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ROMANS 9:5 and DROPPING OVER A CLIFF
ROMANS 9:5 in the context of the
word of God, and not of the imagination.
The translation in the case both of the KJV and the NKJV is essentially the same, in an area of typhoons and cross-currents, in a show of stability and perception to the glory of God.
Romans 9:1-6 has a deep and sustained message, clothed in a grammatical form that approaches being a formula.
In face of the choice marvels of Chapter 8 preceding, the equipment and dowry of the Christian, Paul laments for the wilful self-exclusion of the Jews en masse, in a vast majority, moving to "establish their own righteousness" as he shows in 10:1-3, to follow.
Indeed, almost he could wish himself a curse, an accursed being, for his brethren, the Jews, we learn - so is He driven by the love of Christ within him, of Christ who DID become a curse for those who receive Him - for their sake! (Galatians 3:1-13).
Now the form, the virtual fomula in this passage of Romans 9, begins. It is a list - an embracive, consuming list. It swells, encompasses, expatiates. The relative pronoun is used like an anvil as the apostle pounds his points. The "metal" flattens and spreads, explanatory or epexegetical comments increasing the coverage.
First, as noted above, he refers to the Israelites. Then he commences his eloquent and arresting series of expansions, based on relative pronoun links. Here, the very praises or acknowledgments of Israel's advantages serving almost as an indictment in view of what they have done with them ... or more precisely, NOT done with them! Let us look at the list, and enlist its thoughts to our own, so that we shall be instructed by the apostle.
1) WHOSE is the adoption,
and the glory,
and the covenants,
and the lawgiving
and the service
and the promises
2) WHOSE are the fathers, and
3) OF WHOM is the Christ according to the flesh
is over all, God
blessed for ever. Amen.
1: the rampant fling of words like ricocheting stones. They tend to skip on past the relative clause base, to provide a soaring addition.
2: the explanation in case 3) above.
3: the parallel to it in case 4) above.
OF WHOM is the
Christ (explanation following) - according
to the flesh,
WHO is over all (explanation) - God blessed for ever (expansion).
It is only by rupture of structure that any ambiguity can arise, and that, it is an invasion, a distortion, a wilful ignorance grammatically speaking; for if a direction is set, and one knows not what to do next unless one follows it, does one then bite one's thumbs and excite oneself in an agony of ambiguity, and ecstasy of concern; or does one not rather take it that the speaker being competent and aware, intends one NOT to invent, to intrude, to invade the context with one's imagination, through bringing in UNSTATED words when this is necessary ONLY if one wishes to make the statement obscure! Such words may indeed be freely added when mere economy is in view, and the meaning is pellucid, unquestionable. To add them however when the addition - which could have been made explicitly and without any imagination - alone makes for lack of clarity, is an intrusive addition, a wresting of meaning on the basis of what is apt elsewhere, but certainly not when it changes what IS there entirely!
In fact, not only is there -
1) the thrust to explain or extend the reference as noted and shown for this particular soaring passage, but there is
2) the one-sided
aspect (according to the flesh) in point 3) as made, which calls for its
match in what is NOT of this limiting formal character. Indeed THAT particular
emphasis is constant and strong in Paul, a thrust both pre-emptive and
perpetual. (Cf. Colossians 1, Philippians 2).
In addition, there is
3) the explosive enlargement throughout in this passage, so that a minimisation of the significance which the Jews (as a nation) had and wasted in Christ, would be foreign, even alien, an aggressive disruption to the tenor of Paul's speech, and
4) the following fact...
Paul is reaching a crescendo to his considerations in reaching "Christ", and an "according to the flesh" as the sentence terminus, would damage and even render the thrust ludicrous. Being "over all" in terms of a "flesh" basis is far removed from Christ as Pilate from government (John 19). A king ? yes, but the kingdom is that of the truth.
Moreover, to LEAVE the sentence without even the "over all" phrase would, if it were possible, be yet more antagonistic to the structure and thrust of the passage, making it comic. The heightening winds of name and glory are then ditched and interred in "according to the flesh".
