Answering a Question with a Question

Although most translations render Romans 8:31-32 as a series of rhetorical questions, they tend to render verses 33-34 as two sets of questions and answers. For example, the NIV has:

Verse 31:

Q: “What, then, shall we say in response to this?”

Q: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Verse 32:

Q: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Verse 33:

Q: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?”

A: “It is God who justifies.”

Verse 34:

Q: “Who is he that condemns?”

A: “Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

When rendered this way, it is not altogether clear how the answers given fit with the questions being asked. The passage just doesn’t seem to flow.

In the Greek, the answers which Paul gives are not complete sentences. There are no verbs present, merely nominative nouns followed by adjectives, participles, and relative clauses. Most translations therefore insert the verb “to be” between the nominative and whatever they believe to be the predicate.

If, however, these are seen as rhetorical questions rather than as declarative statements, there is no need to insert the “be” verb. As questions, they make perfect sense as they are, and the passage’s flow of thought becomes much more smooth and clear:

Verse 33:

Q: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?”

A: “God, the one who justifies?”

Verse 34:

Q: “Who is he that condemns?”

A: “Christ Jesus, the one who died, even more, who was raised to life—who is at the right hand of God and who also intercedes for us?”

Now the passage makes much more sense! Of course God will not bring a charge against the elect when He is the one who justifies them. Of course Jesus will not condemn them when He is the one who died for them, was raised, and who even now sits at the Father’s right hand interceding for them. Paul is answering his questions by eliminating all the possible options. That is why he then goes on to say that nothing in creation can separate us from Christ’s love. This passage offers the wonderful assurance that the only one who had a right to condemn us is the very one who redeems us. Translating verses 33-34 as a series of questions improves the flow of thought and brings out the full force of Paul’s argument, making for Better Bibles.


This is my first post to the Better Bibles Blog. While I don’t anticipate being a frequent contributor, I do appreciate Wayne enabling me to participate in this little corner of the web.

4 thoughts on “Answering a Question with a Question

  1. Suzanne McCarthy says:


    Welcome! I am so happy to have another voice join us.

    You bring up a very interesting point and it is disappointing to see how these verses are typically translated. Here is where the Emphasized version of Rotherham really excels. I remember how delighted I was the first time I opened his translation.

    Who shall bring an accusation against the chosen ones of God? God, who declareth righteous?

    Who is he that condemneth? Christ Jesus who died? – Nay! rather was raised from among the dead, – who is on the right hand of God, who also is making intercession in our behalf?

    Overall, I feel Rotherham had a rare gift for producing a literal translation that had added value, unlike the amplified version, etc.

  2. Christopher Drew says:

    Thanks for the great post. I’m a recent seminary graduate, and still rookie Greek translator. This post on Romans has been very helpful. BTW, I use Accordance, too. 🙂

  3. Peter Kirk says:

    Welcome, David, and you make a good point. Answering a question with a question was not invented by modern politicians!

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