Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Who’s Got the Power? (Romans 1:4)

Sometimes it is difficult to know to which word you should attached a prepositional phrase. In Romans 1:4, there are three possibilities, all illustrated by the translations.


¶ All the translations render ορισθεντος as a verb, but it is really a participle ("appointed/designated/declared"). ¶ (2) which he promised-before, through his prophets, in holy scriptures, (3) concerning his son, the being born, out of [a] seed of David, according to flesh, (4) of the appointed Son of God, in power, according to [a] spirit of holy-togetherness, out of resurrection of dead Jesus Christ our Lord. ¶ Awkward English, perhaps, but more faithful to how it flows in the original. I separated all the prepositional and participial phrases with commas (the ones with explicit prepositions or participles, not merely genitives). Verse four has a participial phrase followed by several prepositional phrases, and no verb, so it flows from the previous bunch of participial and prepositional phrases. The verb is "promise" in verse two, and the next verb will be near the beginning of verse five ("receive"). ¶ Well, I guess the apostle Paul wasn't following the rules of English grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and style. And, as you repeatedly point out, this underscores the futility of "literal translation." ¶ For "holy-togetherness," αγιωσυνης, this is a compound of αγιος and συν, a noun form of "holy" and "together" (see 2 Cor 7:1, 1 Thess 3:13). "Holiness" would be αγιοτης or αγιοτητος (see Heb 12:10). "Holy Spirit" is αγιον πνευμα. ¶ The "out of resurrection of dead Jesus Christ our Lord," doesn't sound right at first, but I am going with νεκρος as fundamentally being an adjective, not a noun, according to the "Mounce parsing," as a matter of fact. "Dead Jesus" was raised, so the issue is only a subjective one, based on that in English a "dead person" is viewed as being permanently dead. ¶ Lastly, κατα is in both verse three ("according to flesh") and verse four ("according to [a] spirit of holy-togetherness"). It is the same preposition, so ought to be translated the same way in English, since in context it is an obvious contrast. The reader in Greek sees "κατα flesh...κατα spirit," so that is part of the original flow. ¶ So, my conclusion is that "in power" is a peer to all the other prepositional and participial phrases, so doesn't necessarily connect to any of them. One may as well connect it back to the verb: "he power..."

Oh, I also noticed a typographical error: In your word processor you list ευαγγελιον θεου as being in verse two, whereas it is actually in verse one. I don't know whether your omission of verse 2 was a mistake or intentional (intentional if you consider it parenthetical, as the KJV has it).