Re: PANTES in Romans 3:23

From: Joe A. Friberg (
Date: Wed Jan 19 2000 - 14:37:13 EST

When I first glanced at this post, I thought the issue must be prompted by
the Limited Atonement doctrine, which is the only place I have previously
heard people arguing that PANTES does not mean 'all/everyone', but only
'some of every kind of people'. This argument is made for such passages as
2Cor 5.14, Rom 5.18, 8.32, 1Tim 2.6, 4.10, Ti 2.11, Heb 2.9.

Then I read the passage and scratched my head, wondering if there was
someone out there who was wanting to exclude themselves from the 'sinner'

Generally, PAS... (sg.) means 'every', sampling distributively over an
entire class of individuals/things, and PANTES... (pl.) means 'all', taking
an entire class of individuals/things collectively.

If PANTES ( is used absolutely, its scope extends to include 'all
people everywhere', unless context specifically delimits the scope by
setting narrower boundaries.

The actual scope of PAS/PANTES may be determined in several ways by context:
if it is used as an attributive adjective, its scope is specified in part by
the noun which it modifies. If used in an absolute setting as a
substantive, its scope may still be limited by the context: if the context
is a Roman edict given to the entire population (Lk 2.1), then it means all
individuals subject to that tax (2.3). If it is in the context discussing
the actions of a specific small band of apostles and disciples numbering
perhaps 120 (Acts 1.15), then it refers to that self-same group (2.1).

It may also be used hyperbolically at times, where clearly the expectation
is not that absolutely all would participate in an action, but that 'a whole
lot' would. The unlimited implication of PANTES can be explicitly limited
by a qualifying caveat: BAGD, last sentence of entire entry, gives such an
example. As a caveat to Rom 3.23, the extended context of scripture gives
Heb 4.15.

If limits are not set in the context, then PANTES does mean 'all
everywhere', and, if it is in a gnomic proposition, it also means 'all
everywhen'--both past, present, and future. And that happens to be the
context in Rom 3.23 (although some might say that specifically the two
groups: Jews vs. Gentiles, are in view--but the union of these two groups
gets right back to 'all everywhere'!).

There is one final construction that needs to be discussed in relation to
the current question: when PAS/PASAS/PAN is used 1) in the sg.
2) as an attributive adjective 3) with an (abstract) category noun that is
4) not countable 5) without a definite article, THEN it means 'every *kind
of*' (or perhaps 'case of'): PASA NOSOS KAI PASA MALAKIA Mt 4.23 (cf. BAGD
1.a.beta. for listing). The reason for this extension in meaning is logical:
an abastracted category noun (say 'sickness') cannot be counted, and you
cannot have distribution across an undifferentiated concept without positing
an intermediate division of the concept into 'kinds of'-the-concept or
'cases-of'-the-concept, etc.

But this logic and extension of meaning does not carry over to the plural
nor to concrete countable nouns: and people are perfectly countable and form
one big group which can readily be taken as a collective whole, so there is
no need to posit intermediate groups. To specify every kind of people would
require the introduction of an explicit intermediate category: cf. PANTA TA
EQNH (Mt 28.19).

In conclusion: there is no grammatical reason to take PANTES in Rom 3.23 as
referencing 'groups' or 'kinds' of people. Nor is there any grammatical
reason in the other passages with an absolute/substantive use of PANTES.
Only theological motivations :-(

Hope this helps.

God Bless!
Joe A. Friberg

----- Original Message -----
From: "Stephen C. Carlson" <>
To: "Biblical Greek" <>
Sent: Tuesday, January 18, 2000 10:14 PM
Subject: PANTES in Romans 3:23

> I received the following question from my uncle, and I am somewhat at loss
> in how to respond:
> >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
> >is "panton" not "pas." Therefore the translation means all groups and not
> >individuals. Thanks a bunch! Uncle Jim
> For reference, Romans 3:23 is PANTES GAR hHMARTON KAI hUSTEROUNTAI THS
> All my reference works merely state than an anarthrous substantive PANTES
> means "all," with no indication of "all groups." I also feel that "all
> groups" is ruled out by the context.
> Can anyone clarify things up here?
> Stephen Carlson
> --
> Stephen C. Carlson
> Synoptic Problem Home Page
> "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
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