Grace Theological Journal 1.2 (Spring 1980) 195-219
Copyright © 1980 by Grace Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.
EPHESIANS 2:3c AND
DAVID L. TURNER
THE student of hamartiology soon discovers that Eph 2:3c is a
standard proof text for and often occurs in the various presenta-
tions of original sin (peccatum originale or habituale). It may well be
that after Rom 5: 12-21 this passage is the most important in the NT
on this doctrine. All branches of Christendom, including Reformed,
Lutheran, Anglican, Arminian, and Roman Catholic1 have depended
1 Reformed: The Calvinistic theologians normally view this verse as asserting
depravity. See for example: Louis Berkhof, Systematic
The Banner of Truth Trust, 1941) 240; John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion
(LCC 20, 21; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960),
Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976 reprint) 328, 341;
Hodge, Systematic Theology (3 vols.;
2.243-44; W. G. T. Shedd. Dogmatic Theology (3 vols.; reprinted;
Klock, 1979), 2. 217-19; and A. H. Strong. Systematic Theology (
Judson Press, 1907) 578-79. See also the Westminster Confession (6:4) and Shorter
(Question 18): The Confession of Faith
Committee of the Free Church of Scotland, 1962 reprint) 40, 290. Lutheran: It is
evident that Martin Luther viewed Eph 2:3c as support for hereditary sin. For brief
citations from Luther and references to relevant passages see E. W. Plass, ed., What
Luther Says (3 vols.;
4385). See also article 2 of the Augsburg Confession and the Formula of Concord
(1. 1-3) in the Concordia Triglot: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church (St. Louis: Concordia, 1921) 44, 105, 779. The Lutheran theologian Francis
Pieper also views Eph 2:3c in this manner. See his Christian Dogmatics (4 vols.; St.
Louis: Concordia, 1950),
Articles of the Church of England do not contain proof texts, the language of Article 9
shows that its framers understood original sin to refer to "the fault and corruption of
the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam." This
definition implies a reference to Eph 2:3c. For an exposition of the conservative
Anglican view, see Gilbert Burnet, An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles of the
Church of England, rev. by J. R. Page (London: Scott, Webster, and Geary, 1837) 139-
51 and W. H. Griffith-Thomas, The Principles of Theology: An Introduction to the
Thirty-nine Articles (6th ed.;
gians such as Miley and Sheldon spend considerable time with Eph 2:3c. While they
admit "original sin," they deny that man is held responsible or guilty because of it. See
Systematic Theology (2 vols.;
196 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
upon this passage in formulating their hamartiological positions.
There are those, however, who deny that this passage has any a
relevance to original sin.2 Their arguments are not to be taken lightly.
The purpose of this paper is to determine whether Eph 2:3c actually
supports the concept of original sin, find if so, what that contribution
One point of definition must be clarified first: this paper deals
with original sin proper rather than the broader area of man's
depravity. Kuehner thus explains this term:
It is so named because (1) it is derived from the original root of
mankind; (2) it is present in each individual from the time of his birth;
(3) it is the inward root of all actual sins that defile the life of man.3
It is true that "original sin" is often used with all three of these
concepts .in mind. As "original sin" is used in this paper, however, a
narrower concept is implied: "the phrase original sin designates only
the hereditary moral corruption c01mon to all men from birth.”4
and H. C. Sheldon, System of Christian Doctrine (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1903)
316-17. John Wesley preached a sermon on original sin, evidently from Eph 2:3c on
original sin was taught in this text. However, his doctrine of prevenient grace probably
caused him to deny that man was guilty or under wrath due to original sin. See John
Wesley. The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley (4 vols.;
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967) 232-36. Catholic: Both Augustine and Aquinas used Eph 2:3c
to support original sin, though they had quite different understandings of man's sin-
Holmes and R. E. Wallis; rev. by B. B. Warfield, A Select library of the Nicene and
Fathers of the Christian Church (vol. 4;
Literature Company, 1887) 50, 122, 150,236,290-91. One wonders why G. M. Lukken
translates Augustine's natura (Latin for nature = fu<sij) as "second nature." See
Lukken's Original Sin in the Roman liturgy (Leiden: Brill, 1973) 330. For Aquinas,
see Original Sin (Summa Theologiae, 26; New York: McGraw-Hili, 1963) 11 (Question
81:1). For a modern Catholic perspective see A. M. Dubarle, The Biblical Doctrine of
Original Sin, trans. by E. M. Stewart (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1964) 188-89 and
Prat, The Theology of
2Among many denials, see Markus Barth, Ephesians (AB; Garden City, NY:
(London: Longmans, Grren, and Co., Ltd., 1927) 113, n. I; and George B. Stevens,
The Pauline Theology (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1895), 152-58.
3Fred C. Kuehner, "Fall of Man" in the Wyclliffe Bible Encyclopedia, ed. by C. F.
al. (2 vols.;
4A. A. Hodge. Outlines
of Theology (
1879 edition) 324. It cannot be asserted too strongly that "original" does not refer to
man's original character as created by God, but to his original character as a
descendant of Adam.
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIGINALE 197
The investigation, then, relates to the legitimacy of using Eph 2:3c as
a proof text for the hereditary moral corruption of man’s nature.
The term "nature" is used incessantly in articulating the doctrines
of theology proper (specifically relating to the trinity), Christology
(one person with two "natures"), anthropology (human "nature"),
and hamartiology (sin "nature," old "nature"). However, there is
often confusion in the way this term is used. In this writer's view, it is
imperative to distinguish between a "person" as a substantive entity
and a "nature" as a complex of attributes in any of these branches of
theology.5 Therefore, the term "nature" will be used here to refer to a
complex of attributes. Attributes are viewed as innate char1cteristics,
not acquired habits.
Only an exegetical theology can be a valid biblical theology.
Therefore, the paper is primarily exegetical. The three sections handle
(1) preliminary matters of exegesis, (2) the Semitic nature, of te<kna
... o]rgh?j, and (3) the crucial word fu<sei. The conclusion summa-
rizes the exegesis and briefly interacts with other views from the
perspective that Eph 2:3c does indeed support the idea of hereditary
A well-known approach to the book of Ephesians views its first
three chapters as primarily doctrinal and its second three chapters as
primarily expounding duties based upon doctrine. After his normal
epistolary introduction (1:1-2), Paul breaks out into praise to the
triune God for his glorious salvation (1:3-14). Next he explains his
prayerful desire that the Ephesians might apprehend a greater knowl-
edge of their glorious position in the body of Christ (-23). The
first three verses of chap. 2 serve to remind the Ephesians of their
sinful past so that they might better appreciate the love, mercy, and
grace of God who saved them by grace through faith for good works
2:4-10). The remainder of chaps. 2 and 3 further explains God's
gracious program of uniting Jew and Gentile in Christ's body, the
church (). Chap. 3 ends, as did chap. I, with a majestic
prayer for the Ephesians' spiritual growth which concludes with a
stirring doxology (-21).
5See J. O. Buswell, Jr., A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), 1.55,2.56. R. E. Showers comes to the similar conclusion
that nature refers to character or "inherent disposition." See his "The New Nature,"
(unpublished Th.D. dissertation, Grace Theological Seminary, 1975) 23.
