue unworthy of careful analysis will be an uphill battle. – Susan Apr 7 '16 at 21:47
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    Can you quote anything I've said that includes "it's a silly question"? – enegue Apr 7 '16 at 22:01
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    Your answer doesn't actually engage with the syntax in question ("dividing by conjunctions" from an interlinear gets us nowhere), and based on the conclusion it seems like you're justifying that approach by dismissing the question as "too....bogged down in minutia" and not a "sensible approach to translation". I only wanted to let you know that this has been recognized as an important issue, though. I don't think we're going to achieve anything else productive here, so I'm not going to continue with this conversation. – Susan Apr 7 '16 at 22:28
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    Susan, you are adapting your responses to avoid this issue. If the point you are now making was your reason for objecting to my answer, you would have made it in a comment to my answer, or you would have made it here, before your claim that I said your answer was silly. You will ultimately win this game, because your capacity to adapt will exhaust the energy I've set aside to pursue the issue. It will eventually fall into the category of spending too much time in the minutia. You have lots of energy for this. – enegue Apr 7 '16 at 22:49
  • @enegue - A.) First - I disagree that this question has been down-voted; It is a very good example of a bad answer for this site. I had this same dilemma. B.) Second, I do not appreciating being misrepresented, You said:** What other comments? C.) Of course I meant the many comments you made: in other conversations - where you suggest your own convictions be taken as evidence for how to interpret a text; D.) Or, you just outright insult people's intelligence, in this case: "The logic is quite plain" ... and also in reply to me, "It is really quite simple". – elika kohen Apr 8 '16 at 21:11
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    Surprise, surprise! Elika, whatever comments you have misconstrued in other places, have absolutely nothing to do with my answer to the question here. – enegue Apr 8 '16 at 21:11

I can only speculate

I have not as of writing this voted on the question or the answer you gave. However, I do believe I can answer some points as to "why" you are getting down voted.

First, the answer you cite for distinction of exegesis and hermeneutics is not the best of answers. This answer to a slightly different question is much better, and I would agree with its summary more than what you noted above (emphasis in original):

Basically the distinction boils down to this (as it pertains to the Bible*): Hermeneutics is the field of study concerned with how we interpret the Bible. Exegesis is the actual interpretation of the Bible by drawing the meaning out of the Biblical text.

Exegesis is in close association to Hermeneutics, and both are dependent upon the Text itself, and all three are very on topic for the site. So when you object (above):

This wonderment is clearly related to the questioner's lack of understanding of some aspect of the Greek language, which surely would be better resolved by asking a question in a different place.

No, this is the right place. Original language questions related to a particular text are directly on topic, because resolving language aspects of the text are foundational to interpreting it. Likewise, translation issues from the original language to the target language are also directly on topic for the site, because we deal with the text in both original and (English at least) translations. Hence, the upvotes on the question. It was well stated as to the issue and the issue is directly related to topics on the site.

Second, one aspect of key importance in answering a question is to actually answer the question. There are two questions posed by the OP:

  1. The Title Question: "Where does 'by the mercy shown to you' belong in Romans 11:31?"
  2. The Sub-Question: "Can anyone outline and/or point me to a discussion of the grammatical points that favor understanding τῷ ὑμετέρῳ ἐλέει as part of the ἵνα clause?"

Your answer:

  1. Gives no resource information to answer the sub-question at all. Had you provided a very detailed discussion yourself about the aspects related to the grammatical and syntactical issues of determining its relation to the ἵνα clause, such that your own answer became itself a good resource, then lack of pointing to other resources would be okay (i.e., if people can see you know your grammatical/syntactical "stuff" and can walk the person through the logic of the issues about where it should be placed in translation).
  2. You sort-of answer the title question, as you take a position that it should be placed where the KJV places it, which is "after" the ἵνα clause. But you do not give a grammatical/syntactical explanation as to "why," which relates back to not answering the sub-question. But additionally, you give the parsing of the word order correctly, which shows the phrase in question before the "in order" (the parsed translation of ἵνα), and then you give the KJV rendering which puts it after the "that" (the KJV translation of the ἵνα). So your examples contradict order, but again, you do not explain the reasoning the translations that do that are doing that.
  3. You also state:

    Surely, the sensible approach to translation has to be: big picture first, then the minutia.

