ROMANS 9:5: Is the Christ here "God"?
On a webpage entitled "Misleading Revisions in the New World Translation," by Andy Bjorkland, we find a lengthy list of scriptures which he asserts has been, with little substantiation it has to be said, mistranslated by the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. One such is Romans 9:5 wherein he states:
" "Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!" changed to "Christ, [sprang] according to the flesh: God who is over all, [be] blessed forever."
The direction proclamation that Christ is God
is obscured by the altered text. "
Is this criticism warranted?
In 1961 the New English
Bible was released. It translates Romans 9:5 as "Theirs
are the patriarchs, and from them, in natural descent, sprang the
Messiah. May God, supreme above all, be blessed for ever! Amen."
In a review of this translation Terence H. Brown in the English Churchman said: "Punctuation. In the AV, Romans 9:5 declares that Christ is God. The new version changes the punctuation, so that we read two sentences, one saying that the Messiah was of human descent from David and the other an ascription of praise to God, 'May God...be blessed for ever'. This adaptation of the text, together with the adoption of the earlier Revisers' 1 Timothy 3:16 'He who was manifested', for the AV 'God was manifest in the flesh', will make the version more readily acceptable to Jehovah's Witnesses and other unitarians."-No.61, pp. 3-4.
Dennis Nineham in the book The New English Bible Reviewed remarked upon these very words and said, "This statement cannot mean that the NEB changes the punctuation of the original Greek, since Greek manuscripts had no punctuation, the reader being left to infer from the sense where the pauses were meant to come. So what must be meant here is that the NEB- in common, be it said, with the great majority of modern scholars- takes a different view as to where the pause was meant to come in Romans 9:5 from that taken by the authors of the AV. This is scarcely an 'adaptation of the text'." -p.147
The Holy Bible, A Translation from the Latin Vulgate in the Light of the Hebrew and Greek Originals by the Roman Catholic R Knox reads at this place:
"...;Christ, who rules as God over all things, blessed forever, Amen."
This translation applies the term "God" to the Christ here. It is followed by the:
Jerusalem Bible, The New International Version, The King James Version(AV) and the translation by F.Fenton-The Complete Bible in Modern English.
R.Knox supplies a footnote to Romans 9:5 which reads:
"'Christ, who rules as God'; some commentators would translate, 'Blessed be God who is above all things, for ever', making this a distinct sentence; but they have not been able to suggest any plausible grounds for the intrusion for this irrelevant apostrophe, and the order of the words in the Greek makes it almost impossible."
However,the New World Translation treats "theos eulogetos eis tous aionas amen" as a doxology, a praise to God, and translates the latter part of Romans 9:5 as "..whom Christ [sprang] according to the flesh: God who is over all, [be] blessed forever. Amen."
The NWT is followed in this by:
Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, Todays English Version, New English Bible, Revised English Bible, New American Bible, The Modern Langauge Bible(New Berkeley Version), The Living Bible, Contemporary English Version, The Translator's New Testament. Aswell as those translations by R.F.Weymouth, W.Barclay, C.B.Williams, E.Goodspeed; The Bible- An American Translation, J.B.Phillips, H.J.Schonfield, C.K.Williams and J.Moffatt.
A footnote in the New American Bible, Catholic Study Bible(1990) says:
"Some editors punctuate this verse differently and prefer the translation,"Of whom is Christ according to the flesh, who is God over all." However, Paul's point is that God who is over all aimed to use Israel, which had been entrusted with every privilege, in outreach to the entire world through the Messiah."
The catholic scholar John L. McKenzie states in his Dictionary of the Bible(1965):
"The application of the noun[QEOS] is less certain in Rm 9:5; Paul's normal usage is to restrict the noun to designate the Father (cf 1 Co 8:6), and in Rm 9:5 it is very probable that the concluding words are a doxology, "Blessed is the God who is above all." "-p.318
Under the word "theos" A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature says in regard to Romans 9:5,which goes to show how much this verse has been under dispute:
"In Ro.9:5 the interpr[etation] depends on the punctuation. If a period is placed before[ho on ]ktl., the doxology refers to God(so EAbbot,...; RALipsius...; HHoltzmann,...; EGunther,...; FCBurkitt,...; Julicher; PFeine,..; AMBrouwer;...)If a comma is used in the same place, the refernce is to Christ(so BWeiss; EBrose,...; ASchlatter; ThZahn; EKuhl; PAlthaus; M.JLagrange; JSickenberger; -Undecided: ThHaering.-The conjecture of the Socinian scholar JSchlichting[died 1661] on ho='to whom belongs' is revived by JWeiss,.; WWrede,.; CStromman."
The book Reasoning from the Scriptures(WTB&TS,1985)p.419 quotes The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology:
"Rom. 9:5 is disputed...It would be easy, and linguistically perfectly possible to refer the expression to Christ. The verse would then read, 'Christ who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen.' Even so, 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."-(Grand Rapids, Mich.; 1976), Vol. 2, p.80.
