Response to Gagnon in First Things

In a recent online article in First Things, Robert Gagnon wrote a piece entitled “WHY SAN FRANCISCO’S CITY CHURCH IS WRONG ABOUT SEX.”  I write this response, not in order to defend City Church (I don’t know the details of their position, and they can defend themselves quite well without my help), but in order to shed some light on important aspects of the debate over LGBT inclusion that are obscured or unclear in Gagnon’s article.  Gagnon sometimes writes with a tone of finality and clarity, when the facts are less clear or more multi-faceted than his writing may suggest.

For example, early in the piece, he writes, “In fact, adult-committed relationships in the ancient world were widely known, with early Christians and rabbis forbidding even adult-consensual marriages between persons of the same sex as abhorrent acts.”  What Gagnon’s comment obscures is the fact that the dominant pattern of same-sex eroticism in the ancient world is pederasty—men with boys or men with slaves.  There is a lively debate about whether this was the only form of same-sex eroticism that was known, but almost everyone will agree that, if “adult-consensual marriages between persons of the same sex” existed at all, they were extremely rare, and did not constitute the most common form in which same-sex erotic relationships took place.  Moreover, I find absolutely no evidence that first-century Christians or Jews ever spoke of “adult-consensual marriages between persons of the same sex.”  I would welcome Gagnon’s pointing to evidence to the contrary, but I know of none.  Debates over LGBT inclusion are not assisted by distortions of the relevant facts.

Gagnon proceeds in the next paragraph of his article to argue his case in more detail.  But note how the ground shifts.  He now argues, not that Paul is directly condemning “adult-consensual marriages between persons of the same sex,” but rather that Paul’s condemnation of “homosexual practice” is absolute and not subject to any sorts of restrictions.  Therefore, by implication, even “adult-consensual marriages between persons of the same sex” are forbidden.  So now the ground has shifted.  We are no longer talking about a direct prohibition, but rather a prohibition by implication of the nature of Paul’s argument.  This leaves considerably more room for debate.

And in fact, there is room for debate on many fronts.  Gagnon says nothing of the fact that three times in Rom 1:24-27, Paul characterizes the same-sex eroticism he speaks of as marked by excessive lust.  In 1:24 he speaks of how God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.  Later, he speaks of how this activity is marked by “degrading passions” (1:26) and as “consumed with passion” (1:28).  The intensity of Paul’s argument seems appropriate to promiscuous and abusive encounters, but it seems less relevant to those who want to live together in life-long bonds of committed love, “for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until we are parted by death.”

Paul’s focus on lust and passion here is consistent with what we know about ancient Jewish and Christian attitudes toward same-sex eroticism generally.  They viewed this behavior as arising, not from a relatively fixed same-sex sexual orientation, but rather from desire which was inflated to excess, not content with more “normal” means of gratification, and driven to increasingly bizarre and exotic forms of stimulation.

We see this perspective commonly in the ancient world, in both Roman and Jewish authors.  The Roman orator Dio Chrysostom, for example, who wrote shortly after Paul’s time, speaks of same-sex eroticism as the manifestation of insatiable lust:

The man whose appetite is insatiate in such things, when he finds there is no scarcity, no resistance, in this field, will have contempt for the easy conquest and scorn for a woman’s love, as a thing too readily given—in fact, too utterly feminine—and will turn his assault against the male quarters, eager to befoul the youth who will very soon be magistrates and judges and generals, believing that in them he will find a kind of pleasure difficult and hard to procure.  His state is like that of men who are addicted to drinking and wine-bibbing, who after long and steady drinking of unmixed wine, often lose their taste for it and create an artificial thirst by the stimulus of sweating, salted foods, and condiments.[1]

The early Jewish philosopher/theologian Philo, writing a bit earlier than Paul, makes a similar equation between same-sex eroticism and self-centered lust which refuses any boundaries.  He comments on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah:

The land of the Sodomites, a part of the land of Canaan afterwards called Palestinian Syria, was brimful of innumerable iniquities, particularly such as arise from gluttony and lewdness, and multiplied and enlarged every other possible pleasure with so formidable a menace that it had at last been condemned by the Judge of All.  The inhabitants owed this extreme license to the never-failing lavishness of their sources of wealth, for, deep-soiled and well-watered as it was, the land had every year a prolific harvest of all manner of fruits, and the chief beginning of evils, as one has aptly said, is goods in excess.  Incapable of bearing such satiety, plunging like cattle, they threw off from their necks the law of nature and applied themselves to deep drinking of strong liquor and dainty feeding and forbidden forms of intercourse.[2]

It is particularly interesting how Philo, like Paul, equates this excess of lust with the abandonment of the “law of nature.”  “Nature” here is not focused on creational design as much as it concerns the sort of moderation that is commonly assumed as “natural” in philosophical circles of the day.

