Cosmic and universal death from Adam’s fall: an exegesis of Romans 8:19–23a
Paul’s theological treatise in the epistle to the Romans clearly teaches that the animal kingdom and the entire universe experienced a universal death sentence at the time of Adam’s fall in Genesis 3. This provides solid support for a young-earth understanding of the Creation/Fall narratives found in the early chapters of Genesis. First, a detailed exegesis of Romans 8:19–23a1 demonstrates this. The Greek word for creation, κτίσις (ktisis), in this context refers to the entire sub-human created order. Second, ‘the one who subjected it in hope’ in verse 20 is God. Lastly, there is a direct connection between this passage and the universal death sentence caused by the fall of Adam in Genesis 3:14–19.
Translation of Romans 8:19–23
23a and not only this, but ourselves also,14
23b who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Larger context and exegesis
Through verses 8:1–17,15 Paul declares that those who are in Christ are no longer under the condemnation of God. He admonishes fellow believers to live according to the Spirit. The cry of ‘Abba Father’ is evidence that the Spirit is bearing witness to the human spirit within. Believers are one with Christ, suffering being part of that oneness. Paul writes in verse 17: ‘ … we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him’ (RSV).
Verses 18–25 are a parenthetical statement in the context of this larger discussion about the Holy Spirit and suffering.16 Verse 18 then sets up the immediate context: ‘I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed in us’ (RSV). Paul now has the final glorification of the saints in view. The knowledge that glorification is certain gives the Christian the hope needed to press through suffering.17 Paul presents a contrast between present suffering and future glory. The end of all suffering for fellow Christians at glorification is immediately in view as Paul turns to the topic of the ktisis.18
Additional uses of ktisis in the New Testament
Before proceeding with an analysis of the text, the word ktisis should be examined in other New Testament contexts. Each context where ktisis3 is found in the New Testament is the driving force behind its meaning. Only in one case do we find a more unconventional use of the word: 1 Peter 2:13.
Mark 10:6—ἀπὸ δὲ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως (apo de archēs ktiseōs). ‘But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.”’ And, ὁ κτίσας ἀπ' ἀρ.χῆς (ho ktisas ap’ archēs), in Matthew 19:4, ‘ … at the beginning the Creator made them male and female.’ In both verses, Jesus is providing the Pharisees with an explanation of God’s original intention for marriage from Scripture, clear references to Genesis 1:27. Note also, this is another strong support for a young-earth view, since Jesus taught that marriage was there from the beginning of creation, not billions of years after a hypothetical ‘big bang’ beginning. The same goes for the other references below to people present ‘from the beginning of the creation.’19
Mark 13:19—ἀπ' ἀρχῆς κτίσεως (ap’ archēs ktiseōs). Jesus refers to such tribulation which has not been ‘from the beginning of the creation.’
Romans 1:20—ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου (apo ktiseōs kosmou). Paul is referring to the plainly understood and obvious existence of God, seen since ‘the creation of the world.’
Romans 1:25—τῇ κτίσει παρὰ τὸν κτίσαντα (tē ktisei para ton ktisanta). Paul states: ‘ … they exchange the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.’
Romans 8:39—οὔτε τις κτίσις ἑτέρα (oute tis ktisis hetera). Paul’s admonition regarding the assurance of salvation: ‘ … nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation.
2 Peter 3:4—ἀπ' ἀρχῆς κτίσεως (ap’ archēs ktiseōs). Peter’s reference to the Parousia. Those who mock the second coming of Jesus claim that all things have continued as they were ‘from the beginning of creation’.
Revelation 3:14—ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θε (hē archē tēs ktiseōs tou theou). John writes to the angel of the church in Laodicea, ‘ … the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.’
Colossians 1:15—πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως (prōtotokos pasēs ktiseōs). ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.
Hebrews 9:11—οὐ ταύτης τῆς κτίσεως (ou tautēs tēs ktiseōs). ‘ … not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.’ This reference is to the perfect tent, not of this creation, which Christ entered as high priest.
2 Corinthians 5:17—ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις (hōste ei tis en Christō, kainē ktisis). ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.’
Galatians 6:15—ἀλλὰ καινὴ κτίσις (alla kainē ktisis). ‘For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.’
Colossians 1:23—ἐν πάσῃ κτίσει (en pasē ktisei).‘ … the Gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven.’
Hebrews 4:13—καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν κτίσις (kai ouk estin ktisis). ‘And before him no creature is hidden … ’
1 Peter 2:13—Ὑποτάγητε πάσῃ ἀνθρωπίνῃ κτίσει (hupotagēte pasē anthrōpinē ktisei). ‘Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.’
This analysis shows that ktisis in the New Testament is used to refer to the creation of the world, to God as creator, and to the creation as a whole. Context limits its meaning, particularly in the following verses: Galatians 6:15 and 2 Corinthians 5:17, which refer to the new birth. Colossians 1:23 refers to humanity, while the context of Hebrews 4:13 limits the definition to believers. Only in 1 Peter 2:13 do we find a more unconventional usage, referring to human authorities. This usage still remains within the scope of meaning.18
The purpose in this section is to determine the exact definition of κτίσις in the context of Romans 8:19–23a, and to also determine what should be included within the scope of the ktisis. As previously noted, the glorification of believers is immediately in view in verse 18. Paul moves to a particular aspect of the time of glorification, the fate and state of the ktisis. Based on range of meaning, NT usage and context, the possible definitions of ktisis are: 1) unbelieving humanity, 2) angels, 3) believers, 4) the sub-human creation only, 5) the whole creation, including man and the angels, 6) combinations of the above suggestions.20
Unbelievers21 are neither longing for the revealing of the sons of God, nor are they unwilling subjects of futility. Unbelievers willingly reject God (Romans 1:18–32).22 Further, κόσμος (kosmos) is typically utilized by the NT authors in instances that refer to unbelievers or the way the unbelieving world operates.23 Ktisis is not used in the NT to refer to unbelievers. Further evidence against including unbelievers in the ktisis is further spelled out in the section regarding believers below.
Fallen angels would not be included, as they willingly rebelled against God with their leader, Satan.24 They are permanently condemned to judgment, and cannot be redeemed (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4). Like unbelieving humanity, they are not eagerly awaiting the revealing of the sons of God, nor are they unwilling subjects of futility. Angels who did not rebel with Satan are not in the bondage of corruption.25 They await no liberation for themselves. The passage states that the ‘ktisis will also be liberated from the bondage of corruption’. Therefore, all angelic beings should be excluded from the meaning of ktisis.
Four points of contrast between believers and the ktisis make the inclusion of believers in the ktisis untenable:
- In verse 19, ‘the eager expectation of the ktisis eagerly awaits the revealing of the sons of God’. The ktisis is not waiting for liberation, strictly speaking, but rather it is waiting for the sons of God to revealed, hence allowing the ktisis to escape from its present state. The ktisis and the sons of God are separate.
- Verse 21a states that the ‘ktisis itself will also be liberated from the bondage of corruption’. The use of itself and also create two additional clear contrasts between believers,26 whom Paul has in view in the immediate and larger context, and the ktisis.
