From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Feb 03 1999 - 14:25:15 EST

At 1:02 PM -0500 2/3/99, Jon R. Venema wrote:
>Dear b-greek
>The expression at Romans 8:3, TO ADUNATON TOU NOMOU EN hWi HSQENEI DIA THS
>SARKOS is understood by a number of commentators as either (#1) a
>nominative absolute or (#2) an accusative in apposition to KATEKRINEN THN
>hAMARTIAN EN THi SARKI. I suppose one could add a (#3) in which Kasemann
>sums it up as an anacolouthon and stresses that verse 3:a-b must end: "God
>has accomplished this in us by the power of the Spirit," which for Kasemann
>is the (logical) antithesis and implicit correlation to TO ADUNATON . . .
>I am grammatically diagramming (along with the students of the class, some
>of whom lurk on this list) this section and would value opinions of
>plausible (tentative) grammatical reconstructions of what remains
>'implicit' to a completion of Paul's thought given options #1, #2, or #3
>(or yet another not in view).

I'm one of those numbskulls who don't believe there's such a thing as a
nominative absolute in Greek. I'd not object to saying quite simply that
it's an anacoluthon--that the sentence starts over with hO QEOS ... and
expresses in the remainder what might theoretically have been expressed as
something like TOUTO KATHRGASATO hO QEOS; But if one wants to link that
phrase to the rest of the sentence in a diagram, I'd feel it must be
understood as an adverbial accusative, conveying its force as "But
regarding the law's inability, whereby ... and link this with the main

>I should add that I am aware of how gnarled (both with grammatical and
>theolgical questions) this expression can become and that the adjective, TO
>ADUNATON has been understood as either active ("incapable") or passive
>("impossible") (BAGD 19a) and that it is generally active in the masculine
>and feminine when used of people, but passive in the neuter when used of
>things (LSJ), and that the early Fathers took it as active with the
>genitive TOU NOMOU expecting the passive with the dative TWi NOMWi.

I don't think it matters so much whether one tries to see TO ADUNATON as
active or passive; it is, in fact, a neuter substantive, and my
recollection is that it is one that is found not infrequently in Greek in
this sense of "impossibility." Since it is a verbal noun, the genitive
attached to it could be understood either as a subjective genitive ("what
the Law cannot do") or as an objective genitive ("the impossibility of
fulfilling the Law")--either way its going to end up meaning the same
thing: the impossibility attaching to the Law.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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