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Romans 9:5 Research

Part One

By Gary F. Zeolla

"Whose (are) the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ (came),
who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen"

(Romans 9:5; King James Version).

In the verse above it sounds like Paul is declaring Christ to be "God blessed for ever." But someone posted a message in the "alt.christnet.theology" Newsgroup claiming Paul is not ascribing Deity to Christ in this verse.1

He cited the rendering of the verse from the Revised Standard Version (RSV), "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."

By putting a period after "Christ" instead of a comma the RSV makes the final clause a doxology to God the Father rather than a reference to Christ. The poster also referred to the footnote readings in the New Revised Standard Version and the New International Version. Both of these alternate, footnote translations are similar to the RSV.

So I did some research to determine which translation and interpretation is correct. This two-part article presents the fruits of that research.

Bible Versions

I first checked the verse in the Bible versions I generally quote from (in addition to the KJV):

"of whom (are) the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ (came),
who is over all, (the) eternally blessed God. Amen"
(New King James Version).

"whose (are) the fathers, and of whom (is) the Christ according to flesh,
He being God over all, blessed forever. Amen"
(Modern King James Version).

"whose (are) the fathers, and from whom (is) the Christ according to flesh,
He being God over all, blessed forever. Amen"
(Literal Translation of the Bible).2

All of these versions have Paul ascribing Deity to Christ in manner even clearer than the KJV.

Greek Text and Interlinears

Next I checked the Greek text itself and English-Greek interlinears. The Greek text is identical in all of the different editions I compared.3 And none of them indicated that there are any textual variants in this verse. So the only question is how to translate it.

The Greek text is:

Transliterated into English letters it looks like:

hoon hoi pateres, kai ex hoon ho christos to kata sarka,
ho oon epi pantoon theos eulogeetos eis tous aioonas, ameen.

I then looked at the word-for-word English translations in the interlinears:

"Whose (are) the fathers, and of whom Christ (came) as concerning (the) flesh,
who is over all God blessed for ever. Amen"

(PC Study Bible. Version 2.1B. Biblesoft. USA, 1992-1996).4

"of whom the fathers, and from whom the Christ according to flesh,
He being over all, God blessed to the ages, Amen"

(J.P. Green. The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament.
Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1996, p.494).

"whose (are) the fathers; and of whom (is) the Christ according to the flesh,
who is over all God blessed to the ages. Amen"

(George Ricker Berry. The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament.
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p.420).

"of whom the fathers, and from whom Christ according to flesh,
the (one) being over all God blessed unto the ages, Amen"

(Alfred Marshall. NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English:
with Interlinear Translation
. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986, p.461).

"of whom (are) the fathers and from whom Christ (came) according to (the) flesh,
the (One) being
2over 3all 1God blessed to the ages. Amen"
(Arthur L. Farstad, et.al. The NKJV Greek-English Interlinear New Testament.
Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994, p. 563).5

Note: The numbers in superscript before words in the last interlinear indicate the order the translators believe the words should be rendered; i.e. "the One being God over all." So all of these word-for-word translations have Paul ascribing Deity to Christ.

The Online Bible

Next I tried my Online Bible CD ROM to see what the "Notes" on it had to say:

The original Geneva Bible noted. "’Whose [are] the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ [came], who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.’ Or, ’who is God over all, blessed for ever.’ A most manifest testimony of the Godhead and divinity of Christ" (1599 Geneva Bible Footnotes).

John Gill commented on this verse:
and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came; that is, either of the fathers, or of the Israelites, from whom Christ, according to his human nature, sprung; being a son of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of David, and the son of Mary; hence the Messiah is called, "the Messiah or Christ of Israel."

who is described as

over all, angels and men, being the creator, upholder, and governor of them; and as having another nature, a divine one, being

God, truly and properly God,

blessed for evermore, in himself, and to be blessed and praised by all creatures. The apostle alludes to that well known periphrastic name of God so much used by the Jews, "the holy, blessed God"; to which, by way of assent and confirmation, the apostle puts his

Amen. Now all these particular privileges are mentioned by him, as what heightened his concern for these people; it filled him with heaviness and sorrow of heart, when he considered, that persons who had been partakers of such favours, and especially the last, that the Messiah should spring from them, be born of them, and among them, and yet that they should be given up to ruin and destruction (John Gill’s Expositor).

The Eclectic Notes on the CD ROM declare, "Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. Christ is God, as is the Father, and also the Holy Ghost. They are each and all styled Jehovah, the name incommunicable to the creature, let it be ever so exalted.".

Noted Greek scholar A.T. Robertson observes:
"Of whom" (ex hôn). Fourth relative clause and here with ex and the ablative. "Christ" (ho Christos). 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 [Romans] :3. "Who is over all, God blessed for ever" (ho on epi pantôn theos eulogêtos).

A clear statement of the deity of Christ following the remark about his humanity. 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 theos ["God"] applied to Jesus Christ" (A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament.).

People’s New Testament Notes comments, "Whose [are] the fathers. The patriarchs and prophets. Of whom . . . Christ [came]. Greatest of all, Christ, in his fleshly nature, was of their race, of the tribe of Judah, and of the seed of David. Who is over all. See Matt 28:18. He is our King and our Judge. God blessed for ever. More than man; Divine."6

So the notes on this Bible program are consistent in assuming that the text is ascribing Deity to Christ.

Hardcopy Reference Works

Lastly, I referred to several hardcopy reference works in my library:

John Calvin comments on this verse:
But we have here a remarkable passage, --that in Christ two natures are in such a manner distinguished, that they are at the same time united in the very person of Christ: for by saying that Christ descended from the Jews, he declared his real humanity. The words "according to the flesh," which are added, imply that he had something superior to flesh; and here seems to be an evident distinction made between humanity and divinity. But he at last connects both together, where he says, that the Christ, who had descended from the Jews according to the flesh, is God blessed for ever.

