Although many Trinitarian scholars do not believe this particular verse identifies Jesus as God, there are still those who try to use this verse to claim Jesus is being identified as "God."
Examination of the Claim
1. Trinitarian Scholars vs. Trinitarian Apologists
Some Trinitarian apologists often promote this mistranslated passage because they have somehow convinced themselves that they can make their desires true by creating an argument for it. Even though Trinitarian scholars disagree among each other on this matter, Trinitarian apologists tend to paint a one-sided view of the issues concerning this passage in order to promote their agenda. In other words, they will not tell you that many Trinitarian scholars insist this verse does not identify Jesus as God or that at best, the evidence is inconclusive. And if they do quote a scholar, Trinitarians will cherry-pick quotations that suit them and ignore those scholars who do not. A survey of Trinitarian apologetic statements suggests they argue for their own translation/interpretation of this verse simply because their sole motive is that their personal desires despite disagreement among their own scholars and despite Paul's intent.
The Greek grammar of this verse allows for three possible translations and this is admitted by all reputable Trinitarian scholars. The key issue at Romans 9:5 essentially concerns punctuation. Paul did not use the modern punctuation conventions that we use today. He did not provide commas and periods in Romans 9:5 as translators conveniently give us and translators have three options open to them.
1. Christ according to the flesh who is God over all be blessed to the ages. Amen.
2. Christ according to the flesh who is over all. God be blessed to the ages. Amen.
3. Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be blessed to the ages. Amen.
The actual Greek text reads, "kai ex wn o cristoV to kata sarka o wn epi pantwn qeoV euloghtoV eiV touV aiwnaV amhn," and comes out word for word in English as, "and out of whom the Christ according to flesh the one being over all God be blessed to the ages amen." No commas, no periods. The verse can be, and should be, translated as "from whom the Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be blessed to the ages. Amen.", or possibly but not likely, "from whom the Christ according to the flesh who is over all. God be blessed to the ages. Amen." The phrase "God be blessed to the ages" is a Pauline doxology.
Now because Trinitarian scholars themselves admit more than one translation is grammatically possible, the question then becomes what Paul really intended and a right understanding comes from a proper interpretation of Paul's words.
3. The Greek Grammar and Structure
In Greek, word order has far less importance than in English. The intended meanings of the words have to do with the inflections of those words rather than the order. The Greek at Romans 9:5 grammatically allows for more than one interpretation of Paul's words and therefore more than one viable translation.
4. Inconsistencies in Major Trinitarians Translations
Not all Trinitarians can bring themselves to promote the translation of Romans 9:5 as the Trinitarian apologetic agenda advances. Many Trinitarian translators and Greek scholars are non-committal and leave it open to interpretation. Other Trinitarian translators simply profess by their own translations that the passage does not refer to Christ as God.
"whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." (NASB)
"whose [are] the fathers, and of whom [is] the Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed to the ages. Amen." (Young’s Literal Translation).
"whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." (ASV).
"Whose are the fathers and of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed for ever. Amen." (Douey-Rheims).
"Theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen." (NAB)
"to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen." (RSV).
These are major translations by Trinitarian Greek scholars. Carefully note the NAB and RSV translations which do not make it possible to identify Christ as "God." Here we can vividly see that Trinitarian Greek scholars do not think there is only one translation grammatically possible here and reasonable minds can see that the NAB/RSV translation is even most likely. It is not up to us to just choose the translation which suits our theological fancies but to discover what Paul intended under inspiration. Because scholars admit that the grammar allows for more than one understanding of Paul's intent, it is rather clear the intended meaning will not be found in Greek expertise but within the context of Paul's style and vocabulary and the immediate context of the message.
Analysis of the Facts
1. Pauline Terminology: Eulogētos
A review of some similar expressions in the Bible, and especially from Paul, is required so that one can examine his vocabularly, writing style and thought. The first two passages are not Paul's, however, they are included to show that all New Testament occurrences of the Greek word eulogētos ("Blessed be") is used exclusively to refer to God the Father.
"Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One." (Mark 14:61).
"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel." (Luke 1:68).
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:3).
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 1:3).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:3).
"They changed the truth of God into a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is Blessed to the ages. Amen." (Romans 1:25).
"The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ knows that I am not lying, he being Blessed to the ages."
(2 Corinthians 11:31).
"from whom the Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be Blessed to the ages. Amen."
Notice how the above translation of Romans 9:5 harmonizes perfectly with the rest of the Scripture verses while the Trinitarian translation does not. Every single occurrence of the Greek word eulogētos ("blessed be") in the New Testament is a direct reference to God the Father. The Trinitarian apologist would have us believe that Romans 9:5 should be one exception.
The word eulogētos is variously translated as "be praised" or "be blessed." The "Blessed be" is the Jewish berakah, an ascription of praise to God the Father. The phrase appears to be an allusion to Psalm 41:13, "Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen." And the only instance where Pauls says someone is "over all" in this manner is at Ephesians 4:6 where we find God the Father is the one identified as being "over all."
3. The Father is over all
Also compare Ephesians 4:5 and Romans 9:5:
"from whom the Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be belssed to the ages. Amen."
"one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all."
3. Pauline Terminology: Paul's Language
Also carefully compare 2 Corinthians 11:31 and Romans 9:1-5 and note how Paul claims he is not lying in each of these passages. It may very well be that Paul wishes to reinforce that he is not lying to his audience by adding the berakah, "God be blessed to the ages."
"I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying.... and from whom Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be blessed to the ages. Amen." (Romans 9:5).
"The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed to the ages, knows that I do not lie." (2 Cor 11:31).
