The use of the term flesh in Paul.

A collection of all the instances.


Paul uses the term σαρξ (flesh) some 60 times in what are commonly regarded as the genuine epistles. This page presents all the instances of that term in those epistles, as well as in Ephesians, Colossians, and the pastoral epistles.

Refer also to the use of the Hebrew word בשר (flesh) in the Hebrew scriptures, as well as to the use of the expression according to the flesh (κατα σαρκα) in Greek and Christian literature.

Romans 1.3-4:

...[the gospel] concerning his son, who was born from the seed of David according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα], who was appointed son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness from the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 2.28:

For he is not a Jew who is one in appearance, nor is circumcision in appearance, in the flesh [εν σαρκι].

Romans 3.20a:

...because from works of the law will no flesh [ου... πασα σαρξ] be justified before him.

Romans 4.1:

What then? Shall we say that we have found Abraham to be our forefather according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα]?

Romans 6.19a:

I speak humanly on account of the weakness of your flesh [της σαρκος υμων].

Romans 7.5:

For, when we were in the flesh [εν τη σαρκι], the passions of sins, which were through the law, were energized among our members to bear fruit for death.

Romans 7.18a:

For I know that good does not house in me, that is, in my flesh [εν τη σαρκι μου].

Romans 7.25b:

So then, I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but with my flesh [τη δε σαρκι] the law of sin.

Romans 8.3 (×2):

For what was impossible for the law, in its weakness through the flesh, God did, having sent his own son in the likeness of flesh of sin [εν ομοιωματι σαρκος αμαρτιας], and, concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh [εν τη σαρκι]....

Romans 8.4:

...in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα], but rather according to the spirit.

Romans 8.5 (×2):

For those who are according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα] think about the things of the flesh [τα της σαρκος], but those according to the spirit the things of the spirit.

Romans 8.6-7 (×2):

For the way of thinking of the flesh [το... φρονημα της σαρκος] is death, but the way of thinking of the spirit is life and peace, because the way of thinking of the flesh is hostile toward God, for it does not subject itself to the law of God, nor is it able.

Romans 8.8:

And those who are in the flesh [εν σαρκι] cannot please God.

Romans 8.9:

But you are not in the flesh [εν σαρκι] but rather in the spirit, if indeed the spirit of God houses in you. But, if anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, he is not of him.

Romans 8.12-13 (×3):

So then, brethren, we are in debt, not to the flesh [τη σαρκι], to live according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα], for if you live according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα] you are going to die, but if by the spirit you are putting to death the acts of the flesh you will live.

Romans 9.3-5:

For I could pray that I myself were accursed, away from Christ on behalf of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα], who are Israelites, whose is the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the lawgiving and the liturgy and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh [το κατα σαρκα], the one who is over all, God blessed unto the ages. Amen.

Romans 9.8:

That is, they are not the children of God who are the children of the flesh [τα τεκνα της σαρκος], but rather it is the children of the promise who are regarded as seed.

Romans 11.14:

...if somehow I might make jealous my own flesh [μου την σαρκα] and save some from among them.

Romans 13.14:

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh [της σαρκος] unto its lusts.

1 Corinthians 1.26:

For look at your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα], not many powerful, not many noble.

1 Corinthians 1.29:

...that no flesh [μη... πασα σαρξ] should boast before God.

1 Corinthians 5.5:

to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh [της σαρκος], so that the spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 6.16:

Or do you not know that the one who associates with a prostitute is one body? For the two, he says, will be as one flesh [εις σαρκα μιαν].*

* Refer to Genesis 2.24.

1 Corinthians 7.28:

But even if you should marry you have not sinned, and if the virgin should marry she has not sinned. But such will have tribulation in the flesh [τη σαρκι], and I am sparing you.

1 Corinthians 10.18:

Look at Israel according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα]; are not those who eat the sacrifices communers of the altar?

1 Corinthians 15.39 (×4):

Not all flesh [ου πασα σαρξ] is the same flesh [η αυτη σαρξ], but rather there is one of humans, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.

1 Corinthians 15.50:

But this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood [σαρξ και αιμα] cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor the corruptible inherit the incorruptible.

2 Corinthians 1.17:

17 Therefore, when I was deciding this, I was not vacillating, was I? Or, those things that I decide, do I decide them according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα], so that with me there might be yes, yes and no, no?