True, the 'flesh' for incarnation, that is what they contributed; but it is to minimise the fact that they were chosen, exposed to His WONDER and DIVINE opportunity, and it would be to leave derelict the mounting enthusiasm of the passage. If one adds "who is over all", this certainly reduces the difficulty, for to be over all is a climax to the preliminary considerations, to the enlargements, and it is a parallel to the continuing explanatory character of the context. Indeed, it is one more of the struck medium of relative pronouns, or parallel expository devices in the Greek (the last a common participial construction) giving enlightenment. It is through these that the passage has both eloquence and clarity, cohesion and construction, provided as if by a magnetic force to keep the particles of speech in order and clear.
However, that expedient of disjunction in what is obstructively conjunctive in form and format, if it is used to exempt from the continuity, and separate from the heavily stylised sentence the "God blessed for ever" phrase which follows: this becomes a muddle of misfit, a loosing of structure, as if not a human body were to be found, but a series of sinews, neatly laid out in piles, next to bones and other things, making the point incomprehensible, which was, in the total bodily structure, self-explanatory, before it was taken apart. The 'over all' stoppage of flow, though it meets a little more, fouling the magnification of context to a climax less than does the further omission of this phrase also, does avoid a totally stricken bathos. It is superior to stopping at 'Christ' which removes the entire point. That worse result becomes pathetic as well as bathetic ; yet even to stop at "over all" is to leave the sense of God and His word and covenant, moving on in Paul's stricture and horror at Israel, without any crown. The admittedly GREATEST part then has NO qualification while earlier things were tied in progression.
In fact, to move from God to not God, on the assumption that Paul does NOT keep the flow going, moving with the very explicit grammatical form, is to downgrade the consummation, remove the epitome, defraud of the climax. It also is both bathetic and pathetic, an annulment of a structured approach to climax at the expense of turning the approach to magnificence and climax, into ordinariness, 'flesh' having then the last word for the highest.
The use of some imaginary blessed be God exclamation to finish 9:5 then becomes an internal harassment and a further bathos, for without more than flesh, to the end in the format involved, there is the less reason to give such blessing. This is so even if such were the normal form of such a blessing, as John Murray points out in his Volume I of his Epistle to the Romans. 'God', he indicates, in the Greek routinely comes BEFORE the blessed , in such cases, and not after it.
Indeed, a pure flesh base for the exaltation which dominates in "blessed" would remove the ground of glory as well as ignore the nature of the norm for such a blessing. Having someone over all in flesh contributed by Israel would do nothing to provide supreme delight and superb exultation. The antichrist could conceivably lay claim to some such thing. Moreover, and the more so in this setting, the removal from the structural context of this last phrase, would cut off a terminal passage from the fabric of the context, leaving it isolated like an island, without ground for what would then be its meaning. It would be unclear, uncohesive, bathetic and dispersive of glory, at the very moment in which glory is felt, and blessing pronounced to the wonder of the Lord.
A cut off rogue
phrase in the midst of work which would thereby be left full of ambiguity,
and truncated ? Yet this is NEVER found in terms of the Greek adjective
in view, euloghtos
in the entire New Testament. How is it used in this Testament ? Either
it is used to start a sentence - II Cor. 1:3, Ephesians 1:3, I Peter 1:3,
Luke 1:68; or is used with clear statement - 'who is' in full - Romans
1:25, or as a genitive following a preceding reference - Son of the Blessed
(Mark 14:61), or else a verb is supplied before the relative pronoun so
making the back reference to the subject sure (as in II Corinthians
11:31) - "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ KNOWS, He who is
the blessed..." (blocks added to show the point in view). In this way,
the proximity to "Jesus Christ" is prevented from any question of reference,
apart from anything else, because the subject "God and Father" has its
own verb "knows" inserted before the "He who is the blessed".
In short, there is NO way any ambiguity ever enters in, relative to this word in the New Testament cases examined, and in this present case, it is ONLY when the exceedingly clear, highly visible and indeed almost obstructively and certainly eminently impressive structure of the wording is ignored as a guideline, that the question arises.
