Is Jesus called “God” in Paul’s letter to the Romans?

Summary

One of the seven NT verses, that possibly refers to Jesus as God, is Romans 9:5. All references to “God” in the letter to the Romans were analysed and it was found that Romans consistently makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  The only possible exception is Romans 9:5. The 28 translations of this verse, as provided by BibleHub, were compared.  14 of those translations state that Jesus is God.  The other 14 make a distinction between God and Jesus.  It is all a matter of punctuation, and all punctuation in the Bible is interpretation; a reflection of the understanding of the meaning of the passage when the punctuation was added; hundreds of years after Paul wrote.

Furthermore, Romans 9:5 contains the phrase “who is over all” and gives thanks. To read Romans 9:5 as describing Jesus as God, He must be the One who is over all” and receives thanks.  But in all other places in Paul’s writings “who is over all” refers not to Christ, but to God.  Similarly, everywhere else in Paul’s writings our thanks go to God; not to Jesus.

Given these facts, and since Paul nowhere else applied the title “God” to our Lord, Romans 9:5 should not be used to argue that Jesus is God.

Introduction

One of the seven New Testament verses that possibly refers to Jesus as God, according the authoritative book by Murray Harris, is Romans 9:5.  The purpose of this article is to evaluate this finding.

For this purpose, all references to “God” in the letter to the Romans were identified.  Then those references that provide further identification, as to whether “God” refer to Jesus or not, were identified.  Fourteen instances were found.

13 instances make a distinction between God and Jesus.

13 of those 14 instances make a distinction between God and Jesus.  This implies, given the way that Paul used the title “God” in Romans, that Jesus is not God.  These 13 instances are listed below.  The following verses distinguish between the Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father:

God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7);
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6);

Verses that distinguish between Christ and God with respect to their roles in salvation:

We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ“ (Rom. 5:1).
We shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him (Christ)“ (Rom. 5:9).
We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son“ (Rom. 5:10).

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (Rom. 3:23-25).

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3).

Verses that distinguish between Christ and God with respect to who we praise:

I thank my God through Jesus Christ“ (Rom 1:8).
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!“ (Rom. 7:25).
To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever“ (Rom. 16:27).

The following verse distinguishes between Christ and God with respect to judgment:

God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus“ (Rom 2:16).

Verses that distinguish between Christ and God with respect to what Jesus today does:

The life that He (Christ now) lives, He lives to God“ (Rom. 6:10).
Christ Jesus … who is at the right hand of God“ (Rom. 8:34);

Conclusions

These 13 verses make a clear distinction between God and Jesus, which means that Paul, in Romans, did not use the title “God” for Jesus.  These verses also contain a number of other important principles.

1. The word “through” is found in 8 of the verses.  This is a surprisingly high number and explains the relationship between God and Jesus, namely that everything that God did or does, He did or does through His Son, including creation of all things.  We even worship God through Jesus.

2. One often hears it said that we are saved by Jesus, but these verses show that it is God that saves – through Jesus.

3.  Our thanks goes to God; not to Jesus. This principle is relevant to Romans 9:5, as discussed below.

4. In Romans Paul only twice uses the title “Father;” right in the beginning and at the end of the letter (1:7; 15:6).  His habit therefore was to use “God” to refer to the Father.

Romans 9:5

Only one verse was found which might refer to Jesus as God, and that is Romans 9:5.  At the end of this article the 28 translations of Roman 9:5, as provided by BibleHub, are summarized.  The NIV, for example, reads “the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!”  The three components of this phrase, apart from Christ Himself (Messiah in some translations), are:

God
Who is over all, and
Forever praised

The 28 different translations combine the elements differently, resulting in different responses to the question whether this verse states that Jesus is God.

A. In the New Living Translation and three other translations all three components describe Christ, and consequently declare that Jesus is God: “Christ … he is God, … who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise!

B. The NIV and nine other translations qualifies “God” with “who is over all:” “the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!”  It is possible to read this as saying somewhat less than that Jesus is God, but that He is Ruler over all.

