The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Does Rom 5:17 restrict the 'all men' in Rom 5:18?

Tom was focusing on a linguistic argument, of course, not on the larger exegetical contexts.

But I wrote quite a lot about the larger exegetical contexts. :slight_smile: Including addressing the points you’re talking about. (Paul’s rhetorical contrasts throughout this entire section; to what extent a sub-category per se, not just another contrast, may or may not be introduced in verse 17; and limitations of appealing to a sub-category there.)

Evangelical universalism is not really refuted by any insistence that those who receive life and justification do so by the reception of faith. They just believe that such a gift can be received post mortem and that all will eventually do so. The real difference between you and them is that you believe that Scripture presents a deadline for mankind to do said recieving.


Keeping in mind that Aaron (having been year-banned a while back, and having been put back under ban again after having snuck back in early as “BookofActsChristian”) is in no position to answer now; and since I did a bunch of research meanwhile that more-or-less verified his reply; I’ll try to pick up his side of the argument, at least insofar as ‘active’ sense of translation goes.

Obviously, I’m going to claim (along the exegetical line I previously laid out–and unlike A37, of course) that for 5:17’s verb to be read in an active sense doesn’t obviate the overall universalistic connotations of Romans 5 when the contexts are added up. I suspect you’d agree with that (since you certainly agree that Paul’s insistence on human responsibility elsewhere wouldn’t and doesn’t keep him from preaching universalism); although I can see how a purely passive sense here would weigh especially toward universalism when approached from a Calvinistic line of thought (so to speak), considering that the scope is elsewhere so widely huge (as Arminians typically affirm–though Calvs can’t without becoming some kind of universalist instead!) In effect, God would be authoritatively electing to save all sinners in a fashion parallel with (but hyper-excessively superior to!) the passive diselection engendered by original sin inheritance.

And, as I noted, the surrounding contexts everywhere else in Romans 5 tend to talk about God’s salvation in that authoritative sense. So for Paul to use {lab-} in a purely passive way here would certainly fit the surrounding context very well.

(For anyone wondering where the letter ‘m’ is in that root, that really is the root verb, it just happens to usually morph into adding an ‘m’ in most forms, including the two forms at 5:17 and 13:2.)

The only problem is that Paul doesn’t. I mean, he doesn’t use a purely passive version of the verb. It’s very obviously an active sense of the verb, as your own further research confirms.

Walter Bauer’s Lexicon remarks don’t really change this. On the contrary he still affirms a directly active mode in the reception. A more passive mode to an active participle is NOT the same as passively receiving lumps on the head.

Or, to switch analogies (to something more pertinent by frequent Biblical analogy): active reception is not like a woman passively receiving sexual action from her husband. Active reception is like a woman actively cooperating in receiving sexual action from her husband. Yet still distinct from taking such a thing from her husband. That, and the first example, would be feminine and masculine rape, respectively. (I realize of course that you aren’t even proposing that kind of salvation, much less trying to defend it; and even if you were proposing that kind of auto-salvation, it would be in terms of surgery or healing. The ethical connotations are not meant to be paralleled that far; I’m only including them to highlight the distinctions involved in the action/response variations.)

The problem is that for your linguistic argument at 5:17 to work, you have to read the verb in terms of purely passive reception, ignoring the active component for all practical purposes. Otherwise it’ll still be about the choice of the sinner to receive the salvation given by God. Which (so far as it goes) opens up the topic of refusal of salvation.

It is of course possible that Paul elsewhere clearly and regularly ignores any activity to the meaning of the verb in that form, even though he puts it in active participle form. That would be bad grammar on his part (and/or on the part of his scribes taking dictation and translating to Greek), but that certainly isn’t impossible and it would at least establish precedent in similar grammatic situations. I’ll check those other uses of {lambanontes} later (God willing and the creek don’t rise).

But I have to say I find it peculiar how you’re deploying 13:2 now; and with all due respect to Strong’s, their statement (as reported) doesn’t make much sense in regard to the context of 13:2.

