Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

You are here

Tuesday, February 2

Is Jesus God? (Rom 9:5)

Prof. Bart Ehrman claims that originally John 1:18 declared Jesus to be the “unique Son” (μονογενὴς υἱός), which was later changed to “unique God” (μονογενὴς θεός) by the orthodox scribes who wanted to assert the divinity of Christ in contrast to the adoptionists (Misquoting Jesus, 61–62.)

In my upcoming book, Why I Trust the Bible, due out in August, I deal with this text critical issue (spoiler alert, John originally did write “unique God”), but here I want to make a different point. Even if John did write “Unique Son,” there are other proofs for the deity of Christ.

For example, Mark starts his Gospel with the title, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,” and then spends much of his Gospel showing Jesus doing things that only God can do.

But in terms of actual statements, we have several important ones.

  • “the Word was God” (John 1:1)
  • “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18b)
  • “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30)
  • “the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)

But the one verse that is questionable is Romans 9:5. Remember, there was little to no punctuation in the original manuscripts, so where we put the comma or period is an interpretive position. Word for word, it says,

“The Christ the according to flesh the being over all God praised forever.”
ὁ Χριστὸς τὸ κατὰ σάρκα ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας

If you put a full stop after σάρκα (“flesh”), then ὁ begins a new sentence. “Israelites ... 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). Interestingly, the RSV translation team changed the punctuation in their revision. “Israelites ... to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen” (NRSV).

If you think Paul is affirming the deity of Christ, then you put a comma after “Messiah.” “Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen” (NIV, and most translations).

The grammatical arguments favor an ascription of deity to Christ. If ὤν referred to God (the Father, not Jesus), then we have a relative pronoun before its antecedent θεός. While not impossible, it is not natural Greek. If ὁ ὤν ἐπὶ πάντων refers to θεός, then the ὤν is unnecessary. The sense would be adequately expressed as θεός ... ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων, “God who is over all). So why the ὤν? And if the doxology is directed toward God, it creates a rough transition of subject from “Jesus” to “God.” (Other arguments are in Moo, Romans, 148f.)

Rather, it is more usual to read ὁ ὤν ἐπὶ πάντων (“the one being over all”) as modifying ὁ Χριστός, and θεός being in apposition to Χριστός.

The only real argument to the contrary is that Paul nowhere else so clearly say Jesus is God, but that argument fails on Titus 2:13.

Historically this is an important passage. When the RSV (the translation I was raised on) was first published with its punctuation of this verse and its translation of Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman” and not “virgin,” the translation was virtually banned from evangelical churches.

I would not pin my doctrine of the divinity of Christ on this verse, but it most likely does affirm that fact.

Comments

Admittedly, I am lost - where is Jesus being "Affirmed as Deity" (assuming you are referencing the later tradition of the hypostatic union in an effort at an equivalency with ο παντοκρατωρ)? Such a notion seems entirely antithetical to Paul's repeated, formal and clear statements that Jesus IS a man - as distinguished from God - and likewise Jesus making the same assertion Himself (Jn8.40), etc. Simply designating/entitling someone as θεος is not relevant to the discussion as Jesus plainly taught in Jn10.30ff - and is likewise clearly expressed throughout the canon. Jesus can be the only begotten God - whatever that might even mean - despite the fact that John routinely used the phrase only begotten son - and we both know the minimal difference in form - notwithstanding only late date texts being available, etc. In addition, we know that our "rebel" religion was at odds with...yes, the Caesar cult - which asribed "my lord and my God" to their leader. Needless to say, not to be outdone, the author of John has Thomas "correcting" such a notion- and neatly done indeed...:-). Again, none of this speaks of an ontological identity with Yahweh - that is not only an unnecessary, self-serving reading of the text but results in an ontological grotesquerie of the denial of the human person of Christ (the anhypostasis) - the man Christ Jesus Himself - the very one whom God attested and made both Lord and Christ. Thus such a leap is NOT a good exegesis at all if one wants to provide the least bit of honor to the Lord of glory!

I mean no disrespect but I believe Bill knows what he is talking about. If you do not believe in the deity of Christ then I believe you have spoken much more truth than intended in the first 4 words of your post, "Admittedly, I am lost..."

It would have been great if you actually address the issues that I raised instead of your sort of juvenile comments.

I have to ask the question because it does not seem that you have read the short blog entry. You do not address any of Mounce's arguments for Rom. 9:5. Rather, I see an assertion about Paul that assumes your conclusion (begging the question). This is followed by a jump to John which is problematic because John is not Paul and neither can those passages be compared willy-nilly. After that is fluff and a historical appeal. If that historical appeal were linked to the parenthetical statement in your first sentence then it looks like a Bulverism fallacy to me. I see a smiley face emoji appended to another undefended assertion. Finally, the last two sentences are rife with ad hominems. Hence the question in my subject line. You have not engaged with anything that Mounce has put on the table. Instead, I am sure that everyone here would appreciate constructive comments. And that those more knowledgeable than me would be more than happy to address your genuine questions and concerns that engage with the text and aren't phrased to be abrasive and unconstructive.

