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The KJV renders Romans 1:30 as (for context starting verse 28):

Rom 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Rom 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Rom 1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parent...

I've noticed other Bible versions such as the NASB and ESV renders verse 30 as "inventors of evil", while the NIV renders it "they invent ways of doing evil". How should we understand this segment of scripture?

  • Welcome back Wilberteric. – Bagpipes Apr 24 '15 at 14:20
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The phrase is "ἐφευρετὰς κακῶν" which literally translates as 'inventors of bad/evil' and forms part of a larger catalogue of 21 vices that can be split into 3 groups as follows:

a. one group of four vices (in the original each in the dat. s.), these four being introduced by the words “having become filled with every kind of”;

b. one group of five vices (all in the gen. s.), introduced by “being full of”; and

c. one group of twelve items, beginning with “gossips.”

The final four items in this group of twelve form a kind of sub-group, each member beginning with ἀ-privative (equal to English prefix un, dis-, or suffix -less).

The 4–5-12 grouping is also accepted by Cranfield, Murray, Ridderbos, Robertson, etc.

It will be noticed that no longer is there any specific reference to sins of sex, since that subject has been fully treated in the preceding verses. Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S.J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, p. 80). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

The biblical concept of evil might need some explanation:

Evil has a broader meaning than *SIN. The Heb. word comes from a root meaning ‘to spoil’, ‘to break in pieces’: being broken and so made worthless. It is essentially what is unpleasant, disagreeable, offensive. The word binds together the evil deed and its consequences. In the NT kakos and ponēros mean respectively the quality of evil in its essential character, and its hurtful effects or influence. It is used in both physical and moral senses. While these aspects are different, there is frequently a close relationship between them. Much physical evil is due to moral evil: suffering and sin are not necessarily connected in individual cases, but human selfishness and sin explain much of the world’s ills. Though all evil must be punished, not all physical ill is a punishment of wrongdoing (Lk. 13:2, 4; Jn. 9:3; cf. Job).Howley, G. C. D. (1996). Evil. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 348). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

However, whilst we can determine a biblical definition of evil the Bible never actually addresses the origin of evil, but only the means of evil's entrance into this world, Romans 5:12 "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned"[NKJV] so unless Paul is contradicting himself in the same letter he cannot be meaning in 1:30 that people invent or create new evil that did not previously exist.

In regards to the phrase "ἐφευρετὰς κακῶν" then it is best seen as delighting in inventing 'original' and 'novel' ways of being/ doing evil. One commentator notes that it "highlights their creativity in performing evil'1 and another writes "It is not enough that men do the normal kind of sins, but they are so sophisticated in learning new ways to sin."2 It is the same old evils that are being done, but they are being done in new ways.


Notes

1 T R Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary, Baker Academic, 1998, p98

2 Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (p. 46). Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications.

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Paul is likely using a catch-all phrase to sum up his litany of characteristics indicative of those who have been corrupted by idolatry, according to a first-century Jewish perspective. The different translations are all getting at the same idea. εφευρετας κακον

See Reading Romans by Luke Timothy Johnson

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  • (-1) because your answer is too short and adds nothing. They want longer posts here. – user10231 Dec 18 '16 at 10:24
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Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkness

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. KJV Romans 1:22‭-‬32

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