I have come across a very interesting re-reading of Romans 8:19

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

Roberts argues that κτίσεως, usually translated creation, would be better translated as humanity instead. He notes that κτίσεως was frequently used in both senses, but says that modern translators and interpreters assume rather than show that creation is the better translation.

He goes on to argue:

The whole letter is people and salvation orientated, with hardly a nod to creation. That is not a criticism as Paul was writing for a particular purpose. If Rom 8.19-23 is about creation/cosmos then these few verses are like an erratic block which has no relation to what is discussed before or after, and seems to have been transported from elsewhere. If so, Paul goes off at a tangent and then returns to his main them in vs 24

If ktisis is humanity, then there is a seamless argument going back before Romans7, considering the power of sin in chapter 7 before moving to life in the spirit in chapter 8 which deals with how redeemed creation overcomes mataiotes vanity to avoid moral decay phthorai and pasa he ktisis “waits with eager long for the revealing of the children of god.”

So, do you think that this is a convincing interpretation?

  • You might look at how Greeks in the early Church understood the verse. Chrysostom's commentaries are online. Another resource is Dmitri Royster's commentary (not online). Chrysostom - a 4th century Greek - explains Paul's meaning. He is, in effect, personifying creation.
    – user33515
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 13:46
  • 2
    Modern commentaries are interesting, but it seems like a lot of them are motivated by finding something new and undiscovered in the text that probably really isn't there in the first place.
    – user33515
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 13:52
  • An Objection: "He notes that κτίσεως was frequently used in both senses". He actually says: "Ktisis - CAN - mean creation, that which is created i.e creature, humanity and civil authorities.". Please see Greek Corpus, "κτίσις" (@ Logeion). A direct quote from Robert would be helpful, because it doesn't seem his argument is that "κτίσις" denotes "humanity", but that "humanity" can be inferred sometimes. Is he really saying that "κτίσις" is defined as "humanity" - in any lexicon? Also: the writer uses a different word for "humanity". Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 17:00

8 Answers 8


κτίσεως, (New Testament Instances) is the genitive (possessive) form of κτίσις (ktisis)1. κτίσις in turn is derived from the verb κτίζω (ktizō), which means "to create".

Greek nouns ending in -ις often reflect the outcome of the related root verb. So κτίσις can be understood to mean that which was was created. In the context of Romans 8:19 it could be legitimately interpreted to mean either everything that God has created or man specifically. Almost all English translations assume the former meaning ("creation"), but notably the King James version (but not the New King James) assume the latter ("creature", or perhaps, as Roberts suggests, "man[kind]" - i.e. "humanity"). The King James may have taken a cue from the Douay-Rheims (which had a mild influence on the translators), which follows the Latin:

Nam exspectatio creaturæ revelationem filiorum Dei exspectat.

For the expectation of the creature waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God.

There is no consensus among Greek commentators in antiquity as to whether the verse refers to all creation or to "the creature".2 Origen seems to read "creature", but other Greek Church Fathers seem to read "creation".3 Chrysostom (349-407), for example, writes:

Here Paul’s discourse becomes more emphatic, and he personifies the creation in the way that the prophets do when they speak of the floods, clapping their hands and so on.4

Cyril of Alexandria (378-444) also reads "creation" and not "creature" ("man", "humanity"):

The creation is waiting for the revelation of the sons of God at some point in the future which is still unknown. Who can know when this will be? But by the secret plan of God, which orders all things for the best, it will come to this end. For when the sons of God, who have lived a righteous life, have been transformed into glory from dishonor and from what is corruptible into what is incorruptible, then the creation too will be transformed into something better.5

The late Orthodox Archbishop Dmitry Royster set out an argument why κτίσις might be understood better as "creation" and not "creature":

In the story of man's creation, his fall and his relation to the created world both before and after the fall, we take note of the following: man was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27); he was given the charge to be fruitful and multiply, to replenish the earth and subdue it; man was formed form the dust of the ground (2:7), and after his fall, the earth became hostile to him: "God said, cursed is the ground for thy sake ... thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee" (3:17-18); and he was condemned to a hard life ending in death: "dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return" (3:19). Thus, the interaction between man and the created world is such that the earth shares man's destiny; it is not only the stage for man's fall and his redemption, but also reflects or is affected by all that pertains to man.6

Scriptures offered that support this particular interpretation (some already cited in other answers) include:

Ephesians 1:10

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him

2 Peter 3:13

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Revelation 21:1ff

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea ...

Roberts' argument for his interpretation is that "The whole letter is people and salvation orientated, with hardly a nod to creation." Any Epistle of Scripture is "people" oriented since it is addressed to specific people within a specific Church. The phrasing leads one to believe that "people" are somehow distinct from "creation". Romans 8:19ff can actually be interpreted as a discussion of how the two are related. Further, verse 21 seems rather redundant if κτίσις is understood to mean "man" (or "human") rather than "creation". Neither is Romans entirely salvation oriented: chapters 12-15 deal with Christian conduct, not salvation.

