My thesis on “weakness of the flesh” and “your temptation in my flesh”: Paul is alluding to the “impurity” of carnal lust [Greek, akatharsia].
As evidence for this nuance of meaning, consider the phrase, “weakness of the flesh” [Greek: ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸςas] as it appears in Romans 6:19. The form is nearly identical to our focal text, Galatians 4:13-14:
διὰ τὴν ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν
because of the weakness of your flesh
δι’ ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς
because of weakness of the flesh
Here is the Romans passage:
“I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity [akatharsia] and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.”
What would be an example of such “impurity” in Paul’s way of thinking? Perhaps the most graphic, and provocative example is found in the very opening chapter of Romans:
“Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity [akatharsia], so that their bodies would be dishonored among them…For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts…”
In Galatians, “impurity” [akatharsia] is listed among the “works of the flesh”:
“…sexual immorality, impurity [akatharsia], sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”
I know my thesis is unusual, and perhaps also embarrassing, but in light of Paul’s other writings, does it not seem likely that when Paul speaks of “weakness of the flesh” and “your temptation in my flesh” that he is suggesting the “impurity” of carnal lust?
With this thesis in mind, please take a minute to re-read the passage that will be the focal point of this entire blog:
“Brothers [and sisters?] I implore you, become as I am, for I have become as you: You remember that it was because of weakness of the flesh that I shared the Announcement with you originally, and [you remember] your temptation in my flesh: You neither despised [me] nor spit [me] out, but as an angel of God, you received me, even as Christ Jesus.”