November 1, 1997 Issue
by George Battey

Is the NIV rendition of Romans 10:9 valid? Is its manuscript basis the most reliable available? To answer this authoritatively would require someone more trained in ancient manuscripts than myself, but with the information available to me, and provided Jam interpreting this information correctly, it does not appear that the text used by the NIV in this passage is the best available.

The NIV-OT is based upon the standard Masoretic Hebrew text, but the NT is built upon an eclectic text - a fluid text taking what the translation committees thought to be the best parts of all available manuscripts. In the case of Romans 10:9 there were two major variant readings to choose from. The United Bible Society (UBS) 3rd edition opted for the first variant which agrees with the Received Text and is translated, "confess with the mouth of you (the) Lord Jesus." This is based upon rather impressive textual authority including the Sinaiticus, the Bezae, and other manuscripts ranging from the third century all the way to the year 1561. In total, twenty-six Greek manuscripts, fourteen Greek and Latin lectionaries, and the writings of six "early church fathers" are cited in the footnotes to support this reading. Three more manuscripts add the word "Christ" after the name "Lord Jesus." However, the NIV did not choose to use this reading. Instead, the translation committee chose the second variation which, when translated is rendered, "Confess with the mouth of you, ‘Jesus (is) Lord."’ This is supported by only one manuscript dated in the year 1044, one Greek lectionary dated from the fourth to seventh centuries, and three "early church fathers." A variation, "Confess the word with the mouth of you ‘Jesus (is) Lord,"’ is found in one ancient manuscript (the prestigious Vaticanus of the fourth century), one Greek lectionary, and three "early church fathers" all ranging from the third to the fifth centuries.

It would appear, then, if the footnotes of the UBS 3rd edition are accurate and up-to-date, and if I am interpreting the data correctly, the most well founded text was rejected by the NIV committee and the weaker, more feeble text was adopted. Interestingly, there is more textual support and just as impressive support for including Acts 8:37 than for the NIV rendering of Romans 10:9! In other words, the NIV rejected Acts 8:37 because the textual basis seemed weak to the translation committee, but in Romans 10:9 they chose to include a variant reading founded on a weaker basis! To make matters worse, the NIV does not even footnote the fact that the larger majority and oldest manuscripts have, "confess the Lord Jesus." This is not an NIV bashing campaign, but it is truly a weakness in an otherwise and overall good modern translation.

In the case of Romans 10:9 it would seem that the Greek text and translation of the KJV and NKJV is superior to the NIV and other modern translations. Again, let me emphasize that I am not bashing the overall integrity of the NIV, nor am I implying the KJV and NKJV have no textual or translation problems of their own for they certainly do. I am merely saying, that if the data I am looking at is correct and current, and if I am interpreting that data accurately, the KJV and NKJV have the upper hand in transmitting and translating Romans 10:9. The Scriptures, in this case, are undoubtedly teaching men that they must confess the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, Romans 10:9 is not giving a verbatim confession that must be repeated, but rather the passage is identifying the One who must be confessed - the Lord Jesus Christ.


This brings us back to our original question, What must the confession of Christ consist of? Romans 10:9 identifies the One who must be confessed, but what must be confessed about Him?

During the ministry of Jesus, on several occasions, demons would "confess" Him before men, but He would promptly rebuke them and not allow them to continue confessing Him. One example will suffice to illustrate: "And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, ‘You are the Son of God.’ But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known" (Mk 3:11, 12). Jesus did not tolerate such a confession from the demons because (1) it would not alter their destiny, and (2) he did not want anyone to conclude He was in league with demons.

Over and over again men confessed the deity of Jesus by confessing He was the Son of God. By making such a confession they were at the same time acknowledging Him as a Lord or Master who was worthy of ruling over their lives. The disciples said, "Truly You are the Son of God" (Mt 14:33). Nathaniel confessed, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (Jn 1:49). Caiaphas and the other Jewish leaders were not interested if some viewed Jesus as a master, or lord, but they would not tolerate anyone confessing Him as the Son of God because that implied deity (Mt 26:63-64; Jn 12:42). Neither would they allow men to confess Him as the "Christ" (Greek for Messiah), because the Messiah was admittedly the Son of God (Ps 2:2 7). In response to this, Peter boldly preached Jesus as both Lord and Christ, that is, enthroned deity (Acts 2:36).

When God sent John the baptizer to prepare the way for Jesus, John made two confessions. First, "He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ"’ (Jn 1:20). And second, "‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, "Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit." And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God"’ (Jn 1:32-34).

