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In Rom. 14:7, it is written,

Ζʹ οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἡμῶν ἑαυτῷ ζῇ καὶ οὐδεὶς ἑαυτῷ ἀποθνῄσκει TR, 1550

My question concerns the reflexive pronoun ἑαυτῷ which occurs twice in this verse, once preceding the verb ζῇ and then ἀποθνῄσκει.

My translation of the Greek is,

For none of us lives for himself and none [of us] dies for himself.

Some translations (e.g., KJV) translate it as “lives to himself” and “dies to himself.” What is the apostle Paul attempting to convey? Is there indeed something meaningful in the phrases “lives to himself” and “dies to himself”?

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    2Co 5:15 has a similar construction "ἑαυτοῖς ζῶσιν" – fumanchu Oct 2 '15 at 16:32
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Context Here is Important

The dative reflexive pronouns of Rom 14:7 need to be seen in parallel with the other datives that precede (and follow) it in the context of the passage. The key verse in understanding their meaning is back in Rom 14:4 (NKJV for all quotes):

Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master [τῷ ἰδίῳ κυρίῳ] he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

The datives in that verse reflect that the actions one does are ultimately done "to" one's own (ἰδίῳ) master's (κυρίῳ) judgment, no others. One's actions either stand or fall in the master's opinion. Note that the word "master" here is the same word as "lord," so it could be translated in v.4 "to his own lord he stands or falls."

This concept gets extended in vv.5-6:

5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord [κυρίῳ]; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord [κυρίῳ] he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord [κυρίῳ], for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord [κυρίῳ] he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

Their are four plain datives (κυρίῳ) in v.6 that relate to the statement of v.4-5. Whether people observe particular days or not, or whether they partake of eating or not, they do so "to the Lord." The article is not present in the Greek, and one could translate it as "to a lord," or even as v.4 translated in the NKJV, "to a master," i.e. to whoever that one is observing the day or not for or eating or not for approval of his judgement. Yet clearly the context is to believers in the church of Rome, and it is "the Lord" that Paul is speaking of here, for he intersperses God in the context.

So Rom 14:7 (the verse in question) and v.8 continues from this context:

7 For none of us lives to himself [ἑαυτῷ], and no one dies to himself [ἑαυτῷ]. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord [τῷ κυρίῳ]; and if we die, we die to the Lord [τῷ κυρίῳ]. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

The parallel remains, such that the statement in v.7 is referring to the fact that no one lives or dies to be judged of themselves. That is, a person does not do what they do in life to then judge themselves about what they have done, nor do they do what they do at the time that they die to then judge themselves about what they gave their life for.

The statement of v.7 is proclaiming a rhetorically obvious truth (in the context of being judged); we will not judge our lives and our death. Another will judge them for their lives and deaths, that is "the Lord" (here with the definite article). They are judged of the Lord because they belong to the Lord (v.8), and so will be judged by Christ (v.9-10).

Conclusion

The idea is "to," for the parallel idea is "to whom is one looking to be judged" for his/her life (and all aspects of living out that life) and death? Not to him/herself, but to Christ the Lord, the master Who is served.

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Paul is saying that the same devotion to the same Lord may (in some cases) have certain apparent opposite manifestations between believers. For example, in the following verses Paul addresses one certain tension of "opposite manifestations" between believers.

1 Cor 7:21-22 (NASB)
21 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. 22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.

The apparent opposites occur between believers with the same devotion to the same Lord. Paul is saying that we are free, but we are slaves of Christ; however the Roman slave who is a Christian is also the freedman of Christ. Origen of Alexandria understood this tension of opposites when he wrote his commentary on this verse in question.

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The tension of opposites found in the writings of the Apostle Paul are "no longer-now / already-not yet" motifs that aid readers to understand fine nuances. The following two examples illustrate:

We no longer live to sin, because we are now alive in Christ (Rom 6:11, 8:10); however, while we are already alive in Christ, the mortal / perishable has not yet put on the immortal / imperishable (1 Cor 15:53-54).

We are no longer slaves of sin but are now slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:18); however, while we are already set free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2), we are not yet free from “the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit” (Eph 4:22).

These tensions of opposites (no longer-now / already-not yet) are what enable believers to accept that the same devotion to the same Lord may have apparent opposite manifestations. For example, to come back to our passage in question, one believer may follow rituals to observe certain days and/or to abstain from foods; while another believer may disregard the rituals, and indulge in foods without discrimination, and yet still maintain the same devotion to the same Lord. So in the passage of Romans 14:7, the indulging believer does not live by his own agency (ἑαυτῷ), because this believer is in fact dead to sin; nor does he die by his own agency (ἑαυτῷ), because this believer is in fact alive to God. These statements represent the nuance of apparent opposites that provide clarity, and which are common to the writings of the Apostle Paul (as the two examples above illustrated).

In summary, the apparent intent of Paul was to convey these fine nuances of apparent opposites, so that believers in Rome would be less apt to judge fellow believers.


Reference:

Origen. (2002). Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Books 6–10. (T. P. Halton, Ed., T. P. Scheck, Trans.) (Vol. 104). Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 238-239.

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