Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Quick Note on Rom 9:5

Does St Paul refer to Christ as "God over all" in Romans 9:5?

For a summary of the arguments that Paul is referring to Christ as "God", the reader can see the excellent summaries of arguments in such works as

(i) Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, International Critical Commentary, Vol II, pp 464-470.

(ii) Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, pp 486-489.

(iii) M. J. Harris, Jesus as God. This book of mine is boxed up, so I don't have the page numbers. The book is published by Baker [Academic].

(iv) Metzger et al, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd Ed., United Bible Societies.

That Christ is called "God" by St Paul is, I'd contend [based on the above arguments], nearly certain.

What is the main argument against the ascription of full deity to Christ?

Based on my studies of Romans, the argument against full ascription of deity by Paul to Christ is not based on any actual empirical evidence put forth, but by the following assumptions:

(a) Viewing Christ as God was something that evolved over the early centuries.
(b) Paul could not have called Christ "God" so early on.

I note that the UBS Textual Commentary has a majority of its scholars taking the position that Christ is not called "God" because, in their own words, "nowhere else in his genuine epistles does Paul ever deisgnate [Christ] as [God]."

But the Granville Sharp rule [correctly] applied to Titus 2:13 shows that Paul referred to Christ as our "great God and savior." And Titus, we might add, is a Pauline epistle. [I note that a commentator of no less than Cranfield's stature seems to be unaware of just how certain the construction is in Titus 2:13 --- see p. 468.]

On the contrary! exclaims a footnote in the UBS Textual Commentary [p 461] --- Titus is not generally regarded as Pauline, but is deutero-Pauline.

But why is Titus viewed as deutero-Pauline?

Interestingly, one such reason I've seen advanced against Pauline authorship of Titus is that the Christology is too high for a first century writer!

Thus, if this is one of the decisive points against Pauline authorship of Titus, then we seem to have a pretty vicious circle of thinking:

Rom 9:5 does not refer to Christ as God because [despite the positive evidence] Paul does not refer to Christ as God elsewhere in his epistles. Titus has a passage referring to Christ as God, but Titus is deutero-Pauline, not Pauline, because the high Christology of Titus makes it something that couldn't have been written in the first century. Therefore, nowhere in the genuine Pauline epistles, we don't have a specific instance of the full deity of Christ.

That is at least how I understand the argument put forth.

What about the passages in Philippians and Colossians that pretty much predicate properties of the Godhead to Christ without calling him God? These seem to be downplayed in liberal-critical arguments against the thesis that Paul was not referring the title of "God" to Christ.


On another note, the evolutionary view seems to this student to be a priori silly. Why would it take centuries for the "collective consciousness of the early church" --- whatever that abstraction really means --- to come to knowledge of the humanity and full divinity of Christ? Is it really safe to assume that, say, the apostles --- those who were intimates of Jesus for over two years and saw him do things that could only be predicated of God --- did not realize in time that they were dealing with the incarnation of the Yahweh of the Hebrew writings?

We may also consider St Paul. If, as reported in the Acts, he really was specially called and converted by a very singular sort of experience where he directly interacted with the risen Lord, why would it be noteworthy that he perceived, knew, and understood the full deity of Christ?


I'd note that there seems to be such a mass of evidence for the deity of Christ that whether or not we admit Rom 9:5 as evidence for the deity of Christ has no bearing on the question. But, it was interesting to review the UBS Textual Commentary and perceive what I see to be a vicious circle in liberal-critical scholarship.


Blogger Jason Engwer said...

Ignatius, writing to Pauline churches in the early second century, repeatedly refers to Jesus as "God" and as uncreated, an attribute that only God has. Craig Keener writes:

“By the second century Jesus’ deity was widely affirmed by Christians (see Ign. Rom. 3; Eph. 7; Justin Dial. 68:9; Athenagoras 24; perhaps 1 En. 48:5; etc.).” (The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Vol. 1 [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003], n. 162 on p. 298)

If the relevant passages in Paul are to be considered inconclusive, I would say that the widespread early patristic references to the deity of Christ would favor interpreting Paul in a way that's consistent with that patristic view.

