Monday, January 28, 2013

Fr. John Behr - Romans 9:5


Quoted from The Way to Nicea:

From the earliest of the New Testament writings, the title “God,” with an article, is applied almost exclusively to the Father, and often used to differentiate between God himself and Jesus Christ, who is designated Lord.  So, for instance, in a formula typical of Paul, he refers to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:6).  An important text, emphasizing the uniqueness of these respective designations is 1 Corinthians 8:6:

For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and unto whom we exist, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
This affirmation that there is one God, the Father, the monothesistic heart of Christianity, and one Lord Jesus Christ, who does all the things that God himself does, so demonstrating that he is as divine as the Father, is the basic pattern for all subsequent creedal affirmations: I believe in one God the Father … and in one Lord Jesus Christ.

There are, however, several statements in Paul and the other letters, which might be read as describing Jesus as God (ὁ θεός), though in each case it is not a deliberate, unambiguous affirmation, but depends upon texts which are problematic in various ways, either in their grammar and translation or in establishing the correct text itself.  Ultimately, locating such passages is not the key to understanding the New Testament’s affirmation of the divinity of Christ, but it is nevertheless, important to establish, as accurately as possible, whether it ever used the articular “theos” for Jesus Christ.  The most important passage outside the Johannine literature is Romans 9:5:


Such is the clause in its unpunctuated form; and the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament are without any systematic punctuation.  If a comma is placed after the word “flesh” (as the United Bible Society, 4th ed. And Nestle-Aland, 27th ed.), then the articular “theos” is referred back to Christ; if it is to be a period (as the RSV, giving the alternative in a note), then a distinction is introduced between the Christ and the God who is over all.  The sentence, however, would have been written without punctuation, and so it is the grammar of the passage which must decide.  Here there are several considerations.  If the verse were to end with a separate doxology, the word “blessed” would typically come first: “Blessed be the God of all…”  Moreover, doxologies in Paul tend to refer to someone who has been mentioned earlier, in this case Christ; as “the God” is not mentioned until the end of the verse, it would be awkward to read it as referring to someone other than Christ.  Moreover, if the doxology is not addressed to Christ, the participle, “being” (ὢν), is redundant.  Finally, the words “according to the flesh” seem to require a parallel; usually in Paul the contrast would be “according to the Spirit,” though there are places where flesh is contrasted with “theos” (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:29).  Overall, then, it seems probable that in Romans 9:5, Paul called Christ God (ὁ θεός), though it is the only such passage.

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