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The UBS4 reading of Romans 5:1 is:

Δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

(emphasis added)

At issue is a textual variation concerning the mood of the first-person plural verb ἔχω. The UBS4 (and the NA28) has chosen the present indicative (ἔχομεν) and gives it an 'A' (certainty), but the present subjunctive (ἔχωμεν) is also a well-supported reading given the weight of the evidence:

{A} ἔχομεν א1 B2 F G Ψ 0220vid 6 104 256 263 365 424 459 1241 1319 1506 1573 1739 1852 1881 2127 2200 2464 Byzpt [P] Lectpt, AD itar vgmss copsa geo slav Basil Gregory-Nyssamss Didymusdub Epiphanius Cyril4/5 // ἔχωμεν א* A B* C D 33 81 436 1175 1912 1962 Byzpt [K L] Lectpt itb, d, f, g, mon, o vg copbo arm eth Marcionacc. to Tertullian Origenlat Gregory-Nyssa Chrysostom Theodore Cyril1/5 Hesychius Theodoretlem; Ambrosiaster Pelagius Julian-Eclanum Augustine

Metzger even acknowledges that the subjunctive reading has "far better" external evidence:

Although the subjunctive ἔχωμεν (א* A B* C D K L 33 81 itd, g vg syrp, pal copbo arm eth al) has far better external support than the indicative ἔχομεν (אa B3 Ggr P Ψ 0220vid 88 326 330 629 1241 1739 Byz Lect it61vid? syrh copsa al), a majority of the Committee judged that internal evidence must here take precedence. Since in this passage it appears that Paul is not exhorting but stating facts (“peace” is the possession of those who have been justified), only the indicative is consonant with the apostle’s argument. Since the difference in pronunciation between ο and ω in the Hellenistic age was almost non-existent, when Paul dictated ἔχομεν, Tertius, his amanuensis (16:22), may have written down ἔχωμεν. (For another set of variant readings involving the interchange of ο and ω, see 1 Cor 15.49.)

(Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, 1994), emphasis added.

I can understand a 'C' certainty, and possibly even a 'B' certainty, but to completely disregard the "far better external support" seems heavily biased to me, possibly to favor a Protestant Christian reading of the text. Even Daniel Wallace observes that "the 'A' rating on behalf of the indicative in the UBS4 appears overly confident" (cf. NET Notes on Romans 5:1 and related article).

It seems to me that neither reading disrupts Paul's argument, as the subjunctive could simply be hortatory. What are the implications of each reading in context? Giving proper weight to both internal and external evidence, which reading should be preferred and why?

Also, I am interested in what other scholars have said (i.e. other than Metzger and Wallace)? Does N.T. Wright address this in either of his new books on Paul or in any articles?

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this is a fun and interesting question, but not eminently answerable in this format. we could find a wealth of opinions on this and not arrive at a definitive conclusion. –  swasheck May 20 at 3:53
One helpful but older resource: James Denney did the Romans commentary in the Expositor's Greek Testament series; see p. 623, both textual note and commentary: he considers the /ω/ reading, but opts firmly for /ο/. –  Davïd May 20 at 20:32
+ Newer (newest?): V.D. Verbrugge, "The grammatical internal evidence for ἔχομεν in Romans 5:1", JETS 54.3 (2011), 559-572. (LOTS of bibliography in notes.) –  Davïd May 20 at 20:38
Glad that helped. Here's another: Michael Holmes on Rom 5:1 in an essay on the text of Romans in Sven K. Soderlund & N.T. Wright (eds), Romans and the People of God (Eerdmans, 1999) - hope you can get full copy in library? (He was editor of the SBL Greek NT.) –  Davïd May 20 at 22:13

1 Answer 1

This is another ancient debate but both Catholics and Protestants tend to favor the 'we have' peace translation. Even though Catholics do not believe in an imputed righteousness as Protestants do, they do believe that when a person is in a state of grace then they are righteous and do 'have peace'. (Catholics believe in a righteousness produced by internal sanctification through grace, not externally imputed where no righteousness exists, i.e. imputed as taught by Protestants prior to any sanctification, i.e. good works).

It seems they key reason why 'have' is preferred to merely 'let us have', or 'let us enjoy what we have' by many is that the rest of the language is present tense possessed. For 'we have' gained access by faith into this grace in which we 'now stand'.

HENDRIKSEN summarizes it well I think:

At the very beginning of this paragraph we encounter a difficulty. Did Paul say, and did Tertius (16:22) write, “We have peace,” or “Let us have peace”? Among translators and commentators there is a sharp division of opinion with respect to this question. Fact is that the underlying Greek text is not uniform. Textual evidence in support of the subjunctive ἔχωμεν is strong. This form is supported by Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (original hand in both cases), and further by Alexandrinus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Codex Bezae, etc., as well as by many cursives and patristic citations. Several ancient versions, too, as well as more recent translations, show that their authors accept this reading. Some writers express themselves very forcibly, as if the opposite view, favoring the indicative ἔχομεν, is entirely impossible. See, for example, Robertson, Word Pictures, Vol. IV, p. 355; and Lenski, op. cit., pp. 333, 334. Among others who, in one sense or another, also favor the subjunctive (“Let us have peace,” “Let us continue to have peace,” “Let us live in peace,” “Let us enjoy peace,” or something similar) are Berkeley, Goodspeed, Moffatt, N.E.B.. But the indicative ἔχομεν, “we have,” also has considerable support. In fact, the Wyman fragment, to which a very early date (latter part of the third century a.d.) has been ascribed, has the indicative ἔχομεν. Among translations favoring the indicative are A.V., A.R.V., N.A.S., Beck, R.S.V., N.I.V.. At times one possibility is recognized in the text, the other in a footnote or margin. As to still another attempt to do justice to the original, namely, “Let us enjoy the peace we have,” or something similar (see Murray, op. cit., p. 159), I can see no justification for this compromise. I accept the indicative. In addition to the evidence furnished by the third-century fragment mentioned above, two considerations have led me to adopt this reading: a. At the time the New Testament was written the Greek letters ο and ω were beginning to be pronounced alike and at times were used interchangeably. In this connection note also the variant διώκομεν for διώκωμεν in Rom. 14:19, where the spelling with the two omegas deserves the preference, a reverse application of the same pronunciation and writing peculiarity found in 5:1. b. The logic of the context here in Rom. 5:1 strongly favors the indicative. Justified people have peace with God (Eph. 2:14–18). They do not say, “Let us have peace.” The immediately following clause, “through whom we have also gained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” is a statement of fact, and, as shown by the word also, implies that the immediately preceding words similarly express a fact. “We have peace … we have also gained access.” Note the series of indicatives which follows: “… we exult … we even exult … we know, etc.” Does not all this clearly indicate that in 5:1 the hortatory part of this section—see 6:1 f., 6:15 f., 7:7 f., 8:31 f.—has not yet begun? (Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans By WILLIAM HENDRIKSEN 1981, p168)

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