Vol. 21 New Series August, 1959 No. 4

Romans 7:24
This article is based on one written a few days before War began in September, 1939, for publication in a small magazine in England called "The Lantern." However, it never appeared in print, because the young editor thought good to shew it first to an Editor in Los Angeles, U.S.A., who coolly assumed the right to veto it, on the grounds that it opposed his own ideas.

Most of the versions read very much as the King James does, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" As this verse affects every one of us, we are most anxious to know Who or what is this deliverance.

First we must observe that Paul is not asking how he can be rescued or delivered out of sin, or from the evil which besets him, but out of his death-body. Well is he aware that only a new body can bring him the deliverance he sighs for. Such a deliverance seems to be connected with the "unveiling of the sons of God," and the freedom from the slavery of corruption, and that sonship, the "deliverance of our body," which we await (Romans 8:19-23). On the other hand, some commentators insist that we should read "out of the body of this death," that is, the death spoken of in Romans 7:10-13.

Some have thought that Romans 7:25 is rather abrupt and that it does not give any satisfactory answer. "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin," Others supply the words "Who will" after "I thank God," meaning that God will be the deliverer, which, of course, must be true in any case.

Another solution was put forward over thirty-eight years ago in "Unsearchable Riches" (December, 1920), entitled "Grace—The Long Lost Answer to the Seventh of Romans." This was based upon my collation of the two Greek MSS facsimiles of Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, for the Standard Version, later called the Concordant Version. This solution read as follows: "What will rescue me out of this body of death? GRACE! Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord." The article claimed to have discovered this for the first time, and to have "seized this precious gem and set it in its place." This solution appeared very enticing, but later on I became dubious, and in a pamphlet published in 1939 I expressed serious doubts, parts of which I now quote: "The word misrendered 'what' is TIS, which in such a position never means anything but 'who.' The form is masculine or feminine, and can only be rendered 'what' when joined to a masculine or feminine noun or adjective. The proper word for 'what' here would have been TI, the neuter form. The two forms are never interchangeable, as the translator seems to have imagined. In this case the error is serious, as it destroys the whole grand theory of the 'Long Lost Answer' to chapter 7. Paul asks, 'Who will rescue me out of this death body?' The answer, beyond gainsaying, must be a person, and that person can only be God, Whom it were superfluous to name as Rescuer. Furthermore, if the answer were 'Grace,' would not this noun (charis) require the article before it? So, indeed, some MSS read, and the Latin Vulgate appears to have followed this reading, as it reads "God's grace through Jesus Christ our Lord." The reading of the Vulgate was followed by Wycliffe (1380); the Rheims Version (1582); Wakefield (1795); Scarlett (1798; margin); and Fenton (1883), so that this 'Long Lost Answer' has never been lost. It was the sole conclusion to this chapter in Romans during the thousand years the Vulgate was the Bible of Christendom. Another serious objection is that the words charis de eucharistO cannot possibly means 'Grace! Now I am thanking. . ..' For this, the Greek would require, hE charis, eucharistO de. The position of the word de (yet or now) in the Concordant text ruins its rendering. We should either read, 'Thanks be to God' (cf. 1. Cor. 15:57), or, 'I am thanking God. . . .' The word 'Grace' must disappear completely. Only harm can accrue to the Scriptures by intruding grace where it does not belong."

A similar error in the C.V. at Gal. 3:1 (What bewitches you) was corrected in 1944 to "Who bewitches you," also in Gal. 5:7 (What hinders you; 1944 C.V. Who hinders you). In John 1:21, "Who are you, then?" was corrected to "What (are) you, then?" Other examples will be found at Mark 2:7, John 8:53; 13:24; 1. Cor. 2:11.

It was contended in the September, 1947, issue of Unsearchable Riches that "In Greek the word grace is feminine, and calls for who (ANY, tis, not ti). In English grace is neuter, and calls for what." This would be true were "grace" and tis closely related, but not otherwise. Had Paul written "Tis grace will deliver me," that would mean "What grace will deliver me?" But as there are in the Greek other eight words between the tis and the beginning of v. 25, the above explanation is totally irrelevant, and has no effect. This would read, literally, "What me will rescue out of the body of this death Grace?" Would this make any sense at all, bearing in mind that the what is supposed to be connected with grace? Just compare Romans 6:21, which was cited as a case similar to ch. 7:24: "Then what fruit had you then?" Here the word what (tina) is very close to fruit and clearly in regimen, whereas in ch. 7:24 the word tis is not in regimen with the supposed word grace at all. It was pretended that I would be obliged to render ch. 6:21 as "Who fruit had you. . . ?" Other cases were then presented in order to throw dust in the eyes of readers and make them think I was "quite incompetent in the sphere of idiom" (Acts 10:21; 17:19; Rom.3:1; 8:35; 11:15, etc.). But everyone of these citations proves my point. The charge was made that "A determined effort is being made to expunge the word 'grace' as the answer to the cry for rescue in this chapter" (Romans 7). "The arguments used are in the realm of grammar and idiom, so will impress only those who are not proficient in these things. Hence they will be misled by the ungracious denunciations of all who would dare to differ."

