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Ro 14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow (2578) (5692) to me, and every tongue shall confess (1843) (5698) to God.

Do the two differences in "Voice" within the same verse (Active and Middle) indicate Choice in "confession" and the lack of Choice in "Bowing"?

5784 Voice-Active The active voice represents the subject as the doer or performer of the action.

5785 Voice-Middle The middle voice indicates the subject performing an action upon himself (reflexive action) or for his own benefit.

The "bowing" aspect or submission denotes submission but not in a "volitional" sense. This seems to be more in line with "reaping what we sow".

This conclusion suggests to me that while all people are responsible to God, only those who choose to do so will make confession to Him.

Thus, His judgment is made clear to all people.

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  • 1
    Excellent Question. +1.
    – Dottard
    Jun 2 at 22:34
  • That verb confess has basically only middle forms in the second and third person. So the word itself is a middle in nature. We confess by ourself only.
    – Michael16
    Jun 3 at 3:54

1 Answer 1

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It is true that the Greek of Rom 14:11 uses two different voices for the two future-tense verbs, "bow" and "confess". This is an attempt to reflect the verse in the OT from which Paul is quoting, Isa 45:23 -

It is written: “As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow [Qal imperfect] before Me; every tongue will confess [Nifal imperfect] to God.”

Paul quotes this verse in Rom 14:11 as:

It is written: “As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.”

The details of these two verbs are:

  • κάμψει = "will bow" = Future, indicative, active voice. Thus it states a simple fact; and because it is future tense, it is a prophecy of what will certainly happen
  • ἐξομολογήσεται = will confess = Future, indicative, middle voice. This is more subtle, and reflects the Nifal state of the Hebrew verb above; the middle voice indicates an action that is done to oneself, ie, a personal choice.

A similar distinction is observed in the other place that Paul quotes the same verse of Isa 45:23, that is in Phil 2:10, 11; again we have

  • (Phil 2:10) κάμψῃ = should bow = active voice
  • (Phil 2:11) ἐξομολογήσηται = should confess = middle voice

Thus, there appears to be a consistent pattern and distinction made between what will happen in the great final analysis:

  • all people, righteous and wicked, will bow to Jesus and God
  • the confession of "Jesus Christ as Lord" is a choice made only by the righteous, according to Rom 10:9 -

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

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