Romans 1:4 in the NIV 2011 reads: “and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Does this mean that because of his resurrection God appointed Jesus as his Son? Prior to the resurrection Jesus was just some guy, but post-resurrection God decided Jesus was good enough so he let him into the family?
Maybe some other translations can offer some insight:
The NIV 1984 reads “and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The NRSV reads “and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Here Jesus is declared to be God’s Son. The KJV, NAS and ESV all say he was “declared” as well. So then was the resurrection God’s public announcement of Jesus’ sonship? The NLT goes so far as to say that Jesus “was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead.”
But here’s the problem: the Greek text doesn’t really say “declared,” it says he was “appointed.” Paul uses the word ὁρισθέντος, which is the participle of the verb ὁρίζω. And ὁρίζω, according to BDAG, means “to make a determination about an entity, determine, appoint, fix, set.” Every occurrence of ὁρίζω in the New Testament carries the clear meaning of appoint, decide or determine:
Luk 22:22 For the Son of Man is to go just as it has been determined
Act 2:23 who was handed over by the predetermined plan
Act 10:42 he is the one appointed by God as judge
Act 11:29 So the disciples … decided to send relief
Act 17:26 determining their set times
Act 17:31 by a man whom he designated
Heb 4:7 So God again appoints a certain day
If one accepts that “appoint” is in fact the best translation of the text (so that the NIV 2011 is really a more accurate rendering than the NIV 1984), does that leave us at a theological dead-end?
But there is another option: “in power” is describing the Son of God, not the appointment, so that Paul is not saying that “the Son of God was powerfully appointed”” but rather that the “powerful Son of God was appointed” or, as in the NET: “who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power.” Jesus was the Son of God pre-resurrection, but it was because of the resurrection that God chose to appoint him as the Powerful Son of God. Anders Nygren summarizes this important point: “So the resurrection is the turning point in the existence of the Son of God. Before that he was the Son of God in weakness and lowliness. Through the resurrection he becomes the Son of God in power.”
This issue not only sheds light on the way theology can influence our English translations, it also makes a crucial point about the importance of the resurrection. Christianity is not primarily about the Jesus’ public ministry or his death on the cross. Ours is, above all else, a resurrection faith — if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty (1 Cor 15:14). It is only through the resurrection that God’s plan for humanity and Jesus’ role in that plan, as the appointed Son of God in Power, can be fully realized.