1. All Persons Are Accountable to God for Sin (1:18–32)

18 For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of human beings, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 for what can be known about God is manifest among them—for God has made it manifest to them. 20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and his deity—have been seen, being understood through the things he has made, so that they are without excuse.

21 Because, having known God, they did not glorify him as God or give thanks but became foolish in their reasonings, and their hearts, lacking understanding, were darkened. 22 Supposing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of the image of mortal man, and birds, and animals, and reptiles. 24 Therefore, God handed them over in the passions of their hearts to uncleanness, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 Because of this, God handed them over to dishonorable passions, for women exchanged the natural use of their bodies for that use which is against nature. 27 Likewise, men, leaving natural use of the woman, burned in their desire for one another, men with men doing that which is shameful and receiving in themselves the just penalty that was necessary for their error. 28 And even as they did not see fit to retain God in knowledge, God handed them over to a worthless mind, so that they do what is not right, 29 being filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, greed, wickedness; 12  full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; gossips, 30 maligners, haters of God, proud, arrogant, overbearing, devisers of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, without faithfulness, without affection, 13  without mercy.

32 These people, knowing the righteous decree of God, that those who do such things are worthy of death, not only do these things themselves, but commend those who do them.

This passage divides into three main parts. In the first (vv. 18–20), Paul announces the “revelation” of God’s wrath and explains why that wrath is justified: people commit ungodly and unrighteous acts, “suppressing” the truth (v. 18). Paul can accuse people of suppressing the truth because God has given people a knowledge of himself (vv. 19–20a); therefore, when they sin, they are “without excuse” (v. 20b). The second section, vv. 21–31, describes in more detail the ways in which people have suppressed the truth of God and draws out some of their consequences. Paul uses three generally parallel “retribution” sequences to make his point: 14 

Vv. 21–24: People “exchange” 15  the truth of God for idols—God “hands them over” 16 

Vv. 25–26a: People “exchange” the truth of God for a lie—God “hands them over”

Vv. 26b–31: People “exchange” natural sexual practices for the unnatural—God “hands them over”

Verse 32 makes up the third section. Though related to vv. 28–31, it stands somewhat independently as a concluding indictment and transition to 2:1ff.

Whose experience does Paul describe in these verses? Traditionally, it has been assumed almost without argument that Paul is depicting the situation of Gentiles. However, the tendency of recent scholarship is to reject, or at least qualify, this conclusion. It is pointed out that the objects of God’s wrath are called “people,” not “Gentiles”; indeed, the word “Gentiles” (ethnē) never occurs in the passage. Moreover, their turn to idolatry is described in language reminiscent of OT descriptions of the Fall, suggesting that all humanity is in view, and of the golden calf incident, suggesting that Jews must be included in Paul’s purview. Finally, the transition from 1:32 to 2:1 would make better sense if the people indicted in 2:1–4 were already included in 1:18–32; but those depicted in 2:1–4 cannot be confined to Gentiles. 17 

Despite the force of some of these points, two considerations, in particular, favor a reference mainly to Gentiles. First, the passage is reminiscent of Jewish apologetic arguments in which Gentile idolatry was derided and the moral sins of the Gentile world were traced to that idolatry. 18  Second, the knowledge of God rejected by those depicted in 1:18–32 comes solely through “natural revelation”—the evidences of God in creation and, perhaps, the conscience. The situation with Jews is, of course, wholly different, for Paul holds them responsible for the special revelation they have been given in the law (cf. 2:12–13, 17–29).

This last point, especially, makes it improbable that Paul is thinking specifically of Jews in 1:19–32. It may not be, however, that Jews are entirely excluded either. The argument of 1:18–2:29 is best viewed as a series of concentric circles, proceeding from the general to the particular. Verse 18, the outermost circle, begins with a universal indictment: all people stand condemned under the wrath of God. It is the “heading” of 1:18–3:20 as a whole. 19  Romans 1:19–32, likewise, includes in its scope all people, but it looks at them from the standpoint of their responsibility to God apart from special revelation. This qualification, even though not removing Jews in principle from the focus, means that Paul is not speaking directly about them. He is still speaking to them, however, since he uses this section to set up the indictment of the Jews that follows. The focus in 2:1–11 becomes more specific as Paul indicts the “moral person,” but implicitly, as we will see, the Jew. Romans 2:17–29 finally targets Jews explicitly, accusing them on the basis of the clearest revelation of God available: the law of Moses.

Can we isolate more specifically the experience(s) depicted in 1:19–32? The sequence of tenses is relevant to this question. In vv. 18–19a and 32, Paul uses the present tense, suggesting that the revealing of God’s wrath, the suppression of the knowledge of God available in creation, and the recognition that certain sins deserve God’s judgment are constant aspects of human experience. Throughout vv. 19b–31, however (except in v. 20, which asserts a universal truth), Paul uses a tense (the aorist) normally rendered in English with a past tense: people turned from God; he handed them over. This may suggest that vv. 19b-31 have in view a specific event: either the original fall of humanity into sin (Gen. 3), or a kind of mythical “Ur-fall” of the Gentiles. 20  This view has certain undeniable strengths but cannot finally be accepted. The tense Paul uses in vv. 19–31 need not indicate a single past experience; 21  and, more important, this view fails to explain the heart of this passage: the characterization of all those upon whom the wrath of God falls as those who possessed the truth of God but turned from it.

Paul says more than that all people experienced the consequences of an original turning away from God, or even that all people shared such an original turning away. He insists that those who turned were also those who knew better, and who are consequently deserving of God’s wrath. This, coupled with the obviously universal thrust of vv. 18 and 32, makes clear that this foolish and culpable rejection of the knowledge of God is repeated in every generation, by every individual. Every person is “without excuse” because every person—whether a first-century pagan or a twentieth-century materialist—has been given a knowledge of God and has spurned that knowledge in favor of idolatry, in all its varied manifestations. All therefore stand under the awful reality of the wrath of God, and all are in desperate need of the justifying power of the gospel of Christ. We will never come to grips with the importance of the gospel, or be motivated as we should be to proclaim it, until this sad truth has been fully integrated into our worldview. 22 

18 In light of the stark contrast between the “revelation of the righteousness of God” (v. 17) and “the revelation of the wrath of God,” we would expect v. 18 to begin with a strong adversative—“but” or “however.” 23  Instead, v. 18 is linked to the preceding verses with the word “for,” 24  which normally introduces a reason or explanation for a previous statement. It may be that the word here has lost its normal causal meaning and that we should simply ignore it (note that it is untranslated in NIV, TEV, and NJB). 25  Some scholars, however, think that the close biblical connection between righteousness and wrath allows Paul to claim the reality of God’s righteousness because the wrath of God is present. 26  But Paul is not using the word “righteousness” in v. 17 in a way that would make this connection likely. It is best, then, to retain the usual force of “for,” but to view it as introducing the answer to a question implicit in what Paul has just said: Why has God manifested his righteousness and why can it be appropriated only through faith? 27  Viewed in this light, this conjunction introduces the entire argument of 1:18–3:20—which, indeed, is encapsulated in v. 18.

Since the time of certain Greek philosophers, the idea that God would inflict wrath on people has been rejected as incompatible with an enlightened understanding of the deity. 28  The second-century Christian heretic Marcion omitted “of God” in v. 18, 29  and many others since would like to omit the verse altogether. In our day, C. H. Dodd is representative of those who have rejected or drastically modified the traditional conception of God’s wrath. Criticizing the conception of a God who personally exercises wrath as “archaic,” he argues that Paul’s “wrath of God” is no more than “an inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe.” 30  But such a conception of God has more in common with the Greek philosophical abstraction of God than the biblical presentation of a personal, active God.

In the Bible wrath is an aspect of God’s person, as is clear from the many OT texts that make the “kindling” of God’s wrath the basis for his judgment. God’s wrath is necessary to the biblical conception of God: “As long as God is God, He cannot behold with indifference that His creation is destroyed and His holy will trodden underfoot. Therefore He meets sin with His mighty and annihilating reaction.” 31  The OT regularly pictures God as responding to sin with wrath; 32  but, particularly in the prophets, the wrath of God is associated with the Day of the Lord as a cosmic, climactic outbreak of judgment. Although Paul works with this same conception of God’s wrath, he stresses the working and effects of God’s wrath. Paul speaks of wrath as a present reality under which people outside Christ stand, 33  and often, following the OT prophets, predicts the outpouring of God’s wrath on the future day of judgment. 34  If the main verb in v. 18 is a “futuristic present,” Paul could here also be predicting this climactic outbreak of wrath at the end of history, as in 2:5. 35  But the verb is most likely depicting a present-time situation. 36 

If, then, Paul presents God’s wrath as a present reality, how are we to understand that that wrath is now being manifested? And what is the relationship between the two “revelations”—of the righteousness of God in v. 17 and of the wrath of God in v. 18? 37  Taking the last question first, a determinative issue is whether the verb “reveal” means “reveal [a truth] to the mind” or “manifest [an action] in history.” One provocative interpretation that takes the verb in the first sense is associated with Karl Barth. He argues that the revelation of both God’s righteousness and wrath takes place in the preaching of the gospel. For the gospel proclaims the cross, and Jesus’ death on the cross reveals both the possibility for a new righteousness and the seriousness of God’s wrath against human sin. 38  Although this view does justice to the parallelism between vv. 17 and 18, it suffers from some fatal objections. 39  Barth’s interpretation also requires that “reveal” have a cognitive sense: “make known, disclose.” But as we have seen, this same verb in v. 17 has a “historical” sense: “come into historical reality” (from the “hiddenness” of God’s purpose). It is probable that this is the meaning of the verb in v. 18 also, especially since the object of this “revealing” is not people but the sins of people, or people as sinners: God’s wrath is revealed “upon all godlessness and unrighteousness of human beings.” 40 

If, then, “reveal” indicates the actual inflicting of God’s wrath, when, and how, does it take place? Although God will inflict his wrath on sin finally and irrevocably at the end of time (2:5), there is an anticipatory working of God’s wrath in the events of history. Particularly, as vv. 24–28 suggest, the wrath of God is now visible in his “handing over” of human beings to their chosen way of sin and all its consequences. As Schiller’s famous aphorism puts it, “The history of the world is the judgment of the world.” It is this judgment of the world that the present infliction of God’s wrath is intended to reveal. For the present experience of God’s wrath is merely a foretaste of what will come on the day of judgment. Furthermore, what both the warning of “wrath to come” and the present experience of wrath demonstrate is the sentence of condemnation under which all people outside Christ stand. It is this reality that Paul wants to get across to this readers here.

What, then, of the parallel between vv. 17 and 18? Some would go so far as to make this exercise of wrath a part of the righteousness of God. 41  But only if righteousness is taken broadly as an attribute of God is this possible, and we have seen good reason to reject this interpretation. On the other hand, the parallel with v. 17 may suggest that this condemning activity is particularly bound up with the eschatological breaking in of the new age in Christ. 42  Though it is clear that God has inflicted his wrath in the past, 43  the inauguration of “the last days” means that the final, climactic wrath of God is already making itself felt. 44  The wrath of God falls more deservedly than ever before on people now that God’s righteousness in Christ is being publicly proclaimed.

