"THE WRATH" AND "THE WRATH OF GOD" IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, ESPECIALLY IN PAUL

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Contents:

    New Testament ‘wrath’ passages
        Paul (Romans)

       Deutero- and Trito-Pauline passages
        Other New Testament passages
   Summary of Data      
   Remarks and conclusions

NEW TESTAMENT PASSAGES USING THE NOUN "WRATH" (ὀργή)
    Paul
(author of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Philemon – cf. Pauline Authorship) – ὀργή occurs only in Romans)

1.16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, to the Jews first and also to the Greek.
.17 For therein is revealed a righteousness of God by faith unto faith, as it is written,   "But the Righteous One* shall live by faith".
[* The Righteous One is the Messiah, as argued cogently by A. T. Hanson, Studies in Paul’s Technique and Theology (London: SPCK, 1974), pp. 40 ff.]
.18 For wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness….
[N.B.: The true reading is probably ὀργή ap’ ouranou, ‘wrath from heaven’, as read by 876* 1908 Marcion, rather than ὀργή θεοῦ ἀπ' οὐρανοῦ , ‘wrath of God from heaven’, as read by all other manuscripts, for the following reasons:
         1.  None of of the other eleven uses of ὀργή in Romans, all of which refer to the End-Time wrath, have ὀργή θεοῦ  or ὀργή τοῦ θεοῦ  (‘wrath of God’), but only ὀργή (‘wrath’) or he ὀργή (‘the wrath’).
        2.  ἀπ' οὐρανοῦ  (‘from heaven’) is a round-about way of saying ‘of God’, so that θεοῦ  ἀπ' οὐρανοῦ (‘of God from heaven’) would, in effect, be saying the same thing twice.
       3.   1.18 is parallel to 1.17: ‘a righteousness of God is revealed’; thus in 1.18 ἀπ' οὐρανοῦ (which no manuscript omits) stands in parallel to θεοῦ  in 1.17.
        4.    θεοῦ , ‘of God’, in 1.18 would then have been an early scribal addition, added by attraction of the form in 1.18 to that in 1.17.]
2.4 Or do you despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and  longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of  God leads you to repentance?
.5 But according to your hardness and impenitent heart you treasure up for yourselves wrath in the day of wrath (ὀργὴν ἐν ἡημέρα ὀργῆς) and revelation of the righteous judgement of God,
.6 who will render to every man according to his works;
.7 to those that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and incorruption: eternal life;
.8 but to those that are factious and obey not the truth but obey unrighteousness: wrath (ὀργή) and indignation….
3.5 But if our unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who visits us with the wrath (τὴν ὀργήν)? (I speak after the manner of men.)
.6 God forbid! For then how shall God judge the world?  
4.15 For the Law worketh wrath (ὀργήν), but where there is no Law neither is there transgression.
5.8 But God commended his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,  Christ died for us.
.9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath (ἀπὸ τῆς ὀργῆς) through him.
9.22 What if God willing to show the wrath (τὴν ὀργήν) and to make known his power, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath (σκεύη οργῆς) fitted unto destruction;
.23  and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he beforehand prepared unto glory:
.24  us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles.
12.19 Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath (τῇ ὀργῇ), for it  is written, "Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord".
.20 But if your enemy hungers, feed him; …
.21  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
13.3b … And would you have no fear of the [civil] authority?  Do that which is good and you shall have praise from the same, 
.4 for it [i.e., the civil authority] is a minister of God to you for good.  But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for it bears not the sword in vain, for it is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath (εἰς ὀργὴν) to him that does evil.
.5 Wherefore you must needs be in subjection, not only because of the wrath (διὰ τὴν ὀργὴν) but also for conscience sake.
.6 For this cause you pay taxes also, for they are ministers of God’s service, attending continually upon this very thing.
Deutero- and Trito-Pauline Letters
Ephesians
2.3 [the sons of disobedience] among whom we also once lived in the lusts of our  flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts, and were children by nature of wrath (τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς), even as the rest;
.4  but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us,
.5  even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ ….
4.31 Let all bitterness and wrath (ὀργή) and anger and clamour and railing be put away from you, with all malice,
 .32 and be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, even as God  also in Christ forgave you. 
5.6   Let no man deceive you with empty words, for because of these things comes  the wrath of God (he ὀργή tou theou) upon the sons of disobedience.
Colossians
 3.5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, this being idolatry,
.6 for the sake of which things comes the wrath of God (ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ) upon the sons of disobedience,
.7 in which things you also walked formerly, when you lived in these things.
.8  But now put away all these: anger, wrath (ὸργήν), malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth ….
1 Thessalonians
1.9 … how you turned unto God from idols. To serve a living and true God,
.10 and for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come (ἐκ τῆς ὀργῆς τῆς ἐρχομένης).
2.14   For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus, for you also suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews,
.15 who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us, and pleased not God, and are contrary to all men,
.16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always; but the wrath (ἡ ὀργὴ) is come upon them to the uttermost.
  5.9 For God appointed us not unto wrath (εἰς οργὴν) but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
 .10 who died for us, that, whether we watch or sleep, we should live together with him.
1 Timothy
2.8  I desire therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath (χωρὶς ὀργῆς) and disputing.
Other "wrath" (ὀργή) passages in the New Testament
 Matthew 3.7    John the Baptizer speaks of ‘"the coming wrath". (// Luke 3.7)
Luke 21.23  Jesus says to the disciples about Jerusalem: "there shall be great distress upon the land, and wrath unto this people".
John 3.36  John the Baptizer says, "But he that obeys not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God (ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ) abides on him".
Hebrews 3.11 & 4.3 quote Ps 95.11: "I [= God] swore in my wrath …."
James 1.19-20  Let every man … be slow to wrath, for the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God.
Rev. 6.16 "the wrath of the Lord"
           .17  "for the great day of their wrath [= God’s and the Lamb’s] is come"
       11.18 "thy wrath came [= God’s]"
       14.10 "the cup of his wrath [= God’s]"
       16.19  "the cup of the vine of the anger of his wrath [= God’s]"
       19.15   "He [= the Word of God, i.e. Jesus] treads the winepress of the wine of the anger of the wrath of God (τοῦ θυμοῦ τῆς ὀργῆς τοῦ θεοῦ)"
New Testament passages using the verb "to be wrathful" (ὀργίζεσθαι)
 Matthew 5.22 "the one who is angry with his brother".
                18.34 "And his lord was angry" [against the unfruitful servant in the parable of the talents]
                22.7 "But the king was angry" [parable of the wedding feast for the king’s son]
Mark        1.41 Jesus "being angry" in the case of the leper.
 Luke     14.21 "the master of the house, being angry" [parable of the great supper].
              15.28 "But he was angry and would not go in" [the ‘upright’ son in the parable of the prodigal son]
Ephesians 4.26 "Be angry and sin not" [citing Ps 4.5]
Rev.      11.18 "And the nations were angry"
              12.17  "And the dragon was angry with the woman"