When we confront this distance between the perspective of ancient writers on same-sex attraction, and the experience of LGBT folks today, we face some important questions.  The vast majority of gay and lesbian persons do not experience sexual attraction to those of the opposite sex.  Their interest in those of the same sex is not driven by a thirst for the exotic; it is simply the only form of sexual desire that they have ever known.  It may be strong or weak, insistent or occasional, but though its intensity may vary, its orientation does not.  In short, the experience of gay and lesbian persons today does not match the perspective that underlies the rhetoric of ancient Jews and Christians toward same-sex behavior.

As Christians, we can all agree that self-centered eroticism that is driven by a thirst for the exotic should not be embraced by any sort of Christian perspective.  When we encounter erotic desire of the sort that Paul, or Chrysostom, or Philo speak of, we should also raise substantial moral questions about its propriety.  But to equate all same-sex behavior to the lustful excesses that Paul and other ancient writers have in mind is to make equations where they do not exist, and to subject contemporary gay and lesbian Christians to unfair and inaccurate accusations.  Paul is speaking about lust and excessive passion; he is not speaking about loving, self-sacrificing, committed, mutual relationships.  To equate the two is to ignore the specifics of Paul’s language in its context, and the specifics of the experience of gay and lesbian persons today.

Of course, there are other dimensions of Paul’s argument that Gagnon speaks of, and which I address in my book on this topic,[3] but space does not permit a complete response here.  In general, one of the major disagreements between Gagnon and me in our interpretation of Romans 1 is the extent to which we believe that Paul is basing his argument explicitly on Genesis 1-2.  Gagnon frames his argument in this manner, speaking of the “strong intertextual echoes to Genesis 1–2,” but I am more cautious.  My caution arises from the fact that Paul is arguing in the first chapter of Romans for the reality of Gentile sinfulness, and the inescapability of their guilt.  But the Gentiles have not received the book of Genesis as a revelation from God.  If Paul’s argument is dependent on Genesis, then the Gentiles have an excuse—they have not received the revelation that Paul allegedly speaks of in Genesis.  But Paul explicitly argues against such a position in Rom 1:20—the Gentiles are “without excuse.”  Paul is not arguing from special revelation in Romans 1, but from general revelation, and his argument flows from an assumption that he shares with Greeks and Romans—that excessive passion is one of the clearest signs of human brokenness and weakness.  So this problem of excessive lust is not peripheral, but is central to his argument.

And there are further issues to argue about as well.  Gagnon writes, “The best biblical scholars who have studied extensively the issue of homosexual practice, including advocates for homosexual unions (such as William Loader and Bernadette Brooten), know that the scriptural indictment of homosexual practice includes a rejection of committed homosexual unions.”  Of course Gagnon singles out these particular writers as “the best” because they agree with him.  But if one surveys in general the biblical scholars who advocate for same-sex unions of one sort or another (including myself), the vast majority do not reflect the assumption that Gagnon associates with those that he terms “the best,”  that “the scriptural indictment of homosexual practice includes a rejection of committed homosexual unions.” Such rhetoric is powerful, but deceptive.

Gagnon also critiques rather heavily Ken Wilson, whose book[4] is commended by City Church, San Franciso.  Wilson has formulated his own response to Gagnon’s critique, which you can review here. I will let him speak for himself.

Finally, I want to say a few words about Gagnon’s argument regarding the parallels between incest and same-sex relationships.  In his article, he states, “The same scriptural justification City Church offers to treat as permissible homosexual sex in the context of what City Church deems a marriage could be used to say that incest is acceptable so long as it occurs in the context of a “marriage” between consenting adults.”  One might observe, first of all, that the vast majority of cases of incest do not involve “consenting adults” but rather the abuse of children, and are thus both irrelevant to this discussion, and are clearly wrong on multiple grounds.  But Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5, speaks to an issue of incest which was apparently consensual between adults, and roundly condemns it.  I believe, with Gagnon, that Christians today should reject all incestuous relationships, even if they are mutually consenting relationships between adults.  But I disagree with Gagnon about why such relationships are wrong.  Gagnon believes that they are wrong because the participants are “too much alike.”[5]  But if one reads the incest prohibitions of Leviticus 18 & 20 carefully, it is clear that the issue is not “too much sameness” but rather the involvement of persons in incompatible roles:  one can’t be both mother and wife, or father and husband, or brother and spouse, or son and husband.  Such role conflicts create innumerable problems that have been recognized in all cultures and almost universally rejected.  But it is hard to see how such role conflicts speak to committed same-sex unions that do not involve persons from the same original household.  So yes, incest is always wrong, even between consenting adults, but this doesn’t really speak to the question of same-sex unions composed of those who are not from the same household.

