submitted by Francis Greenwood

Saint Paul Preaching in Rome, an engraving by Philip Galle after Jan van der Straet, 1537/1612

As our brother Osmanthus has recently brought to our attention, the Missouri Synod Corporation’s antinomians have been up to their usual reverse-Pharisaical tricks. Their efforts this time are to conflate the subject from sodomites to all sinners in the Apostle’s clear preaching against sodomy in Romans 1:18-32. Upon reading Osmanthus’s effective refutation of their perversion of the distinction between Old Testament ceremonial and moral law, in light of the very words that the Apostle wrote for our benefit I found their lies an even more abhorrent mangling of Scripture. Therefore, the following is a close reading of Scripture in its original Koine Greek language with expository commentary for the layman without the knowledge of this dead tongue. It is my intention that you, too, may be shown the truth of Romans 1:18-32 as the Apostle preached it so as to know that, from God’s very own words to us, the sodomites are still ἄξιοι θανατοῦ (deserving of death), even now after the death of Christ, and yes, even now after the passing of the time in which the Levitical laws were given to be the governing rule of Israel.

It is in the spirit of charity and observance of the 8th commandment that I must witness to what the Revs. Wilken and Middendorf get right. Yes, it is true, sodomy is an abomination (in mine & Osmanthus’ words, never theirs, of course) because

“[sodomitic acts] are contrary to God’s design, specifically for sexual conduct, which leads to procreation… So male-female produces offspring. Genesis one, be fruitful, multiply, fill the Earth. Same-sex acts do not. So I think that’s kind of what’s driving this if you’re asking me a ‘why’ of God.”

Yes, this is true, and we have here the baseline gist as to why gay bad. Nevermind the incredible revelatory truths we are told elsewhere, such as when the Apostle preaches to the Athenians in the Areopagus “…for in Him we live and move and have our being [ἐσμέν], as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring.’ [29] Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature [τὸ θεῖον εἶναι][1] is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.” (Acts 17:28-29, NKJV); or such as when later in the Epistle to the Romans Paul states that God is He “who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did. [καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα]” (Romans 4:17, NKJV) I will cede, for the purpose of this present writing, that the exact meaning of the latter half of this second quotation can vary from translation to translation,[2] and yet to fulfill the promise made at the outset I shall here explicate that the words ἐσμέν and ὄντα are each forms of the word εἰμί–yes, the very same εἰμί that Christ speaks in His proclamation to the Jews in John 8:58, “ἐγὼ εἰμί.”[3] Therefore, when Christ announces “I AM” and affirms the name by which He was known to His elect before His incarnation, this ought to prime us for further teachings given by the Holy Spirit such as Saint Paul’s above statements from Acts and Romans that in Him… we have our being, (ἐσμέν) that is, our being is only possible and derived from He Who is, and so Therefore… we are the offspring of God. It is in this way that I claim that the Apostle intends us to understand that He calls those things which do not exist as though they did (καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα). God is very life Himself, and this Divine Natureτὸ θεῖον εἶναι, (εἶναι! There’s that εἰμί verb again in yet another form!) namely, our very living and moving and being is such a gift–all the more so in that the creative act of marriage aids in this.

        Ahem–now that I have established the proper frame, we may return to the actual passage of consternation here at which Revs. Wilken and Middendorf completely whiff the proverbial bat. Romans 1:18-32 is in need of such a frame because it is, as Middendorf can correctly grope towards, a passage describing sodomitic acts and the failure of such to follow God’s command in Genesis to be fruitful and multiply. What is lacking from such a baseline reading was the very essential[4] discussion of other passages of Scripture which illuminate the very power of God in His ability to still in this world participate in and shape our creation, and our living, and our moving, and our being. This, as we shall see below, will play a major point in our close reading of Romans 1:18-32.

