Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. — Romans 9:4-5
We have been considering the argument put forward for the new translations that turn the last part of verse 5 into a doxology addressed to God instead of being a description of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have seen that we must face this because so many of God’s people today are being misled and misguided by various false religions and cults that we really cannot afford to be uncertain with regard to this matter. How, then, do we deal with this argument?
My first answer is that it is very interesting to observe that these people who would refuse to ascribe those words to the Lord Jesus Christ and who ascribe them only to God as a doxology, do not attempt to base their position on grounds of grammar. Now, much of the change in modern translations from the Authorized Version is done on such grounds—they say that because of the grammar alone, we are compelled to do this and that, and so to change the great teaching of the New Testament. But here they do not say that, for the very good reason that they cannot possibly do so. They have to fall back, therefore, on this more general statement, that this is something that the apostle Paul does not do in his writings. So that is a general argument instead of a particular one in terms of grammar. Indeed, we shall find that the grammar is most certainly against them and on the side of the Authorized Version translation.
Secondly, this variation in the translation is not based…on a question of the various manuscripts of the New Testament. Commentaries often refer to those manuscripts and compare them, so it is important that we should know something about them. This is textual criticism…Textual criticism means that these various ancient manuscripts should be examined and compared. It is important for the purposes of translation that we should get as accurate a manuscript as is available and, beyond any question, much excellent work has been done in that direction during the past one hundred and fifty years or so…I refer to all this just to indicate that here, in verse 5, the proposed variations in the translations are not based upon a matter of manuscripts. We must always pay serious attention to manuscript evidence; but here, there is no such evidence because what decides the translation here is ultimately a question of punctuation—whether you put a full stop after “flesh” or whether you put a comma. So it has nothing to do with the manuscripts because the punctuation of the Scriptures did not come in until the third century…
It is important, then, that we should see that the argument for these modern translations is not at all a question of “scholarship.” How over-awed we are by “scholarship”! But grammatical literary criticism does not come in here, nor, especially, does textual criticism because there is no evidence from that line at all. So it cannot be justified in those terms.
Now lest somebody should think that I am merely giving my own opinion here, let me quote from some great authorities. Here is what the commentary written by Sanday and Headlam says — and neither of these men was an evangelical Christian — “It may be convenient to point out at once that the question is one of interpretation and not of criticism.” Now that is a statement by two great authorities on the whole matter of criticism, so that we are in the happy position that we cannot be over-awed and frightened by the words scholarship or criticism. They do not apply here. So those who would dispute the Authorized Version translation have to fall back upon this general statement, that it is not the custom of the apostle to describe our Lord as God.