Back previously you used 13:2 as an example of a purely passive use of {lab-}. And that fits what I turned up in my own research. It also happens to fit the context of 13:2, as you recognized when you appealed to that example originally: the sinners there sure as heck aren’t taking lumps on their heads! Neither are they actively receiving lumps on their heads in cooperation with the punishment–Paul may believe and preach penitent acceptance of God’s punishment elsewhere, but that isn’t his topic there. They may be actively resisting the punishment (as impenitent sinners), but that doesn’t seem to really fit the reception there either. Maybe the middle deponent forms are translated in almost all cases as being active despite being passive, but if so 13:2 would seem to be one of the rare exceptions where the middle deponent really means what it says: a passive form! :wink:

Even supposing, however, that in the case of 13:2 it ought to be translated as active instead of passive, what exactly is the point of adducing it now as an example? As far as I can tell, the point could only be something like ‘See? Over there is an obviously passive form that ought to be translated as active (although the context there sure doesn’t seem like it ought to be translated as active). So there’s precedent for this almost-completely different active form here in 5:17 ({lambanontes} here as an active present third-person-plural participle; {lempsontai} at 13:2 as a middle/passive deponent future third-person-plural non-participle) to be translated as entirely passive instead!’

But that isn’t an exegesis I would want to hang much of anything on, even if it turned out to be true.

(I suppose it’s possible that the middle/passive form at 13:2 could be treated as active in the sense of meaning that the receivers of the action, even of the future action in that case, will have previously earned the action. But that still wouldn’t help a comparative argument for translating the active participle at 5:17 in a completely passive sense.)

Again, those people know mountains more about Biblical Greek (and no doubt classical Greek) than I do, and I don’t want to diss them. I constantly learn from them and from other scholars like them, and I refer to such scholars constantly myself. But the logic just doesn’t seem to be adding up here yet.

I’ll be curious what a comparison with Paul’s other uses of {lambanontes} will turn up.

Hi Luke,

Love that picture with a cigarette in your (or someone’s) mouth. But I guess I don’t follow your reasoning here. So could you perhaps help me out? Just what is it in Romans 5:17 that “introduces a sub-category of people”? If we restrict our attention, just for a moment, to this single verse all by itself, we can identify two classes of people: those over whom death exercises dominion and those who receive the abundance of grace. If we continue to ignore everything else in the context, verse 17 thus leaves us with exactly three possibilities: Either (a) the first class of people is more restricted than (and hence a sub-category of) the second, (b) the second is more restricted than (and hence a sub-category of) the first, or © the two classes are coextensive. And nothing in 5:17, taken in isolation from its context, provides any answer, so far as I can tell, to which of these three possibilities is the one that Paul himself endorsed.

So now we must turn to the larger context. If we look back to 5:12, it is clear that, according to Paul, the class of those over whom death exercises dominion includes all the merely human descendants of Adam. So that effectively eliminates (a). But as a matter of logic, we still have two possibilities left: Either (b) the class of those who receive the abundance of grace is more restricted, as you claim, than the class of those over whom death exercises dominion, or © the two classes are coextensive, as I claim. So does anything else in the context help to eliminate either (b) or ©. Yes, it does. Verses 15, 18, and 19 and the parallel structure of the claims included therein make it abundantly clear that, according to Paul, the two classes are coextensive. That clearly eliminates (b) and leaves © as the only possibility consistent with the context.

The logic here is so clear, by the way, that even the late John Murray, the best of the Reformed New Testament scholars in my opinion and a strong proponent of limited election, was forced to admit the following: If you want to escape a universalist interpretation of Paul in Romans 5, you must turn elsewhere in Paul’s writings. (Murray himself turned to II Thessalonians 1:9.) For nothing in the immediate context, anyway, enables you to restrict the scope of the second “all” in 5:18; to the contrary, everything there supports a universalist interpretation.

But perhaps you still disagree with Murray and me in this matter. If so, could you perhaps point to something in 5:17 or its immediate context that would support your contention that, according to Paul, the effect of Adam’s sin was more powerful and more widespread than the effect of Christ’s one act of righteousness?

Thanks for your contribution.


Hi Tom,

It’s a cartoon picture from facebook based on the TV show Mad Men.

Sure let me rephrase. So Romans 5:12-21 sets up a contrast between the justification of Christ and the original sin of Adam. The Apostle bounces back and forth between these two sometimes strangely similar but ultimately contrasting men. However during this contrast the Apostle Paul makes tangential comments about a number of other ideas. This big contrast and a tangent occurs in verses 17 and 18. So verse 17 begins “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man” (17a) reminding us of the universality of Adam’s sin. But then the Apostle Paul wants to spend a few words describing the generous nature of God’s grace, but he restricts it to “those who receive the abundance of grace”(17b).

