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Apocalyptic and the Passions: Overcoming a False Dichotomy in Pauline Studies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 September 2021

Joseph Longarino*
Heidelberg University, Plankengasse 1–3, D-69117, Heidelberg, Germany. Email:


This article deals with how to conceive of sin in Romans 5–8. Currently there are two main views concerning the understanding of sin in these chapters. The apocalyptic school describes sin as a power extrinsic to the person. The moral philosophical interpretation, by contrast, contends that sin is a representation of action or the passions. While these schools are usually opposed to each other, this article proposes that the major concerns of the apocalyptic school – to understand sin as a reality that is universally determinative, that precedes human action and exceeds human strength, and from which only God can deliver humanity – are compatible with the interpretation of sin as action in some passages and as the passions in others. There may therefore be space for further collaboration between two views that are often opposed.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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1 In the seven letters commonly agreed to be by Paul, ἁμαρτία and its cognates occur eighty-four times; sixty of these occurrences are in Romans. The noun ἁμαρτία appears fifty-eight times in the seven epistles; forty-eight of these references are in Romans and forty-one are in Romans 5–8.

2 G. Stählin, ‘ἁμαρτία’, TDNT i.296.

3 Gaventa, B. R., Our Mother Saint Paul (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2007) 120–1Google Scholar.

4 Dodson, J. R., The ‘Powers’ of Personification: Rhetorical Purpose in the Book of Wisdom and the Letter to the Romans (BZNW 161; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2008) 20CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Southall, D. J., Rediscovering Righteousness in Romans (WUNT ii/240; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008) 110CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Croasmun, M., The Emergence of Sin: The Cosmic Tyrant in Romans (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) 13CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 As will become clear, Southall's formulation is unnecessarily vague because we can more precisely identify what Paul signifies with ἁμαρτία. Croasmun's proposal may be queried regarding not its vagueness but rather its overdetermination of the meaning of the texts. Croasmun employs emergence theory to explain how individual sinning can lead to Paul's statements about sin as a mythological force. He interprets Rom 1.24, 26 as indicating that humans individually become enslaved to passions as they sin; such enslavement marks the emergence of sin as a mythological power (Emergence of Sin, 108). Individual thralldom to the passions becomes a collective enslavement to a debased mind, as is purportedly claimed in 1.28 (110), and to the collective body of sin, as is supposedly shown in 6.6 (111, 118). By becoming a force that is greater than any individual or collective sin, sin emerges as a mythological power that reigns (5.21), constraining humanity throughout history (105). Sin as a mythological power thus supervenes on the individual and social levels of sin. I regard this suggestion as a valid extension of Paul's claims. However, Croasmun's exegesis outpaces the texts. He does not establish that ἁμαρτία designates more than action in Rom 5.12–21 or more than the passions in much of chapters 6–8. Croasmun asserts but does not argue that ἁμαρτία in 5.21 signifies a force prior to human action (105). His other texts furnish an insufficient basis for arguing that the dominion of sin exceeds enthrallment to the passions. For example, in order to argue that enslavement to sin features as a social reality that determines human existence in Romans 5–8, Croasmun interprets the body of sin in 6.6 as a collective entity analogous to the body of Christ (118). However, the body of sin is never developed at length as an analogy to the body of Christ. Romans 6.6 contains the sole occurrence of the phrase ‘the body of sin’. It is therefore more secure to interpret this expression in light of the connection between sin and the body in 7.7–25, which suggests that in 6.6 Paul is talking about the former enslavement to sin that dwells in the body. My point is not to deny that individual enthrallment to sin entails social consequences. It is simply to question whether Croasmun's argument demonstrates, or even requires, ἁμαρτία to be more than the passions in much of Romans 6–8.