 

Summary of Data

   Gospels:  Although Jesus is presented as being wrathful (Mark 1.41; 3.5), and speaks of human wrath (Matt 5.22) especially in the parables (Matt 18.34; 22.7; Luke 14.21; 15.28), only once is he presented as speaking of wrath coming upon the people (Luke 21.23). Jesus never is said to speak of ‘the wrath of God’.
        John the Baptizer
is said to speak of ‘the coming wrath’ (Matt 3.7 //Luke 3.7) and of ‘the wrath of God’ (John 3.36). Paul: Only in Romans does Paul himself ever use ‘wrath’, and then never ‘the wrath of God’ (if we are correct about Rom 1.18).
    Other letters ascribed to Paul:
  Only in Colossians 3.6, repeated in Ephesians 5.6, do we ever find ‘the wrath of God’.
    Revelation
is the only NT writing which frequently speaks of ‘the wrath of God’ or ‘of the Lamb’ (6.16, 17; 11.18; 14.10; 16.19; 19.15).

 

REMARKS AND CONCLUSIONS:
            Although the OT generally does not distinguish between primary causation (what God directly wills) and secondary causation (what he merely allows to happen, as, e.g., he hardens Pharaoh’s heart, Exod 7.3), and it ascribes both of these directly and explicitly to God (but the Chronicler is somewhat of an exception), there is a somewhat different picture in the NT. In the NT on the whole it is only on the lips of John the Baptizer, and in Colossians, Ephesians and Revelation that we find ‘the wrath of God’ instead of ‘the wrath’ or ‘the wrath to come’. Paul speaks of ‘the righteousness of God’ frequently, making a close connection between God and his righteousness, but only in Romans does he ever speak of ‘the wrath’, and then never directly of ‘the wrath of God’. For Paul ‘the wrath’ is what comes on one when one does not accept God’s gracious righteousness,.  It is what God allows (i.e., the automatic, impersonal outcome) rather than what God directly wills. It is part of God’s final judgement (Rom 2.8; 3.5-6), but it is not God’s direct will for anyone. This idea of ‘the wrath’ as the other side of the coin of God’s righteousness, etc., can be seen in that most of the passages we have cited in Romans lay the main emphasis on God’s righteousness, mercy and goodness. Also, unlike the OT, Paul does not present ‘the wrath’ as being that which leads to repentance, but instead he presents ‘the goodness of God’ as being that which brings one to repentance (Rom 2.4). Thus, I would argue, not only are textual critics wrong when they retain ‘the wrath of God’ in Rom 1.18, but also modern translations misrepresent Paul when they gratuitously add ‘of God’ to other passages in Romans where ‘the wrath’ appears.

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