Commentary on Romans 7:7-25

Notes (NET Translation)

Since there is much debate over the identity of the “I” in this passage, let us begin by summarizing the main purposes of the passage. The first purpose is to vindicate the law from any suggestion that it is sinful or evil. The second purpose is to show how the law has come to be a negative force in the history of salvation.1

We may divide this section into two major parts, v. 13 being a “bridge” between the two. In 7:7-12 Paul uses a narrative to show how sin has used the law to bring death. Verses 14-25, on the other hand, use present tense verbs to describe the constant battle between the “mind,” which agrees with God’s law, and the “flesh,” or the “members,” which succumb to “the law of sin.” The result, then, is that the law of God, which aroused sin, is impotent to break the power of sin.2

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! Certainly, I 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 if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”

Paul is going into an impersonation or speech-in-character. The rhetorical questions serve as a transition from Paul’s authorial voice. Ancient readers would expect to see a difference in characterization from the authorial voice going forward. In 7:7-25 the speaker talks very personally about coming under the Law, learning about desire and sin, and being unable to do what he wants to do because of enslavement to sin. The “I” of this passage has been identified with (1) Adam, (2) Israel, (3) Paul, (4) everyone, and (5) combinations of the above.

In favor of the Adamic reference is the fact that only Adam was truly alive (7:9) in the full theological sense before encountering and transgressing the commandment in the Garden of Eden. Paul holds that the entire human race, except Jesus Christ, enters the world dead and condemned in God’s sight (5:12-19). Adam died upon encountering the commandment that was intended to bring life (Rom 7:9-11; Gen 2:17; 3:3, 19). Paul mentions coveting (7:7) because Adam and Eve desired to eat from the forbidden tree (Gen 3:6). Sin is personified and said to have deceived the speaker, just as the serpent did to Adam (Rom 7:11; Gen 3:13; 2 Cor 11:3; 1 Tim 2:14). Apart from the law sin is truly dead (7:8) in the sense that it did not exist before the commandment was given to Adam.

But, given the context, the “law” is the Law of Moses. The commandment, “Do not covet”, is an abbreviation of the tenth commandment from the Law of Moses (Ex 20:17; Deut 5:21). Paul distinguishes between the era of Adam and the era of the law (5:13-14).

In response, though, it is noted that Jewish tradition teaches that Adam possessed the Torah in the garden and was responsible for obeying it. For instance, Tg. Neof. 1 on Gen. 2:15 says that Adam in the garden was charged with observing the commandments in the law. Paul, it is claimed, reflects that tradition here. This particular argument is unconvincing, for a central part of Pauline theology is that the Mosaic law came into existence at a certain point in redemptive history (Rom. 5:13-14). This is the basis on which he refutes the theology of the Judaizers in Gal. 3:15-4:7. If he granted that Adam himself possessed the Torah, then his argument in Gal. 3-4 is shipwrecked. Paul’s own writings demonstrate that he did not follow Jewish tradition in the theory that Adam knew the Torah. For Paul the Torah given to Moses had clear temporal markers on each side. On the one hand it originated at Mount Sinai (cf. Rom. 5:20) when the Mosaic covenant was inaugurated, and on the other hand it came to an end when the promises made to Abraham were fulfilled through the coming of Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:15-4:7). To sum up, the view that Paul refers to Adam is attractive, but it should be rejected since Adam did not encounter the Mosaic law.3

For a similar reason, the “I” should not be identified with everyone because the Gentiles were not given the Law of Moses.

Those who see a reference to Israel believe it describes Israel’s reception of the law at Sinai, their transgression, and their subsequent death. We must remember that sin exists apart from the law (2:12; 5:13) but transgression, the deliberate violation of God’s commandments, does not (4:15). The giving of the law provoked transgression (Rom 4:15; 5:14, 20; 1 Cor 15:56; Gal 3:19-22).

The difficulty facing this position is in understanding how Israel was alive apart from the law (7:9). In this context, “life” seems to be more than physical life on earth. It seems to be the opposite of the eschatological death also mentioned in this context. As heirs of Adam, Israel entered the world dead and condemned (5:12-19).

The final option is that Paul is speaking of himself. Advocates of this position believe this makes the best sense of the very personal language in vv 14-25, especially v 24: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” If “I” refers to Paul in vv 14-25 then it is most likely that it refers to him in vv 7-13 too.

If we see this passage as autobiographical and confessional then we can see how “life” and “death” are not used in their full eschatological sense.

Thus when he says “I was living formerly apart from the law,” he reflects on his own consciousness before receiving the law. When the law intruded on his consciousness with the prohibition against coveting, he died (i.e., he experienced separation from God through his transgression).4

An objection to this view is that there was no time in Paul’s life when he was without the law (7:9) because Jewish children were instructed in the law from their earliest years (2 Tim 3:15; Josephus, Ag Ap 2.18 § 178; Philo, Gaius 16 § 115; 31 § 210).

But Paul in this text refers to the law’s impinging on his consciousness. One can receive moral instruction when young, and yet the meaning and import of such moral norms may not strike home. In this text Paul reflects on the time when the prohibition against coveting impinged on his consciousness, and it is unlikely that this occurred in his childhood days.5

Another objection to this view is that Paul nowhere else describes a pre-Christian struggle with the law. Elsewhere, in fact, he stresses his zeal and obedience to the law (Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:4-6). He says that “according to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless” (Phil 3:6).