Paul’s mention of the fact that God’s wrath is being revealed “from heaven” adds weight to what Paul is saying: it “significantly implies the majesty of an angry God, and His all-seeing eye, and the wide extent of His wrath: whatever is under heaven, and yet not under the Gospel, is under this wrath.” 45  Paul specifies two objects of God’s wrath: “ungodliness” and “unrighteousness.” Some distinguish the two words, arguing that the former refers to sins of a religious nature and the latter to sins of a moral nature. 46  Paul would then be following a sequence similar to that of the Decalogue, which focuses on a person’s duty to God in the first four commandments and on one’s duty to others in the second six. 47  Moreover, it is claimed that 1:19–32 picks up this same sequence, as Paul concentrates first on people’s rejection of God (vv. 19–27) and then on the disruption of human relations that flows from this rejection. 48  The point would be, as S. L. Johnson puts it, “immorality in life proceeds from apostasy in doctrine.” 49  Although this interpretation is attractive and theologically sound, it does not have sufficient basis in the meaning of the words Paul uses. 50 

Paul further characterizes the people who are guilty of “ungodliness” and “unrighteousness” as those who “suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness.” 51  “Truth” in the NT is not simply something to which one must give mental assent; it is something to be done, to be obeyed. When people act sinfully, rebelling against God’s just rule, they fail to embrace the truth and so suppress it. 52  In this case, as Meyer says, they “do not let it develop itself into power and influence on their religious knowledge and moral condition.”

19 Verses 19–20 have two purposes. On the one hand, Paul justifies his assertion that people “suppress” the truth (v. 18b). 53  On the other hand, he wants to show that people who sin and are correspondingly subject to God’s wrath are responsible for their situation. They are “without excuse” (v. 20b). He accomplishes both purposes by asserting that people have been given a knowledge of God: “for 54  what can be known 55  about God is manifest among 56  them.” For Jews, as Paul will acknowledge later (2:18, 20), this knowledge of God comes above all through the law of Moses. Here, however, he is interested in the knowledge of God available to all people through the nature of the world itself. Therefore, what Paul says in the following verses, though not limited to Gentiles (since Jews, too, have knowledge of God through nature), has particular relevance to them.

The last clause of v. 19 explains “is manifest”: what can be known of God has been made visible because God has “made it known.” 57  Only by an act of revelation from above—God “making it known”—can people understand God as he is.

20 The “for” 58  introducing this verse shows that Paul continues the close chain of reasoning about the knowledge of God that he began in v. 19. He has asserted that what can be known of God is visible among people generally and that this is so only because God has acted to disclose himself. Now he explains how it is that God has made this disclosure. Two different connections among the main elements in the verse are possible: (1) “his invisible attributes … have been seen through the things he has made, being understood”; 59  (2) “his invisible attributes … have been seen, being understood through the things he has made.” 60  Probably the latter makes better sense because, on the former rendering, the word “being understood” is somewhat redundant. 61  The subject of this complex clause, “his invisible attributes,” 62  is further defined in the appositional addition, “his eternal power and his deity.” 63  What is denoted is that God is powerful and that he possesses those properties normally associated with deity. These properties of God that cannot be “seen” (aorata) are “seen” (kathoratai)—an example of the literary device called oxymoron, in which a rhetorical effect is achieved by asserting something that is apparently contradictory. God in his essence is hidden from human sight, yet much of him and much about him can be seen through the things he has made. Paul is thinking primarily of the world as the product of God’s creation (see, e.g., Ps. 8), though the acts of God in history may also be included. 64 

But just what does Paul mean when he claims that human beings “see” and “understand” from creation and history that a powerful God exists? Some think that Paul is asserting only that people have around them the evidence of God’s existence and basic qualities; whether people actually perceive it or become personally conscious of it is not clear. But Paul’s wording suggests more than this. He asserts that people actually come to “understand” something about God’s existence and nature. 65  How universal is this perception? The flow of Paul’s argument makes any limitation impossible. Those who perceive the attributes of God in creation must be the same as those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness and are therefore liable to the wrath of God. Paul makes clear that this includes all people (see 3:9, 19–20).

The last clause of v. 20, “so that they are without excuse,” states a key element in our interpretation of vv. 19–20. 66  For Paul here makes clear that “natural revelation,” in and of itself, leads to a negative result. That Paul teaches the reality of a revelation of God in nature to all people, this text makes clear. But it is equally obvious that this revelation is universally rejected, as people turn from knowledge of God to gods of their own making (cf. vv. 22ff.). Why this is so, Paul will explain elsewhere (cf. Rom. 5:12–21). But it is vital if we are to understand Paul’s gospel and his urgency in preaching it to realize that natural revelation leads not to salvation but to the demonstration that God’s condemnation is just: people are “without excuse.” That verdict stands over the people we meet every day just as much as over the people Paul rubbed shoulders with in the first century, and our urgency in communicating the gospel should be as great as Paul’s.

21 This verse provides the missing link in the argument of v. 20. The refusal of people to acknowledge and worship God (v. 21) explains why the revelation of God in nature (v. 20a) leads to their being “without excuse” (v. 20b). 67  Paul accentuates the accountability of people by claiming that their failure to “glorify” and “give thanks to” God took place “even though they knew God.” 68  Paul’s claim that people through natural revelation “know” God is unexpected. Such language is normally confined to the intimate, personal relationship to God and Christ that is possible only for the believer. 69  In light of the use to which this knowledge is put, this is plainly not the case here. “Knowing God” must therefore be given a strictly limited sense compatible with Paul’s argument in this passage. But how limited? Cranfield suggests a greatly weakened sense: “in their awareness of the created world it is of him that all along, though unwittingly, they have been—objectively—aware.” But the elimination of any subjective perception from the meaning of the verb has no basis in Paul’s usage. 70  People do have some knowledge of God. But this knowledge, Paul also makes clear, is limited, involving the narrow range of understanding of God available in nature: they “knew of God” (Phillips: “They knew all the time that there is a God”). 71  The outward manifestation of God in his created works was met with a real, though severely limited, knowledge of him among those who observed those works.

This limited knowledge of God falls far short of what is necessary to establish a relationship with him. Knowledge must lead to reverence and gratitude. This it has failed to do. Instead of acknowledging God “as God,” by glorifying him and thanking him, human beings perverted their knowledge and sank into idolatry. That idolatry, explicitly discussed in v. 23, might already be in Paul’s mind in this verse is suggested by his claim that people “became futile.” 72  It is in the “reasonings” 73  of people that this futility has taken place, showing that, whatever their initial knowledge of God might be, their natural capacity to reason accurately about God is quickly and permanently harmed. Parallel to, and descriptive of, this futility in thinking is the darkening of the “un-understanding heart.” 74  In the NT, “heart” is broad in its meaning, denoting “the thinking, feeling, willing ego of man, with particular regard to his responsibility to God.” 75  We can understand, then, how Paul can describe the heart as being “without understanding” and recognize also how comprehensive is this description of fallen humanity. At the very center of every person, where the knowledge of God, if it is to have any positive effects, must be embraced, there has settled a darkness—a darkness that only the light of the gospel can penetrate.

22 This verse initiates three parallel descriptions of people’s rejection of God and the corresponding punitive response of God (vv. 22–24, 25–27, 28–31; see the introduction to the section). 76  The degeneration in people’s understanding of God, asserted in v. 21, is characterized further in v. 22 by a contrast between illusion and reality. In refusing to pay homage to God when his works are recognized, people claim to be acquiring wisdom. 77  In reality, however, it is the opposite: they are “becoming foolish.” 78  From v. 23, it is clear that this foolishness involves not only refusing to worship the true God but also embracing false gods. 79  This contrast, in which what people think is wisdom God considers foolishness, and vice versa, is elaborated in 1 Cor. 1–4. In that this “becoming foolish” involves the various idolatrous religions that people invent for themselves (v. 23), Paul’s estimation of non-Christian religions also becomes clear in this verse. Far from being a preparatory stage in the human quest for God, these religions represent a descent from the truth and are “evidence of man’s deepest corruption.” 80 

23 Continuing the sentence begun in v. 22, this verse graphically portrays the folly of idolatry that lies at the heart of all religions that are not based on a reverent response to the revelation of the one true God. Paul pictures the fall into idolatry as an “exchange” of the glory of God for the images of human beings and beasts. “Glory” signifies the splendor and majesty that belong intrinsically to the one true God. 81  Given the opportunity to bask in the glory of the immortal 82  God, people have rather chosen, in their folly, to worship the images of mortal human beings and beasts. Paul’s description of the fall into idolatry is reminiscent of several OT texts, particularly Ps. 106:20, “and they exchanged their glory for the likeness of a bull that eats grass”; cf. also Jer. 2:11, “has a nation exchanged its gods?… yet my people have exchanged its glory.” 83  Paul wishes his readers to see how foolish it is to substitute for direct contact with God’s awesome presence the indirect, shadowy relationship found in idolatry.

Paul’s description of the fall into idolatry in this verse draws from a variety of sources and traditions. There are allusions to the creation story in the threefold division of the animal kingdom. Ps. 106:20, which, as we have seen, Paul uses, comments on the “fall” of Israel into idolatry when she constructed the golden calf (Exod. 32). But Paul is not describing either the fall of Israel 84  or the fall of humankind in Adam. 85  Rather, in a somewhat idealized, paradigmatic fashion, he describes the terrible proclivity of all people to corrupt the knowledge of God they possess by making gods of their own. This tragic process of human “god-making” continues apace in our own day, and Paul’s words have as much relevance for people who have made money or sex or fame their gods as for those who carved idols out of wood and stone. Thus, as vv. 24–31 show, the whole dreadful panoply of sins that plague humanity has its roots in the soil of this idolatry. 86 

24 The “therefore” 87  at the beginning of this verse shows that God’s “handing over” of human beings is his response to their culpable rejection of the knowledge of himself that he has made generally available (vv. 21–23). Paul’s use of the verb “hand over” to describe this retribution has its roots in the OT, where it is regularly used in the stereotyped formula according to which God “hands over” Israel’s enemies so that they may be defeated in battle. 88  And, in an ironic role reversal, the same formula is used when God hands his own people over to another nation as punishment for their sins. 89  Somewhat similarly, Paul here alleges that God has “handed over” people to “uncleanness.” 90  What does Paul mean by this? Clearly he cannot be saying that God impelled people to sin. Not only would this contradict the biblical depiction of God (cf. Jas. 1:13), but the phrase that qualifies this “handing over to uncleanness,” “in the passions of their hearts,” shows that those who were handed over were already immersed in sin. Paul’s purpose in this verse is to highlight the divine side of the cycle of sin; but it must be balanced with the human side, presented in Eph. 4:19, where Paul says that Gentiles “gave themselves up” 91  to licentiousness, leading to all kinds of “uncleanness.” 92  Dodd, in keeping with his interpretation of God’s wrath, thinks the “handing over” is no more than the outworking of the natural processes of history. But so impersonal a procedure does justice neither to the biblical teaching about God’s sovereign activity in history nor to Paul’s active language. Chrysostom interprets this handing over in a passive sense: by withdrawing his influence over these disobedient idolaters, God permits them to continue in, and indeed to plunge more deeply into, the sin they had already chosen. As Godet puts it: “He [God] ceased to hold the boat as it was dragged by the current of the river.” 93 

No doubt such a withdrawal of divine influence would produce this result. But the meaning of “hand over” demands that we give God a more active role as the initiator of the process. 94  God does not simply let the boat go—he gives it a push downstream. Like a judge who hands over a prisoner to the punishment his crime has earned, God hands over the sinner to the terrible cycle of ever-increasing sin. 95  Is this punishment reformatory in purpose? Chrysostom thought so; the depths of sin in which the idolater is plunged are designed to awaken the sinner to the awful seriousness of his or her situation. 96  In that God’s handing over of his people in the OT was not the final word, and in light of the possible parallel to this action in the temporary confining of Israel under sin through the law (Gal. 3:21–25), this might be the case. But it must be added that both biblical and secular history afford us many examples in which such punishment has not led to spiritual reformation.

