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In Romans 8:35 and 8:39, is it "Christ's love" and "God's love" [subjective/objective]? Or, "love for Christ" and "love for God"? I can see it both ways but I think the context is about endurance and Paul is saying that nothing would be able to separate the saints from their love for God and his Christ. Here is the context which I modified from "love of" to "love for":

Young's Literal Translation (YLT):

Rom 8:35  Who shall separate us from the love for Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Rom 8:36  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Rom 8:37  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us [God].  Rom 8:38  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Rom 8:39  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love for God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If it is "love for God" then the definite article refers to the love "shed abroad" in the believers' hearts:

YLT

Rom 5:3 And not only so , but we also boast in the tribulations, knowing that the tribulation doth work endurance; Rom 5:4 and the endurance, experience; and the experience, hope; Rom 5:5 and the hope doth not make ashamed, because the love of God hath been poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit that hath been given to us.

Rom 8:28 And we have known that to those loving God all things do work together for good, to those who are called according to purpose;

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In Rom. 8:35, the apostle Paul states, «τίς ἡμᾶς χωρίσει ἀπὸ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ»—“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Should this genitive be understood as a subjective genitive (a.k.a. genitive of subject), whereby ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Χριστοῦ is understood as «τὴν ἀγάπην ἣν ὁ Χρίστος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς» (“the love with which Christ loved us”), or should it be understood as an objective genitive (a.k.a. genitive of object), whereby ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Χριστοῦ is understood as «τὴν ἀγάπην ἣν ὁ Χρίστος ἠγαπήθη δι᾽ ἡμῶν» (“the love with which Christ is loved by us”)?

The answer, at least for this particular passage, is found in Rom. 8:37 wherein the apostle Paul writes, «διὰ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντος ἡμᾶς»—“by him who loved us.” Since there is no ambiguity in that particular phrase, which depicts Christ as the one who loves us, the reader may conclude that the phrase «τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ» (“the love of Christ”) in Rom. 8:35 (and 8:39) is a subjective genitive to be understood as “the love with which Christ loves us.”

Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer wrote,1

He who hath loved us is the procurer of this our victory, helps us to it by His power. Comp. esp. 2 Corinthians 12:9. That it is not God (Chrysostom, Estius, Grotius, Bengel, and others, including Reiche, Köllner, Olshausen, and van Hengel) that is meant, but Christ (Rückert, de Wette, Philippi, Tholuck, Ewald, and Hofmann), follows, not indeed from Philippians 4:13, but from the necessary reference to τίς ἡμ. χωρ. ἀπὸ τ. ἀγ. τ. χ. in Romans 8:35; for Romans 8:37 contains the opposite of the separation from the love of Christ.


References

Meyer, Heinrich August Wilhelm. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistle to the Romans. Trans. Moore, John C.; Johnson, Edwin. Ed. Dickson, William P. New York: Funk, 1884.

Footnotes

1 p. 341–342

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  • (-1) for identifying "him who loved us" as Christ without any supporting evidence and then building a case on that sand foundation. – user10231 Dec 19 '16 at 2:29
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My intention:

To establish infirmity, dependency, and the inadequacy of moral determination; ruled by conscience. To further establish; that "The love of Christ", in v.35, Paul intends to be the same as, the "the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord", in v. 39; and that this love must be greater, than everything, that Paul sets against it; from v.35-39.

Infirmity and dependency, demonstrated in deliverance

(Rom 7:1)  Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?

Expressed in terms of the law, to hearers who knew the law, Paul expounds, in the form of similitude, on marriage under the law.

(Rom 7:2)  For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
(Rom 7:3)  So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

By comprehension, of the "...great mystery", which he alludes to later in (Eph 5:30-32), he interprets marriage as the covenant shadow; fulfilled by the spiritual union, of Christ, and the Church.

The connection to Ephesians is justification, for metaphorical interpretation

Eph 5:30  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.   31  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  32  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  33  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

I also include v. 33, to serve as contrast. Paul intends this distinction, between the preceding two verses, and immediate context; authors original intent, with his audience. This is clear by his usage of "Nevertheless Not to dwell longer on the mystical aspect of the subject (M. R. Vincent)."

(M. R. Vincent, The writings of John. The Gospel. The Epistles. The Apocalypse.* Word Studies in the New Testament (Vol 2), New York, Scribner (1887).
(Provision of Ethics) Marvin R. Vincent, D.D. Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature in Union Theological Seminary New York.

This entire chapter of Eph. 5 is instructive rhetoric. v. 29 is a transition to this segue (Allusion of Metonymy), which alludes to a mystical interpretation ending in v.32. So it is. v.29 "For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:" This last segment is metonymic; broader than synecdoche, because its application is not apparent in the immediate context.

Notice, (Rom 7:4) being antecedent, has the interpretation of (Eph 5:30-32) "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." Later in Ephesians it appears to be a secondary thought, that he cut's short with "Nevertheless...".