Now when he talks about “life brought for all men” (18b) we not meant to forget or disregard the distinction (sub-category perhaps isn’t the best word) of “those who receive the abundance of grace”(17b). The two “classes” are not necessarily “coextensive.” Douglas Moo, whose commentary on Romans supersedes Murray’s has this to say about verse 17 “The reign of life, on the other hand, is experienced through choice and personal decision; it is for those who ‘receive’ the gift. The importance of this qualification can hardly be overemphasized. … What appears at first sight to be universalism on both sides of the Adam/Christ parallel is here, then, importantly qualified.” (p340)

Although I think Roofus’s reply above sums it up perfectly - nobody argues against acceptance of the gift being necessary for salvation - just that one either regards physical death as the cut-off point for being able to do that or not. We are exhorted to overcome evil with good - hopefully God will be able to do this in every case (him being perfect and all that :wink: )

Thanks, Jeff
People seem to avoid answering some of roofus’s point and I can’t figure out why.

Thanks for a good and important post, Jason. Let me begin with an aside about Romans 13:2. Before I wrote the post to which you reply, I looked up the word “deponent” in the American Heritage English Dictionary (not the most authoritative source, I’ll admit), and here is what I read: “Grammar. Denoting a verb of active meaning and passive form, as certain Latin and Greek verbs.” Beyond that, none of the standard English versions of the Bible translate “lempsontai” as if its voice were passive; to the contrary, they all translate it with an English verb in the active voice. Neither do any of the scholars who distinguish between the active and the passive sense of “lambano” seem to think that this has anything to do with the grammatical distinction between the active and the passive voice. [See, for example, John Murray, [i]Epistle to the Romans, p. 198, Richard Bell, “Rom 5:18-19 and Universal Salvation” in New Testament Studies 48 (July, 2004), pp. 428-429, and M.E. Boring, “The Language of Universal Salvation in Paul” in Journal of Biblical Literature 105 (1986)] Still, having said that, I can now see that I may have been overly influenced by the English translation of Romans 13:2 and hence that this might not have been as judicious an example as, say, II Corinthians 11:24.

So let’s switch to II Corinthians 11:24, where Paul declared: “Five times I have received from the Jews forty lashes minus one.” Here there can be no doubt. For here we encounter a first person aorist indicative form of “lambano” in the active voice, and here Paul clearly meant that he was the passive recipient of 39 lashes on five occasions, not that he freely chose to receive them. Indeed, this fits perfectly with my own example of a boxer who receives (active voice) severe blows to the head. So perhaps we should just set aside the confusing distinction between the passive sense of a term and its passive voice. The real issue is whether the Greek “lambano,” like the English “receives,” can sometimes mean “be the recipient of” and can mean this even when it is used in the active voice. The answer to that question seems clear; and according to Richard Bell and M.E. Boring, this was the typical way in which Paul used the term.

Of course, as you point out yourself, nothing of substance–or at least nothing of substance between you and me–hangs on this linguistic point about Paul’s use of “lambano.” For even if we should grant Aaron37, Luke, Moo, Howard Marshall, Rudolf Bultmann, and a host of others their preferred interpretation of “receives” in Romans 5:17, any argument that such an interpretation restricts the scope of the second “all” in Romans 5:18 will inevitably rest, I contend, upon a rather elementary logical confusion. But I’ll say more about this in my next reply to Luke.


P.S. How about those Oregon Ducks who thrashed hapless UCLA 60-13! Sorry Gene, just had to mention that.

Ah yes, Luke, I now see that you are making essentially the same move that Aaron37 made in an earlier post–the same move, indeed, that Douglas Moo, John Blanchard, Howard Marshall, Rudolf Bultmann, and a host of others have made as well. But why, I wonder, do you say that Moo’s commentary on Romans supersedes Murray’s? Certainly Moo wrote his commentary after Murray wrote his. For that very reason, however, Moo owes us something more than a dogmatic assertion at this point; at the very least, he owes us some response to Murray’s contention that in 5:17 “to receive” simply means “to be the recipient of” and thus has the same passive meaning there that it so clearly has in II Corinthians 11:24 [see my response to Jason above]. So could you perhaps direct my attention to where Moo even addresses this crucial exegetical issue? It has been several years since I read his discussion of Romans 5. But off the top of my head, I do not recall that he even addresses the crucial issue that Murray raises; instead, he simply reads his own theology into the text along with a lot of baggage about “choice and personal decision” that, so far as I can tell, has no relevance at all to the context of 5:17.

Be that as it may, let us now simply assume, for the sake of argument, that you and Moo are right about the meaning of “receives” in 5:17. Does this provide a single reason to doubt that, according to Paul, the class of those over whom death exercises dominion and the class of those who receive the abundance of grace are indeed coextensive? Not at all. But because I have addressed this issue elsewhere in four or five places, and because my wife and I are preparing to leave town for a couple of weeks, I am also going to save time by reproducing what I have written elsewhere. What follows, then, are a few paragraphs (sans footnotes) from a typescript prepublication copy of my essay, “Universal Reconciliation and the Inclusive Nature of Election,” in Chad Brand, Perspectives on Election: Five Views, pp. 248-250.

