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Romans 9:5


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#1 Evangelion

Evangelion

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Posted 14 January 2003 - 01:13 PM

Occasionally, a Trinitarian will present the following quote in defence of the alleged “Deity of Christ”:
Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
This is taken from the NIV, which actually presents two alternative readings in a footnote:
Or Christ, who is over all. God be forever praised! Or Christ. God who is over all be forever praised!
You will notice that both of these alternatives preclude a Trinitarian interpretation (which is precisely why they have been relegated to the footnotes!)

The New Living Translation says…
Their ancestors were great people of God, and Christ himself was a Jew as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
…but grudgingly submits the alternative rendering in a footnote:
9:5 Or May God, who rules over everything, be praised forever. Amen.
The words "as far as his human nature is concerned" are the result of the "dynamic equivalence" translation methodology. They give a skewed rendering of this verse, deliberately implying that Jesus has two natures. As with most cases of subjective translation, the text has been “improved” in order to lend weight to a particular Christology – in this case, Trinitarianism. One might ask why this was necessary - unless, of course, the text is not quite so clear-cut as Trinitarians would have us believe.

Whenever you see a tampered text (such as this one), remind yourself that it only exists because the translators have realised that the basic Greek simply does not provide a compelling argument for the deity of Christ. (Of course, if it does not provide a compelling argument for the deity of Christ, then we should ask ourselves whether it might be more reasonable to read this verse without importing any Christological preconceptions to it in the first place!) Food for thought...


So much for the NIV & NLT. What of the commentaries?

A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament (1933) argues boldly for the Trinitarian gloss. Let us examine his argument point by point:

Of whom (ex wn). Fourth relative clause and here with ex and the ablative. Christ (o Cristoß). The Messiah. As concerning the flesh (to kata sarka). Accusative of general reference, "as to the according to the flesh." Paul limits the descent of Jesus from the Jews to his human side as he did in Acts 1:3.


Well of course Paul "limits the descent of Jesus from the Jews to his human side." That's because this was the only "descent" he had!

Who is over all, God blessed for ever (o on epi pantwn qeoß euloghtoß). A clear statement of the deity of Christ following the remark about his humanity.


If it was as “clear” as Robertson claims, there would be no need to change the text at all! But that is precisely what many modern versions have done.

This is the natural and the obvious way of punctuating the sentence. To make a full stop after sarka (or colon) and start a new sentence for the doxology is very abrupt and awkward. See Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13 for Paul's use of qeoß applied to Jesus Christ.


Robertson sounds very sure of himself – and to the untrained eye, his argument might appear to be untouchable. But there are several key points which Robertson has failed to mention:
  • Using the principle of comparison of text within text, it is most likely that Paul describes the Father as “God over all”. He uniformly makes a distinction between Jesus and God. In the same book, he blesses the “Creator” and gives us no reason to assume that anyone other than the Father, is meant.
  • Ancient Greek manuscripts do not generally contain punctuation, but the Codex Ephraemi of the 5th Century has a comma after “flesh.”
  • During the whole Arian controversy, this verse was never mentioned by Trinitarians in support of their doctrine. This in turn raises serious questions about the alleged "antiquity" of the translation which is so often defended by Trinitarians as "correct."
  • Textual critics such as Lachmann and Tischendorf place a comma after the word “flesh”, allowing the rest of the sentence to be a doxology of the Father.
  • Even the New English Translation - which employs the Trinitarian gloss - contains a candid footnote:

    Or “the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever,” or “the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever!” or “the Messiah who is over all. God be blessed forever!” The translational difficulty here is not text-critical in nature, but is a problem of punctuation. Since the genre of these opening verses of Romans 9 is a lament, it is probably best to take this as an affirmation of Christ’s deity (as the text renders it). Although the other renderings are possible, to see a note of praise to God at the end of this section seems strangely out of place. But for Paul to bring his lament to a crescendo (that is to say, his kinsmen had rejected God come in the flesh), thereby deepening his anguish, is wholly appropriate.
  • Erasmus (a famous Catholic scholar of the 16th Century) rejected this verse as a Trinitarian proof text. He wrote:

    Those who contend that in this text Christ is clearly termed God, either place little confidence in other passages of Scripture, deny all understanding to the Arians, or pay scarcely any attention to the style of the Apostle. A similar passage occurs in Second Corinthians 11:31: “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever”; the latter clause being undeniably restricted to the Father.
    Works, edited by Jean Leclerc. (Leiden, 1703-1706), 6:610, 611.
Erasmus' observation rings true. We can confirm it for ourselves by noting the incredible consistency of Scripture:
  • Luke 1:47.
    And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
  • I Timothy 1:1.
    Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;
  • I Timothy 2:3.
    For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
  • I Timothy 4:10.
    For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
  • Titus 1:3.
    But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;
  • Titus 1:4.
    To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.
  • Titus 2:10.
    Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
  • Titus 2:13.
    Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
  • Titus 3:4.
    But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
  • II Peter 1:1.
    Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
  • Jude 1:25.
    To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
You can see for your self that in these verses, "God" is clearly distinguished from "Christ." Both are referred to as "Saviour", but we are left in no doubt as to which one is truly God.

Now let's try a similar experiment:
  • Acts 5:30.
    The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
  • Acts 13:33.
    God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
  • Romans 15:6.
    Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Corinthians 1:3.
    Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • I Corinthians 15:24.
    Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • II Corinthians 11:31.
    Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Galatians 1:1.
    Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
  • Philippians 2:11.
    And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
  • Ephesians 5:20.
    Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • Ephesians 6:21.
    Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • II Thessalonians 2:16.
    Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
  • I Timothy 1:2.
    Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
The sheer consistency of this unmistakeable delineation between "God" and "Christ" is simply overwhelming. Indeed, this distinction occurs at least 60 times in the New Testament. As far as the NT authors are concerned, "God" is synonymous with "Father", while "Christ" is both functionally and ontologically subordinate. This is the "style of the apostle" to which Erasmus refers. His point is a valid one - we should not be tempted to interpret one single verse in a way that contradicts our interpretation of the majority. That would result in subjectivism - a sure sign of somebody who wants to "prove" his own preconceptions without due reference to the text.

Finally, we have the witness of modern Bible versions:
  • NAB.
    They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
    theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.
  • RSV.
    They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
    to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen.
  • NRSV.
    to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
A footnote in the NRSV offers the alternative rendering...
Messiah. May He who is God over all be blessed forever.
...which is rather more accurate.

So much for Robertson's claim that...
To make a full stop after sarka (or colon) and start a new sentence for the doxology is very abrupt and awkward.
...with which these modern Trinitarian Bibles obviously disagree.

In conclusion, I direct your attention to the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (1932), which acknowledges that even if a Trinitarian rendering of the Greek were accurate...
Christ would not be equated absolutely with God, but only described as a being of divine nature, for the word theos has no article. But this ascription of majesty does not occur anywhere else in Paul. The much more probable explanation is that the statement is a doxology directed to God.
...which makes short work of both Robertson and the JFB Commentary.

I am curious to know why Robertson makes no reference to it, since his own Word Pictures in the New Testament was published within a year of the NIDNTT. He could not possibly have been ignorant of this sound counter-argument, so I can only conclude that he chose to exclude it from his commentary on Romans 9:5 because he found it too problematic...
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.




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