The objection here is hardly compelling. When Paul claims to be blameless, he is not saying that he was sinless. Nor is it necessary to claim that before his conversion Paul was fully conscious of the presence of sin in his life, for in this text Paul as a believer looks back on his pre-Christian existence. I conclude, then, that the primary reference is to Paul himself in this passage. Paul relays his own experience because it is paradigmatic, showing the fate of all those under the law. We can also understand why so many scholars see a reference to Adam or Israel, for Paul’s experience recapitulates the history of Adam and Israel. All through human history the encounter with the law has produced death instead of life.6

This history “should serve to remind all of us that salvation can never be earned by doing the ‘law,’ but only by casting ourselves on the grace and mercy of God in Christ.”7

With that digression out of the way, we need to recall that the law has been associated with sin and death (3:20; 4:15; 5:20; 6:14; 7:5) and therefore the reader may ask whether the law itself is sin. Absolutely not, says Paul. The role of the law is to bring knowledge of sin.

But what kind of “knowing” is this? Perhaps the most obvious possibility is that Paul is talking about the law as defining sin: through the law, the revelation of the righteous standard of God, “I” come to know that certain acts are sinful, that, for example, my inner desire to “possess” is nothing but a “coveting” that is prohibited by God. This is no doubt true, but Paul implies earlier that such knowledge is available even to those who do not have the (Mosaic) law (1:32; 2:14-16). The context, in which Paul stresses that the law reveals sin to be “sin” and renders sin “utterly sinful” (v. 13), suggests a stronger nuance: that through the law “I” come to “understand” or “recognize” the real nature and power of sin. The law, by branding “sin” as transgression (cf. 4:15; 5:13-14) and bringing wrath and death (4:15; 7:8-11, 13), unmasks sin in its true colors. But we should probably go further, and conceive this “understanding” of sin not in a purely noetic way but in terms of actual experience: through the law, “I” have come to experience sin for what it really is. Through the law sin “worked in me” all kinds of sinful desires (v. 8), and through the law sin “came to life” and brought death (vv. 9-11). It is through this actual experience of sin, then, that “I” come to understand the real “sinfulness” of sin.8

8 But sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of wrong desires. For apart from the law, sin is dead.

The commandment against coveting (7:7) focuses on the desires of the heart and was believed to be the root of all sin by many Jews (Philo, Spec Laws 4.15 §§ 84-94; Decal 28 §&sect 142, 150; 32 § 173; Apoc Mos 19.3; Apoc Abr 24.9; Tg Neof 1 on Ex 20:17). Sin is personified as using this commandment to accomplish its purpose. People are drawn to forbidden fruits and desire autonomy from God’s commands. Sin is dead apart from the law in the sense that it is not active or powerful (which is not to say it is non-existent).

9 And I was once alive apart from the law, but with the coming of the commandment sin became alive 10 and I died. So I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life brought death!

The law promised life to Israel if it was obeyed (Lev 18:5; Deut 27-28; Ezek 20:11) but, in fact, it brought death when she failed to obey it.

11 For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died.

Many scholars pounce on Paul’s use of the verb “deceive” here as the clearest objective indication that he is thinking of the experience of Adam in the Garden. They think that Paul is putting sin in the role of the serpent, which springs to life to use the commandment as a means of deceiving the first human pair and bringing upon them spiritual disaster. These interpreters may be right to see allusion to the paratypical “temptation” experience; but the reference is not at all clear. In keeping with Paul’s intention throughout this passage, the direct reference must certainly be to the law’s function within Israel. Probably Paul thinks of the way that the “promise of life” held out by the law “deceived” Israel into thinking that it could attain life through it. But the attempts of Israel to find life through the law brought only death–not because obeying the law itself is sinful, or worthy of death, but because the law could not be fulfilled.9

12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.

The law is holy, righteous, and good (Deut 4:8; Neh 9:13) because it was sin that used the law with evil intent. “The exceeding sinfulness of sin is revealed in that it will even use a good thing to produce an evil end–death. This was not the intended end or purpose of the Law.”10

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.

Sin is the ultimate cause of death but it uses the law as an instrument to bring about death. By using the holy, righteous, and good law sin reveals that it is “utterly sinful”. The violation of the law invokes the sanctions of the law — the judgment of God.

What Paul means, in light of Rom. 4:15, 5:13–14, and 5:20, is that the “good” commandment of God, by strictly defining sin, turns sin into conscious and willful rebellion against God. Sin is always bad; but it becomes worse–even more “sinful”–when it involves deliberate violation of God’s good will for his people. The law, by making sin even worse than before, reveals sin in its true colors.11

14 For we know that the law is spiritual — but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin.

It is debated whether the experience depicted in vv 14-25 is that of a regenerate (Christian) or unregenerate (non-Christian) person. Decent arguments can be made for both positions.

The following reasons are given for thinking a regenerate person is referred to:

(1) The shift from past tense verbs in vv 7-13 (9 verbs) to present tense verbs in vv 14-25 (26 verbs) is most naturally explained by assuming Paul is describing his pre-Christian experience in vv 7-13 and his present Christian experience in vv 14-25.

But vv 14-25 can be understood as describing the state that resulted from the events narrated in vv 7-13. Past events are narrated in the past tense while the continuing status of those involved in the events are narrated in the present tense. Verses 14-25 explain how sin was able to use the law to bring death.

