Do All Things Really Work for Good? (Romans 8:28)

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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He’s right to reject the idea that all things are good. But this is not what the traditional translation says. It says all things work together for good. There is really no problem with “all things” being the subject of “work,” within the normal boundaries of language flexibility. “All things” working does not deny that God is actually making it work.

… but he may well be right that the grammar favor’s NIV’s rendering of God working in all things for good.

Or not. NET has some helpful translation notes. (Emphasis added)

tc ὁ θεός (ho theos, “God”) is found after the verb συνεργεῖ (sunergei, “work”) in v. 28 by p46 A B 81 sa; the shorter reading is found in א C D F G Ψ 33 1739 1881 … latt sy bo. Although the inclusion is supported by a significant early papyrus, the alliance of significant Alexandrian and Western witnesses favors the shorter reading. As well, the longer reading is evidently motivated by a need for clarification. Since ὁ θεός is textually suspect, it is better to read the text without it. This leaves two good translational options: either “he works all things together for good” or “all things work together for good.” In the first instance the subject is embedded in the verb and “God” is clearly implied (as in v. 29). In the second instance, πάντα (panta) becomes the subject of an intransitive verb. In either case, “What is expressed is a truly biblical confidence in the sovereignty of God” (C. E. B. Cranfield, Romans [ICC], 1:427).

Nobody translates it “all things are good,” so Mounce’s framing the options that way is straw.