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The question ceases to be one of certainties, and becomes one of probabilities. The probabilities turn towards the reference to Christ, indeed, if our argument has been correct, but not so completely and overwhelmingly as to make it right to ignore the other view altogether. In their Preface to the Revised Version the Revisers say, “We have placed before the reader in the margin other renderings than those which were adopted in the text, wherever such renderings seemed to deserve consideration.” The rule for their action was the only proper one for them to adopt. Their insertion of a marginal note at this verse was in accordance with a proper application of the rule.
If, now, we regard it as established that the text of the Revised Version gives that interpretation of the passage which, by its greater probability, deserves to be preferred, and yet that some form of words setting forth the other meaning should be added in the margin, the question arises as to what this form should be. Should it be that which the American Revision Company have suggested, or one, or indeed all, of those presented by the English Company? A few words in answer to this inquiry seem to be required.
There are two points here, which deserve to be noticed. The first has reference to the words which introduce the marginal rendering. The English Revisers have deviated here from their universal custom elsewhere, and have attributed the translations which they record in their margin to “some modern interpreters.” This appears to us improper for two reasons: (a.) because the ground on which the rendering of the text throughout the New Testament is preferred, or that on which a marginal interpretation is added, is not that ancient writers have favored it, but that fidelity to truth demands it; and (6.) because the insertion of these words in this place alone is calculated to give the ordinary reader an impression that the early fathers were better interpreters than modern scholars, which is not in accordance with the facts of the case. If this verse calls for an alternate rendering at all, it calls for it on similar grounds to those which occasion other alternate renderings, and it ought to be introduced, as all others are, by Or. The American suggestion, so far as this point is concerned, is surely the proper and right one.
The second point has reference to the different modes of translating, if we refer the clause to God. The English present three modes, two which place a period after flesh; and one which puts a comma after flesh, and a period after all. The renderings, then, are, as mentioned at the beginning of this paper :
(a.) of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh. He who is God over all be (is) blessed for ever.
(6.) Of whom, &c. He who is over all is God blessed for ever.
(c.) of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all. God be (is) blessed for ever.
The American body propose to substitute for all these a fourth form :
(d.) Or whom is Christ as concerning the flesh: he who is over all, God, be blessed for ever. of these four forms which one deserves to be preferred ?
The fourth, as it seems to us. Let us compare it with each of the others; and, in the first place, with (c.). It must be admitted that (c.) has two advantages, as contrasted with (d.)-namely, it allows the natural and easy connection of ú üy with 7.platós, and it affords a contrast to TÒ zatà cipza. But, on the other hand, with this punctuation of the sentence, (1.) the doxology becomes much more abrupt ; (2.) it loses all presentation of the ground for its introduction ; (3.) it seems to be even less in the line of the Apostle's thought, than if (d.) be adopted ; (4.) it furnishes no account of the position of sorrós, after the subject; and (5.) it involves a difficulty of some moment in the absence of the article with Osós. For these reasons we think it must be rejected, as being less probably than (d.) the true construction, in case the word Osóş refers to God the Father.
As compared with (6.), it appears to us that (d.) is decidedly to be preferred. (6.) is rather a formal statement of a fact, “He who is over all is God blessed for ever;" (d.) is an expression of feeling, an ascription of praise. The latter is both more in accordance with the course of the author's thought and language in the preceding verses, and is less difficult of explanation so far as the formation of the sentence itself is concerned. In the preceding verses the Apostle has exhibited strong feeling, and has set forth the honors of his own people. To break out into a doxology is not altogether unnatural under the circumstances. To frame his doxology in this form, “May he who is over all, God, be blessed forever,” is singular, indeed, but not inexplicable. In the ardor of feeling and outburst of praise, he might express his idea of God's providential care and blessing by the words who is over all. But if he is framing a proposition and declaring a fact, it scarcely seems probable that he would have used this language, which is certainly not the most appropriate to the thought. He would more naturally, and therefore more probably, have said, who is the author of these blessings, or who has bestowed so much upon Israel. Moreover, the mere formal statement, that he
who gave the gifts, or he who is over all, is God, seems unnecessary and altogether unlikely to have been made between verse fifth and verse sixth.
Any one who will compare the passage with 2 Cor. i. 21, 22, will appreciate, we think, the fitness of the expression there used, and the unfitness of such an expression, here.
If, then, the sentence refers to God, it must be regarded, in our judgment, as a doxology in the ordinary and strict sense, God be blessed, and the doxology must include all the words, and not 00s s'horriùs els tous auras only.