    I cannot speak for others, but I myself would disagree. You have to get the minutia of grammar/syntax structure of the original language correct first in order to properly translate a passage to a target language. The big picture comes into play for understanding the meaning of translated passage only after that passage is cleared as being properly translated from the original language.

Answering your direct question

So the first two points for sure, and possibly the third point as well, I am quite certain are the reasons for most/all the down votes. If I were to vote, as it stands, I would also upvote the question (because it is on topic, well stated, and clear) and downvote your answer (because of the above points). You did say some good contextual points that are relevant to the overall meaning of the verse, which are not bad points of themselves, but the fact that you did not address the primary points relevant to the questions asked makes those contextual points mute.

Third, I would comment also on a comment you made which would technically not be relevant to why you got downvotes, but is relevant to understanding the BH.SE site. You state:

This is not an academic community. It is a Q & A site.

Which is in reply to part of this comment (emphasis in original):

A.) Please be respectful of people in our community. Accusing people of being "bogged down in in the minutia of Greek" - is inappropriate. B.) This is an academic community, not a religious organization; When we want to discuss topics outside of the "minutia of what the texts actually say" - we use other sites;

I would say neither of you are quite correct in statements made in that exchange.

  1. Against your statement, we are a Q & A site/community that seeks to have answers in an academic form (this answer does well to reflect that; but also see the question and upvoted answers here), and so we are attempting to function more like an academic community in the format of answers (especially) and questions (somewhat, though with more leniency).
  2. Against elika's statement, we are dealing with religious texts and the interpretation of those, and so while we are correctly "not a religious organization," we do deal at various levels with "topics outside of the 'minutia of what the texts actually say,'" for the "big picture" (to use your terms) becomes relevant at various levels, depending on the particular question and depending on the particular hermeneutical approach of an answerer.

So in short, I would classify BH.SE as a Q & A site/community that seeks to operate by academic standards from a variety of presuppositional1 and hermeneutical2 viewpoints when answering questions about the Biblical texts important to various religions/denominations.


1 Because BH.SE is not a Christian only site, there is a baseline presupposition in community people of theistic vs. atheistic approach to the texts. There is also various views on the level of natural vs. supernatural involvement in the production and preservation of the texts themselves. I could go on, but the point is that one needs to (a) be able to operate within this inclusive format by being civil, even if disagreeing with others views; and part of being civil would probably not include what a few have apparently taken as a cavalier dismissal when you state: "Focussing on the minutia of the Greek language can blind one to the substance of what is being communicated" (i.e., you feel the wrong question is being asked), and (b) not necessarily expect people to relate to a short quip such as your answer gives: "Paul's Olive tree analogy says precisely this." Many people from their background would have no clue what you meant by that.

