Father Boylan’s Commentary on Romans 8:18-23

Some may find the following commentary rather difficult because Fr. Boylan was writing for those with a working knowledge of Greek. I have translated and defined the Greek words in an attempt to aid the reader.

Rom 8:18  For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us.

Paul has just said that suffering with Christ is the necessary precondition of being glorified with Christ. Now he goes on to say that he is firmly convinced (λογιζομαι = logizomai: to take inventory and come to a conclusion, translated above as “reckon”) that all the sufferings (παθηματα = pathemata) of the present time, of this world, are of no account in comparison with the glory that shall be made manifest for us (εις ημας–it will reach unto us), or in us. λογιζομαι (= logizomai: “reckon”) does not suggest any such meaning as “I feel
sure,” or “I assume”: it indicates certain knowledge. (Cf Rom 3:28; 2 Cor 11:5. And see the definition above). In 3:28 λογιζομεθα (= logizometha) is rendered by the Vulgate arbitramur (think): here and in 2 Cor 9:5 λογιζομαι (logizomai) appears as existimo (I think). It has been conjectured that Paul uses the first person singular here because he is about to advance reasons for his view which are unfamiliar to his readers.

“This time” is either “the present,” or the present world, and the sufferings are primarily the tribulations of the Christian life. The comparative insignificance of these sufferings is strongly stated in 2 Cor 4:17: “This present so trivial tribulation of ours procures for us a treasure of glory, great beyond all measure, and everlasting.”

Not worthy to be compared. ουκ αξια = are not deserving of consideration (Vulgate non condignæ). προς = in comparison with: μελλουσαν (“that shall”) implies the certainty of the coming manifestation (cf. Gal 3:23): the sense is: προς την δοξαν την μελλουσαν αποκαλυφθηναι εις ημας  (in comparison to the glory surely coming to be revealed into us). In the εις ημας is probably conveyed the thought that the future glory, which is now hidden, and shall be revealed, will be poured out upon us, “when we shine like the sun in the Kingdom of Our Father ” (Matt 14:43). The “revelation” implies the idea of publicly imparting the glory.

At present we know not “what God has in store for those that love Him” (1 Cor 2:9): the “glory” in question is therefore future: but it is certain, and Paul now sets forth a number of reasons for regarding it as certain:

(a) The obscure longing of all created things (19-22);
(b) our own sighs of hope (23-25);
(c) the intercession of the Holy Spirit;
(d) the divine plans on our behalf, which present us with the glory as a fait accompli (28-30).

Rom 8:19  For the expectation of the creature waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God.

The irrational creation longs for that glorification with anguished longing.

‘αποκαραδοκια (“expectation”) is a tense and longing expectation; with the article it means the well-known, or admittedly existing expectation: ἡ αποκαραδοκια της κτισεως almost ==ἡ αποκαραδοκια της κτισις.  κτισις (creature) seems to mean here irrational creation, in distinction from men (Cf. 23). The object of nature’s longing is the “manifestation” ( i.e., the public and solemn manifestation of the glory) of the sons of God (18).

With that glorification will come a better time for all creation, and creation feels and knows this already. Nature generally once shared in the fulness of grace and blessing that belonged to the primitive state: but it fell under a curse, because of Adam’s Sin (Gen 3:17). When the effects of that sin have been completely undone, and our glory is shown forth, nature also will rejoice because the curse whose effects still weigh upon her, will then be utterly revoked. Thus even irrational nature will share in the glories of completed Redemption, and exult when Christ says to His chosen ones: “Come hither, ye blessed of My Father: take possession of the Kingdom which has been made ready for you since the creation of the world!”

Note that κτισις (creature) is here personified, and that, to a certain extent, even the tense longing of κτισις (creature) appears as a person.

Rom 8:20  For the creature was made subject to vanity: not willingly, but by reason of him that made it subject, in hope.
Rom 8:21  Because the creature also itself shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.

Irrational nature, as a result of Adam’s Sin, was made subject to ματαιοτητι (= vanity) as to a sort of ruler. In 21 this subjection to “vanity” appears as a slavery to φθορας (destruction, corruption, decay mutability in every form). The “Vanity” to which nature was subjected includes such aspects of nature as the barrenness of the earth, the daily struggle for existence, the evil of death, the fierce animosities of the brute creation, etc., etc. The “Vanity” may also include the unworthy and anti -religious uses to which nature has been put by fallen man in the service of idolatry (cf. Rom 1:25; Acts 14:15), avarice, pride, luxury, cruelty, etc. In this reference Estius adds: Ad quam vanitatem hoc quoque pertinet, quod creatura, quce in usum hominum venit, magna parte permissa est potestati principis hujus mundi. It is not likely, however, that “Vanity” in this context contains a reference to the direct rule of Satan in the world.

Nature did not willingly (ουχ εκουσα) become subject to “vanity”: she was made subject to it–δια τον υποταξαντα–because He Who subjected it to mutability willed that nature should share with men both in blessing and malediction. The One Who subjected it is obviously God Who cursed it. It appears that the subjection to “vanity” involved the withdrawal of a freedom from “vanity,” which nature possessed, not the denial to Nature of a freedom which would have been given if Adam had not sinned. The beauty, harmony, and teeming fulness of life, which characterised the world that God had fashioned (Gen 1:31), in great part vanished to make place for barrenness, strife, disorder, death, and corruptibility of every kind.

