Periodical Reviews -- By: Carisa A. Ash

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 173:689 (Jan 2016)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Carisa A. Ash

Periodical Reviews

By The Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary

Carisa A. Ash


“The Hope of Creation: The Significance of ἐφ’ ἐλπίδι (Rom 8.20c) in Context,” John Duncan, New Testament Studies 61 (July 2015): 411-27.

John Duncan is an adjunct professor at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. In this engaging article, he offers a “fresh proposal” for interpreting the prepositional phrase ἐφ’ ἐλπίδι (“in hope”) in Romans 8:20 (p. 412). According to Duncan, this phrase is significant because Romans 8:18-25 is “a crucial passage for understanding Paul’s views concerning the present condition and eschatological hope of creation” (p. 411). Duncan demonstrates that the precise meaning of verse 20 is debated among commentators and proposes a reading that “obviates a number of difficulties” present in their solutions (p. 412). He begins by surveying the landscape of Romans 8 in order to set the stage for his discussion. Next, he describes and critiques three common interpretations of ἐφ’ ἐλπίδι in Romans 8:20. Finally, he provides an alternate solution that he claims makes the best use of the data and logic of the passage.

The first common interpretation suggests that the hope described in Romans 8:20c “is that which underlay and motivated God’s act of subjecting creation” (p. 418). Duncan concludes that “there is clear grammatical warrant” for this understanding of the preposition (p. 419). The resultant translation based on such an understanding is provided by the NJB: “It was not for its own purposes that creation had frustration imposed on it, but for the purposes of him who imposed it—with the intention that [i.e., ‘on the basis of God’s hope that’] the whole creation itself might be freed” (p. 420). Though this argument stands on solid grammatical grounds, Duncan finds it difficult to accept that God might act “in hope,” since “genuine hope . . . entails a certain inability to verify in advance that the object of one’s hope will be realised” (ibid.).

The second common interpretation understands hope as “that which God aimed to produce in creation by subjecting it” (p. 421). The translation based on this theory states “creation was subjected to futility for the purpose of

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