In short, I agree with Gagnon that the church must stand against all forms of sexual immorality, and refuse to condone such behavior under any circumstances.  However, when Gagnon insists that all same-sex relationships must necessarily be characterized as sexually immoral, he fails to recognize the context and underlying rationale regarding biblical sexual ethics, and obscures, rather than aids the current conversation.


[1] Dio Chrysostom, Dio Chrysostom, trans. J. W. Cohoon, Crosby, H. Lamar, The Loeb Classical Library.  (London, New York: W. Heinemann. G.P. Putnam’s Son’s, 1932), 7:152, vol. 1, p. 373.

[2]de Abr. 133-135. Cited from Philo, Philo, trans. F. H. Colson, 9 vols., vol. VI, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, London: Cambridge University Press, Heinemann, 1935), 69f.

[3] Bible, Gender, Sexuality:  Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships, (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 2013).

[4] A Letter to My Congregation: An evangelical pastor’s path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian and transgender in the company of Jesus, (Crumm, 2014).

[5] Homosexuality and the Bible:  Two Views, (Minneapolis:  Fortress, 2003), 49.

July 13 2014 Epistle lection Romans 8:1ff.; Comments on the Greek text

I have been doing these commentaries on the Greek text of the lectionary as part of my sabbatical discipline.  Now that my sabbatical is finished, I probably will not continue these, at least as regularly.  I hope you have found them helpful.

Ro 8:1 Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα[A] τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ· [There is] therefore now nothing [by way of] condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
Ro 8:2 ὁ γὰρ νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος[B] τῆς ζωῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἠλευθέρωσέν σε[C] ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου τῆς ἁμαρτίας καὶ τοῦ θανάτου. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus freed you from the law of sin and of death.
Ro 8:3 τὸ γὰρ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου[D], ἐν ᾧ ἠσθένει διὰ τῆς σαρκός, ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱὸν πέμψας ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας κατέκρινε[E] τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐν τῇ σαρκί,[F] For what was impossible from the law, in that it was weakened through the flesh, God [did], having sent his own Son in the likeness of [the] flesh of sin and for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh,
Ro 8:4 ἵνα τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ νόμου πληρωθῇ ἐν ἡμῖν τοῖς μὴ κατὰ σάρκα περιπατοῦσιν ἀλλὰ κατὰ πνεῦμα·[G] in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not according to flesh, but according to Spirit.
Ro 8:5 οἱ γὰρ κατὰ σάρκα ὄντες τὰ τῆς σαρκὸς φρονοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ κατὰ πνεῦμα τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος.[H] For those who are according to flesh think the things of the flesh, and those who are according to Spirit [think] the things of the Spirit.
Ro 8:6 τὸ γὰρ φρόνημα[I] τῆς σαρκὸς θάνατος, τὸ δὲ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος ζωὴ καὶ εἰρήνη· For the mindset of the flesh [is] death, but the mindset of the Spirit [is] life and peace.
Ro 8:7 διότι τὸ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς ἔχθρα εἰς θεόν,[J] τῷ γὰρ νόμῳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐχ ὑποτάσσεται, οὐδὲ γὰρ δύναται· Because the mindset of the flesh is hostility toward God; for it does not submit to the law of God—for it is not even able [to do so].
Ro 8:8 οἱ δὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ὄντες θεῷ ἀρέσαι οὐ δύνανται. And those who are in flesh are not able to please God.
Ro 8:9 Ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ἀλλὰ ἐν πνεύματι, εἴπερ πνεῦμα θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν[K] ὑμῖν. εἰ δέ τις πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ οὐκ ἔχει, οὗτος οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῦ. But y’all are not in flesh, but in Spirit, if indeed [the][L] Spirit of God dwells in/among y’all.  But if someone does not have [the] Spirit of Christ, this one is not his [i.e. Christ’s].
Ro 8:10 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν[M], τὸ μὲν σῶμα νεκρὸν διὰ ἁμαρτίαν, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζωὴ[N] διὰ δικαιοσύνην. But if Christ [is] in/among y’all, on the one hand, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Ro 8:11 εἰ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἐγείραντος τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐκ νεκρῶν οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν, ὁ ἐγείρας ἐκ νεκρῶν Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν ζῳοποιήσει καὶ τὰ θνητὰ σώματα ὑμῶν διὰ[O] τὸ ἐνοικοῦν αὐτοῦ πνεῦμα ἐν ὑμῖν. But if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from [the] dead dwells in/among y’all, the one who raised Christ Jesus from [the] dead will make alive also the mortal bodies of y’all because of his Spirit indwelling in/among y’all.

[A] Or “Therefore nothing is now condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

[B] Categorizing the genitives is not easy here.  This seems to be a genitive of source, but the next one—the law of sin and death—seems to be a law which results in sin and death.  Of perhaps both are genitives of source:  the law which flows from Christ, and the law which flows from sin and death.  But neither is without its problems.

