The Function of ‘likewise’ (ΩΣΑΥΤΩΣ) in Romans 8:26 -- By: Geoffrey Smith

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 49:1 (NA 1998)
Article: The Function of ‘likewise’ (ΩΣΑΥΤΩΣ) in Romans 8:26
Author: Geoffrey Smith


The Function of ‘likewise’ (ΩΣΑΥΤΩΣ)
in Romans 8:26

Geoffrey Smith

Paul uses the comparative adverb ὡσαύτως in Romans 8:26 to compare the Spirit’s ministry of helping Christians in their weakness to something he had written previously. Interpreters of this text, however, have not been able to reach a consensus in their attempts to identify the antecedent subject of the comparison. This article proposes a fresh consideration of the view that Paul is comparing the Spirit’s ministry in 8:26 to the Spirit’s ministry in 8:16.

I. Introduction

Students familiar with Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome are well aware that 8:26 presents the interpreter with a handful of exegetical challenges. What is ‘our weakness’? Who is interceding, the Spirit or the believer assisted by the Spirit? Is the ‘groaning’ a reference to glossolalia or something else?

One exegetical difficulty that has not received the attention it deserves is the function of the comparative adverb ‘likewise’ (hereafter: ὡσαύτως). This is rather surprising given the fact that, by using it as he does here, Paul is saying that 8:26 is logically connected to—and thus dependent upon—something he has previously said. A satisfactory solution to this problem might also help to pry open other exegetical doors in this verse.

Frequently scholars have a tendency simply to state their views on the function of ὡσαύτως. This has the effect of allowing them to pass over the difficulties attached to their views. In this study, I hope to demonstrate two things: first, that the standard interpretations of the function of ὡσαύτως in Romans 8:26 are burdened by difficulties and thus remain unsatisfying; and, second, that the function of ὡσαύτως can be established with reasonable certainty.

II. Some Common Interpretations

The RSV translates Romans 8:26 in the following manner: ‘Likewise (lit. ‘in the same way also’ [ὡσαύτως δὲ καί]1 ), the Spirit helps us in our weakness.’ In this verse, the Spirit’s ministry of assisting believers is being compared...

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