c) Rom 8:20: Paul now turned his attention to why all of creation waits eagerly (Rom 8:19).[1]

He wrote, “For creation not willingly was subjected to futility because of the one who subjected it, in hope.”

Although “futility” (mataiotēs) occurs in only two other New Testament references (Eph 4:17 and 2 Pet 2:18), the Greek translation of the Old Testament uses it fifty-three times, with thirty-nine citations in Ecclesiastes.[2]

The term connotes lack of value, emptiness, purposelessness, and a transitory state (Ecc 1:1–11).[3]

Many Greco-Roman philosophers viewed matter as inherently corrupt.[4]

For example, Plotinus (ca. 204–270 AD) contended, “Cut off as we are by the nature of the body, God has yet given us, in the midst of all this evil, virtue the unconquerable.”[5]

Contrary to that view, nature is not diabolical but the innocent victim of humanity’s disobedience (Gen 3:17–18; Deut 11:13–17).[6]

Since Adam and Eve obeyed the creature rather than the creator (Gen 3:1–7), their actions profoundly affected the mandate and promise of Gen 1:26–29. As a result, creation no longer functions as the Lord originally intended.[7]

“Not willingly” (hekōn) emphasizes the unjust and involuntary servitude of creation in this state of affairs.

The passive voice of “was subjected” (hypotassō) connotes an authoritative action,[8] removing any suspicion that creatures now reign over humans.[9]

That this condition was “on account of him who subjected it” indicates that God functions as the agent of this state.[10]

By succumbing to temptation, Adam lost rather than gained control over the created order (Gen 3:4–7, 17–19).[11] In keeping with the threats of Deut 28:15–24, Isa 24:3–7 eloquently expresses the consequences of breaking the covenant.

But all is not lost. Countering the pessimistic view of the first century that death and decay reign supreme,[12] Paul concluded this verse with “in hope” due to the condition under which the curse took place.[13]

The apostle likely alluded to the promise of Gen 3:15,[14] invoking the right and responsibility of God to judge and dispense with evil.[15]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Rom 8:20. Why doesn’t nature function as had been intended?  How does God’s promise in Gen 3:15 provide hope to the created order?

 

 

 

Go to Set Free from the Slavery of Corruption

 

[Related posts include Co-Heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–18); Creation’s Eager Expectation (Rom 8:19); Set Free from the Slavery of Corruption (Rom 8:21–22); Stewards of the Earth (Gen 1:26 cont.); Male and Female He Created Them (Gen 1:27); The Blessing of Fruitfulness (Gen 1:28); The Lord Provides Food (Gen 1:29–30); A Well-Watered Garden (Gen 2:8–14); Forbidden Fruit (Gen 2:16–17); Serpents in the Ancient Near East (Gen 3:1); A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6); The First Good News (Gen 3:15); Thorns and Thistles (Gen 3:17–18); A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); Ancient Literature; and Greek Translation of the Old Testament]

 

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: Painful Toil (Genesis 3:17–21)]

 

[1] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1:413.

[2] Logos 7 word search on “ματαιοτης” (mataiotēs) in Swete’s version of the Septuagint.

[3]Danker, et al., “ματαιοτης” (mataiotēs), BDAG, 621.

[4]Harry Alan Hahne, “The Whole Creation Has Been Groaning,” in Apocalyptic Vision (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2010), 19–26, 19, http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/106707.pdf.

[5]Plotinus, The Six Enneads, 2nd Ed. (trans. Stephen Mackenna, revised by B. S. Page; London: Faber and Faber, 2007), 2.3.9,97, Https://archive.org/stream/plotinustheennea033190mbp#page/n9/mode/2up.

[6] Keener, IVPBBCNT, Rom 8:20

[7] Dunn, Romans 1–8, 470.

[8] Hahne, “The Whole Creation has been Groaning,” 21, http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/106707.pdf.

[9] Ciampa, “Genesis 1–3 and Paul’s Theology of Adam’s Dominion in Romans 5–6,” 109.

[10]Mounce Robert H., Romans (NAC; Nashville: Broadman &Holman, 1995), 184.

[11] Schreiner, Romans, 435.

[12] Keener, IVPBBCNT, Rom 8:20

[13] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 516.

[14] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1:414.

[15]N. T. Wright, Paul in Fresh Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 22.