Romans 3:23 - USTEROUNTAI

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Tue May 14 11:52:26 EDT 2002

At 11:27 AM -0400 5/14/02, Jeff Young wrote:
>Hello all. A question regarding Romans 3:23.
>("For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God")
>Excuse me if this is an "interpretive" question rather than a BG question
>(I'm not trying to raise any theological issues). I am wondering how
>hUSTEROUNTAI should be taken here.
>I have come across a couple of views on this:
>1) hUSTEROUNTAI is connected with HMARTON. It is a result of all having
>sinned. That is, "since all have sinned, they fall short."
>2) hUSTEROUNTAI is a separate point. That is, "all have sinned (aorist) and
>are presently continuing to fall short" (Given the present tense).
>Is there anything, grammatically, that favors one over the other (or perhaps
>a third option).

Spicq (TLNT) has a very nice discussion of this word and the group of Greek
cognates associated with it:

	"In this family of words, the evolution was from a local sense to
the commoner temporal sense, then to a general idea of inferiority.1 The
adjective hUSTEROS, "coming behind, after" in space, then in time, is used
for "the following day" as well as for "later, next4 and for posterity, a
distant future;5 but it may refer to something that is merely second,
subsequent. It takes on a pejorative nuance in the expression "arrive too
late" (Homer, Il.  18.320), "late, tardy" (Aristophanes, Vesp.  691), and
especially with the sense of being "inferior." This latter meaning is well
attested in Philo, who especially loves this adjective and gives it the
same meanings as classical Greek.
	"The denominative verb hUSTEREW has especially the meaning "be
late, arrive late, too late," but also "let oneself be outrun, left
behind," hence a nuance of inferiority and even-in the Hellenistic
period-insufficiency and inefficacy: the manna was given "without
insufficiency or excess." This is the predominant meaning in the LXX
(especially for the Hebrew HASER ): "lack, fail, run out." It is also found
in Philo (Husbandry 85: lack opportunity), Josephus (Ant.  1.98; cf.
15.70), Dioscorides (5.86), and especially in the papyri. "Such a person
works and tires himself out and presses on and is only more lacking" (Sir
11:11; cf. 11:12); "If you are useful to the rich man he will use you, but
if you have nothing he will abandon you" (13:15); a sad spectacle is that
of the "failing" warrior (26:28); "you have been weighed in the balance and
found wanting" (KAI hEUREQH hUSTEROUSA, literally, lacking weight, Dan 5:27
[Theodotion]). The adverb hUSTERON, the opposite of NUN ("now"), retains in
the LXX the commonplace meanings of the adjective: next, after, finally. It
is particularly common in the papyri.
	"The NT completes this semantic evolution; almost all of the
fifteen occurrences of the verb hUSTEREW (John 2:3 is a bad manuscript
reading) have the sense "to lack," whether on a human or a spiritual level.
The rich young man, having observed all the commandments, asks, "What do I
still lack" to be perfect (Matt 19:20; cf. Mark 10:21)? While Jesus was
with his apostles, did they lack anything (Luke 22:35)? When Paul arrived
at Corinth, he lacked everything (2Cor 11:9), but he knew how to live with
abundance as well as how to go wanting.18 He thinks that he is in no way
beneath (behind, inferior to) those most eminent apostles who wish to
surpass him (2Cor 11:5; 12:11). The Corinthians lack no spiritual gift."

In terms of Spicq's account I would understand hUSTEROUNTAI in Rom 3:23 as
meaning "they continue to lack God's glory," i.e. "they still fail to reach
God's glory," i.e. they are not entitled to life in the age-to-come.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months:: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

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