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

Summary

Jesus is GodThe Greek word theos (translated as “God” or as “god”) appears about 1300 times in the New Testament. Of the 1300 instances of theos, about 7 possibly refer to Jesus. On this basis, some people propose that Jesus is God. This article discusses Romans 9:5, which is one of these seven verses.

Variations in translations

Of the 28 translations of Roman 9:5, as quoted by BibleHub, 14 imply that Jesus is God (e.g., the NIV). The other 14 make a distinction between Jesus and God, implying that Jesus and God are different Persons. In other words, Jesus is not God. For example, in the NASB, translations, He is blessed by God.

This huge variation in the translations indicates a high level of uncertainty with respect to how the verse should be translated and means that this verse cannot be used in support of the view that Jesus is God.

But the question is, which translation is the best?

Paul never referred to Jesus as God.

Firstly, for me, the most important factor is that, in ALL of Paul’s many letters, the ambiguous Romans 9:5 is the ONLY place, where He POSSIBLY refers to Jesus as “God.”

Secondly, Paul ALWAYS makes a clear distinction between Jesus and God; not only a distinction between Jesus and the Father. For example:

We have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ
“ (Rom 5:1; cf. Rom 1:7, 8; 2:16; 3:23-25; 5:9, 10, 22; 6:10; 7:25; 8:3, 34; 15:6; 16:27).

Thirdly, Romans 9:5 contains the phrases “who is over all,” and an ascription of blessing or praise. In Paul’s writings it is always God “who is over all” and who is praised; never Christ (e.g., Rom 1:25; 2Cor 1:3; 2Cor 11:31; Eph 1:3; 4:6). For that reason, a translation such as the Good News Translation may be preferred:

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

Conclusion

Rather than to support the view that Jesus is God, given the wider context of this verse in the letter to the Romans and all of Paul’s writings, Romans 9:5 supports the conclusion that Paul never referred to Jesus as God but always maintained a distinction between the Lord Jesus and the Lord God.

– END OF SUMMARY –


Purpose

The Greek word theos (translated as “God” or as “god”) appears about 1300 times in the New Testament. Of the 1300 instances of theos, about 7 possibly refer to Jesus. Some people propose that this means that Jesus is God. This article discusses Romans 9:5, which is one of these seven verses.

Variations in translations

In the NIV, this verse identifies Jesus as God:

The Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!

In the NASB, on the other hand, this verse does not say that Jesus is God, but that He is blessed by God:

Christ … who is over all, God blessed forever

By saying that Christ is blessed by God, the NASB implies that Jesus and God are different Persons. In other words, Jesus is not God.

In the NASB, Christ is both “over all” and blessed. As another example, in the CEV, it is God who “rules over all” and who is “praised forever:

They …  were also the ancestors of the Christ.
I pray that God, who rules over all, will be praised forever.

At the end of this article, the 28 translations of Roman 9:5, as quoted by BibleHub, are listed. In total, 14 of these translations imply that Jesus is God and 14 make a distinction between Jesus and God, which means that Jesus is not God. This huge variation in the translations indicates a high level of uncertainty with respect to how the verse should be translated and means that this verse may not be used in support of the view that Jesus is God.

And if we keep in mind that translators are Trinitarians and naturally read the Greek text through their doctrinal lenses, then the fact that only 50% of the translations favor a reading that Jesus is God becomes significant. If the translators were Unitarians (people who believe that only the Father is God), I guess very few of them would translate this verse to read that Jesus is God.

But why do the translations vary so much? How this verse is translated depends entirely on punctuation, and all punctuation in the Bible is interpretation, for the original text does 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.”

Paul never referred to Jesus as God.

But the question is, which translation is the best? How do we decide between the possible translations?

(1) Paul never refers to Jesus as God.

For me, the most important factor is that this verse (Romans 9:5) is the ONLY place in ALL of Paul’s many letters, where He POSSIBLY refers to Jesus as “God.” This should completely disqualify this verse as support for the view that Jesus is God, given the uncertainty of the meaning of this verse.

(2) Paul ALWAYS distinguishes Jesus from God.

Equally significant is that, in his many letters, Paul ALWAYS makes a clear distinction between Jesus and God. Note, this is not only a distinction between Jesus and the Father, but a distinction between Jesus and God. This distinction means that Jesus is NOT God.

In support of this conclusion, this article analyzes all instances of the word theos (God) in the letter to the Romans. Examples of verses that make a distinction between Jesus and God include:

We have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ
“ (Rom 5:1).

Thanks be to God
through Jesus Christ our Lord“ (Rom 7:25).

In other words, in Romans, Paul did not use the title “God” for Jesus. The letter to the Colossians was analyzed and came to the same conclusion.

(3) God is over all and is praised.

