Monday, May 31, 2010

"Christ who is over all God blessed forever" (Romans 9:5)

One of my students sent me a question about the translation of Romans 9:5 (pictured above in Codex Sinaiticus, a manuscript from AD 350).

The phrase in question is ὁ Χριστὸς τὸ κατὰ σάρκα ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας. Here are the two possible translations, with some English translations that (more or less) follow this option.

1) Christ according to the flesh who is over all, God blessed forever (or "who is God over all, blessed forever"). KJV, NASB, NIV, NLT, ESV, NET, HCSB, NRSV.
2) Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all [be] blessed forever. RSV, CEV, NAB

Option 1 typically includes a comma, but the comma does not affect the meaning. Option 2 requires a period between κατὰ σάρκα and ὁ ὢν. It is legitimate for translators to insert periods where necessary, since ancient manuscripts used minimal punctuation. But it is important to note that no ancient manuscript inserted a period at that spot. The manuscript above is typical: there are punctuation marks after "promises" from Rom 9:4, and after "amen" in 9:5, but none after "according to the flesh" (line 4, fifth letter in the photo).

In favor of option 2: Although Paul elsewhere makes statements about the deity of Christ, he never does so in these words, equating Χριστὸς (Christ) with θεὸς (God). Elsewhere in the NT, the phrase "over all" and "blessed" (εὐλογητὸς) are used with reference to the Father, not the Son.

In favor of option 1: the phrase ὁ ὢν ("who is") is a participle phrase functioning as an adjective. Everywhere else in the New Testament and in the LXX, this phrase modifies a noun that precedes it. I cannot find any example of ὁ ὢν modifying a noun that follows. That means that ὁ ὢν must modify Christ, not God, resulting in "Christ... who is God." There are a few examples of other adjectival participles (i.e., not εἰμι) modifying a noun that follows, but they are quite rare.

I favor option 1 for three reasons.

  • Translation decisions should rely heavily on original grammar, and the grammatical support for option 1 is much stronger than for option 2.
  • The only real argument for option 2 is that Paul doesn't elsewhere use this kind of language to refer to Christ. But Paul often makes unique statements that have no exact parallel elsewhere in his writings. It is illegitimate to exclude a translation only because "it doesn't sound like Paul." If Paul wants to emphasize that Christ is God, it is only natural that he would use language that he has elsewhere used for God.
  • Option 1 best makes sense of the context. Paul is expressing his anguish that so many of his fellow Israelites, who had the patriarchs, the Scriptures, and Christ himself, have rejected Christ. Paul emphasizes who they are rejecting: Christ who is Jewish in his humanity, but is also God over all, blessed forever.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gospel of John Sinaiticus Mug

A few days ago, when I should have been grading papers, I designed this mug. It has the first two columns of John 1 (split into four columns to fit on the mug) from the fourth-century Greek manuscript Codex Sinaiticus.

Designing the mug was a lot easier than it sounds. I used Zazzle, a website that allows you to easily make personalized mugs, t-shirts, ties, and other stuff. In fact, you can buy this mug on their website. I'm thinking of buying a few to give out for my first-year Greek awards.

And yes, I am now finishing up grading my large stack of papers.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gospel of John Class

For my last course at Pacific Rim Christian College, I will teach a Gospel of John class (my area of specialty) at the beginning of the summer. It will be an intensive course for only two weeks, May 24-June 4, 9:00-1:00 every day. It can be taken as a graduate or undergraduate level course (with different assignments depending on level), or you can audit it for about half price.

It is only a few weeks away, so if you want to take the class, call up the registrar at Pac Rim (853-1040).

The picture: 12th century manuscript (codex 666) of the Gospel of John. The title is in the older majuscule style (all caps), while the text is in miniscule (cursive).