I have always understood Romans 6:23 to read "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (our Lord)." And that is how my NASB 1995 renders it. But now that I check out the translations and Greek, the picture seems somewhat confused with regard to the inclusion of "free" as an assumed? adjective to "gift".

The translations are divided with the NIV, KJV, and INT not including "free". But then again, the KJV has "free" in Romans 5:15 and 16 and the current NASB has replaced "free" with "gracious" in all 3 instances.

Looking at the Greek, Strongs 5486 charisma, (χάρισμα) is defined as a "a gift of grace, a free gift", but the usage is "a gift of grace, an undeserved favor" . The derivation is said to be Strongs 5483 charizomai (χαρίζομαι) meaning "to show favor, give freely" with usage (a) I show favor to, (b) I pardon, forgive, (c) I show kindness.

My over-all impression then is that the adjective "free" should not be included in any "literal" translations, as appears to have been recognized in the NASB. But I'm no Greek scholar and would appreciate clarification in view of the above confusion. To be clear, I am distinguishing "free" from other terms such as "gracious", due to it's particular meaning and common understanding.

  • I am similarly inclined as you. The word free may communicate more to some than the straightforward meaning of the term.
    – Austin
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 5:25
  • it means blessings, riches, generosity, charity.
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 8:35
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    Gifts are free to the receiver otherwise it’s not a gift Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 12:26
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    Not a Greek or Biblical scholar, but... It may be that a gift is (or should be) free, but many are given "with strings attached" or in the expectation of some kind of quid pro quo. Could "free" be being used to emphasise that there are no strings attached to the gift?
    – TripeHound
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 14:31
  • Jesus or his sacrifice, the source of salvation is said to be the charisma/blessing/riches. Salvation is free in this sense. Salvation is a loan in another sense where your responsibility of works to pay it forward is counted, see all the parables of Jesus. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/62415/…
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 16:17

4 Answers 4


BIB Romans 6:23: “τὰ (The) γὰρ (for) ὀψώνια (wages) τῆς (-) ἁμαρτίας (of sin) θάνατος ( is death); τὸ (-) δὲ (but) χάρισμα (the gift) τοῦ (-) Θεοῦ (of God), ζωὴ (life) αἰώνιος (eternal) ἐν (in) Χριστῷ (Christ) Ἰησοῦ (Jesus) τῷ (the) Κυρίῳ (Lord) ἡμῶν (of us).”

Free is always superfluous with gift. Charisma is not even gift in the proper sense, which is dorean. Charisma should be understood as endowment, generosity, riches, benefaction.

Danker lexicon on Charisma:

χάρισμα, ατος, τό [χαρίζομαι] ‘that which results from the activity of generosity’, in NT always in connection with divine generosity bestowed on believers, divine gift —a. in general Ro 1:11; 5:15f; 6:23; 11:29.
—b. in ref. to corporate welfare Ro 12:6; 1 Cor 1:7; 7:7; 12:4, 9, 28, 30f; 2 Cor 1:11; 1 Ti 4:14; 2 Ti 1:6; 1 Pt 4:10.


The simple answer is that there is not an adjective "free" before "gift".

The only reason translators include this superfluous word is to emphasize the theological point that the gift of salvation is "free", but that is not in the original Greek text.

The closest we get is the word used for "gift" which is χάρισμα (charisma) which is a gift of grace, ie, free. That is, the meaning is already inherent in the noun itself.

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    Yes, indeed, it sounds like a pleonasm: “wet water” or “blowing wind”, for where there is gift, the freeness of it is implied, otherwise it is not a gift, but bribe, or tribute, or ransom - you name it! Commented Apr 21 at 18:07

Adding "free" to "gift" would be tautological and thus redundant (and therefore wrong in the most forgiving sense of the word), since the definition of gift (as distinct from other things given) is: "a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present." Protestant-influenced definitons of the word charisma (which simply means gift) involving the word "free" might therefore be purely disambiguatory in nature (i.e. not intended to end up as/in the translation itself, only to aid in distinguishing it from other possible but erroneous understandings—but this would only make sense, in my view, in cases where a word is open to more than one understanding, which gift isn't...), or simply influenced by Protestant theology's emphasis on grace as free as opposed to earned (a reaction to a strawman of Catholic theology).