198 GRACE THEOGICAL JOURNAL
At first glance into the critic I apparatus of the V.B.S. text,6 it
appears that there are no textual variants in 2:3. The Nestle text's
apparatus reveals that manuscripts A and D have the second person
u[mei?j instead of the first person h[mei?j in the first clause of the verse. 7
Tischendorf's more exhaustive apparatus shows that manuscripts A,
D, E, F, G, K, L, and P have h#men instead of h@meqa as the main verb
in 2:3c.8 Since these two forms are parsed identically, no change in
meaning is involved. A variant more important for exegesis changes
the word order of the phrase from te<kna fu<sei o]rhh?j to fu<sei te<kna
o]rgh?j (mss A, D, E, F, G, L, and P, and some versions).9 At first
glance, this reading seems to place much more emphasis upon the
crucial term fu<sei. However, none of the above variants have
sufficient support to render the text of the passage questionable. This
study, therefore, will proceed with the text of Eph 2:3c as it stands
in the Nestle, U.B.S., and Trinitarian Bible Society (textus receptus)
Change in person
The attentive reader of Ephesians 1-2 will notice that Paul speaks
in the first person plural10 and addresses the Ephesians in the second
person.11 The question arises as to why Paul shifts from first person
to second person and then back again to first person (see I: 12-14; see
also 2: 1-3 for the opposite shift). Does his first person plural "we"
refer to himself and the Ephesians or does it mean "we Jews," as
opposed to "you (Ephesians) Gentiles"? In interpreting 2:3c h@meqa
Aland, et al., ed.; The Greek New Testament (3rd ed.;
United Bible Societies, 1975) 666-67.
Eberhard, ed., Novum Testamentum Graece
Wiirttem-bergischen Bibelanstalt, 1960) 491.
8Constantine Tischendorf, Novum Testamentum Graece (3 vols.; editio
octavo critica major; Lipsiae: Giesecke and Derrient, 1872), 2. 671. The textus
receptus also has h#men instead of h@meqa see H KAINH DIAQHKH (
Trinitarian Bible Society, 1976) 355.
9Tischendorf, NT Graece, 2. 671. Another very obscure reading listed by
Tischendorf is te<kna o]rgh?j fu<sei. For a rather full textual apparatus on this
verse see S. D. F. Salmond, "The Epistle to the Ephesians"in The Expositors Greek
Testament, ed. by W. R. Nicoll (5 vols.;
10 Notice the first person plural pronouns in 1:2, 3 (2x), 4 (2x), 5, 6, 8,9,
12, 14, 17, 19; 2:3, 4, 5, 7, 14 and the first person plural verbs in 1:7, 11; 2:3 (2x), 9, 10,
14, 18. The question is whether these first person plural expressions ("we," "us") relate
to Paul and the Ephesians or to Paul and other Jews, exclusive of the gentile Ephesians.
11Notice also the second person pronouns in 1:2, 13 (2x), 15, 16, 17, 18; 2:2
(2x), 8,11,13,17,22; 3:1 and the second person verbs in 1:13; 2:2,5,8, II, 12, 13,
19 (2x), 22. These expressions undoubtedly refer to the Ephesians collectively.
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIGINLE 199
then refers either to Paul and his readersl2 or to Paul and other
Jews.13 The final comparative clause, w[j kai> oi[ loipoi<, refers either
to the rest of the Gentiles,14 or to humanity in general, including Jews
and Gentiles.15 The position taken here is that "we" is a reference to
Paul and the Ephesians, and "the rest" is a reference to mankind in
general. It is not until 2:11ff. that a discernible distinction can be
made between "we" (Jews) and "you" (Gentiles).16
That the word order of 2:3c was considered difficult at one time
or another is evident from the textual variants which change the
order from te>lma fi>seo o]rgh?j to fu<sei te<kna o]rgh?j and te<kna
o]rgh?j fu<sei. Robertson notes that this word order is unusual, but
offers no explanation.17 Winer lists some other instances in Paul
where the genitive is "separated from its governing noun by another
word" and suggests that this word order was necessary so that "an
unsuitable stress was not to fall on fu<sei"18 Abbott finds the
position of fu<sei to be unemphatic and even uses this as an argument
against interpreting it to support the doctrine of original sin.19 Alford
agrees that there is no emphasis on fu<sei but states that "its doctrinal
12For the view that "we" in 2:3c refers to Paul and his readers, Jews and Gentiles
alike, see John Eadie. Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians (reprinted;
1978) 45; William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Ephesians
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967) 109-10; R. C. H.
Lenski, The Interpretation of
Epistle to the Galatians. Ephesians. and Philippians (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961)
410; and S. D. F. Salmond, "Ephesians," 285-86.
13For the view. that "we" in 2:3c refers to Paul and other Jews, excluding the
gentile Ephesians (u[ma?j, 2:1), see T. K. Abbott, The Epistles to the Ephesians and
to the Colossians (ICC; Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1897) 43; Francis Foulkes. The
Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (Tyndale New Testament Commentary;
Eerdmans, 1963) 70; Charles
Hodge. An Exposition of Ephesians (
Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., n.d.) 37; and H. A. W. Meyer, Critical and
Exegetical Handbook to the Epistle to the Ephesians, trans. by M. J. Evans (reprinted;
14 Abbott, Ephesians, 46; Foulkes. Ephesians, 70; and Meyer, Ephesians, 368.
15Eadie, Ephesians, 137; Ellicott. Ephesians, 46; and Lenski, Ephesians, 412.
16The writer agrees entirely with Hendriksen on this point. See his Ephesians,
17 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of
Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman, 1934) 419, 503.
18G. B. Winer. A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament, rev. by G.
Liinemann; trans. by J. H. Thayer (Andover: Warren H. Draper, 1886) 191.
19 Abbott, Ephesians, p. 45 states that the original sin view "gives a very great
emphasis to fu<sei, which its position forbids."
200 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
force...is not thereby lessened.”20 Another differing opinion is
offered by Nigel Turner:
I would say the position is very emphatic: the word comes as a
hiatus in a genitive construct construction (Semitic), so that it
must go closely with tekna and suggests a meaning, "natural
children of wrath.”21
At this juncture, it seems that Abbott's contention lacks proof. As
Alford stated, even if fu<sei is not emphatic, its doctrinal force is not
negated. The meaning of fu<sei is more crucial to its doctrinal import
than its position in the sentence. However, Turner's view deserves
careful consideration, especially when: it is noted that this is the only
place in the NT where this type of construction is interrupted in
Syntax of 2:1-3
Only three questions can be noted briefly here. The first concerns
the logical and grammatical connection of 2:1 (kai> u[ma?j...) with the
preceding prayer of Paul. Westcott's view that u[ma?j in 2:1 is
"strictly parallel" to kai> pa<nta u[pe<tacen and au]to>n e@dwken
in 1:2 23 seems untenable in view of the climactic nature of -23 in
concluding Paul's prayer. Rather, 2:1 is better viewed as a specific
application to the Ephesians (The position of kai> u[ma?j is emphatic
of the power of God mentioned previously (1:19ff.)24
A second consideration is the anacoluthon in 2:1. Paul's exposi-
tion of sin in 2:2-3 breaks the sentence begun in 2:1. Evidently the
main verb lacking in 2:1 (for which u[ma?j o@ntaj nekrou>j was to be
the direct object) is finally supplied by sunezwopoi<hsen. The adjec-
tive nekrou>j, describing man's problem in 2:1, is answered by the
verb sunezwopoi<hsen in 2:5.
The third syntactical question relates to the connection of 2:3c to
the preceding. In 2:3 the subject h[mei?j has a compound predicate.
Alford, The Greek Testament, rev. by E. F. Harrison (4
Moody, 1958), 3. 91.
21Nigel Turner, personal letter to this writer,
22The Semitic construct construction mentioned by Turner will be
discussed in the next chapter. Table 2 lists every NT instance of this construction.
Eph 2:3c is the only instance where another word interrupts between metaphorical
ui[o<j or te<kna and its following genitive.
Westcott, St. Paul's Epistle to the
Klock and Klock, 1976) 29.
24For this view see Abbott. Ephesians, 38-39; Ellicott. Ephesians, 42; and
Meyer, Ephesians, 356. Perhaps the kai> in 2:1 is to be understood as emphatic ("indeed").
