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Romans 9:5: θεὸς Over All And Its Antecedent

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Introduction:



Rome, was without question the most powerful city in the known world during the first-century c.e.. In due time, was a high profile Mediterranean power of its day. [1]The influx of Jews into the region, brought by Pompeius during the capture of Jerusalem was exclusive. So it is only fitting that Paul, the pinned author of Romans, would make this the destination of what many would consider as his most vital letter. With salutations from Aquila and Priscill, Paul had internal knowledge of the ecclesiastical establishment in Roman. [2] Paul was always compelled to praise Yahweh (the covenant God of Israel), even in a moment of deepest sorrow, for advantages which the Jews had trampled under foot…Observe also how constantly Paul accredits to God the Father whatever Christ has accomplished. See c. Rom 3:25, 5:8, 8:3, 32. Hence the mention of Christ demands forth praise to the Father God Almighty. Interestingly enough, in 1 Tim. 1:17, we have a parallel outburst of praise from Paulas for his own personal conversion to Christ. [3]


This passage is best understood as an asyndetic doxology, which is normally applied to the Father God Almighty. [4] This is predicated on the usages in the NT and Tanahk. Paul who is said to be the author of this letter never calls Jesus θεὸς (apart from his normal usage Κύριός) in all of his Epistles and uses the word Θεὸς (God) for the Father over 500 times par excellence. Paul also never applies the greek expression ἐπὶ πάντων (epi panton) (“over all”), or its corollary, παντοκράτωρ (“Almighty”), to Christ, nor does any other NT author.


Exposition and exegesis:


Romans 9:5: ὧν οἱ πατέρες καὶ ἐξ ὧν ὁ Χριστὸς τὸ κατὰ σάρκα ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀμήν (NA28


...of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen.


The Greek word for blessed, εὐλογητὸς, is always used the Father (God of Jesus) in the corpus of the GNT. Examples would be Mark 14:61, Luke 1:68, 2 Corinthians 1:3, Ephesians 1:3, & 1 Peter 1:3 in what seems to be routine doxologies to God the Father. Psalm 68:18 uses the construction κύριος ὁ θεὸς εὐλογητός similar to Rom.9:5. [5]


Paul uses very similar language in 2 Corinthians 11:31 when he says “knoweth that I lie not” followed by a praise to the Father, which resembles the Shema. Saying “blessed be” was a way Jews re-emphasized they were telling the truth. Consistent with Paul's doxologies is Ephesians 4:6 when he uses ἐπὶ πάντων (over all) for the Father God Almighty.


An excerpt from "A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans" by Joseph Agar Beet Section XXVII [pg 390]; Paul’s Sorrow For The Jews reveals an interesting suggestion, that “The words ὁ ὦν εὐλογντὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας in 2 Cor. 11:31 give no support to (1), -Jesus is God over all-. For they cannot by themselves form a complete sentence; and must therefore be in apposition to the foregoing nominative. And the context shows plainly to whom the words refer. Of this we should have been uncertain had Paul written ὃς ἐστιν as in Rom. 1:25. But the clause before us has in itself all the elements of a complete sentence; and therefore we cannot join it to the previous sentence, and thus change its meaning altogether, without a good reason. Had Paul wished to teach here that Christ is God, he might have done so, and put his meaning beyond doubt, by writing ὅς ἐστιν as in ch. 1:25.” [6]


“In any case, the passage before us cannot be appealed to in proof of the divinity of Christ. For even those who so interpret it admit that their interpretation is open to doubt: and it is very unsafe to build important doctrine on an uncertain foundation. On the other hand, as I interpret them, these words reveal, by making them matter of praise to God, the greatness of the privileges which the Jews had trampled under foot.” [7]


The more likely addresse’:


After Paul's long discourse about the nation of Israel, it would seem rather odd for Paul to mention Christ is God over all here. Besides, he would have to explain himself to the very Jews he was trying to win, meaning that saying a phrase that he knew would probably be offensive, a eulogy to Christ as God over them would be without a doubt bizarre and inappropriate. Plus, to have God have a God over himself quite honestly seems anti-reflexive. It would be proto-Jewish of Paul to make an independent expression of praise to God the Father.