[C] Some textual uncertainty about whether this should be “you” or “me.” (Note that the “you” here—if that is the reading—is singular. This is the only singular form of “you” in this passage.)

[D] Or “the incapability of the law”

[E] The imperfect and aorist forms are indistinguishable here.

[F] Presumably by putting Jesus to death.

[G] Given the strongly substutionary language here, one might expect “in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who are joined to Christ,” but the focus on the Spirit instead is noteworthy (though note how this gets fused with union with Christ in verses 9-11 of this passage).

[H] In other words, patterns of thinking follow patterns of being.

[I] Note the semantic link with φρονοῦσιν in the previous verse.  The –μα suffix attached to nouns indicates the concrete results of a verbal action.  So the φρόνημα envisions the concrete results of a way of thinking.

[J] Cf. James 4:4.

[K] I’ve translated “in/among” because either is lexically possible, and I want to push a bit on the tendency to over-individualize this passage.

[L] One could also certainly render this, “if indeed a Spirit from God dwells in/among y’all.”

[M] Note how, in this verse and the one preceding, the text moves from “Spirit” to “Spirit of God,” to “Spirit of Christ” to “Christ,” treating all these terms as, at least in some important sense, referring to the same reality.

[N] Note how the two phrases are not entirely parallel:  the earlier clause uses an adjective (“dead” νεκρὸν) but the second phrase uses a noun (“life” ζωὴ).

[O] There is a noteworthy textual variant here that has to do with whether the object of this preposition is in the accusative case or the genitive case.  This particular text puts it into the accusative case, making the meaning “because of his Spirit dwelling in/among y’all,” but many other manuscripts (and the UBS4) read it in the genitive:  “through his Spirit dwelling in/among y’all.”  Metzger favors the latter reading, pointing to the diversity of textual witnesses that have “through.”

July 6 2014 Gospel lection; Comments on the Greek text of Matt 11:16ff.

Mt 11:16 Τίνι δὲ ὁμοιώσω τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην; ὁμοία ἐστὶν παιδίοις καθημένοις ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς[A] ἃ προσφωνοῦντα τοῖς ἑτέροις But to what shall I compare this generation?  It is like children, sitting in the marketplace, who call out to the others,
Mt 11:17 λέγουσιν[B]· Ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε· ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκόψασθε·[C] saying, “We played the flute for you and you did not dance; we sang [a dirge] and you did not beat [the breast].
Mt 11:18 ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάννης μήτε ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν· Δαιμόνιον ἔχει· For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.”
Mt 11:19 ἦλθεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν· Ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης, τελωνῶν φίλος καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν. καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς.[D] The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Behold a person [who is] a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”  And wisdom is justified from her deeds.
Mt 11:25 Ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· Ἐξομολογοῦμαί[E] σοι, πάτερ κύριε τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅτι ἔκρυψας ταῦτα ἀπὸ σοφῶν καὶ συνετῶν,[F] καὶ ἀπεκάλυψας αὐτὰ νηπίοις[G]· In that time, answering Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you hid these things from [the] wise and understanding, and revealed them to infants.
Mt 11:26 ναί[H], ὁ πατήρ, ὅτι οὕτως εὐδοκία ἐγένετο ἔμπροσθέν σου. Indeed, Father, for [all this] happened before you in this way as [your] good pleasure.
Mt 11:27 Πάντα μοι παρεδόθη ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός μου, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐπιγινώσκει[I] τὸν υἱὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ πατήρ, οὐδὲ τὸν πατέρα τις ἐπιγινώσκει εἰ μὴ ὁ υἱὸς καὶ ᾧ ἐὰν[J] βούληται[K] ὁ υἱὸς ἀποκαλύψαι. All things were handed over to me by my Father, and no one recognizes the Son except the Father, neither does anyone recognize the Father except the Son, and [the one] to whom the Son chooses to make a revelation.
Mt 11:28 Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς.[L] Come to me, all who toil and are burdened, and I will refresh you.
Mt 11:29 ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε[M] ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ,[N] καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς[O] ὑμῶν· Take my yoke upon y’all and learn from me, because I am gentle and lowly [in] heart, and you will find rest for your lives.
Mt 11:30 ὁ γὰρ ζυγός μου χρηστὸς[P] καὶ τὸ φορτίον μου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν. For my yoke is easy [to wear], and my load is light.


[A] The open area in the center of town where things are bought and sold.

[B] Could be either present indicative 3rd singular (they say), or dative plural neuter participle (saying).  The form is the same.

[C] Hence you do not want to play at all, either happy or sad games.

