The meaning of ὁρίζω in Romans 1:4

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The meaning of ὁρίζω in Romans 1:4

Postby AMSpencer » November 7th, 2012, 11:21 am

In Romans 1:4, the verb ὁρίζω (form: ὁρισθέντος) is found described Jesus as being the Son of God. Here is the text of the first 4 verses of Romans:

“Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ, ὃ προεπηγγείλατο διὰ τῶν προφητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν” (Romans 1:1–4, NA27)

I am interested in the meaning of ὁρισθέντος. It is found 8 times in the New Testament. The other verses are: Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 10:42; 11:29; 17:26, 31; Hebrews 4:7.

Here in Romans 1:4, the translation of the word in English versions is consistently "declared" (the NLT renders "shown"; the NET renders "appointed"). In the other instances in the NT, the translations of the word are "determined, predetermined, appointed, fixes" (NASB).

It seems to me that the idea of "declared" is somewhat different at heart than the idea of "fixing, appointing." It seems to me that the translation in Romans 1:4 is a bit different that the usage in the rest of the NT would indicate. Am I seeing this correctly? If so, is there good reason to translate it as "declared" here rather than "appointed" or "fixed"?
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Re: The meaning of ὁρίζω in Romans 1:4

Postby Alan Patterson » November 7th, 2012, 3:37 pm

I am interested in the meaning of ὁρισθέντος. It is found 8 times in the New Testament. The other verses are: Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 10:42; 11:29; 17:26, 31; Hebrews 4:7.


"declared" is fine as long as you are aware its sense in English is "declared to be."
χαρις υμιν και ειρηνη,
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Re: The meaning of ὁρίζω in Romans 1:4

Postby timothy_p_mcmahon » November 8th, 2012, 12:57 am

I suppose you could render 'appointed' or such; I prefer 'declared' or 'designated,' though.

The sense, I believe, is that in Paul's mind the fact that Jesus rose from the dead demonstrated that he is the son of God. The resurrection itself, I believe, is what's making the declaration or designation of Jesus' divinity (or God by raising Jesus makes the declaration).
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Re: The meaning of ὁρίζω in Romans 1:4

Postby AMSpencer » November 12th, 2012, 8:46 pm

I am thinking that the other instances of the word focus more on the actual "making" of someone to have a certain position rather than the mere "declaring" of it as a reality that long has been. When I hear "declared," I think that we are probably thinking in terms of the fact that Jesus had been the Son of God since long before the resurrection. Is this, however, to allow our theology to control or translation of a word to put a sense to it that it doesn't naturally bear? It seems to me that the word does not indicate a declaration of a previous fact, but an appointment at that moment. Am I wrong here?

Also, I want to make clear that I believe wholly in the fact that Jesus was already the Son of God, but I still am thinking that this word does not reflect that idea. I also do not think it contradicts it at all. It makes me think, though, in what sense was Jesus appointed the "Son of God in power" at that point in time? It seems like a way of thinking that is a little bit different than our usual approach to the question of the deity of Christ.

Is my line of thinking clear? Is it correct?
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Re: The meaning of ὁρίζω in Romans 1:4

Postby timothy_p_mcmahon » November 12th, 2012, 9:13 pm

I'd like to address your questions but a response would be too theological for B-Greek. I'll PM you.
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Re: The meaning of ὁρίζω in Romans 1:4

Postby Stephen Carlson » November 13th, 2012, 3:45 am

I have to say that I'm a little skeptical of the "declare" rendering for Rom 1:4 from a Greek perspective. Looking at the entry in LSJ, "declare" is not one of the sense of ὁρίζω nor does it seem to have to with speech acts, which "declare" suggests. Rather, it means "to determine, decide, ordain." I am concerned that theological issues are clouding the translation here, because using a term like "declare" permits the inference that Jesus had been the Son of God earlier than the resurrection while that is harder to do with "determine" or "ordain."
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Re: The meaning of ὁρίζω in Romans 1:4

Postby AMSpencer » November 13th, 2012, 9:08 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:I have to say that I'm a little skeptical of the "declare" rendering for Rom 1:4 from a Greek perspective...I am concerned that theological issues are clouding the translation here, because using a term like "declare" permits the inference that Jesus had been the Son of God earlier than the resurrection while that is harder to do with "determine" or "ordain."


That is precisely the line of thought that I am following myself. It appears to me that an overarching theological perspective has moved us to translate the word a bit too freely into something that we feel fits our theology better. I don't know exactly what is considered to be appropriate discussion on this forum in terms of theological matters in relation to purely linguistic questions of the Greek itself, but it would make a very good discussion, I think, to work through this idea some. Perhaps this forum is really only suited for the starting point of discussing whether this word actually sometimes means "declare" or not, and then the rest of the discussion would have to take place in other settings. If not, then I would be glad to hear thoughts about the theological implications of the fact (if it is so) that this word actually indicates that the Resurrection of Christ was indeed the act by which Jesus was given the place of "Son of God in power."

timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:I'd like to address your questions but a response would be too theological for B-Greek. I'll PM you.