1. In lexicons, κτίσις is assigned meanings ranging from "creation", "what is created", "created order", "creature", "act of creation", "what was made" to "human authority", "universe", "institution", "authority", and "governance system". See, e.g., Barclay, A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (1993); Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains (1997); Louw & Nida, Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains (1996); Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (2011).
2. Pelagius (360-420) wrote a short discourse on the subject in his commentary on Romans, but I hesitate to quote it in the main body since he was eventually condemned by the Church for what it saw as heretical views on the nature of grace and free will. He writes: "Different interpreters expound this passage in different ways. Some say that the whole creation awaits the time of the resurrection, because then it will be changed into something better. Others say that this refers only to the angelic, rational creation. Still others say that 'creation' refers specifically to Adam and Eve, because they did not sin by themselves but at the temptation of the serpent, who long ago made them subject to corruption when they were exposed to deception in the hope of divine existence. These interpreters say that Adam and Eve will be set free so that they are no longer subject to corruption. But the 'whole creation,' say these same interpreters, means all those who were righteous up to the coming of Christ, because they too have not yet received and are waiting until God provides something better for us. Not only they, however, but we also, in whom these things have been fulfilled, do not yet hold it in our grasp but endure in hope, although we have seen things which many righteous people have longed to see."
3. See, e.g., Dmitri Royster, St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2008), p.208ff.
4. Homily XIV on Romans (tr. from the Greek)
5. Explanation of the Letter to the Romans
6. Op. cit.

  • Your first paragraph, upon which your argument rest is patently false. Therefore everything that follows is likewise false.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 8:46
  • I provided that repeatedly in the now deleted comments. The first paragraph says the word "means" creation. Look at the footnote. That isn't what the word "means". That is one of the glosses based on one of the usages. The footnote belies the assertion upon which the answer is built.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 18:25
  • It is patently false to say that "κτίζω means create": logeion.uchicago.edu/index.html#κτίζω
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 0:28
  • 2
    @Ruminator Not wanting to jump into the hornet's nest, but I do question how you can say "It is patently false to say that 'κτίζω means create'" when the link you give has as definition #4 "produce, create, bring into being"? So while there are other possible meanings, "create" is clearly one (and thus not "patently false"), even related to the other ideas of to found countries and cities; build houses, plant a grove, etc., most all the definitions dealing with the "creation" of things.
    – ScottS
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 23:38
  • @ScottS It is against my policy to argue about the meaning of words. If the word meant "create" the lexicon would have just one entry, "create". If you want to explore a fictional world where "to people" and "to found" and all other usages can dissolve honestly into "create" then have at it. I'll have no part in such a silly way to play with language.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 23:44

(1)The Gr. word κτίσεως ktiseōs is used several times in scripture, also the Gr. word κτίσις ktisis is used several times. While κτίσις ktisis is not the word used in Romans 8:19 the word that is used there is κτίσεως ktiseōs. In Romans 8:20 the word κτίσις ktisis is used.

Romans 1:20 use κτίσεως

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Romans 8:19 uses κτίσεως

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

Romans 8:20 uses κτίσις

For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

Roman 8:21 uses κτίσις

Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Romans 8:22 uses κτίσις

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

Here are some additional text using those Greek words

Mark 10:6 uses κτίσεως

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.

Mark 13:19 uses κτίσεως

For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.

Colossians 1:15 uses κτίσεως

Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Hebrews 4:13 uses κτίσις

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

Hebrews 9:11 uses κτίσεως

But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

2 Peter 3:4 uses κτίσεως

And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

Revelation 3:14 uses κτίσεως

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

Based on the texts that also make use of the word κτίσεως and κτίσις, I'd say the interpretation is not so much convincing as understandable. Though κτίσις looks to be most commonly translated creature and κτίσεως most commonly translated creation, neither is exclusive. Either way I don't see a definitive answer as far as all of creation or humanity.

Resource (1) Englishman's Greek Concordance by George V. Wigram

Also, from BDAG's Lexicon:

