CONDEMNATION OF GENTILES

(Rom 1:18-2:4, 12-15)

 

 

 

 

1. Knowledge of God (Rom 1:18-31)

2. Another Basis of Judgment (Rom 1:32-2:4, 12-15)

 

 

 

Back to Pauline Soteriology: Part Two


   

 

 

 

Paul believes that gentiles are sinners and like Jews are “under sin” (huph' hamartian) (3:9). In Rom 1:18-2:16, Paul focuses his attention on gentiles, although he does not name them as such; the context, however, implies that he has gentiles in view. (Of course, what he says could, in some cases, apply to Jews also.)

 

1. Knowledge of God (Rom 1:18-31)

 

Paul concludes that gentiles stand condemned before God, even though in principle they could have made themselves righteous by doing what they knew to be the will of God. Rom 1:18 is joined to the previous verse by means of the conjunction "for" (gar). This conjunction, however, seems to be used in a weak sense, so that one should assume that there is only a loose connection between Rom 1:18 and 1:17, which means that the conjunction "for" (gar) serves only as a transition from one section of the letter to another. In fact, Rom 1:18-3:20 is more of a digression on Paul's discourse on the righteousness of God begun in Rom 1:16 and resumed in 3:21; this digression provides a basis for Paul's assertion of the need of "the righteousness of God," namely, as he concludes in Rom 3:20, "because by the works of the Law no flesh will be declared to be righteous in his sight." Nevertheless, by juxtaposing the statement in Rom 1:17 "For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith" with that in Rom 1:18 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men," Paul does seem to imply that the proclamation of to euaggelion necessarily reveals God's wrath, insofar as the gospel presupposes that human beings are universally sinful and cannot be righteous apart from the "righteousness of God "revealed "from faith to faith" (the content of to euaggelion). In other words, to euaggelion ("the good news") presupposes the wrath of God as the problem for which the righteousness of God is the solution. Paul states that the wrath of God (orgê theou) is being revealed from heaven against "all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (pasan asebeian kai adikian anthrôpôn) (1.16-18). The "place" from which God's wrath is revealed is "heaven," by which Paul means from God (see 2 Cor 12:2; Gal 1:18 ). It should be noted that Paul uses the present tense "is revealed" (apokaluptetai), implying that what he describes is a present fact, and is not to be assigned to the eschatological future. The wrath is "from heaven," which is to say, from God (see Gal 6:7). (For parallels to the "wrath of God," see Ps 90:7-12; 1 Enoch 91:7. The terms "ungodliness" and "unrighteousness" are semantically indistinguishable from each other; used in tandem, they express emphatically the idea of sin in general (see the use of the two terms in tandem in LXX Ps 72:6; LXX Prov 11:5; 1 Enoch 13:2). Paul adds that gentiles actually "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (tên alêtheian en adikia katechontôn) by which he means that gentiles know the truth about God and his creation but willfully and paradoxically choose to be ignorant because of their unrighteousness, that they do not find the truth to be convenient. (There does not seem to be any sense that the wider Hebraic understanding of "truth" is meant. Rather, in this context, "truth" denotes knowledge.) (For a similar use of the verb katechô, see 2 Thess 2:6; Phlm 13) (He explains this in more detail later in Rom 1:20-23.)

 

