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Romans 7:7-8

Context

7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! Certainly, I 1  would not have known sin except through the law. For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else 2  if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” 3  7:8 But sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of wrong desires. 4  For apart from the law, sin is dead.

1 sn Romans 7:7-25. There has been an enormous debate over the significance of the first person singular pronouns (“I”) in this passage and how to understand their referent. Did Paul intend (1) a reference to himself and other Christians too; (2) a reference to his own pre-Christian experience as a Jew, struggling with the law and sin (and thus addressing his fellow countrymen as Jews); or (3) a reference to himself as a child of Adam, reflecting the experience of Adam that is shared by both Jews and Gentiles alike (i.e., all people everywhere)? Good arguments can be assembled for each of these views, and each has problems dealing with specific statements in the passage. The classic argument against an autobiographical interpretation was made by W. G. Kümmel, Römer 7 und die Bekehrung des Paulus. A good case for seeing at least an autobiographical element in the chapter has been made by G. Theissen, Psychologische Aspekte paulinischer Theologie [FRLANT], 181-268. One major point that seems to favor some sort of an autobiographical reading of these verses is the lack of any mention of the Holy Spirit for empowerment in the struggle described in Rom 7:7-25. The Spirit is mentioned beginning in 8:1 as the solution to the problem of the struggle with sin (8:4-6, 9).

2 tn Grk “I would not have known covetousness.”

3 sn A quotation from Exod 20:17 and Deut 5:21.

4 tn Or “covetousness.”



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