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Romans 9:5 Research
By Gary F. Zeolla
Part One of this article demonstrated that the Bible versions I consider most reliable, the interlinears I use, the Bible programs I rely on, and hardcopy reference works I have found particularly helpful all agree that Romans 9:5 is asserting that Christ is "God over all, blessed forever. Amen."
But I did come across a few sources that contradict this translation and interpretation. This second half of this article will discuss these opposing sources.
The first opposing source is the Newsgroup post which started my study.
The posters first argument is, "The word "Amen" at the end of the sentence favors the idea of the last clause of verse 5 being a doxology ."
But Henry Alford (quoted by Wuest in Part One) stated, "The Amen implies no optative ascription of praise, but is the accustomed ending of such solemn declarations of the divine majesty."
The posters second argument is, " the apostle Paul almost never in his writings makes a doxology to Christ (1 Timothy 6:16 being the only undoubted one), he frequently does to the Father."
But the claim in the various sources in Part One was NOT that Paul is applying a doxology to Christ but that the clause is descriptive of Christs nature. Moreover, even if it was a doxology "almost never" does not set a rule. If Paul gives a doxology to Christ in one place then the door is open for him to do so a second time.
The posters third argument is, "Again, the Greek words, ho on, should not be translated who, as Trinitarian translators give this passage, for they translate it to make the last clause refer to Jesus. But ho on should be rendered, He who, which proves that at least a semicolon, but preferably a period, should follow the word flesh, so that the rest of the verse is a coordinate or full sentence."
He is partially right here; the words are probably not best translated as "who." A more literal rendering would be "the (One) being" as they are so rendered in The NKJV Greek-English Interlinear New Testament as seen in the first part of this article. And this rendering leaves no question that the final clause is being applied to Christ.
The posters fourth argument is, "Finally the Trinitarian interpretation of this verse makes it contradict the universal teaching of the Bible that Christ is not God over all, that is, the Supreme Being; but that the Father, as God Almighty alone, is such. -- John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6."
But Peoples New Testament Notes (quoted in Part One) cross-referenced this phrase with Matt 28:18, "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (NKJV).
And Paul declared in Phil 2:9-11, "Therefore God also has highly exalted Him [Christ] and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (NKJV). These verses are saying that in some sense Christ most definitely is "over all."
As for the verses he cites, John 17:3 is discussed in my Scripture Study Arguments Against the Trinity found in my Scripture Workbook. And the comments there would apply to 1Cor 8:6 as well.
So the posters arguments are not convincing.
The second opposing source I came across was Marvin R. Vincent. He simply states, "I incline to the doxological view, but the long and intricate discussion cannot be gone into here" (Word Studies in the New Testament. McClean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, p. 101).
Since Vincent does not give the reasons for his view, then there is nothing to comment on.
The third opposing source is W. Robertson Nicoll. He first overviews some of the arguments mentioned above.
Nicoll then concludes:
If we ask ourselves point blank, whether Paul, as we know his mind from his epistles, would express his sense of Christs greatness by calling Him "God blessed for ever," it seems to me almost impossible to answer in the affirmative. Such an assertion is not on the same plane with the conception of Christ which meets us everywhere in the Apostles writings; and though there is some irregularity in the grammar, and perhaps some difficulty in seeing the point of a doxology, I agree with those who would put a colon or a period after sarkas, and make the words that follow refer not to Christ but to the Father (The Expositors Greek Testament. Vol. II. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, reprinted 1988, pp. 658-9).
So even though Nicoll admits some of the arguments mentioned in the first part of this article carry weight, he simply feels it is "out of character" for Paul to call Christ "God" or give Him such high praise.
However, Robertson pointed out above that theos ("God") is applied to Christ by Paul in Acts 20:28 and Titus 2:13. And, as I pointed out, in Phil 2:9-11 Paul gives Jesus extremely high praise. So Nicolls objection does not seem to carry much weight.
The next source to be looked at is both opposing and non-opposing. The UBS Committee is responsible for making textual decisions for The Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Societies.
The UBS Third Edition (Corrected) of their NT is one of the Greek texts I referred to initially for checking the Greek text on Romans 9:5. In it, a comma is placed after sarka.
However, Bruce Metzger, a member of the committee, wrote the book A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (New York: United Bible Societies, 1971). In this book, Metzger gives the reasons why the ten member committee made the textual decisions that it did. His comments refer to the Third Edition of the UBS's Greek text.
Apparently, according to his comments, the third edition (before being "corrected") had placed a period rather than a comma after sarka.
In any case, some of Metzger's comments are interesting:
Since the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament are without systematic punctuation, editors and translators of the text must insert such marks of punctuation as seem to be appropriate to the syntax and meaning....
In deciding which punctuation should be used, the Committee was agreed that evidence from the Church Fathers, who were almost unanimous in understanding the passage as referring to ho christos [the Christ], is of a relatively minor significance, as is also the opposing fact that four uncial manuscripts (A B C L) and at least twenty-six minuscule manuscripts have a point after sarka, either by the first hand or by subsequent correctors. In both cases the tradition, whether patristic or paleographical, originated at time subsequent to Paul's (i.e. dictating; cf. 16:22) the passage, and is therefore of questionable authority (pp.520-521).
