Aug 23

Sinful NatureI have been doing quite a bit of research lately concerning the moral defect man has been born with and how salvation and sanctification deals with this problem.

A large part of this study has included the different doctrinal postions concerning whether this moral defect is inherited from Adam’s fall or this is the way God has made man.

The No-Sin-Nature teaching, which Pelagius taught, holds that any moral defect that man has is not a result of the fall of Adam. The Sinful Nature doctrine, held by James Arminius, teaches that that a fallen nature has been passed on to all of Adam’s decendants.

One of the key points concerning these two different position was how Sarx (flesh) is translated in the book of Romans. Sarx is a Greek word that has a context dependent meaning.

In Romans chapter 7 and 8 the NIV version translates Sarx as Sinful Nature 11 times. The NIV is one of the few translations that does this.

The following is a number of articles that I have found helpful concerning why the NIV should or shouldn’t translate Sarx as sinful nature. Some of the shorter articles are listed for the value of their blog comments so you may want to take time to check the comments on any of the blogged articles.

Included in this list of articles is a chapter from Doug Moo’s book THe Challenge of Bible Translation which I have put at the top. Doug is the chair of the CBT that has charge of the NIV version. The chapter, FLESH in Romans: A Challenge for the Translator, sheds some light on the Sin Nature position and also on why Sarx in some cases was translated sin nature in the NIV.

DJMoo: Flesh in Romans: A Problem for the Translator

Better Bibles Blog: The production of the TNIV/NIV Bible–the Standard of Integrity

God Didn’t Say That: Translating Words That Mean More Than One Thing

Zealot Outside the Building: The Sinful Nature Translation Dilemma and the Upcoming NIV Revision

NT Blog: The Revised NIV and sinful nature

Clayboy: Justifying the flesh as a good translation of Paul

New Leaven: Rethinking 1 Corinthians 5:4-5: Death or Discipline?

Christian Monthly Standard: The Sinful Nature

Christian Monthly Standard: Looking At The Bible Versions- NIV (1984)

Jesus Walk: Understanding the Flesh, the Sinful Nature, in Romans 7-8

KME ministries: The Sinful Nature Translation Dilemma and the Upcoming NIV Revision

Trinitarian Bible Society: New International Version: What today’s Christian needs to know about the NIV

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7 Responses to “Sarx And The NIV Translation Sinful Nature”

  1. 1. Primitive Christianity Says:

    Hello, Bob!
    It has been a long while since I have seen any posts from you. I thought maybe you had given up on blogging. :-)
    I simply do not like the NIV mode of “dymanic equivalence” in translation. I know it can help clarify things if the translator makes a dark saying to be put into modern language idiomatic expressions. BUT …
    That puts the weight of the interpretation of Scriptures pretty much on the shoulders of the translators alone. Sometimes they hit the mark pretty squarely. At other times, they miss. And that has some bad consequences.
    I really dont think that most people would have a hard time understanding the Bible if sarx were translated to “flesh” in all cases. After all, to truly understand God we have to have the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. Therefore I feel that keeping towards a more literal translation is the best. The translator simply translates, and the reader then comes to his own conclusions about the meaning … with the help of the Spirit.
    And if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His, and will probably even reject plainly written truths if he doesnt like them.
    Have a good day! Mike

  2. 2. bob Says:

    Brother Mike,

    Ya I am doing some really digging and reviewing in depth the things that I believe. Mostly to do with sin and sanctification. I am doing a deep study into the Sin Nature and am considering writing a booklet that deals with the history of this teaching, history of those that held it, terms (about 50 of them), pros and cons, the major scriptures from both sides, Rom 6-8, SARX in Paul’s writings, and early church fathers.

    I am also looking into conversion, the requirements for conversion, free from sin teaching, the process of sanctification, and the book of Romans (mostly chapters 6-8).

    This will problem take me 2 years and I planning to limit my blog posts until then and use FB instead of my blog to interact with my peers.


  3. 3. Tim Thompson Says:

    I like what you pointed out because I am building a minestry and I am an author,and one thing I havestated many times is I do not trust the NIV bible and I refuse to use the NIV bible in any of my sermons,talks or my books that I write because to me the niv is a meaning less book that has no deep ness of truth in any form,so I even ask all my minestry staff to stay away from it.Tim

  4. 4. Says:

    Sigh. your spam protector can’t do math very well. I typed out a very nice response, and typed in the math answer in word form as it asked the question, and it rejected it. THEN it erased what I’d typed. I’m annoyed.

