The True Rendering Of Romans 9:3 -- By: L. S. Potwin
BSac 52:206 (April 1895) p. 357
The True Rendering Of Romans 9:3
Ηὐχόμην γὰρ ἀνάθεμα εἶναι αὐτὸς ἐγὼ ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ.
The right explanation of Rom. 9:3 involves more than one important principle of exegesis. One is this: Theological inferences are of no account against the simple obvious meaning of a passage. The theological pressure on this passage is well expressed by Mr. Hutchings in the Bibliotheca Sacra for July, 1894. “The usual exegesis makes Paul willing to be excluded from all hope of salvation, including not only endless suffering, but also positive enmity toward Christ forever” (p. 512). This consideration is made to support the rendering, “For I myself did wish to be separated from Christ,” the reference being to Paul’s life before conversion.
Now against this pressure from without is the fact that the passage itself, if translated “I wished,” etc., is not a natural reference to Paul’s past life. He refers to that life more than once with a definiteness and warmth that leave no doubt as to his meaning. He could say, “I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth… . Being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them” (Acts 26:9, 11). “Beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it” (Gal. 1:13). He could humble himself to say “that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:9). It is incredible that such a bare uncir-
BSac 52:206 (April 1895) p. 358
cumstantial statement as is proposed, should be Paul’s confession as a persecutor. The obvious impression is against it. No one would think of it except under outside doctrinal pressure. And for this obvious impression there are at least two distinct reasons: 1. The expression “anathema from Christ” is appropriate only in the mouth of a Christian, or one who considers himself a Christian. It implies renunciation of Christ and banishment from him. 2. There is no adverb of past time which would make it read thus, “I myself once [ποτέ] wished.” “But,” one may say, “take heed to your grammar, and obey the imperfect tense, with or without ποτε. This leads me to give as a second rule of exegesis: Avoid what may ...
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