From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed May 27 1998 - 07:33:27 EDT

At 9:11 PM -0400 5/26/98, James C. Clardy, Jr. wrote:
>I'm struggling with ROMANS 8:15-16...
> PNEUMA is used in 15 twice as PNEUMA DOULEIAS and
> It is used in verse 16 as TO PNEUMA SUMMARTUREI TWi
> In verse 15 it's usually translated as something like
>"spirit of bondage" and
> "spirit of adoption" and in verse 16 as "the spirit
>bears witness with our
> spirit."
> In verse 16 this is usually taken to mean in order,
>the "Holy Spirit" and the
> "human spirit" (or some take it as "conscience.")
>First, is it possible to understand "our spirit"="the Holy
>Spirit in the possession of humans" or "possessed by humans"
>as opposed to understanding "our spirit" as the human spirit?
>Secondly, can the PNEUMA hUIOQESIAS in verse 15 in anyway be
>the "PNEUMA hMWN" of verse 16?

Hi, Jim, you're another we haven't heard from for a long time; as I recall
you used to buzz us regularly with questions about Romans, line-by-line.
I'm sort of surprised that nobody has yet responded to this one yet, so
I'll take a crack at it.

I'll say at the outset what I've said previously in this forum: regardless
of what one may think of Bultmann's other work, I think his chapter on
Pauline Anthropology in the two-volume _Theology of the NT_ is still the
best thing on Paul's psychological terminology. There may conceivably
something more recent that someone may mention, but I think what he says
will answer in this connection, at least:

(1) Pretty clearly it is the Holy Spirit or "Spirit of the Risen
Lord"/"Spirit of Christ Jesus" that is referred to in verse 15, where the
Spirit is characterized first negatively as to what it ISN'T and then
positively in terms of what it IS, and the believers' conscious selves in
verse 16. And I would assert as emphatically as possible that the two
"spirits" of verse 15 ought absolutely NOT to be equated with the personal
(or corporate personal "spirit") of verse 16.

(2) In very-much oversimplified terms, Bultmann speaks of PNEUMA and SWMA
in Pauline psychology as subjective and objective selfhood--PNEUMA as the
conscious, knowing, deciding, and acting self, SWMA as the self that
presents itself to one's PNEUMA and to others as the objective self
discerned and controlled by one's PNEUMA insofar as the PNEUMA actually is
in control. PNEUMA and SWMA should not be thought of in terms of a
spiritual soul and a material body but rather as the I and the ME of
personal selfhood, a selfhood which is integrated when healthy, but which
is split and alienated one from the other in the fallen human condition,
and which is in process of re-integration in believers who have received
the Holy Spirit to assist their own spirits in the process of regaining
control over the self so as to become the whole, healthy persons that human
beings were meant to be. There's a lot more to be said about the alienated
PNEUMA and SWMA (which has become uncontrollable SARX), but it doesn't bear
on the question here raised. So, going on more directly to your questions:

(3) I take it that, since the PNEUMA is what the believers being addressed
in verse 15 have "received" or "gotten" (ELABETE), it must be the Holy
Spirit. Paul is describing the Spirit with verbal nouns in the genitive
that define what effect the Spirit has in the process of transforming
believers. Although "spirit of bondage/slavery" is literal, I'd understand
PNEUMA DOULEIAS (negatively) as "a spirit that makes one enslaved and keeps
one enslaved" (to Sin, to the aimless, helpless condition of one former
existence)--this in contrast to PNEUMA hUIOQESIAS as "a spirit that
transforms one into the child of God that one was always meant to be and
this ("adoption," formal acceptance of the new believer as God's hUIOS) is
one way of defining and describing the impact of salvation through the
Christ-event. Of course the terminology derives from an inner
transformation of the Old Covenant understanding of "bondage" as
enslavement of Israelites to human beings (Pharaoh) and "adoption" as the
covenant-making which transforms the Israelites from "slaves of men" to
"servants of YHWH" who are henceforth YHWH's "Sons" (BANIM). But Paul uses
"bondage" and "adoption" rather as terms descriptive of the individual's
self-alienation and progressive re-integration--of prior "enslavement" to
Sin and Death as cosmic controlling powers and of "adoption" by God in
Christ as liberation from those cosmic controlling powers and
transformation into "Children of God." I've always thought it interesting
and significant that Paul regularly uses the plural when he's talking about
what happens to individuals in the process of being saved, because, as I
understand it, he thinks of the process as one of the constitution, not of
isolated individual "sons" (and daughters) but rather as members of a
family of God's children, members of a new Israel (to put it in Matthaean

I hope that's enough to clarify how I understand, in terms derived largely
from Bultmann's account, the sense of the words you've asked about in these
two verses. This account is, of course, loaded with theology, but at least
it is not so much modern sectarian theology but a conceptual description of
how Paul's terms here may be understood. I doubt not that there may be
other ways of describing conceptually what Paul means in these verses, and
perhaps,now that I've placed a target in view, others may proceed to shoot
it down and suggest alternative descriptions. I hope that this can be done
without getting involved with sectarian differences and that the focus of
any discussion on this may remain fixed sharply upon what the text of Rom
8:15-16 may legitimately be said to mean.

I suspect this is a passage wherein theology is inescapable because it is
one of the great Pauline expository texts about the nature of salvation
itself. Let me add one more comment on verse 16: the "consensus" between
God's spirit and our collective personal spirits is (clearly?) understood
by Paul to be the source of our awareness of our redeemed condition, or
should I say our condition as one of being in the process of integration
wherein we already know ourselves to be children of God.

Having composed a short thesis in response to that question, I think I can
see why nobody else has hitherto responded to it--it's not so simple a
question as it appears to be on the surface.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243 OR

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