(2) Only the regenerate delight in and seek to obey God’s law (vv 15-20, 22, 25), while the unregenerate do not seek after God (3:11) and cannot submit to the law of God (8:5-8). In fact, the unregenerate are opposed to God and his will (Rom 1:28; Eph 4:17; Col 2:18; 1 Tim 6:5; 2 Tim 3:8; Tit 2:15).

But the non-Christian Jew, including Paul himself before his conversion, does seek to obey God’s law (9:31-32; 10:2; Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:4-6). What he cannot do is defeat sin with the law alone. That is the point of vv 14-25.

(3) In Paul’s letters, only Christians are said to possess an “inner being” (Rom 7:22; cf. 2 Cor 4:16; Eph 3:16).

But it’s not as if Paul explicitly denies non-Christians have an “inner being”. We can’t draw a conclusion from a mere two uses of the term. In Greek the term denotes the inner, or mental, or spiritual aspect of a person.12 We have no reason to think Paul believed non-Christians did not have this aspect.

(4) “The passage concludes, after Paul’s mention of the deliverance wrought by God in Christ, with a reiteration of the divided state of the egō (vv. 24–25). This shows that the division and struggle of the egō that Paul depicts in these verses is that of the person already saved by God in Christ.”13

But another take can be given on vv 24-25. “In personal identification with his own past, as he now views it, Paul decries his wretched, helpless state and cries for deliverance (v. 24). Here Paul can forbear no longer and interjects thanksgiving for the deliverance that has come (v. 25a). Finally, he returns to summarize the divided state of the Jew under the law, serving ‘two masters’–the nomos of God and yet also the nomos of sin (v. 25b).”14

The following reasons are given for thinking an unregenerate person is referred to:

(1) The “for” in v 14 explains how sin is responsible for death (v 13). Since v 13 refers to the unregenerate then it means vv 14-25 do too.

(2) The connection of “I” to “the flesh” (v 14, 18, 25) suggests that Paul is elaborating on the unregenerate condition from 7:5 of being “in the flesh”.

(3) The “I” is depicted as struggling on his own without the aid of the Holy Spirit. By contrast, the Holy Spirit is mentioned 19 times in chapter 8.

(4) The “I” is a slave to sin (vv 14, 23) and this contrasts to believers who are released from the power of sin (6:2, 6, 11, 18-22; 7:5-6; 8:2, 9).

Each of these expressions depicts an objective status, and it is difficult to see how they can all be applied to the same person in the same spiritual condition without doing violence to Paul’s language. In chaps. 6 and 8, respectively, Paul makes it clear that “being free from under sin” and “being free from the law of sin and death” are conditions that are true for every Christian. If one is a Christian, then these things are true; if one is not, then they are not true. This means that the situation depicted in vv. 14–25 cannot be that of the “normal” Christian, nor of an immature Christian. Nor can it describe the condition of any person living by the law because the Christian who is mistakenly living according to the law is yet a Christian and is therefore not “under sin” or a “prisoner of the law of sin.”15

Earlier in Romans (3:9), Paul summarizes his teaching about people outside of Christ by asserting that they are all “under sin.” Christ delivers the believer from this condition, but the egō here in Rom. 7 confesses that he is still in that condition.16

(5) While Paul admits that believers can continue to struggle with sin (Rom 6:12-23; 13:12-14; 1 Cor 3:1-3; Gal 5:17; 6:1), what is depicted here is defeat by sin.

But Paul’s beliefs about sin in the life of the believer are complex. The believer is not yet completely victorious over sin. One can interpret v 24 as describing when the Christian is delivered from the body of death at the resurrection. In 8:10 Paul says the body is dead because of sin while still noting that believers possess the Holy Spirit (8:8-9). Liberation from the sinful body is a future occurrence (8:11, 13, 23).

(6) The “I” struggles with obeying the Law of Moses but Christians are released from the dictates of the law (6:14; 7:4-6).

(7) There is a dramatic contrast between 7:14-25 and 8:1-17. “Now” there is no condemnation for those in Christ (8:1). It is hard to imagine that the regenerate condition is depicted in both passages. Since the regenerate condition is surely depicted in 8:1-17 we must take 7:14-25 to depict the unregenerate condition.

I follow Douglas Moo in understanding the passage to be referring to an unregenerate person. Moo elaborates:

Specifically, I think that Paul is looking back, from his Christian understanding, to the situation of himself, and other Jews like him, living under the law of Moses. Of course, Paul is not giving us a full picture of that situation; he is concentrating on the negatives because this is what he must do to prove how useless the law was to deliver Jews from their bondage to sin. We might say, then, that Rom. 7:14–25 describes from a personal viewpoint the stage in salvation history that Paul delineates objectively in Gal. 3:19–4:3.17

In v 14, Paul assumes that his readers know the law is spiritual (pneumatikos). The first person plural (“we”) draws the reader into the argument. Elsewhere in Paul’s letters things are spiritual because they are God-given and inspired (Rom 1:11; 15:27; 1 Cor 2:13, 15; 3:1; 9:11; 10:4; 12:1; 14:1, 37; 15:44, 46; Gal 6:1; Eph 1:3; 5:19; Col 3:16) so it is safe to say the law is spiritual because it is God given. The “I” is unspiritual because it is motivated by worldly desires (1 Cor 3:1-3). The cause of the human predicament is humanity’s slavery to sin, not the law.

15 For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want — instead, I do what I hate.

The words οὐ γινώσκω (ou ginōskō, I do not know [understand]) do not mean that the “I” is unconscious of or unaware of one’s actions. Nor does it signify doing what one disapproves of or hates. What it means is that one cannot fully comprehend the depth of sin in oneself. The second half of verse 15 supports this interpretation. The “I” does not do what it wishes; instead, it practices what it hates.18

16 But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good.

The “I” realizes that the law is good but he is not able to keep it.

