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Romans 7 Paper

Romans 7 Paper

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Published by: Andrew Packer on May 31, 2011
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An Exegetical Study of Romans 7:13-25
 by Andrew Packer 
Introduction
The pericope examined in this paper is one of the most controversial parts of Romans. As Nygren so aptly put it, “It presents us with one of the greatest problems in the New Testament. Itwas already recognized in the first Christian century; and since that time it has never come torest. Through the centuries the battle has been waged as to what this particular passage means.”
1
 The main issue that surrounds this pericope is this: Who is the “I” that Paul is referring tothroughout the pericope? There are a variety of views on this subject, but in many ways theoptions can be narrowed down to two - is Paul speaking as a Christian or as a non-Christian?
2
 Thus this paper will seek to answer that question and two questions that flow out of it: What doesit mean for this pericope? And what does this mean for the Christian in his daily life?
Important Textual Issues
Who the “I” is in this section of Romans chapter 7 can be established by looking at twotextual issues: 1) Paul’s use of the pronoun
 evgw,
.
 
2) Paul’s use of the present tense.The first textual issue of importance in this pericope regards the pronoun
 evgw,
.
3
 
 evgw, 
isused only 12 times outside of chapter 7 in Romans.
4
Four of these are part of Old Testamentquotations.
5
In 16:22 Tertius uses the pronoun to greet the Christians in Rome himself. In all
1
Anders Nygren,
Commnetary on Romans,
( Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1949), 284.
2
 
For an in depth study of this issue and the pericope as a whole see Michael Paul Middendorf,
The "I" In the Storm: A Study of Romans 7,
(Saint Louis: Concordia Academic Press, 1997). This work, along with Nygren’s, have shapedthe content of this paper.
3
Though this paper will focus on whether Paul is speaking concerning his Christian or pre-Christian life, it is stillimportant to establish that Paul is in fact speaking of himself in this section. For discussion of the other ways “I”can be understood see Middendorf, chapters 1,3,4 and also Cranfield, 344ff.
4
Middendorf, 149.
5
10:19; 11:3; 12:19; 14:11.
 
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five of these instances the pronoun is used to refer to the person speaking or writing. In 11:19and 3:7 Paul uses the pronoun rhetorically and the context of each one makes it clear that this isthe case.
6
The other five times that Paul uses
 evgw,
he is making a clear personal reference tohimself.
7
Outside of Romans Paul uses
 evgw, 
84 times and of those 84 Paul uses it to refer tohimself 77 times.
8
The contexts of the other seven make it clear that Paul is not the subject.
9
Theevidence weights heavily in favor of understanding
 evgw
,
 ,
in chapter 7, as a personal reference toPaul. There is nothing in 7:13-25 or even in all of Paul’s epistles that would allow an interpreter to make
 evgw,
refer to anyone but Paul.Starting in verse 14 Paul begins to use the present tense and uses it for the rest of thechapter.
10
Some commentators see Paul switching to the present for emphasis and argue that the present should be understood as a sort of historical present. Generally those who argue this alsoargue that Paul is speaking of his time as a Jew that is as a non-Christian.
11
The other main viewis to take the present tense as a typical present tense and that Paul is describing his currentsituation as a Christian. As Daniel Wallace points out, the use of the first person pronoun alongwith the present tense mitigates against this being the use of the historical present.
12
Not onlydoes the syntax itself not allow for the present tense to be taken as a historical present, there isalso no indication anywhere in the context that Paul is using the historical present. The
6
See Middendorf, 150 for a more detailed argument of taking these rhetorically.
7
9:3; 11:1; 11:13; 15:14; 16:3-4. See Middendorf, 151.
8
Middendorf, 152.
9
I Cor. 1:12; 3:4; 2 Cor. 6:17.
10
This will be a very brief overview and only cover two of the more prominent views.
11
 
See for example Douglas J. Moo,
NICNT: The Epistle to the Romans,
(Grand Rapids: William B. EerdmansPublishing Company, 1996), 447-448. However, Thomas R. Schreiner,
Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Romans
(Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 390ff, actually argues Paul is applying this to both non-Christians and Christians .
12
 
Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics,
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 531. Also see Cranfied, 344ff. Thehistorical present only occurs in the third person (singular and plural) in the NT (Wallace 528).
 
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development of Paul’s argument in chapter 7 is also a strike against the historical present view.
13
 There are no grounds anywhere in the text that would support the historical present view in anysense.Both Paul’s use of the first person pronoun and his use of the present tense make itexplicitly clear that Paul is talking about his present situation as a Christian. Having establishedthis, it is still necessary to add one more clarification. As Middendorf says, “But the “I” is never depicted as two “I”s in verses 15-25; nor do we have a schizoid, dual, or split personality in thissection…Paul does not divide or separate the “I” form ‘the flesh.’”
14
To be sure there is aduality in the Christian life, “But he does not think of a divided will or a discord in the soul. Hehas in mind the tension which exists, in the Christian life, between will and action, betweenintention and performance.”
15
That is, the Christian is “in Christ”, but at the same time lives outtheir life “in the flesh”. The Christian daily lives in the struggle of the tension between thealready, and the not yet.
16
 
Context
The immediate context, as well as the whole flow of the book of Romans to this point, isextremely important in understanding Paul’s argument in 7:13-25.
17
Paul’s theme for the wholeepistle is “the one who is righteous by faith will live.”
18
In 1:18-3:20 Paul then develops adetailed argument to show that no one is righteous and all are under the wrath of God. Of  particular importance to his argument in chapter 7 is Paul’s discussion of the role of the Law for 
13
See Commentary below to see how this plays out in Paul’s argument.
14
92-93
15
Nygren, 293.
16
This will be explained more fully in the commentary section.
17
See Middendorf, chapter 2. It seems that too often this broader context gets lost in the discussion of thispericope.
18
Romans 1:16-17. See Charles Gieschen, “Outline of Romans”, (April 2007).

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