Paul never referred to Jesus as God.

Purpose

Jesus is GodThe Greek word theos (translated as “God” or as “god”) appears about 1300 times in the New Testament. Of those 1300 instances of theos, about seven possibly refer to Jesus. These seven instances are often used as evidence that Jesus is God. The purpose of this article is to analyze Romans 9:5, which is one of the seven instances, to determine whether it describes Jesus as God.

Summary

Categories of Translations

This article lists and analyses the 28 translations of Romans 9:5 that are quoted by BibleHub. It identifies three categories of translations:

(1) Jesus is theos.

Some translations identify the theos in this verse as referring to Christ and, therefore, translate this verse as saying that Jesus is God. For example, the NIV reads:

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

Of the 28 translations of this verse, 13 read like the NIV.

(2) The Father is theos.

Other translations interpret the theos as NOT referring to Christ and, therefore, as referring to the Father. For example, the Contemporary English Version reads:

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

The Good News Translation reads similarly.

(3) Literal translations

While the translations above interpret this verse for us, the more literal translations, such as the NASB, retain the sequence and ambiguity of the original Greek text and read as follows:

Christ … who is over all, God blessed

The question is, what does this mean? It seems to describe Christ as blessed by God. Alternatively, it could mean that we praise God because He sent His Son to become a human being. Either case, in this translation, the word theos describes the Father; not Jesus. Consequently, Jesus and God are different Persons. In other words, Jesus is not God.

In the list of translations at the end of this article, 13 translations read like this.

Conclusions

(1) As I read the 28 translations at the end of this article, most (15) make a distinction between Jesus and God.

(2) The huge variation in the translations indicates a high level of uncertainty with respect to how the verse should be translated. Consequently, this verse must not be used in support of the view that Jesus is God.

Which translations are correct?

But the question remains, which translation is the best? Given the uncertainty with respect to whether this verse describes Jesus or the Father as theos, the verse must be interpreted in the context: 

(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.” Given the uncertainty, in this verse, whether theos refers to the Father or to the Son, this should completely disqualify this verse as support for the view that Jesus is God.

(2) Paul maintains a distinction between Jesus and God.

Equally significant is that, in his many letters, Paul maintains 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.

Addendum 1 of this article identifies all references to “God” in the letter to the Romans that provide further identification, as to whether “God” refers to Jesus or not. It shows that all of these instances make a distinction between God and Jesus. In other words, given the way that Paul used the title “God” in Romans, that Jesus is not God. 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).

(3) Who is over all

Romans 9:5 contains the phrase “over all.” This phrase was analyzed to determine whether it helps us to interpret this verse. This analysis shows that the “one God and Father” is “over all” (Eph 4:4-6). Christ “is the head over all rule and authority” (Col 2:8, 10), but received that authority from the Father (Eph 1:17, 22). The phrase “over all,” therefore, may apply to both the Father and the Son and does not help us to interpret this verse.

(3) Blessed

Romans 9:5 contains the term “blessed.” Apart from Romans 9:5, this term appears 7 times in the New Testament and ALWAYS describes the Father (Mark 14:61; Luke 1:68; Rom 1:25; 2 Cor 1:3; 11:31; Eph 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3). Since, in Romans 9:5, it is the theos that is “blessed,” that supports the view that theos refers to the Father and not to Christ. 

It is interesting to note that, in three of these seven instances, the Father is described as Jesus’ God (2 Cor 11:31; Eph 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3). This emphasizes the distinction between Jesus and God (cf. John 20:17; Heb 1:9; Eph 1:17; Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12).

Conclusions

Romans 9:5 is ambiguous.

(1) The huge variation in the translations of this verse indicates that it is not clear whether this verse applies the title theos to the Father or to the Son.

Jesus is not God.

For the following reasons, the theos in Romans 9:5 refers to the Father and not to Christ:

(1) Paul, in all of his writings, nowhere else refers to Jesus as theos.

(2) Paul always distinguishes Jesus from God.

(3) In the New Testament, it is always the Father that is “blessed.”

Therefore, 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 Jesus is distinct from God and, therefore, not God.

– END OF SUMMARY –

Translations vary significantly.

