Are the articles at Ro 9:6,8 ultimately anaphoric to 9:5/1:4? If not, what are the grammatical reasons they are not?

  • 3
    This is one of the most imaginative questions to remove the divinity of Christ I have seen. It is also the most stretched.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 26, 2020 at 10:10
  • 1
    @NigelJ - well stated!!
    – Dottard
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 9:39
  • Personally, I incline to think that the current word order of the aforementioned verse is due to a simple scribal error.
    – Lucian
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 7:21

1 Answer 1


The Anaphoric Article
Here is one definition of an anaphoric reference:

Anaphoric reference means that a word in a text refers back to other ideas in the text for its meaning. It can be compared with cataphoric reference, which means a word refers to ideas later in the text.

A simple example would be a pronoun which refers back to a previous noun. Anaphoric reference by use of the article is common in New Testament Greek:

The anaphoric article is the article denoting previous reference. (It derives its name from the Greek verb ἀναφέρειν, "to bring back, to bring up.") The first mention of the substantive is usually anarthrous because it is merely being introduced. But subsequent mentions of it use the article, for the article is now pointing back to the substantive previously mentioned. The anaphoric article has, by its nature, then a pointing force to it reminding the reader of who or what was mentioned previously. It is the most common use of the article and the easiest usage to identify.1

However common, there are several reasons against the use in 9:5 being anaphoric to 1:7:

  • Distance to first mention and confusion as to the first mention
  • Change of subject in Chapter 9
  • The historical content of the text

Reasons Against the Anaphoric Article
The first argument against the anaphoric use is simply the distance back to the first mention. The examples in the grammars offer "local" examples. That is, a few verses at most separate the two substantives. In the case of θεός, the word is used 90 times before 9:5 and it is unrealistic to think the reader would fix the meaning back to something said in 1:7. (This is especially so if the letter was to be read aloud to a group.)

In the unlikely event Paul was referring back to the first use, there is a question as to which use was "first." The OP suggests it would be θεοῦ πατρὸς which is driven by the predetermined conviction θεός is θεοῦ πατρὸς. (In other words, it is belief not an anaphoric article which determined the meaning.) Yet θεοῦ πατρὸς is the second use in 1:7 and ignores the use in 1:4, υἱοῦ θεοῦ, the correct "first use." In which case the anaphoric reference is to the Son of God, who is the Christ, which is the plain reading of text in question:

1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit — 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9) [ESV]

The second reason the use is unlikely to be anaphoric is the change in subject. After spending the first eight chapters explaining salvation and ending chapter eight on a triumphant note; the letter shifts to a completely different and tragic subject: God's chosen people have rejected the gospel. A radically different subject argues against either the writer or their reader relying on a much earlier reference to determine the meaning. To the contrary, such a radical change in subject is almost like starting a new letter and reorients the reader to the immediate text.

Finally, it is obvious Paul is pointing the reader back, not to the opening of the letter, but to the history of the Jewish people. He recites all the reasons why the people should have welcomed the Gospel and he ends with the most important: Christ.

Here is the literal text:

ὧν οἱ πατέρες καὶ ἐξ ὧν ὁ Χριστὸς τὸ κατὰ σάρκα ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀμήν

Historically speaking, ὁ ὢν is the Name Moses was given for the people:

And God said to Moyses, "I am The One Who Is." And he said, "Thus shall you say to the sons of Israel, 'The One Who Is has sent me to you.'" (LXX-Exodus 3:14)

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν καὶ εἶπεν οὕτως ἐρεῗς τοῗς υἱοῗς Ισραηλ ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέν με πρὸς ὑμᾶς

Paul has given the clearest expression of the identity of Christ possible:

To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, The One Who Is God over all, blessed forever. Amen

Not only is the meaning obvious, that is consistent with the historical meaning: ὁ ὢν is the God who brought the people out of Egypt. In other words, in Paul's mind Christ is the culmination of Israel's history.

  1. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Zondervan, 1996, p. 217-218
  • The historical context is critical+1. Isaiah 50:1 and Jer 3:8 says God gave the northern ten tribes a certificate of divorce. If that God was not Jesus then Romans 7 which explains a woman is bound until her husband dies, means the northern ten tribes and their descendants who intermarried with all the nations CANNOT receive salvation because the husband (God) had to die to release them v2. Jesus did die and resurrected but if He isn’t the first husband then anyone with bloodlines to the northern ten tribes cannot enter into new covenant with God as they’ll COMMIT spiritual adultery. Jer3:1 Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 5:08
  • Thank you for this answer, I now understand better why people call it the "anaphoric article". Do you know why they don't just call it the definite article, when that's the more common term and definiteness is the name of the concept for a referent being identifiable?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 2:54
  • Wallace unhelpfully distinguishes his identifying function from his definitizing function, but never gives examples of the latter.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 3:28
  • If that's the case, then it sounds like what he calls identifying is what linguists call definiteness.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 22:24

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