"Hoping against all hope"

This phrase always struck me as odd. It means hoping for something when reason tells you there’s no way it’s going to happen. So it’s really hoping against all reason. Hoping against all hope would be like… I don’t know… hoping for something to happen that everyone else is hoping won’t happen, or maybe hoping simultaneously for something to happen and not to happen. I thought maybe that this was an example of a phrase that originally had a logical meaning but was mangled over time like “The proof is in the pudding”, but evidently it comes to us straight from the Bible.

That’s all… mundane and pointless for sure. I can’t think of any other common phrases like this (except the mangled ones like “the proof is in the pudding”).

I interpret it this way: If something is impossible, then there is no hope of it happening. It is against hope. Hoping does no good. So against the hoping that does no good, you still hope.

Or something.

Romans 4:18 in the Bible says, in the ESV: “In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”

In context, Paul is writing about God’s promise to make Abraham the “father of many nations.” You may recall that Abraham and his wife Sarah were of very advanced age when the child of promise, Isaac, was born to them. So from the standpoint of human hope, having this child would have been an impossibility. Abraham, however, hoped in God’s promise in contrast to human hope; in other words, “in hope [in God] he believed against [human] hope.” I think that’s the main thrust of the phrase in that context, at least.

If I am correct in my interpretation, it would seem that the original idea of the phrase was to contrast one type of hope against another.