But, as you've shown, the Pauline evidence isn't inconclusive. I would add the following:

“Despite this difference of opinion [over whether Jesus is referred to as God in Romans 9:5], arguments in favor of taking ‘God’ as an appellation of ‘Messiah’ greatly outweigh those that support the alternative. Favoring a comma after ‘Messiah’ (and thus the first option) are several stylistic arguments. First, the words ‘the one who is’ are most naturally taken as a relative clause modifying a word in the previous context (see the similar construction in 1 Cor. 11:31). Second, Paul’s doxologies are never independent but always are tied closely to the preceding context. Third, independent blessings of God in the Bible, with only one exception (Ps. 67:19), place the word ‘blessed’ in the first position. Here, however, the Greek word for ‘blessed’ occurs after ‘God,’ suggesting that the blessing must be tied to the previous context. As Metzger points out, it is ‘altogether incredible that Paul, whose ear must have been perfectly familiar with this constantly recurring formula of praise, should in this solitary instance have departed from established usage.’ Fourth, as suggested above, the qualifying phrase ‘according to the flesh’ implies an antithesis; and Paul usually supplies the antithetical element in such cases, rather than allowing the reader simply to assume it. In other words, we would expect, after a description of what the Messiah is from a ‘fleshly’ or ‘this-worldly’ standpoint, a description of what he is from a ‘spiritual’ or ‘otherworldly’ standpoint; see especially Rom. 1:3-4….Paul almost certainly does call Jesus ‘God’ in one other text (Tit. 2:13). Second, the exalted language Paul uses to describe Jesus [Romans 10:13 and Philippians 2:6 cited] as well as the activities Paul ascribes to him [Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 4:4-5, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Colossians 1:16, 3:13, and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 cited] clearly attest Paul’s belief in the full deity of Christ….Connecting ‘God’ to ‘Christ’ [in Romans 9:5] is therefore exegetically preferable, theologically unobjectionable, and contextually appropriate. Paul here calls the Messiah, Jesus, ‘God,’ attributing to him full divine status.” (Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1996], pp. 567-568)

“Is Paul actually calling Christ God here [in Romans 9:5]? The question hinges on punctuation. There is no question but that it is better Greek to regard the ho on which follows ‘the Christ’ as referring back to Christ rather than forward to theos, ‘God.’ Furthermore, whenever we find a doxology elsewhere, including in Paul, it begins with ‘blessed’ or some similar term, not with ho on. Those who want to find an independent doxology to God here are hard-pressed to explain why the doxology does not follow this normal pattern. In fact, the one real objection to Christ being called God here is that Paul supposedly does not do so elsewhere. But this is not true. He does do so in equivalent terms in Phil. 2.5-11, and furthermore when he calls Christ ‘Lord,’ he is predicating of Jesus the divine name used for God over and over in the LXX. We find Jesus called divine Lord, indeed confessed as such in Rom. 10.9, and then an OT passage (Joel 3.5 LXX) in which God is called ‘Lord’ is applied to Jesus at 10.13. Paul has christologically redefined how he understands monotheism, and 9.5 is just further evidence of the fact.” (Ben Witherington with Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2004], pp. 251-252)

“Those who dissent [against seeing Jesus as God in Romans 9:5], noting that this is not Paul’s usual terminology, nevertheless concur that a doxology to Christ as ‘God’ remains the most likely interpretation of the grammar (Hunter, Romans, 90; idem, Paul, 62-63).” (Craig Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Vol. 1 [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003], n. 196 on p. 302)