- When the liberation from the bondage of corruption occurs in verse 21a, the ktisis will enter into the liberty of the glory of the children of God in verse 21b. The ktisis is once again separate from the children of God.
- Lastly, the statement in verse 23a, ‘not only this, but ourselves also’, establishes a fourth contrast between the ktisis and believers, consistent with the contrasts already established in the text. The phrase, ‘but ourselves also’, is distinguished from ‘the whole creation’ by the phrase, not only this.14,27
The sub-human creation
When potential meanings of ktisis are eliminated through this grammatical analysis, the immediate context and range of meaning limit the understanding of ktisis to the entire sub-human creation—inanimate and animate created order. The meaning of ktisis excludes rational beings, but includes everything else. Since the expression, pasa hē ktisis (πάσα ‘η κτίσις), ‘the whole creation’, is used, ‘we are compelled, in the restricted sphere of the non-rational, to give the term comprehensive scope and we are prevented from positing any further limitation’.28 The only limits placed on the meaning of ktisis are the exclusion of human beings and angels. No other part of the creation should be excluded:
‘The words πάσα ‘η κτίσις [pasa hē ktisis], the whole creation, are so comprehensive, that nothing should be excluded which the nature of the subject and the context do not show cannot be embraced within their scope.’29
The ktisis would include all life forms on earth at the sub-human level, including the whole spectrum of plants and animals: ‘It remains, then, that the creatures destitute of intelligence, animate and inanimate, the heavens and the earth, the elements, the plants and animals, are here referred to.’30 Since our local solar system, galaxy and the space beyond are unquestionably part of the created order, the expression must include the entire universe.31
Supporting evidence for this understanding is found in Colossians 1:15, where Paul refers to the pre-eminence and pre-existence of Christ, ‘the first-born of all creation’, prōtotokos pasēs ktiseōs (πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως). This particular context allows for the inclusion of humanity and the angels, but nevertheless closely resembles the phrase under discussion, ‘the whole creation’, pasa hē ktisis (πάσα ‘η κτίσις). When Paul utilizes pasa and ktisis together, the phrase is intended to convey a comprehensive scope.32
Understanding the ktisis as the entire sub-human created order, the phrase, ‘the whole creation groans together and suffers together until now’, can be properly understood. Paul has utilized the expression, sustenazei kai sunōdinei (συστενάζει καὶ συνωδίνει), two present tense verbs, to convey the unity of the sub-human created order in its futility and bondage of corruption. The groaning and agonizing suffering provides further descriptive details about the futility of the bondage of corruption. The state of affairs in the creation is awful. Together ‘is better regarded as referring to creation in its entirety and all its parts as uniting in this travail than as uniting with believers.’13,33
The elimination of angels and humans as candidates for inclusion in the ktisis gives credence to this interpretation. The whole creation groans together and suffers together and is an interdependent and unified entity. No part of the creation can operate or exist autonomously. In the same way, all parts of the creation experience the futility of its corrupted state. As Oke states, ‘the whole creation has been groaning and travailing in unison’.34 Every aspect of the creation longs to be liberated, longs to enter into freedom, together.
‘The one who subjected it in hope’
Thus far, it has been firmly established that Paul’s use of ktisis in this context refers to the whole sub-human material creation, excluding humanity and the angels. Pasa hē ktisis, ‘the whole creation’, has been subjected to futility, and someone (the one) is responsible for this act.
There are three possible candidates who could be ‘the one who subjected it in hope’, Adam, Satan or God.35 The exact meaning of the phrase appears to be somewhat ambiguous at first glance,36 but through further analysis the identity of the ‘one who subjected it in hope’ can be ascertained. Verse 20 reads: ‘For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but on account of the one who subjected it in hope.’ Several observations shed light on the meaning of the text and reveal the identity of the subjector:
- The creation plays a passive role in the subjecting. The aorist37 passive hupetagē (ὑπετάγη) is used to describe the action. Therefore, the creation has been acted upon by something or someone from outside itself. ‘The inanimate creation was a passive sufferer, sharing in the curse which fell upon man for his apostasy.’4,38
- The phrase, ouch hekousa (ουχ ‘εκούσα), not willingly, indicates that the creation was not only passively acted upon by some outside force, but it was acted upon in opposition to its will.6 Although the whole sub-human created order does not have a sentient will39 per se, the repetition emphasizes that the creation had no control over its subjection. The creation was acted upon passively and unwillingly.
- The phrase eph elpidi (έφ ελπίδι), in hope modifies either hupetagē or hupotaxanta (ὑποτάξαντα). ‘It does not make much difference whether eph elpidi is taken with hupetagē or hupotaxanta. But it is preferably taken with the former as the main verb rather than with the participle.’40 In either case, hope is in view when the act of subjection occurs. This subjector, therefore, would have to possess the power and authority to subject the entire sub-human creation to futility, and have hope in view at the same time. The expression, ‘in hope’, is understood as having the purpose of hope, or ‘upon the basis of hope’ when the act occurs.8,41
The fact that this cosmic event took place ‘in hope’ negates the possibility of Satan being the subjector.42 Clearly, he would not be responsible for such an act for the purpose of bringing about hope. Although he possesses more power than Adam and is directly responsible for deceiving Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:14), even Satan would not be able to bring about such a state of affairs. Even if he were able to do such a thing, what motive would he have for committing such an act ‘in hope’?
Can Adam be ‘the one who subjected the creation to futility, in hope’? Assuming for a moment Paul has Genesis 3 in view (to be discussed shortly), as the federal head of humanity (Romans 5:12–21), Adam is held responsible by God for plunging the world into sin (Genesis 3:14–19). Adam had the authority to ‘hand over’ his responsibility as creation’s steward to Satan (Luke 4:6), but handing over authority as a steward does not imply adequate enough authority or power to subject the creation to futility on a universal scale. Adam certainly could not have subjected the creation to futility ‘in hope’. The power to bring about such a sweeping state of affairs cannot be ascribed to Adam.43
The only alternative is to choose God as the subjector.4,35,44 If the subjection took place during the creation of the universe (to be discussed shortly), the only possible choice is God. But if it took place at the time of Adam’s fall in Genesis 3, only God would have the power to subject the whole sub-human creation to futility and the bondage of corruption, and to bring about such a state of affairs with hope in view. ‘Only God, being both Judge and Saviour, entertained hope for the world he cursed.’45 God could do such a thing with the ability, foreknowledge, authority and power to have hope in view.46 Only God could orchestrate all the events of history to bring hope in the end. The use of the aorist divine passive, hupetagē, points to a specific event in the past, ‘and the analogy with Paul’s argument in Romans 5 indicates a direct reference here to Genesis 3:17. The passive suggests God is the agent here, not Adam.’47
The parallel statements, ‘the creation was subjected to futility’ and ‘the creation itself will also be liberated’ strengthen the argument that God is the subjector. Only God has the power to subject the creation in hope, just as only God has the power to liberate it from its present state.