Bassler produces evidence for the unity of Rom 1:16-2:11. She argues that 1:16-17 should be included with 1:18-2:11 because of formal indications in the text. In particular, she says that the phrase “to the Jew first and also the Greek” in 1:16 and 2:10 serves as an inclusion, thereby setting off 1:16-2:11 as a literary sub-unit (Divine Impartiality, 123-37). This is obviously deliberate because the phrase is intrusive into the context of Rom 2:6-11, which is a pre-Pauline tradition (K. Grobel, “A Chiastic Retribution Formula in Romans 2,” Zeit und Geschichte. Dankesgabe an Rudolf Bultmann zum 80. Geburtstag (ed. E. Dinkler) 255-61). In addition, she argues that Paul probably tampers with the original chiastic structure in order to bring this tradition more in line with Rom 1:18; he does this by using the prepositional phrase “upon all the souls of man” to designate the recipients of the wrath of God, parallel to 1:18, rather than the dative as in vss. 7, 8, 10) Also Paul may intend an inclusion by using the key words “truth,” “unrighteous” and “wrath” in 2:8 because these words previously occurred together in 1:18 (This is especially the case because the phrase “disobeying the truth” destroys the symmetry in 2:7.) The words and themes present in Rom 1:16-2:11 further confirm that this is intended as a literary unity. In general, Bassler’s evidence seems to fall short of definitive proof. It is difficult to believe that the reader or hearer of the letter would be able to pick up on such subtle literary clues.

 

    In Rom 1:19, Paul provides warrant for his indictment of gentiles as those who suppress the truth because of unrighteousness. He says that what is knowable about God is evident among the gentiles, for God made sure that this knowledge was available to them: "For God made it manifest to them." (Paul uses the preposition en, which is this context probably means not "in" but "among." This means that even without the "logia of God" (Rom 3:2) gentiles are far from being ignorant of God. Paul explains, "For from the creation of the world his invisible attributes have been seen, being discerned from what he has made: his eternal power (hê aïdios autou dunamis) and divine nature (theiotês) so that they are without excuse" (1:20-21) (Paul refers to God's invisibility also in Col 1:15 [ho theos ho aoratos] and 1 Tim 1:17 [ho basileus...aoratos].) To say that God has "invisible attributes" runs counter to the pagan assumption that the gods possess visible forms, which they could manifest to human beings at will. God's "invisibility" is his incorporeity, so that to confess God as "invisible" is to confess that God is nothing like his physical creation. (In the Old Testament, however, there are numerous theophanies in which God is anthropomorphically visible [Gen 32:30; Exod 24:10-11; 33:20-23; Judg 6:22-23; 13:20-23; Isa 6:5].) Nevertheless, in spite of his "invisibility," God's existence and attributes can be inferred by means of what he has made (tois poiêmasin). By his use of the participle nooumena, Paul implies that a human being has the capacity of "inference," by means of which he can infer God's invisible attributes from what is visible (or perceptible). On this interpretation, the participle phrase "being discerned by what he has made" (tois poiêmasin nooumena) adverbially modifies the verb "have been seen" (kathoratai), indicating that the "seeing" is really "understanding" or a "seeing with the mind," as opposed to actual sight. In particular, from first hand experience of created reality, a human being is naturally led to the conclusion that there is a first cause or "divine nature" (theiotês), which is eternal and with power sufficient to bring into being all that is ("eternal power") (hê aïdios autou dunamis). In other words, Paul presents a version of the cosmological argument: the finite and conditioned requires an infinite and unconditioned cause. This is how God made the knowledge of himself known to human beings. (In Wis 2:23, eternity [aidiotês] is said to be an attribute of God; see also Wis 7:26 and 4 Macc 10:15. The term "divinity" [theotês] is a Hellenistic term denoting the divine nature, and occurs in Wis 18:9].) (See also Eph 4:18 where Paul says about the gentiles that their ignorance of God was the result of the hardening of their hearts, implying that they knew God.)

 