    SARX = SINFUL NATURE is a very excellent translation.

    This will be short now… but….

    Paul describes it didn’t exist until after the law, which was the mosaic law for mankind, not some personal law in Paul’s life. There was no law in Paul’s life that was spiritual and brought death that was new. Only the law of Love/Christ and it brought life, not death. His conversation about laws there was in context to the jewish law to the jews. He spoke with an I personal pronoun as a form of speach, I think you can find some information on a historical present tense. he’s playing a character that represents mankind there. There are other greek texts you can find this type of speech. You can wait until president election time and see a white candidate in a south georgia congregation saying we, and us etc.. when he’s not black nor in their congregation. Plus, Paul never lived outside the law until he was led by the spirit. From his first breath, when life begins to a jew, he had a count down to circumcision, UNDER THE LAW.

    So this sinful nature existed after the law but not before according to paul.
    The body existed from Adam or at least cain and able.

    Paul says that it became MANIFEST at a point, meaning it wasn’t always there as dominantly.
    The body was always manifest.

    Paul says if the Spirit indwells you, you are no longer in that flesh. (rom 8:9)
    I never saw a skeleton in church.

    (BTW bob, this feeds the sinless perfection argument and eliminates the positional sanctification argument in one verse)

    Col 2:11 says Christ removes that sarx from our bodies by a circumcision done by HIS hands. Which argues the sinful nature is removed at a point of maturity by Christ’s doing, not man’s.

    Again, skeleton in church.

    The physical body is a good word for the concept that paul describes here, of a force that drives us to sin, focus on self, not serve God and others.

    Sarx is the fleshy part of the Soma/BODY.

    When it hurts it drives my behavior.
    When it is tired it drives my behavior.
    When it lusts it drives my behavior.
    When it has any needs OR DESIRES it drives my behavior.

    The Sinful nature makes you do what you want not to do and not do what you want to do and even makes you doo doo…. ok I went to far. All those DOs there kill me.

    Bob, I’m a student of scriptural backing for sinless perfection. Wesley, Finney, whoever, I’ve never heard anything from them, nor read either from them, something that matches what I found in scripture.

    Ponder romans 8:9 If the spirit of God indwells me I’m no longer in the flesh.

    The whole church is taught that spirit of sin will be in you until after death. Do they just eliminate this?

    Spend some time thinking on that one and gal 5:16.
    If I walk by the spirit I won’t sin.

    BY the spirit does not mean beside, it means the Spirit does the walking. I got to work by the bus today.

    If that is true, gal 5:16, if I ever ONCE walked by the Spirit, it would be a sin to depart. That verse says I wouldn’t be able to walk away. Think about it.

    See how that affects your reading on sinless perfection.

    Also spend some time on 1 john 1:3-7. WHO DID THE AUTHOR WRITE TO? People who were NOT IN FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD, but apparently were in the Church? Ah OHHH! People who were “saved” and in the church but not yet in fellowship with God. That’s a bit of a problem for some places, eh? Think about how that changes your read on that whole epistle.

  5. 5. bob Says:

    this is a test

  6. 6. Micheal Says:

    Just found your site and reading through your older posts. I will be following on a regular basis.

    Pilgram Marpeck wrote quite a bit on this in the mid-16th century. If you haven’t read anything by or about Marpeck, I would recommend Stephen Boyd’s “Pilgram Marpeck: His Life and Social Theology”.

  7. 7. brad dickey Says:

    Folks, the.straighter word for word translations put the onus on you as well. Most of the.western church will contend sarx is.equated to the human body, thus you can’t be free til post death, contrary to.scripture. Rom 8:9 col 2:11.

    The fact they translate perpetuates a thought.that them requires them to rewrite the other vss their theology. The best translation I.think you is the.NET bible. Free at I use it WITH the.nasb and the NIV because it is.a.very well rounded combination and. Overs it.from every angle., sometimes the NIV is better than the more literal word for word. Sometimes their “calls” aren’t as good. Nut.truthfully I can think of only.two Instances of that. If you want to do your.flock a favor, give them a fair.view of those three, add.esv and another and say pick your nest three. I use one to read, three at

    They are.all tools. None of.them are holy, the.message is.holy, not the.translation. bibliolatry is.a.real theology isn’t important, just faith working gal 5:6.

    Not only.that, are..pastor or.teacher the binge.clearly.shows maturity.comes from works, not study. Eph.4:13 I.think. put them to applying the.words you.teach.them, get them engaged, they.learn how to love neighbor by.loving, not studying.


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