[D] Most commentators think that God’s wisdom is in view here, and the “works” of wisdom refer to the contradictory responses outlines just above.  This is illustrated in the woes which follow (vss. 20-24), but which are excluded from this lection.  Cf. a similar motif in v. 26.

[E] Literally “I confess to you,” though that meaning seems less likely here.

[F] Cf. 1 Cor 1:19.

[G] A term for younger children than the παιδία mentioned above in v. 16.

[H] Literally “yes.”

[I] Or just “knows,” though the preposition attached to the verb strengthens the force to some extent.

[J] This probably goes with the preceding pronoun, broadening its meaning (“to whomever”), rather than meaning “if” in this context.

[K] Or “wills”

[L] A remarkably generous verse, particularly after the exclusiveness of the previous verse.

[M] The verbal cognate for the noun disciple (μαθητής)

[N] Hence not inclined to dominate and control.

[O] The word does not carried the disembodied sense that often accompanies the English word “souls.”

[P] Or “good” or “kind.”

June 29, 2014 Epistle and Gospel lections; comments on the Greek text

Ro 6:12 Μὴ οὖν βασιλευέτω[A] ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐν τῷ θνητῷ ὑμῶν σώματι εἰς[B] τὸ ὑπακούειν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις αὐτοῦ, Therefore sin must not reign in your mortal bodies resulting in obeying its passions.
Ro 6:13 μηδὲ παριστάνετε[C] τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν ὅπλα[D] ἀδικίας τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, ἀλλὰ παραστήσατε ἑαυτοὺς τῷ θεῷ ὡσεὶ ἐκ νεκρῶν ζῶντας καὶ τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν ὅπλα δικαιοσύνης τῷ θεῷ. And stop offering your body parts [as] tools of unrighteousness to sin, but offer yourselves to God as alive from [the] dead, and your body parts [as] tools of righteousness to God.
Ro 6:14 ἁμαρτία γὰρ ὑμῶν οὐ κυριεύσει[E], οὐ γάρ ἐστε ὑπὸ νόμον ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ χάριν. For sin will not rule you, for you are not under law, but under grace.
Ro 6:15 Τί οὖν; ἁμαρτήσωμεν[F] ὅτι οὐκ ἐσμὲν ὑπὸ νόμον ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ χάριν;[G] μὴ γένοιτο· What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  No way!
Ro 6:16 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ᾧ παριστάνετε ἑαυτοὺς δούλους εἰς ὑπακοήν, δοῦλοί ἐστε ᾧ ὑπακούετε, ἤτοι ἁμαρτίας εἰς θάνατον ἢ ὑπακοῆς εἰς δικαιοσύνην;[H] Don’t you know that to whom[ever] you present yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to the one whom you obey, either [slaves of] sin [which leads] to death or of obedience [which leads] to righteousness?
Ro 6:17 χάρις[I] δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον[J] διδαχῆς, But thanks [be] to God that you were slaves of sin, but you obeyed from [the] heart [the] pattern of teaching into which you were handed over.
Ro 6:18 ἐλευθερωθέντες δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ἐδουλώθητε[K] τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ· And having been freed from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness.
Ro 6:19 ἀνθρώπινον[L] λέγω διὰ τὴν ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν· ὥσπερ γὰρ παρεστήσατε τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν δοῦλα τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ καὶ τῇ ἀνομίᾳ εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν, οὕτως νῦν παραστήσατε τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν δοῦλα[M] τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ εἰς ἁγιασμόν. I am speaking humanly because of the weakness of your flesh; for just as you presented your body parts [as] slaves to impurity and to lawlessness resulting in lawlessness, so now present your body parts [as] slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
Ro 6:20 Ὅτε γὰρ δοῦλοι ἦτε τῆς ἁμαρτίας, ἐλεύθεροι[N] ἦτε τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with respect to righteousness.
Ro 6:21 τίνα οὖν καρπὸν[O] εἴχετε τότε ἐφ’ οἷς νῦν ἐπαισχύνεσθε; τὸ γὰρ τέλος[P] ἐκείνων θάνατος· What result were you having then, because of which [things] you are now ashamed?  For the end of those [things] is death.
Ro 6:22 νυνὶ δέ, ἐλευθερωθέντες ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας δουλωθέντες δὲ τῷ θεῷ, ἔχετε τὸν καρπὸν ὑμῶν εἰς ἁγιασμόν, τὸ δὲ τέλος ζωὴν αἰώνιον. But now, having been freed from sin, and having become enslaved to God, you have your result [moving] into sanctification, and [its] end, eternal life.
Ro 6:23 τὰ γὰρ ὀψώνια τῆς ἁμαρτίας[Q] θάνατος, τὸ δὲ χάρισμα[R] τοῦ θεοῦ ζωὴ αἰώνιος ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν. For the compensation paid by sin is death, but the gift of God is life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Mt 10:40 Ὁ δεχόμενος ὑμᾶς ἐμὲ δέχεται, καὶ ὁ ἐμὲ δεχόμενος δέχεται τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με. The one who welcomes you welcomes me, and the one who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
Mt 10:41 ὁ δεχόμενος προφήτην εἰς ὄνομα προφήτου[S] μισθὸν προφήτου λήμψεται, καὶ ὁ δεχόμενος δίκαιον εἰς ὄνομα δικαίου μισθὸν δικαίου λήμψεται. The one who welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and the one who welcomes a righteous person  in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of a righteous person.
Mt 10:42 καὶ ὃς ἂν ποτίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων ποτήριον ψυχροῦ μόνον εἰς ὄνομα μαθητοῦ, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ ἀπολέσῃ[T] τὸν μισθὸν αὐτοῦ. And whoever gives a drink [of] a cup of cold [water to] one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, he [or she] will surely not lose his [or her] reward.