    The fact the human beings can infer the existence and attributes of God from what has been created results in their being rendered inexcusable (anapologêtos). In spite of knowing God from creation, gentiles generally did not "glorify" (doxazein) God or give him thanks. Paul uses the term "to glorify" (doxazein) and its cognate "glory" (doxa) extensively in his writings, often with different meanings. In this context, "to glorify God" is to ascribe unrestricted greatness to God and to live in conformity with his will. Paul also says that gentiles did not thank God for the fact of their existence and all the benefits that they derive from him (1:21a). Instead, "they became futile in their thinking" (emataiothêsan en tois dialoismois autôn) (1:21b), by which Paul means that they chose to believe things that not only they knew were not true, but were actually ridiculous. In other words, there was a knowledge of God among gentiles but not an acknowledgement of God. In particular, gentiles came up the absurd notion that one can make a representation of the divine (idolatry). (It is no coincidence that in the LXX the substantive "futile things" [ta mataia] translates two different Hebrew words for "idols" (1 Kings 16:13, 26; 2 Kings 17:15; Jer 2:5 [hebel] and 2 Chron 11:15 [sa'ir] [see also Isa 2:20; Ezek 8:10]. In LXX Jer 2:5, the prophets speaks about how the people "became futile" [emataiothêsan].) In 1:23, Paul says that, as idolaters, gentiles "exchanged the glory of the immortal (or "incorruptible") (aphthartos) God for the likeness of the image of mortal (or "corruptible") (phthartos) human beings, birds, four-footed animals and reptiles" (see Deut 4:15-20). To "exchange the glory of God" is to substitute an inglorious visible image for the invisible glorious God. Whatever can be represented is finite and therefore created and mortal; God who is the eternal first cause or creator is necessarily immortal and therefore unrepresentable by that which he has made. (Indeed whatever can be represented is by definition inglorious since God as "invisible" or transcendent cannot be represented.) (In Rom 1:25 Paul reiterates this point.) Paul also says of gentiles that "their uncomprehending heart became darkened" (eskotisthê hê asunetos autôn kardia) (1:21b). The heart (kardia) denotes the "center" (to use a metaphor) of the human being, with a stress on the cognitional and volitional (and therefore moral) nature. (This is a relatively common term in Paul's letters, which is not surprising, since this term is used in this sense in the Old Testament and second-Temple Jewish texts [kardia reflects the Hebrew use of lb or lbb].) The heart was uncomprehending because gentiles chose "to suppress the truth"; the natural result was that gentiles willingly ceased to know what was true and good, which Paul expressed as a "darkening of the heart." (See Col 2:18; 1 Tim 6:5; 2 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:15 for the synonymous idea of the corruption of the mind.)

 

Paul's argument in Rom 1:18-23 is virtually identical to that found in the Hellenistic Jewish text Wisdom of Solomon (13-14). The origins of idolatry is explained as resulting from not recognizing the God behind the plurality of created things, which leads to mistaking the created things for God. The author writes, for example, "For all men were foolish by nature, who were ignorant of God. They were incapable of knowing, from the good things that are seen, the one who exists, nor did they recognize the artisan by turning their attention to his works" (13:1). The same line of thought occurs in 1 Enoch 36:3-4. Enoch is told that astronomical and meterological phenomena has for its purpose that human beings might recognize that the Lord of Glory who has wrought great and glorious wonders, to show the greatness of his work to the angels and to spirits and to men, that they might praise his work and all his creation: that they might see the work of his might and praise the great work of his hands and bless Him for ever." Likewise, T. Naph. 3:4, a text that arguably originates in Palestinian Judaism: "But you shall not be like this, my children. In the firmament, on earth, in the sea and in all that he has made everything, recognize the Lord as the one who has created all things, in order you not become as Sodom, which departed from the order of nature." It seems that there is not much difference between Hellenistic and Palestinian Judaism on this issue. Similarly, in 2 Bar 54:18, the sinner will be condemned, "For His [God's] works have not taught you, nor has the skill of His creation which is at all times persuaded you." Josephus explains that Jews believe that God surpasses all "mortal thought" (ideas thnêtês) (his real nature being unknown), but is made known by his "power" (kai dunamei men hêmin gnorimon), by which he seems to mean his creation (Apion, 2.167). Sib. Or. 3:8-45 represents a similar polemic against the folly of idolatry to that found in Rom 1-2. Likewise, in Letter of Aristeas, idolatry (especially its Egyptian manifestations) is condemned as foolish; it is said that God's "power is shown in everything" (132). Finally, Philo of Alexandria, drawing upon Platonic thought, argues that the visible world, or the totality of all the objects of sense perception (pan to aisthêton), is subject to becoming and change (en genesis kai metabolias) (De opf. mund. 12). God, being the unoriginate (to agenêton), and so unchanging, therefore, cannot be an object of sense perception, but is invisible. Philo argues further that the visible world, being in a state of constant change, needs an origin: "Seeing that this world is both visible and perceived by the senses, it follows that it must have had an origin." In another work, Philo describes God in a Stoic manner as the invisible "mind of all" (nous tou pantos) (Spec. leg. 1.18-20). In complementary Platonic terms, he then exhorts, "Therefore carrying our thoughts beyond all the realm of visible existence (pasan tên horatên ousian), let us proceed to give honor to the immaterial, the invisible, the apprehended by the understanding alone (aeidous kai aoratou kai monê dianoia katalêptou), who is not only God of gods...but also maker of all (pantôn dêmiourgos). Later in that same work, Philo describes God as invisible and whose essence is unknowable: "But even the whole heaven and the whole world is unable to attain to an adequate comprehension of me" (44). Moreover, Philo believes that the "powers" of God, by which he means Platonic Ideas, are also not directly unknowable ("by nature incomprehensible in their essence") are only indirectly known, through their corporeal manifestations (Spec. leg. 1.40-50 ) (See D. Lührmann, Das Offenbarungsverständnis bei Paulus, 21-26.) A. Feuillet argues that Paul is describing an original knowledge of God and its loss at some very early period of history ("La connaissance naturelle de Dieu par les hommes, d’après Rom 1,18-23,” Lumière et Vie 14 (1954) 63-80). This was the origin of idolatry and polytheism in human history. Later generations then inherited this degenerate religious tradition .