4. Pauline Terminology: The Jewish Berakah
It is well known that the word "Blessed" or "Blessed be" is an ascription of praise used exclusively for God in the Old Testament. Some Trinitarians also often try to claim that the word "blessed [be]" should be placed before the word "God" in Romans 9:5 if Paul had intended it to refer to God the Father and not Christ. This is however a very misguided grasping at straws. The LXX at Psalm 69:19-20 does indeed have it both before and after in the very same passage. We also have firsthand evidence that Paul himself who wrote Romans 9:5 does indeed elsewhere use this phrase to refer to God without placing the word "blessed be" before the word "God" in his sentence structure, as we can see in 2 Corinthians 11:31 where it is placed after the word "God."
"The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed to ages, knows that I do not lie" (o qeoV kai pathr tou kuriou hmwn ihsou cristou oiden o wn euloghtoV eiV touV aiwnaV oti ou yeudomai. (2 Cor 11:31).
5. The Context
Paul recalls the spiritual honors given to Israel: the sonship, the [Shekinah] glory, the covenants, the law, the temple worship, the promises, the patriarchs, and the Messiah himself came out of them in the flesh. He then ends with a common thankful ascription of praise to God for all that He has done for Israel and one of those things was the promised seed of the Messiah through Israel according to the flesh. Paul is here describing Israel "according to flesh" before Christ died in the flesh for them and rose in the Spirit and this is the reason why he emphasizes Christ's descent from Israel according to the flesh (see also 1:3-4). Jesus is the promised covenant seed of Abraham and David, and Paul is about to discuss the promised seed in the verses which follow. In Galatians he explicitly states that seed was Christ. This passage is about Christ the promised seed according to the flesh and Paul concludes by expressing praise toward God for what he has done for them and through them. The Christ came from them in the flesh and God is to be praised for giving Israel that privilege.
Now Paul here is talking about "Christ according to the flesh." So just what exactly is the Trinitarian claiming here? Is he actually claiming that "Christ according to the flesh" is "God"? Indeed, one can read throughout Trinitarian apologetic literature that Christ "according to the flesh" is not God. Only Christ "according to his divine nature" is God. This is made clear when they respond to the question, "If Jesus is God how is it that Jesus had a God?" Trinitarians respond by claiming that Jesus according to the flesh has a God but not Jesus according to his divine nature. In other words, Jesus according to the flesh can have a God because Trinitarian doctrine says that Jesus is not God according to the flesh and that is the reason why Jesus can have a God. Jesus has a God according to the flesh because he is not God according to the flesh. And Paul here is specifically referring to Christ according to the flesh. So once again we find Trinitarians in the dire straits of contradicting the moving target of their own beliefs.
What we want to discover is what Paul really intended to say and these other related passages which he himself wrote give us much insight. We might be able to conclude that Paul intends to say "the Christ according to the flesh, he being over all. God be blessed to the ages. Amen." But we certainly have no basis whatsoever in Scripture, and especially in Paul's writings, to translate the passage as "the Christ according to the flesh, he being God over all blessed to the ages. Amen." The more likely translation is "the Christ according the flesh. God who is over all be blessed to the ages. Amen.", because this is the terminology used by Paul at Ephesians 4:6 and he is also the one doing the writing in this passage. Or we could translate it in the same vein as "the Christ according to the flesh. The One being over all, God, be blessed to the ages. Amen."
Paul's vocabulary, structure, style, theological thought, and the immediate context, absolutely demand that we translate this passage as "Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be blessed to the ages." The Trinitarian can offer absolutely no similar evidence whatsoever from Paul's writings for his translation. The only thing the Trinitarian has is his disingenous claims and his own personal desire to have the passage imply that "Jesus is God" simply because that's what he wants it to say. There can be no doubt that Paul did not say what Trinitarians wished he would have said.
In fact, Paul uses a very similar expression in this very same letter:
"They changed the truth of God into a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed to the ages. Amen." (Romans 1:25).
"from whom the Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be blessed to the ages. Amen."
Notice the very same "Amen" between the two passages which ends Paul's expression of praise to God. Why would we believe that Paul had any other intention at Romans 9:5? And once again there is the concept of truth vs. lying in view. Again, Paul's theological terminology shouts loudly to us concerning what he intended at Romans 9:5.
The grammar allows three possible translations. Trinitarian translations show us quite clearly what scholars are thinking on the matter. No New Testament writer uses the word eulogētos to refer to anyone but God the Father. And when we explore Paul's vocabulary and language elsewhere in his own letters it becomes undeniable that he did not intend to describe Christ as God but was adding the Jewish berakah and praising the God of Israel who is over all and ending his doxology with the usual Amen!
Last Updated: February 24, 2011
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology
"Christ would not be equated absolutely with God, but only described as being of divine nature [see the study paper on `The Definite John 1:1' (DEF)], for the word theos has no article. But this ascription of majesty does not occur anywhere else in Paul. The much more probable explanation is that the statement is a DOXOLOGY [praise] DIRECTED TO God." - Vol. 2, p. 80, Zondervan, 1986.
United Bible Societies
In fact, on the basis of the general tenor of his theology it was considered tantamount to impossible that Paul would have expressed Christ's greatness by calling him `God blessed for ever'." And, "Nowhere else in his genuine epistles does Paul ever designate ho christos [`the Christ'] as theos [`God' or `god']." - p. 522, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, 1971.
A Catholic Dictionary (that's the title)
There is no reason in grammar or in the context which forbids us to translate `God, who is over all, be blessed for ever, Amen.'