We must further observe, that this ascription of praise belongs to none but to the true and eternal God; for he declares in another place, (1Tim 1:17) that it is the true God alone to whom honour and glory are due. They who break off this clause from the previous context, that they may take away from Christ so clear a testimony to his divinity, most presumptuously attempt to introduce darkness in the midst of the clearest light; for the words most evidently mean this, --"Christ, who is from the Jews according to the flesh, is God blessed for ever."

The editor then adds in a footnote:
It is clearly shown by Stuart, that the very position of the words, and their connection with the context, will admit of no other construction than that which our version contains.

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.7 The same is the case with ALL the examples in the new Testament.…

It is justly observed by Stuart, that the context requires the application of this sentence to Christ, as otherwise there would be no antithesis to the words "according to the flesh" (Calvin’s Commentaries. Vol. XIX, "Romans." Editor, Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979, pp. 342-3; emphases in original).

The footnote in the New Geneva Study Bible states on the NKJV rendering, "Christ the eternally blessed God. The text correctly translates Paul’s words as directly ascribing deity to Christ" (Sproul, R.C. editor. New Geneva Study Bible: NKJV. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995, p.1782).

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary states about this verse:
Several considerations favor the traditional wording, which refers "God’ to Christ:
1) Christ's relationship to Israel on the human side has been stated in such a way as to call for a complementary statement on the divine side. This is provided by the usual translation but not by the other rendering.

2) "Who" can properly be coupled only with the foregoing subject (Christ). If another subject (God) is being introduced, there is no reason at all for the "who."

3) A doxology to God can hardly be intended, since in doxologies the word "blessed" is regularly placed before the one who is praised. Here it comes after.

4) A doxology to God would be singularly out of place in a passage marked by sorrow over Israel's failure to recognize in Christ her crowning spiritual blessing.

5) The definitive article, "the," is not linked in the text with "God." But with the foregoing words (literally, "the one being over all"), so Paul is not trying to displace God with Christ, but is doing what John does in saying that then Word was God (John 1:1), that is, has the rank of God. In any case, this is really implied in recognizing him as "over all"… (Everett F. Harrison. "Romans" in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 10. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976, p.103-4).

 

Kenneth Wuest writes:
Paul’s Greek here is "out from whom as a source (Israel) the Christ came according to the flesh (His humanity), the One who is above all things, God eulogized forever."

The present writer is aware of the fact that some end the statement describing our Lord with the words "according to the flesh," and construe the words "God blessed forever" as an ascription of praise and a doxology with reference to God….

Alford’s reasons for rejecting the idea of a doxology here are as follows:
1) "Without one exception in Hebrew or Greek, the predicate eulogetos (blessed) PRECEDES the name of god. Here the word order is theos eulogetos (God blessed), the descriptive word "blessed" follows the name "God."

2) The present participle on would be altogether superfluous if we understood the words to be a doxology having reference to god rather than a descriptive clause speaking of the deity of the Lord Jesus….

3) The doxology would be unmeaning and frigid in the extreme. It is not the habit of the apostle to break out into irrelevant ascriptions of praise; and certainly there is here nothing in the immediate context requiring one….

4) The expression "blessed forever" is twice used by Paul, and each time unquestionably not in an ascription of praise, but in AN ASSERTION REGARDING THE SUBJECT OF THE SENTENCE (Rom 1:25; 2Cor 11:31).

5) In 2 Corinthians 11:31, the same construction is found, ho on, and there it refers to the subject of the sentence.

6) The interpretation which holds that the clause is not a doxology but descriptive of the Christ is the only one admissible by the rules of Greek grammar and arrangement.

7) It also admirably suits the context: for, having enumerated the historic advantages of the Jewish people, he concludes by stating one which ranks higher than all, -- that from them sprung, according to the flesh, He who is God over all, blessed forever. The Amen implies no optative ascription of praise, but is the accustomed ending of such solemn declarations of the divine majesty....

Translation.... of whom are the fathers, and out from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, the One who is above all, God eulogized forever. Amen (Kenneth S. Wuest. Wuest’s Word Studies. Vol. I: "Romans." Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, reprinted, 1973, p. 155-7; emphases in original).

All of these hardcopy reference works defend this verse as being a proof-text for the Deity of Christ.

Summary

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. These will be discussed in Part Two of this article.

Footnotes for Part One:
1) The message was posted Wednesday, September 24, 1997 12:33 PM by "ResLight" under the subject of "Romans 9:5 and the Trinity." He cited as the source for his information: "God", Epiphany Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 1 (by Paul S. L. Johnson -- Laymen's Home Missionary Movement, Chester Springs, PA), pages 527, 528.

2) Words in parentheses are added by the translators.

3) The Greek texts I checked included: The New Testament in the Original Greek According to the Byzantine/ Majority Textform, by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, by Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, The Greek New Testament: Third Edition (Corrected) by the United Bible Societies, and the Textus Receptus as contained in The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, by J.P. Green, Sr.

4) The transliterated Greek text was copied from this Bible program.

5) Words in parentheses are added by the translators.

6) All quotes in this section are from the Online Bible. Version 7.0. Winterbourne, Ontario: Timnathserah, Inc., 1997.

7) The Septuagint is a second century, Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Romans 9:5 Research - Part Two

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above article was posted on this Web site in September 1997.

Doctrine of the Trinity: Verse Evaluations & Miscellaneous
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