The analysis thus far has yielded the following conclusions:
- the entire sub-human created order was subjected to futility,
- the ‘one who subjected it’ was God himself,
- this act was brought about with hope in view, and
- Paul is assuring believers that not only will they be liberated, but the creation itself will be liberated when the children of God come into their glory at the apocalypse.
‘Subjected to futility’: Creation or Fall?
Biblical commentators regard this subjection as having occurred at two possible points in time. Either the creation was subjected to both futility and the bondage of corruption at the moment of creation,48 or the creation was subjected to futility and the bondage of corruption at the time of Adam’s fall in Genesis 3:14–19. There are several points to be made regarding the time of this subjection.
The Creation Week
If the creation was in a futile state at the initial moment of its existence, it technically could not be subjected to corruption and decay. It would simply come into existence in that state. Its natural and initial inclination would be toward futility. When a thing or person is acted upon, in this case, ‘subjected to futility’, it already exists. If God subjected the entire sub-human created order to futility at the time He created the universe, the text would read: ‘the creation was created in futility’ not ‘the creation was subjected to futility’.
There is nothing in the narrative of Genesis 1, which describes the creation of the universe, that indicates there is any kind of futility or corruption.49 In fact, the summary statement regarding the days of creation, Genesis 1:31, indicates the exact opposite: ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good’ (NIV).50 Romans 8:18–23a describes a desperate and futile condition, threefold, quite antithetical to the description found in Genesis 1:31: ‘the creation was subjected to futility’, ‘the creation will be liberated from the bondage of corruption’ and ‘the whole creation groans together and suffers together’. If the text of Romans 8:19–23a is teaching us that God subjected the created order to futility at the creation, then something should be found in the text of Genesis 1 to justify that understanding. A cursory review of Genesis 1 reveals quite the opposite.
The narrative of Genesis 3:14–19, however, is much more consistent with Paul’s expressions found in the text under investigation. If Adam’s fall was indeed the cause of this ‘subjection to futility’ by God, the idea of hope being directly connected to the action makes perfect sense if Paul had Genesis 3 in view. Many biblical commentators see Genesis 3:15 as the protevangelium,51 the first proclamation of the Gospel. The first human beings have disobeyed God in paradise, and, having been fairly warned, they are to receive punishment for their transgression. But this punishment occurs with hope in God’s view. The Gospel is the ultimate hope in a desperate and impossibly corrupt situation. The combined terms4,10 hupetagē and tēs douleias tēs phthoras, (τής δουλείας τής φθοράς) in verses 20 and 21 are perfectly consistent with the events described in Genesis 3:14–19, a direct result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience.
Paul describes exactly what ‘in hope’ entails: ‘the creation itself also will be liberated from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God’. The hope of the creation is inexorably connected to the fate of the children of God. It therefore follows that the creation’s futility is also inexorably connected to man’s futility, both originating in man’s fall. The whole sub-human created order was plunged into futility by man’s fall, and it will be liberated as a result of man’s redemption. ‘If creation suffered with man in the Fall, God means it also to share in his final beatitude.’52
Mutual fall, mutual destiny
The larger context of the passage under investigation has the glorification of believers directly in view. Verse 21 reads: ‘The creation itself will also be liberated from the bondage of corruption’, indicating the creation will be liberated from the same fallen condition as man. Paul makes a direct connection between man’s need for liberation and creation’s need for liberation. This entire connection between the glorification of believers and the liberation of the creation is lost if the creation has always been in a futile and corrupted state, completely unrelated to man’s fallen condition. Instead, the relationship between the futile and corrupted state of mankind, and the futile and corrupted state of the created order, would be perfectly consistent with the relationship between man’s redemption and creation’s redemption.53 Ultimately, a fallen creation is the only appropriate stage for fallen man to live and operate:
‘The point Paul is presumably making, through somewhat obscure language, is that God followed the logic of his purposed subjecting of creation to man by subjecting it further in consequence of man’s fall, so that it might serve as an appropriate context to engage the futile mind of man; a futile world to engage the futile mind of man. By describing creation’s subjection as “unwilling” Paul maintains the personification of the previous verse. There is an out-of-sortedness, a disjointedness about the created order which makes it a suitable habitation for man at odds with his creator [emphasis added].’54
The doctrine of death
Paul’s theology regarding death’s entrance into the human race is built on the fact of a literal Adam and his transgression only three chapters earlier in Romans 5:12–21. Death came to humanity through one man (Adam), so life comes through one man (Jesus, the Last Adam). In Pauline theology, Adam is responsible for the entrance of sin into the human race. Tobin makes the connection between Romans 5 and Romans 8 as follows:
‘Since Paul has already in Rom. 5:12–21 traced the roots of the present situation of sin and death to Adam’s transgression, 8:20–21 is closer to the Jewish texts that build on interpretations of the Genesis account, in that the futility to which creation has been unwillingly subjected and the decay to which it is enslaved are the consequences of Adam’s transgression.’55
Black supports this view:
‘As much as any other text, this passage attests to the broad, cosmic sweep of Paul’s thinking about death. It is not merely the case that individual human beings die; the whole creation has been subjected to futility and has been groaning in travail together (vv 20, 22). In such statements as these, we are reminded once again of the curse on the ground of Genesis 3’.56
Death is clearly in view in Romans 5:12–21, and having been shown to have a direct theological and linguistic connection to Romans 8, it is certain that death is directly in view regarding the futility and bondage of corruption reference, further characterized by groaning and suffering. These terms are descriptive of the effects and consequences of death, human or otherwise. Corruption, phthoras (φθοράς) in verse 21 is defined as ‘decay, perish, ruin, destroy’10,57 Though Paul does not use the standard New Testament word for death, thanatos (θάνατος)—the meaning of phthoras in this context clearly refers to death. The phrase tēs douleias’tēs phthoras, ‘the bondage of corruption’,57 is combined with the unwilling subjection to futility, mataiotēs (ματαιότης). The groaning and lamentation of the entire sub-human creation speaks of universal death and decay. All these words in combination: phthoras, mataiotēs, douleias, sustenazei and sunōdinei irrefutably speak of universal death, decay and destruction. The pervasive death that is found in the animal kingdom has come as a direct result of God’s curse resulting from Adam’s fall. As Barth has said about the animals, ‘Vanity is not the creature’s primal constitution.’58
Genesis 3:14 supports the assertion that the animals began to die after the fall, as God declares to the serpent: ‘ … cursed are you above all cattle and above all wild animals’ (RSV). The contrast ‘above all’ communicates that the serpent’s curse would be greater than the curse of the all other animals. Hence, all animals are being cursed at this moment in time. There is nothing in the text of Genesis 1 that would lead one to believe the animals were experiencing death before God’s curse. The text of Genesis 1 indicates that the animals were not eating and killing each other prior to the fall of Adam. ‘And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food. And it was so.’59 Animals were originally designed to eat vegetation, not each other.
