Romans 10:9 two nominatives, “τελος” then “Χριστος,” and it has an implied “is,” which translations consistently use to say “Christ is the end of”
τέλος γὰρ νόμου Χριστὸς εἰς δικαιοσύνην παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι.
Is there any other grammatically correct way to translate this?
That is, did the interpreters pick the version that made the least theological trouble, or is there truly no grammatical ambiguity?
I note that you are a "newbie", so I will walk through what I am going to say fairly much step by step. What I am going to say is not simple, but it has been broken down and simplified. If you have questions arising from my "explanation", you can feel free to ask. Sometimes my simplifications create more complexity.
The style of "Biblical" translation tends to be as close as possible to "word-for-word" translation. But translating a language is a little different from understanding it. Let's look at that for a moment of your time, which I hope I will not be wasting.
When we are "translating" (I'm quoting myself from the previous paragraph) we are using familiar structures in our own native language to express the meaning of (in our case) the Greek that we have in front of us. Changing the Greek into English is just one option that we have to express it in differently and so understand it better. What we can also do (or alternatively) is to express it in different words in the language itself. You will have noticed after some experience in learning by interlinear, you will have noticed that there are some recurrent patterns which express more or less the same meaning, but in slightly different ways. Rather than just paying attention to the English. Have a look at the Greek in such cases. There are not generally more than 4 or 5 different Greek patterns for each of the similar English patterns that you will notice. Pay attention to the similarities and differences within each of the patterns you will find. What I am going to do is to express this verse in different ways in Greek. There is nothing "new" in what I'm going to do, and what I will write have more or less the same meaning, but just that I emphasise different things in my sentences. Let's work towards it...
First step - (You were wondering why the translations into English are all "Christ is the end of the law..." - this might help you with that.) Of the two nouns; τέλος and Χριστός which of them looks like (your English speaking opinion is okay) it would more easily
be able to be used as a verb
? Would it be "end" or "Christ"?
To go from "end" (as a noun) (τέλος) to "end" (as a verb) requires no changes (in form) in English. Eg. "What is at the end of the rainbow?" v. "They had to end the game early because of the rain.", but to go from Christ (as a noun) to a corresponding verb -such as perhaps "become christian" (vi.) or "to christianise" (vt.) - requires more change. That is why the genitive is with the τελος, not with the Χριστος here, and hence why it is translated that way into English, not the other way around, but those are two different processes, which we could look at in turn. So, anyway, we could makea first assumption that, "end" (τέλος) is more likely to become the verb, that Christ is - not 100%, but a good first guess at least.
Let's look at τέλος (end), which has two distinct meaning, and try to decide which one we think is meant here. Consider these sentences - "The match ended and QPR won." - there is a completion of the game with a result, compared to "That's the end of the Vegemite, so now you'll have to have honey on your Weet bix." It is used up and there is nothing left. Similarly, "I finished my homework", v. "I finished my lunch". Greek has a different verb or each of those, so the verbal from for τέλος in the meaning we have it in this verse here is τελειόω (which basically has the meaning here of πληρόω), so that is the verb that we will work with.
The second step - The genitive νόμου with the noun τέλος would become the object νόμον of the verb τελειόω. That is to say, τέλος νόμου "end of the law" --> τελειοῖ τὸν νόμον "brought about an end to the Law (with some result left after the completion)", and in either case Χριστός is the subject. τέλος γὰρ νόμου Χριστός or in other words τελειοῖ γὰρ τὸν νόμον ὁ Χριστὸς.
- As an aside... If we were to allow the other meaning of end ("I've finished the soup (and there is none left for you)"), - τελέω - then there wouldn't be much use in having the εἰς... that follows on from it.
What we have done is rather than considering why Christ is first, we have considered why "is the end of the Law" is second. It gets us to an understandable conclusion anyway.
Now, let's move onto the next phrase; εἰς δικαιοσύνην παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι. This can be expressed in Greek in different ways that may help our understanding - like translation but not the same. Without explanation, because it is not the main point of your question...
We can verbalise δικαιοσύνη as an infinitive, which might be okay as a passive, viz εἰς τὸ δικαιωθῆναι πάντα τὸν πιστεύοντα "unto the to be justified everyone who (is) believing" (to render it in interlinear English for you). Or we could use a ἵνα + subjunctive ἵνα δίκαιοι ἐν ἑαυτῷ πάντα τὸν πιστεύοντα εἰς αὐτὸν. "in order that he might justify in himself everyone who believed in him", or a similar construction where Θεός, rather than were the subject Χριστός is taken from the first half. (But that is perhaps really a bit far from your original enquiry.)
I hope you were able to follow at least some of what I have said.
ryan_king wrote:I am a total newbie, and have hundreds of questions. This verse stood out enough to me to try to articulate my first question of this type — feel free to point me to any online resources I should read as a prerequisite so I can avoid wasting your time.
Newbie or not, you will always have questions. In fact, it is better if the number of questions doesn't sort of decrease over time. That number is a function of your brain's ability to ask questions. Each question is an opportunity to move forward. The number stays more or less the same, and as you know more of the language, the questions become more complex drawing on an ever-larger background knowledge to formulate them. The upshot of that is that the number of people able to understand them, and the reference works able to answer your questions in the future decreases