Topic – The conjunction ‘for’ in Romans 1

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The following post is intended to highlight Paul’s usage of the Greek conjunction ‘γάρ’ commonly translated as ‘for’ in Romans 1. The Greek word ‘γάρ’ has transliteration ‘gar’ and it can be rendered as ‘because’, ‘for’ or ‘then’. The conjunction is used in Rom 1 a reasonable number of times, chaining together a series of sentences and paragraphs. For – for – for – for – for – for…

This post will argue ‘γάρ’ is used;

  1. in some instances, to give specific reasons for a prior statement, and
  2. in some instances. continues a train of thought, and
  3. is otherwise redundant.

To begin with I will look at all the underlying Greek words that are translated with the english word ‘for’ in Romans 1.8 and onwards.

Greek conjunctions behind ‘For’

  • For (Gk. διότι – Trans. dioti – Gloss. ‘because’, ‘therefore’)
  • For (Gk. ἐν – Trans. en – Gloss. ‘in’, ‘with’, ‘by’, ‘among’, ‘at’, ‘on’, ‘when’, ‘to’, ‘as’, ‘for’, ‘through’, ‘while’, ‘within’, ‘of’, ‘about’, ‘into’, ‘because’, ‘during’, ‘throughout’, ‘before’, ‘under’)
  • For (Gk. Διὰ – Trans. dia – Gloss. ‘by’, ‘through’ (marker of agency), ‘through’ (marker of extent), ‘by’, ‘with’ (marker of instrument), ‘through’, ‘during’ (marker of time), ‘for the sake of’ (marker of benefaction), ‘because of’, ‘on account of’)
  • For (Gk. εἰς – Trans. eis – Gloss. ‘to’, ‘into’, ‘in’, ‘for’)
  • For (Gk. τῆς – Trans. tēs – Gloss. ‘the’)

Now I will distinguish between all these Greek words by highlighting them in the text. If the conjunction ‘γάρ’ is used I will set it as part of a new paragraph. As we go along I will comment on its location to see if it functions as a conjunction.

The text – ‘γάρ’ highlighted

[8] First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.

[9] For (Gk. γάρ – Trans. gar – Gloss. ‘because’, ‘for’, ‘then’) God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you [10] always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.

The conjunction ‘γάρ’ (Rom 1.9) is associated with the prior statement made (Rom 1.8). Paul gives thanks to them (1.8) and he mentions them in his prayers (1.9).

However it doesn’t make sense to say, their faith is proclaimed in all the world because God is his witness’.

‘For’ is used to connect one associated sentence to the next, not to give the reason why their faith is proclaimed.

[11] For (Gk. γάρ – Trans. gar – Gloss. ‘because’, ‘for’, ‘then’) I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — [12] that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. [13] I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. [14] I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. [15] So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Connecting the statements in verse 10 and 11 together;

a) ‘… asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you

– for –

b) I long to see you …’

The conjunction ‘γάρ’ (Rom 1.11) is logically connected to the previous statement (Rom 1.10) and gives reasons for it.

I’ve written about Paul’s gospel here.

[16] For (Gk. γάρ – Trans. gar – Gloss. ‘because’, ‘for’, ‘then’) I am not ashamed of the gospel,

Connecting the statements together;

a) ‘… So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome

– for –

b) I am not ashamed of the gospel…’

The conjunction ‘γάρ’ (Rom 1.16) is connected to the previous statement (Rom 1.15) by the common reference to the gospel.

But it does not necessarily follow that Paul wants to preach the gospel to the Christians in Rome because he is not ashamed of the gospel.

Of course Paul is not ashamed of the gospel – he will preach it anywhere – but this is not the primary reason why he wants to preach it in Rome.

There are more pertinent reasons why Paul wants to preach the gospel in Rome. These are described in greater detail later (Rom 15.18-20 ‘to preach where Christ has not been named’; 16.25-26 ‘to strengthen them by the gospel’) and they offer more significant reasons why Paul wants to preach the gospel in Rome rather than not being ashamed of it.

