Interpreting "ὑπερεντυγχάνει" and "ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ" in Romans 8?

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Jedd Cole
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Interpreting "ὑπερεντυγχάνει" and "ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ" in Romans 8?

Post by Jedd Cole » October 31st, 2018, 8:30 am

The relevant passage is from Romans 8:26-27, focusing on the parts in bold:
τὸ πνεῦμα συναντιλαμβάνεται τῇ ἀσθενείᾳ ἡμῶν· τὸ γὰρ τί προσευξώμεθα καθὸ δεῖ οὐκ οἴδαμεν, ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα ὑπερεντυγχάνει στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις, ὁ δὲ ἐραυνῶν τὰς καρδίας οἶδεν τί τὸ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος, ὅτι κατὰ θεὸν ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ ἁγίων.
(text is from SBLGNT)

My question has to do with how to understand and translate the words/phrases, "ὑπερεντυγχάνει" and "ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ." The lexicons I've conferred with define the first word as "intercede," but noting its compound nature (ὑπερ + ἐν + τυγχανω).

In my own translation work so far, I've tried not to overdo a strictly etymological reading of the words, but here's my stab at an interpretation of the whole (with the same parts highlighted as above):
...this breath intercedes with unutterable sighing. The one seeking the heart perceives what the breath intends, because it falls in between God and the holy ones.
I'm trying in the second instance to bring out the sense of "[ἐν]τυγχανω" more, but I'm not sure I'm hitting the mark. What are your thoughts on interpreting "ὑπερεντυγχάνει" and "ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ" in this context?
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Interpreting "ὑπερεντυγχάνει" and "ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ" in Romans 8?

Post by Stephen Carlson » October 31st, 2018, 6:45 pm

Go with what the lexicons say. They document what the words mean in usage and that's what you need to be faithful to. Compound words, especially those used with any frequency, take on a life of their after coinage, and so there is no benefit to preserving the feel of a compound word that has moved on. It's like aiming your arrows at behind a moving target.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Jedd Cole
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Re: Interpreting "ὑπερεντυγχάνει" and "ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ" in Romans 8?

Post by Jedd Cole » October 31st, 2018, 7:26 pm

That's pretty much what I try to do. Though in this case, there seems to be a pointed "deconstruction" of the compound from one statement to the next...
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Interpreting "ὑπερεντυγχάνει" and "ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ" in Romans 8?

Post by Stephen Carlson » October 31st, 2018, 7:58 pm

There could be word play here. Beyond appreciating it as a reader, rendering it into the English is more of an issue for the translator and translation technique / philosophy. That said, translating ὑπερεντυγχάνει as "intercedes" and as ἐντυγχάνει ὑπέρ "falls in between" doesn't really exploit the word play.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Jedd Cole
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Joined: October 24th, 2018, 8:10 pm

Re: Interpreting "ὑπερεντυγχάνει" and "ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ" in Romans 8?

Post by Jedd Cole » October 31st, 2018, 9:44 pm

Fair enough. I'll give it some more thought.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Interpreting "ὑπερεντυγχάνει" and "ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ" in Romans 8?

Post by Jonathan Robie » November 1st, 2018, 5:19 pm

To me, ὑπερ-εντυγχάνω emphasizes that this is intercession on behalf of someone else. It is a rare word, used only once in the Greek New Testament and never used in the Septuagint. Why does the Spirit have to intercede on our behalf? Because we do not know how to do so ourselves:

τὸ γὰρ τί προσευξώμεθα καθὸ δεῖ οὐκ οἴδαμεν,
ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα ὑπερεντυγχάνει στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις

That's what is emphasized here. The word ἐντυγχάνω is a more common word for intercession. I'm thinking of two meanings "on behalf of" can have in English. A guardian ad litem acts on behalf of the parents - doing what they cannot. A guardian ad litem also acts on behalf of the child - for the benefit of the child. Both ὑπερεντυγχάνει and ἐντυγχάνω are for the benefit of the person who is being interceded for. But in this verse, the only one where ὑπερεντυγχάνει occurs, we are not able to intercede on our own behalf and the spirit does what we cannot.

One possible hint that this interpretation makes sense: some manuscripts read ὑπερεντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν. At least someone thought that it makes sense to specify for whose benefit the Spirit ὑπερεντυγχάνει.

If this is correct, perhaps it could be translated something like this:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. Since we do not know what to pray for as we ought, the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
It might be helpful to see what Origen, Gregorius Nazaianzensus, and Clement of Alexandria had to say about this text.
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