John Ziesler in his book Pauline Christianity(Revised edition 1990, Oxford University Press 'Oxford Bible Series' ) comments:
"In facing the question of the relationship of Christ to Yahweh we must not outrun the evidence and read into Paul's language the Fourth Century definition of Christ as God the Son, co-equal and co-eternal, of one substance with the Father. Paul's language is one of the factors leading to that definition, and also part of the problem it attempted to solve, but it would be anachronistic to interpret his language in such later terms. Perhaps he preferred 'Lord' as a title because of its ambiguity, because it established Christ's relation to humanity, church, and cosmos, without too closely defining his relation to Yahweh. As a Jewish monotheist Paul would wish neither to be accused of believing in two Gods, nor that Yahweh died on the cross. The only place in the undisputed letters where he may equate Christ with God is Rom.9:5 if a full stop is not placed after 'Christ', so that it reads '...of their race...is the Christ who is God over all...' More probably it should read '....of their race...is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed....' -p.44. italics ours.
Ziesler would, then, agree with the New World Translation Committee's choice of translation here at Romans 9.5.
Also, The New World Translation: Reference Edition quotes both G.B.Winer in his work A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament, 7th edition, Andover, 1887, p551 and Ezra Abbot in his The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel and Other Critical Essays, Boston, 1888, pp. 345, 346 and 432. Both of whom are decidedly for an understanding that "theos eulogetos eis tous aionas amen" is a seperate doxology to God the Father.
The NWT Reference Edition also says in
part, after citing 6 other translations that follow the NWT here:
"Here and in Ps 67:19 LXX the predicate ...(eulogetos',"blessed") occurs after the subject ..(Theos',"God").-See Ps 68:19 ftn."
That footnote reads:
" [68:]19 "Blessed be Jehovah." Heb., ba·rukh' 'Adho·nai'; Gr[LXX]., Ky'ri·os ho Theos' eu·lo·ge·tos',eu·lo·ge·tos' Ky'ri·os, "Jehovah God[be]blessed, blessed[be]Jehovah."
In the article "Is Jesus God"(Awake,1972,March 22nd,p.7) we read:
" Another text that is said to show that Jesus is God is Romans 9:5, which says: "Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen."(AV) Vincent Taylor notes that there are differences of opinion, but adds: "I think the balance of opinion falls on this side, and that Christ is not addressed as God." Thus modern translations commonly render the text in a way to make a clearer distinction between God and Christ."
Anthony Buzzard, a Unitarian, in his book "The Doctrine of the Trinity--Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound" wrote on page 268 quoting the great Catholic Renaissance writer, Erasmus; and note what Erasmus has to say regarding Romans 9:5:
"Those who contend that in
this text[Rom.9:5] 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."
(Quoted by Buzzard, but taken from "Works", ed. Jean Leclerc, 10 vols. Leiden)
The Expositor's Greek Testament by W. R. Nichol on pp 658, 659 states: "If we ask ourselves point blank, whether Paul, as we know his mind from his epistles, could express his sense of Christ's greatness by calling Him God blessed for ever, it seems to be almost impossible to answer in the affirmative. Such an asserion is not on the same plane with the conception of Christ which meets us everywhere in the Apostle's 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[like the NWT Translation Committee]who would put a colon or a period at SARKA, and make the words that follow refer not to Christ but to the Father." -words within square brackets ours.
Certainly then there has been and still is some
dispute in how to understand and translate Romans 9:5. It appears
to us from our English Bible Translation collection that most
treat the latter part of it not in reference to the Christ but as
a doxology toward God, the Father.There are many commentators/theologians
that also see this as the most probable way to understand Paul
here.This being so there are no grounds for anyone to criticise
in isolation The New World Translation at this place.
Indeed, F.F.Bruce who in his commentary of Romans in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries writes, although preferring a translation that applies QEOS at Romans 9:5 to the Christ,:
"It is, on the other hand, impermissable to charge those who prefer to treat the words as an independant doxology with Christological unorthodoxy. The words can indeed be so treated, and the decision about their construction involves a delicate assessment of the balance of probability this way and that."-revised edition 1985, p.176, 177."
In conclusion then we will quote Frederick W.
Danker in Concordia Theological Monthly Vol. XXXII, No. 6,
June 1961, pp. 337, reviewing the New English Bible, under
a subheading "Syntax" says;
"Does [ho on] in Romans 9:5 go with [theos], which follows, or with [ho Christos], which precedes? To charge either R[evised] S[tandard] V[ersion] or N[ew] E[nglish] B[ible][both translates as does the NWT]with wilful refusal to support the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ because they interpret the latter half of the verse as an independent doxology would be indicative not only of uncharitable judgement but also of profound ignorance of the entire subject of Pauline theology...."
If any reader of this webpage has come across criticism in the way the New World Translation Committee handled or 'treated' the syntax of Romans 9:5(such as we have quoted at the head of this page)then would not those who offer such be guilty of "uncharitable judgement" and/or of "profound ignorance"? According to the above reviewer of the New English Bible they would be. One such critic is Robert M. Bowman who asserts that Romans 9:5 is one scripture where "Jesus is definitely called God."-italics ours. He calls the New World Translation here at Romans 9:5 one such case of "abuse" and a "mistranslation." It is not a little shameful that Bowman in one of his books on Jehovah's Witnesses where the above comments are made did not feel the need to share the fact that the New World Translation is not unique here at Romans 9:5 in that even some trinitarian scholars and translators prefer a translation where the words "theos eulogetos eis tous aionas amen" is a doxology to God rather than a place where the Christ is called "God."
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