Re: TO KATA SARKA (Rom. 9:5)

From: Williams, Wes (
Date: Mon Mar 16 1998 - 12:55:04 EST

I am reposting this because my previous post showed up, for some reason,
with a lot of equal signs that made for difficult reading (I believe it
was caused by originally typing into a word processor and then copy/
pasting into my mail program). I hope that this will be better. Pardon
me for the original.

>At 8:39 AM -0600 3/13/98, David Mills wrote:
>>The phrase TO KATA SARKA is a little puzzling to me, and I don't find
>>help in any of my resource books. Why is an article needed? What
>>determines the case of the article? What does this construction mean?

Dear David,

In examining the arguments (mainly in great detail from the previous
century since Romans 9:5 was the John 1:1 of 1898) pro and con on the
expression KATA SARKA in Romans 9:5, there appears to be consensus among
the major parties that KATA SARKA is a restrictive statement and that
the TO gives the restriction a stress, an emphasis. Thus, Christ came
from Israel AS TO THE FLESH, by his natural birth and in his outward
relations as the Messiah.

The lengthy debates on the TO are about (1) the antithesis of KATA
SARKA, or what the reverse implication implies. Does the antithesis of
KATA SARKA = KATA PNEUMA or a "divine nature?" (2) Does the prefixing
of TO to KATA SARKA grammatically require that the antithesis be
explicitly stated? And, (3) what is the relationship of the antithesis

Some examples to illustrate: (A = KATA SARKA; B = antithesis)
- - Christ came A (but not B).
- - Christ came A, and also B.
- - Christ came not only A, but B.

A point to note here is that the final two points I just mentioned are
not antitheses, rather they are agreements.

One Dutch commentator, Van Hengel wrote in Inter. Ep. Pauli ad Rom. Tom.
Ii.(1859), pp. 348-353, and pp. 804-813 maintains that KATA SARKA with
the neuter article prefixed, absolutely requires a pause after SARKA,
and does not admit, according to Greek usage, of the _expression_of an
antithesis after it, so that the following part of the verse must be
referred to God.

Dr. Timothy Dwight questioned this assertion in JBL, attempting to
outline the issues as a disinterested third party. He questioned, not
the need for a pause, but the statement that the Greek "does not admit
the expression of an antithesis" because of the addition of the TO.

Dr. Ezra Abbot, writing a 78 page article on Romans 9:5 in JBL, agreed
with Dwight saying, "We may say, however, and it is a remark of some
importance, that the TO before KATA SARKA, laying stress on the
restriction, and suggesting an antithesis which therefore did not need
to be expressed, indicates that the writer has done with that point, and
makes a pause natural; it makes it easy to take the hO WN as introducing
an independent sentence, though it does not, as I believe, make it
necessary to take it so." (p. 102)

As for an alleged requirement that an antithesis be explicitly expressed
due to the prefixing of TO, we have a grammatical parallel in the
Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians. Speaking of the
distinctions of Jacob, Clement says (32:4): "For from him were all the
priests and Levites that ministered to the altar of God; from him was
the Lord Jesus TO KATA SARKA; from him were kings and rulers and leaders
in the line of Judah." One can easily see that it has no such expressed
antithesis. This shows that the hO WN clause is not required to be
joined to KATA SARKA due to the TO prefix.

These are some reasons why many of diverse theological persuasions are
compelled to see the TO as pointing to the option "Christ came A (but
not B)." Thus, Christ was related to the Israelites in a fleshly way
(with emphasis). There is nothing in the TO that grammatically requires
us to read anything more into it than that.

Wes Williams

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