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

From: Shikai Ronnie Poon (
Date: Mon Nov 04 1996 - 05:16:27 EST

On 3 Nov 96 at 18:01, Jonathan Robie wrote:

> I think that my interpretation of this may be a little
> unconventional, and I want to run it by y'all to see if it passes
> muster, especially since I may be preaching on the subject in two
> weeks.
> Most people in the class interpreted "the lust of the flesh" and "the
> lust of the eyes" as sexual lust. This caught me by surprise, since I
> really hadn't, though I can remember hearing sermons which treatet it
> that way. In my preparation, I had looked only at the Greek, and the
> English caught me by surprise.

I am also teaching 1 John in a seminary course this quarter and most
of the students naturally associate the terms here with sexual lust
and sins, perhaps because the translations gave them such

> I had been thinking of EPIQUMIA as "desire", and SARKOS as "natural
> human self". To me, the whole passage seemed to be saying that we
> should not love houses in the suburbs, nice clothes, good food,
> espresso, fulfilling sex lives, college degrees, etc.
> I am interpreting the three phrases this way -- is this valid?:
> "h epiqumia ths sarkos" (the desire of the natural body): The desires
> of the natural human body, which include sex, but include other
> things.
> "h epiqumia twn ofqalmwn" (the desire of the eyes): The desire for
> the things we see. Greed. Yes, this would include sexual desire, but
> also fast cars, nice furniture, fine clothes, etc.
> "h alazoneia tou biou" (pride of life): Once I get the cars,
> furniture, clothes, and women I desire, I can show them off to you,
> achieving status in your eyes by the things that I have acquired.
> All in all, I see this as reminiscent of Christ's statement that
> "foxes have holes, birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of
> man has no place to lay his head" -- a call to radical dependence on
> God, not getting entangled with the things that the rest of the world
> is so focussed on.
> However, I notice that most translations use "lust" to translate
> EPIQUMIA, which seems to suggest sexual desire. Looking through BAGD,
> the little Kittel, Louw & Nida, and Vines, I don't see any reason to
> see this as primarily sexual desire. Am I missing something here?

I think you hit it right on in your interpretation of the verses. I
would try to focus on the concept of "love" in these verses and
argue that the prohibition concerns priority in one's live instead
of the things mentioned having an inherently evil nature.
In His Service,
Shikai Ronnie Poon
Academic Dean, Alliance Bible Seminary
22 Peak Road, Cheung Chau, NT, Hong Kong
(852) 29810345, FAX: (852) 29819777

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