Paul writes:

Rom 1:27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Does "in themselves" mean "in their bodies"? And is the "due penalty" refer to venereal diseases?

  • 3
    Although this may be what Paul intended, there is nothing in the text that can lead to an answer through hermeneutics, especially as heterosexual promiscuity can also lead to venereal diseases. Your question seems to be seeking an opinion. Apr 23, 2016 at 21:21
  • @DickHarfield Thanks, so do you have anything to contribute to help us understand what "in themselves" might mean?
    – user10231
    Apr 23, 2016 at 22:29
  • 1
    @DickHarfield I wouldn't say this is seeking an opinion, although it could. Hermeneutics extends beyond "what does only this text say." It can extend to how else the author used the words, how other biblical writers used this or similar phrases, how non-biblical contemporaries used it, and lastly how non-biblical non-contemporaries used these words within the same origin language so that we might be able to glean information. Just because the question doesn't have an easy answer from within the single verse doesn't mean it's mere opinion as an only answer. Apr 24, 2016 at 9:17
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    @MicahGafford I agree with your statement that hermeneutics extends beyond exegesis of the text. As far as I can see, no other biblical author uses ἀντιμισθίαν ἣν ἔδει such as to give a guide as to what Paul meant. This leaves me with my opinion that he may have meant a sexually transmitted disease - and this is probably the opinion of many others- but I can't see how to go from opinion to an answer. Apr 24, 2016 at 21:36

1 Answer 1


As Dick Harfield mentioned, the text does not provide or lead toward an answer through hermeneutics. By exploring your second question regarding "due penalty," however, there are some verses to consider in order to hopefully bring better clarity to what you are seeking.

"Due penalty" can very well refer to venereal diseases. On a deeper level as well as keeping consistent to what the verses around verse 27 state, the "due penalty" suggests to be tied to sin: the nature of sin and God's judgment toward sin.

In verses 24, 26, and 28 we read not once, but thrice, that God gives man up to sin.

"Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness" -- vv. 24 (NKJV).

"For this reason God gave them up to vile passions" -- vv. 26 (NKJV).

" God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting" -- vv. 28 (NKJV).

These verses are certainly noteworthy because they reveal sin as unrighteousness before a righteous God Who will judge / penalize sin. With this framework in mind, here are two sources that may help you better understand the "due penalty" that is subject to those who will receive (it) "in themselves."

@EnduringWord Bible Commentary

e. Receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due: Paul speaks of a penalty for homosexual conduct; homosexuality has within itself a penalty. This speaks of the generally self-destructive nature of sin; it often carries within itself it’s own penalty.

i. Sometimes it is the penalty of disease, which is the consequence of violating nature’s order. Sometimes it is the penalty of rebellion, resulting in spiritual emptiness and all it’s ramifications. In this sense the term “gay” is wishful thinking. It sends a message that there is something essentially happy and carefree about the homosexual lifestyle – which there is not.

f. Again, this “freedom” to disobey should be seen as God’s judgment, not His kindness; those who engage in such acts are receiving in themselves the penalty of their error.


@The MacArthur Bible Commentary

1:27 receiving in themselves the penalty. Here, the law of sowing and reaping (Gal. 6:7, 8) takes effect, as Paul refers to the self-destructive nature of this sin, of which AIDS is one frightening evidence.

  • Thank you. I upvoted and accepted as answer. I do wish, though that someone had some exegetical explanation for the difference of the clause with "in themselves" as opposed to without those words. Also, is it only males who receive the penalty "in themselves"? There have only been 5 cases of lesbian sex passing AIDS. Is this true of other STDs? Might that be a clue? aidsmap.com/Female-to-female-sexual-transmission/page/1323529
    – user10231
    Apr 24, 2016 at 0:48
  • Happy to help! Thanks for the upvote, this was my first attempt to answer a question since I joined haha.
    – Gee Sus
    Apr 24, 2016 at 0:50
  • Let me send you a PM (private message) regarding your further questions and curiosity, since it seems like they will lead us to areas beyond heremeneutics.
    – Gee Sus
    Apr 24, 2016 at 0:52
  • I don't know how to PM here so if you can't figure it out, please ask for help on the "Meta" list. And welcome to the forum!
    – user10231
    Apr 24, 2016 at 0:58
  • Same here - I also cannot figure out how to PM.
    – Gee Sus
    Apr 24, 2016 at 1:02

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