κτίσις, εως, ἡ (s. prec. and two next entries; Pind.+).
① act of creation, creation (Iren. 1, 17, 1 [Harv. I 164, 11]; Hippol.,   p 573  Ref. 6, 33 κ. τοῦ κόσμου; 6, 55, 1; Did., Gen. 24, 4): ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου since the creation of the world Ro 1:20 (cp. PsSol 8, 7; ApcSed 8:10; Jos., Bell. 4, 533). The Son of God was σύμβουλος τῷ πατρὶ τῆς κτίσεως αὐτοῦ counselor to the Father in his creative work Hs 9, 12, 2.
② the result of a creative act, that which is created (EpArist 136; 139; TestReub 2:9).
ⓐ of individual things or beings created, creature (Tob 8:5, 15) created thing τὶς κ. ἑτέρα any other creature Ro 8:39. οὐκ ἔστιν κ. ἀφανὴς ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ no creature is hidden from (God’s) sight Hb 4:13. πᾶν γένος τῆς κ. τοῦ κυρίου every kind of creature that the Lord made Hs 9, 1, 8; πᾶσα κ. every created thing (cp. Jdth 9:12) MPol 14:1. Of Christ πρωτότοκος πάσης κ. Col 1:15. Of the name of God ἀρχέγονον πάσης κ. 1 Cl 59:3. τὸ εὐαγγέλιον … τὸ κηρυχθὲν ἐν πάσῃ κτίσει the gospel …  which has been preached to every creature (here limited to human beings) Col 1:23.—Pl. (En 18:1) δοξάζειν τὰς κτίσεις τοῦ θεοῦ praise the created works of God Hv 1, 1, 3.—The Christian is described by Paul as καινὴ κ. a new creature 2 Cor 5:17, and the state of being in the new faith by the same words as a new creation Gal 6:15 (cp. Jos., Ant. 18, 373 καιναὶ κτίσεις). S. on ἐκλογή end.
ⓑ the sum total of everything created, creation, world (ApcMos 32; SibOr 5, 152; ὁρωμένη κ. Did., Gen. 1 B, 6; 13 A, 2) ἡ κ. αὐτοῦ Hv 1, 3, 4. ἐν ἀρχῇ τῆς κ. at the beginning of the world B 15:3; ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κ. from the beginning of the world Mk 13:19; 2 Pt 3:4. Likew. Mk 10:6; πᾶσα ἡ κ. the whole creation (Jdth 16:14; Ps 104:21 v.l.; TestAbr A 13 p. 92, 7 [Stone p. 32], B 12 p. 116, 31 [St. p. 80]; TestLevi 4:1; TestNapht 2:3; ParJer 9:6; PGM 12, 85) Hv 3, 4, 1; m 12, 4, 2; Hs 5, 6, 5; 9, 14, 5; 9, 23, 4; 9, 25, 1. The whole world is full of God’s glory 1 Cl 34:6. ἀόργητος ὑπάρχει πρὸς πᾶσαν τὴν κτίσιν αὐτοῦ 19:3. ὁ υἱὸς τ. θεοῦ πάσης τ. κτίσεως αὐτοῦ προγενέστερός ἐστιν the Son of God is older than all his creation Hs 9, 12, 2. πᾶσα ἡ κ. limited to humankind Mk 16:15; Hm 7:5. Also ἡ κτίσις τῶν ἀνθρώπων D 16:5.—αὕτη ἡ κ. this world (earthly in contrast to heavenly) Hb 9:11.—κ. the creation, what was created in contrast to the Creator (Wsd 16:24) Ro 1:25 (EpArist 139 θεὸν σεβόμενοι παρʼ ὅλην τὴν κτίσιν).—Of Christ ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ Rv 3:14 (s. ἀρχή 3).—The mng. of κτ. is in dispute in Ro 8:19–22, though the pass. is usu. taken to mean the waiting of the whole creation below the human level (animate and inanimate—so, e.g., OCullmann, Christ and Time [tr. FFilson] ’50, 103).—HBiedermann, D. Erlösg. der Schöpfung beim Ap. Pls. ’40.
③ system of established authority that is the result of some founding action, governance system, authority system. Corresponding to 1, κτίσις is also the act by which an authoritative or governmental body is created (ins in CB I/2, 468 no. 305 [I A.D.]: founding of the Gerousia [Senate]. Somewhat comparable, of the founding of a city: Scymnus Chius vs. 89 κτίσεις πόλεων). But then, in accordance with 2, it is prob. also the result of the act, the institution or authority itself 1 Pt 2:13 (Diod S 11, 60, 2 has κτίστης as the title of a high official. Cp. νομοθεσία in both meanings: 1. lawgiving, legislation; 2. the result of an action, i.e. law.) To a Hellene a well-ordered society was primary (s. Aristot., Pol. 1, 1, 1, 1252). It was understood that the function of government was to maintain such a society, and the moral objective described in vs. 14 is in keeping with this goal.—BBrinkman, ‘Creation’ and ‘Creature’ I, Bijdragen (Nijmegen) 18, ’57, 129–39, also 359–74; GLampe, The NT Doctrine of κτίσις, SJT 17, ’64, 449–62.—DELG s.v. κτίζω. M-M. TW. Sv.

