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In Romans 1:24 is Paul's usage of ακαθαρσιαν [G167 N-ASF] the same as in Leviticus 5:3?

Brenton Lev 5:2 That soul which shall touch any unclean (ακαθαρτου G169 A-GSN) thing, or carcase, or that which is unclean being taken of beasts, or the dead bodies of abominable reptiles which are unclean, or carcases of unclean cattle, Lev 5:3 or should touch the uncleanness (ακαθαρσιας G167 N-GSF) of a man, or whatever kind, which he may touch and be defiled by, and it should have escaped him, but afterwards he should know, --then he shall have transgressed.

It seems very obvious that Jesus is referring to the "uncleanness" of which the Torah spoke:

ISV Mat 23:27 "How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people's bones and every kind of impurity (ακαθαρσιας G167 N-GSF).

But what about Paul? When he speaks of "uncleanness" (usually rendered "impurity") is he using the word in the same sense as in the LXX? Or is it a more secular usage?:

English Standard Version Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity (ακαθαρσιαν G167 N-ASF), to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,

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    For those to whom it was not obvious (it wasn't to me): it appears that the OP is including after the word of interest a Strong's number followed by an encoded parsing (Noun: Genitive | Accusative Singular Feminine)
    – Susan
    Aug 30, 2016 at 12:23
  • @Susan Thanks. I included the parsing because... well... I forget!
    – user10231
    Aug 30, 2016 at 12:51

1 Answer 1

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ἀκαθαρσία occurs over 60 times in the Septuagint and is used in many places to refer to something other than ritual impurity. For example:

For he rejoices in all things which God hates, and is ruined by reason of impurity of soul (Proverbs 6:16 LXX)

We are esteemed of him as counterfeits: he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness: he pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed, and maketh his boast that God is his father (Wisdom 2:16)

What Paul might be alluding to in Romans 1:24 is the Wisdom of Solomon and not Leviticus:

For the devising of idols was the beginning of spiritual fornication, and the invention of them the corruption of life (Wisdom 14:12)

The "uncleanness" that Paul has in mind seems to be sexual impurity and not ritual uncleanness. He uses the same word (ἀκαθαρσία) in 2 Corinthians (12:21):

And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

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  • Yes, Paul sees impurity as not only affecting the body but also a problem of "the heart": NIV 2 Cor 7:1 Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
    – Ruminator
    Nov 17, 2017 at 0:29

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