The sexual nuance present in the term “uncleanness” is elaborated in the last clause of the verse: “to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.” The significance of this clause is not clear. Does it indicate the purpose for which God handed people over? 97  Its result? 98  Or does it simply give a fuller definition of the word “uncleanness”? 99  Certainty is impossible, but the last is probably the best option. 100 

25 The first clause of this verse might continue the sentence begun in v. 24 and have a causal meaning: “God handed them over [v. 24] … because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” 101  But since v. 23 has already expressed the reason for this handing over, it is preferable to see v. 25 as initiating a new sentence. 102  Rather than looking backward, then, v. 25 looks ahead, providing, as does v. 23 in relation to v. 24, the basis for God’s judicial “handing over” of sinners to the consequences of their choices. Moreover, the bases are very similar. If in v. 23 Paul accuses people of exchanging “the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of the image of mortal man, and birds, and animals, and reptiles,” so here he claims that they have “exchanged 103  the truth of God for a lie.” “The truth of God” is not “the truth God has made known and belongs to him,” 104  but the reality, the fact of God as he has revealed himself. 105  The Thessalonian Christians, Paul writes, have reversed this exchange; they “turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9).

In the second clause of v. 25, Paul concisely defines the “lie” of idolatry: “worshiping and serving the creature rather than 106  the Creator.” The two verbs are mutually interpreting and together sum up all that is involved in the veneration of idols. 107  It is this putting some aspect of God’s creation—whether it be an animal, a human, or a material object—in place of God that is the essence of idolatry. Perhaps it is to underline the folly of this exchange that Paul adds a blessing formula, “who is blessed forever. Amen.” 108 

26 In many Jewish polemical works, the gross sexual immorality that the Jews found rampant among the Gentiles was traced directly to idolatry. Thus, to cite Wisdom of Solomon: “the idea of making idols was the beginning of fornication, and the invention of them was the corruption of life” (14:12). Paul follows this genre by making the same connection but differs from it by attributing the connection to the act of God. As in vv. 23–24, people’s “exchange” of the true God for idols (v. 25) is the cause 109  of God’s retributive “handing them over.” 110  And that to which they are handed over, “dishonorable passions,” 111  here corresponds to the “uncleanness” of v. 24. Paul’s use of the word “passions,” 112  combined with what he says in vv. 26b–27, makes clear that he refers to illicit sexual passions. For the last clause of the verse illustrates these “dishonorable passions.” 113  In yet another similarity to Jewish criticisms of the Gentile world, the sexual sin that Paul singles out is homosexuality: “women 114  exchanged the natural use of their bodies for that use which is against nature.” The verb “exchange,” which has been used twice to depict the fall into idolatry (vv. 23, 25), is now used to characterize this tragic reversal in sexual practice. The “natural use” has been replaced with one that is “against nature.” 115 

The extent to which Paul characterizes this exchange as a violation of God’s created order depends on the significance of the words “natural” and “nature” in this verse. Paul generally uses the word “nature” to describe the way things are by reason of their intrinsic state or birth, and in these cases there is no clear reference to divine intention. 116  Some scholars in recent years especially, noting this, have argued that Paul does not here brand homosexuality as a violation of God’s will. He is only, they argue, following his own cultural prejudices by characterizing homosexual relations as being against what is “usually” the case. 117  But Paul’s use of the word “nature” in this verse probably owes much to Jewish authors, particularly Philo, who included sexual morality as part of “natural law” and therefore as a divine mandate applicable to all people. 118  Violations of this law, as in the case of Sodom, are therefore considered transgressions of God’s will. 119  In keeping with the biblical and Jewish worldview, the heterosexual desires observed normally in nature are traced to God’s creative intent. Sexual sins that are “against nature” are also, then, against God, and it is this close association that makes it probable that Paul’s appeal to “nature” in this verse includes appeal to God’s created order. 120  Confirmation can be found in the context. In labeling the turning from “the natural use” to “that [use] which is against nature” an “exchange,” Paul associates homosexuality with the perversion of true knowledge of God already depicted in vv. 23 and 25. In addition, we must remember that the clause in question is a description of “sinful passions,” a phrase plainly connoting activities that are contrary to God’s will. When these factors are considered, it is clear that Paul depicts homosexual activity as a violation of God’s created order, another indication of the departure from true knowledge and worship of God. 121 

27 This verse is connected to the last part of v. 26 with “likewise,” as Paul shows that the same “sinful passions” that lead women to engage in unnatural homosexual acts are also operative among men, with similar effect. 122  Homosexuality among “males,” 123  like that among “females,” is characterized as a departure from nature. 124  As in the previous verse, “nature” denotes the natural order, but as reflective of God’s purposes. Paul uses strong language to characterize male homosexuality: “they burned 125  in their desire 126  for one another, men with men 127  doing 128  that which is shameful 129  and receiving in themselves the just penalty 130  that was necessary for their error.” In calling the homosexual activity that brings about this penalty an “error,” Paul does not diminish the seriousness of the offense, for this word often denotes sins of unbelievers in the NT. 131  In claiming that this penalty for homosexual practice is received “in themselves,” Paul may suggest that the sexual perversion itself is the punishment. 132  On the other hand, this could be a vivid way of saying that those who engage in such activities will suffer eternal punishment; they will receive “in their own persons” God’s penalty for violation of his will. 133  This punishment, Paul says, was “necessary,” by which he probably means that God could not allow his created order to be so violated without there being a just punishment. 134 

28 In vv. 22–24 and 25–27 Paul has shown how the sexual immorality that pervades humanity has its roots in the rejection of the true God in favor of gods of their own making. In the third and final portrayal of this sin-retribution sequence (vv. 28–32), he traces sins of inhumanity, of man’s hatred of his fellow man in all its terrible manifestations, to this same root sin of idolatry.

In keeping with the relation between human sin and divine retribution in the previous two sections, the first clause in this verse might have a causal force: “because they did not see fit to retain God in knowledge, God handed them over” (see NIV; NRSV). 135  But the lack of clear evidence for a causal meaning of the word Paul uses here 136  leads us to prefer the normal correlative sense of the word: “Even as people did not retain knowledge of God, God handed them over to a worthless mind.” 137  This correlative relationship underlines the close correspondence in this verse between sin and retribution, a relationship Paul enhances with a wordplay in Greek between “see fit” and “worthless.” 138  “To have God in knowledge” means to acknowledge God, to retain and respond to the knowledge of himself that God has given in his creation. The Greek word for “knowledge” that Paul uses here sometimes connotes “practical” or “applied” (as opposed to theoretical) knowledge. 139  Perhaps, then, we could distinguish the “theoretical” knowledge of God that Gentiles were given (vv. 19, 21) from the practical, experiential knowledge of God that would have been involved in glorifying and thanking God. 140 

For the third time Paul describes God’s response to people’s spurning of him with the words “God handed them over” (cf. also vv. 24, 26). Whereas in the previous instances it was to immoral acts that God consigned people, in this case it is to a “worthless mind.” 141  People who have refused to acknowledge God end up with minds that are “disqualified” from being able to understand and acknowledge the will of God. The result, of course, is that they do things that are “not proper.” 142  As in 1:21, Paul stresses that people who have turned from God are fundamentally unable to think and decide correctly about God and his will. This tragic incapacity is the explanation for the apparently inexplicable failure of people to comprehend, let alone practice, biblical ethical principles. Only the work of the Spirit in “renewing the mind [nous]” (Rom. 12:2) can overcome this deep-seated blindness and perversity.

29–31 Paul includes a long list of immoral activities in “things that are not proper” in vv. 29–31. Such a listing of sins is called a “vice list,” a literary form widespread in secular moral writings as well as in the NT. 143  As is typical of such lists, this one exhibits no rigid logical arrangement, since rhetorical concerns play a role in the ordering of the list. Nor is it possible to give each term in the list a meaning distinct from every other term—some are virtually synonymous, and a considerable degree of overlap in meaning occurs. Nevertheless, we can note some structural as well as logical order. Structurally, the list falls into three parts:

“filled with 144  all manner 145  of unrighteousness, evil, greed, wickedness;

“full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice;

“gossips, maligners, haters of God, proud, arrogant, overbearing, devisers of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, without faithfulness, without affection, without mercy.”

A general logical sequence matches this structure. The first four nouns are rather general in their focus, the next five revolve around envy and its consequences, while the last twelve begin with two words depicting slander, move on to four that focus on arrogance, and conclude with six less closely related. Throughout the list, Paul focuses on social ills, leaving out sins relating to sexual conduct and, for the most part, sins against God directly. The purpose of this recital, which is the longest of its kind in the NT, is to show the general scope of social evils produced by the “unqualified mind” to which God has handed sinners over. The harm done by people to other people is thus added to idolatry and sexual perversion to complete Paul’s sketch of the world outside Christ.

On “unrighteousness,” 146  see 1:18.

“Evil” cannot easily be delimited to anything specific. 147 

“Greed” is more specific than the other three words in this first group but is perhaps included because greed is basic to so many other sins. 148 

The first two words of the second part of the list are probably put together because of the assonance they create—phthonou (“envy”)/phonou (“murder”)—but the two have a logical relation as well. “Envy” was the subject of many moral treatises both in the secular Greek world and in Hellenistic Judaism, 149  and to it were frequently ascribed acts of violence such as “murder.” 150 

Perhaps the other three sins in this section, “strife,” “deceit,” and “malice,” 151  are also to be subsumed under envy, 152  although the logical relationship is not so clear for the last two.

The final part of the vice list begins with two terms that denote slander. The first 153  is the more specific, suggesting the “whispering” of the person who spreads “confidential” rumors about others.

The word translated “maligners” could more clumsily be paraphrased “one who speaks against.” 154  The next word is the most difficult in the list to define. It is composed of words that mean “hate” and “God,” but it is not clear whether God is the hater or the one hated. In classical Greek it is invariably passive, “hated by the gods,” and some give it this meaning here. 155  But it is more likely that the word has an active sense, “haters of God.” 156 

The sin of human self-exaltation before both God and other people is conveyed in the next three words, “proud,” “arrogant,” and “overbearing.” Trench distinguishes them, arguing that the first focuses on activities, the second on thoughts, and the third on words. 157  Without making these distinctions absolute, they capture accurately enough the nuances of the words. 158 

Rhetoric rather than logic dictates the sequence of the next two vices, each denoted by a phrase rather than by a single word: “devisers of evil” 159  and “disobedient to parents.” Because “disobedient to parents” occurs in 2 Tim. 3:2 along with “overbearing” and “proud,” we may conclude that its presence here continues the theme of arrogance found earlier in v. 30.