Ultimately, the (RSV) has the more plausible translation case, “to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.” This reading distinguishes Jesus and God as two individuals, called the Two Person view so that it does not intentionally call Christ “God.”[8]


Erasmus’s interesting admission:


This passage is by far not a far gone conclusion. Erasmus, an ancient commentator suggests that an appeal to this verse as a prop for "Jesus’ deity" and or “Trinitarianism” proves to be out of desperation and lack of confidence in other texts. He says in his Romans commentary;


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.”[9]


An unrecognized proof text during the Arian controversy:


The fact that the Nicene Christians during the great debate in the 4th century (The Arian controversy) never alluded to this verse, that most trinitarian apologist today posit as one of the most clear references to Jesus’s deity is quite telling. Notwithstanding, Origen and Irenæus, (both only preserved in Latin translations), Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius (possibly made an illusion to it) [10] Chrysostom and a large majority of the writers of all ages is not enough to inoculate much confidence that this text is a untouchable deity of Jesus text. [11]Although the evidence against ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων Θεὸς applied to Χριστὸς has some patristic support. With a few patristic writers, Photius I of Constantinople (Cont. Man. iii. 14) and Diodorus Siculus the ancient Greek historian (Cramer's Catena, p. 162), seems to ascribe the expressions to God the Father. [12]



Doxology element using semantics:


The doxologies in Paul's apologetic theme such as Romans 1:25, 11:36 and 2 Cor. 11:31 serves to be very helpful in this discussion. First, we may point out that the Greek word combination "ἐπὶ πάντων" (over all), which RV60 translates "over all things", is moreover used in Ephesians 4:6, where RV60 translates them "over all" and they apply to "one God and Father of all". Ideally, only one God and Father can be "over all" or "above all things" and that is the covenant God and Father of Jesus Christ, YHWH. Therefore, the biblical use of "ἐπὶ πάντων" supports the translation that does not identify Christ with God. In conclusion, “ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων Θεός” [who is over all God] may be the subject, and εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας [blessed for ever. Amen] the predicate, of a fresh sentence. This analysis is not found in any early Christian writer, but is adopted in the Alex., Ephraim, and Clermont mss., where we find breaks marking off the words in question as an apparent asyndetic doxology to the Father and spaces proving that the stops are from the first hand.


Second, the adjective εὐλογητός which I have been discussing up to this point, that the RV60 translates "blessed," occurs 7 times in the New Testament, in addition to Romans 9:5, and in all cases refers to Jehovah God the Father. Let us examine the list of texts:


Mark 14:61. are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed (εὐλογητός).


Luke 1:68, 69. blessed (εὐλογητός) the Lord God of Israel, who hath visited and redeemed his people, and raised up for us a mighty Savior in the house of David his servant.


Romans 1:25. for they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, honoring and worshiping creatures rather than the Creator, who is blessed (εὐλογητός) forever and ever. Amen.


2 Corinthians 1:3. Blessed (εὐλογητός) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


2 Corinthians 11:31. the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed (εὐλογητός) forever and ever.


Ephesians 1:3. Blessed (εὐλογητός) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


1 Peter 1:3. Blessed (εὐλογητός) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Paul Besson, a NT scholar points out in a note, in Romans 9:5 the apostle Paul uses a "Hebrew formula of blessing in the Bible, in the Talmud, and in prayers. Gen. 9:26; 1 Sam. 25:32; 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chr. 9:8; Ps. 41:13; 68:19; Rom. 1:25; 11:36; 16:26, 27; Eph. 1:3; 3:20, 21; 2Co. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:3“...Thus, the meaning of the adjective εὐλογητός clearly supports a translation that does not identify Jesus Christ with God.