By depicting Israel’s ongoing experience under the law in this way, Paul seems to speak in a way that is at odds with the account of his own preconversion experience under the law when he says that he was in respect to ‘righteousness based on the law, faultless’ (Phil 3:6). The apparent contradiction may be resolved as follows: In 7:15-16 Paul is speaking from a Christian perspective of the way he now sees Israel’s life under the law, whereas in Philippians 3:6 he is dealing with what we might call his Jewish credentials. He claims to have been a Jew whose pedigree and piety could not be called into question. It is very unlikely that he is claiming never to have fallen short of what the law demanded, or never to have suffered the qualms of conscience because he had done so.19

17 But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me.

Attention has been drawn to possible similarities between what Paul says here and the Jewish idea of the two impulses, the ‘evil impulse’ and the ‘good impulse’. In Jewish thought a person’s observance of Torah enabled him/her to follow the good impulse and overcome the evil impulse. For Paul, however, deliverance came, not through observance of the law enabling the good impulse to triumph, but rather through what God has done in Christ. By laying the blame on ‘sin’ Paul is not denying human responsibility for sinful actions, but recognizing ‘sin’ as a power operating within humanity.20

18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it.

Paul qualifies his statement that “nothing good lives in me” with “in my flesh”. Verse 23 says that the “law of sin” is in my members and v 25 contrasts “flesh” with “mind”. Given this context, “flesh” in this verse probably refers to the material body as opposed to the fallen nature of humanity. The material body is depicted as particularly susceptible to sin (but not as inherently evil).

His point is that the Jew under the law, and, by extension, other non-Christians, do have a genuine striving to do what is right, as defined by God (cf. also 2:14–15). But this striving after the right, because of the unbroken power of sin, can never so “take over” the mind and will that it can effectively and consistently direct the body to do what is good.21

19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want!

20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me.

Sin, not the law, is responsible for the human predicament. “Once again, Paul is scarcely saying human beings are exculpated from guilt. What he underscores is the power of sin in taking captive the ‘I.'”22

21 So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me.

In this verse “law” (nomos) probably means rule: “I find it to be a rule that when I want to to good, evil is present with me.”

22 For I delight in the law of God in my inner being.

The “inner being” is contrasted to the outer flesh (vv 18, 25) and members (v 23).

23 But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members.

The “law of my mind” is parallel with the “law of God” (v 22). The “law of sin” is called a “different law” from the law of God. It refers to the tyranny that sin exerts in people’s lives. It is the law of sin, not the law of God, that is the root cause of the human predicament. The law of sin is said to have won victory over the law of the mind and taken the “I” captive.

Paul makes clear that this “reason” of people apart from Christ is perverted and darkened, preventing them from thinking correctly about God and the world. Here, however, Paul implies that the mind is an ally of God’s law; many therefore conclude that Paul must be describing a Christian, with a “renewed” mind able to respond favorably to God’s will. But this does not follow. Granted that the mind of people apart from Christ is tragically and fatally flawed, it does not follow that the mind cannot understand and respond to God at all. All that Paul is saying is that the “reason” or “will” of the non-Christian is capable of approving the demands of God in his law. Especially if, as we have argued, Paul is speaking of his own experience under the law as typical of others, this capability cannot be denied (cf. 1:32; 2:14–15).23

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

“To be ‘wretched’ is the opposite of being ‘blessed’. It means to be miserable, in mental or emotional turmoil.”24 The “body of death” describes a person sentenced to spiritual death.

25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Verse 25a anticipates the deliverance that will be discussed in 8:1-13. The use of “our” instead of “I” may signal an interjection. Verse 25b summarizes vv 14-24.

Paul has here described those living in the shadow of Adam, knowing something of God’s will or Law but unable by willpower or by the guidance of that Law to free themselves from the bondage of sin and death. His largely Gentile audience would recognize this discussion about enthrallment as describing not just what the life of a Jew might be like apart from Christ but what the life of any creature of God, Gentile or Jewish, is like apart from the liberation in Christ. Paul has narrated a crisis in the life of such a person, not the person’s ordinary day-to-day experience. This person has reached the point of despair over human inability to please God and do his will and cries out for help. Paul will describe that help found in Christ in ch. 8.25

Bibliography

Kruse, Colin G. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.

Metzger, Bruce M., ed. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Second Edition. Hendrickson Pub, 2005.

Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 1998.

Witherington III, Ben, and Darlene Hyatt. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004.


  1. Moo 1996, 423 
  2. Moo 1996, 424 (emphasis added) 
  3. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 7316-7325 
  4. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 7370-7372 
  5. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 7388-7390 
  6. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 7396-7401 
  7. Moo 1996, 441 
  8. Moo 1996, 433-434 
  9. Moo 1996, 440 
  10. Witherington III 2004, 192 
  11. Moo 1996, 453 
  12. Moo 1996, 462 
  13. Moo 1996, 446–447 
  14. Moo 1996, 451 
  15. Moo 1996, 448 
  16. Moo 1996, 454 
  17. Moo 1996, 447–448 
  18. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 7539-7544 
  19. Kruse 2012, 307 
  20. Kruse 2012, 307-308 
  21. Moo 1996, 459 
  22. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Location 7576 
  23. Moo 1996, 464–465 
  24. Kruse 2012, 310 
  25. Witherington III 2004, 204-205 

William Hasker on Causal Closure and an Evolutionary Argument Against Epiphenomenalism

From here

This review has not examined in detail the various arguments presented; this is precluded by space limitations and by the extent and variety of the material. There is however one argument for which an exception needs to be made. The argument is especially prominent in the essays by Wilson, Angel, and Papineau in Part II, but it is present implicitly or explicitly in many other places. It may be stated as follows:

(1) Nothing that goes on in the brain violates the predictions of physical science.