κτίσμα, ατος, τό (s. two prec. entries and next entry; Polyb. 4, 70, 3; Dionys. Hal. 1, 59; Strabo 7, 5, 5; Vett. Val. 213, 6; SIG 799, 7 [38 A.D.]; PGM 7, 483; BGU 3, 19; LXX, pseudepigr.; Just.; Iren. 1, 5, 4 [Harv. I 48, 2] in gnostic speculation; loanw. in rabb.) in our lit. always (as Wsd 9:2; 13:5; 14:11; Sir 36:14; 38:34; 3 Macc 5:11; EpArist 17; Iren. 1, 10, 2 [Harv. I 93, 3]; Did., Gen. 220, 28) product of creative action, that which is created (by God), creature (created by God) πᾶν κ. θεοῦ καλόν everything created by God is good 1 Ti 4:4. πᾶν κ. ὅ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ every creature in heaven Rv 5:13.—Pl., of the components of creation (TestAbr B 7 p. 12, 8 [Stone p. 72] τὰ κτίσματα ἃ ἐκτίσατο … ὁ θεός; TestJob 47:11; Herm. Wr. 1, 18 πάντα τὰ κ.; Sextus 439; Orig., C. Cels. 7, 46, 39; Did., Gen. 109, 25) Dg 8:3.—τὰ κ. τὰ ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ Rv 8:9.—τὰ κ. τοῦ θεοῦ what God has created Hv 3, 9, 2; m 8:1; humankind is lord of it 12, 4, 3. The Christians are ἀπαρχή τις τῶν αὐτοῦ κ. a kind of first-fruits of (God’s) creatures (here κ. is to be thought of as referring chiefly to human beings; for a similar restriction in the use of κτίσις s. that entry 2) Js 1:18.—DELG s.v. κτίζω. M-M. TW. Sv.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., pp. 572–573). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • 3
    Are you aware that κτίσεως and κτίσις are simply two case forms of the same word (genitive and nominative respectively)? Thus, they have the same lexical meaning but different syntactic usages.
    – fdb
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 0:07
  • 1
    @fdb, we'd include κτίσει as well.
    – N.Ish
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 0:11
  • What translation are you citing? Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 14:01
  • +1 For pointing out that the conclusion is understandable, although perhaps not convincing. But, "Either way I don't see a definitive answer as far as all of creation or humanity." Are you saying that you see some evidence where "humanity" is clearly what the writer intended to indicate - in any body of text? I feel that something "definite" can be said about this - and that it isn't a subjective. Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 18:44
  • @elikakohen thank you. I feel if it's all of creation humans are covered and if it's only humans then salvation is solely in view. Either way it's concerning humans, and as humans that's what it's telling us:)
    – N.Ish
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 4:12

1. Question Restatement:

Peddling and Scaling God and Darwin, (Roberts) argues that in Romans 8:19, (Greek Interlinerar) - κτίσεως (Logeion Lexicon), usually translated creation, would be better translated as humanity instead. He notes that κτίσεως was frequently used in both senses, but says that modern translators and interpreters assume rather than show that creation is the better translation.

So, do you think that this is a convincing interpretation?

2. Context - The Jewish Writers of Romans and John; and Greco-Roman Philosophy:

To begin, the most famous illustration of this problem is John 3:16:

NASB, John 3:16, (Greek Interlinear) - “For God so loved the world | κόσμον, (@ Logeion Lexicon), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

It is impossible to even have an intelligent conversation about Christian, Judaic and Greco-Roman, intersecting world-views without considering John 1:1's use of "Logos" and John 3:16's use of "Kosmos" - in the abstract philosophical senses that they were used at the time these books were written.

The significance of the Book of John - is that it was written by a very knowledgeable Jew, or at least involved a very knowledgeable Jew as a source. The Book of Romans also exhibits this deep insight. The other 3 gospels do not share insight into religious Jewish observance as John and Romans do, although they seem to "touch-and-go" on deeper concepts as though they don't want to alienate their readers, (1 Corinthians 3:2, et. al.).

As shown in John, and the Pauline Epistles - During this period, Pharasaic Judaism was very much into philosophy, and tried [very much overboard] to employ valid argumentation and philosophical insight to interpret Biblical texts and to make judicial rulings.

When Paul touches on Epictetus', "in him we live, move, and have our being", (Acts 17:28), he affirmed his own belief of parallels between Greco-Roman philosophy, Judaism, and Christianity, including divisions of "forms", "essences", etc.

3. Answer - No, Roberts' Answer is not "Convincing":

There is a very big difference between a "convincing argument" and a "right answer". Even if Roberts is "right" - his reasoning is not convincing, and his argument is invalid:

The "Logos", "Kosmos", "earth | γῆς", "creation | κτίσις", and "humanity" are very distinct and significant ideas in Jewish, Christian and Greco-Roman texts. There is an incredible burden of proof to suggest that writers might have used any of these terms interchangeably.

The writer clearly distinguishes "Creation" from "Humanity" - in the same sentence:

NASB, Romans 8:21 - ... that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

All New Testament writers consistently use forms of "ἄνθρωπος" to indicate "humanity", (Numbers 31:35, Septuagint, James 3:7, etc., etc.).

All of these writers exercise "diction" - very intelligently - and use different words because of their significance. English writers often go way out of their way to use diction to find interchangeable words, to avoid repetition. But in this genre of writing, interchangeable words are avoided in order to ensure clarity. Their intent for clarity is directly inapposite to the idea that both "ἄνθρωπος" and "κτίσις" are being used interchangeably by this writer to indicate "humanity".

Conclusion: Going back to the writers of John and Romans:

In order to conclude that the writer of Romans 8:19 "simply meant" "humanity", rather than "all of creation" would be a presumption that the writer was clueless how their Greco-Roman audience would interpret "κτίσις" in the grand-abstract philosophical world-views commonly held during that period.

It would also be a presumption that these writers deviated from their writing styles in only these places.

In order for Roberts' argument to be valid - at all - he would have to at least show - in any corpus - that this word was certainly used, in the limited / narrow sense (only "humanity"), as he suggests - and that context certainly excludes the broader sense ("Creation") - anywhere in Greco-Roman literature, Biblical texts, or most convincing: certainly used in the "narrow sense" by the writer of Romans - in any of their texts.

