The image to the left provides you with a structural analysis of Romans 9:1-5, and should facilitate ease of reference for the sake of this post.
I want to begin by providing the Greek text of the passage as it appears in the NA27 and then my translation of the text:
Ἀλήθειαν λέγω ἐν Χριστῷ, οὐ ψεύδομαι, συμμαρτυρούσης μοι τῆς συνειδήσεώς μου ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ, 2 ὅτι λύπη μοί ἐστιν μεγάλη καὶ ἀδιάλειπτος ὀδύνη τῇ καρδίᾳ μου. 3 ηὐχόμην γὰρ ἀνάθεμα εἶναι αὐτὸς ἐγὼ ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν συγγενῶν μου κατὰ σάρκα, 4 οἵτινές εἰσιν Ἰσραηλῖται, ὧν ἡ υἱοθεσία καὶ ἡ δόξα καὶ αἱ διαθῆκαι καὶ ἡ νομοθεσία καὶ ἡ λατρεία καὶ αἱ ἐπαγγελίαι, 5 ὧν οἱ πατέρες καὶ ἐξ ὧν ὁ Χριστὸς τὸ κατὰ σάρκα, ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ἀμήν.
I speak the truth in Christ. I do not lie, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit 2 that I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart. 3 For I myself could wish to be damned, separated from Christ on behalf of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites; whose are the sonship, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of worship, and the promises 5 whose are the fathers and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
In verses 1-3, Paul asserts his pain over the predicament of his people. In 9:4-5 he describes the privileges of his “kinsmen according to the flesh.” It is the glorious privileges of vv. 4-5 that stand in such stark contrast to the pain and sorrow of v. 3, and that account for the intensity of Paul’s pain. It is in all respects this contrast between the privileges of Paul’s kinsmen in vv. 4-5 and their predicament in v. 3 that seems to imply that God’s word has fallen. So what are these privileges, and what is this predicament?
In a comment thread earlier, my new friend Joseph said that he would be interested in reading my explication of Romans 9:1-23.
Given both the difficult of the passage and its place in how Calvinists (such as myself) understand the concepts of election and reprobation in God’s act of salvation, I thought I might attempt to do a series of posts that walk through my exegesis of the passage. I don’t pretend that I am the final authority on this text, or that my exegesis is the pinnacle of Reformed thought regarding this passage; however, I’ve spent years grappling with these twenty-three verses, so I’m going to lay out my understanding of the passage in question. I hope that it’s helpful.
Samuel Clemens famously quipped, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” These days when I think of Clemens’ quip, Bart Ehrman immediately comes to mind.
Ehrman is fond of pointing out that there are so many variant reading in the New Testament that there are more variants than there are words in the Greek text of the New Testament; a best guess on the quantity of these variants (as I’ve posted already), is between 300,000 and 400,000. That number means that there are at least 3-4 variants for every word.
If that were the end of the story, then that piece of data alone should be enough to make textual critics, who are focused on recovering the original reading of the text, throw up their hands and walk away from their task.
But there is much more to the story…
My wife and I are planning on having dinner in a couple of weeks with one of her co-workers who is apparently quite taken with the darling of the liberal media, Dr. Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina. For that reason, I’ve been looking back through the “Ehrman section” of my library.
Dr. Ehrman was a textual critic who studied under the late Dr. Bruce Metzger of Princeton. I say “was” because Dr. Ehrman has been writing popular works that are seriously outside his field for going on a decade now.
Dr. Ehrman’s best book dealing with text-critical questions is The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament, published by Oxford University Press in 1993. His best known work, however, is probably Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, published by HarperOne in 2005.
It should be clear to anyone that has read more than one post on this blog that Dr. Ehrman and I are going to disagree sharply on several fronts; there is one thing, however, regarding Dr. Ehrman’s work that drives me absolutely insane.
In my previous post, there is a transcription error: in answering the question about the number of textual variants I wrote,
a best guess would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 or more.
In my rushed typing, I missed a zero. That should have read, “a best guess would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 or more.”
I thought that needed to be corrected.
I realized after publishing my last post that some of the language I used in it would be found a bit too technical (perhaps) for the layperson, so I thought I’d put up a post explaining some of that language.
But before I can explain the language of textual criticism, I have to explain the discipline of textual criticism itself.
I have a confession to make: when it comes to New Testament Greek, I’m a total dweeb. My wife bought me my first Greek New Testament 4 years ago when we were dating; it was the wide-margin edition of the 27th edition of Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece. (I have to say, hon, it was a pretty sweet gift!)
But when she went online to buy, she came back and asked me if I needed the 27th edition or the 28th edition; needless to say, I was floored. I knew that the 27th edition had been around since about 1993, but had no idea that there was a 28th edition in the works. Continue reading