Re: Rom. 7.1-6

From: Mark Goodacre (
Date: Tue May 20 1997 - 11:46:27 EDT

Andrew Goddard wrote:
> I have for some time
> struggled with the complexities of Paul's illustration and argument
> at the beginning of Rom 7 and have ended up with queries relating to
> the Greek of two of the verses for which I have no answer. (1] In
> Rom 7.4a when Paul applies his seemingly flawed illustration

But is it flawed? I think the standard view that Paul's illustration
does not work proceeds from a misreading of the characters in the
analogy. If one makes the husband not the law (as is usual) but
rather 'the body of sin' (6.6) or even the flesh, then 'the law' (of
marriage) in the analogy parallels the Law (=Torah) in the

That is: husband = body of sin (not the Law);

the married woman = the individual + the body of

Law of marriage = the Law;

Husband's death = death of the body of sin, because individual now
crucified with Christ (again cf. 6.6 for elucidation)

Release from the law of marriage = release from the Law

Second marriage to a new husband = marriage to Christ.

i.e. overall - the situation has changed. The Law is irrelevant in
God's plan of salvation for it is the thing that bound the individual
to the past / sin / the flesh. Not surprisingly, this turns out to
be the theme of the rest of Chapter 7, and, indeed of much of the
rest of the Epistle.

> writes KAI HUMEIS ETHANATOTHETE TO NOMO which is usually translated
> "and you also have died to the law". But it is a passive verb and
> Paul has changed the verb from APOTHNESKO to the rarer THANATOO ie
> "you also have been put to death to the law". Is there any
> possiblity that this Greek phrase, rather than paralleling Paul's
> earlier references to the Christian's death to sin through
> identification with Christ's death [which causes all sorts of
> problems with the illustration as the "wife" not the "husband" dies
> but she is then alive to remarry the second husband !]

But the woman does not die in the analogy. The husband dies, bringing
to an end the marriage, and this is the point, that in the new
situation, the woman is free to remarry. She marries Christ and in
this new relationship, the Law is an irrelevance.

might be
> simply another way of speaking of the "discharge" and "freedom" from
> the law of the earlier verses. Then, being "put to death to"
> something does not have to raise the question of how and in what
> sense the person "died". Paul has simply reversed the structure of
> the illustration and given the same result [put to death to the law]
> but expressed it in different terms and prior to the means [through
> the body of Christ]. [2] In v6 Paul again uses the language of death
> after referring to our discharge from the law. How should one
> translate and interpret the clause - APOTHANONTES EN HO
> KATEICHOMETHA ? It's often read as repeating the initial point -
> we're free of law because, although it bound us, we have died to it.
> Does the change of verb [aorist participle after initial aorist
> passive (?)] have any significance ? Can it mean that this is an
> elaboration or explanation of the initial statement [eg how we are
> discharged] rather than a repetition of the same point ? Also, most
> translations omit the EN - what force should it have ? Can the
> clause be translated "having died in that which constrained us" or
> as "having died to that in which we were constrained" ?

I think that this latter translation makes good sense of both the
grammar and what I would understand as the context. There is a death
to the that in which we were constrained - constrained in the
marriage to the body of sin, bound together by the Law.

 As some of
> the above doubtless shows, I am no Greek scholar - I get by with a
> very basic grammar and vocabulary and depend on a good number of
> reference books to hand when trying to unravel the text. I've not
> found much to help me from any of these sources with these points so
> any further help on the above greatfully received.

My answers are a little controversial but they have the benefit of
making sense of text and context plausibly. ( I am grateful to my
friend Matthew Brookes for alerting me to this exciting way of
reading the chapter).

Are you the Andrew Goddard who studied at Oxford? I imagine so from
your address. If it is you, you once gave an excellent and
convincing paper at the NT seminar on Paul's supposed malady in Galatians, with Tony
Cummins. (And another good one on the Talents at Queens). If you
are that Andrew Goddard, you will be familiar with the work of Tom
Wright who makes suggestions similar to mine here in his 'Climax of
the Covenant' (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991).

Good wishes


Dr Mark Goodacre
Department of Theology
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT

Tel.: 0121 414 7512 Email:
Fax.: 0121 414 6866

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