This was not enough to satisfy our heavenly Father. He must Himself confess His own son. First, at the baptism of the Savior, "This is My beloved Son, in who I am well pleased" (Mt 3:17). And again on the Mount of Transfiguration, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him"’ (Mt. 17:5). This made a lasting impression upon the three disciples who witnessed this great event. Years later Peter wrote of it, "or He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom lam well pleased"’ (2 Pet 1:17).

Jesus confessed Himself on numerous occasions. During debate with unbelieving Jews He said, "‘I and My Father are one.’ Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?’ The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law, "I said; ‘You are gods"’? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, "You are blaspheming," because I said, "I am the Son of God"? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him"’ (Jn 10:30-38). Again, when on trial before Caiaphas, "The high priest answered and said to Him, ‘I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you said"’ (Mt 26:63-64).

Over and over we read of men either confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, or else remembering that He confessed this about Himself. Mocking Jews at the cross remembered that Jesus confessed of Himself that He was the Son of God (Mt 26:43). The soldier standing at the foot of the cross when Jesus died said, "Truly this Man was the Son of God!" (Mk 15:39). Some might argue that this soldier was merely saying Jesus was "the son of a god" rather than "the Son of God." But the objection is invalid because whatever the soldier meant, he certainly meant Jesus was deity. The very purpose for writing the gospel accounts was so that, "You may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (Jn 20:30-31). The first thing Paul preached after his conversion was "the Christ. . . that He is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20). To the Romans Paul wrote "concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. . . declared to be the Son of God with power" (Rom 1:3-4). In other words, Jesus was proven to be more than just "Lord" by His resurrection; He was proven to be the Son of God’ To Timothy Paul counseled, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Tim 6:12). The "good confession" which Timothy made was that which Jesus Himself made before Pilate (1 Tim 6:13). That confession concerned the identity of Jesus as the Son of God (Jn 19:8-11) and the fact that He was a heavenly (divine) King rather than an earthly king (Jn 18:33-37). The Hebrew writer wrote of the Christian’s confession when he exhorted, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession" (Heb 4:14). John adds to the testimony when writing his epistle, "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God" (1 Jn 4:15).

The strongest evidence available that confession is both necessary and should concern Jesus’ Sonship toward God, not merely His Lordship toward believers, comes in Peter’s confession. Jesus was concerned as to what men were thinking of Him: "When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that Lam?"’ (Mat 16:13-15). Jesus was not satisfied for men to view Him as a prophet, or lord only. Elijah, John the Baptist, and other prophets were also "masters" or "lords" with disciples that followed them. Jesus expected more in the confessions of men than this. The confession made by Peter satisfied Jesus because it embraced His deity as well as His Lordship. Peter confessed: "‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church"’ (Mt 16:16-18). Two plausible explanations have been offered for this confession and Jesus’ response to Peter. The most common and widely know explanation among our brethren is that Jesus would build or found the church upon the fact which Peter just confessed - that He is the Son of God. Another reasonable explanation is that Peter is typical of any believer who would come to Christ and upon such confessors the Lord would build or base His church. 7 In either case, the church would be founded upon the confession of His divine Sonship powerful and convincing proof that anyone wishing to enter His church and be saved from sin must confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus as being the Son of God (Rom 10:9-10).


While it is true enough that we must confess Jesus’ Lordship (Phil 2:11), no one can successfully deny that when men confess His divine Sonship, they are at the same time declaring and professing His Lordship. But this is not always the case the other way around as we have seen in the case of "Jehovah’s Witnesses" who are willing to confess the Lordship of Jesus, but not His divine Sonship.

For salvation men must believe that Jesus is the great "I AM" (Jn 8:24) equal with His father (Jn 1:1; 10:30). On this the church is founded (Mt 16:16-18). And without revealing this to the preacher the sinner has no right to be baptized for the remission of sins (Mk 16:16; Acts 8:36-7; 1 Cor 2:11; Rom 10:9-10). Confession is therefore both (1) necessary and (2) must contain a declaration concerning Jesus’ divine Sonship.

Consider all the occasions it was spoken on: demons, the disciples, Nathaniel, Martha, John the baptizer, God the Father, Jesus Himself, the four gospel writers, the apostle Paul in his very first sermon, the young preacher Timothy, the soldier at the foot of the cross, the Hebrews, and Peter. Every one of these confessions were in regards to Jesus’ Sonship. Can we possibly conclude that any confession less than this will suffice? It is called the "good confession" and it encompasses both Jesus’ Lordship and deity.

My conclusion is therefore that confession is both (1) necessary and (2) must contain a declaration concerning Jesus’ divine Sonship.

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