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Noted is a persistent use of select bible verses using a proof-texting methodology defined by one or more of three broad practices -

  1. Taken out of context, ignoring the immediate passage.
  2. Using clearly biased translations.
  3. Using one verse alone when the overwhelming majority expresses the opposite.

Let's use Rom 9:5 as a Case Study. Mr. Bond cited this (among others) as a 'proof' of Jesus' God status. (We could use any of the verses usually used to 'prove' this status.)

To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. ESV (NIV, NLT, BSB, BLB, CSB, and others are similar)

Looks good to the untrained eye, or to those used to zeroing in on such passages as it says exactly what they were looking for. Jesus IS God! End of conversation/debate/argument etc.

DID Paul change his teaching regarding Jesus?

Has Paul lost the plot, reversing everything he has said on who Jesus is and who he is not, or is this verse skewed to suit dogma and quoted accordingly. Paul has been consistent through all his letters regarding God and Jesus. They are not both God anywhere except for a very few passages like Rom 9:5.

1Cor 1:3 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rom 1:7 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead

Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

We could go on for another 30 pages of the same rhetoric. Jesus is not God and God is not Jesus. This next one epitomises Paul's understanding.

for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ... 1Cor 8:6

We could read Rom 9:5 this way as NASB and a few others put it, which fits with all Paul's other writings without contradiction.

whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

DID Paul change his teaching regarding Jesus? Or is Rom 9:5 (as quoted above from ESV, NIV, NLT, BSB, BLB, CSB and others) just a very poor translation/interpretation?

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    The use of the title "God" in most places to refer to the Father does not preclude its use in some other places to refer to the divinity of Christ. You seriously think Paul changed his mind in the one letter?
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 5 at 1:49
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    +1 I have recently been reading through all the Pauline epistles. I am struck by just how out of place those 'proof-texts' are. 2 or 3 instances where it's grammatically ambiguous but could mean Paul is calling Jesus God, versus a mountain of instances where Paul distinguishes and talks as if Jesus and God are not the same. Aug 5 at 4:04
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    Of course Paul changed his mind on the divinity of Jesus. He went from a Rabbi who went around killing Christians to a leading preacher of Christianity literally overnight.
    – nick012000
    Aug 5 at 8:39
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    @nick012000 which verses did Paul pen while he was a Christian killing Rabbi?
    – user 14
    Aug 5 at 14:52
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    Oh, look, that's already been discussed. I know of no anti-Trinitarian argument that hasn't been answered already. Also, the assertion of "irregular and biased translations" is itself biased, requiring that one has already decided that Jesus is not God. And, as Mr. Bond notes, this is hardly the only text that shows that Jesus is God (and I've rarely if ever seen this one!). As I said elsewhere, I (personally) find the case against Trinitarianism extremely sketchy, and the case for it quite robust.
    – Matthew
    Aug 8 at 5:11

3 Answers 3

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No, we do not think that the Apostle Paul changed his mind about Jesus following his Damascus road conversion. Obviously, that was a big changing point.

YLT, KJV, and most other "good" translations read the way the second example reads:

whose are the fathers, and of whom is the Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed to the ages. Amen.

The "who is God over all" translation may or may not be theologically offensive but it is not a good rendering of the text.

Paul is referring to how God has, at all times, blessed or "spoken well of" the Christ. The most important part of this verse is that the Christ is of the Jewish fathers according to the flesh. The preposition κατα (kata) is rendered here and indicates a motion downward:

The preposition κατα (kata) expresses a motion downward. Tied to appropriate verbs it usually describes motion down from a higher place or down to a lower place. It may be used in the sense of "bearing down upon", that is an aiming for a certain place or even a certain understanding, when something "comes down" to something. Our word may also refer to something in the sense of "in respect of" or "on account of" or "by means of".

The use of this preposition does not dictate that the Christ existed prior but it does not exclude the possibility either. "Proof-texting" has it's place in theological development but the amalgamation of proof texts can always be harmful when over-arching context is ignored. Much of the "proof- texts" which appear to defend the mere humanity of Christ should be understood as speaking of Christ "according to the flesh" rather than "fully defined as flesh".