The last four items are listed together to create assonance. 160  “Without understanding” describes those who, because of their rejection of God (cf. 1:21, 28), can no longer comprehend the will of God. They are like the “fool” of Proverbs who ignores wisdom and pursues activities harmful both to herself and to others. “Without faithfulness” means literally one who refuses to abide by covenants and treaties. 161  “Without affection” may have reference particularly to the lack of affection for family members. 162  The failure of people to exhibit even the affection natural to family relationships shows how deep is the corruption of morals.

32 As in v. 25, Paul reverts to the subject of the earlier verses—human beings generally—by using a pronoun that focuses attention on their character. 163  Even though those in view are the people Paul has been describing throughout vv. 19–31, 164  this verse is linked particularly closely with vv. 28–31, since “such things” has its antecedent in the vices listed in vv. 29–31. The function of this concluding verse is to bring out even more fully the willful rebellion against God that pervades humanity. Toward this end, Paul notes that those who engage in the activities he has listed know that what they are doing is wrong. They act “knowing 165  the righteous decree of God, that those who do such things are worthy of death.” “Righteous decree” translates a word that Paul uses several other times in Romans, the closest parallel being 8:4, where Paul speaks of the “righteous decree of the law” that believers fulfill by the Spirit. 166  The lack of reference here to “the law” is significant: Paul speaks of what all people, whether blessed with special revelation or not, can know of God’s just judgment. “Death” denotes here a divinely imposed punishment and reminds us, as does the earlier part of this passage, of Gen. 3. 167  As Michel rightly emphasizes, the present tenses in this verse show that Paul is speaking not only of what has been true in the past or of what will be true in the future. People generally, Paul claims, have some degree of awareness that the moral outrages they commit are wrong and hence deserve to be punished by God. 168 

The last part of the verse poses a certain difficulty. For by characterizing people as those “who not only do these things themselves, but commend those who do 169  them,” Paul appears to suggest that “commending” evil is worse than doing it. Some have attempted to avoid the difficulty by rearranging the text or translating it differently, but these solutions are not convincing. 170  After all, is the traditional interpretation so large a problem? Granted that commending evil is not, in the ultimate sense, worse than doing it, it is also true that in a certain respect the person who commits a sin under the influence of strong temptation is less reprehensible than the one who dispassionately agrees with and encourages a sin for which he or she feels no strong attraction him- or herself. As Murray says, “we are not only bent on damning ourselves but we congratulate others in the doing of those things that we know have their issue in damnation.” 171  Although it does not feature the same ascensive emphasis, T. Asher 6:2 is both verbally and conceptually close to Paul’s statement: “The two-faced are doubly punished because they both practice evil and approve of others who practice it; they imitate the spirits of error and join in the struggle against mankind.”

In Paul’s concern to demonstrate the responsibility of all human beings for their sin and fallen state, he says some important things about what theologians call the doctrine of “natural revelation”—the knowledge of God that he has made available in the very creation and working of the world. Yet theologians disagree quite dramatically on the extent and significance of this revelation in nature. Roman Catholic theologians have traditionally been very open to the possibility of persons coming to know God through the evidence of nature and the conscience. 172  Against any such notion, Barth has reacted vigorously. For him all knowledge of God must come through Christ; Rom. 1:19–21 speaks not of Gentiles knowing God through nature, but of Gentiles who, confronted with the gospel, have revealed the objective condition that has been theirs all along. 173  Others, noting that Paul elsewhere accuses the Gentiles of his day of being ignorant of God (cf. 1 Thess. 4:5; 2 Thess. 2:8; Gal. 4:8), suggest that the knowledge of God possessed by Gentiles was a stage in the past, before a collective fall into idolatry. 174  Support for this view is found in the aorist tenses of vv. 19b–28. Still others insist that the knowledge of God that Paul speaks of in these verses is a matter only of “objective” reality, but not of “subjective” awareness. 175 

What can we conclude from the text? First, against Barth, Rom. 1:19–21 teaches that true knowledge of God is available in nature and that people apart from God’s revelation in Christ come to know this truth about God. Moreover, the emphasis on the “mind” in v. 19 strongly implies that the inner reason contributes to this knowledge (sensus divinitatis). Second, the aorist tenses of vv. 19b–28 do not allow us to conclude that only a past generation is in view. For the argument of these verses supports the contention of v. 18b that people in Paul’s day are suppressing the truth. For this argument to work, the people who have some kind of access to knowledge of God must be the same ones who suppress that knowledge. Thus, while the possibility that Paul describes a collective fall of humankind into idolatry in vv. 19–21 cannot be completely discounted, it does not, by itself, explain adequately the way the passage functions in Rom. 1. It can be concluded, then, that the text teaches that all people have, by reason of God’s revelation in creation, access to some degree of knowledge about God (v. 19) and that, to however limited an extent, they subjectively perceive this knowledge (v. 20). “(M)an becomes guilty because something essential does reach him.” 176 

But this knowledge is both limited and impure; it is confined to those basic attributes of God that may be discerned in nature (v. 20) and is so mixed with false perceptions that it is almost immediately perverted. Further, it is vitally important, if the passion of Paul’s gospel is to be correctly appreciated and the argument of this section correctly understood, to see that the knowledge of God that people possess outside special revelation is woefully inadequate, of itself, to save. Paul makes clear that, rather than being a help to people in their search for God, the evidence of nature and conscience (cf. 2:14–16) serves only to render them “without excuse” before the wrathful God. That this is the result of natural revelation follows from the sinfulness of human beings, who without grace are unable to respond appropriately to whatever knowledge of God they may possess. Paul, then, teaches a natural revelation, but, at least in this passage, the purpose and effect of that revelation are wholly negative. 177 

Another question is how long this knowledge remains with a person. When a person refuses to respond properly to the knowledge of God, is that knowledge immediately effaced or does it remain in some form, whether perverted or not? This question is more difficult to answer on the basis of the discussion in Rom. 1. But v. 32 strongly implies that some knowledge of God remains even after a person has fallen into the degenerate state that Paul depicts in these verses. For the present tenses of that verse, along with the fact that Paul is trying to establish the seriousness of the sinning he has depicted, make it probable that “knowing the righteous ordinance of God” is contemporaneous with the panoply of sinning outlined in vv. 29–31. 178 

Calvin, whose treatment of this topic in the Institutes (1.3–5) can hardly be improved on, may be quoted briefly on these points:

It is therefore in vain that so many burning lamps shine for us in the workmanship of the universe to show forth the glory of its Author. Although they bathe us wholly in their radiance, yet they can of themselves in no way lead us into the right path. Surely they strike some sparks, but before their fuller light shines forth these are smothered.… But although we lack the natural ability to mount up unto the pure and clear knowledge of God, all excuse is cut off because the fault of dullness is within us. 179 

Paul’s teaching about natural revelation in these verses has some parallels with Greek Stoicism and Hellenistic Judaism. The Greek traditions have mainly a positive purpose, however, encouraging people to pursue the knowledge of God through their reason. This is far from Paul’s exclusively negative use of the language. 180  As Bornkamm puts it, “the intention of the Apostle is not to infer God’s being from the world, but to uncover the being of the world from God’s revelation.” 181  The Hellenistic Jewish teachings differ widely, but some, at least, are much closer to Paul. Wisdom 13–14, for instance, criticizes Gentiles for not recognizing “the craftsman while paying heed to his works” (13:1) and for falling into the foolish worship of “homemade” gods. The author can even say that those who failed to recognize God are “not to be excused” (13:8). Paul has undoubtedly been influenced by this tradition and shares with it the generally negative verdict about the knowledge of God among the Gentiles. 182  At one crucial point, however, Paul dissents from the Jewish view: he criticizes Jews as well as Gentiles for failing to respond appropriately to God’s self-revelation. 183 



 12 The order of πονηρίᾳ (“evil”), πλεονεξίᾳ (“greed”), and κακίᾳ (“wickedness”) varies in the MS tradition. Some witnesses put κακίᾳ first (the secondary Alexandrian uncial C, and the minuscules 33, 81, and 1506); others reverse πλεονεξίᾳ and κακίᾳ (the primary Alexandrian uncial א and the secondary Alexandrian uncial A). One uncial (K) omits πονηρίᾳ. Several MSS add πορνείᾳ (“fornication”), either in place of πονηρίᾳ (conjectured for the western uncial D; cf. also the western uncial G) or as a fourth item in the list (the uncial Ψ and the majority text; note, e.g., the KJV translation here). The variation in order of terms is natural, given the difficulties of reproducing such a list. The presence of πορνείᾳ in some MSS is probably due to assimilation to similar lists.

 13 A sizable number of MSS add after ἀστόργους the word ἄσπονδους (“irreconcilable”) (the Byzantine second corrector of the uncial א, the secondary Alexandrian uncial C, uncial Ψ, minuscules 81 and 104, and the majority text [hence see again KJV]), but the addition is almost certainly due to assimilation to 2 Tim. 3:3.

 14 See esp. E. Klostermann, “Die adäquate Vergeltung in Röm 1.22–31,” ZNW 32 (1933), 1–6; J. Jeremias, “Zu Röm 1.22–32,” ZNW 45 (1954), 119–21.

 15 The Greek verb in v. 23 is ἀλλάσσω; the compound μεταλλάσσω is used in vv. 25 and 27.

 16 The Greek verb in each place (vv. 24, 26, and 28) is παραδίδωμι.

 17 See esp. J. Jervell, Imago Dei: Gen 1,26f. im Spätjudentum, in der Gnosis und in den paulinischen Briefen (FRLANT 58; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1960), pp. 316–19; Bassler, Divine Impartiality, p. 122; Zahn; Cranfield. A. Willer thinks 1:18–32 must be directed to humanity generally because the text alludes to the Decalogue (Der Römerbrief—eine dekalogische Komposition [Stuttgart: Calwer, 1981], p. 63), but the allusions he finds are not very obvious.

 18 See esp. Wis. Sol. 12–15. The author of this first-century-B.C. Jewish tract details the idolatry and sinfulness of the Gentiles and shows that God’s judgment of them is entirely just (chaps. 12–14). He then claims exemption from that judgment for the Jewish people on the grounds of God’s special relationship with them (chap. 15). The argument of chaps. 12–14 is similar both in general and in many details (for which see S-H, 51–52) to Rom. 1:18–32, while that of chap. 15 may lie behind Paul’s polemic in 2:1–11 (see the notes on those verses). Paul may well have Wisdom of Solomon directly in view as he writes Rom. 1–2, although it is also possible that he depends more broadly on a common Jewish tradition that finds expression in Wisdom (as Davies [pp. 27–30] points out, the same basic tradition is found in the rabbis).

 19 Cf. Dabelstein, Beurteilung der ‘Heiden,’ pp. 76–77 (who views 1:18 as the heading of 1:19–3:20); Wilckens; Dunn; Schmithals.

 20 See, e.g., Althaus.

 21 Scholars have long recognized that the Greek aorist tense does not, in itself, indicate “one-time” action; it can depict action of all kinds, including continuous and repeated action. Some grammarians would go even further and claim that the aorist (even in the indicative mood) has, in itself, no indication of time of action either. See esp. S. E. Porter, Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with Reference to Tense and Mood (Studies in Biblical Greek 1; Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1989). He claims that the aorists in vv. 19–28 are “timeless” (p. 236). Without buying into Porter’s whole particular “aspect” scheme, his warnings about too quickly finding particular temporal significance in the aorist tense has some point.

