Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

Exegetical Insight, by Robert H. Mounce

When the New Testament was first written there were no punctuation marks. In fact, the words were run together one after another without any separation. Punctuation and versification entered the text of manuscripts at a much later period.

Obviously this has created some difficulties for contemporary scholars since the way a verse is punctuated can have a significant effect on the interpretation of the verse. One outstanding example is Romans 9:5. If a major stop is placed after kata; savrka (“according to the flesh”), then the final section of the verse is a statement about God the Father (the NEB has “May God, supreme above all, be blessed for ever! Amen”). However, if a minor stop is placed at that point, the final words of the sentence speak of Christ (the NIV has “Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen”).

Does it make any difference? Most scholars believe it does. If the latter punctuation brings out what Paul intended, then we have in this verse a clear-cut statement affirming the deity of Jesus Christ. He is, in fact, God. The way a translation handles an ambiguous verse such as this reveals the theological leanings of the translator.

Robert H. Mounce