See H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament
(Toronto: Macmillan, 1955) 250-51.
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIGINALE 201
The two main verbs, a]nestra<fhme<n and h@meqa portray first
the acts and then the state of the Ephesians' past lives. Two e]n plus
relative pronoun phrases are the means of connecting both v 1 to v 2
and v 2 to V 3.25
THE ALLEGED SEMITISM
General definition of Semitisms
The precise nature and literary identity of the language of the NT
has long been a matter of scholarly debate. Gone are the days when
the NT was viewed as "Holy Ghost Greek," written in a mystical
language unrelated to the secular world26 It is commonly recognized
today that the NT was written largely in koine Greek, the language of
the people, rather than in the polished literary style of classical
Greek.27 More controversial is the degree of influence exercised by
25The writer would like to introduce the question of a chiastic arrangement in 2:1-
3. This is merely a tentative suggestion, not a dogmatic conclusion. Note that vv. I and 3b
both have verb forms which refer to a state of being (o@ntaj present participle of ei#mi and
h@meqa imperfect indicative of ei#mi. Also note that vv. 2 and 3a, both of which begin with
prepositional phrases in e]n have verbs which present analogous concepts of habitual behavior
periepath<sate and a]nestra<fhme<n, probably constative aorists. The possible ABBA
chiasmus, diagrammed below, has as its first and fourth elements the idea of sin as a state,
while its second and third elements view sin as activity. Let the reader analyze this and
decide whether it is intentional or merely coincidental. Whether or not chiasmus is
accepted, it is evident that conceptually 2:3b is similar to 2:1, and that 2:2 is similar to
2:3. For some insights and additional sources on chiasmus, see Nigel Turner, Syntax
(A Grammar of New Testament Greek, 3; Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1963) 345-47;
and J. H.
Moulton, Style (A Grammar of New
Testament Greek, 4;
T. Clark, 1976) 3, 6~, 87, 97ff., 116, 147.
2:1 A: kai> u[ma?j o@ntaj nekrou>j
toi?j paraptw<masin kai> tai?j a[marti<aij u[mw?n
2:2 B: e]n ai#j pote periepath<sate kata> to>n ai]w?na tou? ko<smou
tou<tou, kata> to>n a@rxonta th?j e]cousi<aj tou? a]e<roj, tou?
pneu<matoj tou? nu?n e[nergou?ntoj e]n toi?j ui[oi?j th?j
2:3 B1 e]n oi$j kai> h[mei?j pa<ntej a]pestra<fhme<n pote e]n tai?j
e]piqumi<aij th?j sarko>j h[mw?n, poiou?ntej ta> qelh<mata
th?j sarko>j kai> tw?n dianoiw?n,
2:3b A1: kai> h@meqa te<kna fu<sei o]rgh?j w[j kai> oi[ loipoi<
26See Adolf Deissmann, Bible
Studies, trans. by A. Grieve I (reprinted;
corollary of verbal inspiration. In deprecating one, he deprecated the other, as if the
doctrine of verbal inspiration ruled out the personalities and culture of the human authors
of Scripture. This indicates a need for conservatives to adequately articulate a Bibliology
which avoids the pitfalls of both errantism and docetism.
27This writer is aware that this statement is perhaps over-simplified. Obviously
the style of the NT writers varies exceedingly; Luke and the author of Hebrews both
used a rather polished style.
202 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Semitic culture and language upon the NT writers. Related to this
influence are the literary similarities and disparities between the NT
and the LXX.28 Deissmann directed much of his labors against an
extreme theory of heavy dependence an the LXX and emphasized the
living nature of language and the various circumstances present in the
lives of the NT writers.29 One must take care, however, to notice the
Semitic background of the NT writers.30
The terms Hebraism, Aramaism, and Semitism are all used to
describe Semitic influence upon the I vocabulary and style of NT
Greek. As Moule states, "this ugly and rather jargonistic word seems
to have 'come to stay' as a term to describe features of Greek which
are tinged with either Aramaic or Hebrew."31 Moule's definition is
perhaps over-simplified, since other works distinguish between "Semi-
tisms" and "secondary Semitisms." A Semitism proper (or primary
Semitism) is defined as "a deviation from genuine Greek idiom to a
28For a concise discussion of Semitisrns and a valuable bibliography on the
C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom-Book of New
Testament Greek (
see Weston Fields, "Aramaic New Testament Originals?" (unpublished Postgraduate
Seminar paper, Grace Theological Seminary, 1975). H. St. John Thackeray discusses
the nature of LXX Greek from the perspectives of its koinh< basis and its Semitic
his Grammar of the Old Testament in Greek
Press, 1909) 16-55.
29Deissmann stated "The theory 1ndicated is a great power in exegesis, and
that is not to be denied. It is edifying and what is more, it is convenient. But it is
absurd. It mechanises the marvellous variety of the linguistic elements of the Greek
Bible and cannot be established either by the psychology of language or by history."
See his Bible Studies, 65. In Deissmann's view the key to understanding NT Greek
was not found in the "translation Greek" of the LXX but in the inscriptions and
papyri of the NT period (80-84).
30While respecting the work of Deissmann and J. H. Moulton in relating NT
Greek to secular Greek, C. F. D. Moule cautions that "the pendulum has swung rather
too far in the direction of equating Biblical with 'secular' Greek; and we must not allow
these fascinating discoveries to blind us to the fact that Biblical Greek still does retain
certain peculiarities, due in part to Semitic influence...and in part to the moulding
influence of the Christian experience, which did in some measure create an idiom
and a vocabulary of its own." See his Idiom-Book, 3-4;cf. 188. Similarly Nigel
Turner speaks of the "strongly Semitic character of Bibl. Greek.;' Turner views
the language of the NT to be as unique as its subject matter. See his Syntax, 9.
31Moule. Idiom-Book, 171. For additional discussions of Semitisms see F.
Blass and A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early
literature, trans. and
rev. by R. W. Funk (
1961) 3-4; James H. Moulton, Prolegomena (A Grammar of New Testament Greek,
I; Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1908) 1-20; J. H. Moulton and W. F. Howard,
Accidence and Word Formation (A Grammar of New Testament Greek, 2;
88-108; and G. B. Winer, Grammar, 238.
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIG NALE 203
too literal rendering of the language of a Semitic original.”32 In this
sense, Eph 2:3c is not a Semitism (primary). A secondary Semitism,
however is a possible but unidiomatic Greek construction, which
strains ordinary Greek usage to conform to a normal Semitic con-
struction.”33 It is only in this secondary sense that the term Semitism
relates to Eph 2:3c.
A specific Semitism: te<kna o]rgh?j
Hebrew syntaxes and lexicons often note the use of NBe in the
construct state followed by a noun expressing quality, character, or
other attributes.34 According to Gesenius, this construction is used
"to represent a person...as possessing some object or quality, or
being in some condition.”35 While normal Greek or English idiom
would simply supply an adjective, Davidson states,
The genius of the [Hebrew] language is not favorable to the formation
of adjectives, and the gen. is used in various ways as explicative of the
preceding noun, indicating its material, qualities, or relations.36
Certain other Hebrew words are used comparatively, often with this
type of "qualifying genitive:" wyxi, lfaBa, and tBe. Two good examples
of NBe in this construction are tOKha NBe (Deut 25:2, a "son of stripes" =
"deserves beating") and LyiHa-yneB; (2 Kgs , "sons of strength" =
"strong men"). For further examples, see Table 1.
32Moulton and Howard. Accidence and Word Formation, 14, 477. This
definition assumes Hebrew or Aramaic NT source documents or perhaps; even originals.
This theory has been evaluated in Fields' work cited in n. 28.