(2) If there were an immaterial soul affecting the brain this would lead to a violation of physical formulas. Therefore,

(3) There is no non-physical soul that might survive bodily death.

Premise (1) is a consequence of the causal closure of the physical domain: any physical event that has a cause has a physical cause. Or as Angel puts it, “no natural change violates a prediction (or outcome) in physical formulas” (378). Granted this, the rest of the argument is plausible. If this argu­ment is conceded, it gives anti-survivalists most of what they want in a single stroke. To be sure, there are some materialist views of the resurrection that may be consistent with the soundness of (1)-(3). These views would not, however, qualify as among the more plausible and attrac­tive versions of belief in an afterlife. This argument, then, needs to be addressed.

The first point to be made is that, in spite of frequent assertions to the contrary, premise (1) is not known to be true. What is in question is whether an immaterial mind may be exerting a causal influence on what happens in the brain at a micro-level. Influence on this scale is far below the limits of our present capacity to detect. Furthermore, we have only the vaguest notion of what it is we would be trying to detect because we know little about how the brain actually works at this level. I am tempted to say that we don’t know the “machine code” for the brain, but this understates the case. We don’t even know how the basic hard­ware (rather, wetware) functions with regard to giving rise to particular kinds of conscious experience. We don’t know, in spite of many proposals, the neural correlate of consciousness, the minimum neural functioning that is required for any kind of conscious experience to occur. We are roughly in the position of a member of a primitive society who, confronted with a transistor radio, reasons that since there is no human being speaking in the vicinity, the radio must be speaking to him on its own. He simply lacks the equipment that would be required to detect the electromagnetic waves that are carrying the signal to the radio, as well as the knowledge to appreciate their significance. Under these circumstances, the claim that we have experimental verification of premise (1) can’t be made out. One might, to be sure, affirm (1) as a plausible extrapolation from the scientific knowledge we do have, in the light of one’s own overall (probably naturalistic) worldview. Understood in this way, however, the argument no longer has any compelling force against mind-body dualism. Furthermore there is an important objection to (1) even taken in this non-dogmatic way.

This leads to the second point: there is strong reason to think that premise (1) is false. Here’s the argument. We humans are able to engage in conscious rational thought, resulting in a reasonably accurate apprehension of the world in which we live. This can be taken as a datum; clearly, anti-survivalists cannot afford to challenge it, relying as they do on scientific knowledge of many different kinds. This datum, however, is a fact which requires explana­tion. There is, furthermore, one particular sort of explanation which will be accepted by most readers of this review, probably including all anti-survivalists. That expla­nation is found in evolutionary epistemology. The basic idea is familiar: the sorts of mental functioning which lead to a generally accurate apprehension of the world lead thereby to behavior which is conducive to survival and reproduction, and so those sorts of mental functioning tend to prevail over others in the course of evolution. This may or may not be the complete explanation for human rational capabilities (I doubt that it is), but it does seem to be an important part of the explanation.

Now, here is the crucial point: If premise (1) is true, that is, if causal closure obtains, then evolutionary epistemology cannot be the explanation for human rationality. The reasoning is simple and compelling. If causal closure is true, then everything that happens in the brain has its complete explanation in prior physical events, no doubt mainly earlier brain-events. But this means that prior mental events play no role in determining the state of a person’s brain — and therefore, they play no role in the organism’s behavior. It follows, furthermore, that mental events and processes are irrelevant to behavior and are thus invisible to natural selection, which can only operate on physical structures and physical behavior. So natural selection cannot select for superior mental processes, nor can it play any role in explaining the effectiveness of the mental processes we actually employ in getting to know the world. This enormously important fact — that we are able to reason about the world and gain know­ledge of it — is left completely unexplained. I predict, furthermore, that within the generally naturalistic framework that is presupposed in this discussion, it will not be possible to find a promising alternative explanation.

It is sometimes thought that this problem can be surmounted by adopting mind-body identity theory. If the physical brain-event is also a mental event, then the mental event is after all causally relevant to behavior, and natural selection can operate to select superior mental processes. This however is a mistake. We have, it is proposed, a single event, which has both physical characteristics and mental characteristics. Notice, however, thatonly the physical characteristics of the event are causally effective. The causal consequences of that event will be those, and only those, that flow from it as determined by physical forces, as recognized by the true laws of physics. The mental characteristics of the event, whatever they may be, have no effect whatever in determining the subsequent behavior. Once again, natural selection is unable either to select for superior mental function or to explain the efficacy of the mental processes we actually employ. We are left completely without any explanation for the fact, if it is a fact, that mental events that lead to evolutionarily successful outcomes generally coincide with those that involve an accurate representation of the world. The general effectiveness of our reasoning processes is still entirely unexplained. I submit that any view of the mind and the self that has this consequence is at a severe disadvantage. The price for accepting premise (1) of the argument is extremely high.

Commentary on Romans 7:1-6

Notes (NET Translation)

1 Or do you not know, brothers and sisters (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law is lord over a person as long as he lives?