 

Refusing to acknowledge God leads to a general moral degeneration, especially sexual immorality; God allowed gentiles to sink into greater and greater moral turpitude (1:24, 26-28). (In Wis 14:12, sexually immorality is causally connected with idolatry and moral corruption in general.) Three times Paul says that God “handed over” (paredôken) gentiles: “God handed them over to the desires of their hearts to dishonor their bodies among themselves" (see Exod 23:31; Deut 7:23) (1:24); “God handed them over to shameful passions” (1:24); “God handed them over to a worthless mind, to do what is not proper” (1:28) (Paul uses word-play by using the verbs edokimasen and adokimon in 1:28.) To hand over the gentiles to sin is not to restrain them in their sinful desires. He concludes with a list vices characteristic of gentiles (1:29-31).

 
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul describes gentiles as those who "do not know God" (4:5). In so doing, he may be alluding to Ps 79:6 (LXX 78:6): "Pour out your wrath upon the nations, which do not know you" (see Jer 10:25). "Interpreted in light of what he says in Rom 1:18-31, Paul means that the gentiles have chosen not to know God in the sense of acknowledging him as God and drawing near to him. Paul describes his Thessalonian converts as having "turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God (1:9b). His gentile converts abandoned the foolishness of their idolatry, which was intended as a substitute for the true God. In fact, in 1 Cor 10:19, Paul holds that idols are associated with the worship of demons: "I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God" (1 Cor 10:20; see 8:5).

 

2. Another Basis of Judgment (Rom 1:32-2:4, 12-15)

 

In Rom 1:32-2:4, Paul puts forward what seems to be another basis of the judgment of gentiles. What he says, however, would also have application to Jews even though, unlike gentiles, they have the Law as an objective standard against which to be assessed. Rom 1:32 consists of a relative clause having for its antecedent “them” (gentiles) in Rom 1:28, but introduces a new idea. Human beings condemn themselves and so bring themselves under divine judgment insofar as they know that those who do such things as he describes in his list of vices in Rom 1:29-31 deserve death and yet they still do such things and even commend others who do the same things (see T. Asher 6:2). To commend others for sinning is worse than actually sinning oneself, because it is disinterested and for that reason truly reflective of a person’s moral values. The person who sins can sometimes justly claim that he acted rashly or out of weakness, but the person who approves of another’s sin cannot appeal to such extenuating circumstances.