Certain Old Testament prophetic texts that look forward to the apocalypse portray animals as being benevolent in the Messianic age, especially animals that today are considered dangerous and/or carnivorous. For example, Isaiah 11:6–9:
‘The wolf will lie with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like an ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child will put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.’ (NIV)
John Munday argues that this verse and others, such as Isaiah 65:25, are looking to the future, and are not a description of conditions in the world before the Fall.60 These verses do speak of the end of the age, but they describe a condition in the future of restoration. The implication is that the animal kingdom will be restored to a state that resembles its original state: perfect, harmonious and benevolent. The end of the age will not just bring about permanent change in the universe, it will restore the universe to a condition that resembles its initial condition.61 The essence of restoration at the apocalypse is a return to an initial condition! This reconciliation and transformation will occur in the animal kingdom, and the animals will not perish by disease or carnivory in the new age, just as they did not perish in this fashion prior to Adam’s fall. Motyer comments extensively concerning Isaiah 11:6–9:
‘There is an Edenic element in Isaiah’s thinking … the life of nature itself is transformed. Verse 6-8 offer three facets of the renewed creation and verse 9 is a concluding summary. First, in verse 6 there is the reconciliation of old hostilities, the allaying of old fears; predators (wolf, leopard, lion) and prey (lamb, goat, calf) are reconciled. So secure is the peace that a youngster can exercise the dominion originally given to humankind. Secondly, in verse 7 there is a change of nature within the beasts themselves: cow and bear eat the same food, as do lion and ox. There is also a change in the very order of things itself: the herbivoral nature of all the creature points to Eden restored (Gn. 1:29–30). Thirdly, in verse 8 the curse is removed. The enmity between the woman’s seed and the serpent is gone (Gn. 3:15ab). Infant and ‘weaned child’ have nothing to fear from cobraand viper. Finally, in verse 9 the coming Eden is Mount Zion—a Zion which fills the whole earth. Peace (9a), holiness (9b), and ‘knowing the Lord’ (9c) pervades all [emphasis added].’62
‘Original animal immortality can hardly be maintained without presuming vast anatomical, behavioral and ecological changes in animals at the time of the fall. Scripture is fully silent on such changes, suggesting that there were none.’63
Munday is simply wrong. The universally futile and corrupt state of affairs that pervades the sub-human created order described by Paul points to one event as its cause: Adam’s fall. The text shows that the futility of the created order is far-reaching and comprehensive; all creation is under a universal death sentence. Munday is correct in describing the immense and vast changes that would have to transpire to subvert animal immortality and initiate carnivory and death, but this sort of change is exactly what Romans 8:19–23a is describing!
Munday proceeds to misinterpret Romans 8:22 by stating: ‘Creation’s own order has not been fundamentally and permanently altered. Instead, man’s sin has imposed on it a burden.’64 The futility of the sub-human created order as described by Paul cannot be ascribed to man’s mismanagement of its resources or its creatures. The text reveals that it was God who subjected the creation to futility, not man.65 The problem in the sub-human creation is far worse than man’s abuse of it. Are we to understand that earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and hurricanes that destroy both human and animal life are the result of man’s environmental abuse?
Cosmic Christology, cosmic restoration
‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and things on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. … For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross [emphasis added]’ (NIV).67
The Greek phrase, ta panta (τά πάντα) refers to the entire created order as the larger context asserts Christ’s supremacy over the entire universe. ‘All things’ includes everything in the sub-human creation. ‘All things’ require reconciliation; hence Christ will reconcile himself to all the things that he created, including the animal kingdom, the earth and the universe beyond. The comprehensiveness of the reconciliation demands a comprehensive schism in the relationship.
How can Christ reconcile himself to a creation, things on earth and things in heaven, that He created in a futile and corrupted state originally? There would be no reconciliation, for the state of the creation would always have been a futile, corrupt and decaying one. At the heart of the concept of reconciliation is a relationship that is restored. This line of reasoning leads to the conclusion that Christ’s creation was not futile and corrupt, characterized by death in the beginning, but was brought into its current corrupted state by God’s judgment as a result of Adam’s sin.
Revelation 22:3 reports that at the end of the age, ‘There shall be no more anything accursed’ (RSV). The expression, kai pan katathema ouk estai eti (καί πάν κατάθεμα ούκ έσται έτι), contains the same adjective with merely a different inflection, pasa, as Paul’s phrase, pasa hē ktisis (πάσα ‘η κτίσις). This is another universal expression describing the scope of the curse and is an unambiguous reference to Genesis 3:14–19.68 The universal effects of God’s judgment on the created order will be permanently and universally removed. Peter tells us of a ‘new heaven and new earth’ in 2 Peter 3:13, and this idea is repeated in Revelation 21:1. ‘The new earth’ would include the animals and plants that God created in an initially perfect condition. Jesus verifies this universal restoration in Matthew 19:28, when he proclaims: ‘Truly I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man shall sit on his glorious throne … ’ (RSV). These images of universal restoration are also found in the Old Testament, including Isaiah 11:1ff; 65:17ff; 66:22; Psalm 102:25–27; Hosea 2:18; and in non-canonical Jewish literature: 1 Enoch 45:4–5; 2 Baruch 31:5–32:6; 4 Ezra 7:11, 30–32, 75.69
Based upon all these factors, it would be logically impossible to justify an interpretation that asserts futility and the bondage of corruption at the moment of creation. A subsequent, post-Genesis-1 subjection is the only exegetical possibility. The only event recorded in Scripture that could provide additional insight into the subjection of the creation in Romans 8:19–23a is Genesis 3:14–19. This analysis is consistent with the view of most Biblical commentators, who have determined that Paul had the fall of Adam and the curse of Genesis 3:14–19 in view when authoring this text.70 Haldane sums up the case most succinctly: ‘It would be derogatory to the glory of God to suppose that his works are now in the same condition in which they were first formed, or that they will always continue as at present.’71
Romans 8:19–23a clearly teaches that the fall of Adam caused God to subject the entire sub-human created order to the bondage of corruption, a universal death sentence. This act was done with hope directly in view. The creation’s only hope is inexorably connected to the redemption of the children of God at the end of the age. Paul’s description of the state of redeemed humanity at the end of the age cannot be separated from the need for the created order itself to be redeemed. The fate of the ktisis depends solely on the fate of God’s children. The only explanation for their mutual destiny is that the created order and mankind also mutually fell into their current state of futility and corruption. Man did not fall into this corrupted state when he was created, and consequently, neither did the sub-human created order. The entire sub-human creation groans and suffers in unison. Adam’s fall in Genesis 3:14–19 was a far-reaching and universal event that had immense cosmic implications, not only on mankind, but also on the entire sub-human created order. The creation was given a cosmic death sentence that can only be eradicated by Christ. The combination of negative terms used by Paul irrefutably speaks of universal death. The universal nature of Paul’s language and an analysis of other relevant texts have revealed that animals also fell into this cosmic death sentence at the time of Adam’s fall.
It is most unfortunate that many scholars and exegetes find it difficult to accept such wide-ranging effects from Adam’s fall.72 The primary reason for this appears to be the assertion that ‘science’ has proven that there have been millions of years of death and catastrophe on the earth, particularly in the animal kingdom, prior to Adam’s existence. Many commentators believe that scientists have proven that the earth is billions of years old, and the long-age interpretation of the fossil record supports that conclusion. No matter how one approaches the chronological data in the Bible, no-one would argue that Adam lived millions or billions of years ago. Therefore, modern science has asserted that there are eons of death, disease and destruction in the animal kingdom which predate Adam’s existence. Destructive earthquakes, other natural catastrophes and mass extinctions in the animal kingdom, including carnivorous behaviour, had taken place in ages past, and therefore would still be taking place at the time Adam and Eve were created.