But, admitting both of these points, are the words to read as in (d.) or as in (a.)? We think that here, again, (d.) is to have the preference. By adopting (d.) we have the sentence in a form which may possibly present that emphatic prominence of the subject which is claimed as the reason for placing it before the doxological word. “He who is over all, God,” can perhaps describe God as the object of praise because his providential rule has bestowed the blessings. “He who is God over all” is a phrase, on the other hand, more naturally adapted to express the simple idea of God's exaltation and dominion.
The suggestion of the American Revisers, therefore, is the one which seems most deserving of adoption for the marginal note. The interpretation, however, which places the period after toárt, and connects “who is over all” with Christ, -making the doxology to be God be blessed for ever,--may also be worthy of record in the Revision. But this must be considered as doubtful.
We close our paper with two or three remarks not in the immediate line of the argument.
First. It is not vital to the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ to find the declaration that he is God in this verse. The Apostle Paul may have believed that his Lord and Saviour was Divine, and may teach this in his Epistles; and yet he may have chosen to limit himself in the use of the name, God, so far as to apply it to the Father only. If, then, it be discovered, beyond question, that he never in any single instance uses the word 0sóş of Christ, the doctrine may still be unshaken. The more careful and systematic study of the New Testament has been showing the Christian Church, in recent times, that its truths are founded less upon individual verses or proof texts, and more upon the great and pervading thought which fills all its books. In this great and pervading thought, as relating to our Lord, we find the declaration of his Divine nature ; a declaration which stands fast and abides, though the interpretation of particular sentences may change as time passes on. If, however, this verse does contain the apostolic testimony that Christ is God, it is a direct affirmation of what the opposite doctrine would deny, and excludes that doctrine altogether.
We may add, in this connection, that, if the doctrine of Christ's divinity be established from other passages or other parts of the New Testament, this fact, by itself, will not prove that 0ɛós here refers to him. It will only add to and confirm the probability derived from the examination of the verse, that it has this reference.
Secondly. The presentation of the subject, which has been made, shows the groundlessness and inappropriateness of the extreme assertions which have been indulged in by advocates of both views of this passage. It has been declared, on the one hand, by those who refer the words to Christ that the rules of construction absolutely exclude any other reference ; that doctrinal prejudice alone has been the cause of any denial of this explanation ; that there is no ground for such denial which is founded in reason ; that it argues mental or moral blindness, even, to support the opposite view. On the other hand, it has been affirmed that the interpretation which does not apply the sentence to God as a doxology is impossible, if the rules and principles of the Greek language are considered ; and that it is, indeed, little short of absurd. The fair and unprejudiced consideration of the words draws us away from all such extravagant statements, and brings us to the calm inquiry into the arguments for both sides, and the decision as to the probabilities within the sphere of language and grammatical construction. The presence of the two renderings in the Revised Version, as it comes into general use, will tend to make all theologians and readers recognize that there is a possibility of both renderings, while yet there is a probability that the one given in the text is correct.
Thirdly. It is a fact worthy of notice, that of the most prominent opponents of the reference of the passage to Christ-such writers, for example, as de Wette, Grimm, Rückert, Meyer, Jowett-each one admits a peculiar force as belonging to some particular argument among those which are urged in favor of that reference. Rückert says, that the naturalness of the connection of ú úy with 7plozós points strongly towards this understanding of the clause, and that the sentence moves on most fitly and satisfactorily in this way. de Wette remarks that the demand for a contrast, which is found in to zarà Gipza, is the point of most difficulty to be overcome, and he evidently regards it as of serious moment. Jowett expresses the opinion that the omission of the verb, "the defective and awkward grammar," is the strongest objection to the interpretation as a doxology to God. Grimm states that the inappropriateness of using ú ovêrTávtwy, in this connection, with respect to God--that is, as describing his relation to the blessings of the Israelites—is the thing which holds his mind back from applying the phrase to God. Meyer allows the force of everything, as it were, except for the want of instances elsewhere in which the Apostolic writers use 0:65 of Christ. We cannot but regard the fact that these scholars find a strength in the various arguments, which it is hard to overcome-one looking upon one point as presenting very serious difficulty, and another upon another, until, as we read what is said by them all, we see that they are pressed by the weight of all the considerations—as showing that there is a real force in each one, taken by itself, and a cumulative force in the sum of them, when united together. If such advocates of the opposite view acknowledge that the argument, from stage to stage, causes even themselves to give it their most respectful consideration, the position of those who interpret the clause of Christ must be a strong one, and the reasons which support it must be such as ought to influence candid minds.
We have set forth these reasons and defended this position, with a due estimate as we trust, and with a fair presentation, of what is urged upon the other side. The interpreter is called, by the very duties and obligations of his profession, to be a calm, honest, unprejudiced inquirer after truth-to be a judge, not an interested advocate.