 

Many commentators argue that, beginning in Rom 2:1, Paul turns his attention to the Jews, even though he does not explicitly identify his interlocutors until Rom 2:17 (see Hoppe, Die Idee der Heilsgeschichte bei Paulus mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des Römerbrief (BFCT 2.30; Gütterloh: Bertelsmann, 1926) 39-45; Michel, Der Brief an die Römer, 72-75; Murray, Romans, 54-60; Nygren, Commentary on Romans, 113-22; J. Riedl, Das Heil der Heiden, 190-206; Barrett, Romans, 43-44; F. Flückiger, "Zur Unterscheidung von Heiden und Juden in Röm. 1,18-2,3"; Cranfield, Romans, 1.137-39; F. Watson, Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles: A Sociological Approach, 109, n. 12; Dunn, Romans, 1.79-80; Moo, Romans, 125-35; R. Bell, No one seeks for God, 137-38; S. J. Gathercole, Where is Boasting? Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul’s Response in Romans 1-5, 197-200). This means that it is the Jews who are condemning gentiles in Rom 2:1-4. The view that Paul opposes—that Jews are privileged in their relation to God—is said to find expression in Wis 12-15: 1 “The wrath of God rests on the gentiles, but not on the Jews” (11:9-10; 12:22); 2. “It is the Jews’ knowledge of God and his will which saves them from his wrath” (15:2-3); 3. “Even in his condemnation God is forbearing, to give his foes opportunity to do better” (11:23; 12:10-11); 4. When the Jew judges others he ought to remember the goodness and mercy of God (12:22) (Nygren, Commentary on Romans, 114-15). According to Moo, Rom 2:4 indicates that the target of Paul’s polemic is the Jew who condemns the gentile but is also a sinner. This is because, in agreement with Wis 15:1-2, God is said to be kind, forbearing and patient, but he is only so with his covenant people not with the gentiles (Romans, 128, 132-34). Thus, Paul is warning Jews against covenantal presumption. The arguments in favor of the hypothesis that Paul is addressing Jews, however, are weak. The view that Rom 2:4 points to a Jewish audience overlooks Paul statement on God’s kindness to gentiles in Acts 17:30 (see 14:17). If he was addressing the Jew in Rom 2:1, Paul would no doubt indicate this explicitly, as he does in Rom 2:17. It seems rather that Paul has digressed and is speaking generally (see J. Bassler, Divine Impartiality, 121-70; A. Das, Paul, the Law and the Covenant, 171-91; Schlatter, Gottes Gerechtigkeit, 74). Dabelstein believes that Rom 2:1-16 is directed against the person, Jew or gentile, who considers himself to be righteous, but is not really so. It makes better sense, however, to hold that Paul is speaking to all human beings indiscriminately, for the purpose of demonstrating another basis of judgment that is universally applicable (Die Beurteilung der 'Heiden' bei Paulus, 86-94). Of course, what this criterion would have special application to gentiles. Stowers argues that not only is Paul not addressing Jews but that he is still addressing gentiles exclusively. According to him, Paul believes that gentiles are wrongly attempting to use the Law as a means of self-mastery (Rereading Romans, 83-125). Since what Paul says has universal applicability, it seems unnecessary to restrict his statements solely to gentiles.

 

Paul then explains how gentiles know the just decrees of God even without having the Law. He writes, "Therefore, you are indefensible, O man when you judge others (2:1a). It should be noted that in Rom 2:1, Paul adopts the diatribe style, whereas in Rom 1:18-32, he refers to gentiles indirectly, using the third person (see 2:17). The conjunction dio serves as a logical connective, indicating that Rom 2:1 is an inference from the fact that gentiles know the righteous judgments of God stated, as stated in Rom 1:32. Because they know them, gentiles are without excuse every time that they judge. This is because their act of judging presupposes and reveals the fact that they know the righteous decrees of God. In particular, for Paul, the law of reciprocity is the innate ethical standard of right and wrong, as he explains in Rom 2:1b “For in what you judge others you judge yourself." It is a universal ethical principle that one should to act towards others as you would want them to act towards you; the specifications of this principle are revealed most clearly in the judgments that a person makes of others not the judgments directed towards himself. The righteous judgments of God that gentiles know and are demonstrated in the fact that they pass judgment are the specifications of this universal moral principle.