That structure and flow of context, grammar and form, however is precisely one of the modes of clarity: to use a form and a structure which acts as a stricture, as a narrow gate, indicating the author's mind and bent and way. Here it is the way to have a mass of continuing relative pronouns or what is equivalent in meaning - expanding and re-directing course as occasion requires, a sort of tissue of cells of content in this way moulded into oneness, integrity, cohesion and clarity.
In this, continuation, explanation and new direction within the progress, is the mode. Paul often uses notable style in making impact, and to exclude this as a consideration is simply to SUPPRESS what is present. THAT however is not to express it, but to summon and seize it, no work of translation at all.
Hence to achieve
some departure from this structure is an invasion of a guideline by pure
unmixed imagination. Anyone who does this is not finding, however, an ambiguity,
but inserting a desire. Proverbs 8:8-9 tells us that the words of God are
all clear to him who understands, and what is to be understood is this,
that language has its parameters and persuasions, and that to break up
a structure is an arbitrary sharing of the creation of the passage concerned,
and to act on this is a mistranslation. It is virtually to become a co-author,
so that one 's creative imagination in such a case, would be ignoring
indication. It is as simple as that.
When, as here, it leads to early separation in the first place (making "who is over all" into a new sentence), it ALSO leads to comedy in the contextual train of mounting climax. When, the break in continuity is inserted AFTER that, and before "God blessed for ever", then the style of explanation and cohesion, PLUS the move to grander and greater fields is broken. A new thing is inserted into the New Testament - slovenly writing which admits of no resolution, a new usage for this Greek word 'blessed' within the entire structure of the New Testament, a floating one! Elsewhere the cohesion is tight, as it is here by virtue both of the flow, the characteristics and the direction of the context. Only invasion can make a Kosovo of this land. Otherwise it coheres in its place, both by the force of the meaning of the context, the impressive mounting climax, and its grammatical structure.
there is a matter of emphasis to be made. If clarity were in view (as it
must be, according to Proverbs 8, with I Corinthians 2:9-13), then other
choices were available, as we see in the listings above, which could have
achieved this for the phrase (or clause and phrase), if it had been intended
suddenly to break it off into a sentence of its own. THESE available and
sometimes used indications were NOT used. Hence it is not shown that this
is the will of the writer, to impart what he could have imparted by available
means. Rather and definitely, it is shown by the eloquence and cohesion
and direction of flow, and the complementary compilation of meaning, that
precise force, coherence, cogent force, and beauty which otherwise
All things are possible, but by no means all are expedient. When to make a meaning from a passage in a letter, you have to ASSUME ambiguity, and then RUPTURE the form used, and INVADE the direction of flow, inserting from an assumed ellipsis (no verb for any final short sentence being given, so that to get that isolated phrase, you have to add one), then it is clear that the will of the reader is transcending the will of the writer.
Further, and quite categorically, it is also clear that it is being ASSUMED that the writer is inept or speaks without much concern about points which, from other letters, are known to be - when taken THIS way or THAT - of supreme importance. All that is a large depreciation of the writer, almost amounting to a denunciation. When the writer in the end, as I Cor. 2, Matthew 4:4 (see Appendix D, SMR), here is God in the sense of covering both the substance and the words chosen in superintendence, then it amounts to something so near to blasphemy as to be best left to the judge to determine! People of course do not always realise what they do, the implications of their actions and statements, so we leave that to Him.
No, some other choice of words was not made, as in the other passages when a direction to God direct is made, in the New Testament. That choice of words and of grammar was NOT MADE. To render it thus is therefore a heavy intrusion into the context. It is unworthy, unwarranted and impermissible. It then reads, "God blessed for ever. Amen." Who or what is the referent ? Is it something in the context, or is it suddenly divorced, taken into what (would then be) is another realm, relative to the actual cohesive context! In fact, the preceding person, Christ, is Himself the climax of much preliminary about the oracles of God and promises and covenants, and comes as a primary focus.
