Friday, February 24, 2012

What Is the Gospel? Part 5: Romans 1:1-7

Over the past few weeks, I have been exploring (here, here, here, and here) the subject of the Christian gospel in the wake of Scot McKnight’s new book, The King Jesus Gospel.[i]  Many Christians, especially those who self-identify as “Evangelicals,” would be surprised to learn that there is discussion, let alone dispute, about this apparently foundational issue.  Indeed, as I have said, I was raised to think of the gospel in terms of the salvation of the individual. It was, so I thought, the combined teaching of the doctrines of penal substitution (“Christ” died on the cross in my place, bearing the judgment I deserved for my sins) and justification by faith (those who believe in Christ are “declared righteous” and assured of “heaven” by virtue of what Christ did, even though I remain a sinner as long as I live).  Our investigations of 1 Corinthians 15, however, pointed in another direction.  Paul quotes the earliest confession about the gospel in verses 3-5.  From that confession we concluded that the gospel is the proclamation of the historical events of Jesus’ death and resurrection, interpreted in accord with the Old Testament scriptures as the climactic saving acts of God for Israel and the world.  In verses 20-28 the apostle interprets Jesus’ bodily resurrection against the horizon of God’s ultimate plan for the denouement of salvation-history. Christ’s present reign as resurrected Lord has as its goal the unchallenged, eternal rule of God. In other words, the gospel is ultimately about the kingdom of God.

Today we turn to Paul’s most famous letter, The Epistle to the Romans.  The fame of this letter is certainly deserved.  It is not only the longest and most systematic of the apostle’s extant writings, it has also been the most significant historically, as anyone familiar with Augustine, Luther, Wesley, and Barth knows well.  Indeed, it is this letter, via Martin Luther’s “rediscovery” of the gospel and reinterpretation of the phrase, “the righteousness of God,” that undergirds the common Protestant association of the gospel with the doctrine of justification.

Fortunately, we don’t have to search long before we encounter mention of the gospel.  The first seven verses of the letter (Rom 1:1-7) constitute its “prescript.”  In typical Greco-Roman letters, the prescript consisted of three elements: sender, recipient, and greeting.[ii]  Paul, as one might expect, generally follows the conventions of his time.  Nevertheless, he typically expands one or more of these elements for rhetorical reasons.  Such expansions serve the hermeneutical purpose of providing a window through which to discern the major concerns that will be addressed in the body of the letter.[iii]  From the perspective of ancient rhetoric, it is not insignificant to note that the opening of a letter corresponded in function to the exordium of a speech, both commending the author to the audience and summarizing the major points to be discussed.[iv]

Here in Romans 1:1-7, Paul expands the superscriptio, his description of himself as the sender of the letter.  He does this by reflecting on his divinely commissioned task, as apostle to the Gentiles, to proclaim the gospel among all Gentiles, including those to whom he is writing in Rome.  The focus of these reflections centers on two related issues: his message (vv.2-4) and his mission (vv. 5-6).  After the completion of the body of the letter, the apostle will finally get around to telling the Roman Christians the pragmatic purpose of his letter, namely, that he is hoping to enlist their support for a planned mission to Spain (15:22-29).  To this end he must first win their trust and sympathy.  He attempts to accomplish this via his recitation of the content of the gospel, thus demonstrating their shared faith convictions.[v] 

Romans 1:1-4 read as follows:

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 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. (NIV)

This text is exceedingly clear, and corresponds in many respects to what Paul recorded earlier in 1 Corinthians 15.  The first salient point, one which has a direct parallel in the Corinthian correspondence, is the assertion that the gospel is the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Old Testament prophetic scriptures (1:2).[vi]  Paul doesn’t explicitly list any texts at this point, so it is possible he is speaking generally, as in the earlier formulation.  Yet, as will be seen, verses 3-4 quite clearly allude to 2 Samuel 7:12, 14 and Psalm 2:7.  Moreover, Romans—more than any other Pauline epistle—is laced through and through with both explicit Old Testament citations and even more frequent “echoes” of scriptural texts that both carry the letter’s argument forward and provide the lens through which to understand its message.[vii]  The gospel, as Paul understood it, thus stands in historical continuity with God’s revelation to Israel.  Indeed, his claim is, as we will see, an outrageous one: the gospel message, far from being the negation of God’s inscripturated promises to Israel, is instead their fulfillment.  What Paul is saying is that God’s covenant promises to Israel, rightly understood, point to the events narrated in the gospel message he quotes in verses 3-4.

