Re: PANTES in Romans 3:23

From: Steven Craig Miller (
Date: Wed Jan 19 2000 - 08:21:47 EST

<x-flowed>To: Stephen C. Carlson,

UJ to SCC: << I have a translation question for you, if you could be so
kind to help me. In Romans 3:23 is the word all (pas) to mean "all groups"
or all individuals. I know someone who states that the word all for
individuals is "panton" not "pas." Therefore the translation means all
groups and not all individuals. >>

IMO, this is a fascinating question. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, in his Anchor
Bible commentary on Romans, writes (FWIW): << Paul is thinking primarily of
two groups of humanity, Jews and Greeks; yet his absolute formulation
connotes the idea of "all individuals," i.e. Jews, Greeks, and
barbarians. >> I'm unclear why the absolute use of PANTES in Roman 3:23
necessarily "connotes the idea of 'all individuals,' i.e. Jews, Greeks, and
barbarians." (For more on this problem, see my last paragraph.)

Unfortunately, there is no special Greek form of PAS which means "all
(groups)" as opposed to "all (individuals)." (I wonder if your uncle was
trying to give the nom/acc neuter form of PAS? FWIW the neuter singular of
PAS is PAN and not PANTON. But whatever, it is not relevant.)

The term PAS, like our English "all," is by nature a very ambiguous term.
("All" of what?) For only the context can tell us what "class" of
individuals or groups the author might have in mind. There is nothing in
Greek lexicography or Greek syntax which can determine if PANTES refers to
"all (individuals)" or "all (groups)" or "all individuals (of certain
groups)." If one looks at the context for Romans 3:23 (that is, chapter 3),
I wouldn't be surprised if some might feel that "all (groups)" was in mind
by St. Paul . On the other hand, one might also want to compare this verse
with Romans 5:12 (where PANTES hHMARTON also appears).

Even if one took PANTES to mean (in English) "all individuals," there is
still the question of "all individuals" of what group or groups? For it
would be simply absurd to assume that every time PANTES is used absolutely
that it refers to "every person on earth, who has ever lived, and who will
ever live" (or any similar concept). By this I don't mean to suggest that
St. Paul here cannot have used PANTES to mean "every person on earth, past,
present, and future." He very well could have used it for such a meaning.
My point here is that it would be absurd to assume that the absolute use of
PANTES must always mean such.

-Steven Craig Miller
Alton, Illinois (USA)
Disclaimer: "I'm just a simple house-husband (with no post-grad degree),
what do I know?"

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