The tent of meeting was given as the place on earth where God would dwell with His people. This tabernacle was patterned after a heavenly reality...it was, in all of it's aspects, a type and Jesus is the antitype in all of those aspects. His body is the temple (John 2:19-21), his flesh is the veil of separation which was torn (Hebrews 10:19-20), he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), etc.

God has promised to dwell among His people in a physical sense. The first physical temple was a picture of the physical temple to come:

And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the LORD their God. - Exodus 29:43-46

Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore. - Ezekiel 37:26-28

And Jesus the Christ is the fulfillment of this typological imagery of tabernacle and sanctuary: His flesh was the temple wherein God dwelt and walked among us. God, who is Spirit, dwelling within a sanctuary of flesh (named Jesus) so that He might dwell among us. Emmanuel, God with us.

The Apostle Paul did once regard Christ "according to the flesh" but came to the point where he no longer did so and we are encouraged in the same vein for to consider Christ according to the flesh only is a failure to fully apprehend Christ:

Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. - 2 Corinthians 5:16

Any amalgamation of proof texts must obey this over-arching context and be informed by it. Thus a trinitarian or binitarian may view the rendering "the Christ, who is God over all" with the understanding that it is not actually the best rendering, while at the same time acknowledging this nod to the larger context.

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  • Well done. came to the point... What are you inferring here? That Paul matured in his estimation of Jesus status?
    – steveowen
    Aug 5 at 21:38
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    @steveowen I'm certain that he continued to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ throughout his life, just as he exhorts us to do but he did not flip flop in his estimation of the Christ's nature once he was converted. By "came to the point" I am attempting to reference his conversion experience. When he considered Jesus according to the flesh he hunted down his followers. When he ceased considering Jesus according to the flesh he made disciples. Aug 6 at 13:18
  • Now you are doing the same - deducing your own special meaning and dismissing context. 2Cor 5 is about the new man, the spiritual, the heavenly. Jesus, Paul is affirming, also went from the flesh like us to the new heavenly, spirit, eternal reality - as those who follow will also. The point being that we don’t think of Jesus as the fleshly man he was, but the reborn immortal man he now is.
    – steveowen
    Aug 6 at 22:04
  • @steveowen "Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh". Those living breathing fleshly folks who have not yet entered the heavenly, spirit, eternal reality. The point being that once Christ is rightly apprehended he is not mere flesh anymore. Aug 10 at 14:26
  • Correct, anymore. Just as Paul is looking forward to the new reality of those IN Christ - no longer I who live but Christ in me. Jesus has gone ahead as the firstborn from the ‘dead’. Not the physical dead, the spiritual dead.
    – steveowen
    Aug 10 at 20:20
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Paul, formerly known as Saul, certainly changed his view of God when he changed from pre-believer to believer. But did Paul change his mind, his teaching, about God post believer? No.

Paul is quite explicit as he uses the terms God the Father and Jesus His Son and our Lord. The OP quotes a number of examples. But this isn't the end of the story.

I suppose for anyone to believe God dwelt among us is a radical departure from the idea God is somewhere "out there" to God is right here. This idea, however, was foreshadowed. But is that the "same" thing? Is Jesus who dwelt among us God or not? Without going into Christology, here is the idea.

So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. Joel 3:17

Paul knows his scripture. He knows God will dwell among us and further only God is the Saviour.

For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Isa 43:3

I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. Isa 43:11

Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. Isa 45:15

Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me. Hos 13:4

No Saviour, but the LORD our God. The only one.

Paul also helped write scripture in which he makes clear that Jesus is the Saviour.

To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. Titus 1:4

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Phil 3:20

And as the Saviour is God. Is this explicit? Yes.

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Tit 2:13

For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. 1 Tim 4:10

So, did Paul change his teaching while a Christian, no? Did he explain concepts foreign to nearly everyone? Yes.

Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Gal 1:3

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, Gal 4:4

Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. Titus 2:10

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  • Also connecting God as shepherd (Isaiah 40) with Jesus the good shepherd. There are many meta themes. +1 Aug 6 at 21:03
  • Well done - you managed to cover off all three of the stated ways to not use the bible. Your Tit 2:13 quote is an outlier amongst most others, with the wrong focus. It is about the appearing of the GLORY of God - who is Jesus. He is the glory of God, but that doesn't make him God either. God was present with His people in the cloud and the fire, but these were not God. Naturally, Jesus wasn't present when the OT was written or providing prophecies of the one to come. When Jesus is here, he is given many of the roles that were God's only - like Saviour.
    – steveowen
    Aug 7 at 23:40
  • You're doing what you accuse others of. Tit 2:13 YLT waiting for the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. It's a role, but also a definition. God is our Saviour. Only one.
    – SLM
    Aug 8 at 4:25
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No, the Apostle Paul did not change his mind as it pertains to "Who is Jesus Christ." In fact, he reinforced his position that Jesus Christ was God, just read all of his writings.

Let's examine the "trained eye" of Greek Scholar A.T. Robertson here:

Verse 5 Of whom (εξ ων). Fourth relative clause and here with εξ and the ablative.

Christ (ο Χριστος). The Messiah.

As concerning the flesh (το κατα σαρκα). Accusative of general reference, "as to the according to the flesh." Paul limits the descent of Jesus from the Jews to his human side as he did in Romans 1:3.

Who is over all, God blessed for ever (ο ον επ παντων θεος ευλογητος). A clear statement of the deity of Christ following the remark about his humanity. This is the natural and the obvious way of punctuating the sentence. To make a full stop after σαρκα (or colon) and start a new sentence for the doxology is very abrupt and awkward. See Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13 for Paul's use of θεος applied to Jesus Christ.

Now, here is what you stated, "They are not both God anywhere except for passages like Rom 9:5." No, I can provide many verses that confirm that Jesus is God. Acts 20:28, Titus 2:13, John 20:28, 2 Peter 1:1 and others.

The problem that you have by you quoting, 1 Cor 1:3,3, Rom 1:7, Gal 1:1, and Eph 1:3 is the fact that you do not know how to "RECONCILE" verses that "appear" to contradict each other.

You look at Jesus Christ as a man only and disregard the verses that say He is God in flesh. I most all the time quote verses in context. For example, I have given you Philippians 2:5-8 that explicitly says at vs6 Jesus existed as God who then took the form of a man. What is so hard to understand about this?

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    So glad to see you've finally dropped John 1:1 off your special list. I could go on about all you've written, but just this one. Philippians 2:5-8 does not say explicitly Jesus existed as God - like most of your 'quotes', you are making it up - imagining (not reading) what you like. Let's stick to the facts., like Paul said - one God, the Father. It's all quite simple really. Did he say one God, the F and Jesus and the HS? No. But like many others, you're OK with adding your special bits.
    – steveowen
    Aug 6 at 1:16
  • @steveowen "in the form of God" in verse 6 and "in the form of a servant" in verse 7 are the same word ... morphe. Jesus was not God but he was a servant? That's not consistent. Aug 6 at 21:10
  • You can of course interpret form by that means, but it must also align with him being an image of God, which by no rational mind can that be the same as that which is imaged.
    – steveowen
    Aug 6 at 21:57
  • @steveowen The bottom line is the fact that Jesus went from one form/morph/God to another form/morph a human being with a servant's heart. Greek Scholar Wallace on Phil 2:6: classic.net.bible.org/… Notice how the various Bibles understand the verse in it's Greek meaning. And Jesus is not "an" image of God, He is "the" image of God. Who being the "effulgence of Gods glory and the exact expression of His substance/nature. Hebrews 1:3 backs up Philippians 2;6. Greek Scholar A.T Robertson on vs 6. (continued)
    – Mr. Bond
    Aug 6 at 22:17
  • @steveowen Continued: Being (υπαρχων). Rather, "existing," present active participle of υπαρχω. In the form of God (εν μορφη θεου). Μορφη means the essential attributes as shown in the form. In his preincarnate state Christ possessed the attributes of God and so appeared to those in heaven who saw him. Here is a clear statement by Paul of the deity of Christ." Can you provide any Greek Scholars that can refute Robertson or Wallace? I can provide a few more that agree with the both of them. And btw, all of this is totally consistent with Biblical theology.
    – Mr. Bond
    Aug 6 at 22:23

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