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Romans 7:7-16

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. 7:9 And I was once alive apart from the law, but with the coming of the commandment sin became alive 7:10 and I died. So 5  I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life brought death! 6  7:11 For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died. 7  7:12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.

7:13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, so that it would be shown to be sin, produced death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. 8  7:15 For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate. 9  7:16 But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good. 10 

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.”

5 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “So” to indicate the result of the statement in the previous verse. Greek style often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” but English style generally does not.

6 tn Grk “and there was found in/for me the commandment which was for life – this was for death.”

7 tn Or “and through it killed me.”

8 tn Grk “under sin.”

9 tn Grk “but what I hate, this I do.”

10 tn Grk “I agree with the law that it is good.”



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