The second salient point is likewise consistent with what we found in 1 Corinthians 15.  For Paul (and the tradition he cites), the gospel message concerns the Messianic career and resurrection of Jesus, God’s “Son” (1:3-4).  He articulates the gospel in two parallel participial clauses: 

1.         to genomnou                                    to risqntoς
                        “who was born”[viii]                            “who was appointed”

2.         k sprmatoς Daud                           uo qeon dunmei
                        “from the seed of David”                      "Son of God in power

            3.         kat srka                                          kat pnema giwsnhς
                        “according to the flesh”                         “according to the Spirit of holiness”

This formula, though memorable, is hardly transparent in meaning.  The difficulties revolve primarily around three expressions[ix]

·         The meaning of ὁrisqntoς (“declared” or “appointed”)

·         The meaning of “Son of God”

·         The meaning of the flesh/spirit contrast

In the history of interpretation, two primary explanations have emerged.  The traditional view is that the contrast is an ontological or metaphysical one between two component “parts” or coexisting sides in the constitution of Christ’s person.[x]  According to this interpretation, Christ was born from the seed of David as far as his human nature was concerned. By his resurrection, however, his true identity was unveiled.  In particular, Christ’s resurrection served the noetic function of declaring him to be what he eternally was, namely, the divine Son of God.

Despite its respectable pedigree, however, and obvious agreement with historic, conciliar orthodoxy,[xi] there are three insurmountable problems with this interpretation.  First, the verb ὁrzein simply does not mean “to declare what was true all along.”  In the New Testament it always means “to appoint, designate, establish, or fix” (Acts 2:23; 10:42; 11:29; 17:26, 31; Heb 4:7).[xii]  In other words, the verb clearly indicates, as Jimmy Dunn writes, “that Paul saw in the resurrection of Jesus a ‘becoming’ of Jesus in status and role, not simply a ratification of a status and role already enjoyed on earth or from the beginning of time.”[xiii]

The second insuperable difficulty faced by the traditional interpretation is that Jesus’ resurrection is never used in the New Testament to predicate his deity.  He is raised specifically as a human being, and the event is significant theologically for that very reason.  Indeed, as we saw in 1 Corinthians 15, Christ’s resurrection as Messiah and second Adam was the inaugural event of the new creation and, as such, was the determinate harbinger of the resurrection of all human beings belonging to him.  

The traditional view likewise suffers in regard to its understanding of the flesh/spirit contrast.  Paul nowhere uses the flesh/spirit contrast to differentiate human and divine natures.  As is evident from his use of the antithesis in Romans 8:4-9, 13[xiv] , the “Spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit.  Consequently, the contrast is an “eschatological” one: the “flesh” (merely human existence/nature) and the Spirit are the two determining “powers,” as it were, of two successive “ages” in salvation-history.[xv]  The resurrection, in other words, is significant to the gospel precisely because of its salvation-historical, indeed eschatological, significance.

The second view holds that the contrast is a salvation-historical one between two successive stages in the Messianic career of God’s “Son.”[xvi]  According to this interpretation, both parts of the contrast are governed by Paul’s introductory comment that the “gospel of God” (1:1)[xvii] concerns his “Son[xviii]  Accordingly, this text should be understood in concert with other texts in Paul that speak of God “sending” his Son into the world (Rom 8:3; Gal 4:4-5) and “giving” him over to death (Rom 8:32).[xix]  The most natural reading of these texts presupposes the so-called “preexistence” of Christ[xx] and a corresponding emphasis on the intimacy of his relationship with the God who sent him.  This career of God’s Son—which itself constitutes the “good news”— proceeds in two stages.

The first stage lasted from his birth until his death, about which Paul will have much to say later in the letter.  God’s Son, says Paul, was “born from David’s seed according to the flesh.”  This statement is a clear allusion to 2 Samuel 7:12-13, where Nathan the prophet announces the covenantal promise to David and his house:

 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (NIV)
The point is as clear as can be.  The gospel announces that Jesus is the “seed” who, by birth, had the requisite bloodlines to fulfill the covenant promise God made to David.  Far from negating Jewish Messianic hopes, the gospel affirms their realization in Jesus of Nazareth who, the text says, was born for this very purpose.[xxi]

The second stage of Christ’s “career” is described in verse 4: He was “appointed Son of God in power from the time of (ἐk) the resurrection of the dead.”  This statement clearly reflects two Old Testament texts, 2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2:7:

           I will be his father, and he will be my son.

            I will proclaim the LORD’s decree:
            He said to me, “You are my son;
            today I have become your father.

Psalm 2 is a royal coronation psalm. Verse 7 poetically celebrates the coronation of the king precisely as the enactment of God’s covenantal promise for each successive dynastic generation.  In this light, it is clear that the title “Son of God” in verse 4 must be understood as a Messianic/royal designation rather than as a title redolent of divine ontology.[xxii]  If so, the prepositional phrase “in power” should be understood as qualifying the title “Son of God,” thus helping differentiate the Son’s status prior to the resurrection from that which to which he was elevated at that time. Thus, whereas in his earthly career he was the “Son of God in weakness,” since the resurrection he has reigned as “Son of God in power.” In other words, he now exercises the full range of royal prerogatives as the enthroned Lord in fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to David. 