 22 For the missionary implications of this section, see A. F. Walls, “The First Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans and the Modern Missionary Movement,” in Apostolic History and the Gospel, pp. 346–57.

 23 Dodd, in fact, translates “but”; cf. also Fitzmyer.

 24 Gk. γάρ.

 25 See, e.g., Lietzmann.

 26 Barrett; Herold, Zorn und Gerechtigkeit, pp. 226, 270–74.

 27 See also Dabelstein, Die Beurteilung der ‘Heiden,’ pp. 74–75, who argues that the γάρ relates to the announcement of salvation in v. 16.

 28 Cf. H. Kleinknecht, TDNT V, 386–87.

 29 Cf. Schelkle.

 30 Cf. also A. T. Hanson, The Wrath of the Lamb (London: SPCK, 1957), pp. 84–85; G. H. C. MacGregor, “The Concept of the Wrath of God in the New Testament,” NTS 7 (1960–61), 101–9.

 31 Nygren.

 32 E.g., when Moses tries to avoid the task God has given him (Exod. 4:14); when Pharaoh and the Egyptians refuse to obey his command to let his people go (Exod. 15:7); when Israel turns to idolatry at Sinai (Exod. 32:10–12). Often God’s wrath strikes in the course of historical events: in a fire that destroys rebellious Israelites (Num. 11:1); in the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem (Jer. 21:3–7).

 33 Rom. 3:5; 4:15; 9:22; Eph. 2:3.

 34 Rom. 2:5, 8; 5:9; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10. Only in the difficult 1 Thess. 2:16 does Paul speak of a present infliction of the wrath of God.

 35 This would be in keeping with his usual perspective on God’s wrath and finds support from the allegedly “apocalyptic” language of the verse (“reveal”; “from heaven”). Adding to the attractiveness of this interpretation is the way in which 1:18 and 2:5 would then frame the material between with descriptions of the future infliction of God’s wrath. See, e.g., Chrysostom(?) and other Fathers; S-H; and, most fully, H.-J. Eckstein, “ ‘Den Gottes Zorn wird vom Himmel her offenbar werden.’ Exegetische Erwägungen zu Röm 1:18,” ZNW 78 (1987), 74–89.

 36 It is difficult to give the same form of the same verb, ἀποκαλύπτεται, a present reference in one verse (17) and a future reference in the next. See esp. Dunn.

 37 On this issue, see particularly the penetrating analysis of G. Bornkamm, “The Revelation of God’s Wrath (Romans 1–3),” in Early Christian Experience (London: SCM, 1969), pp. 47–50, 62–64.

 38 Barth, Shorter; cf. also Gaugler; Cranfield; Wilckens; D. Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1981), p. 102.

 39 E.g., Paul does not generally include in the gospel the negative concepts of judgment or wrath. If he were to do so here, particularly in light of v. 16, a clear contextual indicator to that effect would be expected—e.g., the phrase ἐν αὐτῷ καί, “in it also.”

 40 See, e.g., M. Lachmann, Vom Geheimnis der Schöpfung: Die Geschichte der Exegese von Römer I,18–23, II,14–16 und Acta XIV,15–17, XVII,22–29 vom 2. Jahrhundert bis zum Beginn der Orthodoxie (Stuttgart: Evangelisches, 1952), pp. 177–80. If Paul had wanted to say that God’s wrath over sin is revealed to believers (as S. H. Travis [Christ and the Judgment of God {Foundations for Faith; Basingstoke: Marshall Pickering, 1986}, p. 36] thinks), we would have expected a dative modifier of ἀποκαλύπτεται indicating this. The presence of the ἐπί phrase by itself strongly implies that it contains the object of the revelation.

 41 Black; Wright, “Messiah and People of God,” pp. 67–69.

 42 Michel; Kuss; Käsemann; Nygren; G. Stählin, TDNT V, 431–32.

 43 R. V. G. Tasker, The Biblical Doctrine of the Wrath of God (London: Tyndale, 1951), pp. 10–11.

 44 Ridderbos, Paul, p. 110.

 45 Bengel. “From heaven” (ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ) could qualify θεοῦ (“God from heaven”) (Stuart; Cranfield) but is more likely to modify ἀποκαλύπτεται (“is being revealed from heaven”; see 2 Thess. 1:7: ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ, “in the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven”). Whether “from heaven” has the further purpose of distinguishing the source of God’s wrath from the source of God’s righteousness—cf. vv. 16–17, “in the gospel” (e.g., Meyer)—is not clear (cf. Wilckens).

 46 E.g., Godet; Griffith Thomas.

 47 Schlatter; Michel.

 48 E.g., Harrison.

 49 S. L. Johnson, “Paul and the Knowledge of God,” BSac 129 (1972), 66.

 50 The words are etymologically distinct, ἀσέβεια denoting “ir-religion” and ἀδικία “in-justice,” but there is evidence both in the LXX (see Ps. 73:6; Prov. 11:5; Hos. 10:13; Mic. 7:18; Ezek. 18:30, in all of which the two words occur together) and in Paul that this distinction is not usually maintained. Certainly ἀδικία in Paul cannot be confined to sins against others; it often refers to sin in its widest aspect (see Rom. 2:8; 6:13; 1 Cor. 13:6; 2 Thess. 2:10, 12; 2 Tim. 2:19). If a distinction between the words is to be pressed (and it is not clear that it should be), we are on firmer ground with Cranfield’s suggestion that ἀσέβεια characterizes sin as “an attack on the majesty of God,” whereas ἀδικία labels it also as “a violation of God’s just order” (cf. also Nygren; Wilckens; Fitzmyer).

 51 ἐν ἀδικίᾳ (“in unrighteousness”) may be adverbial (“they suppress the truth unrighteously”) (Godet) but is more likely to be instrumental: “through unrighteousnes [e.g., unrighteous acts] they suppress the truth” (e.g., Murray).

 52 The verb κατέχω here probably means “suppress.” While the verb can mean “possess” or “retain” (1 Cor. 7:30; 11:2; 15:2; 2 Cor. 6:10; 1 Thess. 5:21), and Lightfoot, e.g., argues for this meaning here, the qualification ἐν ἀδικίᾳ favors the meaning “suppress” or “hinder” (BAGD; cf. 2 Thess. 2:6, 7; Phlm. 13). Cranfield gives the verb a conative force—“attempt to suppress”—in order to preserve the concept of the “inherent futility of sin.” But although it might be true that all sin is ultimately futile, in that it can never dethrone God or deflect him from his purposes, the truth does not in fact accomplish what God intends for it when it is not obeyed and lived by. In that sense, people do “hinder” the truth, and this is the point that Paul is demonstrating in the following verses.

 53 Murray; Johnson, “Paul and the Knowledge of God,” pp. 67–68.

 54 διότι does not have as strong a causal force as it often possesses, being equivalent here to ὅτι, “for” (BDF 456 [1]).

 55 In its 13 other NT occurrences, γνωστός (the lexical form of Paul’s neuter abstact τὸ γνωστόν) means “what is known” (Luke 2:44; 23:49; John 18:15, 16; Acts 1:19; 2:14; 4:10, 16; 9:42; 13:38; 15:18; 19:17; 28:22, 28); this is its normal meaning in the LXX and secular Greek as well. Because Paul explicitly attributes to people actual knowledge of God in this passage (vv. 20, 28, and 32), a strong case can be made for this translation (Meyer; H. Rosin, “To gnoston tou theou,” TZ 17 [1961], 162). But to translate “what is known of God is manifest, or visible, among them” creates a tautology. Since γνωστός can mean “what can be known” (Gen. 2:9; Sir. 21:7[?]; cf. also LSJ), and we have no other Pauline usages to go by, the needs of the context legitimately take precedence here over the general NT usage.

 56 Gk. ἐν. The word could refer to a “manifesting” of knowledge of God “in” each individual, a revelation to the conscience (Calvin; S-H). Or ἐν could connote the indirect object: “to” (Fitzmyer). But it probably has the meaning it often has with a plural object, “among”: God makes himself known “among” people, through his works of creation and providence (Michel; Barrett; Cranfield). This is because of the word φανερός (“manifest”), which usually means “making visible,” “bringing to light” (Rom. 2:28; 1 Cor. 3:13; 11:19; 14:25; Gal. 5:19; Phil. 1:13; 1 Tim. 4:15; cf. R. Bultmann/D. Lührmann, TDNT IX, 2–3) and because of the references to God’s creation in v. 20.

 57 The Greek verb here is φανερόω. Fitzmyer claims that the choice of this verb, in place of ἀποκαλύπτω (used in vv. 17 and 18), signals a move away from divine “revelation.” But this is not clear; for Paul often uses φανερόω with fully as much emphasis on divine revelation as ἀποκαλύπτω (see esp. Rom. 3:21; Eph. 5:13, 14; Col. 1:26; 3:4 (twice); 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Tim. 1:10; Tit. 1:3 (Paul also uses the verb in Rom. 16:26 [v.l.]; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 2:14; 3:3; 4:10, 11; 5:10, 11 [twice]; 7:12; 11:6; Col. 4:4). See GEL 28.36 and 38.

 58 Gk. γάρ.

 59 See NEB. On this reading, τοῖς ποιήμασιν (“the things that have been made”) is an instrumental modifier of the main verb, καθορᾶται (“seen”), with the participle νοούμενα (“being understood”) modifying the main verb.

 60 See NIV. On this interpretation, τοῖς ποιήμασιν goes with νοούμενα, the whole modifying καθορᾶται.

 61 E.g., A. Fridrichsen, “Zur Auslegung von Röm 1,19f,” ZNW 17 (1916), 161.

 62 Gk. τὰ ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ, lit. “his invisible things.” Paul refers to the attributes of God, who in keeping with OT and Jewish teaching is regarded as invisible to human beings (cf. Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27). Cf. Str-B 3:31–32.

 63 Gk. ἥ τε ἀΐδιος αὐτοῦ δύναμις καὶ θειότης. The language reflects Paul’s dependence in this text on Hellenistic Jewish traditions. The key terms are rare in the NT (θειότης only here in the NT; ἀΐδιος only here and in Jude 6).

 64 Schlatter; Schlier; Michel. Reference to historical events would be excluded if ἀπὸ (κτίσεως αὐτοῦ) indicates source (e.g., the creation itself is the source of our knowledge of God; cf. Gifford). But Pauline usage would suggest that ἀπό has a temporal meaning: God’s invisible attributes have been seen since the creation of the world (Fitzmyer).

 65 καθοράω, “see,” occurs only here in the NT and 4 times in the LXX (Num. 24:2; Job 10:4; 39:26; 3 Macc. 3:11) but is found more frequently in secular Greek. The evidence of the LXX is mixed, but in secular Greek the word more often denotes physical seeing than mental perception. The verb νοέω, on the other hand, connotes an inner recognition, often without any reference to physical sight. None of the other 13 NT occurrences includes physical seeing (see Matt. 15:17; 16:9, 11; 24:15; Mark 7:18; 8:17; 13:14; John 12:40; Eph. 3:4, 20; 1 Tim. 1:7; 2 Tim. 2:7; Heb. 11:3); and note the contrast in John 12:40 between “seeing” (ὁράω) with the eye and “understanding” (νοέω) in the heart.