Note the final three words. As the writer of these words had proved full thirty-eight years ago his complete lack of proficiency to distinguish the meanings of tis and ti, and had also accepted my corrections in many passages, it did not come well from him to make these assertions. He ought to have shewn some gratitude that the errors had been pointed out, as seemingly for about fifteen years no other person had pointed them out. The laws of Greek grammar are not alterable at will, and are well known. No one owns the right to overthrow Greek grammar merely to suit his own pet ideas.

Realizing all too clearly that "What will rescue me . . . . Grace! Now I am thanking God. . ." was altogether indefensible and irregular, the translator fell back upon another line of defence, and produced the reading, "Why, grace! I thank God. . .." It seems to have been admitted that the verse was "difficult," as "We can hardly say, 'Yet grace,' although the underlying thought makes it by no means out of place." Now it was exactly my point years ago that we could hardly say "Yet grace." It is impossible to do so. In the Sinaitic MS the words charis de (grace yet) appear in the margin, as a substitute for the words in the text. The words by prima manu (first hand) are "I am thinking to-the God" (eucharistO tO TheO). But the Concordant Version conflates the two readings, on the principle, apparently, that it was better to supply the fullest readings, than to miss anything which might turn but to be part of God's words. The result here, however, has simply been confusion. So "The Differ" still "dares to differ." I still possess the copy of Weymouth's Greek New Testament whereunto I transcribed in crimson ink thirty-eight years ago the differences found in the Codex Sinaiticus, while the differences found in Codex Vaticanus were transcribed in green ink. The corrector of Sinaiticus here substituted in the margin "grace yet" for "I am thanking" (charis de for eucharistO), making the little curved mark over both readings to shew that the one was to be substituted for the other.

In 1944 concordance seems to have been flung to the winds, and we now have "Why, grace!" It must be understood that the little Greek word de never comes first in a clause, but is generally second, and sometimes third. If we had to say, "Yet I," we must put egO de (I yet). This is idiom. That is why the false rendering "Yet grace I am thanking God" had to be abandoned.

But how can the term "why" be justified? We might try some supposed samples. Matt. 1:2, "Why, Jacob begets Judas and his brothers!" And similarly right down the chapter to verse 16, "Why, Jacob begets Joseph the husband of Mary!" Ivan Panin did better in saying "Jacob in turn begat Joseph." This was one of his very few original translations. Romans 6:23, "Why, God's gracious gift is eonian life. . . . !" Romans 8:8, "Why, those being in flesh are not able to please God!" V. 9, " Why, you are not in flesh, but in spirit!" 1. Cor. 12:20, " Why, now there are indeed, many members; why, one body!"

Many years ago Weymouth shewed beautifully in his pamphlet on the Greek Aorist and Perfect verbs that the Greek word gar (for) could often be rendered very effectively as "why," as in Matt. 27:23, where even the Concordant Version reads "Why, what evil does He?" So this makes three different Greek words rendered in the C.V. by why (ti, gar, and now de). It is only fair to say that Matt. 27:23 was later altered, in the 1944 C.V., to "(for) what evil does He?"

Why is it that in matters theological anyone can become so obsessed with an idea that he permits himself just for the nonce to break his own rules? There is really no need for this interminable terminological tergiversation. Either we should read, "Now thanks (or, grace) to God," or "I am thanking (i.e. well-gracing) God." Besides, the two words, charis de, by themselves, forming one clause, would never be understood by a Greek to mean either "yet grace" or "why, Grace!" It is very questionable whether there is one case in the New Testament where a single noun as here can form a clause or an answer. A verb might act thus, as at Matt. 20:22 (dunametha, we are able). Here the statement is complete in itself. In English a single word can form the answer to a question, but we must not assume the same holds good in Greek in the case of a noun. Greek idiom here has been ignored. Any translator who fails to get inside the mentality of a Greek speaker or writer must be quite incompetent in the sphere of Greek idiom.