        We shall therefore commence our reading of Romans 1:18-32 in the order it was written for the sake of clarity. At the outset, we are told “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, [ἀνθρώπων τῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐν ἀδικίᾳ κατεχόντων].” (Romans 1:18) Notice the qualifier here: the Apostle is not stating that it is against simply all men, i.e all of mankind, whom the wrath of God is revealed, but specifically men who suppress (ἀνθρώπων τῶν… κατεχόντων[5], a participle modifying a relative pronoun which heads off the relative clause here) the truth in unrighteousness. Immediately, then, we ought to be able to shut the Book, declare the case closed, and deign the repentance of Revs. Wilken and Middendorf a necessary and swift matter. But for those stiff-necked ones out there who require more convincing, let us continue.

In the following verse, the Holy Spirit expounds for us who He means by these men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness: “because [διότι] what may be known of God [τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ] is manifest in them, for God has shown it [italics as original] to them.” (Romans 1:19, NKJV) It is this διότι (an explanatory conjunction) clause that shows us what is meant in the preceding verse by how these men are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (v.18, ἀνθρώπων τῶν… κατεχόντων). What is this thing known of God, τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ? As Paul continues, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes [italics as original] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made [τοῖς ποιήμασιν νοούμενα]even [it. as orig.] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, NKJV) There is a lot in this verse, but to succinctly rephrase: what may be known of God (τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ) is His invisible attributes, which are His eternal power and Godhead, which are understood by the things that are made. Particularly germane for our purposes here is τοῖς ποιήμασιν νοούμενα, the things which are made by which one can come to a natural revelation of God’s invisible attributes, i.e. His eternal power and Godhead. Indeed it is with this very fact, that God is the Creator of the things that are made, τοῖς ποιήμασιν, that the Apostle begins his preaching to the Athenians in the Areopagus in Acts 17:24 “God, who made [ὁ θεὸς ὁ ποιήσας] the world and everything in it…”: the phrase ὁ ποιήσας uses the very same verb from which τοῖς ποιήμασιν is derived from, ποιέω.[6] This beginning of the Apostle’s sermon to the Athenians in Acts 17 is so crucial for us to incorporate into our understanding of Romans 1:18-32, for it is from this very plain fact of natural revelation, that God is He Who made the world and everything in it, that Saint Paul then goes on to affirm that in Him we have our being, ἐσμέν (Acts 17:28, see above): indeed, as a good teacher may, the Apostle proceeds from the visible to the invisible, the tangible to the theoretical, the empirical to the theological, in his expository preaching. In summary, then, Romans 1:19-20 informs us what is known of God that is ultimately suppressed in unrighteousness by the men against whom God’s wrath is revealed.

The following verses, 21-3, are then all led off with another explanatory conjunction, γὰρ, which is commonly translated with the English “For,” and it is this word that signals to the Apostle’s audience that he is providing a summary conclusion for the preceding points made. For, we are told,[7] these men became futile in their thoughts with darkened hearts, becoming fools in spite of their claimed wisdom, “…and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”[8] (Romans 1:23, NKJV) In the following verse 24 we read “Therefore [Διὸ] God gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.” (NKJV) Διὸ, another explanatory conjunction, (closely related to the above seen διότι, verse 19) serves to explain the causality between what precedes the clause which it begins. That is to say, the worship of the creature rather than the Creator, as the Apostle himself goes on to explain in verse 25,[9] is inextricably bound up in the rejection of the knowledge – the truth – of God the Maker, and the gift of life He gives and breathes[10] into all made things–the rejection of natural revelation. This worship of creature rather than Creator is commensurate with and known by the evil fruit of sexual immorality and the dishonoring of bodies among a people. It is once they “…exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25, NKJV) that these men suppressed the truth in unrighteousness: the exchanging of God’s truth for a lie is the very suppression of truth in unrighteousness mentioned at the outset (Romans 1:18), and the lie here told is that men and women can dishonor each others’ bodies in their worship of themselves rather than Him.