 
Those who assume that Paul is addressing Jews in Rom 2:1 cannot easily explain the presence of dio, since the use of this conjunction implies some logical connection between 2:1 and what precedes it (see Bassler, Divine Impartiality, 131-34). Some take the conjunction dio as having no inferential force (Michel, Der Brief an die Römer, 73; H. Schlier, Der Römerbrief (HTKNT 6; Freiburg: Herder, 1977) 68-69). Or the conjunction dio is taken to point to a conclusion that follows it in 2:1b (Murray, Romans, 56). Still others take dio as referring back to 1:18-19 (Moo, Romans, 129-30) or to 1:18-32 as a whole (Cranfield, Romans, 140-41).

 

In Rom 2:12-13, Paul explains that even though they do not have the Law, gentiles are not thereby exempt from judgment. (This follows upon his inclusion of what may be a pre-Pauline tradition concerning God’s impartiality in 2:6-11.) It is still possible to be disobedient without the Law (anomôs) and be judged and destroyed without the Law. The reason for this Paul explained in 1:18-2:5: that even without the Law gentiles as moral beings know that one is subject to the law of reciprocity. As a correlative to this, Paul adds that those who sin “in the Law” (en nomô) will be judged by the Law. His point is that the privilege of having the Law does not exempt the Jew from eschatological judgment: “It is not the hearers of the Law who will be declared righteous but the doers of the Law” (2:12-13). The doers of the Law (hoi poiêtai nomou) are the ones who are possession of “works of the Law” (erga nomou) (3:20, 28). This the first time that Paul uses the verb dikaiein; he uses it in a judicial sense: to be declared righteous in the sense being judged to be righteous. (These verses anticipate his consideration of the unique situation of the Jew beginning in 2:17.) Turning his attention back to the situation of the gentile, Paul says that gentiles are a law to themselves; in other words, standards of right and wrong are innately known to gentiles. Gentiles do not have the written Law, but still "do by nature the things of the Law" (phusei ta tou nomou poiôsin), by which Paul means that gentile moral theory and practice naturally and inevitably conforms, in part, at least, to the Mosaic Law (2:14-15). As moral beings, gentiles demonstrate that "the work of the Law" (to ergon tou nomou), by which Paul means what the Law requires, is innately present or present "by nature" within them, or as Paul expresses it, is "written on their hearts" (grapton en tais kardiais autôn). Implicitly, Paul assumes that the Mosaic Law has an essential core expressive of a universal moral standard, since it is obvious that not all the commandments in the Torah are innately present in all human beings (see Rom 13:8-9; Gal 5:13-14; 5:6b). Probably, the "law" written on the hearts of gentiles is the law of reciprocity, which is why Paul uses the singular "the work of the Law." It is on this basis that gentiles by nature judge others and judge themselves. Paul also expresses this fact about the gentiles by saying that gentiles have a conscience (suneidesis), which testifies to them concerning their own moral status (2:15b).

 

Paul uses the term suneidesis (conscience) in the standard Greek sense of the word. Although the Hebrew equivalent does not occur in the Old Testament, the term “conscience” does occur in the Apocrypha (Wis 17:10; Sir 42:18).  (The term suneidesis also occurs in the LXX Ecclessiates 10:20, translating "thoughts.")  Although in the Old Testament there is no distinct term for conscience, the "heart" performs the function of the conscience (see 1 Sam 26:6; 2 Sam 24:10). "Conscience" is the faculty of moral judgment as relating to oneself; it can either commend or condemn.