An overview..


If we were to place an punctuation in Ro 9:5 that implies that Jesus is Almighty God, would we not be causing a contradiction with Ro 15:6 [13], where the apostle Paul encourages Christians to glorify "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"? That is if Jehovah is "the God and Father" of Jesus Christ, how then could Jesus Christ be called "God over all things" and at the same time worship another God himself? 1 Corinthians 15:28 says that "the Son himself will be subject to the one who subjected all things to him". If we interpret that Jesus is "God over all things"... why did someone have to subject "all things" to him? And why should the Son himself be subject to God? Would it be biblical to affirm that the Almighty God has to subject himself to someone?


A well-known pushback:


An appeal to a rule is proposed, That if the sentence ended with "things," and God was the subject of the doxology, the eulogetos would precede God and not follow it. But the rule is not quite universal, but rather general. See Job i: 21:(Blessed be the name of the Lord.").


*In my example, here (εἴη) precedes and εὐλογημένον (eulogemenon) again follows its subject*


Conclusion:


Admittedly, the outcome of the debate around this contentious passage cannot be settled with grammar alone. We do seem to have grammatical support for either opposing view. So, there should be a natural urgency to rely heavily on a contextual case. That to read Romans 9:5 and its passage through Paul's ‘promose’ motifs including Gal 3, Gal 4, and Rom 4. Building on his previous argumentation (and perhaps as a response to possible feedback and criticism), in Rom 9:4 Paul seems to sense feel an urgent need to reaffirm a set of things {x1, x2, x3, …} that God bestowed to the covenant people of Israel. Among them are the promises and the patriarchs who are the ancestors of Jesus, which both are central to his discussion. In Rom 9:5, Paul seems to be emphasizing that the one who granted these things to the people of Israel is God our Father, who is over all of us, including his Son and not me. "I am not lying" (Rom 9:1). Paul also seem to be in enormous pressure as he is trying to redefine the conception of Abraham descendants from the 'flesh' to the 'promise' in order to include non-Israelites.


Compare Rom 16:27; 2 Cor. 1:3; Gal. 1:3-5; Eph. 1:3; 1 Tim. 1:16, 17. It would be very plausible to read Romans 9:5 in light of those relevant passages as well as the clear meaning intended by Paul.

The sleight of hand trick:


Normally, Paul ascribes “lord” (κύριος) to Christ in his theological corpus and “God” (Θεὸς) to his God, the Father. Trinitarians insist that κύριος in and if itself, when applied to Christ, is most certainly a rendition of the Tetragram (YHWH). Here the trick is to attach Θεὸς to Jesus due to the fact that he is presupposed to be God beforehand. Despite the common titles Paul uses to distinguish the Son from the Father, this motif is now ignored by Trinitarian exegetes. It seems arbitrary. We can furthermore detect a subject change with the present participle ὁ ὢν (hence why some English translations put a comma in front). The NEB perfectly sustains the true meaning to 9:5.


The New English Bible (NEB), 1961 ed. - "... from them, in natural descent, sprang the Messiah. May God, supreme above all, be blessed forever!"


Subsequently, though εὐλογημένος is used of Christ in Mt. 21:9, 23:39, etc., εὐλογητός never is. (For the distinction, see Gen. 14:19, 20, LXX.) And elsewhere Paul uses the word Θεὸς (God), never of the Son, but as a distinctive title of the Father, even to distinguish Him from the Son… Paul uses the word “God/Θεὸς,” and not a single unambiguous instance in which it applies to Christ. ὁ from “ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων” is in simple apposition to θεὸς, and the only possible antecedent is the Father. Similar to Eph. 4:6. With all the weight of evidence that points to an apparent doxology to God the Father, with the aid of leading uncials MSS (X), we can now interpret this passage in its rightful second temple & post second Temple Jewish content.[14] God the Father of our Lord Jesus, is the blessed forever.