In this chapter, Paul expresses his deep sorrow over his “kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites” (Rom 9:3-4). He lists the wonderful things which belong to the Israelites, namely, adoption as sons, glory, covenants, the Law, temple service, promises, and the fathers (Rom 9:4-5). Lastly, he mentions the most wonderful thing which the Israelites have, namely, Christ, who is also an Israelite “according to the flesh” (Rom 9:5). The question in this article is about the last part of verse 5. Literally, according to an interlinear translation, reads as follows:

Christ according to the flesh
being over all
Theos blessed (Romans 9:5 Interlinear)

There are five main concepts in this phrase:

    1. Christ
    2. According to the flesh (Christ was (or is?) a Jew.)
    3. Being over all
    4. Theos, which basically means a deity, but this term is also used for God; the supreme Divinity
    5. Blessed, which means “well spoken of” (Strong’s Greek: 2128)

Jesus is God-translations

In interpreting the phrase, the main question is whether theos describes Christ. If so, then Christ is also “over all” and “blessed.” In that case, this verse could be translated as the NIV does:

The Messiah, who is God over all, forever!

Of translations of this verse listed at the end of this article, 13 read like the NIV.

Jesus is not God-translations

If theos does not describes Christ, then theos refers to the Father.  Then one has to decide how to divide “over all” and “blessed” between Christ and His Father.

The Contemporary English Version and The Good News Translation decided that theos does not refer to Jesus but to the Father (“God”):

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

This makes a clear distinction between Christ and God. Furthermore, in this translation, it is the Father who both “rules over all” and is “praised.”

Literal translations

The translations above are less literal. The NASB, being a more literal translation, retains the sequence of the Greek text and reads as follows:

Christ … who is over all, God blessed

This translation retains the ambiguity of the original Greek text. How do you, being a person that is able to read English, understand this phrase? To me, it seems to describe Christ as blessed by God. Alternatively, it could mean that we praise God because He sent His Son to become a human being. Either case, in this translation:

      • The word theos describes the Father; not Jesus. In other words, Jesus and God are different Persons. In other words, Jesus is not God.
      • Christ is “over all.” and
      • It is the Father who is “blessed;” not Christ.

In the list of translations at the end of this article, 13 translations read like this.

?? I typed theos with a small “t” because the Greek, in which the New Testament was written, does not differentiate between upper- and lower-case letters and because a capital “T” changes the meaning of the word somewhat.

Conclusion

(1) As I read the 28 translations at the end of this article, most (15) make a distinction between Jesus and God.

(2) The 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 the Trinity doctrine is generally accepted in the church and that translators, like all other people, would naturally read the Greek text through their doctrinal lenses, then the fact that most translations favor a reading that Jesus is not God, is quite 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 as to read that Jesus is God.

Does Paul present Jesus as God?

But the question is, which translation is the best? How do we decide between the possible translations? Given the uncertainty with respect to whether this verse describes Jesus or the Father as theos, the verse must be interpreted in the context: 

(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.” Given the uncertainty, in this verse, whether theos refers to the Father or to the Son, this should completely disqualify this verse as support for the view that Jesus is God.

(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. For example:

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) Who is over all

Consider again the literal, interlinear translation:

Christ according to the flesh
being over all
theos blessed (Romans 9:5 Interlinear)

This seems to say that Christ is “over all.” A search in the NASB translation of the New Testament of the phrase “over all,” to determine who is “over all,” revealed that the “one God and Father” is over all:

There is … one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:4-6).

Christ “is the head over all rule and authority” (Col 2:8, 10), but received that authority from the Father:

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” “put all things in subjection under His (Jesus’) feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church” (Eph 1:17, 22).

Consequently, Jesus gave the twelve “power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases” (Luke 9:1) “and over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19).

This is the consistent pattern in the New Testament: Jesus has all power, is over all, has life in Himself, created all things, upholds all things by the word of His power, and is the judge, but all these things he received from the Father. (See Head of Christ.) On the one hand, we must not have a diminished view of Christ and think of Him as a created being. Rather, as the only Being that was ever begotten by God, He is God’s true family. But, on the other hand, we must realize that the Father is the Ultimate Source of all things. Only He exists without cause and who gave life to His Only Begotten Son and, through Him, to everything else.

With respect to the phrase “over all” in Romans 9:5, the meaning is probably that Christ is over all. However, we must always remember that, ultimately, the Father is “over all.”

(3) Blessed

Consider again the Interlinear translation:

Christ according to the flesh
being over all
theos blessed.

This seems to indicate that it is the theos who is “blessed.” If theos here refers to the Father, it is the Father who is blessed.

