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I couldn't help but notice, while pondering on another question, that inverting the current word order of the Greek text of Romans 9:4-5 by replacing the final o on from the middle of verse 5 with on o, and taking into consideration that, within that passage, the pronoun always seems to refer to the Jews, a very uniform flow of ideas seems to emerge:

who are Israelites, whose [is] the sonship, and the glory, and the covenants, and the law, and the worship, and the promises; whose [are] the fathers, and from whom [is] the Christ, the [one] after [the] flesh; whose [is] the above-all God, blessed into the ages, amen.

The first three emboldened expressions above are rendered as on e, on oi, on o, and, if my intuition is correct, the fourth should have been on o instead of o on, as the preserved Greek text currently reads.

Indeed, the fact that Chrysostom, writing in the fourth century, also seems oblivious to the current reading, which, as it stands, undoubtedly would have aided his case against Arianism, only helps to support my suspicion.

  • Are there any known manuscripts supporting such a reading ?

  • Have any scholarly opinions been voiced on this matter ?

  • What are your own thoughts on the subject at hand ?

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    The science of Textual Criticism is highly specialised and requires familiarity with all the data available - 5,500 manuscripts (Uncial and miniscule), 96,000 Patristic Citations, hundreds of Versions (translations such as Syriac) and a huge number of Lectionary references. It would require expert knowledge of all of these to come to a scientific conclusion on any particular hypothesis. – Nigel J May 28 '18 at 21:02
  • @NigelJ: Thus far, the Peshitta and the Vulgate seem to support the traditional Koine reading. – Lucian May 28 '18 at 21:35
  • You are correct that downvoting by mouse is like agency. I just tried it. – user33125 Apr 27 at 16:44
  • @ThomasPearne: And what reasons did you have for trying it ? :-) – Lucian May 2 at 5:03
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Bruce Metzger in his textual commentary covers this issue thoroughly. It would take me years of researching this issue to add to what he already covered on this issue. His commentary shows that the question about ὁ ὤν involved much more than just the ὁ ὤν. Note the conclusion specific to ὁ ὤν states that "the possibility that by accident in transcription ὁ ὤν had replaced an original ὧν ὁ" is conjecture, i.e. it has no textual evidence. Here is his commentary:

  9:5      σάρκα, ὁ ὥν ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας

Since the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament are without systematic punctuation, editors and translators of the text must insert such marks of punctuation as seem to be appropriate to the syntax and meaning. The present passage has been the object of much discussion as to whether or not Paul intended to refer θεός to ὁ Χριστός. The chief interpretations are the following:

(a) Placing a comma after σάρκα and referring the following words to ὁ Χριστός (“… who is God over all, blessed for ever”).

(b)Placing a point (either a colon or a full stop) after σάρκα and taking the following words as a clause independent of ὁ Χριστός. (Several translations are possible: “God who is over all be blessed for ever!”; or “He who is God over all be blessed for ever!”; or “He who is over all is God blessed for ever.”)

(c)Placing a comma after σάρκα and a point (a colon or a full stop) after πάντων. (This, which is a modification of (b), is to be translated, “… who is over all. God be [or, is] blessed for ever!”)

In deciding which punctuation should be used, the Committee was agreed that evidence from the Church Fathers, who were almost unanimous in understanding the passage as referring to ὁ Χριστός, is of relatively minor significance, as is also the opposing fact that four uncial manuscripts (A B C L) and at least twenty-six minuscule manuscripts have a point after σάρκα, either by the first hand or by subsequent correctors. In both cases the tradition, whether patristic or palaeographical, originated at a time subsequent to Paul’s writing (i. e. dictating; cf. 16:22) the passage, and is therefore of questionable authority.

On the one hand, some members of the Committee preferred punctuation (a) for the following reasons:

(1) The interpretation that refers the passage to Christ suits the structure of the sentence, whereas the interpretation that takes the words as an asyndetic doxology to God the Father is awkward and unnatural. As Westcott observes, “The juxtaposition of ὁ Χριστὸς κατὰ σάρκα and ὁ ὢν κ.τ.λ. seems to make a change of subject improbable.”

(2) If the clause ὁ ὣν κ.τ.λ. is an asyndetic doxology to God the Father, the word ὤν is superfluous, for “he who is God over all” is most simply represented by ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων θεός. The presence of the participle suggests that the clause functions as a relative clause (not “he who is …” but “who is …”), and thus describes ὁ Χριστός as being “God over all.”

(3) Pauline doxologies, as Zahn points out, are never asyndetic but always attach themselves to that which precedes: with ὅς ἐστιν (Ro 1:25); with ὁ ὤν (2 Cor 11:31); with ᾧ (Ga 1:5; 2 Tm 4:18; cf. He 13:21; 1 Pe 4:11); with αὐτῷ (Ro 11:36; Eph 3:21; cf. 1 Pe 5:11; 2 Pe 3:18); with τῷ δὲ θεῷ (Php 4:20; 1 Tm 1:17).