Romans 9:5 contains the phrases “who is over all,” and an ascription of blessing or praise. If Romans 9:5 describes Jesus as God, then He is the One “who is over all” and is praised. But everywhere else in Paul’s writings it is always God “who is over all” and who is praised; never to Christ (e.g., Rom 1:25; 2Cor 1:3; 2Cor 11:31; Eph 1:3; 4:6). Examples from Romans of praise to God, “through Jesus,” include:

I thank my God through Jesus Christ
(Rom 1:8; 7:25;
Rom 16:27).

For that reason, a translation such as the Good News Translation may be preferred:

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

Conclusions

Rather than to support the view that Jesus is God, given the wider context of this verse in the letter to the Romans and all of Paul’s writings, Romans 9:5 supports the conclusion that Paul never referred to Jesus as God but always maintained a distinction between the Lord Jesus and the Lord God.

Brian James Wright, in his document, Jesus as Θεός: A Textual Examination, in his analysis dismissed Romans 9:5 up front because this verse 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.)

One of the important conclusions, from the analysis of the 13 verses in Romans where God and Jesus are contrasted, is reflected by the word “through.” Eight of these verses contain the word “through.” This explains the relationship between God and Jesus, namely that God does everything, including creation and redemption, but everything that God does, He does through His Son, including the creation of all things. We even worship God through Jesus. For example:

I thank my God
through Jesus Christ
“ (Rom 1:8; cf. 7:25; 16:27).

God” in the letter to the Romans

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

God verses Lord

Verses that distinguish between the Lord Jesus Christ and God:

God our Father and
the Lord Jesus Christ
” (Rom 1:7);

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

It is important to understand that Paul consistently refers to the Father as “God” but to Jesus as “Lord.” That was also the conclusion from the analysis of the letter to the Colossians (cf. 1 Cor 8:6).

Roles in Salvation

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 …
God did: sending His own Son
in the likeness of sinful flesh
” (Rom 8:3).

I made the word “through” bold in several verses because that word is important to understand the relationship between the Father and the Son. It is the Father who creates and saved, but always “through” the Son.

Who we praise

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).

Everything we receive, we receive from God “through” Christ and we return our praise to God “through” His Son.

Judgment

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).

The Father … has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

After His resurrection and Ascension

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 Jesus and God are different Persons. 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 explains the relationship between God and Jesus, namely that everything that God did or does, He did or does through His Son, including the 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. This point was also brought out by the analysis of the letter to the Colossians.

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

4. In Romans, Paul uses the title “Father” only twice; namely in the beginning and at the end of the letter (Rom 1:7; 15:6). That means that he preferred to refer to the Father as “God.”

Translations of Romans 9:5

Jesus is God.

In the following translations, Jesus is God:

“… Who is God over all, forever praised
New International Version

“… Who is God over all, praised forever
Christian Standard Bible, Holman Christian Standard Bible

“… Who is God over all, blessed forever
NET Bible

“… He is God, … who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praiseNew Living Translation

“… Who is God over all, blessed forever.”
English Standard Version

“… Who is God over all, forever worthy of praise
Berean Study Bible

“… Being God over all, blessed to the ages
Berean Literal Bible

“… Who is God over all, the one who is forever blessed
International Standard Version

“… Who is over all, God, blessed forever
New Heart English Bible

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

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

“… Who is God over all things, blessed for all the ages
Jubilee Bible 2000

Jesus is not God.

The following translations do not say that Jesus is God:

Who is over all, God blessed forever.”
New American Standard Bible,
King James Bible,

American King James Version,
King James 2000 Bible,
American Standard Version,
Darby Bible Translation,
Webster’s Bible Translation,
World English Bible,
English Revised Version,
New American Standard 1977

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

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

Who is over all things, God blessed for ever
Douay-Rheims Bible

Who is exalted above all, God blessed throughout the Ages
Weymouth New Testament

Who is over all, God blessed to the ages
Young’s Literal Translation

Christology – Available Articles

Summary Articles

Specific Bible Books

Specific Bible Passages

The origin of the Son

Christ is subordinate to God.

Christ is equal to God.

Is Jesus called God?

      • Overview – Overview of the verses that refer to Jesus as theos.
      • Theos – The meaning of theos – the word translated “God.”
      • John 1:18 – The original text of this verse is in dispute.
      • John 20:28 – Did Thomas say that Jesus is God?
      • John’s gospel – Discussion of theos in this gospel.
      • Romans 9:5 – Paul never referred to Jesus as God.
      • Hebrews 1:8 – The next verse says that God is His theos.

The translation of John 1:1

Trinity Doctrine

Other Articles Series

Daniel

Revelation

Other Key Articles

Your comment is important.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.