“when the early Christians called Jesus kyrios, one of the overtones that word quickly acquired, astonishing and even shocking though this must have been, was that texts in the Greek Bible which used kyrios to translate the divine name YHWH were now used to denote Jesus himself, with a subtlety and theological sophistication that seems to go back to the earliest days of the Christian movement….In 1 Corinthians 8.6 Paul takes the Shema itself, the central daily Jewish prayer and confession of monotheistic faith (‘YHWH our God, YHWH is one’), and gives the two words YHWH (kyrios) and ‘God’ (theos) different referents, so that theos refers to ‘the father, from whom are all things and we to him’ and kyrios refers to ‘Jesus the Messiah, through whom are all things and we through him’….Paul elsewhere takes particular texts which refer to YHWH and uses them, without apology or even much explanation, as texts about Jesus. [Romans 10:13 cited]…Likewise, the whole theme of ‘the day of YHWH’ in the Old Testament has been transposed, in Paul and elsewhere in early Christianity, into ‘the day of the kyrios’, i.e. of Jesus, or into ‘the day of the Messiah’. [Acts 2:20, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:14, Philippians 1:6, 1:10, 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10]…The first letter of Peter (2.3) speaks of ‘tasting that the Lord is good’, quoting, in relation to Jesus, what Psalm 34 had said about YHWH. In 1 Peter 3.15 we find a quotation from Isaiah 8.13 in which ‘the Messiah’ has been added to ‘Lord’ to make it clear that what was spoken of YHWH in this Old Testament passage is now to be understood of Jesus the Messiah….He [Paul] had, in the senses we have explored, a different kind of meeting with Jesus, but he quickly came to the conclusion which the others, too, had arrived at: that in this Jesus, now demonstrated to have been Israel’s Messiah all along, Israel’s one true god had been not merely speaking, as though through an intermediary, but personally present.” (N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God [Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003], pp. 571-572, 576)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 9:45:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

I should post these nice quotes in a separate thread, since they deserve some more publicity.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 1:25:00 AM  
Blogger Steve Jackson said...

Larry Hurtado has written some books on how worship to Jesus as God developed (I haven't read them, but they are supposed to be good).

Even Ray Brown in his Introduction to New Testament Christology takes Romans 9:5 to be referring to Jesus as God.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 4:18:00 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Larry Hurtado's "Lord Jesus Christ" is his most complete and scholarly debunking of "high Christology can't be 1st Century" meme. His new book, "How Jesus Became God" looks like a more popular presentation of the same theme, but I have not read it. I do strongly recommend reading "Lord Jesus Christ" as it is more accessible than most scholarly works on this level, and it comprehensively obliterates the widely accepted view of "high Christology=late. The new book my be jsut as good, but I haven't read it.

Hurtado's book is extraordinarily important, in my view, as it notonly answers the high Christology question, but it also shows that in spite of assertions thast early Jewish Chrisitans (including Jesus !) would never have claimed to be on the same level as God, htey certainly did in the earliest sources we have. He has not gotten as much attention as N. T. Wright, but he deserves much more.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 4:02:00 PM  
Blogger Scrape said...

While it would certainly seem that the development of the necessary theological language to describe Trinitarian orthodoxy took some time to develop (ie the ecumenical councils), at the same time it seems pretty obvious that the early church fathers considered Christ divine. My brief readings of the "goings-on" at the councils lead me to believe there wasn't much "give and take" between, eg, Christian and Arian positions. Rather, the Church came together to hear of some new ideas (Arianism) and collectively revolted at what they heard. They might not have been able to espress Nicene orthodoxy -before- they heard the Arians, but they sure could afterwards!

All of this goes to say, of course, that I agree with the historic Christian position regarding the deity of Christ. I think it reasonable to say that if one asked an early second century Christian to express their theology and Christology, they might have had a rather unsophisticated and unclear explanation, but, presented with a description of Trinitarian doctrine, they'd have agreed.

(At the same time... and I hesitate slightly as I say this... I think it's fine to say that doctrine, even correct doctrine, can take time to develop in the Church. In other words, there are certain truths that are -always- true, but haven't always been recognized as true by the Church, even in its infancy. This is specifically -because- they aren't spelled out directly in Scripture, but require a full-orbed understanding of all of the Bible. If it takes a century or two for the entirety of the New Testament to make its way throughout the Church geographically, as well as to cull out some extra-Scriptural books, and to come to an agreement as to what's inspired--note I say agreement, not decision--then it's reasonable to assume that it will take the Church some time to come to a recognition of various truths.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 8:33:00 AM  

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