At this junction it should be abundantly clear that here in Paul’s preaching we are given a dense, multi-layered argument of explanation upon explanation as to who these men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness are, how they suppress the truth, and what action (sodomy) is commensurate with this suppression.[11] And yet, if it were not clear enough for those among us such as Revs. Wilken and Middendorf, the Apostle goes into detail in verses 26-7. It is particularly noteworthy, as Kretzmann observes, that here “The heinousness of their transgression is marked by the words referring to the sex of the transgressors,” (Pop. Comm. NT II, emphasis mine) that is, αἵ θήλειαι for “females” rather than the expected γυναῖκες for “women,”[12] and likewise οἵ ἄρσενες for “males” rather than ἄνδρες, “men.” Then, in verse 28, we read “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge [τὸν θεὸν ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει], God gave them [αὐτοὺς] over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting [τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα].” (NKJV) In the bolded phrase, we are given the verb ἔχειν, to retain or hold, which is itself the root verb of the compound verb form used earlier in v.18 for “suppress,” κατεχόντων; also found here is the compound noun ἐπιγνώσει, closely tied to the previously discussed thing known of God, τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ (v. 19). For the Apostle Paul’s intended audience of live speakers of Koine Greek, this creative rephrasing of words and themes stated earlier would have perked their ears to remind them that through all that has been discussed, he is still discussing those very same men against whom the wrath of God is revealed, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness by their sodomitic worship of their own creaturely bodies in spite of the natural revelation of God given to them in all made things, including those most precious made things of all in which we participate in God’s gift of creation: babies, the result of marriage as God intended. Yea, rather, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα, those things which are not proper, i.e the sodomy as described in 26-7 which finds the sexes improperly burning in unnatural passion with themselves.

The attentive reader will have noticed that of the last quotation (v.28) there was a bolded word of Greek that I have not yet expounded upon. This is αὐτοὺς, a third person plural personal pronoun which is translated “them.” This word has a case ending, -οὺς, which is in the accusative case. The accusative case is most commonly used to denote a direct object which receives the action of a verb performed by the subject of a clause. Therefore, we read, “God [subject] gave [verb] them [direct object] over to a debased mind,”– yet it does not end there! The following list of descriptors found in verses 29-31 are so crucial to understand in the context of this grammatical information, for these descriptors themselves all coincide with and are in apposition to the accusative case αὐτοὺς. Apposition is a syntactic phenomenon where a noun in one grammatical case is then further described with another noun (or, as in our present case, nouns) in the same grammatical case. The very fact that these descriptors are in apposition to αὐτοὺς is the surefire proof for certainty that the Apostle, in Romans 1:18-32, is only ever discussing sodomites and the results of a sodomitic society, and never just mere sinners in need of the body and blood of Our Lord as our antinomian would-be teachers Revs. Wilken and Middendorf try to convince us of otherwise. For the sake of thoroughness, I here reproduce v.29-31 with the accusative plural case endings bolded as visual aid to demonstrate the replete apposition to αὐτοὺς throughout this passage: (nota bene, a number of these apposite accusative plural nouns are in the feminine gender, in contrast to the masculine-gendered αὐτοὺς, and so therefore are given the –ας accusative plural case ending, yet are nonetheless in just as much appositive position relative to αὐτοὺς)

πεπληρωμένους πάσῃ ἀδικίᾳ πονηρίᾳ πλεονεξίᾳ κακίᾳ, μεστοὺς φθόνου φόνου ἔριδος δόλου κακοηθίας, ψιθυριστάς, καταλάλους, θεοστυγεῖς, ὑβριστάς, ὑπερηφάνους, ἀλαζόνας, ἐφευρετὰς κακῶν, γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς, ἀσυνέτους, ἀσυνθέτους, ἀστόργους, ἀνελεήμονας

So then we have finally arrived to v.32, where the Apostle provides us with his concluding summary of Romans 1.18-32: “who [οἵτινες]knowing [ἐπιγνόντες] the righteous judgment [τὸ δικαίωμα] of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death [ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες ἄξιοι θανάτου εἰσίν], not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (NKJV) The referent of οἵτινες, the subject “they who” of this verse, is the preceding αὐτοὺς of v.28 who are described with appositional nouns from v.29-31. Before we are finally given the main clause of this sentence, that they “… not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them,” the Apostle interrupts the main clause with a participial phrase, that is, a clause led with the verbal adjective (known as a participle) ἐπιγνόντες. With ἐπιγνόντες, we should again be reminded of the preceding γνο- stem words we have already encountered, such as τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ (v.19) and ἐπιγνώσει (v.28); Paul is summarizing the same point he has been making throughout here, that by natural revelation even the heathen is responsible for knowing basic facts toward respecting the gift of life and creation endowed by the Unknown Creator God. Furthermore, before delivering the main statement that they “… not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them,” we get one final interruption of this main clause: a ὅτι clause which itself operates as one large phrase in apposition to the direct object of the verb ἐπιγνόντες “knowing,” the accusative case noun τὸ δικαίωμα. Yes, Paul juxtaposes τὸ δικαίωμα with the entire appositional phrase ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες ἄξιοι θανάτου εἰσίν, and a way in which one may translate this so as to emphasize this apposition would be so:

“who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, namely the fact that those who practice such things are deserving of death…”

God’s righteous judgment, his τὸ δικαίωμα, is that those who practice such things (τὰ τοιαῦτα, a demonstrative pronoun whose referent is the previously mentioned “things which are not fitting,” τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα, v. 28) are worthy of death. Saint Paul’s final words on this matter, that “they… not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them,” should then be conclusively shown to be referring to the sodomites whose suppression of the truth in unrighteousness causes the wrath of God to be revealed against them.

[1] While the Divine Nature is a fine rendering, one may also translate this phrase as the Divine Being, with emphasis placed on the nominal-verbal expression Being, Divine being an adjectival modifier that particularly stresses the fact that it is, in fact, God Whom the Apostle is speaking of.

[2] For example, the Legacy Standard Bible, following the NASB, renders the bolded phrase “calls into being that which does not exist,” which more clearly shows the relevance to Acts 17:28-9–God not only raises the dead from the dead to life, but gives life to those who have not known death as of yet and simply do not exist, τὰ μὴ ὄντα.

[3] For those presently unaware for the full import of this proclamation not only as a beautiful affirmation of the Trinity from the mouth of Our Lord in His ministry but furthermore as the very name of God given to His people before the incarnation of the Son, read this thread from Woe explaining as much while refuting the blasphemous false name Yahweh.

[4] Pun intended.

[5] Nota bene, our participial verb here is the very same from which we derive the English “catechize”; another way one may render Romans 1:18 would be “For the wrath… of men who catechize truth in unrighteousness.” Of course, the sarcasm of the original Greek expression would here be lost on most people upon first hearing, and so the negative translation of κατεχόντων as “suppress” makes better sense for a general audience.

[6] Nota bene, this is also the word from which we derive the English “poet.” It is therefore the opinion of the author that God is truly the ultimate poet.

[7] The following is a paraphrase of v.21-3, all of which is found within the single γὰρ clause.

[8] Kretzmann makes a salutary summary of this phenomenon in practice: “Such an idol was to be a representation of the Godhead, Is. 44, 12-19; Ps. 115, 4-8; 135, 15-18. History gives many examples; for the idols of the Greeks and Romans, also of the ancient Germans were statues in the form of men; the eagle of Jupiter and the ibis and hawk of the Egyptians were sacred birds; the white ox of the Egyptians, the golden calf of the Israelites, goats and monkeys in other nations, were four-footed idols; and among the reptiles were the crocodile and various serpents, all of which were given divine honor. Such were and are the manifestations of the false religions of men when they turn from the true God. In the foolishness of their unnatural idolatry they pervert the original order of God.” Popular Commentary, New Testament Vol. II

[9] “who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (NKJV) οἵτινες μετήλλαξαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ ψεύδει, καὶ ἐσεβάσθησαν καὶ ἐλάτρευσαν τῇ κτίσει παρὰ τὸν κτίσαντα, ὅς ἐστιν εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας: ἀμήν.

[10] “Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:25, NKJV)

[11] At this point also a summarizing motto may be penned: Sodomy is the heathen’s catechesis of unrighteous truth, i.e falsehood.

[12] Kretzmann takes this point even further, stating that due to their gross unchastity “they can no longer be designated as women.”

2 responses to “On Sodomites Axioi Thanatou”

  1. […] [An article examining the text of Romans 1:18-32 in detail can be found here.] […]

  2. […] As Issues, Etc. is broadcast in audio, it only makes sense that this response to their segment on sodomy in Romans 1 should have a spoken version as well. You can view the text here (and see also the grammatical examination here). […]

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