Is HE, Christ Jesus the Lord, then to be divorced as irrelevant ? and now that He has come into focus and sight, is He to be interred all over again by the mind and imagination of the reader, so that HIS significance is to be ditched and a wholly separate item is to be introduced as if the brakes were to squeal and the car lurch to a halt, leaving it half way over a precipice of confusion and upset ? Is imagination to divorce one of the most emphatic series of antecedents and progressive designations ever available in all literature, and insert from above, from the realms of one's own thought, NOT from the preliminaries, a new completion, a diversified conclusion, like a young duckling left by the mother and family!
Is this to be so, whereas the whole context has been dealing explicitly, continually and remorselessly, indeed in the genius and nature of its lament and complaint, with what is BELOW, approaching, ready to be uttered, the berthing of the succession in the wharf of the greatest donation of all! The whole context, thrust and emphasis of the passage is NOT what is above, but what has come BELOW, being FROM above. It finishes its burst, like the vigour of Spring in blooms, diversified in nature, overwhelming in totality, with what is below, Christ over all, God blessed for ever, not with what was always above.
This, it is an historical piece about the thwarted, denied or despised blessings of what coming from above, reaches them, and not a word about the sender, as if to divorce from the entire purpose of the procedure, to show by what is BELOW and where it CAME FROM, the horror of the lapse and lordliness, the rejection and blindness of Israel.
As we move one, we find this: Paul proceeds to show the word of God has not been vanquished! It is NOT made of no effect (Romans 9:6), cries Paul, through this rejection of this eminence by the Jews. Not at all (Romans 9:6ff.). After all, what has been given goes to the heart of God Himself personally, and the height of the gift brought down so low, to us, this evacuates God from any possible or conceivable challenge of inaction or insufficiency at the divine level of concern and involvement. That is a basic part of Paul's theme and flow in this context.
GOD has met all that was ever propounded or indeed could be conceived, in what He has provided, for the Jews. By the time he comes to Romans 10:6-9, Paul completes this phase of confrontation and indication of the name, integrity and grace of God. What then ? is there something in heaven to go for, to bring this end of the law for righteousness DOWN? NOT AT ALL! says the apostle. Or is there something somewhere else ? Emphatically NOT! He, Christ HAS come from heaven, so that there is nothing left of what could come (Romans 9:6-8), and the word conceiving Him gives link through Him to His abode (in heaven), as shown in Romans 10:9.
There is NO MORE to come, he is saying; there is nothing to be demanded from heaven, he indicates, in concurrence in principle with Moses (Deuteronomy 30:12-14); for the word that has NOW come is none other than Christ. It means, says he in expositing that part of Moses' words from the Lord, there is no need to ascend to bring down, for it - that is Christ, says Paul - has come already. That is the contextual signature exhibit with Romans 9:5: He who is God over all, HE HAS ALREADY COME SO THAT, all you have to do is to attest Him as such with the lips and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead and your contact with the divine, your salvation by His sin-bearing totality of action ON earth, HAVING come, is complete, yes replete! Such is the sustained message of Romans 9.
This of course is precisely what is shown in Philippians 2 and Colossians 1-2: in HIM is the fulness of the Godhead in bodily format, already brought down, already provided, already rejected by many, but eminently and astonishingly available, while the day of grace lasts. TO HIM, every knee will bow, just as Isaiah 45:22ff. made clear: this submission of all to one, is to God the Lord, alone. (Cf. SMR Ch. 7, pp. 532-560).
And Christ, He
is Lord! NONE other, says Isaiah, but the LORD is God; and it is to HIMSELF
that He swears every knee will bow, in accordance with this fact. Thus
it is to CHRIST that every knee will bow, in entailment of His deity status;
for to have it to any other would otherwise violate the integrity of the
divine insistence; and to have it to another as the very focus would violate
it infinitely. But to God blessed for ever, who is Christ, it is the one
chosen for the purpose from the infinitude of the trinity. Infinite is
the blessedness of the infinite God who provided His infinitely loved Son
as this glorious focus, incarnate, predicted, performance endued, consummating
the preliminaries, covenantally countermanding the rewards of sin for His
people. To HIM shall it be done.