The Church Fathers the UBS text refers to in its textual apparatus range from the second century onward while the earliest manuscript that Metzger mentions dates to the fourth.1 Since neither Metzger nor the UBS textual apparatus indicate which Church Fathers refer the final clause to Christ, I can not say whether the opinions of the Church Fathers or the transcribers of the manuscripts are the earliest.
However, in a footnote Metzger gives some note worthy information, "The presence of marks of punctuation in early manuscripts of the New Testament is so sporadic and haphazard that one cannot infer with confidence the construction given by the punctuator to the passage" (p.521).
So it would seem that the manuscript evidence is not really that discernable when it comes to punctuation marks. But the opinions of the Church Fathers would probably be easy to determine. And they were "almost unanimous" in saying the final clause refers to Christ. So it would seem to this writer that their opinions should be of at least some importance.
In any case, Metzger then admits that "a minority of the Committee preferred punctuation" that makes the final clause refer to Christ. He then lists five reasons why this "minority" believed this to be so. The reasons given are similar to the points discussed in the first half of this article.
Metzger then continues:
On the other hand, in the opinion of the majority of the Committee, none of these considerations seemed to be decisive, particularly since nowhere else in his genuine epistles does Paul ever designate ho christos [the Christ] as theos [God]. In fact, on the basis of the general tenor of his theology it was considered tantamount to impossible that Paul would have expressed Christ's greatness by calling Him God blessed for ever (p.522).
So once again, a long list of reasons for the the clause to be descriptive of Christ is rejected because it is deemed "out of character" for Paul to call Christ "God."
In a footnote, Metzger refers to Titus 2:13 but claims it is "generally regarded as deutero-Pauline."2 However, if Titus was written by Paul, as this writer believes, then this verse would be a case where Paul does refer to Christ as God. Acts 20:28 was indicated above as being another.
In another footnote Metzger admits, "In reply it was argued that if Paul could refer to christos ieesou [Christ Jesus] as isa theoo [equal with God] (Phil 2:6), it is not inconceivable that on another occasion he could also refer to ho christos [the Christ] as theos [God]" (p.522).
In addition, in Col 2:9 Paul writes that in Christ "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead [theoteetos] bodily." In 1Tim 3:16, in the Textus Receptus/ Majority Text, Paul declares, "God [theos] was manifested in the flesh."
And interesting, in the chapter preceding the one in which the verse under study appears, Paul uses the phrase "Spirit of Christ" interchangeably with the phrase "Spirit of God" (Rom 8:9).
So it appears it could very well be "IN character" for Paul to ascribe Deity to Christ. Those who claim it is "out of character" for Paul to do so would have to disprove the authority of each and every one of these six additional verses.3
In any case, "the majority of the Committee" seems to have eventually realized that the arguments given in Part One override its imagined "character" of Paul and changed its mind. So when the Third Edition was "Corrected" the punctuation was changed so that Paul now calls Christ "God" in Romans 9:5 in the UBS text, as "a minority of the Committee" wanted in the first place.
The last opposing source is Jehovahs Witnesses (JWs) and their organization the Watchtower (WT). It is no surprise that this group would try to deny that Paul is ascribing Deity to Jesus in this verse.
In the New World Translation (NWT), the Bible of JWs, Romans 9:5 is rendered, "to whom the forefathers belong and from whom the Christ (sprang) according to the flesh: God, who is blessed forever. Amen."
The WT tries to defend this translation in an appendix in its interlinear.4 The first argument is that in the Septuagint in Psalm 67:19 "blessed" occurs after the subject "God."
But the editor of Calvin's commentaries was quoted in the first part of this article as saying:
It is well known, that in Hebrew the word "blessed" is ALWAYS placed before "God" or Jehovah, when it is an ascription of praise; and it appears that the Septuagint has in more than THIRTY instances followed the same order, and, indeed, in every instance except one (Ps 67:19) and that evidently a typographical mistake. The same is the case with ALL the examples in the new Testament.
So JWs ignore the word order usage in the Hebrew OT, all of the NT, and 30 instances in the Septuagint and try to justify their translation by pointing to the one exception they can find. But that exception is "evidently a typographical mistake."
Metzger explains the problem with Ps 67:19 in the Septuagint, "... the first eulogetos [blessed] has no corresponding word in Hebrew and seems to be a double translation" (p.522). So the WT really has no Scriptural or linguistic evidence for its claim.
The WTs second argument is, "In his work A Grammar of the idiom of the New Testament, seventh ed., Andover, 1897, p. 551, G.B. Winer says that When the subject constitutes the principal notion, especially when it is antithetical to another subject, the predicate may and must be placed after it, cf. Ps 67:19 LXX [Septuagint]."
I have never seen this Greek "rule" before (and Im not quite sure if I even understand it) so it is hard to comment. But I will say it is interesting that the WT has to reach back to the 18th century to find it. When I took Greek at Denver Seminary less than a decade ago we were never taught this "rule."