If this is true, then Romans 8:19–23a would have to be reinterpreted to mean something in a very limited sense. As noted above, many commentators have attempted to do just that. These reinterpretations of Paul’s theology, however, must include interpretations from modern historical science (not empirical science), and not from Scripture alone. Other attempts have been made to limit the ktisis to a strict anthropological-soteriological definition.73 These fruitless attempts at reinterpretation cannot be justified by a sound exegesis of the Greek text.
How could God declare in Genesis 1:31 that the creation was very good, when in fact, cataclysmic events such as earthquakes and meteorite impacts had been killing members of the animal kingdom for eons of time? Not to mention the obvious evidence today and in the fossil strata that animals kill one another and die from disease, injury and old age. Therefore, based on an analysis of Romans 8:19–23a and other relevant texts, there is a glaring contradiction between Paul’s theology and any attempt to reinterpret Scripture to accommodate old-earth dogmatism.
Romans 8:19–23a should point evangelical laymen and scholars alike to the plain, straightforward and natural reading of Genesis 1. Only with Scripture as a guide can the scientist accurately reconstruct the events of the past. Paul’s treatise in Romans 8:19–23a serves as an absolutely essential guidepost in understanding the age of the earth, because it describes the current state of the creation and how its beauty and perfection were horribly marred when Adam chose himself over his Creator.
I would like to acknowledge Mr Lester Hicks of Lancaster Bible College Graduate School (who introduced me to the Greek Language) and Mr Scott Lanser, Executive Director of ABR, for their input and guidance in writing this paper.
- The central purpose of this paper and space limitations do not allow a full exegesis of the complete literary unit, verses 18–25. Verse 23b has been added in this section to complete Paul’s thought. This translation has been provided to demonstrate that the Greek text fully supports a young earth. Return to text.
- Strong defines apokaradokia (ἀποκαραδοκία) as ‘intense anticipation, earnest expectation’. Strong, J., Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, p. 14, 1984. This anticipation is akin to waiting with the head erect and arms outstretched. Hodge, C., Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 269, 1953; Godet, F.L., Commentary on Romans, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1883; reprint, 1977; Cranfield, C.E.B., The International Critical Commentary: Romans, T&T Clark, 10 ed., 8 vols., vol. 1, London, p. 410, 2003. This sense of expectation is further augmented and emphasized with the present middle/passive indicative verb: apekdechetai (ἀπεκδέχεται). Apekdechetai can be understood as a ‘concentrated waiting’. Sanday, W., The Epistle to the Romans, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, p. 208, 1926. ‘Eagerly wait for’ is asserted by: Schreiner, T., Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 434, 1998. Return to text.
- In this paper, ktisis (κτίσις) will be translated as ‘creation’. Dunn, J.D.G., Word Biblical Commentary 38a: Romans 1–8, Word Books, Dallas, 1988, p. 465; Morris, L., The Epistle to the Romans, W.B. Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 318, 1988. ‘Creature’ is an alternative possibility, as found in the KJV. Luther, M., Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 107, 1954. Hodge also defends ‘creature’, but the content of his argument essentially provides a defence for ‘creation’. Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, pp. 269–73. See also: Barth, K., Epistle to the Romans, trans. Edwyn, C., Hoskyns, Oxford University Press, London, p. 303, 1977. A full defence and understanding of ktisis as ‘creation’ will be spelled out in the exegesis section of this paper. See also reference 18. The NIV and NRSV translate ktisis as the subject of the sentence, ‘the creation waits’. This translation differs from these versions because ktisis is in the genitive, tēs ktiseōs (τής κτίσεως). Dunn, J., Word Biblical Commentary 38a: Romans 1–8, p. 465: hē gar apokaradokia tēs ktiseōs … apekdechetai (ἡ γὰρ ἀποκαραδοκία τῆς κτίσεως τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τῶν υἱῶν τοῦ θεοῦ ἀπεκδέχεται). Return to text.
- The 3rd person aorist passive indicative verb hupetagē (ὑπετάγη) is translated as ‘was subjected’. Cranfield, The International Critical Commentary: Romans, pp. 413–414, 1975. Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, pp. 434–435. Most translations agree on this point. The Greek phrase reads: tē gar mataiotēti hē ktisis hupetagē ouch hekousa (τῇ γὰρ ματαιότητι ἡ κτίσις ὑπετάγη, οὐχ ἑκοῦσα). Return to text.
- The dative singular feminine noun mataiotēti (ματαιότητι) speaks of an object that does not function as it was designed) to. Dunn, J., Word Biblical Commentary 38a: Romans 1–8, 470. BAGD defines mataiotēti as: ‘state of being without use or value, emptiness, futility.’ Danker, F.W., (Ed.), Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, p. 621, 2000. Return to text.
- Ouch hekousa, not willingly. Fitzmyer, J., Romans: A New Translation, Anchor Bible, Doubleday, New York, p. 507, 1993. Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, p. 274. Gienusz defines the phrase as: ‘not its own fault’. Gienusz, A., Romans 8:18–30 Suffering Does Not Thwart the Future Glory, Scholar’s Press Atlanta, GA, pp. 154–6, 1999. Also, Sanday, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 208. NIV, NAS and NRSV all translate this as ‘not of its own will/choice’. The meaning is essentially the same. Return to text.
- The NIV and NRSV translate this phrase as: ‘but by the will of the one who subjected it … ’ The will is absent from the Greek text. Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 321. This phrase was probably added in these English texts to contrast ouch hekousa, not willingly. The aorist active participle hupotaxanta (ὑποτάξαντα) is derived from the root verb hupotassō (ὑποτάσσω) and is used in the accusative, alla dia ton hupotaxanta (ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸν ὑποτάξαντα). ‘To cause to be in a submissive relationship, to subject, to subordinate.’ Danker, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 1042. Dia (διά) is used with the accusative, making ‘on account of’ an appropriate translation. Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation, p. 227. Alla dia ton hupotaxanta can also be translated ‘but on account of the one who did the subjecting’. Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary 38a: Romans 1–8, p. 470. Because this phraseology is somewhat vague, the one is the preferred translation over the more specific word, him. For him see, Plumer, W., Commentary on Romans, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 408, 1971. Godet, Commentary on Romans, p. 314. ‘The one’ will be identified as God, effectively rendering him correct. Return to text.
- The phrase, eph elpidi (ἐφ' ἐλπίδι) is rendered in hope. Alla dia ton hupotaxanta eph elpidi. This phrase is understood as not just hoping that things would turn out well, but for the purpose of hope. Gienusz, Romans 8:18–30 Suffering Does Not Thwart the Future Glory, pp. 160–61. Barth, Epistle to the Romans, p. 309. Cranfield, The International Critical Commentary: Romans, p. 414. Return to text.