2 For a list of some various types of hermeneutics, see the one provided in this answer.

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    This is whole lot of bunkum, Scott, put together after the fact to justify what was done. Anyone can do that. It's easy to do. If you are looking for faults, you are going to find them, which is why people who have no interest in the meaning of scripture find it so confusing and, in their minds, contradictory. You should know better than to get involved in such behaviour. – enegue Apr 8 '16 at 19:43
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    You say in relation to my reference to Paul's Olive tree analogy, Many people from their background would have no clue what you meant by that." This is a sad statement on your part, Scott. It pretty well proves my point. The olive tree analogy is in the same chapter and only a few verses before the verse in question. If people are so caught up in the little bits of the language, and can't see the context, how are they going to know what the text would have meant to the writer and his audience. – enegue Apr 8 '16 at 19:58
  • The fact that it didn't strike you, either, is of some concern, too. – enegue Apr 8 '16 at 20:00
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    @enegue: If you are not going to listen to an honest answer to what (I thought) was an honest inquiry on your part, then you are probably not going to find an answer to your question. I suspect (though we will see) that other users are going to upvote my answer here showing that they find it useful in answering your question. – ScottS Apr 8 '16 at 20:04
  • Regarding the Olive tree, it struck me fine. I knew what you referred to. My point was that on this site, you cannot assume people are coming from the same context as you, and so a short statement like that (without a verse reference) can totally lose a reader. And the reference still did nothing in addressing the grammatical/syntactical issues of the translation. – ScottS Apr 8 '16 at 20:04
  • I can assume that ANYONE who cares to know what the text meant to the writer and his audience, would want to know the context in which something was said. If the person had read the context for themselves, they would have known what I was referring to. If a reader is lost, then they can make a comment to indicate that. But, it's a little bit like children in school who don't want to ask question because they think others will think them stupid. I would have thought the people here would be a little more mature. – enegue Apr 8 '16 at 20:19
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    @enegue The issue with the Q&A in question, however, was that the question was not about "what the text meant to the writer and his audience," it was about proper understanding of the Greek syntax for proper English translation. It was asking something fundamental to the statement contained in Rom 11:31 that needed to be resolved before even moving to an overall meaning of that statement in the context itself (which was not asked for). Had the question simply been "What does Rom 11:31 mean?" then your answer would have fit that far better and probably not received the downvotes it did. – ScottS Apr 8 '16 at 20:31
  • In regard to the grammatical/syntactical issues, working through the text using the conjunctions as idea separators was all that was needed. One can take in the scope of all the words at once, and see quite easily, the ideas that are being joined. People much smarter than us have done the hard yards to get the verse divisions in place, to make this so. – enegue Apr 8 '16 at 20:34
  • If you had bothered to read my question here, you would know that I said that the questioners problem with the Greek language would have been better asked in another place, since she wasn't particularly interested what the text was saying, only in why her understanding of Greek couldn't accommodate it. It was not a issue that was related to hermeneutics. – enegue Apr 8 '16 at 20:43
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    @enegue And if you read my answer here, you would see that I addressed your rejection of the question as misplaced, because it does belong here, as Greek language questions related to the text, especially as it relates translation, are fully on topic because one has to understand the language of the text before one can move to understanding the meaning of the text. So both play in the application of hermeneutics. And part of this site is to question translators/interpreters about: why this way?, what are the alternatives?, what are the rules in play to determine between alternatives? etc. – ScottS Apr 8 '16 at 20:59
  • Susan's question was not "related to the text". She wasn't interest in what the text was saying, only in why her understanding of Greek couldn't accommodate it. In essence, she was happy that nearly everyone was on the same page, but she was annoyed that she couldn't avoid seeing it in a different way, about which she says, "I'm not claiming that this makes good sense to me". Her problem had very little to do with hermeneutics, and the little that it did have, I covered. – enegue Apr 8 '16 at 21:08
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    @enegue: What do you mean "not 'related to the text'"? She was trying to figure out on what grounds the adverbial phrase that preceded the ἵνα was moved into the ἵνα clause at translation. That is directly related to the text. And as some of the follow-up links noted, a textual situation that has been discussed in the academic realm. It is probably because only "nearly everyone" and not "everyone" translated it that way, along with the grammatical oddity, that led to the question. The majority can be wrong, so in such a case, it is good to question the reasoning (for both sides). – ScottS Apr 8 '16 at 21:15
  • You have your heart set on a particular goal, Scott, and further discussion will just be a waste of our time. – enegue Apr 8 '16 at 21:18
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    @enegue: Yes, my goal was to help educate you on the distinctives of this site/community and why then your question was downvoted. I believe I have done that, so I am fine with no further discussion. – ScottS Apr 8 '16 at 21:21
  • @ScottS You absolutely 'hit this one out of the park'! We are indeed a Q &A site who recognizes that there are "religious/theological' perspectives in handling any topic addressing the Bible; we cannot 'pretend' we live in some sort of Academically Neutral vacuum. Yet our purpose is to bring credible linquistic, contextual, evidence based proofs to address what the text actually means. 2 Thumbs up!! – Tau Apr 10 '16 at 0:23

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