33Moulton and Howard. Accidence and Word Formation 477. Nigel Turner's
definition is similar. He describes Semitisms as "those Greek idioms which owe their
form of the frequence of their occurrence to Aramaic, or Hebrew, or to an influence
which might equally well apply to both languages." See his Style, 5.
34See A. B. Davidson. Hebrew Syntax (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1901)
30-33; W. R. Harper. Elements of Hebrew Syntax
Scribner's Sons, 1899) 30-31; S. P. Tregelles. Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee
Lexicon (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949) 126, sec (7); Ludwig Koehler and
Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris
Testamenti Libros (2 vols.;
Brill/Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951), 1. 133; and Francis Brown, S. R. Driver,
and Charles Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament
Clarendon, 1906) 121, § 8; H. Haag, "NBe” TDOT,
Eerdmans, 1975) 152-53. For ,this in the LXX see Thackeray, Grammar,
35W. Gesenius and
(2nd English ed.; ed. by A. E. Cowley;
Examples of the construction are given on 418.
36Davidson, Syntax, 32.
GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL 204
Many Greek grammars and lexicons note that ui!oj and te<knon
are sometimes used in a manner equivalent to this Hebrew construc-
tion. It is described in various sources as the "Hebraic genitive,”37 the
"genitive of relationship,"38 the "attributive genitive,”39 the "adjectival
genitive",40 the "genitive of quality",41 and the "genitive of a thing.”42
All of these terms describe the same grammatical feature: instead of
modifying a noun with a simple adjective, the word ui!oj or te<knon is
followed by a noun in the genitive which modifies the noun. For
example, instead of describing a person as "peaceful" (ei]rhniko<j), he
is described as a "son of peace" (ui!oj ei]rhnhj, Luke 10:6). For
further NT examples, see Table 2.43
Although an impressive array of scholars view Eph 2:3c as a
Semitism,44 some deny or diminish the Semitic influence. Adolf
Deissmann in his Bible Studies made a case for ui!oj or te<knon
followed by the genitive as a genuine Greek idiom. Distinguishing
such expressions in the gospels (which he regarded as translation
Greek) from those in the Pauline and Petrine epistles, he concluded
concerning the latter:
In no case whatever are they un-Greek; they might quite well have been
coined by a Greek who wished to use impressive language. Since,
however, similar turns of expression are found in the Greek Bible
[LXX], and are in part cited by Paul and others, the theory of
analogical formations will be found a sufficient explanation.45
37Moulton and Howard, Accidence and Word Formation, 440. M. Zerwick
refers to the "Hebrew genitive." See his Biblical Greek (English ed.;
Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici, 1963) 14.
38Blass-Debrunner-Funk, Grammar, 89.
39Robertson, Grammar, 496-97.
40Moule, Idiom-Book, 174-75.
41Turner, Style, 90.
42 J. H.
Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the
New Testament (
T. and T. Clark, 1901) 635; and W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English
Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, rev. by F. W.
F. W. Danker (2nd ed.;
43Table 2 has been adapted from a list in Moulton and Howard, Accidence
and Word Formation, 441.
44To mention only a few scholars, see Arndt and Gingrich, Lexicon, 839;
Alexander Buttman, A Grammar of the New Testament Greek, trans. by J. H.
Thayer (Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1880) 161-62; C. F. D. Moule, Idiom-Book,
174; Moulton and Howard, Accidence and Word Formation, 441; Albracht Oepke,
pai<j TDNT, 5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967) 639; Thayer, Lexicon, 618; and
Winer, Grammar, 238. Nearly all critical commentaries also view te<kna ... o]rghj
as a Semitism.
45Deissmann, Bible Studies, 166. Evidently "analogical formation" meant
that NT writers used a Greek idiom analogous to the Hebrew idiom.
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIG NALE 205
Deissmann's argumentation was twofold. First, he supplied inscrip-
tional evidence of similar pure Greek idiom.46 Second, he pointed out
that even the translators of the LXX did not slavishly translate
metaphorical NBe with ui!oj.47 While Moulton and Milligan followed
Deissmann,48 this writer must agree with the majority of scholars,
who view Eph 2:3c as a genuine Semitism. Nigel Turner's statement
seems adequate: "The LXX translators so often faced the problem of
the construct state in its adjectival function...that apparently the
habit of using a genitive of quality had been caught by Paul...”49
Three lingering questions
While most scholars view te<kna in 2:3c as synonymous with ui[oi>,
there are a few dissenters. In 2:2 Paul used the Semitic toi?j ui[oi?j th?j
a]peiqei<aj. Why then in the next verse did he switch from ui!oj to
te<kna? Was this unconscious, or for literary variety, or was it a subtle
emphasis of a birth concept (te<knon from ti<ktw, "to beget,')?50 It is
interesting to note that there seem to be comparatively few instances
in the LXX where te<knon translates metaphorical NBe.51 As seen in
Table 1, ui!oj is the predominant word. However, as shown in Table
2, there are six NT instances where te<knon seems to be used in the
Semitic metaphorical sense. Only further study will show whether this
change from ui!oj to te<knon is exegetically significant. Presently,
however, such significance seems doubtful.
47Ibid., 164. I
48 J. H. Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament
Illustrated from the Papyri and Other
Non-Literary Sources (
1976 reprint) 649.
49Tumer, Style, 649. It is interesting to note that scholars before Deissmann
(when NT Greek was explained as either Semitic or derived from classical) and after
Deissrnann (when NT Greek is viewed in its koine context) are agreed that Eph
2:3c is a Semitism.
50C. F. Ellicott, citing Bengel as in agreement, states that te<kna is not simply
identical with the Hebraistic ui[oi< ver. 2 ..." He believes that the word connoted "a
near and close relation" to God's wrath. See his Ephesians, 46 and Alford, "Ephesians,"
3. 91. M. R. Vincent views te<kna as emphasizing the connection to wrath by birth.
See his "The Epistles of Paul" (Word Studies in the New Testament, 3; reprinted;
Edwards also noted the change from ui!oj to te<knon and saw in it an emphasis on
birth. See his Original Sin (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 3; New Haven/London:
51 This writer has not done the concordance work necessary for dogmatism
on this point. However, thus far he has found te<knon for metaphorical NBe only in
Hos 2:4; 10:9. Isa 57:4 has te<kna a]pwlei<aj for fwap,-ydel;yi
206 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
In the introductory section on word order, the writer has already
presented several opinions on the sequence of words in this phrase.
At this point the question of word order must be directed to the
question of Semitic influence. Of all the OT examples of metaphori-
cal NBe and the NT examples of metaphorical ui!oj/te<knon only in 2:3c
does a word intervene between the term "son" and the qualifying geni-
tive. This fact seems to make fu<sei quite emphatic. Is this unique word
order relevant to the question of Semitism? Perhaps this indicates that
2:3c is more emphatic than a normal Semitic construction.52
While the nature of the genitive-whether subjective or objec-
tive is not broached in many sources, it is an important question.53
The ambiguity of such constructions is evident from the NIV's
translation ("those who are anointed:" objective) and margin ("two
who bring oil:" subjective) of Zech . In Eph 2:2 toi?j ui[oi?j th?j
a]peiqei<aj must be subjective. However, 2:3c is normally taken as
objective: te<kna... o]rgh?j means those who are presently under
God's wrath (cf. John , 36; Rom ; ) or those who are
God's wrath (Eph 5:6;
that te<kna... o]rgh?j should be understood as those characterized by
wrath in the same sense that the toi?j ui[oi?j th?j a]peiqei<aj are
characterized by disobedience. In other words, is this wrath another
aspect of man's rebellion against God? Is it his own wrath against
others? While this interpretation does not commend itself to this
writer, it deserves further consideration.54
THE CRUCIAL WORD: fu<sei
In many ways, the doctrinal import of this passage depends upon
the sense of this word. The preceding discussion of the Semitic
background of the, phrase h@meqa te<kna fu<sei o]rgh?j does not really
assert or deny that peccatum originale is taught in Eph 2:3c. While
the Semitic idiom certainly does not specify why men are under God's
wrath or when they come under it. These two questions must be
answered from the exegesis of fu<sei. If fu<sei refers to innate
character, then the sense of hereditary moral corruption is supported.