- Hoti kai autē hē ktisis (ὅτι καὶ αὐτὴ ἡ κτίσις). Dioti (διότι) is found at the beginning of this phrase in several witnesses, including א, D*, F, G, and 945. Aland, K. and B., Nestle-Aland Greek English New Testament, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, Germany, pp. 423, 690–1, 2005. A plausible explanation for the variant dioti could be dittography—the repetition of the last two letters of the previous word, elpidi. Thus, the scribe could have miscopied ΕΛΠΙΔΙΟΤΙ as ΕΛΠΙΔΙΔΙΟΤΙ (note, there were no spaces between words, and the oldest manuscripts are uncials or capitals). Hoti is the generally accepted translation, and can be found in P46, A, B, C, D2, Ψ, 6, 33, 81, 104, 256, 263, 424, 436 and other witnesses. Aland, Nestle–Aland Greek English New Testament, pp. 423, 690–91. Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary 38a: Romans 1–8, p. 466. Also is not found in the NRSV and NIV. Kai is rendered as also in the appropriate context. Mounce, W., Basics of Biblical Greek, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 436, 2003. Since hoti (because) is placed first in the sentence and connects Paul’s previous thought, kai would not be rendered here as and, but rather as also. Return to text.
- Hoti kai autē hē ktisis eleutherōthēsetai apo’tēs douleias’tēs phthoras (ὅτι καὶ αὐτὴ ἡ κτίσις ἐλευθερωθήσεται ἀπὸ τῆς δουλείας τῆς φθορᾶς). AV and NKJV render phthoras as corruption. The NIV and NRSV render the phrase as bondage to decay. The meaning is essentially the same. Douleias (δουλείας) carries with it all the ugly and destructive ideas behind slavery/bondage in this context and provides additional information about the creation’s futility. Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary 38a: Romans 1–8, pp. 471–72. Phthoras (φθορᾶς) is defined as ‘corruption, destroy, perish, ruin, decay’. Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, p. 75. Phthoras further defines the condition of the creation, adding specificity to mataiotēti (ματαιότητι) utilized in verse 20. The creation was not only subjected to futility, but a slavish corruption and futility. Stott, J., Romans, Intervarsity Press, Downer’s Grove, IL, p. 239, 1994. This combination of phrases communicates an awful, hopeless, futile and desperate state of affairs in the creation. Return to text.
- The Greek εἰς τὴν ἐλευθερίαν τῆς δόξης τῶν τέκνων τοῦ θεοῦ (eis’tēn eleutherian tēs doxēs’tōn teknōn tou theou) ‘into the liberty of the glory of’ is rendered: the children of God’, and is held by: Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary 38a: Romans 1–8, p. 472., and others (see below). Tēn eleutherian is in the accusative, while the additional phrases are in the genitive case. Tōn teknōn tou theou are descriptive of tēs doxēs. Tēs doxēs is ‘the leading fact, not the subordinate fact.’ Sanday, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 208. AV and NJKV render glorious liberty, understanding the phrase as adjectival. See also: Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, p. 274. Against this view are: Cranfield, The International Critical Commentary: Romans, pp. 414–16., Morris, The Epistle to the Romans., and Murray, J., The Epistle to the Romans, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 304, 1997. These three authors are against an adjectival phrase and argue for into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. Return to text.
- The phrase, pasa hē ktisis (πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις) refers to the whole creation. All major translations agree that pasa should be translated as whole. The repetition of ktisis three times in the immediate passages culminates with pasa hē ktisis the whole creation. Return to text.
- Sustenazei kai sunōdinei (συστενάζει καὶ συνωδίνει) are two active, indicative verbs and are translated in the present tense. Both verbs are defined with the inherent idea of together, so this translation repeats together to demonstrate the duplicate emphasis of the verbs in the Greek text. Cranfield translates together, and mentions: ‘with one accord’, Cranfield, The International Critical Commentary: Romans, p. 417. Sustenazei is defined as ‘to groan together with, lament, groan’. Danker, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 978. Sunōdinei is defined as ‘travail in pain together’, ‘to have pangs in company with’. Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, p. 70. Also, ‘suffer agony together’, Danker, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 977. Although sunōdinei conveys the idea of pangs, birth pangs is not strictly in the original text. Birth pangs/ labour pangs can be found in the NJKV, NIV, NAS, and NRSV. BAGD provides historical examples of the translation of birth pangs, but these examples are driven by context. Danker, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 977. Tsumura argues for birth pangs, with Eve in view from Genesis 3:16a. Tsumura, D.T., An OT background to Romans 8:22, New Testament Studies 40, 1994. Dunn argues for pains of childbirth. Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary 38a: Romans 1–8, p. 472. Return to text.
- This phrase, ou monon de alla kai autoi (οὐ μόνον δέ, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτοὶ) and not only this, but ourselves also, is translated in the RSV as ‘and not only the creation, but we ourselves’. Creation is not in the original text, but can be reasonably inferred from the contrasts in the context. NIV renders it: ‘Not only so, but we ourselves’. Schreiner supports ‘And not only’: Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 438. Ou monon de lacks a modifier, so this is added in English. Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 323. Alla kai autoi is understood here as ‘but ourselves also’. Plumer, Commentary on Romans, p. 410. Kai can be rendered as also in the appropriate context, and with alla preceding it, this phrasing is appropriate. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, p. 436. Gieniusz notes with examples that ou monon de alla kai is a rhetorical device used by Paul to heighten the previous statement. Gienusz, Romans 8:18–30 Suffering Does Not Thwart the Future Glory, p. 191. Return to text.
- This is considered a unit of thought by most commentators, followed by another unit of thought in 8:18–25. Myers, C.D., Chiastic inversion in the argument of Romans 3–8, Novum Testmentum 35:44, 1993; Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary 38a: Romans 1–8; Morris, The Epistle to the Romans; Barth, Epistle to the Romans, p. 302. Return to text.
- Barth, Epistle to the Romans. Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, Sanday, The Epistle to the Romans; Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. In verse 26, Paul returns to the topic of the Holy Spirit: ‘Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses … ’ (RSV). Return to text.
- Eastman notes that there is a movement in time implied in these verses. ‘From suffering to glory, from anticipation to apocalypse.’ Eastman, S., Whose apocalypse? The identity of the sons of God in Romans 8:19, Journal of Biblical Literature 121(2):265, 2002. Return to text.
- Ktisis (κτίσις) is defined by Strong as: ‘original formation, building, creation, creature, ordinance.’ Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, p. 44. ‘Act of creation, creation, that which is created’, Danker, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, pp. 572–573. ‘Creation, creature, that which is created’, Balz, H. and Schneider, G., Ed., Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 2, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 325,1981. Return to text.
- Mortenson, T., But from the beginning of … the institution of marriage?
, 1 November 2004. Return to text.
- Godet outlines some of the more obscure and obviously untenable definitions of ktisis such as: unconverted Jews, Christians of the new creation, and the flesh in the regenerate believer. Godet, Commentary on Romans, p. 314. Return to text.