Roberts gives no reason to believe that: A.) Any New Testament writer was unaware of the broad semantic range of these philosophical terms and how they would be understood; B.) That anything in these contexts requires a "narrow" interpretation of these terms; C.) That an interpretation in the "broad sense" is contradictory to any of their other writings; D.) That any Biblical writer (or any other writer) ever used "ἄνθρωπος" and "κτίσις" interchangeably; or E.) Why "κτίσεως" is required to be interpreted differently - in this one place - than all of the other New Testament instances.

Giving any evidence of any of those three arguments establishes "plausibility", and only after that could an argument be pursued.

However, Roberts' does make an interesting point:

Roberts' argument, from context - not lexical analysis - does have merit:

Peddling and Scaling God and Darwin, Roberts - The whole letter is people and salvation orientated, with hardly a nod to creation.

This point about context is actually valid. However, this can be easily explained given Paul's writing style - where he very often superficially touched on very, very, complex and "mystic" concepts - and then moved on, as if he was always writing for two different audiences at once.

NASB, 2 Corinthians 12:2 - I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.

So it is definitely within Paul's writing style to touch-and-go on very abstract mystical concepts, (the personification of "Creation" could fit). Even that reference of a "third heaven" is something that has a very significant meaning under Greco-Roman (and even Babylonian) philosophies.

But no, there are too many objections (factual and especially formal) to Roberts' core premises that make his argument entirely unconvincing.


I have just come across this discussion of my blog. Thanks to everyone . There is much I need to attend to . I will have a good read and come back. In the meantime, words in greek or Englsih don't have just one meaning and there can be several according to contest.

To give a related example John can use kosmos to mean all creation or humanity. e.g. in Jn 3.16 he uses cosmos as humanity.

I'll be back and thanks - even to those with torpedoes!!

  • I suggest removing the chatty sentences, "I have just come across this..." and "I'll be back..." and concentrate on expanding your answer in "To give a related example...". That would be more in line with the expectations on this site. This site is Q and A format rather than a forum or blog format. Thanks.
    – user17080
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 7:03
  • I hope I'm not considered a "torpedo" even though I don't quite agree. I do agree that people are in view and not "creation" though I understand it to be the saints (those who are part of the Pauline "New Man" (IE: Christ, the body of Christ), not Adamic humanity in general. Please check out my answer; thanks!
    – Ruminator
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 17:35

*When this question was first raised I pushed back very hard at a post that said "it means created" (or "creation", I forget). Since the question was "what does this refer to" I felt it was important to correctly represent the usage (and the whole field of linguistics) by making sure that the whole semantic domain was represented. Alas, I was overridden, down voted, made to sit in the corner, etc. to be clear that "the word means "created". Well just now as I was pondering Proverbs 8:22ff I noticed that the LXX uses that word so I guess it has Wisdom (IE: Christ) saying the God "created me" and no one should say any different! https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2936&t=KJV

Wisdom at Creation 22 “Yahweh created me, the first of his ways, before his acts ⌊of old⌋.

Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Pr 8:22). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. For those who want to consider a case where the word is NOT rendered as "created"?: 22. Possessed (Vulg., AV, RV), or created (LXX, Targ., RSV)? The Arians (who denied the deity of Christ) appealed to LXX’s ‘created’, to prove that Christ, the Wisdom of God, was not eternal. But our concern must be with the [IE: Hebrew] word’s normal meaning, and with the general sense of the passage. Elsewhere this verb (qānâ) predominantly means ‘get’, and hence ‘possess’ (see e.g. Prov. 4:5, 7, where wisdom is the object, as here). Of its 84 Old Testament occurrences, only six or seven allow the sense ‘create’ (Gen. 14:19, 22; Exod. 15:16; Deut. 32:6; Pss 74:2; 139:13; Prov. 8:22), and even these do not require it. The derived nouns still more strongly emphasize possession. Ugaritic literature, however, has recently swung opinion towards ‘create’ (in spite of Keret II:4), because of the phrase qnyt ‘elm, translated by C. H. Gordon as ‘creatress of the gods’. But W. A. Irwin (JBL, 1961, pp. 133ff.) points out that both this expression and Eve’s in Genesis 4:1 imply parenthood, not creation (cf. Deut. 32:6); and C. H. Gordon has accepted this, adding, ‘I agree fully … that Gen. 4:1 and Prov. 8:22 refer primarily to bearing or begetting children’ (ibid.). To sum up: this word expresses getting and possessing, in ways that vary with the context. Goods are possessed by purchase, children by birth (cf. our idiom, to ‘have’ a baby), wisdom—for mortals—by learning. And wisdom for God? To say that at first he lacked it, and had to create or learn it, is both alien to this passage and absurd. It comes forth from him; the nearest metaphor is that of birth (cf. 24, 25). But possessed is perhaps (as Irwin concludes) the most serviceable word for the translator here, leaving the succeeding verses to speak more explicitly. Kidner, D. (1964). Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 17). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Exported from Logos Bible Software, 4:20 PM April 14, 2019. I'm still convinced, though of my original answer as it is unaffected because I was not in error about keeping information about the semantic domain you are discussing pure and complete.*

Original Answer

Humanity, except for those few who fear God is not at all eagerly anticipating the manifestation of the sons of God.