The conjunction ‘γάρ’ (Rom 1.16) therefore does not seem to be giving reasons for the prior statement made, rather it continues the same line of thought associated with the gospel.

for (Gk. γάρ – Trans. gar – Gloss. ‘because’, ‘for’, ‘then’) it is the power of God for (Gk. εἰς – Trans. eis – Gloss. ‘to’, ‘into’, ‘in’, ‘for’) salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Connecting them together;

a) I am not ashamed of the gospel

– for –

b) it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…

The conjunction ‘γάρ’ (Rom 1.16) is logically connected to the previous statement (Rom 1.16) and gives reasons for it. Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation. This makes sense. It is also part of a series of conjunctions we can keep track of (a,b) if we keep reading;

[17] For (Gk. γάρ – Trans. gar – Gloss. ‘because’, ‘for’, ‘then’) in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Again connecting them all together;

a) I am not ashamed of the gospel

– for –

b) it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek

– for –

c) in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith…’

The conjunction ‘γάρ’ (Rom 1.17) is logically connected to the previous statement (Rom 1.16) and gives reasons for it. They are all talking about the gospel and its effects. It is also part of a series of conjunctions we can keep track of (a,b,c). The series of conjunctions all refer to the same theme of the ‘gospel’.

[18] For (Gk. γάρ – Trans. gar – Gloss. ‘because’, ‘for’, ‘then’) the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. [19] For (Gk. διότι – Trans. dioti – Gloss. ‘because’, ‘therefore’) what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

The conjunction ‘γάρ’ (Rom 1.18) does not give reasons for the prior statement (Rom 1.16-17).

It does not make sense to say, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’ because ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness…’

The statements do not logically flow. Rather this ‘γάρ’ initiates a new statement, a whole new train of thought. This ‘for’ is redundant.

[20] For (Gk. γάρ – Trans. gar – Gloss. ‘because’, ‘for’, ‘then’) his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [21] For (Gk. διότι – Trans. dioti Gloss. ‘because’, ‘therefore’) although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for (Gk. ἐν – Trans. en – Gloss. ‘in’, ‘with’, ‘by’, ‘among’, ‘at’, ‘on’, ‘when’, ‘to’, ‘as’, ‘for’, ‘through’, ‘while’, ‘within’, ‘of’, ‘about’, ‘into’, ‘because’, ‘during’, ‘throughout’, ‘before’, ‘under’) images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

The conjunction ‘γάρ’ (Rom 1.20) is logically connected to the previous statement (Rom 1.19) and gives reasons for it. Both refer to how God can be known through creation.

Connecting them together;

a) For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them

– for –

b) his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived…

[24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, [25] because they exchanged the truth about God for (Gk. ἐν – Trans. en – Gloss. ‘in’, ‘with’, ‘by’, ‘among’, ‘at’, ‘on’, ‘when’, ‘to’, ‘as’, ‘for’, ‘through’, ‘while’, ‘within’, ‘of’, ‘about’, ‘into’, ‘because’, ‘during’, ‘throughout’, ‘before’, ‘under’) a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

[26] For (Gk. Διὰ – Trans. dia – Gloss. ‘by’, ‘through’ (marker of agency), ‘through’ (marker of extent), ‘by’, ‘with’ (marker of instrument), ‘through’, ‘during’ (marker of time), ‘for the sake of’ (marker of benefaction), ‘because of’, ‘on account of’) this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.

The text does not use ‘for’ (‘γάρ’) in this passage.

For (Gk. γάρ – Trans. gar – Gloss. ‘because’, ‘for’, ‘then’) their women exchanged natural relations for (Gk. εἰς – Trans. eis – Gloss. ‘to’, ‘into’, ‘in’, ‘for’) those that are contrary to nature; [27] and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for (Gk. εἰς – Trans. eis – Gloss. ‘to’, ‘into’, ‘in’, ‘for’) one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for (Gk. τῆς – Trans. tēs – Gloss. ‘the’) their error.

[28] And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. [29] They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, [30] slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, [31] foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. [32] Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

The conjunction ‘γάρ’ (Rom 1.26) is logically connected to the previous statements (Rom 1.24-26). and gives reasons for his prior statement.

Connecting them together;

a) Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,

because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator …

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.

– for –

b) their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature …

Basically what the speaker says, is that we know ‘God gave them up to dishonorable passions’ because we can see ‘their women exchanged natural relations for those contrary to nature’. The later statement justifies the former.

This ends the post. Hopefully it makes you think about how Paul’s uses the Greek conjunction ‘γάρ’.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.