If fu<sei legitimately can be viewed as an acquired characteristic
("second nature"), then this verse should not be used to support the
52Buttmann (Grammar, 387) views this as hyperbaton, an inverted construction
used for emphasis and perspicuity. Arndt and Gingrich (Lexicon, 877) cite an instance
in Plutarch with fu<sei in this position.
53In each case it must be asked whether the noun modified by the genitive is its
subject or object. See Turner, Style, 90.
54Ellicott, Ephesians, 171 and Alford, "Ephesians," 3. 91 react against the subjective sense.
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIGINALE 207
doctrine. This section of the paper will survey the etymology of fu<sij
and its use in both the extra-biblical and biblicalliterature.55 Then the
meaning of the word in Eph 2:3c will be discussed.
The noun fu<sij seems to be a "verbal abstract”56 derived from
fu<omai or fu<w meaning "bring forth, produce, put forth" (transi-
tive) or "grow, wax, spring up or forth (intransitive ).57 It is often used
of the natural growth of the physical creation, especially of plant life.
Thus, the noun fu<sij is related to the external form of plant life as a
state of its growth. It came also to be applied to the natural state of
humanity resulting from birth.58
In addition to its botanical and anthropological senses, fu<sij
"became a key concept among the Pre-Socratic philosophers in
considering the nature of the world, and similarly the Sophists in the
question of the foundation and basis of law.”59 In Stoic philosophy,
fu<sij became a god of the universe, with whom man must live
harmoniously.60 The following outline summarizes the diverse usages
of the word.61
I. Origin (of persons and plants)
A. origin or birth
55Due to lack of space, this survey must necessarily be quite brief. For
detailed information see G. Harder, "Nature," (NIDNTT, 2;
Zondervan, 1976), 2. 656-62; H. Koster, “fu<sij...“ TDNT, 9 (1974) 251-77;
and H. G. Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, rev. and aug.
by H. S.
Jones (9th ed.;
56Koster, "fu<sij" TDNT, 9. 252. It is attested as early as Homer (eighth
century B.C.). See Harder, "Nature," 656.
57Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, 1966.
58Koster, "fu<sij..." TDNT 9. 252. Other related words are the adjective
fusiko<j ("natural, inborn, native"), the nouns fusi<wma and fusi<wsij
("natural tendency, character"), and the verbs fusio<w ("to dispose oneself
naturally"), fusiologe<w ("to discourse upon nature or natural causes"),
and fusiopoie<w ("to remold as by a second nature").
59Harder, "Nature," NIDNTT, 2. 656.
60lbid., 2. 657-58. The citation of Marcus Aurelius' words w$ fu<sij,
e]k sou? pa<nta, e@n soi? pa<nta, ei#j se pa<nta (cf. Rom ) may
provide a vivid illustration of e]la<treusan t^? kti<sei para> to>n
kti<santa (Rom 1:25).
61 Adapted from Liddell and Scott, Lexicon 1964-65.
208 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
II. Natural form or constitution resulting from growth (persons or
A. nature, constitution
B. outward form, appearance
D. mental character or nature or instinct (animals)
III. Regular order of nature (men, plants, the world in general
A. originating power of the universe
B. elementary substance of the universe
C. concretely for the universe
V. Concrete term for men, animals or plants collectively
VI. Kind, sort, or species (of plants)
VII. Sex (organs or characteristics)
"There is no Hebrew equivalent in the Old Testament for phy-
sis,”62 due to the creator/creature distinction in OT revelation. God is
the ultimate reference point instead of fu<sij. Thus fu<sij does not
occur in the LXX canonical writings, but only in the apocryphal
books of Wisdom and 3 and 4 Maccabees. In these books, usage
generally parallels Greek literature. Probably the most significant
Does fu<sei here
mean "birth" (cf.
(created nature)? If innate created nature is in view, this concept is in
contrast to Paul's explanation (Rom 1:19ff.) of the perspicuity of
natural revelation.64 The Jewish writer Philo modified fu<sij in his
unsuccessful attempt to harmonize the OT and Greek philosophy,65
Josephus similarly adapted fu<sij using it often to describe the
natural topography of the land, human character, and nature as a
62Harder, "Nature," NIDNTT, 2. 658.
New English Bible with Apocrypha:
64Koster, fu<sij...TDNT, 9. 267.
65Fu<sij is extremely common in Philo, who viewed it as divine power
and agency. See Koster, "fu<sij…" TDNT, 9.267-69 and Harder, "Nature,"
NIDNTT, 2. 658-59.
66See Koster, "fu<sij…" TDNT 9. 279-81; Harder, "Nature," NIDNTT,
2. 659-60. One passage from Josephus has been urged in proof that fu<sij
need not always refer to innate character but also may refer to acquired
characteristics or habits. Thus fu<sij in Eph 2:3c need not refer to sin as
in inherited or innate trait but instead to an acquired sinfulness. The passage
is found in the Antiquities, 3:8: I. In it he describes the Pharisees' philosophy
of punishment in the words of a@llwj te kai> fu<sei pro>j ta>j li<an
e]xale<phne which is translated "any way they are naturally lenient in the
matter of punishments." Eadie describes this as "constitutional clemency"
(Ephesians, 135). While it appears that this use may include habitual
practice, it is practice which
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIGINALE 209
New Testament use
Fu<sij occurs 14 times in the NT (12 of these are in Paul). Three
related words also occur: (1) the adjective fusiko<j (three times); (2)
the adverb fusikw?j (once); and (3) the verb fu<w (three times). All of
these occurrences are listed in Table 3. According to Koster, the
relative rarity of fu<sij in the NT (as compared with its frequency in
extra-biblical literature) is noteworthy.67 Abbott-Smith's summary of
its occurrences is accurate and concise:
(1) nature (natural powers or constitution) of a person or a thing:
Jas 3:1; 2 Pet 1 :4; Eph 2:3
(2) origin or birth: Rom ; Gal 2:15
(3) nature, i.e., the regular order or law of nature: 1Cor ;
Rom ; ; , 24; Gal 4:868
Scholars are agreed that the concept of natural, innate character is
present in all but three of these passages: Rom , 1 Cor , and
Eph 2:3c. Rom and 1 Cor will be briefly discussed before a
more extensive treatment of Eph 2:3c.
Fu<sij in Rom . While this may not be "the most important
and also the most difficult passage in which Paul uses fu<sij69 it is
certainly not an easy text, as the discouraging comments of Sanday
and Headlam show.70 The hermeneutical problem here is to deter-
mine in what sense, if any, do Gentiles e@qnh by nature
emanates from natural characteristics. For the original Greek and the English
translation see Flavius Josephus, Josephus (Jewish Antiquities, Books 12-14, The
Classical Library, 1 [
67Koster ("fu<sij...," TDNT, 9. 211) finds the absence of fu<sij from
such passages as Acts 11 and Romans 1:18-25 as an indicator that Paul would say
"nein" to natural theology!
68G. Abbott Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament
Vine is identical. See his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
(.Old Tapan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1966 reprint) 103. Arndt and Gingrich's
classification (lexicon, 869-10) differs slightly: (1) natural endowment or
condition, inherited from one's ancestors:" Gal 2: 15; Rom 2:21; Eph 2:3;
Rom 11 :21, 24; (2) "natural characteristics or disposition:" Jas 3:1b; 2 Pet
I :4; Gal 4:8; (3) "nature as the regular natural order:" Rom 1 :26; 2: 14; 1
Cor 11:14; and (4) "natural being, product of nature, creature” Jas 3:7a. It
is difficult to distinguish between the first and second categories. Other
possibilities for fu<sij are simply "physically" in Rom 2:21 and "species"
in both instances in Jas 3:1 (cf. NASB, NIV, and Harder, "Nature, NIDNTT, 660-61.