The physical creation, personified, might be described as being subject to "abuse" and "stress" but I'm not sure about "futility" or "disappointment".

The word in question is often used to refer to something "established" rather than "created", such as a "founding" or "settling" (the glosses I prefer are a "regime" or "polity" or "domain"):

κτίσις [ῐ], εως, ἡ, (κτίζω) founding, settling, Th.6.5; ἀποικιῶν Isoc.12.190, cf. Plb.9.14 (pl.), etc. 2. loosely, = πρᾶξις, κούφα κ. an easy achievement, Pi.O.13.83. 3. creation, κ. κόσμου Ep.Rom.1.20; ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως Ev.Marc.10.6, 13.19, etc. II. created thing, creature, LXXJu.9.12, Ev.Marc.16.15, Ep.Rom.8.19, etc.: in pl., LXXTo.8.5. III. authority created or ordained, 1Ep.Pet.2.13.

κτίσμα, ατος, τό, colony, foundation, Call.Aet.Oxy.2080.77; Παρίων Str.7.5.5, cf. D.H.1.59; Λακωνικὸν κ. Str.5.3.6; also, of a temple, J.BJ2.6.1: generally, building, SEG31.1472, 34.327 (Chr.), PSI1.84.8 (pl., iv/v A.D.). 2. = κτίσις II, LXXWi.9.2 (pl.), 3Ma.5.11, Ep.Jac.1.18. II. = κτίσις I. 1, Eust.1382.50.

Liddell, H. G., Scott, R., Jones, H. S., & McKenzie, R. (1996). A Greek-English lexicon (p. 1003). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

The angels were not subjected to futility.

The domain he has in mind is Abraham's seed. Abraham's seed was subjected to futility and made to hope for release. Paul speaks of this in Galatians:

NIV Galatians 3: 23Before the coming of this faith,j we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. 26So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. NIV Galatians 4: 1What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forcesa of the world. 4But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.b 6Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,c Father.” 7So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Footnotes: a 3 Or under the basic principles b 5 The Greek word for adoption to sonship is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture. c 6 Aramaic for Father

John speaks of Israel travailing to bring forth the Christ:

NIV Revelation 12: 1A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

However Paul is not just concerned with Israel, Abraham's physical seed but all of his seed. He shows that it is those of faith that are the sons of Abraham, the sons of God and the heirs of God, regardless of ethnicity:

NIV Galatians 3: 26So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

This is the domain that he is concerned with, who are still subjected to futility and still await the manifestation of their sonship:

NIV 1 John 3: 1See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,a we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

There is what I take to be a common mistranslation further on that I should point out. For example, the NIV has:

NIV Romans 8: 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,k neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The greek of verse 39 is this:

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] οὔτε ὕψωμα οὔτε βάθος οὔτε τις κτίσις ἑτέρα δυνήσεται ἡμᾶς χωρίσαι ἀπὸ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν.

I believe this should read "neither any other regime". I don't think he's concerned with a giant monster of any kind but rather any other political configuration.

So this all makes sense if we replace ktisis with "Abraham's seed":

18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19For the creation [the seed of Abraham] waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20For the creation [the seed of Abraham] was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21thath the creation [the seed of Abraham] itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22We know that the whole creation [the seed of Abraham] has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Paul speaks of his personal groaning:

NIV 2 Cor 5: 1For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Paul, like John describes the lives of the saints as being "appearing" in the future, speaking of the same "manifestation of the sons of God":

NIV Col 3: 1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Paul also speaks of his eager anticipation in his motivational speech in Philippians 3:

NIV Philippians 3: 20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.


It can be understood as inclusive of the rational creatures, like angels and humans, who "groan" until the "new creation" (Gal. 6:15) will be formed in humans, and the semantics of the "new creation in Christ" and the "sons of God" (John 1:12), or "children of God" (Romans 8:19) is identical, for it is through grace of God and faith of humans, that is the necessary condition for receiving this grace, that man becomes "son of God" and the "new creation".

However, it can be also inclusive of illogical beings, animals and plants as well, for Adam's fall has influenced also the change of nature, in which already reigns the so called “harmony of violence”, when, for instance wolves hunt and eat lambs, but this could not have been initially so and will not be so in eschatological restoration of the paradisiac order (Issaiah 11:6).

Also, in Paradise all animals were immediately subjected to Adam, but after the fall they went wild and estranged from humans, who not only do not master them, but are endangered by them. And this also will be restored. Animals are also endangered by fallen humans' greed and excessiveness, aggression and violence, thus, they also, even if irrationally and in their own manner, groan desiring humans to change themselves according to image of God, that they may become not exploiters of them and the entire nature, but caretakers and merciful custodians, as was Adam in paradise and as is Christ.

