The ἐν ἑαυτοῖς of Rom 8:23 is typically rendered in English as 'within ourselves' or 'inwardly'.

ἡμεῖς καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐν ἑαυτοῖς στενάζομεν

Could it not also be rendered 'among ourselves'? Is there any precedent?

Certainly there is an inward groaning (2 Cor 5:2), but the shared experience seems to be at lest part of what Paul is trying to stress. Am I way off?


"among us" (the pronoun ημιν, meaning "us") and "within ourselves" (i.e. reflexive pronoun εαυτοις) are not the same in meaning: here it says, "within ourselves," and there is no contextual indication that we should read it any other way. The common experience is still retained when saying, "within ourselves," because it's still in the plural—'our experience.'

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    Thanks for your input, Sola. However, the standard pronoun would only be used if the action was performed by a third party, as in Luke 1:1. Indeed, a quick search shows that 'among themselves/ourselves' is the most common way to translate the preposition ἐν combined with the reflexive pronoun, as it is in Rom 8:23.. In the NASB it is 8 of 12 instances. Of the four outstanding, two are singular (where 'among' would make no sense) and two are first person plural (2 Cor 1:9 and the verse in question). – Robb Oct 29 '19 at 12:41
  • Of course, ἐν ἑαυτοῖς can mean either, the point is that "among ourselves" is contextually unwarranted. It makes no sense. It's about an internal groaning or yearning, not a statement of exclusivity ('at least we, as opposed to others, groan and yearn for divine sonship'). – Sola Gratia Nov 1 '19 at 15:51
  • See the discussion below Mac's answer for an argument for contextual warrant. Admittedly, I have always read this passage as you contend it ought to be read. But the more I study it the more I think Paul is articulating an experience and expression of the corporate church, rather than simply a collective of individual experiences. – Robb Nov 2 '19 at 20:03

The operative phrase in Rom 8:23 is shown below from a common interlinear https://biblehub.com/interlinear/romans/8-23.htm

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This could be translated, "we in ourselves", or, "we in [&/] of ourselves", or, "ourselves of ourselves", or, "ourselves in ourselves", etc. Note the large variety of such translations here. https://biblehub.com/romans/8-23.htm

Note that the word, "among" or "inwardly" does not exist in the Greek text explicitly. Some would argue that it might be implied in the preposition "en" (= "in") which can be translated "within" or "among". If this is true, then we end up with a rather awkward translation of "we among ourselves". If this is adopted, then it would be better to translate as "we ourselves within us" or similar which is what some versions do.

Therefore, I would literally translate Rom 8:23 as:

and not only so but we ourselves, having the firstfruits of the Spirit, we in ourselves groan eagerly expecting sonship - the redemption of our body.

The previous verse (Rom 8:22) talks about the whole of creation - the physical world - that groans in labour pains until now due to the ravages of sin. Paul then declares (v23) that Christians feel the same way - we all endure the consequences of sin in our bodies and groan while we wait for Jesus' return and the redemption of our bodies when we will receive new bodies (1 Cor 15:42-55).

2 Cor 5:1, 2 also discusses the redemption of our bodies. While this discusses a collective experiences at the second coming, it is nevertheless a very personal experience when we get a new "imperishable" (1 Cor 15 51-53) body.

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  • Thanks Mac. Very similar constructions are regularly translated 'among themselves' in other passages. For instance, Rom 2:24 αυτων εν εαυτοις – Robb May 30 '19 at 0:59
  • Bah! I hit 'enter' too soon. In Rom 1:24 (not 2:24) "αυτων εν εαυτοις" is translated 'among themselves', 'between themselves' and 'among them' (ESV, KJV, NASB). The difference between 'among' and 'within' in 8:23 is that one is a joint action and one is an experience that many people have, individually. Either we [corporately] groan among ourselves, or we [each] groan within [each of] ourselves. Does that make sense? – Robb May 30 '19 at 1:09
  • The context is what led me to analyze this phrase. Ten terms in vv16-32 explicitly denote joint action/identity via the prefix συν. The Spirit co-testifies (16) that we are co-heirs who co-suffer to be co-glorified (17). The creation co-groans and co-suffers (22) the spirit co-labors with us in our weakness (26). All things co-work for good (28). Believers are co-formed to the image of the Son (29). The father will give us all things with (συν) the Son (32). It occurs to me that Paul's intent at 23 is to depict the Christian community as one where 'groaning' is also a joint activity – Robb May 30 '19 at 1:11
  • Good points. Many thanks. I agree for the most part and would not deny that meaning; however, the fact that Paul specifically mentions "in our bodies" suggests this has something to do with the decay and problems we suffer in our sin-ravaged bodies with disease and death. – user25930 May 30 '19 at 2:30
  • Further - each of the "co-" words you quote means that we are co-heirs with Christ, not necessarily each other (although that is one of the outcomes.) [Compare the spokes of a wheel that all proceed in a different directions but in coming to the center affectively come together.] – user25930 May 30 '19 at 2:37

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