Soul, Death, & Grace Chapter 9

One of the most interesting facets of any theological research project into sources outside the Bible about a theme carrying vocabulary familiar to use from the fact of the appearance of those concepts directly or indirectly in Scripture is beyond the scope of this report – to examine carefully the question of how the researched concept, when assembled, dove-tails into Scripture. Is it hostile? Does it contradict the stories found in the Bible? And, of course, the most exciting, and potentially fruitful question – does this research information when learned give us an increased insight into some book, some favorite passage or verse, or another theme appearing in Scripture?

However, while a careful examination will have to wait, an observation, or two, I must sneak in.

Recently, while reading again a very familiar passage, Rom 1:17, which includes one of the most famous of Biblical phrases, “The just shall live by faith,” I observed (finally!) that the Greek word translated “shall live” is a Greek future middle voice (reflexive form), which designates actions one does to oneself –

Active voice – I wash the car.

Passive voice –The car is being washed.

Middle voice – The car is washing itself.

Soul, Death, and Grace

The formula we have found in this research report that presents us with a concept which presents faith expressed as that which brings into activity grace, which active grace changes the soul of the one expressing faith, this formula, if it were to be expressed in Greek, would be a reflexive – middle voice – action. The results of my decision bring about a result on me.

Hence the fascinating question presses itself on us – could it be that the writer of Rom 1:17 intended us to understand a concept like the one we have just briefly reviewed to be the implied concept-reality hiding behind his use of the middle voice in our phrase in Rom 1:17?

This formula does have the necessary ingredients to make it be in harmony not only with the Greek of Rom 1:17 but also with the Hebrew of Hab 2:4 and Ez 33:19.

(It is also of interest to note that translators of Rom 1:17 in a various versions of Scripture have generally failed to treat this verb form as a middle voice, perhaps because the significance of this verb form could not be collated with an understood facet of the theology of saving faith.)

P.S.: A survey of the occurrences of the various forms of this Greek verb as they appear in the Septuagint show it is not a deponent verb. The technical significance may be that it carries a message similar to the middle voice participles appearing in 1 Thess 1:2, a middle of personal involvement according to some linguists. This would also probably be the technical designation of the function for the middle voice in Rom 1:17 which we are responding to.

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