[A] A third-person imperative.  We don’t have this in English, so it’s hard to render.  “Don’t let sin reign” sounds like a command that is given to us, but that’s not what the text is saying.  My translation is an attempt to get at the sense.

[B] This preposition with an infinitive usually expresses purposes, but result seems to make more sense here, and is grammatically possible.

[C] A negative with a present imperative usually suggests ceasing an action that is already underway, usually in a continuous, repeated, or habitual manner.

[D] The more generic “tools” seems to fit better than a focus on military usage with “weapons.”

[E] Note it’s a future, not an imperative.  A simple statement of fact!

[F] Deliberative aorist subjunctive.

[G] Apparently a fairly common question Paul had to deal with!  It seems to be the concern dominating this whole section.

[H] A radically different anthropology from our culture’s idolization of individual freedom!

[I] See BDAG section 5 for this meaning.

[J] See BDAG section 4 for this meaning.  It’s interesting that the obedience of faith does not focus centrally on particular forms of obedience, but rather on a pattern of teaching.

[K] In this sense, at least, radical freedom is not a possibility.

[L] Neuter accusative singular form indicates adverbial usage.

[M] In other words, your body parts don’t make decisions on their own—they serve some larger purpose.  The only question is which purpose they will serve?

[N] (Apparently) free in the sense that there was no understood or lived-out obligation with respect to righteousness.

[O] Literally “what fruit?”

[P] “end” in the sense of goal or target toward which they are moving.  It’s important to recognize these two basic categories—actions have “fruit” or “results” in the near term, and an “end” or “goal” in the long run.

[Q] My translation reads this as a genitive of source.

[R] Note the central contrast here between compensation and gift.  This remains a core reality, despite the passage’s critique of absolute notions of freedom.

[S] Most commentators read “in the name of a prophet” in the sense of “because he or she is a prophet,” or “as a prophet.”  And similarly below.

[T] οὐ μὴ + aorist subjunctive = emphatic future denial.

June 22 2014 Epistle lection, Rom 6:1-11; Comments on the Greek Text

Ro 6:1 Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; ἐπιμένωμεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ[A], ἵνα ἡ χάρις πλεονάσῃ;[B] What then shall we say?  Shall we persist with respect to sin, so that grace may abound?
Ro 6:2 μὴ γένοιτο· οἵτινες ἀπεθάνομεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ,[C] πῶς ἔτι ζήσομεν ἐν αὐτῇ; No way!  How shall we, who died with respect to sin, still live in it?
Ro 6:3 ἢ ἀγνοεῖτε ὅτι ὅσοι ἐβαπτίσθημεν[D] εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν εἰς τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ ἐβαπτίσθημεν;[E] Or are you ignorant that all [of us] who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Ro 6:4 συνετάφημεν οὖν αὐτῷ διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος εἰς τὸν θάνατον, ἵνα ὥσπερ ἠγέρθη Χριστὸς ἐκ νεκρῶν διὰ τῆς δόξης τοῦ πατρός, οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς περιπατήσωμεν. So we were buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from [the] dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.
Ro 6:5 Εἰ γὰρ σύμφυτοι[F] γεγόναμεν τῷ ὁμοιώματι[G] τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως ἐσόμεθα· For if we have become identified with the likeness of his death, all the more will we also [be identified with the likeness] of his resurrection.
Ro 6:6 τοῦτο γινώσκοντες ὅτι ὁ παλαιὸς ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος[H] συνεσταυρώθη, ἵνα καταργηθῇ τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας, τοῦ μηκέτι δουλεύειν ἡμᾶς τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, Knowing this, that our old person was crucified together [with him], so that the body of sin might be set aside, so that we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
Ro 6:7 ὁ γὰρ ἀποθανὼν δεδικαίωται[I] ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας. For the one who died has been justified away from sin.
Ro 6:8 εἰ δὲ ἀπεθάνομεν σὺν Χριστῷ, πιστεύομεν ὅτι καὶ συζήσομεν[J] αὐτῷ· But if we died with Christ, we believe that we also will live together with him,
Ro 6:9 εἰδότες ὅτι Χριστὸς ἐγερθεὶς ἐκ νεκρῶν οὐκέτι ἀποθνῄσκει, θάνατος αὐτοῦ[K] οὐκέτι κυριεύει· knowing that Christ, having been raised from [the] dead, no longer dies; death no longer rules him.
Ro 6:10 ὃ[L] γὰρ ἀπέθανεν, τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ἀπέθανεν ἐφάπαξ· ὃ δὲ ζῇ, ζῇ τῷ θεῷ. What he died, he died to sin once for all; but what he lives, he lives to God.
Ro 6:11 οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς λογίζεσθε[M] ἑαυτοὺς εἶναι νεκροὺς μὲν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ζῶντας δὲ τῷ θεῷ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. So you also—think about yourselves being dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

