Re: Romans 8:3

From: Paul Zellmer (
Date: Sat May 17 1997 - 02:26:35 EDT

Jim Beale wrote:
> ...snip
> (a) TO ADUNATON is cognate to ASQENEW, but this leaves me wondering
> what sense can be made of EN hWi, which would have to be a coordinating
> conjunction, "in which." BDF suggests that EN hWi should be rendered
> "because" (S. 219(2)). So does Zerwick (S. 119). It seems to me
> that if it is taken as "because" then it is more difficult to take TO
> ADUNATON as an accusative.

Jim, how does the explanation of the source of the lack of ability or
power preclude the adjective from being accusative or nominative or (if
the form had been thus) dative or genitive? It seems to me that the
locative phrase is a description of ADUNATON.

Perhaps I have too restrictive a usage of cognate, but is this not
normally related to the derivation of a word? If this is the case, then
I see no cognates to this word expressed in this verse.

> (b) Supposedely, TO ADUNATON TOU NOMOU can be taken in apposition to
> the principal clause, "hO QEOS ... KATEKRINEN THN hAMARTIAN EN THi
> SARKI," but I'm not sure how to make sense of this idea.

If KATEKRINEN is actually the verb of the principal clause, then perhaps
the entire concept of the action of God is promoted as the opposite of
the action (or lack thereof) by the law. Of course, most of our English
translations handle this difficult verse by supposing the verb, "did".
They then make KATEKRINEN a result of God's activity.

As far as making sense of the idea, remember that ADUNATON TOU NOMOU is
standing in place of a noun, and a noun is a person, place, thing, or
*idea*. A whole verbal concept could be considered as an idea, right?

> (c) If it must be taken as accusative, this makes the most sense to me.
> ASQENEW is intransitive, and so an adverbial accusative is at least
> possible. Still, it isn't very satisfying.
> ADUNATON, as a verbal adjective, can either have an active or a passive
> sense: either "weakness" or "impossibility". The NT usage seems to be
> unanimous in favor of the active sense. Also, I think that if ADUNATON
> was passive, it would rather be followed by the dative TWi NOMWi. So,
> I think that ADUNATON is active.

I'm sorry, but I have a problem seeing a description as being either
active or passive. It's stative. As such, the genitive would be the
case regardless of whether Paul is talking about the weakness, the
impossibility, or the lack of ability, would it not? What is the
example that you are thinking about where a description is followed by
the dative?

> Last, it seems to me that TO GAR ADUNATON TOU NOMOU is best seen as a
> nominative absolute. None of the ways to understand it as an accusative
> are persuasive, though I'm sure there is more to be said. Either way,
> it is a difficult verse.

If you allow for the omission of a verb (whether it be the result of
excitement, the strength of the contrast being made between the
abilities of the law and of God, Paul's losing track of his train of
thought, or whatever), then TO ADUNATON would be an accusative which is
in apposition to the thing which was done by God. Now, I realize that
the verb posited by most English translations is a form of POIEW, but
that *is* just a guess.

I agree that this is a difficult verse in its grammar. I feel that the
difficulty may well lie in the possibility that the thought is not
completely stated. If that is the case, then we might not be able to
solve the classification of TO ADUNATON to your satisfaction.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:15 EDT