Here I am going to respond to selections of Kel’s article. The selections I have chosen are the ones I regard as embodying Kel’s main arguments; I have left out what I regard as repetitious or off the point. If I have missed or misunderstood Kel’s arguments, anyone who reads this – including Kel – is welcome to bring that to my attention.
. . .
I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great grief and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to flesh, the 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 from whom Christ according to the flesh who is God over all blessed forever. Amen.
“The Trinitarian Claim
Using a translation similar to the above, Trinitarians claim that Paul is identifying Jesus as “God.”
Although many Trinitarian scholars do not believe this particular verse identifies Jesus as God, there are still those who try to use this verse to claim Jesus is being identified as “God.”
The Claim vs. The Facts
The facts show us that Trinitarians are trying to exploit this text to suit their doctrine. The facts also show us why their claim is untenable.
The Problems with the Claim
- Trinitarian Scholars vs. Trinitarian Apologists
Some Trinitarian apologists often promote this mistranslated passage because they have somehow convinced themselves that they can make their desires true by creating an argument for it. Even though Trinitarian scholars disagree among each other on this matter, Trinitarian apologists tend to paint a one-sided view of the issues concerning this passage in order to promote their agenda. In other words, they will not tell you that many Trinitarian scholars insist this verse does not identify Jesus as God or that at best, the evidence is inconclusive. And if they do quote a scholar, Trinitarians will cherry-pick quotations that suit them and ignore those scholars who do not. A survey of Trinitarian apologetic statements suggests they argue for their own translation/interpretation of this verse simply because their sole motive is that their personal desires despite disagreement among their own scholars and despite Paul’s intent.”
As usual Kel accuses Trinitarians (this time Trinitarian apologists) of dishonesty because they “cherry pick” quotations that suit their viewpoint. But Kel admits that there are different opinions regarding Romans 9:5, and yet the quotations he chose to put at the end of his article all support his position. Why? Did he “cherry pick” quotations that suit him and ignore those that do not? Is he trying to make his desires true by creating an argument for it? By the standards he used to judge Trinitarians the answer would have to be “yes.” I can’t blame him because I have no objection to quoting scholars you agree with. If you believe that certain scholars are right, why would you quote the ones you believe are wrong? What I object to is the double standard. As we read on we will see Kel’s double standard become quite evident.
The Greek grammar of this verse allows for three possible translations and this is admitted by all reputable Trinitarian scholars. The key issue at Romans 9:5 essentially concerns punctuation. Paul did not use the modern punctuation conventions that we use today. He did not provide commas and periods in Romans 9:5 as translators conveniently give us and translators have three options open to them.
- Christ according to the flesh who is God over all be blessed to the ages. Amen.
- Christ according to the flesh who is over all. God be blessed to the ages. Amen.
- Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be blessed to the ages. Amen.”
Since Kel admits in the next paragraph that translation # two is “not likely,” the real choice is between translation numbers 1 and 3. Philip W. Comfort, a reputable scholar whose words represent the efforts of several scholars, writes
“One of the following two renderings represents the original thought:
‘whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God [,] blessed forever. Amen.’ (KJV NKJV RSVmg NRSV ESV NASB NIV TNIV NEBmg REBmg NJB NABmg NLT HCSB NET).
‘whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh. God, who is over all, be blessed forever. Amen.’ (RSV NRSVmg NIVmg TNIVmg NEB REB NAB NLTmg JCSBmg NETmg).” – New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale House Publishers, 2008 p. 455.
Kel’s two translation options that appear to favor his opinion on the meaning of the verse are actually the same translation in regard to the question of whether Jesus is called God or not. They differ only with respect to whether it is Christ according to the flesh that is over all, or God that is over all.
“4. Inconsistencies in Major Trinitarians Translations
Not all Trinitarians can bring themselves to promote the translation of Romans 9:5 as the Trinitarian apologetic agenda advances. Many Trinitarian translators and Greek scholars are non-committal and leave it open to interpretation. Other Trinitarian translators simply profess by their own translations that the passage does not refer to Christ as God.
“whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (NASB)
“whose [are] the fathers, and of whom [is] the Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed to the ages. Amen.” (Young’s Literal Translation).
“whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” (ASV).
“Whose are the fathers and of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed for ever. Amen.” (Douey-Rheims).
“Theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.” (NAB)
“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.” (RSV).
These are major translations by Trinitarian Greek scholars. Carefully note the NAB and RSV translations which do not make it possible to identify Christ as “God.” Here we can vividly see that Trinitarian Greek scholars do not think there is only one translation grammatically possible here and reasonable minds can see that the NAB/RSV translation is even most likely.”
And here as elsewhere, he has not presented any evidence that shows that “Trinitarian” scholars are the only or primary ones who worked on these translations. In reality a variety of scholars of different belief systems, whose common interest was biblical languages and not necessarily a shared theological bias, did the work. Also, Kel has not presented any reason to believe that the NAB/RSV translation is the “most likely.” For a fuller listing of different translations of Romans 9:5 I looked the following up on Biblehub.com; the translations that clearly identify Jesus as God are followed by >>, translations that seem to straddle the fence are so noted, and translations that clearly do not identify Jesus as God are in italics:
New International Version
Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.>>1
New Living Translation
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.>>2
English Standard Version
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.>>3
Berean Study Bible
Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them proceeds the human descent of Christ, who is God over all, forever worthy of praise! Amen.>>4
Berean Literal Bible
whose are the patriarchs; and from whom is Christ according to the flesh, being God over all, blessed to the ages. Amen.>>5
New American Standard Bible
whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.>>6
King James Bible
Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.>>7
Christian Standard Bible
The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.>>8
Contemporary English Version
They have those famous ancestors, who were also the ancestors of the Christ. I pray that God, who rules over all, will be praised forever! Amen. 3
Good News Translation
they are descended from the famous Hebrew ancestors; and Christ, as a human being, belongs to their race. May God, who rules over all, be praised forever! Amen. 4
Holman Christian Standard Bible
The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen. >>9
International Standard Version
To the Israelis belong the patriarchs, and from them, the Messiah descended, who is God over all, the one who is forever blessed. Amen.>>10
To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever! Amen. >>11
New Heart English Bible
of whom are the patriarchs, and from whom is the Christ, as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen. (not clear – seems they chose to avoid the issue)1
Aramaic Bible in Plain English
And the Patriarchs; and from them The Messiah appeared in the flesh, who is The God Who is over all, to Whom are praises and blessings to the eternity of eternities, amen.>>12
GOD’S WORD® Translation
The Messiah is descended from their ancestors according to his human nature. The Messiah is God over everything, forever blessed. Amen.>>13
New American Standard 1977
whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (not 100 %clear to me)2
Jubilee Bible 2000
whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh is the Christ, who is God over all things, blessed for all the ages. Amen.>>14
King James 2000 Bible
Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (not 100% clear to me)3
American King James Version
Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (not 100% clear to me)4
American Standard Version
whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (not 100% clear to me)5
Whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed for ever. Amen. (not 100% clear to me)6
Darby Bible Translation
whose [are] the fathers; and of whom, as according to flesh, [is] the Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (not 100% clear to me)7
English Revised Version
whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (not 100% clear to me)8
Webster’s Bible Translation
Whose are the fathers, and from whom according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (not 100% clear to me)9
Weymouth New Testament
To them the Patriarchs belong, and from them in respect of His human lineage came the Christ, who is exalted above all, God blessed throughout the Ages. Amen. (not 100% clear to me)10
World English Bible
of whom are the fathers, and from whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen. (not 100% clear to me)11
Young’s Literal Translation
whose are the fathers, and of whom is the Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed to the ages. Amen. (not 100% clear to me)12
By my count, there were 14 translations that clearly identify Christ as God, 12 that straddle the fence, and 4 (including the NAB and RSV translations) that did not identify Christ as God. Some would argue that the ones I identified as straddling the fence are also indicating that Christ is God; I only labeled them otherwise because I wasn’t sure that they did so.
“Because scholars admit that the grammar allows for more than one understanding of Paul’s intent, it is rather clear the intended meaning will not be found in Greek expertise but within the context of Paul’s style and vocabulary and the immediate context of the message.
Analysis of the Facts
- Pauline Terminology: Eulogētos
A review of some similar expressions in the Bible, and especially from Paul, is required so that one can examine his vocabularly, writing style and thought. The first two passages are not Paul’s, however, they are included to show that all New Testament occurrences of the Greek word eulogētos (“Blessed be”) is used exclusively to refer to God the Father.
“Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One.” (Mark 14:61).
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.” (Luke 1:68).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3).
“They changed the truth of God into a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is Blessed to the ages. Amen.” (Romans 1:25).
“The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ knows that I am not lying, he being Blessed to the ages.”
(2 Corinthians 11:31).
“from whom the Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be Blessed to the ages. Amen.”
Notice how the above translation of Romans 9:5 harmonizes perfectly with the rest of the Scripture verses while the Trinitarian translation does not. Every single occurrence of the Greek word eulogētos (“blessed be”) in the New Testament is a direct reference to God the Father. The Trinitarian apologist would have us believe that Romans 9:5 should be one exception.”
This argument is somewhat misleading because a word undeniably related to eulogetos (#2128 in the Strong’s Concordance) is eulogia (#2129 in the Strong’s Concordance) and that word is used as a direct reference to Jesus Christ in Revelation 5:12 and 13.
Besides, if Paul wanted to identify Jesus as God, what better way would there be than to apply the exact terminology usually used of the Father and apply it to Jesus?
“The word eulogētos is variously translated as “be praised” or “be blessed.” The “Blessed be” is the Jewish berakah, an ascription of praise to God the Father. The phrase appears to be an allusion to Psalm 41:13, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.” And the only instance where Pauls says someone is “over all” in this manner is at Ephesians 4:6 where we find God the Father is the one identified as being “over all.”
- The Father is over all
Also compare Ephesians 4:5 and Romans 9:5:
“from whom the Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be belssed to the ages. Amen.”
“one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
My response to Kel’s last argument applies here as well; if Paul wanted to identify Jesus as God, what better way than to use terminology elsewhere used of the Father (“blessed be”) and apply that terminology to Jesus, and then reinforce it with another phrase (“who is over all”) used of the Father?
“3. Pauline Terminology: Paul’s Language
Also carefully compare 2 Corinthians 11:31 and Romans 9:1-5 and note how Paul claims he is not lying in each of these passages. It may very well be that Paul wishes to reinforce that he is not lying to his audience by adding the berakah, “God be blessed to the ages.”
“I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying…. and from whom Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be blessed to the ages. Amen.” (Romans 9:5).
“The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed to the ages, knows that I do not lie.” (2 Cor 11:31).”
These words support any of the three translations Kel suggest at the beginning, because whether or not Jesus is identified as God here, Paul added the blessing in all three translations. As such these words do not support any one of our three translations more than the others.
“Now Paul here is talking about “the Anointed One according to the flesh” who descended from the fathers of Israel. That would be God’s Anointed One, God’s Christ. So just what exactly is the Trinitarian claiming here? Is he actually claiming that God descended out of Israel? How is that going to make any sense? Will it help him to say this is God the Son according to the flesh? Should we then presume that David is God’s father and Abraham is God’s father? God now has forefathers? Their claim is self-refuting.”
Kel is thinking that the assumption that Jesus is God would logically require that God is descended out of Israel. His sentence “Will it help him to say this is God the Son according to the flesh?” betrays a confusion of thought. Trinitarians do not say that Jesus is “God the Son according to the flesh,” whatever that is supposed to mean. The Trinitarian position is that God the Son added a human nature to his divine nature when “the Word became flesh.” In Trinitarianism Jesus’ human nature is descended from Israel, but his divine nature is not.
An analogy that illustrates the Trinitarian position might be that if you see a picture taken of me in the winter, I will say “that’s me” even though I am completely covered by the clothes that I put on. The clothes are considered as part of “me” as long as I am wearing them. My clothes are “descended” from cotton or polyester or whatever, but my body and mind are not. When “the Word became flesh” God the Son “put on” or “assumed” a human nature, never to take it off again. Thus there is nothing illogical about a Trinitarian view of Jesus’ descent from Israel “according to the flesh.”
“The problem is even worse for Protestants who insist it is incorrect to say Mary is the Mother of God (theotokos), the Catholic doctrine that Mary gave birth to God the Son according to the flesh. Romans 9:5 is about Christ descending out of Israel according to the flesh and Mary would be last in line of that descent. But Trinitarians are insisting that according to Romans 9:5, God according to the flesh has descended out of Israel and out of the womb of Mary. So they unwittingly affirm this Catholic teaching at Romans 9:5 while denying the same concept elsewhere.”