2 Corinthians 4.11:

For we the living are always being delivered up to death on account of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be made apparent in our mortal flesh [εν τη θνητη σαρκι ημων].

2 Corinthians 5.16 (×2):

Thus from now on we realize no one according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα]; even if we have known Christ according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα], rather we now know him no longer.

2 Corinthians 7.1:

Having these promises, therefore, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit [σαρκος και πνευματος], perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

1 Corinthians 7.5:

For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh [η σαρξ ημων] had no relief, but rather we were troubled on every side, fights without, fears within.

2 Corinthians 10.2:

I request that when I am present I may not be bold with the confidence with which I regard to be daring against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα].

2 Corinthians 10.3 (×2):

For, though we walk in the flesh [εν σαρκι], we do not wage war according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα].

2 Corinthians 11.18:

Since many boast according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα], I also will boast.

2 Corinthians 12.7:

And for the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, that I might not lift myself up, there was given me a thorn in the flesh [τη σαρκι], a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I might not lift myself up.

Galatians 1.16b:

...I did not straightway consult with flesh and blood [σαρκι και αιματι].

Galatians 2.16b:

...since from works of the law will no flesh [ου... πασα σαρξ] be justified.

Galatians 2.20:

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and that which I now live in the flesh [εν σαρκι] I live in the faith of the son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself up on my behalf.

Galatians 3.3:

Are you so foolish, having begun by the spirit, now ending by the flesh [σαρκι]?

Galatians 4.13-14 (×2):

But you know that it was on account of a weakness of the flesh [της σαρκος] that I evangelized you at first; and your testing in my flesh [εν τη σαρκι μου] you did not despise or reject, but rather you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.

Galatians 4.23:

But rather the one from the slave girl was born according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα], and the one from the free woman through the promise.

Galatians 4.29:

But rather, just as at that time he who had been born according to the flesh [κατα σαρκα] persecuted him according to the spirit, so also it is now.

Galatians 5.13:

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not let your freedom be as an occasion for the flesh [τη σαρκι], but rather through love serve one another.

Galatians 5.16:

But I say, walk by the spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh [σαρκος].

Galatians 5.17a (×2):

For the flesh [η... σαρξ] desires against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh [κατα της σαρκος].

Galatians 5.19:

And the works of the flesh [της σαρκος] are apparent, which are fornication, uncleanness, sensuality....

Galatians 5.24:

But those of Christ Jesus crucified the flesh [την σαρκα] with its passions and desires.

Galatians 6.8 (×2):

For the one who sows unto his own flesh [εις την σαρκα εαutou] will reap corruption from the flesh [εκ της σαρκος], but the one who sows unto the spirit shall reap eternal life from the spirit.

Galatians 6.12:

As many as wish to make a good showing in the flesh [εν σαρκι], these compel you to be circumcised, only so that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

Galatians 6.13:

For neither do those who are circumcised keep the law themselves, but rather they wish for you to be circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh [εν τη υμετερα σαρκι].

Philippians 1.22:

But, if to live in the flesh [εν σαρκι], this will be the fruit of my work; and I do not know which to take.

Philippians 1.24:

But to remain on in the flesh [τη σαρκι] is more necessary on your account.

Philippians 3.3-4 (×3):

For we are the circumcision, we who worship in the spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and do not trust in the flesh [εν σαρκι], although I myself might have cause to trust even in the flesh. If any other one thinks to trust in the flesh, I far more.

Philemon [1.]16:

...no longer as a slave, but rather as more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh [εν σαρκι] and in the Lord.

In Ephesians 2.3 pseudo-Paul writes of the desires of the flesh [της σαρκος] and wishes of the flesh [της σαρκος]; in 2.11 he writes of gentiles in the flesh [εν σαρκι] and of circumcision done by hands in the flesh [εν σαρκι]; in 2.14 that Christ has broken down the emnity (between Jews and gentiles) in his flesh [εν τη σαρκι αυτου]; in 5.29 that no one ever hated his own flesh [την εαυτου σαρκα]; in 5.31 that a man and his wife will become as one flesh [εις σαρκα μιαν]; in 6.5 that servants ought to obey their lords according to the flesh [τοις κατα σαρκα κυριοις]; in 6.12 that our battle is not against blood and flesh [προς αιμα και σαρκα].