- Gager unsuccessfully argues that ‘in Paul, this cosmic dimension has been significantly limited to an anthropological category, and its primary reference has become the nonbelieving, human world.’ Gager, J., Functional diversity in the use of Paul’s end time language, Journal of Biblical Literature 89:329, 1970. Return to text.
- Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 435. Eastman argues the ktisis includes the entire sub-human creation together with unbelieving humanity: Eastman, S., Whose apocalypse? The identity of the sons of God in Romans 8:19, Journal of Biblical Literature 121(2):265, 2002. She makes a direct connection between this futile condition and Adam’s fall, arguments consistent with the view of this paper, except for the inclusion of unbelieving humanity. Return to text.
- 1 John 2:15,16; 3:1,13; 4:3,4; 1 Corinthians 4:13; John 15:19 Return to text.
- Revelation 12:7–12. Return to text.
- ‘They [the unfallen angels] are not burdened with the consequences of man’s apostacy, nor can they be represented as longing for deliverance from that burden.’ Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 270. Return to text.
- Godet, Commentary on Romans, p. 313. Also see reference 9. The use of also indicates a comparison to something else, i.e. something else will be liberated, also. Gienusz, Romans 8:18–30 Suffering Does Not Thwart the Future Glory, p. 163. Return to text.
- ‘If humankind, including believing humankind, is included in the reference to κτίσις [ktisis] in verses 19–22, the contrast with believers in verse 23 then becomes meaningless.’ Bolt, J., The relation between Creation and Redemption in Romans 8:18–27, Calvin Theological Journal 30:39, 1995. Return to text.
- Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 302. This view is generally accepted by commentators, including Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 322; Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 435; Barth, Epistle to the Romans, p. 310. Return to text.
- Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, p. 273. Return to text.
- Haldane, R., An Exposition of Romans, McDonald Publishing Company, Florida, p. 370, 1958. Return to text.
- Stott notes that Paul had no knowledge of galaxies, so only earth could have been in view. Stott, Romans, 239. However, Paul was no doubt familiar with Genesis 1:16, ‘He also made the stars.’ (NIV) Shedd agrees with Stott: ‘There is nothing in these portions of revelation that necessitates the assertion that the curse upon physical nature extends throughout universal space.’ Shedd, W. A Critical and Doctrinal Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 254, 1967. Most commentators are silent on this particular issue. The usage here and the close parallel of Colossians 1:15 demands a comprehensive scope. Certainly Paul believed that God made the entire universe, no matter what his understanding of the cosmos may have been. Return to text.
- Schneider, ed., Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, p. 326. Gienusz, Romans 8:18–30 Suffering Does Not Thwart the Future Glory, p. 194. ‘The sense of totality of πᾶς in v. 22 is plain, independently of whether one agrees or not that Paul always follows the ‘rule’ that the adjective πᾶς [pas] with an articular noun means “the whole of”’. Return to text.
- Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 305. Wuest, K., Romans in the Greek New Testament, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 139, 1955. Return to text.
- Oke, C., A suggestion with regard to Romans 8:23, Interpretation 11:460, 1957. Return to text.
- Almost all commentators agree on these three possible choices. Return to text.
- ‘The phrasing is awkward … . The reason for the difficulty is probably that Paul was attempting to convey too briefly a quite complicated point: that God subjected all things to Adam, and that included subjecting creation to fallen Adam, to share in his fallenness.’ Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary 38a: Romans 1–8, 471. Return to text.
- Aorist verbs in languages such as Greek and Sanskrit indicate simply that something has happened; compare imperfect where the action was ongoing or the perfect where the action and consequences are completed. E.g. ‘he was dribbling the ball (imperfect—ongoing action) till he scored a goal (aorist—it doesn’t say when, just that he scored) and which won the final match (perfect—game over). Mounce, W., Basics of Biblical Greek, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003. Return to text.
- Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, p. 274. Schreiner sees hupetagē (ὑπετάγη) as a divine passive, Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 435. Gienusz notes that the use of hupetagē in Pauline writings always refers to God/Christ. Gienusz, Romans 8:18–30 Suffering Does Not Thwart the Future Glory, p. 158. Return to text.
- The personification of nature is well known in the Old Testament: Isaiah 24:4, 7; 65:17,25; 66:22. Jeremiah 4:28; 12:4. Return to text.
- Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 303. Schreiner prefers hupetagē as the referent. Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 436. Fitzmyer argues hupetagē is too remote in the sentence, and therefore eph elpidi modifies hupotaxanta Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation, p. 508. Hodge asserts that in either case the sense is the same: Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, p. 274. Return to text.
- Wuest, Romans in the Greek New Testament, p. 139. Return to text.
- Godet makes a quasi-argument for Satan, concerned that there is a risk of assigning some immoral culpability to God if God is the subjector. Godet, Commentary on Romans, 3:14–15. Most commentators quickly dismiss Satan as the subjector, based mainly on the same arguments stated here. Return to text.
- Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation, p. 508. Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 434–35. Schreiner states: ‘ … the word “subjection” implies an authority that does not fit with the tragic consequences of Adam’s sin in which subjection was lost rather then gained.’ Return to text.
- Bruce, F.F., (Ed.), R. Tasker, Romans, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, InterVarsity Press, Leicester, UK, pp. 168–74, 1963. Return to text.
- Stott, Romans, p. 239. Return to text.
- Hill, E., Construction of three passages from St. Paul, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 23:297, 1961. For a full exposition of God’s lordship over all things, see Frame, J., The Doctrine of God: A Theology of Lordship, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 2002. Return to text.
- Bolt, J., The Relation between Creation and Redemption in Romans 8:18–27, Calvin Theological Journal 30:46, 1995. The use of ὑπετάγη is considered a divine passive in this instance, as noted in references 4 and 38. Return to text.
- For this incorrect view, see: Lewis, G.E., Christian Theodicy: An Exposition of Romans 8:18–39, Interpretation 11, 1957. Lewis argues the creation is in bondage merely because it exists. Man is sinful simply because he exists. Lewis asserts that temporality necessitates death and decay. Lampe sadly exposits Paul’s theology, but then admits he does not believe it: ‘We cannot follow him [Paul] here. Genesis and φθορᾶ [phthora] in nature, including the physical death of the human body, have to be recognized as part of the created order willed by God and therefore good.’ Lampe provides no evidence for this view, except that he accepts the so-called evolutionary development of man a priori, i.e. theistic evolution. Lampe, G., The New Testament Doctrine of Ktisis, Scottish Journal of Theology 17, 1964. TDNT states that the phthoras and mataiotēs are due to the endless cycle of reproduction and death in the plant and animal kingdom. Kittell, (Ed.), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, p. 1031. None of these arguments are based on an analysis of the text itself, but instead rely on other theological or scientific presuppositions. Return to text.
- Some commentators have postulated a gap of billions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, characterized by pre-Adamic men, a global flood (not Noah’s Flood) and the Fall and judgment of Lucifer. This, of course, would be a futile and corrupt state of affairs. This theory was first postulated by Thomas Chalmers in 1814, and is known as the Gap Theory. The main problem with this theory is that the meaning of the Hebrew words, tōhû and bōhû in Genesis 1:2 are understood as being connected to God’s judgment. The judgment meaning is illegitimately transferred from the context of other Old Testament passages, such as Jeremiah 4:23. For a full refutation of this exegetically unsound ‘gap theory’, see: Fields, W., Unformed and Unfilled: A Critique of the Gap Theory, Burgener Enterprises, Collinsville, IL, 1976. Return to text.