Kel misunderstands the Protestant objection to calling Mary the Mother of God. I agree with Kel’s summary of Catholic doctrine; the Catechism says “the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity” (#495). The Protestant objection to this is not to the doctrine itself, but to the potential confusion generated by the phrase “Mother of God.” Can this phrase cause people to think that Mary is a deity herself? That she is the “source” of God? Protestants think so. That is the logical Protestant objection.
“Paul’s vocabulary, structure, style, theological thought, and the immediate context, absolutely demand that we translate this passage as “Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be blessed to the ages.” The Trinitarian can offer absolutely no similar evidence whatsoever from Paul’s writings for his translation.”
I offer Titus 2:13 as evidence that Paul identified Christ as God, and Colossians 1:16 as indirect evidence that Paul had this thought in mind (see article on Col. 1:16). Paul’s theological thought simply does not demand Kel’s translation unless it is assumed that Kel is correct on Colossians 1:16 and Titus 2:13, and I don’t think that he is.
“The only thing the Trinitarian has to offer is his disingenous claims and his own personal desire to have the passage imply that “Jesus is God” simply because that’s what he wants it to say.”
Here Kel resorts to an ad hominem attack, a tactic which he uses all too often.
One final point that the vast majority of ancient Church fathers — all of who lived closer to the living memories of the apostles and many of who were fluent in biblical Greek — thought Paul was calling Christ God in Romans 9:5. Let us again quote from Comfort’s work:
“Wescott and Hort (1882, 109-110) indicated that most of the ante-Nicene and post-Nicene fathers understood the expression “God over all” to describe Christ. The primary reason for this is that it naturally follows the syntax of the Greek, whereas the doxology (“God be praised!”) is asyndetic and non-Pauline.” (Comfort, p. 456).
And here are some quotations from the ancient Church fathers:
Irenaeus, writing in about 180 A. D., said that Paul, when “writing to the Romans about Israel, . . . says: Whose are the fathers, and from whom is Christ according to the flesh, who is God over all, blessed forever.” – Against Heresies, Book 3, section 16:3.
Hippolytus, who lived from 170-235 A.D., wrote
“Let us look next at the apostle’s word: Whose are the fathers, of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. [Romans 9:5] This word declares the mystery of the truth rightly and clearly. He who is over all is God; for thus He speaks boldly, All things are delivered unto me of my Father. He who is over all, God blessed, has been born; and having been made man, He is (yet) God forever. For to this effect John also has said, Which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. And well has he named Christ the Almighty. For in this he has said only what Christ testifies of Himself.”
– Against the Heresy of One Noetus, section 6.
Novatian, who lived from about 210-280 A. D., wrote
“He descended by coming from heaven; and if, whereas this word can be true of no man, I and the Father are one, [John 10:30] Christ alone declared this word out of the consciousness of His divinity; and if, finally, the Apostle Thomas, instructed in all the proofs and conditions of Christ’s divinity, says in reply to Christ, My Lord and my God; [John 20:28] and if, besides, the Apostle Paul says, Whose are the fathers, and of whom Christ came according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for evermore, [Romans 9:5] writing in his epistles; and if the same apostle declares that he was ordained an apostle not by men, nor of man, but by Jesus Christ; and if the same contends that he learned the Gospel not from men or by man, but received it from Jesus Christ, reasonably Christ is God.”
– Treatise on the Trinity, section 13
Around 248 A.D., Cyprian wrote in his Treatise 12 Book 2 subsection 6 entitled That Christ is God:
“Also Paul to the Romans: I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren and my kindred according to the flesh: who are Israelites: whose are the adoption, and the glory, and the covenant, and the appointment of the law, and the service (of God), and the promises; whose are the fathers, of whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is God over all, blessed for evermore.”
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology
“Christ would not be equated absolutely with God, but only described as being of divine nature [see the study paper on `The Definite John 1:1′ (DEF)], 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 [praise] DIRECTED TO God.” – Vol. 2, p. 80, Zondervan, 1986.
United Bible Societies
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’.” And, “Nowhere else in his genuine epistles does Paul ever designate ho christos [`the Christ’] as theos [`God’ or `god’].” – p. 522, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, 1971.
A Catholic Dictionary (that’s the title)
There is no reason in grammar or in the context which forbids us to translate ‘God, who is over all, be blessed for ever, Amen.’