In Colossians 1.22 pseudo-Paul writes that the son of God has reconciled us in the body of his flesh [εν τω σωματι της σαρκος αυτου]; in 1.24 he writes that he himself in his own flesh [εν τη σαρκι μου] completes what is lacking of the troubles of Christ; in 2.1 that he strives on behalf of those who have not seen his face in the flesh [το προσωπον μου εν σαρκι]; in 2.5 that he is absent in the flesh [τη σαρκι]; in 2.11 of the putting off of the body of the flesh [του σωματος της σαρκος] in the circumcision of Christ; in 2.13 of the uncircumcision of their flesh [της σαρκος υμων]; in 2.18 of the kind of person who is conceited by the mind of his flesh [της σαρκος αυτου]; in 2.23 that rigor of devotion and false humility and bodily discipline are of no use against the satisfaction of the flesh [προς πλησμονην της σαρκος]; in 3.22 that servants ought to obey their lords according to the flesh [τοις κατα σαρκα κυριοις].

In 1 Timothy 3.16 pseudo-Paul writes that Christ was made apparent in the flesh [εν σαρκι]. This is the only instance of the word σαρξ in the pastoral epistles (the two to Timothy and one to Titus).

It ought to be noted that the word does not appear at all in the Thessalonian epistles.

The adjective σαρκινος (fleshly or fleshy) appears in Romans 7.14; 1 Corinthians 3.1; and 2 Corinthians 3.3; and the adjective σαρκικος, which bears much the same meaning, appears in Romans 15.27; 1 Corinthians 3.3 (×2); 9.11; 2 Corinthians 1.12; 10.4.

Miscellaneous usages of the term flesh in other texts.

Isaiah 31.3; Genesis 29.14; Judges 9.2; 2 Samuel 5.1; 19.12-13; 1 Chronicles 11.1; Nehemiah 5.5; Wisdom 7.1; Sirach 14.18; 44.20.

1 Enoch 15.3-4, 8:

Δια τι απελιπετε τον ουρανον τον υψηλον τον αγιον του αιωνος, και μετα των γυναικων εκοιμηθητε, και μετα των θυγατερων των ανθρωπων εμιανθητε, και ελαβετε εαυτοις γυναικας, ωσπερ υιοι της γης εποιησατε, και εγεννησατε εαυτοις τεκνα υιους γιγαντας; και υμεις ητε αγιοι και πνευματα ζωντα αιωνια· εν τω αιματι των γυναικων εμιανθητε, και εν αιματι σαρκος εγεννησατε, και εν τω αιματι ανθρωπων επεθυμησατε, καθως και αυτοι ποιουσιν, σαρκα και αιμα, οιτινες αποθνησκουσιν και απολλυνται.

On what account did you leave the high and the holy heaven of the age, and lie with women, and defile yourselves with the daughters of men, and take women to yourselve, [and] do just as the sons of earth, and beget giants as sons, as children for yourselves? And you were holy ones and living, spiritual, eternal things; [but] you defiled yourselves in the blood of women, and begot [children] in the blood of flesh, and in the blood of humans you desired flesh and blood, just as those also do who die and perish.

Και νυν οι γιγαντες, οι γεννηθεντες απο την πνευματων και σαρκος, πνευματα ισχυρα κληθησονται επι της γης και εν τη γη η κατοικησις αυτων εσται.

And now the giants, who are born from spirits and flesh, shall be called strong spirits upon the earth and their housing shall be on the earth.

Refer also to 1 Enoch 84.1.

1 Enoch 106.14:

Και τικτουσιν ουχ ομοιους πνευμασιν αλλα σαρκινους.

And they give birth, not to beings like spirits, but rather to fleshly beings.

Josephus, Wars 6.1.5 47:

Τις γαρ ουκ οιδε των αγαθων ανδρων οτι τας μεν εν παραταξει ψυχας σιδηρω των σαρκων απολυθεισας το καθαρωτατον στοιχειον αιθηρ ξενοδοχων αστροις εγκαθιδρυει, δαιμονες δ αγαθοι και ηρωες ευμενεις ιδιοις εγγονοις εμφανιζονται, τας δε εν νοσουσι τοις σωμασι συντακεισας;

For which of the good men is there who does not know that those souls which are released by iron from their fleshes in battles are received by the purest element, ether, and joined to that company which are placed among the stars,and they become good demons and propitious heroes, and show themselves as such to their posterity afterwards?