Thus, formation of the humans as "the new creation in Christ" and "sons of God" will be a celebration and transformation of the entire nature, even of illogical beings. Just to give a handy analogy: imagine a husband frequently beats his wife, for he gets often drunk and in this stage cannot control himself; the wife prays that he may abandon this habit and the husband starts to go to a doctor, also to a caring priest and Church services, gets step-by-step more fortified and stable, gradually increasing in himself a feeling of responsibility and power to withstand this disastrous habit; sometimes he still falls and beats wife in a drunken rage, but already rarely and with a greater sincere feeling of remorse; thus, it can be said a la Paul, that "the wife groans until in her husband a victor and defeater of alcoholism is completely revealed, for when it will happen eventually, she will be happy, for husband will not only never beat her, but even become more and more loving, tender, understanding and responsive towards her. Something similar is with the entire creation: imagine, if all humans were like the saints of Christ, what a change there would happen in the entire nature: all humans behaving like St Francis of Assisi conversing with animals, or like one Irish monk of 7th century, on whose head birds made a nest, for he was too tender to scare them away. Such people will never exploit the nature and never demolish its beauty for their selfish greed.

Maximus Confessor (VII century Byzantine philosopher) developed an idea of logoi ("words"/"thoughts") in the entire nature: the eternal Logos of God has in Himself all the logoi/thoughts of all beings (man, angel, horse, giraffe, rose, orange, water, earth etc. in short, everything) and according to those logoi creates them. Now, the divine logos/thought/idea of "man" is most complex of all others, because man contains in himself logos of i) inanimate beings (rocks, metals, minerals); ii) vegetative beings (plants); iii) locomotive, feeling and desiring beings - animals; iv) rational beings - angels; v) eventually God - through man's ability of reciprocating with His grace, that is even a higher faculty in humans than even the angelic rationality. Now, in Maximus' vision, after the fall of Adam humans developed a fallen self-will, which he calls “gnomic will” that went astray from the 'logos' of this will, i.e. the natural will. In Maximus' understanding all human life is a school where we should study how to return our will to its divine destination, which is also the natural destination, that is to say, how can our self-will be transformed into a logos-will, when, thus, our free will and God-pleasing behavior will be again united, as they were in paradise, in a blissful unity. And since man contains all logoi of creation, with him the entire creation will also be transformed to the divine destiny. Only Christ, God's co-unoriginated and co-eternal Son, who became human, restored according to Maximus strayed human wills to their healthy, logos-destined state, and gave also us authority and opportunity to do the same through Him, to become like Him, a perfect man (Eph. 4:13), that is to say, man who lives according to the divine logos "man", and such a man will go through grace of Lord to the ultimate end of loving his brethren more than himself, like does Jesus (John 13:34). And since human logos is uniting all the logoi of the entire creation, when human volition will be restored and directed already to its proper end – divine eternal perfections (Matt. 6:19-20), this shall introduce change in entire universe also, and there will be new heavens and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13). For this the groan of the entire creation, according to Paul.


The important part of Creation is the intelligent living beings within it, in both heavens (spirit-beings) and earth (souls of men).

The visible heavens but express, materially, what is there invisibly. And the earth is the environment of humanity upon it. Thus all Creation groans - angelic beings long for resolution; faith yearns for full redemption.

And the very materials creak and grind; atoms spontaneously decay, tectonic plates grind, humanity decays and dies. Ktiseos, here, I would say myself, is a matter of what cherubim represent . . . .

. . . . which is an abstract matter, not a simple material one.

  • The OP is specifically asking whether Michael Roberts' understanding of κτίσεως as meaning "humanity" rather than "creation", is convincing. Your answer should detail how Roberts has/has not hit the mark with his argument.
    – enegue
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 23:46

Yes, but with a distinction. Today's English reader would better understand it as "humanity", or all people of all nations. Adam Clarke refers to Lightfoot on this verse 19:

"For the earnest expectation of the creature - There is considerable difficulty in this and the four following verses: and the difficulty lies chiefly in the meaning of the word ἡ κτισις, which we translate the creature, and creation. Some think that by it the brute creation is meant; others apply it to the Jewish people; others to the godly; others to the Gentiles; others to the good angels; and others to the fallen spirits, both angelic and human. Dissertations without end have been written on it; and it does not appear that the Christian world are come to any general agreement on the subject. Dr. Lightfoot's mode of explanation appears to me to be the best, on the whole. "There is," says he, "a twofold key hanging at this place, which may unlock the whole, and make the sense plain and easy.

  1. The first is the phrase, πασα ἡ κτισις, which we render the whole creation, Romans 8:22, and with which we meet twice elsewhere in the New Testament. Mark 16:15; : Preach the Gospel, πασῃ τῃ κτισει, to every creature; and Colossians 1:23; : The Gospel was preached, εν πασῃ τῃ κτισει, to every creature. Now it is sufficiently apparent what is meant by πασα κτισις in both these places, viz. all nations, or the heathen world. For that which in St. Mark is, preach the Gospel to every creature, is, in St. Matthew, go and teach, παντα τα εθνη, all nations. And this very phrase in this place lays claim to that very interpretation. And the Hebrew הבריות כל col habberioth, which answers to the Greek πασα ἡ κτισις, every creature, is applied by the Jews to the Gentiles, and that by way of opposition to Israel.

