[Rom 2:7 ESV] (7) to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

2:7 τοῖς μὲν καθ᾽ ὑπομονὴν ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ δόξαν καὶ τιμὴν καὶ ἀφθαρσίαν ζητοῦσιν ζωὴν αἰώνιον

What does Paul mean by "ἀφθαρσίαν", commonly translated "immortality" and is he using it in contrast to "ζωὴν αἰώνιον" or as an equivalence?


What I'm after here is whether these terms are referring to something other than "everlasting life".

  • 1
    "glory, honor and immoraility" refer to the glories of eternal life, and "he will give eternal life" is the promise thereof... Apr 20, 2019 at 20:23
  • Are you using "eternal life" as being a super-set of "everlasting life"? Are they different words?
    – Ruminator
    Apr 20, 2019 at 20:30
  • 2
    Everlasting life and eternal life are synonyms. Eternal is an unfortunate translation of "everlasting." Apr 20, 2019 at 20:32
  • This is one of those questions where I'm torn between opposite answers. Maybe you could put forth the argument for that view in an answer. It would actually be a big help even if I end up disagreeing. I know that 1John seems to use "eternal life" as having a particular quality, or rather, equating it with Christ, the LOGOS ZWHN ("expression of life"): [ESV 1 John 1:] (2) the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-- Not sure about Paul.
    – Ruminator
    Apr 20, 2019 at 20:36
  • 1
    This is one of those instances, I'm afraid, where to give a defense is to concede too much to the objection to what I consider the obvious force of a rather simple sentence. 'Glory, and honor, and immortality' are well-known promises in Scripture to those saved by Jesus (and implicit in verse 10 which you quote). "Eternal life" is simply the name given to that enduring state of blessedness, references to John being especially relevant and case-in-point examples. Apr 20, 2019 at 20:50

3 Answers 3


ἀφθαρσία (aphtharsia) occurs 8 times in the NT: Rom 2:7, 1 Cor 15:42, 50, 53, 54, Eph 6:24, 2 Tim 1:10, Titus 2:7.

BDAG defines this as "the state of not being subject to decay/dissolution/interruption, incorruptibility, immortality" Thus, I would argue that "incorruption" or "imperishable" would be a better word in Rom 2:7 as there are other words that specifically mean immortal in the Greek, eg, ἀθανασία (athanasia) which is used in apposition to imperishable in 1 Cor 15:54.

Rom 2:7 is written in quintessentially Pauline terse rhetoric. Here is my (overly) literal translation:

To those [who] indeed with endurance of good work, glory and honour and imperishability are seeking, life eternal.

Most versions supply "are given" before "life eternal" (there are some important exceptions). This is quite understandable but not completely defensible. If we take the next verse together, we can then find a simple contrast (my translation):

  • V7: to those who by endurance of good work seek for glory, honor, and incorruptibility, eternal life;
  • V8: but to those who are self-seeking, and disobeying the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and anger.

Here "incorruptibility" refers to the spiritual body that we get at the resurrection (1 Cor 15:40-54) that is the means by which we achieve immortality with Christ as the source of life (1 John 5:11, 12).

ζωή (zóé) as used in Rom 2:7, according to BDAG means, "transcendental life", that is, the life to come following the resurrection of the saints. Thus it is used with the adjective "eternal" or "everlasting" in John 3:15, 36, 4:14, 5:24, 39, 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68, 10:28, 12:25, 50, 17:2, 1 John 1:2, 2:25, 3:15, 5:11, 13, 20, etc.

Thus, the two lists in Rom 2:7, 8, one applying to the righteous and other to the wicked, can be seen as opposites of each other with the last item in each list the final destiny. Some versions insert words (eg a verb, "are given") to emphasise this idea.


I agree with user25930 that incorruptibility is a better translation here. I'll show the syntactic structure this way, World English Bible Romans 2:7:

to those who by patience in well-doing 
   seek for glory, honor, and incorruptibility— 
      eternal life;

Is Paul using "ἀφθαρσίαν" in contrast to "ζωὴν αἰώνιον" or as an equivalence?

Neither. Paul parallels "glory, honor, and incorruptibility" to "eternal life".


Along with ruminator, I am trying to comprehend if there is granted to those faithful a life that cannot be ended, even by God. Or if the nature of the life resulting is maintained by continued faithfulness. And if the former, what has God bestowed on the individual that keeps the person living eternally without any direct intercession from God needed to sustain life?

  • This sounds more like a new question than an answer. Feel free to ask a new question based on this one.
    – agarza
    Apr 3, 2021 at 3:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.