8 I do not intend to evaluate the suitability of the label ‘apocalyptic’ here. For critical assessments of the application of the term in Pauline studies, see Matlock, R. B., Unveiling the Apocalyptic Paul: Paul's Interpreters and the Rhetoric of Criticism (JSNTSup 127; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1996)Google Scholar; Davies, J. P., Paul among the Apocalypses? An Evaluation of the ‘Apocalyptic Paul’ in the Context of Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Literature (LNTS 562; London: Bloomsbury, 2016)Google Scholar; Wasserman, E., Apocalypse as Holy War: Divine Politics and Polemics in the Letters of Paul (AYBRL; New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2018)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. I use the term only to designate a school of interpretation within Pauline studies. Leading apocalyptic interpreters include Douglas A. Campbell, Martinus C. de Boer, Susan Grove Eastman and Beverly Roberts Gaventa. The apocalyptic school is indebted to the seminal influence of J. Louis Martyn, though Ernst Käsemann is an important forerunner whose arguments continue to shape the views of apocalyptic interpreters.

9 Sin is explicitly aligned with Satan and the demonic, at least analogically, in Käsemann, E., Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 204Google Scholar; Gaventa, B. R., ‘The Cosmic Power of Sin in Paul's Letter to the Romans: Toward a Widescreen Edition’, Int 58 (2004) 229–40, at 231, 237, 239Google Scholar; Gaventa, Our Mother Saint Paul, 118–23; de Boer, M. C., ‘Paul's Mythologizing Program in Romans 5–8’, Apocalyptic Paul: Cosmos and Anthropos in Romans 5–8 (ed. Gaventa, B. R.; Waco, TX: Baylor, 2013) 1–20, at 13Google Scholar.

10 Sin's relation to the demonic is obscure in Käsemann, E., ‘On Paul's Anthropology’, Perspectives on Paul (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971) 22, 2831Google Scholar, who speaks of people being determined by realities (i.e. Christ or sin, or evil powers generally) from beyond themselves. Eastman, S. G., Paul and the Person: Reframing Paul's Anthropology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017) 8Google Scholar does not invoke the demonic analogy but writes of selves being ‘socially and cosmically constructed in relationship to external realities [i.e. Christ or sin] that operate internally as well’. Campbell, D. A., The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009)Google Scholar does not offer a straightforward statement on this matter, but he speaks of Sin as a cosmic power that takes up residence in the flesh and manipulates people, causing them to sin. Campbell has recently signalled to me in personal correspondence that he has abandoned the view that sin is separate from the person. In his Pauline Dogmatics: The Triumph of God's Love (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2020) 114, Campbell appears to identify Sin with the passions, writing, ‘Some hostile force occupies human nature and both deceives and enslaves it – the human passions or lusts.’

11 Key figures in the moral philosophical interpretation include Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Stanley K. Stowers and Emma Wasserman, all of whom are antipathetic to the apocalyptic school. A reading of Paul in light of ancient philosophy that is arguably more amenable to the apocalyptic interpretation may be found in Martin, D. B., The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995)Google Scholar. L. B. Dingeldein, ‘Gaining Virtue, Gaining Christ: Moral Development in the Letters of Paul’ (PhD diss., Brown University, 2014) has also recently advanced the moral philosophical interpretation without attacking the apocalyptic school.

12 Stowers, S. K., A Rereading of Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1994) 280Google Scholar.

13 Wasserman, E., The Death of the Soul in Romans 7: Sin, Death, and the Law in Light of Hellenistic Moral Psychology (WUNT ii/256; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008) 146–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar. In her most recent book, Apocalypse as Holy War, Wasserman broadens her critique, contending that apocalyptic interpreters overplay and misconstrue the dualism in apocalyptic texts and Paul.

14 Stowers, Rereading, 279 and Wasserman, Death of the Soul, 91, 95 argue specifically for a Platonic background. Engberg-Pedersen, T., ‘A Stoic Concept of the Person in Paul? From Galatians 5:17 to Romans 7:14–25’, Christian Body, Christian Self: Concepts of Early Christian Personhood (ed. Rothschild, C. K. and Thompson, T. W.; WUNT 284; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011) 85–112Google Scholar and Holtz, G., ‘Paul, the Law and Judaism: Stoification of the Jewish Approach to the Law in Paul's Letter to the Romans’, ZNW 109 (2018) 193–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar favour a Stoic construal. For a sympathetic yet incisive critique of Engberg-Pedersen's Stoic reading of Paul, see Dingeldein, ‘Gaining Virtue’, 263–72, who cogently argues that Paul's understanding of moral progress aligns more with Middle Platonism.