 

References:


[1] For a detailed historical analysis on Rome in the first century and beyond see “The Everyday Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston: Publishing, 2020 musaicumbooks@okpublishing.infoTous droits réservés.


[2] For a detailed treatment on the particulars of the Christian Church in Rome see “THE CHURCH IN ROME IN THE FIRST CENTURY” by George Edmundson. LACONIA PUBLISHERS



[3] For an exhaustive treatment on this see "A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans" by Joseph Agar Beet. New York Thomas Whittaker 2 & 3 Bible House 1901: Pg. 386


[4] See Benedictions and Doxologies in the Epistles of Paul, pg. 28:Inaugural-Dissertation: Erlangung der Doktorwürde der Theologischen Fakultät der Ruprecht-Karls-Universität zu Heidelberg vorgelegt von L. G. CHAMPION, B.A., B.D. aus Bristol, England


[5] Joseph Agar Beet says in his commentary on Romans “It is objected that εὐλογητός, in the four other doxologies of the N.T. in which it is found and in many doxologies in the O.T., is always (except Ps. 68:19) put before the name of God. [the Father] ...."A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans" New York Thomas Whittaker 2 & 3 Bible House 1901pg. 387-388


[6] Ibid pg 390


[7] Ibid pg 392


[8] RSV/BYZ text~"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.” ὧν οἱ πατέρες, καὶ ἐξ ὧν ὁ Χριστὸς τὸ κατὰ σάρκα, ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων Θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας· ἀμήν.



[10] Chapter III 10; chap. IV, no. 11; .—The Importance of the Subject ;St. Athanasius *Discourse I, Against the Arians


[11] See Iranaeus, Haer. III. xvii. a, cdL Harvey; Tertullian, Adv. Prax. 13, 15; Hippnlytus, Cont. Noct. 6 (cf. Gifford, op. cit. p. 60) ; Novatian, 7'rin. 13 ; Cyprian, Test. ii. 6, ed. Harlel ; Syn. A}tL adv. Paul. Sam. in Routh, Pel. Sao ae, iii. 291, 292 ; Athanasius, Cont. Arian. I. iii. 10; Epiph.mius, Haer. Ivii. 2, 9, ed. Oehler; Basil, Adv. Euuom. iv. p. 282 ; Gregory of Nyssa, Adv. Eunom. 11 ; Chrysostom, On the Gospel of St. John Horn, ad Rom. xvi. 3, &c. ; Theodoret, Ad Rom. iv. p. 100; Augustine, De Trinitaie, ii. 13 ; Hilarius, De Trinitate. viii. 37, 38 ; Ambrosius, De Spiritu Sancto, i. 3. 46 ; Hieronymus, Ep. CXXI. ad Algas. Qu. ix ; Cyril Al., Cont. Jul. X. pp. 327, 328. It is true also of Bishop Origen {in Rom. vii. 13) if we may trust Rufiuus' Latin translation (the subject has been discussed at length by Gifford, op. cit. p. 31 ; Abbot, _/. B. Exeg. 1883, p. 103; \VH. ad loc). , for a post-apostolic explanation of this usage. For a more modern exhaustive Trinitarian treatment see B. Metzger, "The Punctuation of Rom. 9:5," in Christ and Spirit in the New Testament ed. by Barnabas Lindars, et al (CUP, 1973) pp. 95-112; All of which is arrived at dogmatically.


[12] See “THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMAMS” by Rev. W. SANDAY, D.D., LL.D., Litt.D. Rev. a. C. HEADLAM. D.D.Pg. 234.


[13] Romans 15:6 ‘that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’[τὸν Θεὸν καὶ πατέρα τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ] is emphatic and antithetical to the idea of Christ being God over-all.


[14] See also Reconstruction of a liturgy for the Amidah in Greek from Jewish prayers preserved in the Constitutiones Apostolorum (circa 380 CE):

ὺπέρμαχε γένους Άβραἀμ, εύλογητὸς εἶ είς τοὺς αίῶνας.


















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