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Sunday, February 12, 2012

υἱοῦ θεοῦ “Son of God” in Romans 1:4

There has been a week long discussion of translating “Son of God” for Islamic cultures on the Better Bibles Blog . I have extracted some  comments of mine in regard to υἱοῦ θεοῦ  “Son of God” in Romans 1:4. Since this was part of conversation, there will be some lack of cohesion.

Rom. 1:1 Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ, 2 ὃ προεπηγγείλατο διὰ τῶν προφητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις 3 περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, 4 τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν, 

ESV Rom. 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

The phrase υἱοῦ θεοῦ is rendered “Son of God” in a dozen of the most commonly cited English versions. But what is the relationship [syntax] between υἱοῦ and θεοῦ? Is θεοῦ in apposition or is it a genitive with a head noun? The English translations support the latter but there isn’t an English equivalent for the former. Assuming we read υἱοῦ θεοῦ as a genitive with a head noun -- in a recent book (2009) addressing the current iteration of the πίστις Χριστοῦ debate, Porter & Pitts[1] argue that the meaning of the head noun, in a noun +genitive construction is restricted but not changed by the genitive. In other words, the meaning of πίστις can be determined independent of the genitive, i.e., the decision to read πίστις  as faith or faithfulness is independent of the genitive construction. I am not convinced by Porter & Pitts’ argument.

In Romans 1:4 I would argue that the meaning of υἱοῦ is substantially altered by collocation with θεοῦ and any attempt to do lexical semantic analysis of υἱοῦ without consideration of its collocation with θεοῦ would wrong headed. It is quite possible that I am missing the point with Porter & Pitts. The article is classic Porter, maximal obfuscation. Porter & Pitts[1]  page 47 "... the lexis of the head term should be disambiguated before asking how the genitive modifies the head term."  In their article, πίστις should be disambiguated independent of Χριστοῦ. I don't buy that. Χριστοῦ is indispensable for the disambiguation of Πíστiς. 

In regard to υἱοῦ θεοῦ in Rom 1:4, υἱοῦ has a semantic range in Hellenistic Greek, but when collocated with θεοῦ in light of the NT & LXX use of θεοῦ, the semantic range shrinks. We could say that θεοῦ places semantic constraints on υἱοῦ, restricts its meaning but it also disambiguates. But we would never attempt to determine the lexical contribution of υἱοῦ independent of θεοῦ, that just doesn't make sense.
I haven't found any exegete of Rom. 1:4 suggesting we read θεοῦ in apposition to υἱοῦ, "Son, who is God."  Apposition  seems improbable in light of περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ in Rom. 1:3. I had in the back of my mind Murray J. Harris[1] who reads μονογενὴς θεὸς apposition in John 1:18.

There are several other reasons for NOT reading θεοῦ in apposition to υἱοῦ in Rom. 1:4. The genitive case is commonly used for paternity for example οἱ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου "the sons of Zebedee."

John 21:2 ἦσαν ὁμοῦ Σίμων Πέτρος καὶ Θωμᾶς ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος καὶ Ναθαναὴλ ὁ ἀπὸ Κανὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ οἱ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου καὶ ἄλλοι ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ δύο.

John 21:2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathana-el of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.

Paul uses similar language elsewhere,

Rom. 8:14 ὅσοι γὰρ πνεύματι θεοῦ ἄγονται, οὗτοι υἱοὶ θεοῦ εἰσιν.
Rom. 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Rom. 8:19 ἡ γὰρ ἀποκαραδοκία τῆς κτίσεως τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τῶν υἱῶν τοῦ θεοῦ ἀπεκδέχεται.
Rom. 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God;

Rom. 9:26 καὶ ἔσται ἐν τῷ τόπῳ οὗ ἐρρέθη αὐτοῖς· οὐ λαός μου ὑμεῖς, ἐκεῖ κληθήσονται υἱοὶ θεοῦ ζῶντος.
Rom. 9:26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” 

2Cor. 1:19 ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ γὰρ υἱὸς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν δι᾿ ἡμῶν κηρυχθείς, δι᾿ ἐμοῦ καὶ Σιλουανοῦ καὶ Τιμοθέου, οὐκ ἐγένετο ναὶ καὶ οὒ ἀλλὰ ναὶ ἐν αὐτῷ γέγονεν.
2Cor. 1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes.