Further, various sources quoted in Part One (some older, many others much more recent than the WTs source) stated quite clearly that the grammar and arrangement of the words favored applying the words to Christ. Also notice that the only evidence the WT gives for this "rule" is the same "typographical mistake" in the Septuagint as before.
The WT then claims that a pause is needed after sarka (flesh). But what kind of pause is the question. A comma is used in all the Bible versions and interlinear translations quoted above. The WT simply says it "must be followed by a pause" without giving any argument as to why it must be a period.
The next argument is that the sentence asserting that Christ came according to the flesh "... is complete in itself grammatically, and requires nothing further logically; for it was only as to the flesh that Christ was from the Jews."
But the sources in the first part of this article explained why a parallelism between Christs humanity and His Deity is what is most "logical" in light of the context.
Next the WT claims that the preceding context "... naturally suggests an ascription of praise and thanksgiving to God as the Being who rules over all; while a doxology is also suggested by the Amen at the end of the sentence."
But the sources in Part One explained why a doxology is most decidedly out of place and why the "Amen" does not require that the preceding is a doxology.
The last WT argument is, "The naturalness of a pause after sarka is further indicated by the fact that we find a point after this word in all our oldest MSS. [manuscripts] that testify in the case."
The WT then mentions the same manuscripts that Metzger does above. However, for the various reasons mentioned above, the punctuation of these manuscripts "is of a relatively minor significance."
Further, along with the UBS Third Edition (Corrected) none of the other editions of the Greek NT that I checked put a period after sarka. They all have a comma or no punctuation mark. Even the Greek text in the WTs own interlinear has a comma, not a period!
Moreover, the word-for-word English translation in the WT's Kingdom Interlinear Translation is: "of whom the fathers, and out of whom the Christ the (thing) according to flesh, the (one) being upon all (things), God blessed (one) into the ages; amen" (p.702).
This rendering sounds rather close to ascribing Deity to Christ! Notice also how different the interlinear reading is from the NWT itself, which is in the margin of The Kingdom Interlinear Translation. I counted 17 words or punctuation marks in the NWT that differ from the interlinear reading.5
So none of the WTs arguments are convincing and even their own publication seems to contradict their position.
None of the "opposing sources" discussed above present convincing arguments. Further, the sources presented in Part One did present arguments that I found convincing. So based on all of my research and my own knowledge of Greek, if I was producing a Bible version, I would translated Romans 9:5 as follows:
whom (are) the fathers, and out of whom (is) the Christ according
the (One) being over all God blessed to the ages, Amen."
The most natural interpretation of this rendering is that Christ is the subject of the clause "the (One) being over all God blessed to the ages." So I conclude my research by asserting that Paul in fact is ascribing Deity to Christ in Romans 9:5.
I was just wondering if the words in Bible verse of Romans 9:5 could all be intended to refer to the Israelites?
Starting at verse 4 and on to the end of verse 5, everything is referring to the Israelites. Why couldn't the words in verse 5 -" who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." - mean that the Israelites, being God's chosen people were "over all" and "God blessed for ever"?
I am not a Biblical scholar by any means, but having read the KJV of the verse, this was my first thought about what it meant. Thank you if you respond to my question. And God bless you for your sharing of the Gospel.
[Rom 9:4] who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;  of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen (NKJV).
Interesting idea, but the two "of whom's" in verse 5 are plural, thus referring to the Israelites (plural) of verse 4 (the who" and "whom" in verse 4 are also plural); however, "who is" in the latter part of verse 5 is more literally "the One being" and the verb is singular. So it can't be referring to the Israelites.
Footnotes for Part Two:
1) The Greek New Testament. Germany: United Bible Societies,1983, pp.xv,xvi,xxxvii-xl.
2) "deutero-Pauline" means written by a writer latter than Paul but in Paul's name. In other words, a forgery. This is a standard liberal claim for several of the epistles bearing Paul's name in the NT.
3) 1Tim 3:16 is discussed in the article Significant Textual Variants - MT vs. CT found in my Bible versions book. A discussion of each of the other five additional verses would probably require an article each. Maybe sometime in the future. In the meantime, it should also be mentioned there are other ways to ascribe Deity to Christ in addition to calling Him "God." See the Scripture Study Doctrine of the Trinity found in my Scripture Workbook and note the many verses listed from Paul's epistles.
4) The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures. Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1985. Appendix 2D, pp.1142-3.
5) Compare this number with the 4 differences I counted between the left-hand marginal LITV and the 11 differences in the right-hand marginal KJV with Green's interlinear reading in the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament; the 5 differences between the marginal NKJV and Farstad's interlinear reading in The NKJV Greek-English Interlinear New Testament, the 8 differences between the marginal KJV and Berry's interlinear reading in Interlinear Greek/English New Testament; and the 8 differences in the left-hand marginal NASB and the 14 differences in the right-hand marginal NIV with Marshall's interlinear reading in the NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English: with Interlinear Translation.
So in order of correspondence with their respective interlinears, it would be first the LITV, then the NKJV, the NASB, the KJV, the NIV, and last, and definitely least, the WT's NWT.
Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light
Romans 9:5 Research. Copyright © 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).
The above article was posted on this Web site in September 1997.
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