But even when submitting to the compulsion of God’s curse, nature was not left without hope: it still retained the hope of regaining its freedom, and so it was subjected to “mutability” εφ ελπιδι (“on the basis of hope,” or “towards hope” translated “in  hope” above): εφ ελπιδι (“in hope”)  is to be joined with υπεταγη (“was made subject”), not with υποταξαντα (“made it subject”). Simply put, “in hope” is related to the main verb υπεταγη (“was made subject”), the intervening words are a kind of parenthesis (for the creature was made subject to vanity [not willingly, but by reason of him that made it subject], in hope). The parenthesis is “essential for the meaning as explaining why, when subjected, creation retained the “hope” (Brendan Byrne, S.J., Sacra Pagina: Romans, pg. 260).

οτι, etc.  (“because”, etc.). This clause gives the reason for the “hope” (according to some, less probably, the content of the hope). Creation, too, is to be liberated from the slavery of corruption ( =”Vanity”), and to be brought  “to the freedom (εις ελευθεριαν) of the glory of God’s sons.” This does not mean, of course, that nature will receive the glory of God’s sons, but that the freedom of God’s sons will bring with it the release of nature from ματαιοτητι (“vanity”) and φθορας (“corruption”). Nature longs for that release, and therefore longs for its pre-condition the glorification of the sons of God. Commentators find in this liberation of nature from corruption the coming of the “new heaven” and the “new earth” of Isaiah 65:17 (and of Christian Apocalyptic Hope as expressed in 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:11). It is doubtful, however, whether Paul here wishes to insist on a positive glorification of nature, over and above its release from the primeval curse. As the “slavery of corruption” is the subjection of nature to corruption, so the “freedom of glory” is the freedom from that slavery which follows on the public glorification of God’s sons. It is at the General Resurrection, when “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15:54), that the bondage of corruption will be for ever removed.

Rom 8:22  For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now.

οιδαμεν γαρ (“for we know”) etc. : All Christians would know the doctrine, of the Fall and what it implied: they would also know how the disorder induced by the Fall was ultimately to be overcome (Acts 3:21; 2 Pet 3:12 f .). What the faithful knew from Christian teaching they can observe with their own senses. Nature sighs and groans because of the slavery of corruption. Even up to the present moment all nature joins in a chorus of groaning. All nature writhes in pain (συνωδινει) in pain like the pangs of childbirth.  The συν in συστεναζει (“groaneth”) and συνωδινει (“travaileth in pain”) emphasises the universality of the sorrows which nature endures: all nature groans and suffers pangs together.

The groaning and suffering of all nature continue, αχρι του νυν (“even till now”) even into the Christian period: with the Parousia the complete renewal of nature will begin. Parousia, literally, “presence.” The word is used for the return of Christ, the second coming. See 1 Thess 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:1, 8.

Rom 8:23  And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit: even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body.

Paul now passes on to another reason for the certainty of our future glory.

Not merely irrational creatures, but we men also, look with painfully eager longing for the full glory of the sons of God. We groan also in the depths of our spirits ( εν εαυτοις) even we (read, και αυτοι [“even we”], or και ημεις αυτοι [“even we ourselves”]) though (or, because) we possess the Holy Spirit, as the first fruits (απαρχην) of the divine Sonship. We possess the first fruits which are the Holy Spirit (appositional Genitive): that is, the grace which we possess through Baptism is a prelude to, and a pledge of, glory. The “first-fruits ” are not thought of as a first installment of a glory to be more fully received; but the Holy Spirit is a pledge and guarantee of glory. Cf. the αρραβωνα του πνευματο (“pledge of the spirit”) in 2 Cor 1:22; 2 Cor 5:5; Eph 1:14.

The και αυτοι (“even we”) are not the Apostles merely, but all the regenerate, as distinguished from the κτίσις (“creatures,” “creation”) of vv. 19-22.

εχοντες (translated above as “who have”) can be rendered “although we possess” (concessive), or “because we possess”: the causal rendering
would put emphasis on απεκδεχομενοι (“waiting for”). Most recent interpreters prefer the causal rendering because of the context (e.g., verses 15-17). Also, the causal rendering fits better with the description of the Spirit as a “pledge” (or downpayment)” in 2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14. Finally there is the link between the Spirit and the coming hope of the end time blessings (Gal 5:5; 1 Cor 2:9-10).

The υιοθεσιαν (“adoption of the sons”) which is looked for, is the full and secure possession of divine Sonship. The faithful will attain to this when they rise from the dead, and their bodies are glorified. This is implied in “redemption of our body.” Aquinas says: Incohata est hujusmodi adoptio per Spiritum Sanctum justificantem animam . . . consummabitur autem per ipsius corporis glorificationem. . . . Ut sicut spiritus noster redemptus est a peccato, ita corpus nostrum redimatur a corruptione et morte (From Aquinas fifth lecture on Romans 8. The passage reads fully: “This adoption was begun by the Holy Spirit Justifying the soul: you have received the spirit of adoption of sons [Rom 8:15]. And it will be brought to fulfillment when the body is glorified: We glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God [Rom 5:2]. And this is why Paul adds the redemption of our body here. For as our spirit has been redeemed from sin, so too our bodies will be redeemed from decay and death). (Cf. Phil 3:21; 1 Cor 15:51; 2 Cor 5:2 ff.). The πολυτρωσιν του σωματος (“redemption of our bodies”), not mean “redemption from the body” as if the body were something essentially evil. Such an idea is definitely out of harmony with Pauline teaching. At present the Spirit is life, and the body is dead, but when the uiodeaicc is perfect, the body also will be released from mutability: it also will be glorified. Hence we, looking forward to this glorification of our bodies, join in the chorus of nature’s sighing.


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One Response to Father Boylan’s Commentary on Romans 8:18-23

  1. Pingback: Commentaries and Resources for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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