The interpretation

In the process of interpreting the implications of a spouses liberty, from the law of her husband, upon the event of his death, and her freedom to marry another; he reveals this mystery of impunity, from condemnation under the law. The law is personified.

"As long - So long, and no longer. As it liveth - The law is here spoken of, by a common figure, as a person, to which, as to an husband, life and death are ascribed. But he speaks indifferently of the law being dead to us, or we to it, the sense being the same (John Wesley's Notes on the Bible Pub. (1755-1766); public domain)." See Rom. 7:1 of this commentary.

Summary of interpretation
So, by the death of one who fulfilled the law, all are free to be espoused to another, whose law is the Spirit of Life (Rom 7:6 following); predicated on his fulfillment of that law that condemned; his death which made it possible to be espoused to himself; the risen Christ, and that, by faith alone in His death as the complete satisfaction of Divine Justice (Rom 4:4-8 following).

Justification

(Rom 7:6) But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

Compare the parallel structures of (Rom 7:4) with that of (Rom 7:6) above; where "raised from the dead" there, corresponds to "newness of spirit." here, just as "dead to the law" there corresponds to "...delivered from the law...being dead" here. They are in harmony. It is the basis for this assertion (mine) "...espoused to another, whose law is the Spirit of Life;", which also agrees with

(Rom 8:2) "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."

Faith satisfies Divine justice; and reckoning of debt, absolved by beneficence

(Rom 4:4-8) Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.  6  Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,  7  Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.  8  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.  

Conscience Vs. Law

Moral determination proven inadequate, men ruled by conscience fall under the same
Paul establishes a relationship of equality with regard to law and conscience; both Jew, and Greek, in terms of an identical end result; the only possible exception; sinlesness, in either case. In v.13 with respect to the law, it is "...doers of the law shall be justified.", and in v.12 it is implied in this "For as many as have sinned."

Rom 2:12  "For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;  13  For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.  14  For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:  15  Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)  Rom 2:16  In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel."

Before this edit, I had initially made reference to the following verse in 1 Peter, in this fashion "...the law of conscience, which ruled men in the days of Noah, proving it to be a betrayer." This is one of the mystical references to baptism. Another one being related to The Exodus, The cloud that follows, and Israel passing through the Red Sea, along with the fountain Rock, which Paul identifies as Christ. I didn't feel that I need that support any longer. However, holding to the context of baptism; the ark is an obvious type of Christ, as conductor, from one world to the next, as eight souls passed through the flood, from the antediluvian world, to the new. Let this remain an unsupported assertion. it's just ...interesting.

(1 Peter 3:20) "...once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water."

(Pr. 14:12)"There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
Concerning "Right - There are some evil courses which men may think to be lawful and good. The end - The event shews that they were sinful and destructive.(John Wesley's Notes)."

All of Paul's reasoning above, argues against notions, of self reliance.

The greatness of this love

The love of Christ" v.35, and "The love of God in Christ" v.39 are the same

The relationship between both instances of love, is constructed in a bookend fashion; encapsulating everything that Paul mentions between them. Paul does not refer to either one in between: ex.
(see Addendum: Also: Simply a Christian), and the body of opposition stands in equal relation to both instances. Unchecked, the opposition would separate; the object of separation, is immovable; and separation is impossible.

Conclusion:

A comparison, and contrast; of infirmity, dependency, and the impotency of moral determination; with that love, which proves unshakable; by anything Paul names here; cannot result, in a logical determination, of equality.

However, the OP makes reference, to these two verses.

(Rom 5:5) "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."

(1Jn 4:19)  We love him, because he first loved us.

Now, all of a sudden, I can also see it, both ways; in terms of a reciprocating union. Where I see two equally immovable objects. God, as the original source of love, who gives the Holy Spirit; the agent of God's love, both to, and through; and all by means of a mediary; Jesus Christ. Again, that will have to remain an unsupported assertion. Still, Interesting.

Being that God is the original fount of love, I still maintain that it should be understood as, the love of God.

Addendum:

In further review; pre-edit, I also recognize the following language to be too strong; being pregnant with implication, and reeking of hubris. For this I apologize.

"It is absurd to think that Paul would labor so meticulously, and so ardently, to disparage any grounds for hope; predicated on the will, determination, or the passion of man; only to later imply, by omission, that there exists such a love; equal to Christ's own; that he does not impart."

Aslo:

As Simply a Christian points out here; (Rom 8:37), provides unifying support, as it is placed concentrically, to the opposition; "...more than conquerors through him that loved us." It also proves more efficient, by taking a shorter path, to a definitive observation; one, that I wish I had seen first.

As for this.

"(-1) for identifying "him who loved us" as Christ without any supporting evidence and then building a case on that sand foundation."