15 While focused on 1 Corinthians instead of Romans, Martin, The Corinthian Body, 217 similarly argues that Paul understands ‘desire’ as a disease of the human constitution; yet such a disease is viewed as an invading reality that must be cast out rather than controlled, a belief that makes desire more akin to the demonic in the apocalyptic interpretation. Yet Dingeldein, ‘Gaining Virtue’, 211 points out that, in Paul's view, such eradication may be possible only for those most advanced in virtue; most Christ followers must simply try to control desire. In discussions of Greek literature more broadly, scholars have debated whether ἁμαρτία signifies the flaw or error, or simply failure, of the protagonist, though it has fallen out of favour to view the word as having negative moral connotations. This feature or failure determines a baleful fate beyond the protagonist's control. See Hyde, I., ‘The Tragic Flaw: Is It a Tragic Error?’, MLR 58 (1963) 321–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Dawe, R. D., ‘Some Reflections on Ate and Hamartia’, HSCP 72 (1968) 89–123Google Scholar; Bremer, J. M., Hamartia: Tragic Error in the ‘Poetics’ of Aristotle and in Greek Tragedy (Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1969)Google Scholar; L. Golden, ‘Hamartia, Ate, and Oedipus’, CW 72 (1978) 3–12; Brody, J., ‘Fate, Philology, Freud’, Philosophy and Literature 38 (2014) 1–29, at 23CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 See n. 1. The language of sin features briefly in Romans 8 but is largely displaced by the language of the flesh. Since the main characteristics of the apocalyptic interpretation emerge from Romans 5–7, I confine my analysis to these chapters. For a treatment of the language of sin in Romans 8, see J. Longarino, ‘Paul and the Assumed Flesh of Christ’, T&T Clark Handbook of Christology (ed. D. O. Sumner and C. Tilling; London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming). The language about sin in 1 Cor 15.56 and Gal 3.22, where sin may appear to be an independent agent, is so brief that it must be related to Paul's fuller treatments of sin elsewhere.

17 For such attempts, see Croasmun, Emergence of Sin and Eastman, Paul and the Person. For my assessment of Croasmun, see n. 7.

18 A. Oepke, ‘καθίστημι, ἀκαταστασία, ἀκατάστατος’, TDNT iii.445, notes that the verb is not merely forensic, as if there were only a legal fiction involved, but rather presupposes an actual state.

19 The famous ἐφ᾽ ᾧ in 5.12 remains disputed. See the translation possibilities in Fitzmyer, J. A., Romans (AB 33; London: Doubleday, 1993) 413–17Google Scholar. A common translation today, ‘because’, suggests that Paul assigns the cause of death to the sin of every individual human, and not just to Adam. Even if this translation is accepted, though, individual human sinning is still traced back to Adam's sin (5.19), which makes him ultimately responsible for all subsequent sin and death.

