Romans 12:2a translation

From: Eric Weiss (
Date: Wed Aug 06 1997 - 11:24:59 EDT

Translating Romans 12:2a has me stumped!


1. Are SUSCHMATIZESQE and METAMORFOUSQE middle or passive? Lexica and
tranlators are willing to render SUSQHMATIZESQE as either middle or
passive, but render METAMORFOUSQE only as passive. Is there something in
the nature of the words themselves that, for instance, would only allow
a passive - not a middle - rendering of METAMORFOUSQE? (Note: Louw-Nida
list these verbs by their middle/passive form, hence implying that they
are "deponent" - unless they do this because they only appear in the NT
in middle/passive form. If L-N truly consider these "deponent," does
that mean they should be translated with an active sense?)

2. Should TWi AIWNI TOUTWi be translated "BY this age" (i.e., the age
is the one doing the "patterning" or "conforming" - implying a passive
translation of SUSCHMATIZESQE), or should it be translated "TO this age"
(i.e., this age is the pattern to which the believer is being exhorted
not to conform himself (middle) or be conformed (passive) to)? If TWi
AIWNI can be translated either of these ways (there may be others), can
METAMORFOUSQE also be translated "be changed/transformed (or
"change/transform yourself") TO the renewal of the (your) mind" - i.e.,
the pattern the believer is to be changed to is the thing Paul calls
"the renewal of the mind" [more on this in the next question], rather
than "the renewal of the mind" being the thing BY which the believer is
to be changed/transformed, which is the more common translation?

3. What is "the renewal of the mind"? The phrase is usually translated
"be transformed by THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND(S)" - i.e., as a
participle, as something the believer is supposed to do, i.e., he is to
"renew his mind," which activity is supposed to bring about the desired
metamorphosis. But ANAKAINWSEI is a NOUN. Hence, could THi ANAKAINWSEI
TOU NOOS be the "thing" that causes the changing? For example, could
this mean "the renewed nature of the mind," i.e., "the (your) mind's
newness," as THi AGAPHi TOU QEOU would mean "the love of God," i.e.,
"God's love"? We would translate such a phrase as "rather, (let
yourselves) be changed by God's love" - so could we likewise translate
the Romans 12:2 phrase as "rather, (let yourselves) be changed by your
mind's newness (i.e., your new minds)"? Elsewhere, Paul states that
believers have the NOUS of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16).

My questions as I see them are that unless some of the options can
definitely be ruled out, the clause could be variously translated as
"And do not conform yourselves - or let yourselves be conformed - to -
or by - this age, but rather change yourselves - or be changed - to - or
by - renewing your minds - or to - or by - your new minds." Each
possible translation has different implications, and there is a great
difference between telling the believer that the way he is to be changed
into the image of Christ is by him "renewing his mind" - i.e., something
the believer does - and telling him that he is to present himself to God
as a sacrifice and let this new mind he has received change him.

So who or what does the conforming/changing? And is it a conforming or
changing "to" something or "by" something? And is the believer's role
active or passive in either or both of these activities? And is "the
renewal of the mind" a thing or an activity?

Many thanks for any help.

Eric Weiss

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