 66 The Greek is εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἀναπολογήτους (ἀναπολογήτος occurs only here and in Rom. 2:1 in biblical Greek). It is difficult to decide whether the infinitival construction is consecutive—“with the result that” (cf. Burton, 411)—or final—“with the purpose that.” Turner, e.g., argues for the latter (p. 43), claiming that εἰς τό + infinitive in Paul means “hardly anything but purpose” (cf. p. 143). But Turner’s claim is overstated. Of 49 occurrences of the construction in Paul, we estimate that 22 are probably final (Rom. 1:11; 3:26; 4:16; 7:4; 8:29; 11:11; 15:8; 1 Cor. 9:18; 10:6; 11:33; 2 Cor. 1:4; 8:6; Eph. 1:12, 18; 1 Thess. 3:2 [twice], 5, 13; 2 Thess. 1:5; 2:6, 11; 3:9), nine are probably consecutive (Rom. 4:18; 6:12; 7:5; 1 Cor. 8:10; 2 Cor. 7:3 [twice]; Gal. 3:17; 1 Thess. 2:16; 2 Thess. 2:10), seven could be either final or consecutive (Rom. 1:20; 4:11 [twice]; 12:2; 15:13; 2 Cor. 4:4; Phil. 1:10), whereas 11 have other functions (Rom. 12:3; 15:16; 1 Cor. 11:22 [twice]; Phil. 1:23 [twice]; 1 Thess. 2:12; 3:10 [twice]; 4:9; 2 Thess. 2:2). (See the survey in I. T. Beckwith, “The Articular Infinitive with εἰς,” JBL 15 [1896], 155–67.) Pauline usage therefore favors the final sense but is not conclusive. Perhaps the difference is not overly significant. If God’s revelation of himself in nature results in all being without excuse when they turn from that knowledge, it is a small step to suggest that at least one of the purposes of God in providing that revelation was to render all people responsible for their condemnation.

 67 As in v. 19, διότι has a weak causal force.

 68 γνόντες τὸν θεόν (“knowing God”) is concessive. The verb is in the aorist because “knowing God” precedes the refusal to revere God that is stated in the main clause.

 69 In Paul, see Gal. 4:9; Phil. 3:8, 10; 2 Cor. 5:16. Note also 1 Cor. 1:21: “in the wisdom of God the world did not know God through that wisdom.”

 70 D. L. Turner, “Cornelius van Til and Romans 1:18–21. A Study in the Epistemology of Presuppositional Apologetics,” Grace Theological Journal 2 (1981), 55–58.

 71 See esp. Fitzmyer.

 72 The verb Paul uses here, ματαιόω, refers to idolatry in three of its seven LXX occurrences (2 Sam. 17:15; Jer. 2:5; 51:17 [= LXX 28:17]), and the cognate τὰ μάταια is used several times to denote idols. Nevertheless, caution is necessary because Paul does not use these and other cognate words with any clear reference to idolatry. The translation reflects the judgment that the aorist tense is ingressive.

 73 Gk. διαλογισμοῖς. The word refers to “thoughts,” “reasoning” in Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21; Luke 2:35; 5:22; 6:8; 9:47; Rom. 14:1; Jas. 2:4; to “doubt,” “dispute” in Luke 24:38; 9:46; Phil. 2:14; 1 Tim. 2:8. See BAGD. See esp. 1 Cor. 3:20, quoting Ps. 94:11: “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are futile.”

 74 Gk. ἡ ἀσύνετος αὐτῶν καρδία.

 75 See the use of לֵב in the OT. Cf. T. Sort, NIDNTT II, 182.

 76 Although the correspondences are not as close, Paul may also be hinting at a parallel between the sin of people and the response of God. The failure of people to give God “honor” (δόξα) (v. 23) leads to a “dis-honoring” (ἀτιμάζεσθαι) of their bodies; people’s “exchange” of the true God for idols (v. 25) leads to an “exchange” of proper sexual roles for improper ones (v. 26); and the failure of human beings to “approve” (ἐδοκίμασαν) God (v. 28a) leads to an “unapproved” (ἀδόκιμον) mind (v. 28b). See M. D. Hooker, “A Further Note on Romans I,” NTS 13 (1966–67), 182.

 77 The nominative σοφοί after the infinitive is allowed because of the predicative function of εἶναι (BDF 405[2]).

 78 Gk. ἐμωράνθησαν, another ingressive aorist.

 79 Murray suggests an instrumental relationship between the participle φάσκοντες (“claiming”) and the main verb ἐμωράνθησαν: “by pretending to be wise they made themselves fools.” Note Ep. Arist. 137: “Those who have invented these fabrications and myths are usually ranked to be the wisest of the Greeks” (137).

 80 Nygren.

 81 The Greek is δόξα. In secular Greek, the word means “opinion,” “judgment,” “estimation” (cf. LSJ). But the LXX translators used it for the Heb. כָּבוֹד, and it is through this correspondence that its typical NT sense develops. From its basic meaning “be weighty,” כָּבוֹד came to denote the “honor” or “importance” or “prestige” of people (e.g., Ps. 49:16; Isa. 16:14; cf. Matt. 4:8) and, when applied to God, his “weighty” and magnificent presence—as revealed in nature (Ps. 97:1–6), the tabernacle (Exod. 40:34), and the climax of history, to all peoples (Isa. 40:5; 66:18) (see G. von Rad, TDNT II, 238–42). John claims that this eschatological manifestation of God’s glory has taken place in the person of the Word-become-flesh (John 1:14).

 82 Paul only once elsewhere calls God “immortal” (ἀφθάρτος; cf. 1 Tim. 1:17); he does so here in order to accentuate the contrast with “mortal” (φθαρτός) human beings.

 83 The LXX of Ps. 106:20 reads καὶ ἠλλάξαντο τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν ἐν ὁμοιώματι μόσχου ἔσθοντος χόρτου; and Jer. 2:11, εἰ ἀλλάξανται ἔθνη θεοὺς αὐτοῦ;ὁ δὲ λαὸς μου ἠλλάξαντο τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ. Like the LXX translator, Paul uses ἐν after ἀλλάσσω as equivalent to the Hebrew בְּ. Unlike the Psalm verse, however, Paul adds the genitive εἰκόνος (“image”) to ὁμοιώματι (“likeness”). Why he does so is not clear, since the words are similar in meaning. Both are used frequently in the LXX to refer to idolary: εἰκών in most of its occurrences and ὁμοιώμα a little less than half the time (see Deut. 4:15–16, where they are used interchangeably). This significant semantic overlap means that εἰκόνος could be epexegetic (Z-G, 460; Zahn), it being added, perhaps, to stress the insubstantial and inferior nature of idolatry (Barrett; Käsemann; Dunn). Others suggest that ὁμοιώμα may mean “likeness,” “copy” (a meaning the word has frequently in the LXX; see the comments on 5:14) and εἰκών the actual “form” or “prototype” that is copied (G. Kittel, TDNT II, 395; Cranfield; cf. Jervell, Imago Dei, pp. 320–21). But perhaps the former is preferable since Paul may be influenced by Wis. 13–14, where εἰκών is used to denote idols four times.

 84 Contra, e.g., Zahn.

 85 Those who think that Paul is describing the fall of the original human couple into sin in these verses note: (1) the threefold description of the “animal kingdom” (πετεινά, τετράποδα, ἑρπετά) is similar to LXX Gen. 1:20, 24; (2) the words εἰκών and ὁμοιώμα remind one of Gen. 1:26 (the creation of humankind in the “form” [LXX εἰκών] and “image” [ὁμοιώσις] of God (cf. N. Hyldahl, “A Reminiscence of the Old Testament at Romans i 23,” NTS 2 [1955–56], 285–88); (3) the aorist tenses are naturally indicative of a past series of events. Thus, it is argued, Paul “is describing man’s sin in relation to its true biblical setting—the Genesis narrative of the Creation and the Fall” (M. D. Hooker, “Adam in Romans I,” NTS [1959–60], 300; cf. also Jervell, Imago Dei, pp. 316–29; D. J. W. Milne, “Genesis 3 in the Letter to the Romans,” Reformed Theological Review 39 [1980], 10–12). On this view, Paul would be tracing the sinfulness of the world of his day to the corporate fall of humanity in the Garden and God’s consequent punishment (“handing them over”). However, while theologically attractive, this interpretation does not survive close scrutiny. In Gen. 1–3, “idolatry” (the desire to “be like God”) precedes the Fall; in Rom. 1, a “fall” (the refusal to honor God, v. 21) precedes idolatry. Then also, as we have seen, Rom. 1 focuses on human neglect of “natural revelation,” whereas Rom. 5:13–14 shows that Paul linked Adam with Israel in being responsible for “special revelation.” Moreover, it is significant that, although allusions to Gen. 1 are found in Rom. 1:18–32, there are no clear allusions to Gen. 3—except, perhaps, with “death” in v. 32 (Dunn; cf. A. J. M. Wedderburn, “Adam in Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” in Studia Biblica 1978, III: Papers on Paul and Other New Testament Authors [ed. E. A. Livingstone; JSNTSup 3; Sheffield: JSOT, 1980], pp. 413, 419). Even εἰκὼν φθαρτοῦ ἀνθρώπου may depend on the description of idolatry in Jewish polemic (cf. Wis. 13:13d: ἀπείκασεν αὐτὸ εἰκόνι ἀνθρώπου) rather than on Gen. 1:26. That Paul may view the “fall” of individual human beings as analogous in some ways to the Fall of the first human pair is likely, but the text does not warrant the conclusion that he is specifically describing the latter. Cf. the similar conclusion of R. Scroggs, The Last Adam: A Study in Pauline Anthropology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966), pp. 75–79; Fitzmyer.

 86 See esp. Achtemeier.

 87 Gk. διό.

 88 The Greek verb is παραδίδωμι. For examples of this formula, see, e.g., Exod. 23:31; Deut. 7:23. In the NT, παραδίδωμι is very common (119 occurrences) and is used (1) of the “handing over” or “entrusting” various things to people (e.g., 1 Cor. 13:3, “if I hand over my body to be burned”); (2) of the “handing over” of people into judicial custody (e.g., Judas “hands over” Jesus to the Jewish authorities; Matt. 26:15; John 19:11, etc.); (3) of the “handing over” or “committing” of Christian tradition (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:3). See BAGD.

 89 E.g., Lev. 26:25; Josh. 7:7; Judg. 2:14; 6:1, 13, etc.; and note Job 2:6. Acts 7:42, where Stephen says that, because of Israel’s idolatry, God “turned and gave them over [παρέδωκεν] to worship the host of heaven,” picks up this use of the verb and provides the closest parallel to Paul’s language.

 90 Gk. ἀκαθαρσίαν. The only literal use in the NT is Matt. 23:27; the others, which are all in Paul, refer generally to immorality, and esp. sexual immorality (see Murray; Rom. 6:19; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 4:19; 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 2:3; 4:7).