20 This interpretation is at odds with Stowers's claim that Paul is not offering a universal history of sin in Rom 5.12–21 (Rereading, 254). Stowers proposes that Paul's concern is to show how the actions of one (Adam or Christ) can affect the many. Stowers's proposal fits awkwardly with his broader interpretation. According to Stowers, the gentiles become enslaved to the passions because of their post-Adamic idolatry. Yet Paul's introduction of Adam in Romans 5 muddles this picture. By appealing to Adam as the sufficient cause of all subsequent sin, Paul gives the impression that the problem of enthrallment to sin is rooted in primordial history rather than in gentile idolatry per se. If Paul did not intend to give this impression, he could simply have reiterated his claims from 1.18–32 in 5.12–21 and expanded his account from there, but he does not. It seems simpler to propose that, even if Paul is especially concerned with addressing the plight of the gentiles, as Stowers argues, he nevertheless sets their problem within the broader predicament in which all of humanity has found itself since Adam. Wasserman, Death of the Soul, 96 briefly acknowledges that the problem of domination by the passions seems to be rooted in 5.12, though this admission does not affect her broader reading, where she follows Stowers. Stowers's reading in this respect also comes up against 6.2–6 and 7.4–6, where Paul, as a Jew, associates himself with his gentile audience as having been enslaved to sin. Stowers, Rereading, 292 appeals to 1 Cor 9.21 to claim that at such points Paul is merely identifying with the religious experience of gentile Christians, becoming a gentile to the gentiles. However, this suggestion does not attenuate the significance of the fact that Paul applies this problem to himself as Jew. First Corinthians 9.21 indicates that Paul is willing to live in the present as gentiles do in order to evangelise them. Such a practice does not require him to narrate aspects of their previous lives as his own, especially if he does not mean what he says. None of this is to deny that Paul sometimes speaks of the gentile world as mired in immorality in a way that he does not typically predicate of Jews (1 Thess 4.5; cf. Rom 9.30–1; Gal 2.15, though the latter may be ironic), but it is to point out that, at least in Romans 5–8, he does not exclude Jews from the problem of enslavement to sin (cf. 3.9). Indeed, according to 5.20, the presence of the law, evidently even among Jews, does not solve the problem of sin but rather exacerbates it. It must also be stressed that Paul's description of himself as being enslaved to sin is not necessarily how he would have viewed himself in his pre-Christian life (cf. Phil 3.4–6). Romans 7.5 would be a retrospective evaluation. Furthermore, my argument does not necessarily entail that Romans 5–8 is addressed to Jews, even if at points the text may speak about them.

21 Käsemann, Romans, 147. De Boer, Defeat of Death, 161 approvingly quotes Käsemann's assertion that ‘each in his own way confirms the fact that he finds himself in a world marked by sin and death and that he is subject to the burdening curse’ (Romans, 149).

22 Käsemann, ‘On Paul's Anthropology’, 24: ‘Just as each person is both himself and his world, so he is also himself and Adam on the path which he follows.’ Eastman, Paul and the Person, 11, quotes Käsemann's statement that ‘every person after Adam is entangled in the fate of the protoplast’ (Romans, 197). Already in his dissertation, Käsemann spoke of a person as ‘the concrete manifestation of the world which concretely determines his activity and suffering’ (Käsemann, E., Leib und Leib Christi: Eine Untersuchung zur paulinischen Begrifflichkeit (BHT 9; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1933) 111–12Google Scholar).

23 T. Engberg-Pedersen, Paul and the Stoics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2000), 207 in particular interprets humanity being under sin to mean simply that they risk sinning. Gaventa, Our Mother Saint Paul, 121 criticises Engberg-Pedersen for ‘reducing sin to misdeed’.

24 This point is powerfully expressed in Eastman's discussion of human embeddedness in Romans 5 and 7 in Paul and the Person, 85–105, 109–25.

25 Cf. Gaventa, ‘Cosmic Power of Sin’, 231: ‘Sin [is] an upper-case Power that enslaves humankind’; Campbell, Deliverance, 63 writes of humanity as a ‘kingdom of enslaved subjects’ under Sin and Death since Adam; De Boer, ‘Paul's Mythologizing Program’, 14: ‘Behind human sinning and human dying, Paul discerns cosmological powers at work which he calls Sin and Death’ (emphasis original). For the debate over how to conceive of the force that makes human sinning inevitable, see Moo, D. J., The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) 322–9Google Scholar; Croasmun, Emergence of Sin, 133–8. Croasmun refers to Smith, D. L., With Willful Intent: A Theology of Sin (Wheaton: BridgePoint, 1994) 360–7Google Scholar, who describes various interpretations of the way subsequent humanity was affected by Adam's sin: realism, federalism, example, social transmission and biological transmission. The apocalyptic view adds the explanation that Sin as a cosmic power inexorably causes human to sin.