Gal. 2:20 ζῶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγώ, ζῇ δὲ ἐν ἐμοὶ Χριστός· ὃ δὲ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκί, ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντός με καὶ παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ.
Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me

Gal. 3:26 Πάντες γὰρ υἱοὶ θεοῦ ἐστε διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ·
Gal. 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Eph. 4:13 μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον, εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ,
Eph. 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;

On the other hand, it is curious that no one seems to have even made the attempt to read θεοῦ in apposition to υἱοῦ in Rom. 1:4. I could not find anyone, perhaps someone else can cite a scholar ancient or recent that suggests this reading. 

I did a search of TLG for υἱὸς θεοῦ in various permutations. Outside of Philo and LXX, it is rare. One reason we don't see lots of examples of υἱὸς/υἱοῦ/... [τοῦ] θεοῦ in pagan literature; in polytheistic frameworks designating divine paternity would normally use the proper name or an epitaph for the deity. I did find υἱοὶ θεῶν in Pindar.

Pindarus Lyr., Pythia (0033: 002)
“Pindari carmina cum fragmentis, pt. 1, 5th edn.”, Ed. Maehler, H. (post B. Snell)
Leipzig: Teubner, 1971.
Ode 11, line 62
⸏εὐώνυμον κτεάνων κρατίσταν χάριν πορών·
ἅ τε τὸν Ἰφικλείδαν
διαφέρει Ἰόλαον
ὑμνητὸν ἐόντα, καὶ Κάστορος βίαν,
σέ τε, ἄναξ Πολύδευκες, υἱοὶ θεῶν,
τὸ μὲν παρ’ ἆμαρ ἕδˈραισι Θεράπνας,
τὸ δ’ οἰκέοντας ἔνδον Ὀλύμπου.
Αʹ Αἰτ σε, φιλάγˈλαε, καλλίστα βροτεᾶν πολίων,
Φερσεφόνας ἕδος, ἅ τ’ ὄχθαις ἔπι μηλοβότου
ναίεις Ἀκράγαντος ἐΰδˈματον κολώναν, ὦ ἄνα,

Scholia In Pindarum, Scholia in Pindarum (scholia vetera) (5034: 001)
“Scholia vetera in Pindari carmina, 3 vols.”, Ed. Drachmann, A.B.
Leipzig: Teubner, 1:1903; 2:1910; 3:1927, Repr. 1:1969; 2:1967; 3:1966.
Ode P 11, scholion 91, line 4
EGQ τὴν ἐν τοῖς κτήμασι κρατι-
στεύουσαν εὐφημίαν· ταύτην γὰρ λέγει χάριν. 92E
BDEGQ ἥτις εὐδοξία ἔνδοξον ὄντα
καὶ τὸν Ἰφικλέους παῖδα Ἰόλαον πανταχοῦ διάγει καὶ ἐπί-
σημον ποιεῖ, καὶ τὸν Κάστορα καὶ σὲ, ὦ δέσποτα Πολύδευ-
κες, υἱοὶ θεῶν, καὶ ἀπὸ κοινοῦ τὸ διάγει ἡ εὐφημία, ποτὲ
μὲν παρ’ ἡμέραν ἐν ταῖς Λακωνικαῖς ὄντας καθέδραις, ποτὲ
δὲ ἐν τοῖς τοῦ Διὸς οἰκοῦντας. (fin. sch. E)
DEGQ πανταχοῦ διάγει καὶ ἐπίσημον ποιεῖ καὶ διαστέλλει. 91E
BDGQ τὸ τοῦ Ὁμήρου παραφράζει τὸ
(λ 302)·

I have neglected the most obvious reason for NOT reading θεοῦ in apposition to υἱοῦ in Rom. 1:4. Paul is setting up a contrast between κατὰ σάρκα “according to the flesh” and κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης “according to the Spirit of holiness” and also between messianic sonship ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ “descended from David” and metaphysical sonship υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει “the Son of God in power” … that is the general idea, James Dunn wrote an article on this in 1973[3] which is at times hard to understand since Dunn’s christology is a little strange from my perspective. 

[1] Porter, S.E., and A.W. Pitts 2009 ‘Πíστiς with a Preposition and Genitive Modifier: Lexical, Semantic, and Syntactic Considerations in the πίστις Χριστοῦ Discussion’, in Bird and Sprinkle (eds.) 2009: 33-53

 [2]Murray J. Harris, "Jesus as God", Baker Book House, 1992

[3]James DG Dunn, “Jesus-Flesh and Spirit: An Exposition of Romans 1: 3-4,” JTS 24 (1973)


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