Passions in Galatians 5:24

A note in Vine’s Expository Dictionary got me to searching.

The text of Galatians 5:24 says: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

The term “passions” is pathema; “desires” is translated from epithumia. The phrase is translated consistently in most versions as “passions and desires.”

Of the terms Vine wrote:

Epithumia is combined with pathema, in Ga. 5:24; for the AV, “affections and lusts,” the RV has “passions, and the lusts thereof.” Epithumia is the more comprehensive term, including all manner of “lusts and desires;” pathema denotes suffering; in the passage in Ga. (l.c.) the sufferings are those produced by yielding to the flesh; pathos points more to the evil state from which “lusts” spring.

Unless Vine means to further describe the word “passions” by his last phrase about pathos, the next-to-last seems to suggest that in Gal. 5:24 he understands passions to carry its normal meaning of sufferings and to indicate the consequences of the evil desires.

The meaning would then be something like this: “Those belonging to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh — that source of evil within us — along with the horrible consequences of suffering caused by its desires.”

From what I can tell of the Portuguese translation of Unger and White’s update of Vine’s,  their edition doesn’t tinker with the citation above.

None of the Bible versions seems inclined that direction, and commentators among my limited supply, save one, say nothing on this point.

The TDNT brings us a perspective here, fortunately.

But this means that, if we rule out the sense of “passions” (as in Gl. 5:24), we can hardly construe pathemata as “sufferings,” or “sufferings which results from hamartia [sin].” For this would mean that sins have pathemata as their results, and that only their operation brings to maturity the fruit of death. (V:931).

So my questioning of Vine’s idea, as I understood it, has good company.

Now, a final note of curiosity.

I mentioned that commentators save one did not touch on this. The one who does references pages 930-31 of the TDNT article I quoted from above when he writes of pathema: “In this sense it describes the inner lusts that drive a man, without completely leaving behind the notion that man is an unfortunate victim of the situation” (K.L. Boles, Galatians & Ephesians, College Press NIV Commentary, 1993, p. 156). How Boles got that from the TDNT article, I have no idea.

I suspect the phrase is what we now call a hendiadys (have a good Bible link here?), a Hebrew habit that still influenced the Jews of Jesus’ day, so that we could translate the two nouns as “passionate longings,” as per Alan Cole’s suggestion in his Galatians commentary in the old standby Tyndale series.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

4 thoughts on “Passions in Galatians 5:24

  1. Randal, do you have the Gospel Advocate disk of Bible Study reference works? This is one thing I found that might give some help.

    Galatians 5:24
    They that are Christ’s (οἱ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ)
    The best texts add Ἱησοῦ they that are of Christ Jesus. Belong to him. The exact phrase only here. But see 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:23; 15:23; 2 Corinthians 10:7, Galatians 3:29.
    Have crucified the flesh (τὴν σάρκα ἐσταύρωσαν)
    The phrase only here. Comp. 2:20; 6:14; Romans 6:6. The line of thought as regards death to sin is the same as in Romans 6:2-7, 11; as regards death to the law, the same as in Romans 7:1-6.
    Affections (παθήμασιν)
    Better, passions. Often sufferings, as Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 1:5, 6, 7; Philippians 3:10; Hebrews 2:9. Often of Christ’s sufferings. Comp. passions of sins, Romans 7:5 (see on motions). olxx, where we find πάθος in both senses, but mostly sufferings. Πάθος also in N.T., but rarely and Po. See Romans 1:26; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:5: always of evil desires.

    —Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament

  2. Hi, Ken, thanks for sharing that, though he doesn’t show his preference for which sense of pathema one way or the other in Gal. 5.24.

  3. Randal,
    Researching this I found the following. Hope it helps.

    24.78 πάσχωa; πάθημαa, τος n: to suffer pain—‘pain, suffering, to suffer, to be in pain.’
    πάσχωa: ἐπιθυμίᾳ ἐπεθύμησα τοῦτο τὸ πάσχα φαγεῖν μεθ̓ ὑμῶν πρὸ τοῦ με παθεῖν ‘I wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering’ Lk 22.15.
    πάθημαa: τῶν αὐτῶν παθημάτων ὧν καὶ ἡμεῖς πάσχομεν ‘the same experiences of suffering which we suffer’ 2 Cor 1.6.15 In 1 Pe 4.13 the phrase τοῖς τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθήμασιν ‘in the sufferings of Christ’ may mean ‘the sufferings experienced at the time of the Messiah,’ that is to say, ‘the Messianic woes.’ See also 24.87. (1)

    25.30 πάθος, ους n; πάθημαb, τος n; καταστρηνιάω: to experience strong physical desires, particularly of a sexual nature—‘passion, lust, lustful desire, to have lust.’
    πάθος: παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς εἰς πάθη ἀτιμίας ‘God gave them over to shameful passions’ Ro 1.26; μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας καθάπερ καὶ τὰ ἔθνη ‘not with lustful desires, like the heathen’ 1 Th 4.5.
    πάθημαb: τὰ παθήματα τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν τὰ διὰ τοῦ νόμου ἐνηργεῖτο ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ἡμῶν ‘the sinful passions aroused by the Law were at work in our bodies’ Ro 7.5; τὴν σάρκα ἐσταύρωσαν σὺν τοῖς παθήμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις ‘they have crucified their sinful nature with its passions and desires’ Ga 5.24.
    καταστρηνιάω: νεωτέρας δὲ χήρας παραιτοῦ• ὅταν γὰρ καταστρηνιάσωσιν … ‘but do not accept younger widows; for when they experience strong physical desires … ’ 1 Tm 5.11.

    5845 Synonyms
    See Definition for epithumia: 1939
    See Definition for pathos: 3806
    3806 represents the passive, 1939 the active side of vice; 1939 is more comprehensive in meaning than 3806; 1939 is (evil) desire, 3806 is ungovernable desire. (3)

    n neuter
    15 15 It is also possible to interpret πάσχομεν in 2 Cor 1.6 as being essentially a marker of a case relationship meaning ‘to experience’ (see 90.66).
    (1)Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible societies, 1996, c1989), 1:284.
    n neuter
    (2)Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible societies, 1996, c1989), 1:291.
    (3) James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order., electronic ed. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), G5845.

    Bobby D. Gayton

  4. Dr. Boles emailed me and gave me permission to add his observation to the comments area:

    My reading of TDNT begins on p. 926, where “misfortune,” “mishap,” and “defeat” are found in the root of the word. The way Michaelis wrestles with “passion” vs. “suffering” is the basis of my observation that idea of being a victim is not completely left behind.

What do you think?