[A] The dative of respect is not easy to translate.  These sense is something like “shall we remain in relationship to sin?”

[B] Recalling 5:20b.

[C] Cf. Gal 2:19, where Paul uses the same sort of construction to speak of dying to the law.

[D] Note that it’s first person plural, not third person.  Hence the “[of us]” in brackets in the translation.

[E] Note the interesting chiastic structure of this verse:


εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν

εἰς τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ


[F] Literally “grown together with”

[G] For some interesting parallels in Paul for this word, cf. Rom. 1:23, Rom. 5:14, Rom. 8:3, Phil. 2:7.

[H] The word does not exactly mean “self” as the NRSV, NIV, and many others render it. The focus is not individualistic, but collective, particularly in light of the discussion of Adam and Christ in the previous chapter.

[I] A somewhat surprising word here—lots of stuff in the commentaries about this.

[J] Note the future tense—this is a reference to resurrection which has not yet happened in Paul’s framework.

[K] The verb κυριεύω takes its object in the genitive case.

[L] Probably an accusative of respect, since this verb can’t take a direct object.  “With respect to what he died . . .”  That’s where some translations get “in that.”

[M] Present imperative connotes ongoing, habitual, or repeated action.  The verb carries the sense of adding up a column of figures, and coming to a result.

June 15, 2014 Gospel and Epistle lections; Comments on the Greek text.

Getting ahead a little bit again.  Both the epistle and the gospel lection are short this week, so I’ve included both of them here.

2Co 13:11 Λοιπόν[A], ἀδελφοί, χαίρετε, καταρτίζεσθε[B], παρακαλεῖσθε[C], τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖτε[D], εἰρηνεύετε, καὶ ὁ θεὸς τῆς ἀγάπης καὶ εἰρήνης ἔσται μεθ’ ὑμῶν. As for the rest, brothers [and sisters], rejoice, mend your ways, be encouraged, have the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with y’all.
2Co 13:12 ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν ἁγίῳ φιλήματι.[E] ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἅγιοι πάντες. Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints greet you.
2Co 13:13 ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος[F] μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit [be] with all of you.
Mt 28:16 Οἱ δὲ ἕνδεκα μαθηταὶ ἐπορεύθησαν εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν εἰς τὸ ὄρος οὗ ἐτάξατο[G] αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, But the eleven disciples made their way into the Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus [had] instructed them.
Mt 28:17 καὶ ἰδόντες αὐτὸν προσεκύνησαν, οἱ δὲ[H] ἐδίστασαν[I]. And seeing him, they worshiped, but some wavered.
Mt 28:18 καὶ προσελθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς λέγων· Ἐδόθη μοι πᾶσα ἐξουσία ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς· And coming forward, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on the earth was given to me.
Mt 28:19 πορευθέντες[J] οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη,[K] βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς[L] εἰς τὸ ὄνομα[M] τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, As you go, therefore, disciple all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mt 28:20 διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν·[N] καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ’ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος. teaching them to keep everything which I commanded you.  And look!  I am with you all the days—until the consummation of the age.

[A] The accusative of respect.  Literally “with respect to the rest.”

[B] “Mend your ways” is the suggestion of the BDAG lexicon for this text.  It could also be rendered “set yourselves in order.”

[C] Or one could render this in the middle voice:  “encourage yourselves.”

[D] Literally “think the same thing.”  Cf. the same phrase in Rom 15:5,  Phil 2:2, 4:2.

[E] A command occurring five times in the NT.  In addition to this one, see  Rom 16:16, 1 Cor 16:20, 1 Thess 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14.

[F] Note the Trinitarian reference, both here and in the Matt lection (v. 19)

[G] Or “to the mountain which Jesus [had] appointed for them.”