The phrase “do you not know” introduces teaching which Paul assumes his readers are familiar with. He is elaborating on his assertion that Christians are not “under law” (6:14). “Those who know the law” could refer to Jews or Gentiles who know the Law of Moses. The principle that his audience knows is that “the law is lord over a person as long as he lives”. Interestingly, this principle is similar to a maxim of the rabbis: “if a person is dead, he is free from the Torah and the fulfilling of the commandments” (b. Shabb. 30a, Shabb. 151b bar.).

Significantly, the verb κυριεύειν (kyrieuein, to rule) used in Rom. 6:9 and 14 of the lordship of death and sin is related here to the law. Paul is not referring merely to the rule of the law in an abstract sense but to its connection with the lordship of death and sin. This observation is supported by 6:14–15, which conjoins being under the law with being under the rule of sin. The lordship of law envisioned here, therefore, is “a baneful thing, a mark of man’s state of bondage within the present age” (Dunn 1988a: 359). Paul is probably thinking particularly of the history of Israel in which the rule of law and the dominion of sin were coordinate.1

2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of the marriage. 3 So then, if she is joined to another man while her husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she is joined to another man, she is not an adulteress.

Verses 2-3 serve as an illustration of the principle from verse 1: “the law is lord over a person as long as he lives”. This illustration is not an allegory for the Christian. It merely illustrates that death frees one from the law and enables one to enter into a new relationship.

4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you could be joined to another, to the one who was raised from the dead, to bear fruit to God.

Like the woman in verses 2-3, a death has severed the Christian from the Law’s authority and enabled him to be joined to another, Jesus Christ. The believer is transferred from the old realm to the new. To “die to the law” means to no longer live under its authority or power (cf. Gal 2:19).

But how could it be said of Gentile converts that they would need to “die to the law”? In order to evade this problem, some expositors suggest that the “law” in 7:4 is moral law generally or that the “brothers” whom Paul addresses in this passage are exclusively Jewish Christians. But neither solution is acceptable. While Paul never makes the matter clear, we suggest that Paul views the Jewish experience with the Mosaic law as paradigmatic for the experience of all people with “law.” Israel stands in redemptive history as a kind of “test case,” and its relationship with the law is ipso facto applicable to the relationship of all people with that “law” which God has revealed to them (cf. 2:14–15). In 7:4, then, while being “put to death to the law” is strictly applicable only to Jewish Christians, Paul can affirm the same thing of the whole Roman community because the experience of Israel with the Mosaic law is, in a transferred sense, also their experience. And, of course, Paul also wants to make clear that, in the new era, in which righteousness is revealed “apart from the law” (cf. 3:21), Gentiles have no need to come under the law to become full-fledged members of the people of God.2

The body of Christ on the cross is the instrument through which the believer dies to the law (cf. Eph 2:13-15; Col 1:22; 2:14). To “bear fruit to God” is to live a life of righteousness and obedience.

5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.

In this verse, “in the flesh” refers to one’s pre-Christian life (cf. Gal 5:13-24). The “flesh” (sarx) is viewed as a power of the old age.

The NIV’s ‘the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us’, when translated literally, is ‘the sinful passions that were at work through the law in our members’. What Paul is saying is not that the sinful passions were aroused by the law but that they were at work through the law. He is not blaming the law but showing that it was, as it were, the unwilling means through which sinful passions were at work. This is something that Paul will spell out in 7:7ff. Suffice it to say here that for Paul the law, far from being an effective deterrent to sin, was actually laid under tribute by sinful passions prior to our conversion to bring us into greater bondage.3

6 But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.

Christ’s death is the agent of liberation from the law. As before, the law is seen as a power.

There have been many misinterpretations of Paul’s meaning here and in Rom. 2.29 and 2 Cor. 3.6. In all three places, “the contrast between ‘Spirit’ and ‘letter’ has nothing to do with several popularizations of this language, e.g., between the ‘spirit and the letter’ of the law, or between ‘literal and spiritual’! This is eschatological and covenantal language. ‘Letter’ has to do with the old covenant, that came to an end through Christ and the Spirit. As 2 Cor. 3.6 makes clear, the new covenant is a covenant characterized by the effective presence of the Spirit.” The issue here then is not hermeneutics but salvation history. The era of the Torah covenant is over. The era of the new covenant, characterized by the full endowment of the Spirit, has dawned. The contrast between old and new could hardly be more clearly drawn, and this prepares for what follows in chs. 7-8.4

Bibliography

Kruse, Colin G. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.

Metzger, Bruce M., ed. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Second Edition. Hendrickson Pub, 2005.

Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 1998.

Witherington III, Ben, and Darlene Hyatt. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004.


  1. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 7063-7067 
  2. Moo 1996, 417 
  3. Kruse 2012, 295 
  4. Witherington III 2004, 177 

Impression of King Hezekiah’s royal seal discovered

Impression of King Hezekiah’s royal seal discovered

Ophel excavations south of Temple Mount in Jerusalem

The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar, have unearthed an impression of the royal seal of King Hezekiah (727-698 BCE).

The Perils of Assisted Reproductive Technology #5

Dad demands abortion after surrogate learns she’s having triplets

A man who paid a surrogate to have his baby became overwhelmed when he learned she was having triplets — and demanded the woman abort one of the fetuses while threatening her with financial ruin, she claims.

