HOUSMAIL HM#116 -- THE GREEK PRESENT TENSE IN ROMANS 7                                         11June 2004

Recently, I "tripped over" the following reference to the use of the GREEK PRESENT TENSE, in Thayer's Greek Lexicon , attached to the ON LINE Bible.

If you have this excellent computer Bible, you can find it for yourself by enabling the Strong‘s references, and then looking up 5744, and then selecting 5774.

For those with "ears to hear", it goes a long way to increasing our understanding of the meaning of this much disputed passage in Romans 7. Receive it if you will!

From Thayer‘s Greek Lexicon in the On Line Bible
5774 Tense - Present

The present tense represents a simple statement of fact or reality viewed as occurring in actual time. In most cases this corresponds directly with the English present tense.

Some phrases which might be rendered as past tense in English will often occur in the present tense in Greek. These are termed "historical presents ," and such occurrences dramatize the event described as if the reader were there watching the event occur. Some English translations render such historical presents in the English past tense, while others permit the tense to remain in the present.

This use of the "historical present tense", is NOT unique to Greek. It is also often used by English writers for the same purpose. i.e. to dramatise a past event by describing it in the present tense , as if the reader is present with the writer, watching it happen.

It explains Paul‘s use of the present tense in Romans 7:13-25 -- where to careful readers, it seems quite clear that he is speaking about his FORMER enslavement to "SIN". Of course "SIN" is NOT a literal person. However in Rom 6 Paul personifies "sin" as a slave master and owner of those who have "sold" themselves into bondage by committing sin. (Isaiah 50:1; Rom 6:16-17; 7:14;)

It does NOT seem possible that some 14 years after his conversion, the man who has been pardoned and freed from condemnation, as described in Romans 8:1-16, can be speaking in Chapter 7 of his PRESENT status in Christ. It makes much more sense to view Romans 7 as describing Paul‘s long past "conversion experience". It should also describe our own response to the Gospel when we heard it, were convicted of our sins, and began to believe.

Praise God! Romans 8 contrasts THAT former hopeless condition, with what should be the present status of the redeemed. If we are truly "in the spirit" we should be experiencing true life, rather than the "carnal, sold under sin" (Rom 6:20, 23; Rom 7:14) life "in the flesh" which can never please God. (Rom 8:8)

And Praise God again! It also points us to the personal victory over sin which should be the developing experience of true Disciples indwelt and led by the Spirit of God . (Rom 8:12-17)

Paul's use of the present tense in Romans 7, is a Greek "historical present tense " which can quite validly be translated into English as PAST TENSE !