In this post, I wish to present a proposed chiastic analysis of this famous passage of Scripture. This is actually a (slightly modified) chapter from my book Biblical Chiasms in the Interpretation of Scripture, and the page numbers are those of the book). If the analysis is correct, it draws attention to a number of important points:
- The Received Text (the Textus Receptus) differs from the Nestle-Aland version of verse 1. The chiastic and word count structuring decisively support the Textus Receptus, and this is an important result.
- There are some translational issues: for example, the translation of verse 3 usually starts off with “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did . . ” (NIV) or something similar. There are four verbs here – was, do, was and did. However, the corresponding Greek text does not have any of these verbs. In fact, there are no verbs at all in the corresponding Greek text! How is this dramatic difference to be explained?
- Verse 3 says that “God condemned sin in the flesh . . “. However, it seems to me, based on the chiastic analysis, that the structure of the passage does not clearly support the frequently encountered Evangelical interpretation that it is in the flesh of Christ that sin is being condemned – rather it, and (I would argue) the wider context, point to the condemnation of sin (= “dealing decisively and finally with sin”) being that of the sin that is present in the flesh of those under the law in Rom. 7). (Of course, even if this inference from the structural analysis is correct here, the Evangelical understanding may still be doctrinally correct, even if it is not exactly what Paul is describing here.) I will be happy to be corrected on this point. It is important as Rom 8:3 is, amongst other important issues, frequently referred to in discussions about Penal Substitutionary Atonement.
- The structure has some important ramifications for the way Paul understands the role of the Law of Moses in the New Covenant era – the Gospel Age. This issue is quite extensively discussed in the article.
The article I have written is quite long, and contains some diagrams, so I have presented it as a Word document. Please click on the link below.
I feel that this article really illustrates the importance of structural analysis for hermeneutics and for bible translations. I will be delighted to hear your thoughts and comments, and to be corrected on anything I have said in the above article.
Categories: Chiastic and Other Structures