Romans 1:16 ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel.’

February 25, 2018 by David Farmer 0 comments

Posted in: Weekly Commentary

Romans 1:16 -  ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel.’

The New International Version translation of the Bible—known more familiarly as the N. I. V.—became available, with much fanfare as I recall, in the late 1970s. Admittedly, it was met with a great deal of approval, yet, at the same time, with just as much, if not more, criticism. Looking toward making some comments upon this rightfully well-known passage from the pen of the apostle Paul, it reminded of an occasion when a Christian co-worker was complaining to me of the rendering offered in the N. I. V. upon this verse. He considered it ‘fantastical’ to say the least of his opinion on the matter. In point of fact, I recall that it was thought to be bordering upon, or perhaps even crossing the line to, heresy of a sort. He was among the first to apprise me of the ‘erroneous’ omission of the name of Christ in the N. I. V. translation. He insisted that the correct translation should, of course, be:


So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: For it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.

      —Rom. 1:15-17

He was citing from his King James Version; the A.D.1611 as it is called by some. Upon checking my Bible, which happened to be—and still is—the ASV-1901, it was confirmed to me that he would consider my translation to be also heretical, or near akin. I thought that rather than engage in an argument between equals—both of us being equally ignorant of the reasons behind the difference—an attempt should be made to discover the answer beforehand. Just what would be the reason for leaving ‘Christ’ out of the Gospel; would Paul really do that? A cursory view of the brief passage made up of verses 15-17 intimates that Paul most certainly never forgot the gospel regarding the very Lord who met him on the road to Damascus and which precipitated a dialogue with Christ through which his life was forever changed.


Think seriously as to how this is framed. Verse 15, if read from a copy of the Word that uses the paragraphic form, is the final verse of a paragraph formed by verses 8-15. With respect to the existence or absence of the name of Christ in Romans 1:16, that in itself is a matter of textual criticism. But before looking at that issue, a simple overview of the context should inform us that Paul is definitely not leaving Christ out of the Gospel. In the ninth verse he has made an unequivocal  asseveration as he has written, For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son. This determinative statement follows his expressed gratitude in the eighth verse, First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all. The context is Jesus Christ. Indeed, he began his letter with the address, Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God. A breach has been supposed by some because they have imagined that the N. I. V. has here deliberately ‘omitted’ the name of Christ in Romans 1:16 to satisfy a liberalizing agenda of some sort. But the antecedents and the entire context of Paul’s remarkable epistle point the reader always to Jesus Christ. This image may be the result of the tendency among many toward an exclusivity of the King James Version. The answer for the inclusion of ‘Christ’ in the KJV and its exclusion in the N. I. V. is rather to be found in a discussion of textual criticism.

“The scholarly discipline which makes the study of the original form of the biblical text its special business is known as textual criticism.”—Robert Paul Martin, Accuracy of Translation, p.75. It has been said by many biblical scholars in defense of this discipline over the fear that it brings into question the veracity of the Word of God, that with all of the variants between differing manuscripts:


“Compared to what the manuscripts have in common, the number of variant readings having significant interpretive importance is small. The degree of total agreement between the ancient manuscripts of the New Testament is extraordinary. And at those places where the manuscripts do differ, most of the variations are matters of word order, spelling, number (singular or plural), person (first, second, or third), tense of verbs, substitution of synonyms, etc……...…no doctrine of the faith rests upon a variant reading as its sole foundation.”—ibid, Martin.


The point is, that the different renderings between different translations is not always a matter of different understanding, but rather of a different supporting text for each. Since we are looking at a passage from the New Testament letter of Romans, we will confine our discussion to the differing texts employed by the producers of differing translations for the N.T. It is reported that the translators of the N. I. V. made use primarily of the Nestle-Aland Greek text of the New Testament. It is well-known that the translators of the KJV employed the Textus Receptus, or Received Text. This accounts for the differences that would exist between the N. I. V. and the KJV. This accounts for the inclusion or exclusion of ‘Christ’ in Romans 1:16. This would be one of those instances of variation where the meaning is not affected. As was, hopefully, pointed out above, the context demonstrates that there is no other gospel in the thought of the apostle Paul than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The problem supposed is actually non-existent. It is only in the mind of those that hold a King  James only, or a Textus Receptus only view, that any problem really exists, and it is their problem. R. P. Martin offers a valuable, balanced defense of the issue:

“The Textus Receptus is a dependable guide for the people of God and has shed blessed light on the path of many pilgrims on their way to the celestial city. And the same can be said for the King James Version, which is still one of the finest translations of the Scriptures ever produced in any language. My purpose merely is to ask that no unique or exclusive place be given to the Textus Receptus or to the King James Version, to the exclusion of other safe guides in the Scriptures.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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