RE: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life

Jonathan Robie (
Mon, 04 Nov 1996 13:13:56 -0500

EPIQUMEW seems to be a much abused word. It is used in many settings, some
positive ("Matt 13:17 (NASU) "For truly I say to you that many prophets and
righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see [it]", Luke 22:15
(NASU) And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with
you before I suffer;), some negative ("Acts 20:33 "I have coveted no one's
or gold or clothes."), some morally neutral (Luke 15:16 (NASU) "And he would
have gladly filled [desired to fill] his stomach with the pods that the
swine were eating, and no one was giving [anything] to him.).

In every case, this seems to be a *strong* desire, a decision that "I want
Currently, I'm playing with the gloss "set your heart on".

Incidentally, if this is true, it could be helpful in understanding one of
those troublesome passages that really plagued me through my adolescence and
early adulthood:

Matt 5:28 (GNT) egw de legw umin oti pas o blepwn gunaika pros to
epiqumhsai authn hdh emoiceusen authn en th kardia autou.

Matt 5:28 (NASU) but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman
with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

I used to spend lots of time feeling really guilty for noticing that women
are attractive, finding myself aroused, etc., thinking that I was guilty of
this sin. None of the commentaries I read gave clear guidelines based on the
meaning of the text. If my current understanding of the word is correct, the
real sin occurs at the point that someone says, "I want that woman", setting
his heart on her. The woman's availability is not the issue; if the man
wants her to the point that he would sleep with her if he could, the man has
already committed adultery. If this is true, Jimmy Carter's statement that
he had never lusted after another woman becomes plausible.

At 05:28 AM 11/4/96 UT, Albert Collver, III wrote:

>It seems that "lust" need not apply primarily to sexual desire, especially in
>light of that the 6th commandment prohibits adultery, etc. The NT does not
>lack words for sexual deviance. I think it is very sound and good to point out
>that "lust / desire" probably refers directly to Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy
>5:21. The NT writers are applying the 9th and 10th commandments - which
>applied directly to Jews - to all Christians.

I've looked a little further. On several occasions, the NT uses this term
without further qualification, assuming the reader will know that it refers
to the 10 commandments. For instance, here is Romans 7:7:

Roma 7:7 (GNT) Ti oun eroumen; o nomos amartia; mh genoito: alla thn
amartian ouk egnwn ei mh dia nomou: thn te gar epiqumian ouk hdein
ei mh o nomos elegen: ouk epiqumhseis.

Roma 7:7 (NASU) What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be!
On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law;
for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You
shall not covet."


Jonathan Robie
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