26 Cf. Gaventa, ‘Cosmic Power of Sin’, 232, 235; De Boer, ‘Paul's Mythologizing Program’, 13: ‘Paul personifies and thereby “mythologizes” the notions of sin and death’; Eastman, Paul and the Person, 110: ‘sin appears as an agent acting in human history’. Supporting this line of interpretation, R. Jewett, Romans: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), writes, ‘The language of “personification” does not do justice to the apocalyptic worldview within which Paul is operating.’

27 M. Wolter, Der Brief an die Römer (2 vols.; EKKNT 6; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Patmos, 2014) i.343, writes, ‘Auf jeden Fall hat Paulus schon hier nicht mehr nur den “einen Menschen” Adam im Blick, sondern bereits die gesamte Menschheit seit Adam.’

28 Wolter, Der Brief an die Römer, i.360, writes that in these verses sin is occasionally ‘eine Macht’ and at other points a ‘konkrete Sündetat’. Yet Wolter describes sin as ‘ein[e] überindividuell[e] Macht, die die Herrschaft über alle Nachkommen Adams ergriff und die Unausweichlichkeit des Sündigens als ein Verhängnis über sie brachte, den niemand entkommen kann’ (i.343). It is thus unclear whether for Wolter conceiving of sin as ‘eine Macht’ requires understanding sin as more than action, as long as sin is understood as an inevitable reality that humans cannot escape because of Adam. Wilckens, U., Der Brief an die Römer (3 vols.; EKKNT 6; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1978–82Google Scholar) i.315, speaks of sin in this more qualified way, writing, ‘So ist die Rede von “der Sünde” Interpretament des überindividuellen, universalen Charakters alles Sündigens’ (emphasis original).

29 Wolter, Der Brief an die Römer, i.360 notes that in 5.20, ‘ἁμαρτία ist generisch gebraucht und steht metonymisch für die Gesamtheit aller sündigen Handlungen. [Das Wort] bezeichnet … wie in V. 13b die konkrete Sündetat.’

30 See the summary of the problem of sin in Campbell, Deliverance, 72.

31 Gaventa, ‘Cosmic Power of Sin’, 237: ‘Any lingering notion that the anti-God powers, including Sin, are to be defeated by human strength fails on these words [Rom 16.20].’ Campbell, Deliverance, 63 similarly writes of humanity's need for divine rescue from the problem unleashed by Adam.

32 Kaye, B. N., The Thought Structure of Romans with Special Reference to Chapter 6 (Austin, TX: Schola, 1979)Google Scholar overlooks this point. Kaye contends that, when ἁμαρτία is spoken of as an agent, Paul is personifying sinful action or its consequent guilt (56). Yet this claim cannot accommodate passages such as Rom 7.8, 17, 20, where ἁμαρτία intervenes prior to human action. Kaye is followed by H. Räisänen, Paul and the Law (WUNT 29; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 19872) 99 n. 29. Kaye is often invoked by scholars who claim that ἁμαρτία represents the passions, but their view is substantially different from his in that they incorporate the notion that ἁμαρτία refers to a force that precedes human action. See Stowers, Rereading, 351 n. 11; Wasserman, Death of the Soul, 54; Miller, C. D., The Practice of the Body of Christ: Human Agency in Pauline Theology after MacIntyre (PTMS; Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2014) 99 n. 2CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

33 I use the masculine pronoun because Paul uses masculine adjectives (σάρκινος, πεπραμένος) for the speaker (7.14).

34 Ὀψώνια can denote a soldier's wages or a slave's allowance. See LSJ s.v. ὀψώνιον; BDAG s.v. ὀψώνιον. Since at one time Christians were both sin's soldiers (6.19) and its slaves (6.16–18, 20, 22), both meanings could be operative. Goodrich, J. K., ‘From Slaves of Sin to Slaves of God: Reconsidering the Origin of Paul's Slavery Metaphor in Romans 6’, BBR 23 (2013) 509–30, at 528Google Scholar, writes, ‘As the context of Rom 6:16–7:6 indicates, the metaphorical field implied by ὀψώνια in 6:23 is domestic slavery, not military service.’ Yet the context holds together the two metaphors.