So here is my question for you, Luke. Is it your contention that, according to Paul, the effect of Adam’s sin was more powerful, more widespread, and thus more extensive than the effect of Christ’s one act of righteousness?


I know everyone’s heard my point on this in the Affirmative forum “The Assurance” but I tend to believe it’s relevant here.

I’m wondering if Libertarians/Arminians would render Romans 5:10 as being restrictive as well?
10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

I tend to see connections from Paul’s other writings that he is not restricting those reconciled to the church. In other places pauls tells us God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Or John’s words “who died not only for our sins but for the sins of the whole world”. Or Paul’s other comment “and unto himself reconcile all things, whether it be things on earth or in heaven”.

Upon that is the point that Paul makes is that this reconciliation occured while we were God’s enemies. So why does it restrict “WE” to the church?

My point being in V.10, I find Paul to be endorsing Universalism - All were reconcilied, all reconciled shall be saved by his life.

I find this to be EXACTLY his point in V17-18.
**For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.**

All died, (reconciled by his death of God’s Son)
all will be made alive (ressurection of God’s Son).

So I find v.10 makes the point all the more pointedly. The thing to prove is this:
In v.10 is the “reconciled” in part a the same “reconciled” in part B. And I see no reason to believe it is not.


Hi Tom

I think your confusing magnitude with extent. Otherwise it’d be simply Adam = Christ, but clearly the magnitude of Christ’s action is larger then Adam’s. However in a passage where the contrast is such a focus (although other themes are also in view) it’s significant verse 17 offers a qualification.

Now it’s true that verse 17 doesn’t mention any condemnation of those who do not receive God’s grace. However the mere fact the qualification exists in a passage where all of humanity is in view prevents verse 18 been taken as the starting point for universalism.

Luke, the issue at stake here is not whether there is a qualification, but rather, whether all humans will fulfill such a qualification. Therefore, your comment (“However, the mere fact the qualification exists in a passage where all of humanity is in view prevents verse 18 been taken as the starting point for universalism”) seems irrelevant.

Not “irrelevant” because generally the universalist argument runs, everyone will be saved as it says for example in Romans 5:18. However like you said the fact a qualification exists means you can’t just use verse 18 like that, as Alex asked in the opening post. Furthermore as we unpack the context in that chapter, the surrounding chapters and the entire book of Romans, a different picture emerges than Paul’s particular contrast in that particular section might lead you to believe.

Luke, I think you missed my point. The fact that a qualification exists does not show that all humans will not fulfill it. I agree that it could be that not all will respond to said qualification (and that your point may be correct), but the verse about the qualification does not settle the matter of how many will respond.

Your point about “the surrounding chapters and the entire book of Romans” remains unpacked and I can’t respond simply to your authority but rather would need to see you unpack it!

Do you believe in v. 10 Paul is restricting the All to the elect? If not, and you believe all were reconciled (it’s universal in scope), then why would God reconcile all unbelievers to himself without gauranteeing their salvation?


If God condemned all men under adam by the one act of disobedience then why would he not grant life to those same men? I’m of the persuasion that those born dead under Adam don’t choose to be born dead (sinners) - they are shoved into it; made that way by God. Thus I find Paul’s words to be true “God has bound all men over to disobedience”.

Obviously, I find that v.10 qualifies the scope of v 18. That is God reconciled all sinners to himself and I believe no one is excluded. I also believe all reconciled shall be saved by his life - All will be made alive by the one act of righteoussness.

Grant me this much, I’m not educated like half the poeple here and yourself :slight_smile: I’m doing the best I can. But at this point, since I believe the scope in v. 10 is universal and I believe the reconciliation is or will equate to salvation - then I do not believe v. 17 can restrict the all in v. 18.

2 John 1:1-2 basically says the same. that Christ is the propitiation for the sins not only of Christians, but of the whole world. the elect, and also all men. He is the Saviour of all men, especially of those who believe.

obviously, the whole world includes billions of unsaved men and women. but if Christ died to atone for the sins of the whole world, that seems to mean that all will be included in the category of the elect, some in this life, many more in the age to come.

nevermind my question(s). I think I already know the response:
The scope is universal in 18 concerning that all (in Christ) will be made alive. However, the being made alive does not include those outside of Christ.

So, I think I’ve done nothing to further this discussion. :blush: