Nine years ago someone posted "Who subjected the creation to futility in Rom. 8:20-21?"

In the 'answers' there, no one touched on the single most important point in that passage.

That passage has been sorely mistranslated in every translation I've seen.

A far better rendering of ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸν ὑποτάξαντα would be something like "but because of the subjection/subjecting to rule/order".

I can't see where the Greek mentions a "him" or an "it" at all.

Could someone please explain which Greek word in ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸν ὑποτάξαντα implies "he" or "him" or "it", let alone God?

  • Welcome to the site, Millard. You have asked a stonking good question here. Looking forward to seeing more such questions!
    – Anne
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 15:45
  • I've cued this video up to the place where it teaches about the Koine "substantive" which is what we are seeing in that verse: youtu.be/5qtLzrit31g?t=35 The translators got it right.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 21:12

2 Answers 2


The problem with creation is the inherent liability of the creature. It is not the imperfection or fault of the Creator. Created creatures, created with intelligence, have a certain liability. That liability comes to light with the existence of a certain kind of knowledge, inevitably inherent in creation itself.

Thus the warning to mankind not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, as a means of life - as a means of gaining or sustaining the kind of life that beings with spirits or spiritual souls may partake of by virtue of that creation within them - the capacity of spiritual thought and contemplation of spiritual concept.

Thus the liability in creation, already foreseen, already foreknown, already a glaring problem if there is to be a creation at all, which involves intelligent beings. And what would be the purpose (other than purely cosmetic) of a creation which did not contain such ? Where would be the benefit to the Creator ?

So it was 'in hope' that the creation was ventured upon by the almighty. Else, would he not have ventured. To make a creation which would, inevitably and unsustainably, sink into a torrid state, would be (to say the least, if one may, in reverence, without even hinting at the possible consequences) 'unethical'.

No, it was 'in hope' that a creation was made which would, inevitably be 'subject to vanity'. It had to be, this inevitable sinking. Yet provision was already made in the mind and heart and purpose and intent of the Creator.

Thus the wording of Romans 8:20-21 (TR undisputed)

τη γαρ ματαιοτητι η κτισις υπεταγη ουχ εκουσα αλλα δια τον υποταξαντα επ ελπιδι

... for to vanity the creation was subjected not willingly but by reason of the subjecting in hope [EGNT but altered]

I have quoted the Englishman's Greek New Testament interlinear literal translation (1877) except I have said 'the subjecting' to properly (as the question suggests) express the article and the participle (1) rather than introduce an agent, contrary to the text.

No agent is mentioned. There is no ambiguity about blame, whose fault it was. There is a statement regarding a creation that was made and that became (immediately) subject.

The creation was made. It immediately became subject to vanity.

But the creative act was in hope of a better creation, for the first was merely a precursor. A means to an end.

Immediately the subjection, then immediately a promise of hope. A seed to come, not of the first humanity : of woman but not man. A seed that would - from above - bruise the head of the serpent (the cause of all the trouble) and should reign in a rearrangement, God manifest in flesh ruling in the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

'The subjecting' was 'in hope'.

It had to be, thus. By divine foreknowledge and by divine wisdom, all was foreseen.

And provision was already made.

The Greek article derives from the demonstrative pronoun (that) according to Daniel B Wallace in his book 'Beyond the Basics' and it could be so translated here :

  • For the earnest expectation of the creation ... awaits ...

  • for to vanity the creation was subject ;

  • not willingly, but by reason of that subjection [being] in hope ;

  • that ... the creation shall be freed ...

In our own English idiom, the demonstrative pronoun (that) is referring back to the matter of subjection. It is not referring, nor is the participle, to an agency which brings about the subjection. It only refers back to the former statement about subjection.

(1) τον υποταξαντα . . . . . . article plus acc.sing.masc.part.aor.1 act.

[Bagster's Analytical Greek Lexicon 1870]


Romans 8:20 English Standard Verseion

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope

As pointed out by the OP, "him" or "it" is not in the Greek. However, the article and the verb are.

Berean Study Bible

For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope

because of
διὰ (dia)
Strong's Greek 1223: A primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through.

the [One who]
τὸν (ton)
Article - Accusative Masculine Singular
Strong's Greek 3588: The, the definite article. Including the feminine he, and the neuter to in all their inflections; the definite article; the.

subjected [it],
ὑποτάξαντα (hypotaxanta)
Verb - Aorist Participle Active - Accusative Masculine Singular
Strong's Greek 5293: From hupo and tasso; to subordinate; reflexively, to obey.

The missing words are implied by the article and the verb. Otherwise, the sentence would not make sense. These are common practices in Koine Greek.

The translator needs to ask himself: Who is doing the subjecting? What is being subjected? And Fill in the blanks.

  • Tony, exactly. Fill in the "blank". Except there is no necessary blank in the text. The "blank" is begged not by the text, but by the "Christian" preconceptions of the translators (i.e., the church). Explain how "but because of the subjection/subjecting to rule/order" is insufficient. Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 18:56
  • dailydoseofgreek.com/learn-biblical-greek
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 19:09
  • @MillardJMelnyk, where did you get the words "rule/order" from?
    – user35953
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 21:02
  • 1
    @Tony Chan, because ὑποτάξαντα isn't just any kind of subjecting. It's “a Greek military term meaning ‘to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader’. In non-military use, it was ‘a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden’.” From Strong's G5293, see under “Outline of Biblical Usage” at blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/… Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 4:43
  • Thanks for the info.
    – user35953
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 18:35

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