I look forward to hearing the PM, then, too. Thanks a lot for the interest in discussing it with me.
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Re: The meaning of ὁρίζω in Romans 1:4

Postby Evan Blackmore » November 13th, 2012, 9:17 pm

This is a fascinating discussion--I suspect many readers might be sorry to see it disappear from public view (even if we don't feel competent to add anything to it ourselves).

I grant that the discussion could readily segue into theology, but the basic puzzle here is not so much theological as contextual--viz. what could ορισθεντος υιου θεου εν δυναμει κατα πνευμα αγιωσυνης εξ αναστασεως νεκρων possibly mean in the context of the work in which it appears?

Let me offer an analogy. If you were reading Darwin's Origin of Species, and you found a sentence that appeared to mean "The world was created in 4004 BC," you'd be certain you'd misunderstood it--not for any theological reasons, but purely for contextual ones: because such a statement would run counter to the whole context of the author's argument in the book.

In the present passage I think the puzzle is somewhat similar. At first glance the above clause may appear to mean something like "appointed Son of God when he rose from the dead." But, whatever the theological truth may be, it's hard to believe that such a statement could have been written in Romans (or in any other Pauline letter).

For what it's worth, the major commentators are divided between two explanations:

1. Those who defend the rendering "declared" usually cite Chrysostom's paraphrase δειχθεντος, αποφανθεντος. If a 4th-century native Gk speaker with an unparalleled sensitivity to language felt that ορισθεντος could mean something like "proved to be" or "marked out as being," who today is qualified to say that it could never have had such a meaning in the 1st century? In that case, "the word itself does not determine the meaning either way: it must be determined from the context. But here the particular context is also neutral; so that we must look to the wider context of St. Paul's teaching generally. Now it is certain that St. Paul did not hold that the Son of God became Son by the Resurrection.... At the same time he did regard the Resurrection as making a difference... in the visible manifestation of Sonship as addressed to the understanding of men (cf. esp. Phil. ii.9...). This is sufficiently expressed by our word 'designated.'" (Sanday & Headlam, pp. 7-8).

2. Those who oppose the rendering "declared" argue that "no clear example, either earlier than, or contemporary with, the NT, of its use in the sense 'declare' or 'show to be' has been adduced." In explaining the clause, they usually lay stress on εν δυναμει (which they take to modify υιου θεου). Christ may or may not have been ορισθεντος Son of God in other ways at other times, but he was ορισθεντος Son of God ΕΝ ΔΥΝΑΜΕΙ at the resurrection. (So, e.g., Cranfield, vol. 1 pp. 61-62). These commentators appear to be substantially in the majority; it's interesting that they've had so little influence on the English translations.

At any rate I have a distinct impression that the word ορισθεντος is meant to startle the reader. Everything in the letter has been plain sailing up till this moment, and then, suddenly, bang!--what does this strange thing mean? It's as if a little language bomb suddenly explodes under your feet at the mention of the resurrection. That's something that the English translations don't convey: they smooth everything out into the comfortable prose of a newspaper editorial.
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Re: The meaning of ὁρίζω in Romans 1:4

Postby KimmoHuovila » November 15th, 2012, 1:54 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:I have to say that I'm a little skeptical of the "declare" rendering for Rom 1:4 from a Greek perspective. Looking at the entry in LSJ, "declare" is not one of the sense of ὁρίζω nor does it seem to have to with speech acts, which "declare" suggests. Rather, it means "to determine, decide, ordain."

LSJ has the sense of 'define' for ὁρίζω. Appointing is a performative definition and declaration is a public definition that need not be performative. The senses are not far from each other. Is there any reason to think that ὁρίζω cannot mean declaration?

I wonder if we need to study the interrelationships of the meanings of the word somewhat closer to be able to make a good guess. Stephen's brief comment did not yet convince me. Perhaps it requires elaboration.
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Re: The meaning of ὁρίζω in Romans 1:4

Postby AMSpencer » November 23rd, 2012, 10:21 am

KimmoHuovila wrote:Appointing is a performative definition and declaration is a public definition that need not be performative.


Kimmo, if I understand correctly the language that you are using in "performative" then I think you are right at the point that I am asking about. As I look at the use of this word in the rest of the NT (limited data, granted), I feel like the action is always "performative." That is, this word always reflects an act of making something so, determining that it will be so. I am questioning whether it is ever used in the sense of simply stating something publicly as fact that has already been so for some time previous. I think this is what you are saying with your terminology, but correct me if I am wrong. Do you have an idea of some evidence/instances that show that the word does mean the merely "public definition" idea?
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