 

According to Paul, at the time of final judgment, gentiles will condemn or vindicate themselves on the basis of their own self-evaluation, because they will judge themselves on the basis on the law of reciprocity. Their own consciences will be their judge, which will use their own thoughts to condemn or even commend them before the divine tribunal (2:15c-16). (It is probably best exegetically to take the genitive absolutes in 2:15c ["accusing" and "excusing"] as related to the main verb in 2:16 ["judges"]. This is preferable to taking the two genitive absolutes as attributive, related to the participle "testifying" [summarturousês].) Nevertheless, even though sometimes they do "the things of the Law" (2:14) gentiles fall far short of the perfect obedience required to be declared righteous eschatologically.

 

In the Qumran text known as Mysteries (1Q27; 4Q299-301), there is a reflection on the irrationality of sin that is similar to what Paul writes in Rom 2:1-4 (1Q25 frg. 1, col. 1.8-11 [= 4Q299 frg. 1.1-4]). Human beings are said to hate sin and condemn it in others, but yet do the very thing that they know to be wrong: "Do not all peoples loathe sin? And yet they walk about under its influence. Does not the praise of truth come from the mouth of all nations? And yet, is there perhaps one lip or one tongue that persists with it? What people would wish to be oppressed by another more powerful than itself? Who would wish to be sinfully looted of its wealth? And yet which is the people not to oppress its neighbor? Where is the people that has not looted another of its wealth?" This universal hypocrisy is the basis for the certainty that final judgment will come: "And by this he will show you that it is irrevocable." The point is that God has no choice but to act as righteous judge in the face of such pervasive wickedness and hypocrisy. In T. Judah 20, possibly a pre-Christian text, the author likewise speaks of an innate knowledge of the Law: "The things of truth and the things of deceit are written upon the breast of mankind" (20:3). Also in some manuscripts (h, c) the term conscience occurs.

 

In a few places in his letters, Paul states that there can be no sin without the Law, and by the Law he means the Mosaic Law (Rom 4:15; 5:12-13; 7:7-8). In such contexts, he defines "sin" (hamartia) (Rom 5:12-13; 7:7-8) or the synonymous term "transgression" (parabasis) (Rom 4:15) as the violation of a commandment; thus the Law functions to define sin (see Rom 3:19-20). For Paul, therefore, strictly speaking, "sin" or "transgression" is impossible without the Law. Even though Paul says that gentiles "by nature" do what the Law requires and so show thereby that the Law is written on their hearts (2:14-15), yet this is not the same as saying that they have the Law. They do not “sin” in the strict sense of the word, for their condemnation is not based on their violations of the Law. This does not mean, however, that gentiles are guiltless or morally neutral (see Rom 1:18-32). One could say that for Paul there are two modes of being disobedient: without the Law and as under the Law (see Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 433-34). Based on what Paul says in Rom 7:7-8, a person's mode of disobedience changes qualitatively once the Law is introduced. Disobedience henceforth is defined as violation of a commandment; the Law causes disobedience to become explicit and unambiguous because it is now focused on a specific object, a commandment. He says, “Without the Law sin is dead,” by which he means that sin is only a potentiality (see Rom 7:7-23). Nevertheless, Paul can depart from the strict sense of "sin" at times and refer to the fact that both gentiles and Jews "sin" (hamartanein): Gentiles sin without the Law (anomôs) while Jews sin "in Law" (en nomô) (Rom 2:12). Likewise, in Rom 3:22-23, Paul can state that there is no difference between Jew and gentile, "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God"). In this context "to sin" means to be disobedient, either apart from the Law or as violating the Law. Another Pauline use of "sin" (hamartia) is as a principle of disobedience operative in all human beings; although it becomes effective in the presence of the Law, it is still universally present. He can also speak of Jews and gentiles both being "under sin" (huph' hamartian) (Rom 3:9) as sin's indwelling the "I" (Rom 7:17, 20) (see also Rom 6). Paul also defines "sin" (hamartia) as anything that is not done "from faith" (ek pisteos) (Rom 14:23). Sanders wrongly insists that Paul's view of sin is consistent (Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People, 35-36).

 

 

 

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