[B-Greek] Spirit or spirit

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Thu Feb 27 13:09:52 EST 2003

> An interesting thing about the phrase TO FRONHMA TOU PNEUMATOS in Romans
> 8:27 is, as pointed out, its occurrence in Romans 8:6. While 8:27 is
> usually translated as meaning "the mind/thoughts that the Spirit has,"
> the same phrase in 8:6 is usually translated as "the mind set on the
> Spirit" (i.e., the human mind set to follow the Spirit, rather than the
> flesh). But since in Romans 7 Paul has almost personified SARX as having
> a will and life of its own, or rather a life controlled by indwelling
> hAMARTIA, it is not unreasonable to translate Romans 8:6 as "the mindset
> the flesh has" and "the mindset the Spirit has," viewing the SARX and
> the PNEUMA as two "beings" or "entities" at war with one another (see
> Galatians 5:17), each having its own thought process (FRONHMA). However,
> I have found few translations that treat the phrase in 8:6 as they treat
> it in 8:27, and literal translations ("the mindset of the flesh" "the
> mindset of the Spirit") do not sufficiently make clear how the
> translator's view the genitive phrase. I also have not read in
> commentaries this possible translation of the phrase in 8:6 -- yet I
> think my thoughts are valid grammatical ones, even if not apparently
> held or expressed by many.
> --
> Eric S. Weiss

I would basically agree with you.


The translation you call "usually" is from RSV, and it may be similar in
other comparable literal versions (like NASB).
You are also correct, of course, that literal translations do not make the
meaning very clear.
On the other hand, a fairly literal translation like "For the thinking of
the flesh results in death, but the thinking of the Spirit results in life
and peace" is reasonably understandable by just supplying the implied verb
"results in". In such a rendering I take the genitive to be subjective, and
you can say that flesh is personified, or it is shorthand for a person who
is controlled by or following his former unregenerate nature, whereas the
spirit is shorthand for a person who is being guided by the spirit.

Some more idiomatic versions have struggled with the sentence and came up
with various results, e.g.
GNB: "To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by
the Spirit results in life and peace."

NLT: "If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the
Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace."

NCV: "If people's thinking is controlled by the sinful self, there is death.
But if their thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace."

(I don't particularly like any of those renderings of SARX, but that is a
complex matter of how to interpret Romans 7, so I'll leave that.)

Actually, one needs to look at v. 6 together with verse 5, since the GAR
indicates that v. 6 is a further explanation of v. 5. REB has combined the
two verses:

REB: "Those who live on the level of the old nature have their outlook
formed by it, and that spells death; but those who live on the level of the
spirit have the spiritual outlook, and that is life and peace."

My own idiomatic translation in Danish reads (when translated back into
"5 Those who live under the power of sin, think in terms of sin, but those
who live under the guidance of the Spirit, think in terms of the Spirit. 6
The thoughts of sin lead to death, but the thoughts of the Spirit lead to
life and peace."

(Here I am interpreting "being according to SARX" in v. 5 as a reference to
a person who is controlled by sin on the basis of Romans 6 and 7. I cannot
use "flesh" in an idiomatic version.)

Iver Larsen

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