Romans

Shall give Life to Your Mortal Bodies
Romans 8:10-11.
Cecil N. Wright

Some would make the statement, "shall give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you," to have reference, not (1) to the resurrection, because the bodies of all will be raised whether the Spirit of God has indwelt them or not, but (2) to making the bodies of Christians "alive to righteousness" (R. L. Whiteside, Commentary on Romans, p. 175). However, there are at least three serious objections to the latter interpretation, and likewise an adequate refutation of the objections alleged against the former interpretation.

1. Tense of Verbs. In v. 10, it is said that "the body [of the Christian] is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life [or, alive] because of righteousness"; whereas, in v. 11 it is stated that "he shall give life to your mortal bodies." (In the Greek text of v. 10, as is commonly the case, the copuia "is" omitted but definitely understood and is therefore included in translation; while "shall give life" is explicitly stated in the Greek of v. 11, meaning not now, but later.) If giving "life to your mortal bodies" is making them "alive to righteousness," because "the present liberation of the spirit . . . affects the body also, making it, too, serve its true ends and live its true life" (as per Whiteside, p. 176, quoting from the Cambridge Greek Testament), why is the future tense used to describe it? The future tense, "shall give life to your bodies," contrasts with the present tense, "the spirit of life [alive]." This differentiation of tenses is most fitting and discriminating if reference is to the giving of "life to your mortal bodies" in the resurrection, but not if it means making them "alive to righteousness" in the present time.

2. Preposition "Dia." If (or, though) Christ dwells in the Christian, the body of the latter is said to be "dead because of (dia) sin" (8:10). Instead of this referring to the body being mortal, still subject to death "because of [Adam's] sin," it is insisted by some that this means the body of the Christian "is no longer active in sin -- no longer and instrument of sin," but "alive to righteousness" (Whiteside, p. 175). This is equivalent to being "dead to sin." But this can hardly be the meaning here. The text says "dead because of [dia] sin," not "dead to sin." "Dead to sin" (6:2) or "dead unto sin" (6:10,11) is expressed in the Greek text by the word for "sin" (without a preposition) in the dative case, which itself signifies to or for -- hence the translation "dead to sin" or "dead unto sin." In 8:10, however, the word "sin" is in the accusative case, preceded by the preposition dia, and dia with the accusative means "because of" or "on account of." Hence, "dead because of sin" in v.10, cannot mean "dead to sin," and therefore cannot mean "alive to righteousness."

3. Meaning of "Life." It is argued by some that "life to your mortal bodies" in v. 11 cannot refer to the resurrection, because it is conditional, the passage reading thus: "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you." It is insisted that it cannot refer to the resurrection, because there is to be a resurrection of sinners as well as saints, and the body will be resurrected whether it has been indwelt by the Spirit or not. This argument is plausible, but lacks validity for at least two reasons.

a. While it is true that the wicked will be raised from the dead, it will not be to a condition referred to as "life." "All that are in the tombs . . . shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment (AV, damnation)" (John 5:28-29). Jesus admonished, "And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt.10:28). This is called "the second death" (Rev.2:11; 20:6), which takes place in "the lake of fire" (Rev.20:14-15).. It is contrasted with "life" as follows: "To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God" (Rev.2:7); "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death" (Rev.2:11). And the same sort of contrast is made with "life" in the Gospels: "It is good for thee to enter into life maimed or halt, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the eternal fire (Matt.18:8); "It is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire" (Mark 9:43). Also: "And these [the wicked] shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life" (Matt.25:46).

b. And "life" in the world to come for the Christian is indeed conditioned upon having been indwelt by the Spirit of God or Spirit of Christ. Otherwise we are "none of his" (8:9). Note also the following: "We shall not all sleep [not all sleep the sleep of death, for some will be living when Christ comes], but we shall all be changed . . . the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we [the living] shall be changed. For this corruptible [body] must put on incorruption, and this mortal [body] must put on immortality" (1 Cor.15:51-53). This is in order that "what is mortal [the body] may be swallowed up of life" (2 Cor.5:4). The next verse states: "Now he that wrought us for this very thing is God, who gave us the earnest of the Spirit [i.e., the Spirit as an earnest or pledge -- a pledge of immortality, or eternal life]" (2 Cor.5:5).