“They are human beings. I bonded with these kids. This is just not right,” mom-to-be Melissa Cook told The Post on Tuesday.

The woman recognizes that the triplets are human beings and that it would not be right to kill them. However, she doesn’t seem to question whether it is right for a woman to bond with the children and then give them away to a stranger she has never met.

The babies’ dad, a Georgia man, hired Cook for $33,000 to have a child by in-vitro fertilization using his sperm and the eggs of a 20-year-old donor.

Was this man planning to raise the child by himself or does he have a partner?

The dad “understands, albeit does not agree, with your decision not to reduce,” his lawyer, Robert Warmsley, wrote in a Friday letter to Cook, who has never met the sperm donor.

Note that the word “reduce” means “kill”.

Given the pressure she’s under, Cook said Tuesday that she was wavering on her decision to keep all three babies.

“I have to reduce. I’m scared. I don’t want to suffer,” said Cook, who is split from her husband and lives in Woodland Hills, Calif.

The article states that the woman is already raising four children and had a fifth child as a surrogate for someone else. Now we learn that she is split from her husband. One has to wonder if she became a surrogate for the money and now is making life or death decisions based on what is financially best for her, not the unborn.

Jennifer Lahl, head of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, a group that opposes surrogacy, said the Cook case is the first she’s aware of in which a surrogate mom has gone public to expose the pressure she’s under to undergo an abortion.

“Why on earth would Cuomo want to set up a system like this in New York? It’s parent breeding,” said Lahl, who is seeking to help Cook.

At least 22 states allow surrogacy fee arrangements.

Why indeed.

The Perils of Assisted Reproductive Technology #4

S.F. woman who sought to have embryos preserved loses legal case

A judge ruled Wednesday that the frozen embryos of a divorced San Francisco couple must be thawed and destroyed despite the ex-wife’s desire — over her former husband’s objections — to use them to become pregnant.

The decision by Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo clarifies in an era of emerging reproductive technologies what happens to frozen embryos in California when one person in a dispute wants them and the other one doesn’t. The judge said that directives signed by the couple agreeing that the embryos be “thawed and discarded” in the event of a divorce must be respected.

“It is a disturbing consequence of modern biological technology that the fate of the nascent life, which the embryos in this case represent, must be determined in a court by reference to cold legal principles,” Massullo wrote in an 83-page tentative ruling. “However, only an infinitesimally small percentage of the four million frozen embryos currently in storage in the United States are destined to be implanted and brought to life.

“There must be rules to govern the disposition of the rest.”

  • Presumably, a contract between a husband and a wife that said their born children should be killed in the event of a divorce would be unenforceable. Instead of treating embryos as the human beings they are, our law treats them as property. The judge in this case says the directives must be respected. I would be interested to know if there is any legal basis on which a judge could say such directives cannot be respected because they involve the killing of a human being.
  • It is not disturbing that the fate of the embryos must be determined by legal principles, rather, it is disturbing that our legal principles do not provide a right to life for humans at every stage of development. A consistent pro-life position requires opposition to IVF.

Lee’s therapies eradicated the cancer, but her marriage to Findley did not survive. Findley filed for divorce in August 2013. Lee, wanting to take advantage of her last chance to have biological children, brought the matter of the frozen embryos to court, arguing that the agreement they had signed was not binding and violated her right to procreate.

  • Mimi Lee already had children. She successfully procreated.
  • Just imagine a man trying to tell a woman that she can’t have an abortion because he has a right to procreate.
  • Of course we don’t have a right to procreate. You have to be physically able to procreate and have a willing partner.

She testified in court that the agreement was hastily signed and that such directives are not set in stone.

Life and death decisions should not be done hastily. Perhaps the silver lining is that this woman will never be a mother.

Magnus said the courts have been reluctant to enforce parenthood on someone who does not want to be a parent and have put great weight on contractual agreements made in advance. “It’s just hard to imagine any circumstance in this case where the court would have ruled differently than it did,” said Magnus, who directs the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics.

The obligatory bioethicist appears. Lee and Findley were already parents. They “forced” parenthood on themselves.

“The fact that material is cryogenically preserved should not give one party the ability to force the other into unwanted parenthood or to have to relinquish their right to their biological child,” Silberberg said in a statement.

Note that embryos are considered nothing more than “material” by Silberberg, who makes the same errors concerning parenthood as Magnus.

Commentary on Romans 6:15-23

Notes (NET Translation)

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not!

Another charge against Paul’s gospel is that by teaching believers they are not under the law (6:14) he is encouraging moral anarchy. The law was viewed as the primary deterrent to sin so its removal would be seen as an encouragement to sin. Paul strongly rejects this claim. He is not saying Christians are free from moral norms. He “means that they are free from the power of sin, which was indissolubly connected with the Mosaic covenant. To say that believers are under grace means that they now have the power to keep the moral norms of the law (cf. 8:4; 13:8–10). Thus the freedom from the law trumpeted here does not imply that believers are free from the law in every sense.”1

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or obedience resulting in righteousness?

It is not completely clear whether Paul means by this that habitual obedience manifests a condition of slavery or that habitual obedience constitutes or leads to a condition of slavery. In light of the context, where the verb “present” again occurs in the imperative (v. 19; and cf. v. 13), the latter, with its implicit exhortation, is more likely. Christians, who have been set free from sin by their union with Christ, must recognize that, were they constantly to yield to the voice of temptation, they would effectively become slaves of sin again. The Lord Jesus made the same point: “Every person who is committing sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Without taking anything away from the reality of the transfer from one master to another, then, Paul wants to make clear that “slavery” is ultimately not just a “legal” status but a living experience. Christians, who are no longer slaves of sin, must no longer live as slaves of sin.2

Neutrality is not an option. One either obeys sin or God. “Those who think that freedom is attained by jettisoning obedience to God opt for sin as their lord.”3

17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.

