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Romans 9:5b

“Whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came,
who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

[King James/Authorized Version, 1611]

by Paul Sumner

This verse has been a hot spot in the world of Bible translations. The Greek is ambiguously (awkwardly) phrased, according to grammarians. And many conservative, evangelical editors have argued that the KJV reading does not do justice to the expressed deity of Christ.

Instead, they prefer to translate Paul's words something like this:

Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
[New International Version, 2011]

There is a major theological difference between "Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever" and "the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised."

Is Christ (Messiah) over all, while the Father (implied) is God blessed (by humans)? Or is Christ the blessed God over all?

A major challenge for translators is the fact that original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament did not contain puncutation marks. So any marks in modern Bibles are interpretations of what Paul meant. This is how verse 5b literally reads (in translation):

from whom the Messiah [Christos] according to the flesh the one being over all God blessed unto the ages amen

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New Testament translator Richard Francis Weymouth has helpful comments about this verse. (The New Testament in Modern Speech, 5th ed. 1929, p. 677, notes on Rom. ix.5)

“There are really only two 'main interpretations' [of Romans 9:5].

(a) “The Christological interpretation, predicating of Christ...the divine attributes 'He who is over all, God,' and ascribing to Him the doxology, 'blessed for ever.'

(b) “The Doxological, which supposes a break after 'as concerning the flesh,' and makes the rest a doxology to God.

“...The difficulty felt with regard to the reference to Christ is not due to doctrinal bias, but to Pauline usage, and indeed to that of the N.T. writers generally. It is true that Paul freely transfers to Christ O.T. language used of Jehovah. He regards Him as the cause and goal, the unifying principle, of all created things (e.g. Col. 1. 15-17); but he never calls Him 'God,' still less 'God over all' (contrast Eph. iv. 6), and elsewhere his doxologies are addressed to God the Father...

“[H]ere he is speaking of the Messiah promised to the Jews. Was this Christ 'God over all'? Surely in an argument meant to be conciliatory such an assertion would exasperate the deep-rooted monotheism of his countrymen.”

In his NT version, Arthur S. Way footnotes:

“Paul nowhere else calls Jesus God over all, nor does he ever apply to Him the word eulogetos [blessed].” [The Letters of Saint Paul, 1953, p. 118].

The Roman Catholic translation New American Bible (revised edition, 2010) reads:

“Some editors punctuate this verse differently and prefer the translation, 'Of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, who is God over all.' However, Paul's point is that God who is over all aimed to use Israel, which had been entrusted with every privilege, in outreach to the entire world through the Messiah.”

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What many editors and commentators do in deciding what they think Paul's original intent was in this verse, is to compare what else he says about God and the Messiah Yeshua. Note these echoes of v. 5:

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie,
and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,
who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:25)

The God and Father of the Lord Yeshua, who is blessed forever,
knows that I am not lying. (2 Cor 11:31)

Or consider one of Paul's Messianic creeds:

If you confess with your mouth Yeshua as Lord,
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved. (Rom 10:9)

For Paul to write that Jesus is "God over all" grinds loudly against these other statements. One would think that if he wanted to teach that Jesus is "God over all" he would have written in 10:9: "If you confess with your mouth Yeshua as God ... you will be saved." But if Yeshua is God here, who is the "God" who raised him from the dead?

The following table lists sample English translations of Romans 9:5.

16th-17th Century Translations Romans 9:5b
William Tyndale (1534)...the fathers, and they of whome (as concernynge the flesshe) Christ came, which is God over all thinges blessed for ever Amen.
Cranmer (1539)they of whom (as concernynge the flesshe) Christ came, whych is God in all thynges to be praysed fo euer Amen.
Geneva Bible (1557)they of whome, as concerning the fleshe, Christ came, which is God ouer all blessed for euer. Amen.
Rheims Bible (1582)of vvhom Christ is according to the flesh, vvho is aboue al things God blessed for euer. Amne.
King James Version (1611)of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Modern Versions
Romans 9:5b
21st Century King James Version (1994) from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
American Standard Version (1901)of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
Amplified Biblefrom them is the Christ, Who is exalted and supreme over all, God, blessed forever! Amen (so let it be).
Authentic New Testament
(Hugh Schonfield)
above all from whom in the physical sense came Christ, blessed be God for ever. Amen.
Complete Jewish Bible
(David Stern)
from them, as far as his physical descent is concerned, came the Messiah, who is over all. Praised be Adonai for ever! Amen.
Contemporary English Versionwho were also the ancestors of Jesus Christ. I pray that God, who rules over all, will be praised forever! Amen.
English Standard Version from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (2011) from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever.1 Amen.
1Or: the Messiah, the One who is over all, the God who is blessed forever
Or: Messiah, God, who is over all, be blessed forever
The Living BibleGreat men of God were your fathers, and Christ himself was one of you, a Jew so far as his human nature is concerned, he who now rules over all things. Praise God forever!
The Messageto say nothing of being the race that produced the Messiah, the Christ, who is God over everything, always. Oh, yes!
New American Bible (2011)from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all is blessed forever. Amen.
New American Standard Bible (1995) whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
New English Translation (NET Bible) from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever! Amen.
New International Version
(2011)
from them is traced the ancestry of the human Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
New Living Translation
(2d ed.)
Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
New Revised Standard Version (Catholic ed.) from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah [Christ], who is over all, God1 blessed forever. Amen."
1Or: Messiah, who is God over all, blessed forever
Or: Messiah. May he who is God over all be blessed forever
Orthodox Jewish Bible (2011)Theirs are the Avot (the Patriarchs), and from them came, in so far as his humanity is concerned, Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach, al hakol hu HaElohim ham'vorach l'Olam va'ed. Omein.
(J.B.) Phillips New Testamentall these [privileges] are theirs [the Israelites], and so too, as far as human descent goes, is Christ himself, Christ who is God over all, blessed for ever.
The Voice from their bloodline comes the Anointed One, the Liberating King, who reigns supreme over all things, God blessed forever. Amen.
Young's Literal Translationof whom [is] the Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed to the ages. Amen.
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