Moreover, such translation choices do not merely range from the strawman of Catholicism which says that grace can earned and the Protestant insistance on emphasizing that grace is not earned, but extents beyond these, to the so-called 'free grace' theology of some Protestants (if they can really be called that fairly) which dictates that, essentially, in so many words, there is literally nothing you have to do as a Christian after you accept that Jesus is your saviour. There are things you are called or asked to do. There are things that would be nice, but grace does everything you need for salvation and you can do nothing to 'un-earn' or reject that grace. Some of them insist you would never want to or try, some that it doesn't matter even if you do.

This is why translation is so important when it comes to this kind of stuff — at least, when we are dealing with a sola-scriptura brand of Christianity, where interpretation of the text is not strictly bound to a tradition of interpretation, but rather free, ultimately, to be anything the 'best' translation yields to whoever is reading it 'properly' regardless of whether that interpretation is novel or not.

Scripture says:

Proverbs 22:28 Do not remove the ancient boundaries set by your forefathers.

Translators might do well to heed this when considering adding terms that were never seen as necessary before, and should ask why they are needed now, and why the Word of God needs to be affected, and not rather the people misinterpreting the Word of God instead!

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    I disagree that (in English) "free" is tautological as a qualifier for "gift". It's common that we give gifts as an expression of culture (e.g. for birthdays or holidays) or in hope of currying favor or of a quid pro quo. None of these is a "free" gift in the same sense as God's gift of eternal life through Christ, though occasionally people do give gifts in approximately that sense. Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 17:45
  • But clearly God is not giving the gift of salvation in order to 'curry favor' or 'recieve a gift in return' from sinners And even if He were (God forbid), what you're saying is the gift was not really a gift, BECAUSE it was done to curry favor. I.e. motive, not a different sense of gift. So if you're interpreting Scripture that way already, the translation is not the problem, nor will editing it solve it. We don't root out heresies by editing the translation of the Bible, we root out the heresies and make sure everyone is interpreting it according to Christianity, which is a historical entity. Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 20:27
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    Of course God's gift is not motivated by any expectation that we would or could give anything in return. That is precisely what describing it as "free" conveys. The qualifier is not necessary, of course, but neither is it redundant, at least as English is commonly used today. You may complain that a gift that is not free in this sense shouldn't be called a gift at all, but the word nevertheless is used in such ways. The point of translating the Bible is to communicate with real people, and that is usefully served by qualifying "gift" with "free" here. Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 21:50
  • "a gift that is not free in this sense shouldn't be called a gift at all, but the word nevertheless is used in such ways" Right, people misuse the word, but we shouldn't by adding a word that necessitates there are such things as not free gifts. That is to abuse language on God's behalf by changing Scripture to reflect abuses of words. When you add "free" to "gift" it logically requres that you concede there are such things as gifts which are not given freely. But those aren't gifts by definition. That's why it's wrong, not just less than ideal. It's like the whole "biological woman" thing. Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 13:33
  • I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I do not see it as remotely abusive of language to employ wording that conveys the intended meaning as clearly as possible to the intended audience. And here it is God's message that we most want translations of the Bible to convey, and it is to people who speak and understand contemporary English that contemporary translators to English want to convey it. What is more important: God's message or language purism? Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 15:26

Can you fully trust the translators? There are many versions of it for a reason. I look at modern Christianity and it's nothing like what I read. A great deception came into the modern church as Jesus has prophesied within the last 150 or so years. You can't live for the world and your own ambitions and not take up your cross and seriously call yourself a Christian but we have the vast majority of "Christians" doing just that. Jesus didn't ask us to do certain things, he commanded us to do so. There is something wrong with the word "free" in this verse in the sense of how we understand the word today. When read the Bible, I don't understand how anyone can come away thinking they can live like the rest of the world and go to Heaven.


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