35 Of course, there was not one generic discourse about the passions in antiquity. See n. 14. Wasserman, Death of the Soul, 81–9, argues that sin in the bulk of Romans 6–8 is a representation of τὰ παθήματα τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν in 7.5. See her more recent treatment in Apocalypse as Holy War, 173–202. In explaining ancient moral discourse, Stowers (S. K. Stowers, ‘Paul's Four Discourses about Sin’, Celebrating Paul: Festschrift in Honor of Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, O.P., and Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. (ed. P. Spitaler; CBQMS 48; Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 2011), 100–27, at 123) writes, ‘In Paul's time, the words for passions could either mean just the emotions or the whole non-rational or non-mental part (appetites and emotions) of the person. The emotions unlike the appetites could be directed by the mind, but were prone to run out of control and work against the mind. The appetites are intimately connected with the bodily parts with which they are associated.’ The appetites here appear to come closest to what Paul calls the παθήματα and ἐπιθυμίαι in Rom 6.12; 7.5, 7–25.

36 Käsemann, ‘On Paul's Anthropology’, 28; Eastman, Paul and the Person, 8. Similarly, Tannehill, R. C., Dying and Rising with Christ: A Study in Pauline Theology (BZNW 32; Berlin: A. Töpelmann, 1967) 59Google Scholar.

37 Käsemann, ‘On Paul's Anthropology’, 28 claims that ‘man is a being who cannot be determined solely in the light of his own self’ and ‘his existence stems from outside himself’.

38 Even though he underscores the unity of the person, Käsemann, ‘On Paul's Anthropology’, 16 acknowledges that Romans 7 posits a division in the agent. Martyn, J. L., Galatians (AB 33A; New York: Doubleday, 1997) 538Google Scholar follows P. W. Meyer, ‘The Worm at the Core of the Apple’, The Conversation Continues: Studies in Paul and John in Honor of J. Louis Martyn (ed. R. T. Fortna and B. R. Gaventa; Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1990) 62–84, at 76 in claiming that the issue in Romans 7 is not a divided self but rather a complete self enslaved to sin. While it is true that the whole person ends up being powerless against sin, there is a significant difference between the mind, which – at least in Romans 7 – genuinely delights in the good, and the flesh, which consistently inclines towards evil. The solution is not to convert the mind, which here is not portrayed as problematic per se, but rather to empower the person against the force in the flesh.

39 Fitzmyer, Romans, 459 writes, ‘Lit., “the passions of sins,” i.e., the propensity to sin following upon strong sensory impressions, which come from sin itself; so Paul now phrases what he described in 6:12 as “the cravings” of the mortal body. Pathēmata normally means “sufferings” (as in 8:18), but now it is used in the pejorative sense of “emotions, passions,” as in Gal 5:24 (cf. Plutarch, Moralia 1128E).’ Jewett's analysis is puzzling, as he insists, despite the context, that the passions are associated with the mind as much as the body, and thus refuses to speak of them as passions in a classical sense and instead parses them as ‘yearnings for honor’ (Romans, 436), a sign that the bent of his commentary may unduly colour the exegesis here.

40 van Kooten, G. H., Paul's Anthropology in Context: The Image of God, Assimilation to God, and Tripartite Man in Ancient Judaism, Ancient Philosophy and Early Christianity (WUNT 232; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008) 380–1CrossRefGoogle Scholar writes, ‘The entire passage, Rom 7.7–13, is a footnote to the short remark in Rom 7.5 that the sinful passions, which characterized the pre-Christian life “in the flesh” were aroused – during that existence – by the law.’

