Romans 8:28 in Greek

[Yesterday (Wednesday, May 31, 2017), I had lunch with Glenn Holland. We even ran into a mutual friend at the restaurant, so our time together was about two and a half hours, all told. In the course of our conversation, Glenn told me that he would like to get my take on Romans 8:28 in Greek. This Fact Sheet is my detailed reply to that query. LGO]

Glenn, this is regarding your mention of Romans 8:28 in conversation yesterday, particularly those pesky footnotes.

The footnotes on this verse in the NIV complicate what would otherwise be a straightforward verse in the body of Greek manuscript evidence. The NIV is not unique in this; the same could be said of the footnotes in the RSV, NASB, NRSV, HCSB and ESV. In each of these English versions, the footnote in question begins with “Some manuscripts…” or “Other manuscripts…” or “Other ancient authorities…” So what does the manuscript evidence tell us about this verse?

First of all, here’s the verse in Greek. This is the way it consistently reads in the ancient Greek MSS and in the edited publications of the Greek text.

Οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν τὸν Θεὸν πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν.

In the Greek MSS of Romans 8:28, there are a few spelling variants. In terms of both content and evidence, these variants are inconsequential, but if you’re interested, I’ll just list them below.

  • In a couple of Greek MSS, οἴδαμεν is (mis)spelled ἴδαμεν. [At the time the MSS in question were copied, the pronunciation of both spellings would have been the same, due to ἰωτακισμός in Κοινή ]
  • In more than a dozen MSS, ἀγαπῶσιν is spelled without the ν. In one MS, it is spelled ἀγαπῶσις.
  • In two Greek MSS, πάντα is spelled πάντας. In one MS, the form πᾶν is found.
  • In one MS, συνεργεῖ is spelled συνεργῆ. [Again, the pronunciation would have been the same.]
  • In half a dozen Greek MSS, πρόθεσιν is spelled without the ν.
  • In one Greek MS, οὖσιν is spelled without the ν.

In addition to (mis)spelling variants, there are a couple of places where Greek MSS supply a different word.

  • In four Greek MSS, the postpositive particle is γὰρ, not δὲ.
  • In the margin of one tenth century AD manuscript, instead of συνεργεῖ, the variant reading is for a different verb, ἐνεργεῖ.

None of those very minor variant readings are the reason behind the footnotes found in the various English Bible versions mentioned earlier. The addition of the words ὁ θεός to the text after συνεργεῖ seems to be the reading driving those footnotes. Just four Greek MSS have this addition.

 I said earlier that the edited publications of the Greek New Testament (the so-called Textus Receptus, Alford, Tischendorf, von Soden and the Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies’, et al.) were generally agreed on how this verse reads in Greek. However, there were a few editors that included the additional words, after a fashion. Those that I know of from my library that did are the 1881 Westcott-Hort text, and the 21st and 23rd editions (dated 1952 and 1957, respectively) of the Nestle text.

Westcott and Hort were the first editors to include it. Those editors preferred the Alexandrian text-type, and therefore usually adopted Alexandrian readings into their text, even when there was scant evidence for doing so. And they did here too, after a fashion. In their 1881 text, Westcott and Hort included the words, but placed them in brackets in the text (i.e., [ὁ θεός]) to indicate doubtfulness. In the two aforementioned editions of the Nestle texts, the addition was done the same way.

As I said before, only four Greek MSS contain the variant reading, and one of those (papyrus manuscript P46) was unknown to Westcott and Hort in the late nineteenth century. So they included these words (albeit bracketed) on the strength of just three manuscripts. That’s not really surprising; in their printed Greek text, they often adopted readings based on scant evidence, placing great weight to a certain few manuscripts they believed to be more reliable. One such manuscript was Codex Vaticanus (often referred to in abbreviated form as simply “B”). Westcott and Hort hardly ever parted with the text of B. And B was one of those three Greek MSS available to Westcott and Hort that contained the words ὁ θεός in Romans 8:28.

I believe the Byzantine text-type (also called the majority text-type) to be the most reliable form of the Greek New Testament, given its provenance and transmissional history. The edition of it I use in my translations is The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform, compiled by Maurice A. Robinson and William Grover Robinson, 2005. And the Byzantine text does not contain this reading.

So, in closing, here again is how Romans 8:28 reads in Greek in the Byzantine and most other published Greek texts:

Οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν τὸν Θεὸν πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν.

And here is how I chose to translate that:

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