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Romans 5:16 ESV

"And the free gift[dorema] is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift[charisma] following many trespasses brought justification". [My brackets].

Firstly dorema is translated "free gift" and then in the same verse charisma is also translated as "free gift".

Having used 'dorema' why does the Greek change to 'charisma'?

3 Answers 3

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In Romans 5:15-16, there are actually three different Greek words that are rendered with the word “gift” in English: charisma, dorea, and dorema.

Romans 15-16 ESV (brackets added)

15 But the free gift [charisma] is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift [dorea] by the grace charis of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift [dorema] is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift [charisma] following many trespasses brought justification.

Charisma (Strong’s 5486) means a gift of grace, with emphasis on the grace or graciousness of God, who is understood to be the giver of the gift. Thayer’s provides a definition that reflects how charisma is used in the context of Romans 5.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon

the economy of divine grace, by which the pardon of sin and eternal salvation is appointed to sinners in consideration of the merits of Christ laid hold of by faith, Romans 5:15

Dorea (Strong’s 1431) means a (free) gift, the emphasis being on the fact that it is free. According to Vine’s, it is always used in reference to a spiritual or supernatural gift.

Vine's Expository Dictionary

denotes "a free gift," stressing its gratuitous character; it is always used in the NT of a spiritual or supernatural gift

Dorema (Strong’s 1434) means simply gift or bestowment. Note that there are only two occurrences of dorema in the NT (Rom 5:16 and Jam 1:17).

Thayers’ Greek Lexicon

a gift, bounty benefaction; Romans 5:16; James 1:17.

In Rom 5:15, charisma is the word used to preface the contrasts that follow between God’s gift and man’s trespass. Per Thayer’s Lexicon, charisma is the “economy of divine grace” by which men are pardoned and saved. In answer to the OP’s question, charisma is the gift of God (cf 6:23) for the purpose of man’s redemption. It functions as the overarching concept, encapsulating the essential elements of that work.

Based on the above definitions and the context of Romans 5:15-17, those elements are understood to be: the grace [charis] of God, the gift [dorea] that came by the grace [charis] of Jesus Christ, and one other gift [dorema]. Dorema is viewed as distinct given the distinctness of the word itself. However, the participial construction is ambiguous, as evident in the variation seen among the English translations (Rom 5:16 Parallel Translations). Here are two examples:

Romans 5:16a

And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. – NKJV

And not as through one who sinned [is] the free gift – LSV

Of the two, my preference is for the LSV (Literal Standard Version). Compare it to the pared down interlinear below (interlinear):

καὶ  οὐχ        ὡς  δι᾽      ἑνὸς    ἁμαρτήσαντος   τὸ      δώρημα
And  [is] not   as  through  one     having sinned  the     gift

In my opinion, a problem with the NKJV and other English translations regards the addition of the article to the participial construction. The phrase “one who sinned” says something very different from “the one who sinned.” Whereas “the one who sinned” implies a particular sinner, “not as through one who sinned” simply denotes a person who has not sinned. Though it is worded differently, the ESV’s “that one man’s sins” is similar to the NKJV in connotation.

According to the LSV, the gift [dorema] is not through one who has sinned. While this may include Adam, the one who sinned, it is not exclusive to him. Comparing the use of dorema in Rom 5:16 to that of Jam 1:17, the idea of the gift [dorema] being through one who has not sinned aligns well with the “perfect gift” [dorema] in Jam 1:17.

Presumably, the gift is through one who is without sin, Jesus Christ (cf 2 Cor 5:21). With this interpretation in mind, note that the gift [dorema] lies between two parallel statements in what almost appears to be a chiasmic structure. The center of a chiasm is always important, and dorema sits in that position of prominence here.

Romans 5:15-17 ESV (tabs added)

But the free gift [charisma] is not like the trespass. 
   For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of 
   God and the free gift [dorea] by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ 
   abounded for many. 
    
      And the free gift [dorema] is not like the result of that one man’s sin. 
      For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation,
    
but the free gift [charisma] following many trespasses brought justification.
   For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, 
   much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift 
   [dorea] of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ (LSV).

Looking at the composition alone, we can see how dorema serves as a bridge between the two statements. In the phrase “not as through one who sinned,” the word “through” is therefore key. Note how “through”(Strong’s 1223) appears again at the end of v17 in “through the one - Jesus Christ” (LSV).

