What does Paul mean by "God is my witness"?:

Rom 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] μάρτυς γάρ μού ἐστιν ὁ θεός, ᾧ λατρεύω ἐν τῷ πνεύματί μου ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὡς ἀδιαλείπτως μνείαν ὑμῶν ποιοῦμαι

Is this equivalent to "I swear to God that..."?

Or does he have some particular testimony by God within time and space that God is testifying on his behalf?

  • 1
    A witness does not just observe, a witness also then testifies.
    – Joshua
    Jun 20, 2016 at 23:42
  • @Joshua That was my thought as well. I just don't see what Paul was saying God would actually do in time and space to act as his witness.
    – user10231
    Jun 21, 2016 at 0:08

4 Answers 4


I don't believe Paul is swearing to God in this verse. It seems Paul is using God as verification that what Paul says is true. This definitely implies Paul is swearing to God, but I don't think the swear is directed towards God; it's directed towards the men Paul speaks to. Paul is claiming God has witnessed and verifies Paul's word is true. In English, this would be considered the equivalent to the idiom of "I swear to God", but I don't think the language allows for a direct swear towards God.

Paul is saying God can witness and testify that what Paul says is true. So rather than "I swear to God", Paul is saying "I swear to you that if I'm lying, God is also lying". The Greek word for witness is μάρτυς G3144.

"He is said to be a witness, to whose attestation appeal is made; hence, the formulas μάρτυς μου ἐστιν ὁ Θεός, Romans 1:9 (Paul); Philippians 1:8 (Paul); Θεός μάρτυς, 1 Thessalonians 2:5 (Paul): μάρτυρα τόν Θεόν ἐπικαλοῦμαι, 2 Corinthians 1:23 (Paul); ὑμεῖς μάρτυρες καί ὁ Θεός, 1 Thessalonians 2:10 (Paul)"

To "swear to God" is to make a promise towards God that you will do or you have done something. If you swear to do something, you are obligated to do it. If you swear you've done something, then you are either lying or telling the truth.

Like if someone said...

"Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before (ἐνώπιον: before the face of, in the presence of) God, I lie not." Galatians 1:20

b. metaphorically: πίστιν ἔχε ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ, have faith satisfied with this that it is not hidden from the sight of God, Romans 14:22; ἁμαρτάνειν ἐνώπιον τίνος (see ἁμαρτάνω at the end), Luke 15:18, 21; especially in affirmations, oaths, adjurations: ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ, τοῦ κυρίου, etc., Galatians 1:20 (Paul); 1 Timothy 5:21 (Paul); 1 Timothy 6:13 (Paul); 2 Timothy 2:14 (Paul); 2 Timothy 4:1 (Paul). Hence, those are said to do something in the presence of one who have him present to their thought, who set him before their mind's eye: προωρώμην (πρωρωμην L T Tr WH) τόν κύριον ἐνώπιον μου, Acts 2:25; ταπεινοῦσθαι ἐνώπιον τοῦ κυρίου, James 4:10 (Sir. 2:17).

That would be swearing to God. If you're lying, then you're lying directly towards God. Here, Paul is saying "in front of you and in front of God, I'm telling the truth". (The thing that Paul is talking about here can be comfirmed at Acts 9:?.)

This is why Yeshua does not advise us to make any vows...

"Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." Matthew 5:33

I hope that clears it up. Thank you.

  • (+1) This is an excellent answer except that it doesn't explain what Paul is doing if he's not swearing. How would you describe what he means by "God is my witness"?
    – user10231
    Jun 20, 2016 at 22:19
  • @WoundedEgo I edited the answer to include more details as to why I believe Paul was not making a direct swear towards God in Romans 1:9. Thank you.
    – Cannabijoy
    Jun 21, 2016 at 1:19
  • ISTM that Paul went beyond "yes/no": biblehub.com/matthew/5-37.htm biblehub.com/james/5-12.htm
    – user10231
    Jun 21, 2016 at 9:54
  • Yes, Paul went beyond yes/no. We all go beyond yes/no, otherwise there could be no conversations. But to say "God witnesses what I say is true" (without any way to verify it) or "I tell the truth before God" (especially when you're obviously lying)....that is far beyond yes/no. Jacob knew that as well. Jacob wasn't an Apostle, but at least he knew how to quote a few things Yeshua taught. But I like what Joshua said, "A witness also testifies". So rather than saying "I swear to God", I think Paul is saying "If I'm lying then God is also lying".
    – Cannabijoy
    Jun 21, 2016 at 12:56
  • Exactly. He reinforces his assertion by God's reputation. I kind of think that Paul didn't get Jesus'/James' memo!
    – user10231
    Jun 21, 2016 at 13:18

When speaking of the Promise of the Seed of Jesus, or the New Covenant, we see the writer of Hebrews state;For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He swear by Himself. Hebrews 6:13 Yes we see that the Angel of the Lord (which is the Word/Jesus), speaking this same statement to Abraham in Genesis 22:15-18. But when God swear to something He can not go any Greater than Himself. And if God swears something we know it is going to come true.

I bring this is up because Paul being full of the Holy Spirit knew that He had faithfully prayer for the believers in Rome so that he knew the greatest Witness anyone could have is the Living God. Paul was simply saying I have the Three Greatest Witnesses to my faithfulness to pray for you the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

For in this matter the Roman Christians knew someone was faithfully praying for them; and everyone spirits could be lifted up. This is the third time i am coming to you, in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. II Corinthians 13:1

So my view is that Paul was exhorting the believers in Rome, with heavenly proof that he had prayed faithfully for them all. For their is no greater witness than God.


This, except it is translated wrong, is swearing. To swear is to bring solemnity,credibility and veracity to one's words or testimony by evoking the FEAR or TRUTHFULNESS of God or any other thing that men in their collective consciences respect/reverence. Jesus commands us to do no such thing but to allow our common and base speech to be the only mark of our integrity and credibility. We ought not to impress solemnity/veracity upon anyone beyond the truthfulness of our words.


Properly speaking though men ought to have sworn not by things they cannot control but by things they can. Many who swear fall short not only because they are liars and had no intentions of fulfilling their vows but simply because of things going beyond their control or speaking of things for which they had not a full knowledge. In such case they were to have suffered only that which they able part with. Like Judah swore by his signate and staff. Which he lost but was later returned to him. But men had developed the vain practice of swearing upon those things over which he had no control and even worst by making solemn promises that they had no intentions of keeping. This was great evil as it invoked the Great God of creation in frivolity. No man treats earthly kings with such disrespect. But with proper reference to Paul the statement that "I pray for you always" ought to have been sufficient but he went beyond to entice them to believing him by calling God as a witness. Now we cannot doubt him but why did he see it as necessary to add? Perharp it was his strong Israelite and phareesaic culture popping out.

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