In order to better understand Romans 6:5, I've been doing a word study of the Greek word σύμφυτος (sumphutos), traditionally translated "planted together" or "united with". Commentators usually point out that this adjective is found only here in the New Testament. However, a verb form of the root word is found in Luke 8:7. What's more, various forms are found six times in the Septuagint (Esther 7:7,8 in the margin of Codex Sinaiticus by a corrector; in the text of Amos 9:13, Zechariah 11:2, Wisdom of Solomon 13:13, and III Maccabees 3:22). I'm trying to isolate the most basic meaning, which so far seems to be "thickly grown up together". It's not, as often thought, "grafted", though grafting can be used as an illustration for Romans 6:5 as a whole. Also, it seems to me that the plural form σύμφυτοι (sumphutoi) with the "oi" ending used in 6:5 is not rendered correctly by the traditional translation "united with Him", or even by the alternative "united with the likeness". Rather, in this instance the prefix σύμ- (sum-) doesn't mean "with", but "together", and sumphutoi describes the community of Christians, "such ones as we" of verses 1-4. This is then followed by the dative τῷ ὁμοιώματι (to homoiomati), which means that instead of the locative "'in' the likeness" the dative should be translated "'to' or 'for' the likeness". Romans 6:5 would then more literally read, "For if we have become 'thickly-grown-up-together ones' with reference to the likeness of His death..."

Along the way I found some of the most helpful information on sumphutos in Footnote 187 to Romans 6:5 in John Calvin's commentary on Romans, which was "translated and edited by the Rev. John Owen". This is not the famous Puritan John Owen (1616-1683), but rather a vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire, UK, who lived from 1788-1867. This later John Owen wrote as "Editor" in the footnote and among other things said, "It appears from Wolfius that the word is used by Greek authors in a sense not strictly literal, to express congeniality, conjoining, union, as the sameness of disposition, or the joining together of a dismembered limb, or, as Grotius says, the union of friendship". I've wanted to read the exact words of the passage from Wolfius on this, so I've been trying to track him down. So far I've come up with three candidates:

  1. John Wolfius, mentioned in some of The Zurich Letters written to him in the 1500s during the English Reformation.

  2. Christian Wolff ("Wolfius")(1679-1754), a German Enlightenment philosopher between Leibniz and Kant.

  3. Johann Christoph Wolf (1683-1739), a German Christian Hebraist, polymath, collector of books, and master of Oriental languages and literature. I haven't found where he was called "Wolfius", but he very well could have been.

Does anyone have a clue who is the Wolfius mentioned by the editor (the later John Owen) in his footnote to Romans 6:5 of Calvin's commentary, and where the passage from Wolfius I'm looking for might be found? Thank you all for any help, and God bless you!

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for taking the site tour. For more on what this site is all about, see: How we are different than other sites. Meanwhile, I hope you'll browse some of the other questions and answers on this site. Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 19:29
  • John Calvin's dates are 1509-1564. This means that your second and third candidates can't possibly be the one Calvin refers to, since they lived long after Calvin died. Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 2:49
  • 1
    @davidlol Good point. The question is not entirely clear on that point. I would suggest to the OP reworking the question to make it crystal clear who wrote the footnote, and to quote in full the material from Wolfius from the footnote. Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 15:25
  • @Randwulf This is now the twelfth version of your question, differing only in two trivialities from the eleventh. It might help to get the kind of answer you are seeking if you could indicate why you feel the existing answers do not address your question and what else you are looking for.
    – davidlol
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 22:10
  • @davidlol As I read over my question, I kept feeling it could be better expressed for the benefit of any future readers. I am now satisfied and there will be no further revisions. Also, the answers given have been very helpful, for which I am very grateful. I have not yet made a final decision as to who is correct, but at this point I am inclined to favor Answer #1.
    – Randwulf
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


The evidence supports the conclusion that the Wolfius referred to by John Owen, Vicar of Thrussington, in his footnotes to Calvin's Commentary is Johann Christoph Wolf (1683-1739); and that the references made are to his book "Curae philologicae et criticae in Novum Testamentum".

This is a copy.

He studied at Wittenburg and amassed a library of some 25,000 volumes, becoming one of the foremost scholars of his age.

The Translators Preface to John Owen's volume, paragraph 12 refers to "Wolfius" as being active in the last century, that is in the 1700s. This seems to rule out Calvin's contemporary. The other Wolfius mentioned, Christian, was an Enlightenment philosopher, rather than a specialist in the development of languages.

Footnote 187 cites Wolfius as quoting Greek authors as using the word in connection with, amongst other things the joining together of a dismembered limb. This Wolfius in his commentary on this verse quotes Antonius (i.e. Marcus Aurelias) Book 8 chapter 34. That chapter refers to dismembered limbs. He also quotes the tenth book of Plato's Legabus.

There are at least 24 references to Wolfius in Owen's footnotes to Calvin's Commentary on Romans. These relate to the translation of the Greek. In some there are specific references to Greek or Jewish literature. Here are some:

Footnote 164, in relation to chapter 5 verse 12, refers to a quote from Wolfius on Rabbi Moses Tranensis - this Moses is indeed mentioned in JCW's Curae when dealing with that particular verse.

Footnote 197, on chapter 6 verse 17, refers to Wolfius mentioning A life of Pythagoras, which is in JCW's Curae on that particular verse.

Footnote 254 on chapter 8, verse 15, says Wolfius quotes from the Talmud, and this is indeed to be found in JCW's Curae, on the verse in question.

Footnote 286 on chapter 9 vrse 3 quotes Wolfius referring to Photius. JCW's Curae indeed has such a reference for this very verse.

Footnote 459 quotes Wolfius as saying that Origen and Eusebius knew nothing of Paul going to Spain, and again this is indeed in JCW's Curae in reference to that particular verse.

All these corroborate that the Vicar of Thrussington, when referring to Wolfius, meant the Curae Philologicae et Criticae in Novum Testamentum by JC Wolf or Wolfius.


There's a decent short detailed biography of Christian Wolff here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wolff-christian/

He's generally regarded as a Philsopher & Theologian, I think that's your man.


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