69Koster, "fu<sij...," TDNT, 9. 213.
70The impression received when one reads their note on this verse is that
rationalists have taken it more literally than orthodox theologians. See William
Sanday and A. C. Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the
Epistle to the Romans (ICC; Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1902) 59-60.
The treatment given this verse
210 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
fulfill the law's demands? The clause in question reads o!tan ga>r e@qnh
ta> mh> no<mon e@xonta fu<sei ta> tou? no<mou poiw?sin, . . . While
orthodox scholars have proposed some plausible solutions to the
problem, most of them assume a questionable point. That is, most of
them take fu<sei with the following clause, making it modify poiw?sin.
This writer tends to agree with Cranfield in taking fu<sei with what
precedes, modifying e@xonta. Thus, the difficulties of either toning
down fu<sei (viewing it as an acquired "second nature") or implying
Pelagianism are eliminated. Instead, the passage is interpreted as
describing regenerate Gentiles who practice the law, though by their
birth and natural circumstances they do not possess the law. This
allows fu<sij to retain its normal meaning. This passage cannot
be legitimately used to deny that fu<sij refers to innate character in
Fu<sij in 1 Cor . Paul's teaching on hair length is reinforced
in -16 with two arguments. Paul first states that "nature"
confirms his teaching () and then adds that this is the custom
(sunh<qeia) of all the churches. While some expositors may tend to
blur the distinction between fu<sij and sunh<qeia making fu<sij
equivalent to acquired habit or style, such exegesis is untenable in
light of Pauline usage. Paul in Rom 1:26-27 stated that homosexual-
ity was para> fu<sin obviously referring to mankind's innate sexual
orientation resulting from his being created by God.72 Therefore, it
would seem that Paul in I Corinthians again appeals to the God-
given natural order for men and women. The innate sexual orienta-
tion of men and women is the basis of Paul's position on hair length.
Again, this passage provides no evidence for those who wish to make
fu<sij in Eph 2:3c an acquired "second nature."
Use in Ephesians 2:3c
In this writer's view, fu<sij in this passage retains its normal
meaning of innate or natural character. While this passage alone
by C. E. B. Cranfield is a decided improvement. See his Critical and Exegetical
Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (ICC; Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark,
71Francis Foulkes does just this with this passage. See his The Epistle
of Paul to the Ephesians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries; Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1963) 71. Cf. Cranfield's stimulating discussion in Romans,
with footnotes. Hodge (Romans, 55) takes fu<sei with poiei?n but distinguishes
between merely Turner, outwardly doing the law and actually spiritually fulfilling
the law. This view is also possible.
72This refutes the current claim that homosexuality is the "natural"
orientation for some people.
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIGINALE 211
certainly would not sustain the developed Christian doctrine of
original sin, it does make a contribution. While the word fu<sij is
neutral and in itself has no sinful connotation, this can be supplied
from context. There is no contextual connection with Adam's first
sin, nor is there any explicit proof of Traducianism. However, this
passage does seem to have its place in asserting the hereditary moral
corruption of the human race, which corruption results from Adam's
first sin and is passed along by natural generation. In addition to the
lexical support for this view, many scholarly commentaries have also
The form of fu<sij in this verse is dative. What is its precise
significance? The answer to this question is admittedly subjective and
interpretive, for the dative case is used to express a wide range of
nuance. From most of the English translations, the idea of instrumen-
tality surfaces ("by nature”).74 Turner and Winer, however, favor the
dative of respect idea, which seems milder than instrumentality.
Instead of being under wrath "by nature," it is thus "with respect to
nature.”75 A third option is supported by Green who views fu<sei as
73Karl Braune, "Ephesians," Langes Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
to the Galatians. Ephesians. Philippians. and Colossians (
Eerdmans, 1965) 141-42. Calvin says that "by nature" means "from their very
origin, and from their mother's womb. In further comments he critiques
Pelagianism and makes an important distinction between two ways the word
nature is used: (1) man's original nature created by God, and (2) man's fallen
nature corrupted by Adam's sin. John Eadie, Ephesians, 133-40. Eadie's extended
treatment of 2:3c is one of the best this writer has found. He cites evidence from
classical and Jewish Greek writings and interacts with sources who hold opposing
views. He concludes thus: "The modus may be and is among 'the deep things
of God,' but the res is palpable; for experience confirms the divine testimony
that we are by nature 'children of wrath,' per generationem, not per imitationem."
Charles Hodge, Ephesians, 38-39. In his fairly full treatment Hodge briefly deals
with the Semitic background, the use of fu<sij and other views. Hodge cautiously
states "this doctrine [hereditary depravity] may be fairly implied in the text but
it is not asserted" (38). Lenski, Ephesians, 412-13. While viewing fu<sij as innate
here, Lenski concedes that fu<sij may sometimes mean a "habitually and gradually
developed...'second nature.'" This writer is not convinced that such a concession is
necessary. It seems that even when fu<sij refers to development or growth it
does so in the context of an outward development of an inner nature. Salmond,
"Ephesians," 286-87. He also
makes the questionable concession that fu<sij can mean habit, but his treatment
is very helpful, especially the section refuting Meyer's view, which will be
explained later. E. K. Simpson and F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Epistles
to the Ephesians and the Colossians (New International Commentary on the
defends this view by citing classical authors and interacting with J. A. Robinson,
whose views will be explained later.
74Robertson, Grammar, 530, speaks of this as "instrumental of manner."
75Nigel Turner, personal letter; Winer, Grammar, 215.
212 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
dative of sphere.76 While the instrumental idea seems most accept-
able, in reality there is little difference between the three possibilities.
The view of fu<sij favored above has not gone unchallenged.
Several other views have been suggested and are briefly summarized
here.77 First, it is asserted by some that fu<sei is the equivalent of an
adverb such as o@ntwj, a]lh<qwj, or gnhsi<wj. Thus Paul only says that
"we were truly or genuinely children of wrath." The problem with this
view is that, while fu<sij may imply this sense, it means much more.78
A second view takes the whole expression (te<kna fu<sei o]rgh?j) as a
subjective genitive. In this view o]rgh?j is human wrath which char-
acterizes the individuals described. This view is grammatically pos-
sible but exegetically and contextually doubtful. A third view is that
fu<sei simply means "in or by ourselves," apart from God's grace.79
While fu<sei certainly includes this idea, it means much more. Fur-
ther, this view is vague and does not really answer the question of
whether fu<sei refers to original or actual sin.80 A fourth view, that
fu<sij refers to developed or habitual behavior,81 (a "second-nature")
cannot be sustained from the NT and extra-biblical usage of the
This study has demonstrated that Eph 2:3c is relevant to the
doctrine of original sin. The Semitic phrase te<kna... o]rgh?j places
the unsaved individual as a worthy object of the wrath of God.
Perhaps even more is implied by this phrase. The word fu<sei
presents the reason or cause for this most perilous of all positions.
While it is true that God's wrath is upon all men for their actual sins,
76Samuel G. Green, Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek New
Testament (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1912) 228. He defines sphere in a
logical sense as "that in which a quality inheres."
77For more detailed interaction see the works of Alford, Eadie, Hodge,
Simpson, and Salmond cited previously. These works cite sources holding the
opposing views listed here.
780nly one source consulted by this writer said that this was a legitimate
meaning of fu<sij but the source viewed fu<sij as having this meaning only in
Gal 4:8. See
Markus Barth, Ephesians,
with the original sin view, denies the validity of this view. See his Ephesians, 368.