  2. The second key is the word ματαιοτητι, Romans 8:20, which is not unfitly rendered vanity; but then this vanity is improperly applied to the vanishing, dying, changing state of the creation. For ματαιοτης, vanity, does not so much denote the vanishing condition of the outward state, as it does the inward vanity or emptiness of the mind. So the apostle, speaking of the Gentiles concerning whom he speaks here, tells us εματαιωθησαν, They became vain in their imaginations, Romans 1:21; and again, The Gentiles walk εν ματαιοτητι, in the vanity of their mind, Ephesians 4:17; so also, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, ὁτι εισι ματαιοι, that they are vain, 1 Corinthians 3:20. To all which let me add this farther observation, that throughout this whole place the apostle seems to allude to the bondage of the Israelites in Egypt, and their deliverance from it; with a comparison made betwixt the Jewish and the Gentile Church. When God would deliver Israel from his bondage, he challenges him for his Son, and his first-born, Exodus 4:22. And in like manner the Gentiles earnestly expect and wait for such a kind of manifestation of the sons of God, within and among themselves. The Romans, to whom the apostle writes, knew well how many predictions and promises it had pleased God to publish by his prophets, concerning gathering together and adopting sons to himself among the Gentiles; the manifestation of which sons the whole Gentile world with a neck as it were stretched out, as the word αποκαραδοκια implies, (απο, from, and καρα, the head, and δοκαω, to expect), doth now wait for." See the observations at the end of this chapter, ( Romans 8:39; (note))." Source: here

To which we can add Meyer's NT Commentary:

"Τῆς ΚΤΊΣΕΩς] Genitive of the subject. The waiting of the ΚΤΊΣΙς is with rhetorical emphasis brought into prominence as something independent. See Winer, p. 221 [E. T. 239]. Ἡ ΚΤΊΣΙς means—(1) actus creationis; so Romans 1:20, corresponding to the classic usage in the sense of establishment (Pind. Ol. 13. 118; comp. 1 Peter 2:13), founding (Polyb., Plut., and others), planting, etc.—(2) The thing created, and that (a) where the context supplies no limitation, quite generally like our creation, Mark 10:6; Mark 13:19; 2 Peter 3:4; Jdt 16:14; Wis 2:6, al.; and (b) where the context does limit it, in a more or less special sense, as in Mark 16:15, Colossians 1:23 (of that portion of the creation, which consists of mankind), Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 4:13 (of every individual creature); comp. Romans 1:25, Romans 8:39; also καινὴ κτίσις in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15. Since, then, the absolute Ἡ ΚΤΊΣΙς must receive its limitation of sense simply from the connection, the question is, What does the text in our passage exclude from the meaning of Τῆς ΚΤΊΣΕΩς? There are plainly excluded not only the angelic and demoniac kingdom (see Romans 8:20), but also Christians collectively, as is clear from Romans 8:19; Romans 8:21; Romans 8:23, where the Christians are different from the κτίσις, and even opposed to it, so that they cannot be regarded (according to the view of Frommann) as forming a partial conception, embraced also in the κτίσις. But is the non-Christian portion of humanity to be excluded also? If not, it must be meant either along with something else, or else alone. If the former, then Paul, seeing that irrational nature at any rate remains within the compass of the idea, would have included under one notion this nature and the Jewish and heathen worlds, which would be absurd. But if non-Christian humanity alone be meant, then—(1) we should not be able to see why Paul should have chosen the term κτίσις, and not have used the definite expression ΚΌΣΜΟς, which is formally employed for that idea elsewhere in his own writings and throughout the N. T. Besides, the absolute κτίσις nowhere in the entire N. T. means non-Christian mankind (in Mark 16:15 and Colossians 1:23, ΠΆΣῌ stands along with it); and, indeed, ΠᾶΣΑ Ἡ ΚΤΊΣΙς (Mark) and ΠᾶΣΑ ΚΤΊΣΙς (Col.) mean nothing else than the whole creation and every creature, and in these cases it is purely the context that shows that created men are meant, while at the same time it is self-evident ex adjuncto (for the discourse concerns the preaching of the gospel to the κτίσις) that Christians are not to be understood. " Source: here

The whole of the nations, all of man-kind who were yet outside of Christ were waiting for the revelation of the sons of God, those who followed the way of Christ (Christians) under the gospel of Christ. The nations were being grafted in with the believing Jews so that those who believed and were baptized could also become sons of God, counted for the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:26-29) as they heard and responded to the gospel.

  • So would you say that Paul is using the word as a synonym for "the world" (kosmos)?
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 14:03
  • No, just the people of other nations. We remember that the word came first to the Jews and to the remnant of Israel. Christ sent His disciples to the cities of Israel - those of the diaspora - in Matt. c. 10. The gospel call went out first to the blood line. So the rest of the people, the nations were being called into the gospel of Christ and it was being revealed by the sons of God - those who had already been baptized. The revelation was the gospel of Christ; that which was being revealed by the sons of God. The Christians were the revealers, so were excluded from the creature.
    – Gina
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 14:42
  • So would you say it is being used as a synonym for "the [non-Christian] gentiles"? IE: "the gentile nations"?
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 14:43
  • Yes, that would be the easy way of saying it. "Gentiles" just means "nations" of which Israel had been one. The Jews turned it into an epithet against all other nations outside of Israel.
    – Gina
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 14:45
  • The words translated "earnest expectation" has the sense of "eager anticipation" which seems incongruent with the non-Christian gentiles, no?
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 2:21

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