41 Wasserman, Death of the Soul, 23, 60–76, 123. See Plato, Resp. 4.430e–431b, 442c–d; 8.554c–e; 9.571a–d, 573b, 574c–575a, 577d–e; Philo, Abr. 223, 237, 242–3, 256; Leg. 1.105–8; 2.77–81, 90–2; 3.74; Det. 48, 74–5; Fug. 113–14; Post. 73; Deus 111–13; Congr. 86; QG 1.51; Plutarch, Virt. vit. 101a; Am. prol. 498d; Galen, The Diagnosis and Cure of the Soul's Passions (from Galen: On the Passions and Errors of the Soul (ed. P. W. Harkins; Columbus: Ohio State University, 1963) 48). This background appears to correspond more fully with Paul's language than what we find at Qumran. At Qumran too we encounter political and military metaphors for the battle between God or good spirits, on the one hand, and evil spirits or the evil inclination, on the other. There is the language of ruling (תשלט, משלה) in 1QHa v 32–3; viii 18 (numbering in E. M. Schuller and C. A. Newsom, eds., The Hodayot (Thanksgiving Scroll): A Study Edition of 1QHa (EJL 36; Atlanta: SBL, 2012)); and 11Q5 xix 15–16. Combat imagery is found in 1QS iv 23 (יריבו); 4Q444 1 2, 4 (ולהלחם, ריב); 4Q511 48 + 49 4 (מלחמות). I have not found a reference to sin or the evil within ‘killing’ a person, though sinful actions may be designated as ‘paths of death’ (4Q184 1 9–10; cf. Prov 7.27) or a cause of death (11Q5 xix 9–10). I have also not come across an instance of a person being ‘enslaved’ by sin, although people may be said to be sold to Sheol because of their sin (11Q5 xix 10).

42 I do not mean to claim that Paul would therefore adopt every aspect of, say, a Platonic anthropology. My claim is simply that in the ancient world, writers could employ metaphors similar to Paul's to speak about a force intrinsic to the flesh that came into conflict with the good. This caveat may address Croasmun's objection that, if we follow Wasserman, the passions would have to be transposed into a different cosmic imaginary than that of the Platonic discourse in which they are grounded (Emergence of Sin, 20 n. 79). Croasmun is right insofar as Paul and the Platonists do not share the same view of the cosmos or humanity, and thus due caution must be taken in appealing to a specific aspect of their anthropologies.

43 Gaventa claims that sin is neither ‘misdirection’ (Our Mother Saint Paul, 121) nor ‘a disposition or flaw in human nature’ (‘Cosmic Power of Sin’, 231), which may be an attempt to summarise Stowers's view of the passions.

44 Käsemann, Romans, 201–3 abstracts from what he calls the Greek tradition and Qumran in order to artificially construct the category of an ‘ethical conflict’. For Käsemann, ‘ethical conflict’ is an insufficient description for the reality of being ‘sold under sin’. Yet this is because of Käsemann's very narrow understanding of the ‘ethical conflict’. A more flexible notion might make it a suitable descriptor.

45 Wasserman, Death of the Soul, 32, 135. See, for example, Plutarch, Virt. prof. 76b–c; Rect. rat. aud. 46d. Citing Epictetus, Diatr. 2.17.24; 2.18.8; Seneca, Ep. 82.4–7, Holtz, ‘Paul, the Law and Judaism’, 202 writes that the Stoic solution involved an inward turn to make a right use of impressions. Becker, E.-M., ‘Das introspektive Ich des Paulus nach Phil 1–3: Ein Entwurf’, NTS 75 (2019) 310–1, at 314Google Scholar, claims that, by contrast, Paul does not view the solution in ‘introspektive Selbstanalyse’, which ‘er … wie das denkende Ich selbst einer Kritik unterzieht (Röm 7.24f.)’.

46 It should be noted, though, that moral philosophers did occasionally speak of people who were so corrupt that even good instruction drove them to commit evil. See Wasserman, Death of the Soul, 105, 109. As Holtz, ‘Paul, the Law and Judaism’, 203 n. 87 notes, ‘According to Seneca the conflict between the “true” self and the “actual” self remains unresolvable once the passions have fully erupted’ (citing Seneca, Med. 1078–9; Ira 1.8.3).

47 I would like to thank the participants in the Duke New Testament seminar, the Pauline seminar of the British New Testament Society, and the Theology and Apocalyptic discussion group for their valuable comments on drafts of this article.

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Apocalyptic and the Passions: Overcoming a False Dichotomy in Pauline Studies
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