Re: Romans 3:19-20

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Oct 05 1995 - 07:08:46 EDT

At 2:12 AM 10/5/95, wrote:
>In a message dated 95-10-05 00:05:01 EDT, James Clardy writes:
>>In Romans 3:19 Paul uses the terms HO NOMOS and TW NOMW. But in verse 20
>>term is simply NOMOU and it's repeated once. In this verse (20), in both
>>cases, it's without the article.
>>QUESTION: What is the significance of the term with and without the
>Answer: It is a common practice for Greek literature to preceed the first
>noun with an article in a given context and leave the article off in
>succeeding references within the context. For example look at John 1:1 where
>the first THEOS has the article, and the latter does not and also John 1:12
>does not.

We return once more, it appears, to the repeatedly hashed and re-hashed (if
that has a redundant ring to it, then I got it right!) question of how John
1:1c (KAI QEOS HN hO LOGOS) is to be understood. As in the case of those
questions regarding the synoptic apocalypse, I doubt if all those who have
voiced their various views on the question are eager to enter the same fray
again, and this is precisely where an archive is most valuble.

I do think that the NOMOS referred to it the passage in question is the
Torah; while I'm not sure that it ought to be put in the category of
Semitisms, this kind of genitive, which I would call "adjectival," is
common in Paul and is similar in construction, even if not derived from,
the "construct" form of a noun in Hebrew that is added to another noun.

I would venture (foolhardy, as ever!) a theological interpretation, but
only because Paul has, in the opening chapter of this letter, referred to
the status of gentiles before God in terms analogous to the status of the
Jew before God: I think that Paul is referring specifically to the Torah in
this passage, BUT I think that he means to apply the proposition
universally to all humanity. Moreover, I don't think he is referring to a
forensic conception in any pagan religion specifically, but more probably
to a Stoic conception of conscience which he analogizes to the Jewish
conscience at Rom 2:14-16. And for this reason, I think that here (and in
Galatians as well) one may extrapolate a theological and ethical principle
that any endeavor to distinguish the "worth" of one individual over another
in terms of moral accomplishment in the view of God, is illegitimate, so
that we would have to say that, not only all humanity generally, but every
human being specifically, falls short of the authentic humanity God seeks
in each created human being. Is that too absolute an assertion, or is it
less--or more--than Paul really means to assert here?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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