79For advocates of this view see F. W. Beare and T. O. Wedel, "The
Epistle to the Ephesians" (The Interpreter's Bible; 10;
Cokesbury, 1953) 641; C. F. D. Moule, Idiom-Book, 174 ("perhaps"); J. A.
Robinson, Ephesians, 50; and N. P. Williams, The Ideas of the Fall and
Original Sin, I 13 n. I.
80 As Meyer points out (Ephesians, 367), in this view "nothing is
81For advocates of this view see Foulkes, Ephesians, 71; Thayer,
Lexicon, 660 sec. c; and the Arminian theologians John Miley, Systematic
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIGINALE 213
Paul's use of fu<sij here indicates a more basic problem. Men's evil
deeds are done in a state of spiritual and moral separation from God
(2: 1). Man is in this state of spiritual death due to his sinful
nature-his hereditary moral corruption. And it is this innate condi-
tion which ultimately brings the wrath of God upon him. Men are
"natural children of wrath."82
Opposition to this view
Diverse arguments have been offered by the opponents of this
view. Some of the arguments are exegetical and deserve an answer.
While this could not be done in detail in this study, Appendix I has
begun the task. Other arguments are more "logical" in nature but
actually seem to place reason over revelation, as in the extreme case
of those who would dismiss original sin an immoral monstrosity
on a priori grounds.83 The answer to this objection must emphasize
that man's present natural state is in a sense also unnatural.84 His
sinfulness, though included in God's plan, is viewed by God as man's
own fault. God cannot be blamed for original sin for he did not
create man sinful, but holy. All this aside, however, the final answer
is "who are you, O man, to talk back to God?" (Rom , NIV).
While some would admit to a doctrine of original sin, they would
deny that men are accounted guilty for this reason. Shedd sum-
marizes the situation quite well:
The semi-Pelagian, Papal, and Arminian anthropologies differ from
the Augustinian and reformed, by denying that corruption of nature is
guilt. It is a physical and moral disorder leading to sin, but is not sin
82"Natural children of wrath" is the translation suggested by Nigel Turner
in his letter to this writer.
example see Charles G. Finney, Systematic
porter Kemp, 1946 reprint) 244. Finney said that Eph 2:3c "cannot, consistently
with natural justice, be understood to mean, that we are exposed to the wrath of God
on account of our nature. It is a monstrous and blasphemous doctrine..." On a more
modern note, C. H. Dodd spoke of the "figment of an inherited guilt." He asked, "how
could anything so individual as guilty responsibility be inherited?" In the same context
he also speaks of the "monstrous development of the doctrine of total depravity."
See his The Meaning of Paul for Today (
84See Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2. 219: "As opposed to what is natural
in the sense of created by God, man's inability is moral, not natural; but as opposed
to what is moral in the sense of acquired by habit, man's inability is natural. When
"natural means innate, we assert that inability is "natural." When natural means
"created" we assert that inability is "moral," that is, "voluntary." See also Calvin,
85Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2. 198. Even in reformed circles, however,
some theologians have attempted to dilute the idea that corruption of nature is
guilt. See Nathaniel W. Taylor, Concio ad Clerum: A Sermon Delivered in the
Chapel of Yale
214 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
The Romanist perspective alleviates the guilt of original sin with its
understanding of limbus infantium and infant baptism.86 The Armin-
ian position as articulated by Miley is "native depravity without
native demerit.”87 This position is exegetically and logically unten-
able. It does not handle fu<sij properly. Neither does it make sense,
for the innate disposition to sin, which leads to sin, is not viewed as
sinful or guilty. How can the effect be worthy of wrath and the cause
Implications for Christian living
The study of Scripture (What does it mean?) is incomplete unless
the student asks, "What does it mean to me?" In the context of Eph
2:1-10 the answer is not hard to find. The believer is God's workman-
ship, created for good works. When one contemplates his sinfulness
in all its degradation, and when he realizes he deserves only the wrath
of God, he then begins to appreciate the glorious gospel of God's
grace and realizes a true incentive for a holy lifestyle. C. H. Spurgeon
A spiritual experience which is thoroughly flavored with a deep and
bitter sense of sin is of great value to him that hath had it. It is terrible
in the drinking, but it is most wholesome in the bowels, and in the
whole of the after-life. Possibly, much of the flimsy piety of the present
day arises from the ease with which men attain to peace and joy in
these evangelistic days...Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore
think lightly of the Savior. He who has stood before his God,
College, September 10. 1828 (New Haven: A. H. Moltby and Homan Hallock, 1842)
Harent, "Original Sin" (The
Catholic Encyclopedia, 11,
Robert Appleton Co., 1911), 2. 314; and P. J. Toner, "Limbo," The Catholic
Encyclopedia, 9. 256. To a lesser degree one wonders whether the Lutheran and
Anglican views of baptismal regeneration for infants have also tended to minimize
the guilt of original sin.
87Miley, Systematic Theology,
advocated by Meyer, Ephesians, 367. Meyer believes in a sinful natural constitution
which eventually awakens and vanquishes man's "moral will," thereby incurring guilt
and wrath. He bases this on his view that Romans 7 describes the experience of the
natural man. OveraU, the Arminian doctrine of universal prevenient (preliminary)
grace has probably tended to obscure the guiltiness of man by nature. This seems to
be the position of John Wesley. See the analysis of his views on original sin in
Wynkoop, A Theology of Love: The Dynamic of
88See Calvin, Ephesians, 141-42; Eadie, Ephesians, 136; and Salmond,
"'Ephesians," 287. Salmond correctly observes that this "is to make a nature
which originates sinful acts and which does that in the case of all men without
exception, itself a neutral thing." Cf. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2. 199-202.
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIGINALE 215
convicted and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to
weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been
forgiven him, and to live to the honor of the Redeemer by whose
blood he has been cleansed.89
OCCURRENCES OF NBe IN
Text NASB NIV
Num rebels or sons of rebellion the rebellious
Num 24: 17 sons of Sheth or tumult sons of Sheth or the noisy
Deut 25:2 deserves to be beaten or a son deserves to be beaten
of beating (LXX a@cioj plhgw?n
Judg 18:2 valiant men or sons of valor warriors
Judg worthless fellows or sons of wicked men
Judg valiant warriors fighting men
1 Sam valiant man brave man
1 Sam 26: 16 must surely die or are surely deserve to die
sons of death
2 Sam 2:7 valiant or sons of valor brave
2 Sam the wicked or sons of wicked people
2 Sam 12:5 deserves to die or is a son of deserves to die
I Kgs I :52 a worthy man a worthy man
2 Kgs 2:3 sons of the prophets company of the prophets
2 Kgs strong men able men
2 Kgs hostages hostages
I Chr 17:9 the wicked or sons of wicked people
Neh sons of the singers the singers
Ps 79: 11 those who are doomed to die those condemned
or children of death
Ps 89:22 sons of wickedness or wicked man
Isa 57:3 sons of a sorceress sons of a sorceress
Dan violent ones violent men
Hos 10:9 the sons of iniquity the evildoers (LXX ta> te<kna
Zech 4: 14 anointed ones or sons of two who are anointed or
fresh oil two who bring oil
* This chart is representative-not exhaustive. It was compiled from exam-
ples given in the lexicons and from a similar list compiled by Prof. Donald
89C. H. Spurgeon, The Early Years (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1962) 54.