(Gal 2:20)  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

We should not quibble over miles or millimeters. While some things must be viewed under a microscope, others can only be seen, from a mile high view.

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  • 1
    Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange abstraction, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. – Steve Taylor Dec 12 '16 at 14:00
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    (+1) Although your point would be much stronger if it ended by your conclusion or summary of the meaning within the passage rather than offering a reason why the OP asked the question. – Revelation Lad Dec 12 '16 at 16:06
  • (-1) for relying on "floral impressions" of the text rather than the particulars, where the devilish details reside. General readers may enjoy language that is nebulous in shape but in a discipline requiring rigor in faithfulness to the assertions, a ten mile view is of no use. You must cite sources other than your own "stream of consciousness". Assertions with nothing adduced is mere pious, religious thinking. This is (ostensibly) not a religious site. Source please. At least back up assertions with scripture. Thanks. – user10231 Dec 19 '16 at 2:27
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    Yes, I see your point. I do tend to rely heavily on the synthesis of large portions of relevant text, in an attempt to capture the harmony of the author throughout. A new member, like myself, needs this type of criticism, in order to improve. I really appreciate a down-vote, that provides justification like this. I wish more people would be this brutally honest. This is the best way to help people get on the right track. Thank you. – Abstraction is everything. Dec 20 '16 at 3:21
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I believe the correct answer here is that the verses are referring to the love of Christ and God for man, and not vice versa.

Different types of genitive

The words Χριστός (Christos) and θεός (Theos) - "Christ" and "God", respectively - are in the genitive case (Χριστοῦ, Θεοῦ), which, as you infer (correctly I think), could be interpreted to be either subjective or objective in meaning.

The subjective genitive would imply "love of Christ" or "love of God". Acts 12:11 is a clear example of the subjective genitive:

Νῦν οἶδα ἀληθῶς ὅτι ἐξαπέστειλε Κύριος τὸν ἄγγελον αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐξείλετό με ἐκ χειρὸς Ἡρώδου καὶ πάσης τῆς προσδοκίας τοῦ λαοῦ τῶν Ἰουδαίων.

Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

The objective genitive would imply "love for Christ" or "love for God". A clear example here would be Luke 11:42:

Ἀλλʼ οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, ὅτι ἀποδεκατοῦτε τὸ ἡδύοσμον καὶ τὸ πήγανον καὶ πᾶν λάχανον, καὶ παρέρχεσθε τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην τοῦ Θεοῦ· ταῦτα ἔδει ποιῆσαι, κἀκεῖνα μὴ ἀφιέναι.

But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God [or, love for God]: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

A third possibility is something called the plenary genitive, where the subjective and objective meanings are simultaneously conveyed. A possible example here is 2 Corinthians 5:14:

ἡ γὰρ ἀγάπη τοῦ Χριστοῦ συνέχει ἡμᾶς, κρίναντας τοῦτο, ὅτι εἰ εἷς ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀπέθανεν, ἄρα οἱ πάντες ἀπέθανον·

For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

Romans 8:35,39 is probably subjective genitive (love "of")

There are a couple of arguments for why Romans 8:35 and 8:39 are probably using the subjective genitive here.

First, there is the wider context. Although Romans 8:28 refers to them that love God, 8:29 through 8:34 refers to the actions of God for man's sake:

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate ... Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. ... If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? ... It is God that justifieth. ... It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Second, there is the witness of the Church Fathers - especially the Greek Church Fathers - who interpreted these verses in antiquity. The Greek Fathers are commenting in Greek, of course, but the context of their commentaries is helpful. John Chrysostom (c 349-407) writes in his commentary on v.35:

Why tremble when enjoying such great love, and having such great interest taken in thee? In this way then, after showing His great providence over us from the first, he afterwards brings out what comes next in a bold style, and does not say, ye ought also to love Him, but, as if grown enthusiastic at this unspeakable Providence over us, he says, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Similarly, regarding v.39 he writes:

And neither kings nor people, nor ranks of demons, nor the devil himself, had power to get the better of them, but were all overcome at a very great disadvantage, finding that all they planned against them became for them. And therefore he says, “we are more than conquerors.” For this was a new rule of victory for men to prevail by their adversaries, and in no instance to be overcome, but to go forth to these struggles as if they themselves had the issue in their own hands. For I am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Other Greek fathers who provide a similar interpretation include Athanasius1 (296-373), Cyril of Alexandria2 (378-444), and Theodoret of Cyrrus3 (393-458).

A more contemporary commentary on the passage explains:

It was because of His love that God rescued us from the bondage of sin, for "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that all who believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Amont these qualities that we call the attributes of God, there is one which encompasses them all, love.4


1. e.g. Life of Antony, ch.9
2. Catechetical Lectures XV.16
3. Letter to Eusebius
4. D. Royster, St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans: A Pastoral Commentary (St. Vladimir's Seminary Pres, 2008), p.226

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