Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Romans 8:26-27, Groaning for the Future

Ῥωμαίους 8·26 Ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα συναντιλαμβάνεται τῇ ἀσθενείᾳ ἡμῶν· τὸ γὰρ τί προσευξώμεθα καθὸ δεῖ οὐκ οἴδαμεν, ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα ὑπερεντυγχάνει στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις·  27 ὁ δὲ ἐραυνῶν τὰς καρδίας οἶδεν τί τὸ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος, ὅτι κατὰ θεὸν ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ ἁγίων.
And likewise, the spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. We don’t know what we should pray for, but the Spirit itself intercedes with groanings that can’t be expressed with words.  But the One who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he (the Spirit) pleads in behalf of the saints according to the will of God.  Romans 8:26-27
I was asked by my beloved wife to blog on this passage because she wanted to know what it really meant.  Here is my attempt on some exegesis of the passage.
The context of this passage revolves around how all creation, including the members of the Roman church, is “groaning” or “sighing heavily” for the for “the adoption” into the kingdom of God, that is, according to Paul, “the redemption of our bodies.”  This is  shown in 8:18-25.  Paul ties today’s passage (26-27) to verses 18-25 by using στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις (groanings that can’t be expressed with words).  According to Paul, we may have trouble understanding what to ask for when it comes to asking for the “coming of the Lord” to come.  That seems to be what is considered the weaknesses in this text.  It could also mean that we may not know what to ask for as we prepare of the “coming of the Lord”.  This does make sense because we are, after all, human.  Most people, christians or not, would have a hard time facing the end of life as we know it.  We may be bold in saying that we are ready, but I think human side of us has the tendency to frighten us.  In other words, we let our faith waver and we start fearing the unknown.
People sometimes take verses of scripture out of context at times in order to make a point or to try to prove a point.  If you try to keep this one within context, then it must refer to the overall theme of the text.  In this case, that’s “the adoption” in which all creation is “groaning” for.  I don’t think it refers to other things such as “needs” or “wants” according to this text.
One last thing
But the One who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he (the Spirit) pleads in behalf of the saints according to the will of God.
I will start this off by saying that I will probably revisit this in the future as it is a difficult reading.  In looking at this, I am only analyzing the greek text only!  I’m not making any attempt to interpret the text.
Who is “the One who searches the hearts”?  That’s God.  We know this because in greek τὸ πνεῦμα (the Spirit) is neuter in form.  In other words, in greek, “the spirit” is “it”, and not “he”.  In this passage, ὁ ἐραυνῶν (the One who searches) is a masculine participle acting as a noun, so it has to refer to another masculine noun.  θεὸς (God) is masculine.  The verb ἐντυγχάνει is in the 3rd person singular and implies a pronoun as the subject.  I have translated that pronoun as “he” in my translation, but the greeks would not have seen it this way as τὸ πνεῦμα is always neuter.  In summary, since ὁ ἐραυνῶν is masculine, it can’t refer to the Spirit in this text and must refer to God.  
It is also a little strange that Paul says that God knows the “mind of the spirit” because the spirit pleads with God.  It seems to say that the reason God knows what we the saints need is because he knows the mind of the Spirit and he knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit is pleading on the saints’ behalf.  It’s interesting that Paul puts it this way.  I tend to believe that he was being idiomatic in verse 27.  I will let you decide what he means and if it has any theological significance.  I will only say this; Is there a distinction?  The text says “Yes”!


  1. "Who is “the One who searches the hearts”? That’s God. We know this because in greek..."

    We know this because of the greek? In the first place, it's obvious that it is God who searches the heart if you understand what you are reading. In the second place, the Bible tells us that that "I the Lord search the heart..." in Jeremiah 17:10 and 1 Chronicles 28:9 clearly says "and the Lord searcheth all hearts.." No need for Greek in this passage..

    By the way, these comments are not out of malice at all, I actually am enjoying reading your posts... I'm simply attempting to express to you that correcting the bible by going to the Greek may not be the best way to understand the holy scriptures..

    Also, my name is J.D., I hate that I have to post as anonymous, but that's the only way I can get the comments to post.

  2. My friend, I was just pointing out how the Greek language works. It may be obvious in English, but it is not always like that.

  3. I know your intentions are good, Russell. I haven't read all of your posts, so could you point me to one where it is not as obvious in the English? I'm considering learning Greek myself, but if the point is to shed light on the King James Bible, I haven't yet seen a need for it.

    I've got an open mind. Could you explain what the manuscripts are which you allude to in another post which are superior to the King James Textus Receptus?


  4. I use the latest UBS4. I do refer to the TR at times, but I believe it to be inferior to the UBS4. UBS4, like the TR, is an edited Greek text that was put together by examining all of the Greek texts that are available. The TR is based on far fewer Greek manuscripts, all of which appear very late.

    I would encourage you to pick up Greek. Although you seem to be critical by what I put up, I’ve found learning the language fun and very helpful in my NT studies.

  5. There are many of my postings that reflect insights that the original Greek can provide. I suggest reading my posts on Mark and Galatians. Here are two from Mark that you may find interesting.

  6. I completely disagree with you that the UBS4 is superior to the TR. That's simply not true, and a simple study of the origin of the manuscripts, as well as what the Bible has to say, will teach you that.

    Anyhow, I am interested in learning Greek. How long have known it, and how long did it take you to learn it? Did you go to school for it? How reliable and effective would you say a program like rosetta stone would be to learn this difficult language?

    Thanks for helping me out Russell.


  7. JD, We will have to agree to disagree on the Greek editions. As far as learning Greek, I'm completely self taught. I brought college text books and lectures and off I went. I have about 3 years experience in the language.

    I recommend Bill Mounce's 1st year program at

    Go to the "every thing you need to know Greek" page.

    After the 1st year, I developed a 2nd year plan for myself. If you are interested, send me an email.



  8. Thank you, Russell. I appreciate the info. I'll keep in touch. Happy Fathers day to ya!

  9. I have to wonder why we are choosing to capitalize the word spirit and the pronouns. Just leave them as is and determine meaning by context.

    Might I suggest:

    Romans 8:26-27
    26 Likewise the (our born again) spirit also takes hold of our (soulical) infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the spirit itself (our own spirit) makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (with articulate language).
    27 And He (God) that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the (our) spirit (is talking about), because he (the born again spirit of Christ in us) makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

  10. Due to the nature of the Greek text, there is a good reason to capitalize "The Spirit". In the three instances that πνεῦμα (Spirit) occurs, it is preceded by the article. Therefore, Paul is referring to the Spirit Par Excellence, that is the Holy Spirit, not the human spirit. This is why every translation capitalizes "spirit" in these verses.

    τὸ πνεῦμα (The Spirit)
    τὸ πνεῦμα (The Spirit)
    τοῦ πνεύματος (The Spirit)