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In Romans 8:19-21, we read about creation waiting for things to be restored because it was subjected to "frustration."

NIV:

19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

KJV:

19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

In my mind, the "in hope" part makes more sense in terms of creation waiting in hope for the "children of God to be revealed" and not that it was "subjected to frustration in hope" As a result, this verse makes the most sense to me when most of verse 20 is set off as a parenthetical expression:

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed , ( for the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it), in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

This ties the first and last phrase together:

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

My question:

My question is in regards to how punctuation is chosen. My understanding is that there is no punctuation in any of the source material. How do we know or not know that the period at the end of verse 19 was intended? How do we know that most of verse 20 wasn't a parenthetical?

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    Hi pbarney, welcome to BH.SE! Please do take the Site Tour to understand more about the scope of the site and how it may differ from other SE's you're familiar with. This is a great first question. +1
    – Steve can help
    Aug 13, 2020 at 14:24
  • That’s a rather long parenthetical though.
    – user35953
    Aug 14, 2020 at 23:08
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    @Bill, true, but the again, it is Paul we're talking about who was the master of the run-on sentence.
    – pbarney
    Aug 15, 2020 at 17:09
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    Quite insightful observation.
    – Austin
    Mar 23, 2022 at 5:22
  • Your suggestion with parentheses is essentially what most modern versions do with commas. Paul is notorious for very long sentences in the Greek!
    – Dottard
    Mar 27, 2022 at 20:32

2 Answers 2

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There is no punctuation in the original manuscripts. Punctuations are added by the English translators according to the English language syntax rules. Parentheses are added according to interpretations of the translators. Paragraphs are also introduced by translators. Even chapter and verse divisions are not in the original manuscripts.

The notion of a sentence is the same in Hebrew, Greek, and English. It is a complete utterance that can stand by itself. Even without the formal period punctuation, there are clues suggesting the end of a sentential thought.

https://bible.org/article/kigar-and-wawkai-are-often-markers-and-not-words-be-translated:

The New Testament use of γαρ “is in accord with that of the classic [Greek] period.”

The Greek word γὰρ works often like the punctuation period.

Romans 8:19 For [γὰρ] the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For [γὰρ] the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that h the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

How do we know or not know that the period at the end of verse 19 was intended?

The presence of γὰρ is a rather strong indication in this case according to the usual Greek translation practice.

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    It certainly makes more sense with the parentheses. With "… waits in eager expectation … in hope that …", the parts fit together quite well. With "… subjected to frustration … in hope that …" or "… the one who subjected it in hope that …*" don't read nearly as well, and both imply that God does things "in hope that", as if he doesn't know that it will happen. Nov 22, 2021 at 3:47
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    Does "γὰρ" have to be considered as terminating a sentence? In most English translations it is treated as beginning a sentence ("And …", "For …", etc.). If it is treated as a beginning rather than an ending, there is no problem with the suggested parenthetical translation. Nov 22, 2021 at 3:55
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I would warn against using paraphrase interpretative versions like NIV NET as your primary version. The ones like in the line of RV or ASV are far better options, as they are translations.

The KJV punctuation is mistaken: "by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope", implies that the hope belongs to the one who subjected ὑποτάξαντα the creation (God), rather than the subject ὑπετάγη (creation). For God to have such a hope of creation's liberation doesn't seem natural at all. The period or comma at the end of v19 doesn't change the fact that v20 is a separate sentence or clause; it should be understood as parenthesis, due to the "for" (gar) conjunction. The Authorized Version 1873 corrected it to the current form as we see in the modern versions (the same, in hope). These are among minor and constant changes that happened in the KJV versions.

Alford writes,

The explanation of ὁ ὑποτάξας as meaning ‘the devil’ (Locke, al.), hardly needs refutation. See Mat 10:28, and note),—in (‘on condition of,’ ‘in a state of,’ see ch. Rom 4:18, and note on ἐφʼ ᾧ, ch. Rom 5:12) hope (ἐπʼ ἐλπίδι must not be joined with ὑποτάξαντα, because then the ἐλπίς becomes the hope of the ὑποτάξας,—but with ὑπετάγη, being the hope of the ὑποταγεῖσα), because (not ‘that,’ after ἐλπίς,—for then it is not likely that αὐτὴ ἡ κτίσις would be so emphatically repeated: the clause now announces a new fact, and thus the emphasis is accounted for.

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  • Thank you. I don't use those versions much; I used them at the time for the benefit of people who took time to read my question, because they seemed to be in common use. I primarily use NASB, AMP and EXB, along with the Blue Letter Bible's Greek interlinear. I've seen enough questionable translations that I rarely read a weighty verse without looking deeper into the Greek. Regardless, I know that the Holy Spirit can teach us despite the version we use. I personally know a former Jehovah's Witness who came to saving faith when reading his corrupted New World Translation! God is so faithful!
    – pbarney
    May 18, 2023 at 18:30
  • And yes, I also believe the KJV is wrong here.
    – pbarney
    May 18, 2023 at 18:34
  • use theword.net software for PC (and www.mybible.zone for phone) where you can easily compare many versions, and check greek and commentaries. DLNT seems to be the most literal, it is also available in it.
    – Michael16
    May 18, 2023 at 18:38

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