 91 Gk. παρέδωκεν.

 92 Gk. ἀκαθαρσία.

 93 See also, e.g., Wesley; Haldane; Cranfield.

 94 Calvin; Gifford; Meyer; S-H; Murray; S. L. Johnson, “ ‘God Gave Them Up’ ”: A Study in Divine Retribution,” BSac 129 (1972), 131–32. Tholuck takes a mediating position: the “handing over” consists in God’s not suspending the law of his moral government that he had already established.

 95 Note Wis. 11:15–16: “In return for their [the Gentiles’] foolish and wicked thoughts, which led them astray to worship irrational serpents and worthless animals, you sent upon them a multitude of irrational creatures to punish them, that they might learn that one is punished by the very things by which he sins.”

 96 See also Cranfield.

 97 E.g., Godet.

 98 BDF 400(2); Cranfield.

 99 E.g., Barrett; Murray.

 100 The Greek construction is the genitive article τοῦ, followed by an infinitive (ἀτιμάζεσθαι). Paul’s use of this construction does not point decisively to any one conclusion. Although it is often categorized as a purpose construction, Paul, at least, uses it only rarely with such meaning. Not including Rom. 1:24, Paul uses τοῦ with the infinitive 16 times. Many are debated, but we would classify only one as clearly final (1 Cor. 10:13); three are probably consecutive (Rom. 7:3; 11:10; Gal. 3:10), two could be either (Rom. 6:6; 1 Cor. 10:13), whereas ten have other functions, often epexegetic (Rom. 8:12; 11:8 [twice]; 15:22, 23; 1 Cor. 9:10; 16:4; 2 Cor. 8:11; Phil. 3:10, 21). See BDF 400 for a slightly different classification. With this view of the infinitive, it is most natural to take ἀτιμάζεσθαι as middle rather than passive (Godet; contra BAGD) and to translate ἐν αὐτοῖς “among them” (S-H; contra Käsemann, who suggests an instrumental meaning). The RSV captures well the resultant meaning: “God gave them up … to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”

 101 See RSV; JB; NEB; Michel; Murray. Verse 25 is not explicitly linked (e.g., by a conjunction or particle) to v. 24 (asyndeton). Paul generally uses the indefinite relative pronoun οἵτινες (“who”) to introduce a subordinate clause.

 102 See, e.g., NIV; Cranfield. Paul uses οἵτινες to connect a virtually independent clause or sentence with a previous discussion elsewhere (cf. Rom. 1:32; 2:15; Gal. 4:24; Phil. 3:7). As is typical in NT Greek, the pronoun lacks indefiniteness (Moule, Idiom Book, pp. 123–24) but may convey a qualitative nuance: “Such people.”

 103 Paul uses the compound verbal form μετάλλασσω here with no change of meaning from the simple verb ἀλλάσσω in v. 23.

 104 Murray.

 105 Cf. As. Mos. 5:3b–4: “they [the Jews] will pollute the house of their worship with the customs of the nations; and they will play the harlot after foreign gods. For they will not follow the truth of God …”; note also Philo’s description of Moses’ reaction to the idolatry of the Israelites: “[he] marvelled at the sudden apostasy of the multitude and [how] they had exchanged [ὑπηλλάξαντο] so great a lie [ψεῦδος] for so great a truth [ἀληθείας]” (Life of Moses 2.167); and cf. Käsemann; Cranfield.

 106 Gk. παρά. Because this preposition followed by the accusative normally has a comparative meaning, Paul might be accusing the Gentile idolaters of worshiping the creatures represented by their idols “more than” the Creator (cf. KJV). But παρά, by a natural extension of its comparative force, sometimes means “instead of”; cf. BAGD, who cite Luke 18:14; Rom. 1:25; Rom. 12:3; 1 Cor. 3:11; 2 Cor. 8:3; Heb. 1:9; 11:11; and Ep. Arist. 139, where the author says that the Jews worship τὸν μόνον θεὸν παρʼ ὅλην τὴν κτίσιν (“the only God instead of the whole creation”). This meaning fits better Paul’s emphasis on the “exchange” that idolaters have made (hence the translation found in most modern English versions).

 107 The second verb, λατρεύω (“serve”), is used by Paul elsewhere to denote true worship (Rom. 1:9; Phil. 3:3; 2 Tim. 1:3; in the LXX, the verb is applied to the worship of both Yahweh and idols). The first verb, ἐσεβάσθησαν (the first aorist passive form has an active meaning [BAGD]), is from σεβάζομαι (“worship”), a rare word (the form σέβομαι is more common in the NT period). Perhaps Paul uses it to add a “pagan” connotation to the first verb.

 108 Paul uses such a blessing only two other times (Rom. 9:5; 2 Cor. 11:31), but it is common in the rabbinic literature (usually taking the form הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, “the Holy One, blessed be he” [Str-B, 3.64]).

 109 διὰ τοῦτο, “because of this.”

 110 The verb is again παραδίδωμι; see the notes on v. 24.

 111 Taking the genitive ἀτιμίας as qualitative.

 112 Gk. πάθη, plural of πάθος. Paul uses this word elsewhere only in Col. 3:5 and 1 Thess. 4:5; both have a sexual nuance. See also BAGD.

 113 The τε introducing this clause is correlative with the τε in v. 27 (“both … and”). The connecting particle γάρ (“for”) is not causal—as if Paul were giving a reason for God’s handing them over—but explanatory—the clause that follows explains the πάθη ἀτιμίας.

 114 Gk. αἱ θήλειαι αὐτῶν, lit. “their female ones.” Paul’s use of the antonyms θῆλυς/ἄρσην (v. 27) rather than, e.g., γύνη/ἀνήρ, stresses the element of sexual distinctiveness and throws into relief the perversity of homosexuality by implicitly juxtaposing its confusion of the sexes with the divine “male and female he created them.” For the pair θῆλυς/ἄρσην is consistently associated with the creation narrative (cf. Gen. 1:27; Matt. 19:4; Mark 10:6; although the only other occurrence of the pair in Paul [Gal. 3:28] does not clearly allude to creation).

 115 The contrasting Greek phrases are τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν and τὴν παρὰ φῦσιν. On this use of χρῆσις to denote sexual relationships, see BAGD.

 116 See Rom. 2:14; 11:21, 24 (3 times); Gal. 2:15; 4:8; Eph. 2:3; 1 Cor. 11:14 (debated).

 117 To cite a representative work, R. Scroggs, in The New Testament and Homosexuality: Contextual Background for Contemporary Debate (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), holds that Paul’s criticism of homosexuality cannot be taken too seriously. He sketches the attitude of the Greeks to homosexuality, which was generally positive. Pederasty, in particular, was widely practiced, accepted, and even honored in some circles. On the other hand, homosexual prostitution was generally condemned (pp. 17–65). In light of this background, Scroggs suggests that, while Paul opposes homosexuality in Rom. 1, Paul gives no real rationale, implying that he is simply following his Hellenistic Jewish model and that Paul himself is not “particularly upset” by the practice of homosexuality (pp. 109–18). Scroggs also thinks that Paul condemns only homosexual prostitution in 1 Cor. 6:9 (pp. 101–9).

 118 See, e.g., Fitzmyer. Paul’s dependence on Jewish patterns of teaching throughout Rom. 1:18–32 renders it certain that he is influenced more by the OT-Jewish tradition than by the secular Greek view of homosexuality. Both the OT and Judaism condemned homosexual practice as a violation of God’s order and will (cf. the story of Sodom and Gomorrah [Gen. 19:1–28]; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Deut. 23:17–18; Wis. 14:26; T. Levi 17:11; Sib. Or. 3.596–600; and Str-B, 3.68–74 on the rabbis). Scroggs’s contention that Paul’s use of Hellenistic Jewish language and teaching in Rom. 1 distances him from his condemnation of homosexuality must be rejected. Paul does not uncritically take over everything that happens to appear in the traditions he uses; he always uses them selectively. Paul’s possible dependence on these teachings in Rom. 1 demonstrates nothing more than that he fully agreed with them, and he needed to add little rationale of his own because he could assume his audience would regard the point as self-evident. Scroggs’s interpretation, and others like it, are vain attempts to avoid the obvious: Paul criticized homosexual activity as a particularly clear example of the extent to which people have fallen from a true knowledge of God.

 119 See T. Naph. 3:4–5. Philo’s denunciation of homosexuality includes some of the same key terms that Paul uses here: φύσις, χρῆσις, and πάθος (Change of Names 111–12; Special Laws 4.79, Decalogue 142, 150). Both Philo (Special Laws 3.39) and Josephus (Ag. Ap. 2.273) use παρὰ φύσιν to describe homosexuality. Cf. H. Köster, TDNT IX, 267–71.

 120 Contra, e.g., Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality, pp. 114–15.

 121 Cranfield; Wilckens; J. B. Souček, “Zur Exegese von Röm. 2,14ff,” in Antwort: Karl Barth zum siebzigsten Geburtstag am 10. Mai 1956 (Zollikon/Zürich: Evangelischer Verlag, 1956), pp. 108–9.

 122 We cannot know why Paul has mentioned women first. It is unlikely that the sequence in Gen. 3 has had anything to do with it (contra Michel).

 123 Gk. ἄρσενες. In addition to possible allusion to the creation narrative (see n. 114), Paul may have chosen to use the word “male” in this verse because the same word occurs in the LXX in condemnations of homosexuality (Lev. 18:22; 20:13).

 124 Gk. τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν τῆς θηλείας, “natural relations with women” (NIV).

 125 Gk. ἐξεκαύθησαν, from ἐκκαίω, a verb used only here in the NT but which occurs outside the NT in a metaphorical sense with reference to the “kindling” of sin (cf. Sir. 16:6, and Paul’s use of πυρόω in 1 Cor. 7:9).

 126 Gk. ὀρέξει, another word that occurs only here in the Greek NT.

 127 The phrase ἄρσενες ἐν ἄρσεσιν is better taken with the participial clause that follows (cf. NA26) than with the main clause that precedes (WH).

 128 The verb here is κατεργάζομαι, which sometimes stresses the end result (“produce”) more than the simple ἐργάζομαι. Here, however, no such difference can be maintained. (These verbs are discussed in more detail in our comments on 7:15.)

 129 The Gk. τὴν ἀσχημοσύνην has an abstract sense. Used only one other time in the NT (Rev. 16:15), this word, in the way Paul uses it, finds its closest parallels in intertestamental Judaism (cf. Sir. 26:8; 30:13).

 130 The Gk. ἀντιμισθία (lit. “a payment in place of”) can be used in a positive sense (“reward”), a neutral sense (cf. 2 Cor. 6:13), or a negative sense—“penalty,” as here.

 131 Eph. 4:14; 1 Thess. 2:3; 2 Thess. 2:11; 2 Pet. 2:18; 3:17; 1 John 4:6; Jude 11; cf. also Matt. 27:64 and Jas. 5:20.

 132 E.g., Chrysostom; Dunn.

 133 In 1 Cor. 6:9–10, Paul warns that those who practice homosexuality (not just homosexual prostitution) “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Some Christians think that AIDS may be a manifestation of this just recompense of the Lord. But (1) AIDS strikes many more than homosexual offenders; (2) AIDS does not afflict all homosexual offenders; and Paul must be referring to a general penalty that is imposed on those who engage in homosexual relationships. The most we could say is that AIDS may be an additional manifestation of the wrath of God against rebellious and sinful humanity.