Thus all phases of evidence contribute to and harmonize beautifully with the conclusion that God "shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you" refers, (1) not to the bodies of the saints being now "made alive unto righteousness" by virtue of their spirits being "life [alive]," but (2) rather to the bodily resurrection of Christians in the future -- a resurrection to eternal life in the world to come -- to be accomplished through the agency of the Spirit of God, which now indwells Christians. The wicked will experience a bodily resurrection also, presumably through the same Spirit that raises Christians, but not to what is called "life," "eternal life."

(The next point of discussion will not be to further the above argument, but to explain why the alternative "but though" is offered for "and if" in 8:10, making it read: "But though Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness." Its appropriateness can best be seen, however, against the background of the foregoing discussion.)

4. "And if," or "But though" -- which? The following, with alternate renderings in brackets, is about as literal a translation of 8:10 as possible: "And if [or, but though] Christ is in you, on one hand the body is dead because of sin, on the other hand the spirit is life because of righteousness." Taken in a conditional sense, it would mean that on the condition that Christ is in you the body is dead because of sin, which does not seem factual and is refuted in "2" above. But, taken in concessive sense, it would mean that though Christ is in you the body is dead because of sin, which seems to be consistent both factually and contextually. Such is obviously the preferred sense if it is permissible linguistically, which it is, as now shall be demonstrated.

a. The sentence begins with the words ei de in the Greek text. De may be rendered either "but" or "and," depending on context. The AV and ASV render it "and," whereas the RSV renders it "but," in this text. And the word ei is the equivalent of "if" in English, which is the concessive sense is employed in the sense of "though" or its equivalent. Hence, the two words together may be translated either "and if," or "but if," or "but though." So, the bracked rendering "but though" is perfectly permissible.

b. Furthermore, the English word "if" may itself be used either conditionally or concessively, depending on context. Webster defines it thus: "In the case that; granting, allowing, or supposing that: -- introducing a condition or supposition, or sometimes, as for rhetorical effect, a concession." Accordingly, Funk & Wagnalls says: "1. On the supposition or condition that. 2. Allowing that; although." Likewise, Winston: "1. On the condition that. 2. Although; expressing a concession."

c. Moreover, the same is true regarding the Greek word ei. Robertson's Grammar of the Greek New Testament speaks of "the use of ei (ean) in the sense of ‘though" (p. 1026). Lard, in his Commentary on Romans, likewise quotes Trollope, Greek Grammar to the New Testament (p. 191), as saying: "Both in the classics and in the New Testament it may frequently be rendered although." And in ei with kai (and, or even) is translated "though" in the AV in the following passages: Matt.26:33; Luke 11:8; 18:4; 2 Cor.4:16; 7:8 (three times); 11:6; 12:11; 12:15; Col.2:5; Heb.6:9. The same is likewise true in most of these passages in the ASV and RSV. Also, in Westcott and Hort's Greek text and in the Nestle Greek text, ei occurs in Matt.26:33 without either kai or de, and is still translated "though" by the RSV from a similar Greek text.

d. So it is beyond question that the Greek ei as well as the English "if" may be used concessively , in the sense of "though," as well as conditionally. Hence, it seems most appropriate to translate with Lard: "But, though Christ dwells in you, the body is dead because of sin; yet the spirit is alive because of justification" -- or, "righteousness," as most translations have it. Also, the passage may be rephrased to say the same thing in different words, as in the RSV: "But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, you spirits are alive because of righteousness."

e. This concessive sense of the passage is also recognized by commentaries other than Lard's. A few examples: International Critical Commentary (6th Edition, 1975): "Paul's meaning is, since Christ is in them," etc. (P. 390). McGarvey and Pendleton, Commentary on Thessalonians, Corinthians, and Romans (1916): "And though Christ dwells in you," etc. (p. 359). Pulpit Commentary (1950 reprint): "Yet Christ being in us now," etc. (Vol. 18, p. 208). Such sense is not only eminently permissible, but also the one most agreeable with all considerations of text and context as discussed in "1", "2", and "3," above. These are the compelling reasons for adopting the exegesis of Rom.8:10-11 set forth in the outline of which this is an insert.

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