216 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Fowler. In each case except Deut 25:2 and Hos 10:9 the LXX renders the
construction with ui!oj plus the genitive. Notice the varying degrees of
literality or dynamic equivalence used in translating the Hebrew NBe
NT USES OF ui!oj AND te<knon WITH GENITIVE
IN A METAPHORICAL SENSE
Matt oi[ ui[oi> tou? numfrw?noj
Matt ui[o>n gee<nhj
Mark oi[ ui[oi> tou? numfrw?noj
Mark ui[oi> bronth?j
Luke tou>j ui[ou>j tou? numgrw?noj
Luke 10:6 ui!oj ei]rh<nhj
Luke 16:8 oi[ ui[oi> tou? ai]w?noj tou<tou (also in )
Luke th?j a]nasta<sewj ui[oi>
John o[ ui!oj th?j a]pwlei<aj
Acts ui!oj paraklh<sewj
Rom 9:8 ta> te<kna th?j e]paggeli<aj
Gal e]paggeli<aj te<kna
Eph 2:2 toi?j ui[oi?j th?j a]peiqei<aj (also in 5:6)
Eph 2:3 te<kna fu<sei o]rgh?j
Eph 5:8 te<kna fwto>j
I Pet I: 14 te<kna u[pakoh?j
2 Pet kata<raj te<kna
NT USES OF fu<sij AND RELATED WORDS.
Rom I :26 meth<llacan th>n fusikh>n xrh?sin ei]j th>n para> fu<sin
Rom o!tan ga>r e@qnh . . . fu<sei ta> tou? no<mou poiw?sin
Rom krinei? h[ e]k fu<sewj a]krobusti<a
Rom 11:21 ei] ga>r o[ qeo>j tw?n kata> fu<sin kla<dwn ou]k e]fei<sato
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIGINALE 217
Rom 11 :24 ei] ga>r su> e]k th?j kata> fu<sin e]ceko<phj a]grielai<ou,
kai> para> fu<sin e]nekentri<sqhj ei]j kallie<laion, po<s&
ma?llon ou$toi oi[ kata> fu<sin e]gkentrisqh?sontai
1 Cor 11: 14 ou]de> h[ fu<sij au]th> dida<skei u[ma?j
Gal h[mei?j fu<si ]Ioudai?oi
Gal 4:8 e]douleu<sate toi?j du<sei mh> ou#sin qeoi?j
Eph 2:3 h@meqa te<kna fu<sei o]rgh?j
Jas 3:7 pa?sa ga>r fu<sij qhri<wn te kai> peteinw?n . . . dama<zetai
. . . t^? fu<sei t^? a]nqrwpi<n^
2 Pet 1:4 i!na dia> tou<twn ge<nhsqe qei<aj koinwnoi> fu<sewj
Rom 1 :26 meth<llacan th>n fusikh>n xrh?sin
Rom 1 :27 6 o[moi<wj te kai> oi[ a@rsenej a]fe<ntej th>n fusikh>n
xrh?sin th?j qelei<aj
2 Pet 2: 12 w[j a@loga z&?a gegennhme<na fusika>
Jude 10 o!sa de> fusikw?j w[j ta> a@loga z&?a e]pi<stantai
Luke 8:6 fue>n e]chra<nqh dia> to> mh> e@xein i]kma<da
Luke 8:8 fue>n e]poi<hsen karpo>n e]katontaplasi<ona
Heb 12:15 mh< tij r[i<za pikri<aj a@nw fu<ousa e]noxl^?
* Adapted from W. F. Moulton and A. S. Geden, A Concordance to the
Greek Testament, rev. by H. K. Moulton (5th ed.;
ORIGINAL SIN AND GOD’S WRATH: ARGUMENTS AND ANSWERS
1. Argument from the Context of Ephesians 2:1-3: The context treats
actual sin, not original sin. (See Abbott, Ephesians, 45-46; Foulkes,
Ephesians, 71; Meyer, Ephesians, 365-66; George B. Stevens, Pauline
Theology [NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1895] 152ff.)
Answer: 2:1 speaks not only of actual sin but also of sin as a state
of separation from God. Even so, this may be an example
of an argument leading up to a climactic statement, ab
effectu ad causam.
II. Argument from the Word Order of Ephesians 2:3c: The word order
of the phrase must be fu<sei te<kna o]rgh?j for the original sin view to
be true. The position of fu<sei is unemphatic. (See Abbott, Ephesians.
45; Meyer, Ephesians, 366.)
Answer: Interpretation of word order is quite subjective, but there
is some reason to view fu<sei in its position between te<kna
218 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
and o]rgh?j as quite emphatic. Even if it is not emphatic it
could possibly indicate that Paul was implicitly assuming
hereditary moral corruption.
III. Argument from the time Reference of Ephesians 2:3c: The original
sin view "supposes Kat 1'jJ.1f.9a to refer to, or at least include, a time
prior to e]n oi$j a]n (See Abbott, Ephesians, 45.)
Answer: Nothing in the original sin view necessitates this supposi-
tion. @Hmeqa does refer to the same time as the previous
context. At that time, before the Ephesians were con-
verted, they were deserving objects of God's wrath due to
IV. Argument from the Analogy of Scripture: The ecclesiastical dogma of
original sin is not Pauline. Paul views actual sin as the reason why
man is under God's wrath. (See Meyer, Ephesians, 366.)
Answer: This argument begs the question. It is true that Paul in
other contexts views wrath coming upon men due to actual
sin (Rom 1:18; Eph 5:6; e.g.). However, sin, like beauty, "is
more than skin deep." The Scripture speaks of man's
conception in a state of sin (Psa 51 :5), of his sinful heart
(Jer 17:9; Matt 15:17-19), of his sinful mind set (Eph 2:3ab;
4:17-19). The sinful heart (a term implying an innate
nature or essence) is viewed in Matt 15:19 and Eph 4:18 as
the root of sinful activity. Ultimately man's nature causes
him to be under God's wrath.
V. Argument from Romans 11:17-24: If Paul views the Jews as inborn
children of wrath, he contradicts his teaching in Rom 11:17-24 where
he speaks of Jews as the "natural branches" of the olive tree of the
theocracy. (See Meyer, Ephesians, 366.)
Answer: Fu<sij in Rom 11 is used in an illustration of
favored position in God's program. The natural branches
of the olive tree are Jews who are the objects of God's
theocratic dealings. The unnatural branches are Gentiles
who may become objects of God's grace in Christ. Paul's
perspective in Rom 11 is national and positional: the Jews
naturally enjoyed God's special theocratic favor and the
Gentiles did not. The perspective in Eph 2:3 is quite differ-
ent. Here individuals, both Jews and Gentiles, are viewed
as naturally objects of God's wrath. This is no more
than the words of Hos 3:2.
position in God's plan is viewed as a reason for her
VI. Argument from 1 Cor 7:14: Paul could not have taught an inborn
liability to wrath for this would contradict his words about the
children of believers in I Cor 7:14. (See Meyer, Ephesians, 366-67.)
TURNER: EPH 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIGINALE 219
Answer: 1 Cor 7: 14 is admittedly a difficult passage. It seems best
to view the sanctification and holiness spoken of here not
in an experiential moral sense. Instead there is a sense in
which the unsaved marriage partner and the children in
such a home are set apart by the believer there. This is a
matter of privilege and exposure to Christian testimony. It
should be noted, however, that whatever "holiness" is
spoken of in the verse is true of the unbelieving adult
as well as the children. This weakens Meyer's argument
VII. Argument from Matthew 18:2ff; 19:14ff: This view of original sin
contradicts the words of Jesus Christ concerning children, especially
His promise that whoever becomes like a child will enter the King-
dom of heaven. (See Meyer, Ephesians, 367.)
Answer: Our Lord's exhortation was not to become "morally neu-
tral" or "innocent" as infants are sometime supposed to
be. Instead His emphasis evidently was upon the humility
(Matt 18:4) and faith (18:6) of the children. It is neces-
sary to exercise child-like faith to enter the Kingdom. Jesus
was certainly not making a blanket statement on infant
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
Grace Theological Seminary
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: email@example.com