The growling of Christ


In response to the assertion (found here) that the “groaning” of Christ at John 11:33, 38 is similar to the “groaning” in the spirit during prayer described at Rom 8:26, I replied (originally here):

The Greek term there at John 11 (both verses) is “in-thunder”. (Which is one of the more awesome sounding words in Greek, too: embrimaomai! Or as we might say here in the South, “Im Brim MahOhMy!” :laughing: :smiling_imp: :mrgreen:)

It absolutely does not have the connotation of praying (not in itself anyway), and even “muttering” is too weak and doesn’t quite get the emotional thrust correct. It’s a rumbling, threatening GROWL!–the sort of thing someone does when he’s ticced off.

A more accurate translation, including in grammar, from the Greek might be: “Then Jesus, as He saw her wailing, and the Jews wailing as they came toward her, growls in His breath [or ‘under His breath’ as we would say in English], shaking Himself.” And, “Jesus, deeply growling in Himself, is coming toward the tomb.” (Edited to add: This is how I translated it for my King of Stories harmonization project several years ago, by the way.)

It’s the same term used for Jesus when strictly warning two different men he had just healed not to go blabbing about this to the public right before throwing them out of the house (which they then go boast to the public about) at Matt 9:30 and Mark 1:43. By comparison, it’s also the term used by the disciples embrimaomai-ing against Mary for bringing the attar at Mark 14:5. (I think those are the only times it occurs in the NT.)

This use of the term has long been recognized, and one of the popular topics for interpreting and applying GosJohn in this chapter, throughout all Christian history, has been: what (and/or who) is Jesus angry about here, and why? (The text doesn’t say, so there has been a lot of debate and discussion. :slight_smile: I strongly suspect more than one answer is correct, both concerning the target of His anger and His rationale for it.)


Meanwhile, the “groaning” of Rom 8:26 is not at all the same word, although it does typically share the connotation of displeasure somehow when used anywhere else in the NT. Literally it means “cramp”, and by analogy means to wordlessly complain like someone with stomach-cramps or a woman giving birth.

So Jesus groans while healing a deaf-mute man at Mark 7:34 (maybe the same guy He has already healed twice before, in GosMatt chronology??), who Jesus knows is going to go straight out and boast about his healing despite Jesus strictly charging him not to. (In this case the term may be synonymous with “growl” in similar incidents.)

Paul, in 2 Cor 5:2, 4, talks about how we are longing, with groans, for the resurrection to come.

Relatedly, he talks in Rom 8:22 (close to 8:26, notice!), about how all creation is groaning together like a woman in childbirth, waiting for the sons of God to be born. Not only this, but we ourselves who already have the firstfruits of the spirit, are also groaning in ourselves awaiting that day to come and the deliverance of our body. (v.23)

James warns in his epistle (5:9) that we are not to groan against one another.

The Hebraist in his epistle (13:17) says that we should behave well under our bishops/overseers, so that in their responsibility for us they can render up an account (to God, apparently) without groaning about us.

Israel in described in Acts 7:34 as groaning in Egypt, awaiting their salvation.

One version in the textual tradition of Rev 18:9 talks about the suitors of the whore of Babylon groaning when they perceive her being overthrown. (But usually the term there is “grieving”.)

Rom 8:26-27, by comparison: “Now, similarly, the (Holy) Spirit is also aiding our infirmity, for we are not aware of all we should be praying to accord with what must be, but the Spirit (or the spirit?) itself is pleading for the same with inarticulate groanings. And He, the One Who is searching the hearts, is aware of all the disposition of the spirit, that in accord with God it is pleading for the same (for the) saints.”

The grammar is a bit weird to translate into English in the phrase “pleading for same” in both verses; but the upshot in context of verses 22 and 23 just a bit previously, is that while we we may not know particularly what to pray for (so that creation may be freed from its involuntary subjection to vanity and its enslavement of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God), the saints and the Holy Spirit are agreed in groaning together in communion with the suffering of creation in childbirth looking forward to that day.

(A communion of hope for salvation from corruption that has quite a lot to do with the final chapter of RevJohn, I would say. :smiley: )

Anyway, it doesn’t have the same connotation as “growling”, which is more actively angry, but it still has to do with being upset about the condition of something.