Returning to the OP’s question, charisma is the overarching concept within which dorema plays a key role. While the nature of the gift is not specified, everything in the context suggests that the gift [dorema] is Jesus Christ, who alone without sin can serve as the mediator and instrument of God’s gift of salvation.

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  • Your answer confirms my understanding of the precise care that the Word has imbued His words and the expression of His benevolence.+1
    – C. Stroud
    Mar 2 at 16:41
  • Your instincts are on point, I think. Paul's masterful use of linguistic tools is nothing less than inspired. I feel we've barely scratched the surface of what is being expressed here.
    – Nhi
    Mar 3 at 12:49
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The passage in Rom 5:15-17 contrasts the act of Adam with the act of God/Jesus:

15 But the gracious gift [χάρισμα] is not like the offense. For if by the offense of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift [δωρεὰ] by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many. 16 The gift [δωρεὰ] is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one offense, resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the gracious gift [χάρισμα] arose from many offenses, resulting in justification. 17 For if by the offense of the one, death reigned through the one, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift [δωρεὰ] of righteousness reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

It is immediately obvious that in this passage, Paul is using δωρεὰ and χάρισμα interchangeably to both mean God's gracious gift of justification through Jesus' death on the cross. Let me set this out in a table to show the differences:

The act of Adam The act of God
Called an "offense" Called a "gift" δωρεὰ and χάρισμα
Original sin of Adam and Eve Jesus' death on the Cross
Many [ie, all as per Rom 3:23, 24] died Life came to the many [ie, all again]
Resulted in condemnation to all Resulted in Justification for all
Death came from one offense Life came from the gift of Righteousness, ie, Jesus Christ

While the meaning of δωρεὰ and χάρισμα are not exactly the same, they do significantly overlap and here, at least, Paul uses them interchangeably.

This is not the only place where God grace leading to eternal life is called the "gift of God":

  • Rom 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift [χάρισμα] of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • John 4:10 - Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift [δωρεὰ] of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
  • Eph 2:8 - For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift [δωρεὰ] of God,

Again, δωρεὰ and χάρισμα are, in this context, used interchangeably.

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  • If dorema and charisma are interchangeable in this verse, then the point of charisma seems to be that it is used here only for the sake of variety. is there another reason?
    – C. Stroud
    Feb 20 at 14:39
  • @C.Stroud - that is a good reason. The other may be to emphasize that the gift is free and by grace.
    – Dottard
    Feb 20 at 20:24
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The KJV reads a bit differently:

Romans 5:16 KJV

And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.

The word "free" is left out in the first instance from "gift" in the KJV. Regardless, the first instance is of a general gift, whereas there is a specified gift of "justification" clarified in the second usage of the word with emphasis on the fact that justification is also "free". This means there is no work required on the part of the believer in order to obtain it. Christ completed the required work on behalf of the believer for justification, imputed righteousness, and salvation. Belief is all that is required for these "gifts" to be received.

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  • Does 'Belief' deem as 'work' required on believer? James 2:18 state: "I will show you my faith by my deeds". Feb 20 at 14:51
  • @VincentWong I believe it indeed does to the twelve tribes of Israel that were scattered abroad: James 1:1 "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting." I do not believe so for the church, the body of Christ, based on what the apostle Paul states to us Gentiles today (who are under God's grace (Eph 3:2), and not a part of God's covenant promises with Israel): Romans 3:28 "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." This key difference was from God and intentional (Romans 11:11). Feb 20 at 14:59
  • Even Jesus bore witness to deeds - not deeds of the law, but those inspired by the Spirit. In the closing words to the seven churches, He declared: "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious,.........". This statement acknowledges that victory is not guaranteed for all believers, some may falter. I need to emphasize that I am a believer of faith, and faith lead to deeds, that good deeds shine before others and glorify God in Heaven (Matt 5:16) Feb 20 at 21:00
  • @VincentWong I do not disagree with you that works are important after salvation. Some indeed may falter, but when are we secured and for how long upon having faith? Eph 1:12-13 "That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise," Eph 4:30 "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." If we could lose salvation, how could we ever gain it back? Feb 20 at 21:10
  • Therefore it is crucial to understand what is "free". In my view, salvation is indeed "free" once and for all humanity, but it is not a guarantee free entry into the New Jerusalem. This discussion is not meant to delve into theological debate, but I genuinely appreciate hearing your perspective. Feb 20 at 21:25

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