 134 Cf. Godet.

 135 BAGD; BDF 453(2); Käsemann.

 136 καθώς. BAGD cite John 17:2; Rom. 1:28; 1 Cor. 1:6; 5:7; Eph. 1:4; 4:32; Phil. 1:7. But in none is a causal meaning obvious.

 137 Cf. Wilckens.

 138 The Greek words are, respectively, ἐδοκίμασαν and ἀδόκιμον. The verb δοκιμάζω usually means “approve, test,” but takes on the meaning “see fit” when followed by an infinitive (BAGD; they cite as a parallel the construction ἐν ὀργῇ ἔχειν τινα, “to be angry with someone” [cf. Thucydides, 2.18.5, etc.])

 139 Paul uses the compound form ἐπιγνώσις rather than the simple γνῶσις. Some scholars think that Paul generally distinguishes between γνῶσις/γινώσκω and ἐπιγινώσκω/ἐπιγνώσις, the latter denoting a “deeper,” more advanced knowledge than the former (see, e.g., Trench, Synonyms, pp. 285–86; on this verse specifically, K. Sullivan, “Epignosis in the Epistles of St. Paul,” SPCIC 2.405–16; H. Clavier, “Recherche exégétique et théologique sur la notion paulinienne d’Epignosis,” SE 6 [ed. E. A. Livingstone; Berlin: Akademie, 1973], pp. 37–52); Kuss. But any such distinction simply does not hold in Paul. As J. A. Robinson has shown, the ἐπι- prefix indicates not intensity, but direction; and Paul thus uses ἐπιγνώσις customarily with an object of the “knowing” (St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians [2d ed.; London: James Clarke, n.d.], pp. 248–54). Here, of course, the object of the “knowing” is God.

 140 See Cranfield.

 141 The Greek for “mind” is νοῦς. This word refers to more than intellectual capacity; it is the organ of moral reasoning and willing (cf. Rom. 7:23, 25; 11:34; 12:2; 14:5; 1 Cor. 1:10; 2:16; 14:14, 15, 19; Eph. 4:17, 23; Phil. 4:7; Col. 2:18; 2 Thess. 2:2; 1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Tim. 3:8; Tit. 1:15). The word occurs outside of Paul in the NT only in Luke 24:45 and Rev. 13:18; 17:9. See J. Behm, TDNT IV, 958–59.

 142 Gk. τὰ καθήκοντα. τὸ καθῆκον was a “technical term with the Stoics” (S-H), the plural of which Paul uses (as in 2 Macc. 6:4 and 3 Macc. 4:16) to denote actions that are morally wrong.

 143 Cf. Matt. 15:19; Gal. 5:19–21; Col. 3:5, 8; 1 Tim. 1:9–10; 2 Tim. 3:2–4; 1 Pet. 2:1; 4:3. See the study of E. Kamlah, Die Form der katalogischen Paränese im Neuen Testament (WUNT 7; Tübingen: Mohr, 1964), some of whose results are, however, a bit speculative.

 144 Gk. πεπληρωμένους. Paul uses the perfect tense to emphasize the notion of an existing state (see on this meaning of the perfect, Porter, Verbal Aspect, pp. 251–59). The masculine plural accusative form of this participle, as well as of μεστούς (“full of”) and of the 12 final words in the series, shows that they are grammatically dependent on αὐτούς in v. 28, though in sense they explicate τὰ καθήκοντα.

 145 Gk. πάσῃ. It almost surely governs the following four nouns; for its qualitative significance (“all manner of”), see BAGD, 1.a.β.

 146 Gk. ἀδικία.

 147 Trench argued that the word (πονηρία) conveys a more active nuance than κακία—an evil that corrupts others (Synonyms, pp. 315–17). But the distinction does not hold up under scrutiny.

 148 See esp. Col. 3:5, “greed [πλεονεξία], which is idolatry”; cf. also 2 Cor. 9:5; Eph. 4:19; 5:3; 1 Thess. 2:5.

 149 See particularly T. Simeon 3–4; T. Gad 3–5.

 150 See the connection in Jas. 4:1–3.

 151 A few scholars have suggested that κακοηθεία, used only here in the NT, may have the narrow meaning “putting the worst construction on everything” (Trench, Synonyms, pp. 38–40; S-H; they refer to Aristotle, Rh. 1389b.20; 1416b.10b). But this meaning is not so widespread as to create the presumption that this is what Paul intends. In its LXX occurrences (Add. Esth. 16:6; 3 Macc. 3:22; 7:3; 4 Macc. 1:4; 3:4 [twice]), κακοηθεία means “malice” generally.

 152 Cranfield.

 153 ψιθυριστάς.

 154 καταλάλος. It appears nowhere else in the Bible, but its meaning can be gauged from the use of καταλαλέω in the LXX (cf. Ps. 44:16; Prov. 20:13) and the NT (Jas. 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:12; 3:16) and καταλαλία in the NT (2 Cor. 12:20; 1 Pet. 2:1).

 155 Lightfoot; Meyer; Barrett. Barrett, indeed, suggests that it should be taken adjectivally, modifying καταλάλους. That the word functions as an adjective, however, is unlikely in light of the series of nouns and adjectives used as nouns in the context.

 156 BAGD; Black. This meaning is attested in post-Christian literature (Ps.-Clem. Hom. 1.12; cf. the noun θεοστυγία in 1 Clem. 35:5) and fits better the emphasis throughout vv. 29–31 on the sinful attitudes and activities of people.

 157 Trench, Synonyms, pp. 98–105.

 158 ὑβριστής suggests a violent, proud person, such as Paul was in his former life (1 Tim. 1:13). ὑπερηφάνος connotes the attitude that is the antithesis of humility (cf. Luke 1:51; 2 Tim. 3:2; Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). ἀλαζόνης appears only once elsewhere in the NT (2 Tim. 3:2), but the cognate noun, ἀλοζονεία, is associated with boastful speech in Jas. 4:16 (cf. also 1 John 2:16).

 159 Gk. ἐφευρετὰς κακῶν. ἐφευρετής is a rare word, found only here in the LXX and NT. Cranfield suggests that we consider “devisers of evil things” to be those who find “ever more hateful methods of hurting and destroying their fellow men.”

 160 Each begins with the prefix α- (alpha privative); we have tried to duplicate the effect by using the preposition “without” to translate this prefix.

 161 See the only LXX occurrences, in Jer. 3:7–11, where Judah is accused of following Israel in ignoring the demands of the covenant.

 162 The root word, στοργέω, often refers to the love of relatives for one another (LSJ).

 163 Gk. οἵτινες.

 164 Paul’s use of οἵτινες does not permit a change of subject; contra, e.g., Kamlah (Katalogischen Paränese, pp. 18–19) and F. Flückiger (“Zur Unterscheidung von Heiden und Juden in Röm. 1,18–2,3,” TZ 10 [1954], 154–58), who think Paul begins talking about Jews in v. 32.

 165 The participle ἐπιγνόντες has a concessive force (“although they know”); ἐπιγινώσκω has no different meaning than the simple γινώσκω (see the note on 1:28; compare Rom. 2:18; 1 Cor. 8:3; and Gal. 4:9; cf. R. Bultmann, TDNT I, 703–4).

 166 The Greek word is δικαίωμα. In addition to 8:4, Paul uses the plural in 2:26 to denote those things commanded in the Mosaic law and the singular in 5:16, 18 of a “righteous act” performed by Christ.

 167 Dunn.

 168 See also Murray.

 169 The Greek verb here is πράσσω; in the immediately previous clause Paul uses ποιέω. Some posit a slight difference in meaning between them (e.g., S-H), but it is unlikely that any distinction exists (on these verbs, see further our comments on 7:15).

 170 As the NA apparatus reveals, some ancient scribes rearranged key parts of the verse. Barrett argues that the οὐ μόνονἀλλὰ καί (“not only … but also”) construction may contrast those of whom he has been speaking in vv. 28–31 with those whom he will address in 2:1ff. But to change the subject in the middle of the series of verbs in v. 32 is even more difficult than the alternative.

 171 Cf. also, e.g., Chrysostom; Calvin.

 172 See the documents of Vatican I (1870), Session III; and the historical survey in B. A. Demarest, General Revelation: Historical Views and Contemporary Issues (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), pp. 25–42.

 173 Barth, CD II/1, pp. 107–41; Shorter, pp. 26–28; cf. also Cranfield.

 174 A. Feuillet, “La connaissance naturelle de Dieu par les hommes, d’après Rom 1,18–23,” Lumière et Vie 14 (1954), 63–80; D. M. Coffey, “Natural Knowledge of God: Reflections on Romans 1,18–2,” TS 31 (1970), 680–82.

 175 P. Helm, The Divine Revelation (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1982), p. 15; Cranfield.

 176 H. Berkhof, Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Study of the Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), pp. 48–49; cf. also Turner, “Romans 1:18–21.”

 177 Some scholars think that the negative result of natural revelation is Rom. 1 contradicts the more positive tone found in Paul’s “Areopagus Speech” in Acts 17. But the differences pertain to the contrast in situations, and no ultimate contradition is present. See B. E. Shields, “The Areopagus Sermon and Romans 1:18ff: A Study in Creation Theology,” Restoration Quarterly 20 (1977), 23–40.

 178 Cf. Murray.

 179 Institutes 1.5.14, 15. On Calvin’s teaching on this matter, which has been the topic of some dispute, see esp. B. B. Warfield, Calvin and Augustine (rpt. ed.; Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1956), pp. 29–48; and W. Niesel, The Theology of Calvin (rpt. ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), pp. 39–53. Other treatments of natural, or general, revelation that defend the general view argued for here are: Demarest, General Revelation, pp. 22–23, 227–47; E. Brunner, Revelation and Reason (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1946 [original German ed., 1941]), pp. 58–77; Helm, Divine Revelation, pp. 15–17; A.-M. Dubarle, La manifestation naturelle de Dieu d’après l’Ecriture (LD 91; Paris: Cerf, 1976), pp. 201–24; Turner, “Romans 1:18–21,” pp. 45–58; H. P. Owen, “The Scope of Natural Revelation in Rom. I and Acts XVII,” NTS 5 (1958–59), 138; W. C. Martin, “The Bible and Natural Law,” Restoration Quarterly 17 (1974), 215; B. Reicke, “Natürliche Theologie nach Paulus,” SEÅ 22 (1957), 154–67; Nygren, pp. 101–7. For a history of interpretation, see, in addition to Demarest, Wilckens (1:117–21) and Lachmann, Von Geheimnis der Schöpfung, pp. 44–88.

 180 Cf. Pohlenz, “Paulus und die Stoa,” pp. 71–82; Bornkamm, “Revelation of God’s Wrath,” pp. 50–55.

 181 Bornkamm, “Revelation of God’s Wrath,” p. 59.

 182 Cf. H. Bietenhard, “Natürliche Gotteserkenntnis bei des Heiden?” TZ 12 (1956), 275–88, for a survey of Jewish teaching. His conclusions are, perhaps, too negative with respect to the Jewish view about the Gentiles’ knowledge of God, but his overall thesis, that none of the Jewish literature propagates a “natural theology,” is well established.

 183 Lührmann, Offenbarungsverständnis, pp. 21–26.