[H] This might also be rendered, “but they wavered,” indicating not just some of them wavered, but all of them.  Either is possible grammatically.  In either case, this verse has always struck me as one of the most interesting in the gospel of Matthew—that uncertainty can even fill moments like this one!  From an exegetical point of view, the next verse could easily be read as a response to this “wavering.”  Some kinds of uncertainty are only resolved by mission.

[I] “doubt,” “waver” or “hesitate.”

[J] Or one could read the participle as having imperatival force:  “Go, therefore . . .”

[K] The more typical translation “make disciples of all the nations” is an interpretation, but I have tried to translate more literally here.  There is no partitive sense—“of”—in the text itself.  Remember too, of course, that the same Greek word can be translated either “nations” or “gentiles,” though the translation “nations” arises here from the fact that the usage is in the neuter, rather than in the masculine gender.

[L] now we switch to the masculine gender, focusing more on persons than on nations.

[M] A single name belongs to all three!

[N] Interesting that it doesn’t say “teaching them to remember all that I taught you!”

June 8 2014 Epistle lection; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; Comments on the Greek text

1Co 12:3b καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς[A] εἰ μὴ ἐν[B] πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. And no one is able to say “Lord Jesus” except in [the] Holy Spirit.
1Co 12:4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ[C] πνεῦμα· There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
1Co 12:5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν[D] εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος· And varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.
1Co 12:6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν[E] τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. And there are varieties of activities, but the same God who activates all things in all [people].
1Co 12:7 ἑκάστῳ δὲ δίδοται[F] ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος[G] πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον. To each one is being given the disclosure of the Spirit, for [what is] profitable.
1Co 12:8 ᾧ μὲν γὰρ διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος δίδοται λόγος[H] σοφίας, ἄλλῳ δὲ λόγος γνώσεως κατὰ[I] τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, For to one, through the Spirit, is being given a statement of wisdom; to another a statement of knowledge according to the same Spirit.
1Co 12:9 ἑτέρῳ πίστις ἐν[J] τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι, ἄλλῳ χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων ἐν τῷ ἑνὶ πνεύματι, To another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit.
1Co 12:10 ἄλλῳ ἐνεργήματα δυνάμεων[K], ἄλλῳ προφητεία, ἄλλῳ διακρίσεις[L] πνευμάτων, ἑτέρῳ γένη γλωσσῶν[M], ἄλλῳ ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν· To another workings of miracles; to another prophecy; to another distinguishing of spirits; to another types of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.
1Co 12:11 πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἐνεργεῖ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, διαιροῦν ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ καθὼς βούλεται. But all these, the one and the same Spirit activates, distributing to each one just as [the Spirit] wills.
1Co 12:12 Καθάπερ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα ἕν ἐστιν καὶ μέλη πολλὰ ἔχει, πάντα δὲ τὰ μέλη τοῦ σώματος πολλὰ ὄντα ἕν ἐστιν σῶμα, οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστός[N]· For just as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also [is] the Christ.
1Co 12:13 καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι ἡμεῖς πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν, εἴτε Ἰουδαῖοι εἴτε Ἕλληνες, εἴτε δοῦλοι εἴτε ἐλεύθεροι,[O] καὶ πάντες ἓν πνεῦμα ἐποτίσθημεν[P]. For also in one Spirit we all were baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slave or free, and all were given to drink [of] one Spirit.

[A] Or “Jesus is Lord,” though the accent clearly is falling on “Lord,” regardless of which word order is chosen.

[B] Hard to know whether to render the preposition “in” or “by.”  Either is grammatically possible.

[C] Forms of αὐτὸς, when found in the attributive position, mean “same.”

[D] Hard to know how to translate this without sounding too ecclesiastical.  Literally “table service.”

[E] Literally “works” or “effects.”  I have translated “activates” to underscore the common term with the noun form ἐνεργημάτων earlier in the verse.

[F] I translated “is being given” to underscore the ongoing force of the present tense.

[G] The genitive could be objective (the disclosure which reveals the Spirit) or a genitive of source (the disclosure which comes from the Spirit).

[H] I have translated “statement” because the meaning of λόγος is not restricted to a single word alone.

[I] Note the variety of prepositions, seemingly used almost interchangeably by Paul in this text.

[J] Could also be rendered “faith in the same Spirit” but that sort of “objective meaning” of the preposition seems less likely here.

[K] I’ve translated “miracles” since this is a common rendering, though it could also be “powers.”

[L] or even “judging of spirits”!

[M] Or “languages” here and in the next usage.

[N] Or “the Messiah”

[O] Cf. Gal 3:28.

[P] Interesting how the water of baptism impacts not only the exterior of the body, but the interior!