(4) Asyndetic doxologies, not only in the Bible but also in Semitic inscriptions, are differently constructed; the verb or verbal adjective (εὐλογητός, Heb. ‮בָּרוּךְ‬, Aram. ‮עבּרִיךְ‬) always precedes the name of God, and never follows it, as here.

(5) In the light of the context, in which Paul speaks of his sorrow over Israel’s unbelief, there seems to be no psychological explanation to account for the introduction of a doxology at this point. On the other hand, in the opinion of others of the Committee, none of these considerations seemed to be decisive, particularly since nowhere else in his genuine epistles does Paul ever designate ὁ Χριστός as θεός. 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. As between the punctuation in (b) and (c), the former was preferred.

The Committee also considered the possibility that by accident in transcription ὁ ὤν had replaced an original ὧν ὁ (cf. the preceding ver. 4 ὧν ἡ υἱοθεσία …, ver. 5 ὧν οἱ πατέρες), but was unwilling to introduce a conjectural emendation into the text.

Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (pp. 459–462). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

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The first two cases you cite - ἐξ ὧν, ὧν οἱ - are instances of different declinations of the pronoun ὅς. In the third case - ὁ ὢν - ὢν is the participial form of the verb "to be" (εἰμί)


Chrysostom was not oblivious to this: he simply did not touch on it in his homily, since it was something that was already well understood (see below). In his 16th homily, he comments on verses 4-5 together and chooses to dwell on verse 4, rather than verse 5:

To whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God,and the promises; whose are the father's, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, Who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen

And what is this? One asks. For if with a view to the belief of others he was willing to become accursed, he ought to have also wished for this in the Gentiles' behalf. But if he wishes it in the Jews' behalf only, it is a proof that he did not wish it for Christ's sake, but for his own relationship to them. But in fact if he had prayed for the Gentiles only, this would not have been equally clear. But since it is for the Jews only, it is a clear proof that it is only for Christ's glory that he is thus earnest. And I am aware that what I am saying will seem a paradox to you. Still if you do not make a disturbance, I will presently endeavor to make it clear. For what he has said he has not said nakedly; but since all were talking and accusing God, that after being counted worthy of the name of sons, and receiving the Law, and knowing Him beyond all men, and enjoying such great glory, and serving him beyond the whole world, and receiving the promises, and being from fathers who were His friends, and what was the greatest thing of all, having been forefathers of Christ Himself (for this is the meaning of the words, of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came), they are now cast out and disgraced; and in their place are introduced men who had never known Him, of the Gentiles. Now since they said all this, and blasphemed God, Paul hearing it, and being cut to the heart, and vexed for God's glory's sake, wished that he were accursed, had it been possible, so that they might be saved, and this blasphemy be put a stop to, and God might not seem to have deceived the offspring of those to whom He promised the gifts. And that you may see that it was in sorrow for this, that the promise of God might not seem to fall to the ground, which said to Abraham, I will give this land to you and to your seed, that he uttered this wish, he proceeds,

Not as though the word of God had taken none effect.


John Chrysostom, who lived between 349 and 407, somewhat post-dates Arianism, which was condemned at the 1st Ecumenical council at Nicea in 325. The principal champion against Arianism was Athanasius, who lived from 296-373. Arius himself died in 336. Athanasius did, in fact, refer to the verse in question as you suggest as a defense against Arius, in Chapter 3 of his First Discourse Against the Arians.


A catalog of other patristic references on the interpretation of this verse has been given by the late Eastern Orthodox Archbishop Dmitri Royster (of Dallas) in his 300-pg commentary, St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans:

"Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever" should be understood as "being God over all," based on the use of [ἐξ ὧν], "from whom [came] the Christ according to the flesh," and [ὁ ὢν], "the one Being" or "the one Who is" (hōn here is the participle of eimi, "to be"); thus: "being God over all, blessed for ever [unto the ages]." Ho hōn is written on the icon of Christ; it is related to the Old Testament name of God, "I am"." (Note that theos, God, in the predicate position following the verb "to be" is used with out the article, as in John 1:1; see St. John Chrysostom, On the Gospel of St. John, Homily IV, no. 3 for an explanation of this usage.) In general, the holy Fathers understood this last clause to mean that Christ is God over all (see St. Athanasius *Discourse I, Against the Arians, chap. III, no. 10; chap. IV, no. 11; St. Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit, Book I, chap. iii, no. 46; St. Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, no. 2; St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, chap. xvi, no 3, and others).


* pp. 233-34

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