C. The NASB and eleven other translations combine “God” with “forever praised,” and say: “Christ … who is over all, God blessed forever.” This implies that Jesus is not God, but that He is blessed by God; confirming a distinction between God and Jesus.

D. The Contemporary English Version and the Good News Translation link the “who is over all” to “God”, and consequently completely separate Christ and God: “They …  were also the ancestors of the Christ. I pray that God, who rules over all …

In Summary

Four translations say that Jesus is God.
Ten describe Him as “God over all.”
Twelve call Jesus “God blessed,” implying that He is not God, and
Two make a clear distinction between God and Jesus.

In total, 14 translations may be read as supporting the view that Jesus is God and 14 oppose it.  It is all a matter of punctuation, and punctuation is interpretation, for the original text did not contain punctuation.  Metzger (Textual Commentary, 167.) wrote “the presence of punctuation in Greek manuscripts … cannot be regarded as more than the reflection of current exegetical understanding of the meaning of the passage.”

BibleHub quotes from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, which says that  “both ways are possible.”  The commentary continues to say that the word order and the context are somewhat in favour of describing Jesus as God, but other factors are somewhat decidedly against this application:

Firstly, the phrase “who is over all,” and ascription of blessing in all other places in Paul’s writings refer to God;  not to Christ, (Rom. 1:25; 2Cor. 1:3; 2Cor. 11:31; Eph. 1:3; 4:6.).  The analysis above also discovered the following statements that direct our thanks and glory to God; not to Jesus:

I thank my God through Jesus Christ“ (Rom 1:8).
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!“ (Rom. 7:25).
To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever“ (Rom. 16:27).

Secondly, the commentary states that Paul nowhere else applied the title “God” to our Lord.  This must be an important consideration.

Brian James Wright, in his document, Jesus as Θεός: A Textual Examination, in his analysis dismissed Romans 9:5 up front because Romans 9.5 involves a punctuation issue “which our earliest manuscripts do not answer.” (Douglas J. Moo, “The Christology of the Early Pauline Letters,” in Contours of Christology in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 190.)

Translations of Romans 9:5

The translations below have been color coded into the four categories:
Jesus is God.
Jesus is God over all.
Jesus is God blessed
Jesus and God completely separated

New International Version  “the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!”

New Living Translation “Christ … he is God, … who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise!”

English Standard Version “Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever.”

Berean Study Bible “Christ, who is God over all, forever worthy of praise!”

Berean Literal Bible “Christ …  being God over all, blessed to the ages.”

New American Standard Bible  “Christ … who is over all, God blessed forever.”

King James Bible “Christ … who is over all, God blessed for ever.”

Christian Standard Bible “Christ, who is God over all, praised forever.”

Contemporary English Version “They …  were also the ancestors of the Christ. I pray that God, who rules over all, will be praised forever! Amen.

Good News Translation “Christ, as a human being, belongs to their race. May God, who rules over all, be praised forever!

Holman Christian Standard Bible “the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever.”

International Standard Version “the Messiah …  who is God over all, the one who is forever blessed.”

NET Bible “Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever!”

New Heart English Bible “Christ … who is over all, God, blessed forever.”

Aramaic Bible in Plain English “The Messiah … who is The God Who is over all, to Whom are praises and blessings to the eternity of eternities”.

GOD’S WORD® Translation “The Messiah is God over everything, forever blessed.”

New American Standard 1977  “Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever.”

Jubilee Bible 2000 “Christ, who is God over all things, blessed for all the ages.”

King James 2000 Bible “Christ … who is over all, God blessed forever.”

American King James Version “Christ … who is over all, God blessed for ever.”

American Standard Version “Christ … who is over all, God blessed for ever.”

Douay-Rheims Bible “Christ … who is over all things, God blessed for ever.”

Darby Bible Translation “Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever.”

English Revised Version “Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever.

Webster’s Bible Translation “Christ … who is over all, God blessed for ever.”

Weymouth New Testament “Christ, who is exalted above all, God blessed throughout the Ages.”

World English Bible “Christ … who is over all, God, blessed forever.”

Young’s Literal Translation “Christ … who is over all, God blessed to the ages.”

 

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