Finally, in any case, Paul was not here expecting or asking for grace from God. He was rendering God grace. How so? Because Paul, strictly, was not thanking God at all. There is no Greek word in the Bible which means to thank. When we give "thanks" for food, we call that "grace." We give God grace, that is, we express our agreeableness towards Him, and that includes thanks. The beautiful Greek word charis has no more two meanings that I am two persons. It means kindly goodwill or agreeableness. In his etymological dictionary, Weekley says the word thank is cognate with think, the original sense being thought, hence kind thought or gratitude.

Thus, when we feel like the wretched man of Romans 7, what should we do? Alford states thus the answer which Paul sought: "Thanks to God (who hath accomplished this) by means of Jesus Christ our Lord. This exclamation and thanksgiving more than all convince me, that Paul speaks of none other than himself, and carries out as far as possible the misery of the conflict with sin in his members, on purpose to bring in the glorious deliverance which follows. Compare 1. Cor. 15:56-57, where a very similar thanksgiving occurs." John H. Godwin on Romans (1873) also presents some fine thoughts. "The expression of gratitude interrupts, but not improperly, the course of argument. It is not a direct reply to the preceding exclamation of distress; but the song of one who, through Christ, has faith in God." Verse 25 gives the "conclusion of the whole of this discussion. It is not a consequence of what immediately precedes, for nothing is said of deliverance, but only of that which shows the need of deliverance. The deliverance is described in the next section. This statement is not out of place; for it shows the need of the Saviour. . .." He then shews how ch. 8:2 states the way of deliverance. "For the law of the spirit of the life in Christ Jesus frees thee from the law of th(at) sin and th(at) death," through being "in Christ Jesus," or "in union with" Him.

If Grace had been the long lost answer to ch. 7, why in verse 25 has Paul drifted back to the contents of verse 23? Unfortunately, this important point does not seem to have been dealt with in the 1920 article. Professor Godet, however, answers this point decisively and effectively in his commentary on Romans. First of all, he sets aside the Graeco Latin reading, "The grace of God" which "evidently arises from the desire to find an immediate answer to the question." He points out that Paul asks who will deliver or rescue him, whereas in ch. 8:2 we reach deliverance. It is not grace which sets free, but the spirit's law of life in union with Christ Jesus. Godet also says the question in v. 24 is an interruption, in the description of the state of misery, previously to faith. Paul then returns to his subject in the second part of v. 25, which is a sort of summary of the whole passage, vv. 14-23. The words "so then" or "consequently" (ara oun) have the double effect of taking up the broken thread (ara) and of marking that there is here a conclusion (oun).

Godet says there are two things in the form of the question in v. 24 which do not harmonize well with the supposition that Paul is speaking as the representative of regenerate humanity. There is the indefinite pronoun tis, who. A believer might find himself in distress; but he knows at least the name of his deliverer. Then there is the future tense, will deliver me. In speaking as a believer, Paul says in ch. 8:2, hath made me free; for to the believer there is a deliverance accomplished once for all, as the basis of all the particular deliverances which he may yet ask. He does not pray, therefore, like the man who utters the cry of our verse, and who evidently does not yet know this great fundamental fact. Finally let us reflect on the opposite exclamation in the following words: I thank God through Jesus Christ. If, as is manifest, we have here the regenerate believer's cry of deliverance, corresponding to the cry of distress in v. 24, it follows as a matter of course that the latter cannot be the apostle's, except in so far as he throws himself back in thought into a state anterior to the present time.

Paul's sudden cry of thanks is in anticipation of the great deliverance he is about to describe in ch. 8.

Anyone can now see clearly that to drag the idea of "Grace!" into verse 25 would be not alone ungrammatical, but disruptive of the sense, and also poor Greek. Moreover, it fails to account for what follows immediately in the second part of verse 25.

The very naive confession (in "U.R.," September, 1947) that it is really wrong, to utilize the word "why" here, and that it might "deceive" in this "isolated case" tells its own tale. It certainly is deceptive.

To force "grace" into a passage in which it ruins the apostle's argument is only to lower grace. Grace 'tis a charming sound, harmonious to the ear, but it is fully dealt with in its own passages, where we learn that God's grace or kindly agreeableness to us is boundless. Yet we do not read any where that even God lays claim to any "excessive graciousness" (as did the translator who bungled Romans 7:24), as God, after all, has some modesty and humility. No one can be truly great without genuine humility, not even God.

It is too much to expect the withdrawal of the reckless "discovery" which I oppose above. I doubt very much whether Grace has yet rescued the ingenious discoverers of the theory. But if they are in truth really gracious, they will at least reconsider what I have set forth.

A.T. Last updated 30.3.2006