- This summary description, very good, is preceded by the repetitive use of good six different times in the creation narrative, hardly a description of a corrupt and futile state of affairs. Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 24. Return to text.
- Greidanus, S., Preaching Christ from the Narrative of the Fall, Bibliotheca Sacra 161(643):272, 2004. Grudem, W., Systematic Theology, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 188, 2000. Morris, H., The Genesis Record, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 120, 1976. Fruchtenbaum, A.G., Messianic Christology, Ariel Ministries, CA, 1998. Return to text.
- Hunter, A.M., Romans, SCM Press, London, p. 82, 1955. Return to text.
- ‘Solidarity in the matter of restoration is naturally associated with solidarity in the fall.’ Godet, Commentary on Romans, p. 314. Return to text.
- Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary 38a: Romans 1–8. Emphasis mine. Return to text.
- Tobin, T.H., Paul’s Rhetoric in Its Contexts, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, p. 290, 2004. This viewpoint is supported by Myers, who argues there is a direct linguistic connection in structure between Romans 5 and Romans 8. Myers, C.D., Chiastic inversion in the argument of Romans 3–8, Novum Testmentum 35:42–43, 1993. Return to text.
- Black, C.D., Pauline perspectives on death in Romans 5–8, Journal of Biblical Literature 103(S):428, 1984. Return to text.
- BAGD defines phthoras as: ‘breakdown of organic matter, dissolution, deterioration, corruption’. Various references provided from non-canonical works refer to death, decay and destruction. Danker, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 1055. Return to text.
- Barth, Epistle to the Romans, p. 309. Return to text.
- Genesis 1:30, NIV. Some critics of this view point out that there was death before Adam’s fall, the eating of plants as commanded by God in Genesis 1:29–30. First, our common sense tells us that plants are not conscious beings, they are not alive in the same sense that animals are. This is actually verified in Scripture by the designation of life principle, (nephesh chayyāh נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה). This Hebrew description of life is connected to man, ‘living soul’, and some kinds of animals, but is never applied to plants. Sarfati, J., Refuting Compromise, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, p. 205, 2004. Sarfati, J., The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe—Hugh Ross’s blunders on plant death in the Bible, Journal of Creation 19(3):62, 2005. Return to text.
- Munday, J.C., Creature mortality: from creation or the Fall? Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 35, 1992. Space does not permit a full refutation of Munday’s article, which is posted on Hugh Ross’ website,
, 2002. A superficial review of his article reveals a minimum of 20 unprovable assumptions and errors in exegesis, which intend to refute in a future article. Return to text.
- The future state will not be exactly like the pre-Fall world, but similar to it in the sense that there will be no more death, disease and decay, both for humanity and the rest of God’s creation. For example, Revelation 22:4 seems to indicate that the sun will no longer be needed, because God will give the light. Some differences in the pre-Fall world versus the world at the end of the age cannot be extrapolated to mean that there was rampant death and disease in the animal kingdom in the pre-Fall world, but there will be none at the end of the age. For further comments on this subject see: Gurney, R.J.M., The carnivorous nature and suffering of animals, Journal of Creation 18(3):70–75, 2004. Motyer, A., The Prophecy of Isaiah, InterVarsity Press, Leicester, UK, p. 124, 1993. Return to text.
- Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, p. 124. Return to text.
- Munday, J.C., Creature mortality: from creation or the Fall? Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 35:67, 1992. Return to text.
- Munday, ref. 61. Several other commentators, expressing concern for the environment, have come to the same erroneous conclusion. Essentially, they argue that the creation has been subjected to man’s evil exploitation of its resources and abuse of its creatures. Lampe, G., The New Testament doctrine of Ktisis, Scottish Journal of Theology 17, 1964. Santmire, P., The liberation of nature: Lynn White’s challenge anew, Christian Century 102, 1985. This type of interpretation is a 20th and 21st century aberration. Return to text.
- Gurney, R.J.M., The carnivorous nature and suffering of animals, Journal of Creation 18(3):70–75, 2004. Return to text.
- Bolt, J., The Relation between creation and Redemption in Romans 8:18–27, Calvin Theological Journal 30:34–40, 1995. Return to text.
- The phrase, and in him all things hold together, implies that the very essence of all things depends on God for its very existence. If God were to remove himself completely from the universe, it would cease to exist. Some Christian scientists have hypothesized, rightly in my view, that Adam’s fall caused God to remove some of this sustaining power, hence subjecting the creation to futility as described in Romans 8:19–23a, Morris, The Genesis Record, p. 126–27. A temporary suspension of current decay is seen in the preservation of sandals and suspension of foot fatigue in the wilderness wanderings after the Exodus. It is a suspension of current conditions, and interestingly gives a glimpse of what things may have been like in the pre-Fall world. Return to text.
- The Septuagint uses a word similar in meaning for cursed in Genesis 3:14, 17, epikataratos (epikataratoςj) also found in Galatians 3:10 and Luke 6:4. Danker, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 373. Return to text.
- Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 437. Return to text.
- Calvin, J., Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 19, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 304, 1979. Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 432. Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 321. Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, p. 271. Sanday, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 205. Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 303. Stott, Romans, p. 238. Cranfield, The International Critical Commentary: Romans, p. 416. Tsumura, D.T., An OT background to Romans 8:22, New Testament Studies 40:620–621, 1994. Wuest, Romans in the Greek New Testament, p. 137. Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation, p. 229. Griffith, T., St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 221, 1947. Return to text.
- Haldane, An Exposition of Romans, p. 372. Return to text.
- Note the following small sampling of commentators and authors who defer to the findings of modern ‘science’ as their authority when discussing this text: Danker, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 1031. Lewis, E., Christian theodicy: an exposition of Romans 8:18–39, Interpretation 11, 1957. Lampe, G., The New Testament doctrine of Ktisis, Scottish Journal of Theology 17, 1964. Godet, Commentary on Romans, p. 316. Timm, R., Let’s not miss the theology of the creation accounts, Currents in Theology and Mission 13, 1986. Holmes, R., Does nature need to be redeemed? Zygon 29, 1994. Munday, J.C., Creature mortality: from creation or the Fall? Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 35, 1992. Munday ends his paper by stating: ‘ … the consequence of concluding otherwise leads to flood geology’. This viewpoint rejects the Flood in the days of Noah to be recent, cataclysmic and universal, and therefore the cause of most geological features seen today on the planet. Acceptance of a recent, global Flood in the days of Noah precludes old-earth interpretations of the fossil record. Rejecting ‘flood geology’ logically means one ought to accept old-earth geology and a local flood, i.e. millions of years of death and suffering in the animal kingdom before Adam’s sin. Return to text.
- Bolt has done an excellent job refuting these interpretations. Bolt, J., The relation between Creation and Redemption in Romans 8:18–27, Calvin Theological Journal 30, 1995. Return to text