That is a very odd reading of my comment and seems primarily simply self serving I actually directly addressed the primary point which is the use of phaos in in reference to Jesus

Meaningful exegesis is still going to at least in some sense coordinate with the rest of the text. For the least bit of validity it shouldn't stand in contrast with about 4 to 8 of Paul's clear, formal statements that Jesus is a man as opposed to some sort of deity assuming an impersonal human nature. Re Rom 9.5 This is easily read as a standard doxology - in fact it fits perfectly. Any other reading is necessarily going to be forced and standing in contrast with Paul's corpus

Allow me to respectfully add to Dr. Mounce's list of GMark's objectives (Things only God can do) ... maybe I missed it, but; - Forgive Sin...Mark 2:5-12 ESV 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone? .....“We never saw anything like this!”"

Doing now use the understanding of the Jews who were basically theological clowns as the basis of our theology? I would say that would be the antithesis of what would be used

The proposition that possibility Paul was affirming the diety of Christ in Romans 9:5, and your thoughtful conclusion that “the only real argument to the contrary is that Paul nowhere else so clearly says Jesus is God” was insightful and appreciated. I would like to propose an alternative interpretation to Titus 2:13, which you consider to be more persuasive in the discussion regarding the suggestion that Jesus is God. According to scripture are we, in fact, looking forward to the “glorious appearing of the great God” or are we looking for the “appearing of the glory” of God? When we see the return of Jesus, it will not be the glorious appearance of God but Jesus returning in all of God’s glory. (Matthew 16:27, Mark 8:38) I have also had thoughts on using John 10:30 as supporting scripture proposing that Jesus was claiming to be God when he said that “he and the Father were one.” Jesus elaborates more fully in his final prayers to the Father in Gethsemane (John 17:21-23) when he asks that “all may be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you; so that also they in us may be,” also he prays “I in them and you in me, that their unity may be complete” Jesus tells us that we all may be one with the Father through him. Being “one” with the Father makes neither Jesus, nor us, God. I would be curious from which translation you site John 1:18 and how it could be considered a legitimate translation when, as far as I know, there seems to be only one word for God in any of the original texts. We come to, John 1:1. This is the verse that originally started me on my long journey into a deeper understanding of scripture and the truth about Jesus. I was quite innocent, not really trying to prove any one theology over another however, I have come to a profound place in my studies and I need to be tested. Being mindful that a little knowledge can be dangerous, I am questioning the word order of the last phrase in John 1:1. Both “God” and “word” are in the nominative case and I am suspecting that the article “the” has nothing to do with the word order. I am inclined to render the phrase not as the word was God, but rather as “ God was the word” as the Greek syntax records. I am prayerful that you will take this communication seriously and would be inclined to comment and/or more deeply discuss the ideas as I understand them here. In His Name, Juanita

Juanita, you are almost there on John 1:1. The word order is switched to suit the English language. The verb is not past tense ("was"). In fact, Greek has no past tense. It is in the Greek imperfect tense: "In origin has-been-being [imperfect tense] the word and the word has-been-being [imperfect tense] toward the God and God has-been-being [imperfect tense] the word." Too awkward to publish in English, it is more elegant and specific in Greek because, in English, with the past tense, you would be justified to ask, "He 'was' God, but is this still so?" But the imperfect tense denotes incompleteness, plain and simple, as in contrast to the perfect tense, which would denote completeness, corresponding to our English present perfect tense ("has" + [verb]-ed).

I imagine with little effort we could find a hunderd exceptions

I actually provided a very sound reason above assuming your interested in doing biblical exegesis. There is a much larger problem of course is that the theory being propagated actually stands contrary to the repeated clear formal text of scripture

Another passage that is very strong in confirming Jesus as God is in John. In verse 41 it says of Jesus: John 12:41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. What things did Isaiah write? John 12:40 "He HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE hardened THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM." This is a quote of Isaiah 6; the same point that he saw the glory which John clearly reveals was Jesus's glory. Who did the glory belong to in Isaiah 6? Isaiah 6:1 In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Isaiah 6:5 Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." Even the NWT which the jehovah witnesses put together leaves it relatively similar so you can still see the definitive connection John made with the Lord high and exalted in Isaiah 6 and the one whom "they were not believing in" in John 12:37. If you see what Jesus said and did in the gospels, he undeniably asserted who He was before he got to earth; and who he continued to be while on earth those 33 years (something he fully was, but did not grasp at Philippians 2:6). Yet he was the same as God in every sense minus the majestic glory he had since the world began. John 17:5 Blessings in Christ David