Romans 8:1


"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

This verse is called into question because of the phrase, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The same phrase appears in verse 4. Scholarship has labeled this a scribal error. Scribal errors fall into a variety of categories, such as omissions, false recollection, confusion of letters, and insertions. Some others are a little more technical, such as the following. Haplography: The omission of one of a pair of letters or group of letters. Homoeoteleuton: Sometimes a text has the some phrase or words. Homoeoteleuton is when a scribe skips over a portion of the text and omits what is between the two like phrases. Dittography: The repetition of a letter, syllable, word, or phrase. The passage in Romans 8:1 is listed as a dittography scribal error by naturalistic Biblical scholars.

Scribal errors do occur as seen in the large amount of variances within the textual witnesses. There is, however, another perspective which modern scholarship fails to reconcile. While we live in the natural world, there is also a spiritual world which rages an ongoing battle around us (Ephesians 6:10-12). There is a spiritual force which seeks perversion and brings corruption to the texts. Advantageously, there is also a Spiritual Force which seeks purity and brings preservation to His Holy words. While we can expect natural corruption of the text because of human error, we can also expect corruption of the text because of the powers of darkness. And yet, we have the promise of God to keep and preserve His words and therefore we are assured of His success.

The passage in Romans 8:1 is by no means a scribal error (unless one inadvertly omitted the Biblical phrase). Instead, we must conclude upon both the textual promise of God concerning preservation and the contextual passage itself that the passage is genuine and has only been omitted by those forces which seek to pervert and not preserve. Having said this, let us look at both the textual evidence for the passage and the contextual importance of the phrase.

The Greek phrase, "ue kata sarka peripatousin alla kata pneuma" (who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.) is supported by a number of minuscules. Among them are 33, 88, 104, 181, 326, 330, 451, 614, 630, 1241, 1877, 1962, 1984, 1985, 2492, and 2495. These date from the eleventh to the fifteenth century. In fact, according to the United Bible Societies Greek Text, among the minuscule witness, only minuscules 1739 (tenth century) and 1881 (fourteenth century) support the reading which omits the phrase. The standard Alexandrian uncials also omit the phrase from verse one. But it is included in Codex K (ninth century), Codex P (ninth century), and stands in the corrected margin of both Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century) and Codex Claromontanus (sixth century). Also, it is included in the Latin Vulgate (fourth century), "nihil ergo nunc damnationis est his qui sunt in christo iesu qui non secundum carnem ambulant", and the Old Syriac Peshitto (second century). The whole verse is cited, with the phrase in question, by Theodoret (466 AD), Ps-Oecumenius (tenth century), and Theophylact (1077 AD). We also have partial citation of the verse by Basil (379 AD). He writes,

"And after he has developed more fully the idea that it is impossible for one who is in the power of sin to serve the Lord, he plainly states who it is that redeems us from such a tyrannical dominion in the words: "Unhapply man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I give thanks to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord." Further on, he adds: 'There is now, therefore, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh.'" (Staint Basil, "Concerning Baptism," in The Fathers Of The Church: Saint Basil Ascetical Works, "trans." Sister M. Monica Wagner, vol. 9 [New York: Fathers Of The Church, Inc., 1950], 343.)

It therefore comes as no surprise that the whole verse is found in the authoritative/standard foreign versions which underlined the Authorized Version in 1611. Nor is it a surprise to find it in all early English versions. The Bishops' Bible reads, "There is then no damnation to them which are in Christ Jesu, which walke not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Likewise, Tyndale's New Testament, and the Great Bible use the word "damnation." However, the Geneva Bible agrees with the King James and uses the English word "condemnation."

Theologically, the omission of the last half of the verse carries a doctrinal error. To say that there is no condemnation whatsoever of any who are in Christ Jesus is to overlook the whole of scripture. In fact, we are told that it is very possible for those who are in Christ to suffer condemnation. If the Believer is walking, not after the Spirit but after the flesh, his or her works are nothing but wood, hay, and stubble. If the Believer is walking after the Spirit, and not after the flesh, his or her works are gold, silver, and precious stones. (1 Corinthians 3:12). Everyone's works will be tried by fire. Fleshly works will be burned and Spiritual works will endure. We are told, "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:15).

The context of Romans chapter 8, verses 4-10, also teaches us that faithful Christians are to walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh. This has to do with our Christian living. The Christian is in a constant battle between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:16-18). There is no condemnation for the Believer who is following the Holy Spirit. However, there is condemnation for those who do not follow the leading of the Spirit, but seek to follow their own flesh.

We must remember that the word condemnation not only carries the meaning of judgment, but also of disapproval. John informs his "little children" that the heart of the Believer is able to pass such condemnation or disapproval on our Christian living. "For if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." (1 John 3:20-21). Not only is there a judgment for Believers who stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-10) where their works will either be approved or disapproved (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). But there also can be a judgment on the Believer here which may cost them their very life if they continue in sin (Acts 5:1-10; 1 John 5:16). So, Biblically speaking, there is condemnation to those who walk after the flesh and not after the Spirit.

The use of this verse among the Reformers, as it stands in the Traditional Text, may be illustrated by citing John Calvin. In his commentary on Romans, Calvin writes of verse one:

"'There is then, &c.' After having described the contest which the godly have perpetually with their won flesh, he returns to the consolation, which was very needful for them, and which he had before mentioned; and it was this,--That though they were still beset by sin, they were yet exempt from the power of death, and from every curse, provided they lived not in the flesh but in the Spirit . . . 'After the Spirit.' Those who walk after the Spirit are not such as have wholly put off all the emotions of the flesh, so that their whole life is redolent with nothing but celestial perfection; but they are those who sedulously labour to subdue and mortify the flesh, so that the love of true religion seems to reign in them." (John Calvin, Commentaries On The Epistle Of Paul The Apostle To The Romans, "trans." John Owen [1536; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1947], 275-276.)

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