The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Boylan’s Commentary on Romans 8:22-27

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 19, 2017

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. Text in red or are my additions. I’ve employed text in green to help the reader identify Greek prefixes here these are important for Fr. Boylan’s comments.

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 = groaneth) 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.

Rom 8:24  For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for?
Rom 8:25  But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience.

τη γαρ ελπιδι εσωθημεν, etc.  (for we are saved by hope): The  τη ελπιδι may mean, (a) for hope (dative of advantage), (b) through hope (instrumental dative), (c) as to hope i.e. (dativus modi], in hoping fashion.

Gut. accepts (a) and explains “for this hope” i.e., the glorification of our bodies is a “hope” in the sense of an object of hope; and for this object of hope, or unto the attainment of this object of hope, we have become participant in salvation through faith and baptism. As, according to Paul, we are saved by faith, not by hope, (b) is not in the spirit of Pauline teaching. Bard, and Lagrange accept (c): we are already redeemed and justified and, in so far, saved; but we still hope for redemption, since the body still looks for redemption. The sense is then, that we are saved in a hoping fashion but not yet fully in reality.

A thing that is hoped for must still be absent and invisible. If a thing is present and fully visible, it cannot be an object of hope: a “visible object of hope” is not a genuine object of hope!

The reading of the clause ο γαρ βλεπει τις ελπιζει (For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for) is uncertain.  At this point, Father Boylan gives several variant readings in the Greek manuscripts, but these need not detain us here since The sense of all the readings is substantially the same. What need has a man still to expect what he directly beholds? Spes est expeclatio futuri (“Hope is the expectation of something future,” Aquinas), and that which is immediately present and visible, is not futurum.

But the Christian does not behold the glory which is prepared for him. It is in the future. Hope, steadfast and patient, is an essential feature of the Christian life. The confident, patient hope of final glory is itself a guarantee of attaining that glory; and nothing, therefore, should be permitted to lessen the dogged steadfastness of our Christian hope.

Rom 8:26  Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For, we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings,

ωσαυτως (likewise), etc.: As we sigh together with irrational nature, so does the indwelling Holy Spirit help our weakness by helping us in our prayers, and sighing with us for the glory which is to come.

In the patient hopeful waiting, and longing of the Christ an life the Holy Spirit, Whom we have received as “firstfruits,” or “pledge” of salvation, graciously comes to the help of our weakness. Often in times of trouble we do not rightly know what God would have us ask for in prayer, or how He would have us to pray. As Aquinas says: In
generali quidem possumus scire quid convenienter oremus, sed in speciali hoc non possumus scire (we can know in a general way what it is suitable to pray for, but we cannot know this in particular). In this uncertainty as to how or what precisely we ought to pray, the Holy Spirit Himself (αυτο το πνευμα), Who dwells in us, comes to our help, and prays with us, and through us, by inspiring us with unutterable sighings. In nobis gemit (Spiritus Sanctus)
quia nos gemere facit (in us He [the Holy Spirit] groans because He makes us to groan. Augustine). Every due and suitable prayer that we utter in the abnormal seasons referred to, is produced in us by the Holy Spirit. Paul is obviously not speaking here of ordinary prayer, but of extraordinary and unusual prayer of mystic prayer, apparently, of which it can be said (as of the name written on the stone in Rev 2:17) ο ουδεις εγνω ει μη ο λαμβανων (no man knoweth but he that receiveth it). With this gift of mystic or ecstatic prayer should be compared the charism
of tongues.

The υπερ (on behalf of, for the sake of) in the word υπερεντυγχανει (asketh for us) implies that the Holy Spirit prays in our stead.  The sighings which He evokes in us are “unspeakable” because we cannot put them into clear words. But they are, nevertheless, in effect, prayers pleasing to God.

Rom 8:27  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what the Spirit desireth: because he asketh for the saints according to God. 

The “unspeakable groans” are fully understood by God because He is the “Searcher of hearts” (Ps 7:10; Jer 18:1; etc.) The Searcher of hearts knows (with approval) what the Holy Spirit has in view the φρονημα του πνευματος (the intentions of the Spirit, translated above as “what the Spirit desires”). Men’s hearts are often unintelligible to the men themselves, but not to God; He sees them through and through, for παντα δε γυμνα και τετραχηλισμενα τοις οφθαλμοις αυτου (all things are naked and open to his eyes, Heb. 4:13).

God and the Holy Spirit are one in nature, and hence God must know the purpose of the Holy Spirit when He prays in and through us. Furthermore, it is clear that the Holy Spirit can only pray “for the Saints” according to God’s designs and wishes (κατα θεον = “according to the will of God”).

The “Saints” are those who are in sanctifying grace, and who, therefore, enjoy the indwelling of the Spirit. The object of the sighing which the Holy Spirit evokes is “redemption of the body” (v. 23), heavenly glory (cf. 2 Cor. 5:2 ff.), union with Christ (Phil. 1:23).

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