Strong’s Greek: 2128 states that eulogétos, which is translated here as “blessed,” and which means “well spoken of,” appears 8 times in the New Testament. Considering the seven instances (other than Romans 9:5), it is NEVER Jesus who is “blessed” but ALWAYS His God and Father:

Christ, the Son of the Blessed” (Mark 14:61 NASB);

Blessed [be] the Lord God of Israel” (Luke 1:68);

The Creator, who is blessed forever” (Rom 1:25);

Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ
” (2 Cor 1:3)

The God and Father of the Lord Jesus,
He who is blessed forever
” (2 Cor 11:31)

Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ
” (Eph 1:3)

Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ
” (1 Peter 1:3)

Since, in Romans 9:5, it is the theos that is “blessed,” and since, elsewhere in the New Testament, it is always the Father that is “blessed,” theos Romans 9:5 refers to the Father and not to Christ.

It is interesting to note that, in three of these seven instances, the Father is described as Jesus’ God (cf. (John 20:17; Heb 1:9; Eph 1:17; Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12). This must be related to worship. Our praise goes to God “through Jesus:

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

For further discussion, see the article on worship.

Conclusions

Romans 9:5 is ambiguous.

How this verse is translated depends partly on punctuation, and punctuation in the Bible is mostly interpretation. The original text of the New Testament was written only in capital letters, without vowels, and with limited punctuation (The Aquila Report). 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.”

Brian James Wright, in his document, Jesus as Θεός: A Textual Examination, in his analysis dismissed Romans 9:5 upfront 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.)

Jesus is not God.

For the following reasons, the theos in Romans 9:5 refers to the Father and not to Christ:

(1) Paul never refers to Jesus as God.

(2) Paul always distinguishes Jesus from God.

(3) In the New Testament, in the seven other instances of eulogétos (translated here as “blessed”), it is always the Father that is “blessed.”

Therefore, 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 Jesus is distinct from God and, therefore, not God.

God does everything through the Son.

One of the important conclusions, from the analysis of the 13 verses in Romans where God and Jesus are contrasted (see addendum 1 below), 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 the creation of all things and redemption, through His Son. We even worship God through Jesus. For example:

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

This also helps us to understand to nature of Jesus Christ. 

Transversal Conclusions

Conclusions in this article that also support other articles:

(1) Most translations of Romans 9:5 make a distinction between Jesus and God.

(2) The huge variation in the translations indicates a high level of uncertainty with respect to how the verse should be translated. Consequently, this verse must not be used in support of the view that Jesus is God.

(3) Paul NEVER refers to Jesus as God.

(4) Paul’s letter to the Romans maintains a consistent distinction between Jesus and God.

(5) God is “over all” (Eph 4:4-6) but appointed Christ “over all rule and authority” (Col 2:8, 10).

(6) The term “blessed” (eulogétos) ALWAYS describes the Father (Mark 14:61; Luke 1:68; Rom 1:25; 2 Cor 1:3; 11:31; Eph 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3).

(7) The Father is Jesus’ God (2 Cor 11:31; Eph 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3; John 20:17; Heb 1:9; Eph 1:17; Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12).

(8) The theos in Romans 9:5 refers to the Father and not to Christ. Therefore, rather than to support the view that Jesus is God, Romans 9:5 supports the conclusion that Jesus is distinct from God and, therefore, not God.

(9) God does everything through the Son, including the creation of all things and redemption, through His Son. We even worship God through Jesus (cf. Rom 1:8; cf. 7:25; 16:27).

Addendum 1
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 and the Lord Jesus Christ

The following verses distinguish between God and the Lord Jesus Christ:

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).

God saves through Christ.

The following verses 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 bolded the word “through” 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.

We praise God through Christ.

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.

God judges through Christ.

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).

Compare John 5:22:

The Father … has given all judgment to the Son.

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 discussed.

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.”

Addendum 2:
Translations of Romans 9:5

Jesus is God.

In the following translations, Jesus is God, using slightly different wording:

“… 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
English Standard Version

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

“… 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

Literal Translations

The following translations, seemingly the more literal translations, all put the four concepts in the same sequence as in the original Greek and also use the same English words and punctuation, implying that Jesus and God are distinct:

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

The following translations are similar, but use slightly different words:

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

Jesus distinct from God

Less literal translations that explicitly interpret theos as the Father: 

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

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