The Roman Christians had transferred their spiritual allegiance from sin to righteousness.

‘From the heart’ is an expression found only here in the NT. What Paul appears to be emphasizing is that their obedience was not merely outward conformity but really ‘from the heart’, perhaps alluding to the promise of Jeremiah 31:33: ‘”This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time”, declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts”‘.4

Paul refers to a pattern of teaching (typos didaches).

Many interpreters think that Paul alludes to a “rule” or “pattern” of early Christian teaching. There is good reason to think that this is the case, but he may also want to suggest a contrast with another “pattern” of teaching. Godet thinks Paul contrasts his own “gospel” with the pattern of teaching that the Romans had already heard. But a more likely contrast is that between the “form” of Christian teaching and the “form” of Jewish teaching. Paul would then imply that Christians, while no longer “under the [Mosaic] law,” are nevertheless bound by an authoritative code of teaching. And Paul may have an additional reason for using typos. Most of the Pauline occurrences of this word refer to believers as “examples” to other believers. In these verses, typos includes the active connotation of a pattern that “molds” others. Similarly, in this verse, it is likely that typos includes the idea that Christian teaching “molds” and “forms” those who have been handed over to it.5

The phrase “entrusted to” usually refers to the passing on of Christian teaching (1 Cor 11:2, 23; 15:3), but in this verse it is the Roman Christians who are handed over to the teaching. It is as if they have been transfered from one master (sin) to another (righteousness).

Verse 18 includes the first mention of freedom in the letter. For Paul, freedom is not autonomous self-direction but deliverance from powers that prevent us from becoming what God intended. This is why freedom can involve being enslaved to righteousness and God.

19 (I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.) For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

The slavery analogy is what is put in human terms. Weakness of flesh refers to human limitations in understanding things. Paul apparently felt an analogy to everyday life was necessary to get his point across.

Paul recognizes that his language could be interpreted to mean that Christian experience bears the same marks of degradation, fear, and confinement that were typical of secular slavery. But, while shorn of these characteristics, life in the new realm of righteousness and life does mean that a person is given over to a master who requires absolute and unquestioned obedience; and to make this point, the image of slavery is quite appropriate.6

Offering themselves as slaves to righteousness, Paul says, will lead to holiness. ‘Holiness’ may be understood here as a state to which yielding one’s members to righteousness leads, a state acceptable to God and making one fit for his presence. Alternatively it could be understood as a process, so that yielding one’s members to righteousness, itself a process, finds expression in another process, sanctification. This may be one of those occasions where Paul implies both aspects: yielding one’s members to righteousness not only leads to the process of sanctification but also results in a state of fitness for God’s presence. Jewett puts it this way: ‘Although it [holiness] is ordinarily interpreted as an individual virtue, the second person plural imperatives throughout this pericope point to a new form of social life as the primary embodiment of holiness’.7

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness.

To be a slave to one master (sin) means to be free from another master (righteousness).

21 So what benefit did you then reap from those things that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death.

The expected answer is that they reaped no real benefits (lit. fruit) from being slaves to sin. Looking back, they are now ashamed of their former way of life.

22 But now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life.

In this, the last of the antitheses in this chapter, Paul confronts us with the ultimate “powers” that dominate the two respective “ages” of salvation history: sin and God. Behind believers’ subservience to “grace” (vv. 14, 15), “obedience” (v. 16), “pattern of teaching” (v. 17), and “righteousness” (vv. 18, 19), and embracing them all, is their ultimate allegiance to God.8

Sanctification is seen here as the intermediate condition between what was true of believers before they were converted and what will be true of believers at the resurrection, where they will inherit eternal life. Sanctification is then something that is supposed to lead to eternal life, not merely happen when one obtains eternal life, just as iniquity in this life leads to death. Holiness of heart and life is what God expects, indeed requires of his people. When one becomes a slave of God, a slave who obeys God’s call and will, the process of sanctification, of cleansing, has begun in that human life. It is something that must continue, as the believer continually must submit his faculties to be used in a right and righteous manner. One must present oneself to God as a living sacrifice daily. The promise given here is that believers have been freed from the bondage to sin, but freed for service and obedience to God.9

23 For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In everyday life the opsonion (payoff/wages) provided sustenance for life, but the wages of sin are just the opposite. The word “wages” implies that the penalty sin exacts is merited. On the other hand, eternal life is not a wage (something deserved) but a gift of God. The words “in Christ Jesus our Lord” “indicate that God’s gift of eternal life is granted to those who are united with the Lord Jesus Christ, to those who were united in his death and resurrection.”10

Bibliography

Kruse, Colin G. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.

Metzger, Bruce M., ed. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Second Edition. Hendrickson Pub, 2005.

Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 1998.

Witherington III, Ben, and Darlene Hyatt. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004.


  1. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 6734-6736 
  2. Moo 1996, 398 
  3. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 6744-6745 
  4. Kruse 2012, 281 
  5. Moo 1996, 401–402 
  6. Moo 1996, 404 
  7. Kruse 2012, 284 
  8. Moo 1996, 407 
  9. Witherington III 2004, 174 
  10. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 6933-6934