Paul concludes his gospel summary by identifying, if anyone needed to be so informed, who this reigning “Son of God” is. He is “Jesus Christ our Lord.”  The apostle thus ties the gospel message to the very one who had been crucified as a Messianic pretender by the Roman authorities, and designates him with the title that most characterizes the early Christian understanding of the risen Jesus.[xxiii]  As the resurrected and exalted Lord, Christ the “Son” thus exercises God’s unique eschatological sovereignty over all things.

It cannot be emphasized enough that this two-stage summary of Christ’s Messianic career is the authoritative summary of the gospel that Paul cites to commend himself to his readers.  Thus N.T. Wright, in his comments on this passage, says that the gospel, far from being a message about how people get saved, is rather “an announcement about Jesus, the Messiah, the Lord.”[xxiv]  In this he is exactly right.  Yet this has not shielded him from criticism from would-be defenders of the Reformation tradition. 

J. Ligon Duncan, for example, in a lecture given at Jackson, Mississippi, takes Wright to task for “mak[ing] the Gospel wholly about the person of Christ and not about his work (‘the Gospel is “Jesus is Lord and Messiah” not “Jesus died for your sins”’).”[xxv]  He then suggests Wright needs to articulate “how that is an identifiably evangelical view of the Gospel,” and argues, in explicit criticism of Wright, that “the minute you accept that the Gospel is not about justification … at the very least you have a huge hole in the historic Protestant consensus on and articulation of the Gospel in relation to human sin and divine justice.”[xxvi]  Duncan, I dare say, is not alone in Reformed circles, as I know from personal experience.

At one level, such criticisms are inexcusable in their misrepresentation of Wright’s views, suggesting they either have not read his works thoroughly or, which is more than likely the case, their own entrenched theological worldview has blinded them from appreciating the nuances of his position.[xxvii]  It is indeed the case that, were Wright actually to define the gospel in terms of Christ’s person as over against his work (this contrast itself is the product of the typical categorization of western systematic theology), he would certainly be open to criticism.  But does Wright actually deny that Christ’s death for our sins is part of the gospel?[xxviii]  No.  Does he emphasize the person of Christ to the exclusion or even diminishing of his work?  No.[xxix]  Does he, as Duncan charges, “[offer] a diminished view of sin?”[xxx]  No.[xxxi]  Does Wright deny the doctrine of justification by faith?  No.[xxxii] 

Now, Duncan et al. are perfectly within their rights to disagree with how Wright articulates the issues.  Indeed, I don’t agree in every detail myself.  At times he is manifests a less than ideal clarity.  At other times, I would like to add more precision to his articulation.  Nevertheless, what such criticisms manifest is a fundamental difference in how the gospel is framed.  Duncan, for whom justification is part and parcel of the gospel, frames the gospel (and the argument of Romans) in terms of the salvation of the individual.  To use McKnight’s term, Duncan is an unabashed and unrepentant “soterian.”  But the fact remains that Paul here uses a definition of the gospel that is not framed “soteriologically.”  This formula says nothing about Christ’s atoning death, let alone anything about “justification by faith.”  As one raised in the soterian tradition, I can attest to confusion when I used to read this passage.  In what sense can the gospel (as I understood it) be connected with Jesus’ resurrection and status as Lord?

Wright doesn’t have the same problem, and his shorthand definition of the gospel as “Jesus is Lord” fits this passage like a glove.  In this regard, he aligns his understanding with that of McKnight, for whom, as we saw, understands the gospel as the story of Jesus in that it completes and climaxes the biblical story of Israel.  For Wright, the gospel as articulated in Romans 1 must be understood as the proclamation of the salvation-historical fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of the kingdom of God and new creation.  On this understanding, Christ’s resurrection and current reign as Lord are good news, not simply because of what they say about Christ’s person, but rather because they are specifically the means by which God’s new creation has been inaugurated.  And this is precisely the perspective of Paul here in Romans 1. 

The gospel, as Paul describes it, is not a scheme of individual salvation, even though individuals are “saved” by faith in the Jesus announced therein.  It is rather the message of God’s Son, who has brought the Old Testament promises to fulfillment by means of his Messianic life, death, and resurrection.

Still, one might ask why Jesus’ resurrection/exaltation and reign as Lord are singled out here in Romans 1 as summarizing the gospel message.  The answer, I would suggest, is found in Psalm 2, the very text alluded to in Romans 1:4.  Immediately following the installment of the Davidide on the throne in verse 7, the newly crowned king says:

            Ask me,
            and I will make the nations your inheritance,
            the ends of the earth your possession.

The Davidic king of Israel, as YHWH’s vicegerent, was (in his ultimate incarnation as the eschatological Messiah) by rights the king of the entire world.  As another royal psalm states, “May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed (Ps 72:17).”  The Davidic king, in the person of the Messiah, would thus be the means by which God’s promise to Abraham of universal blessing (Gen 12:3) would be fulfilled. 

Consequently, the resurrection and present reign of Christ are “good news” because they mark the fulfillment of these promises and thus provide the warrant for the inclusion of the Gentiles in the people of God.  This is where Paul’s own commission as apostle to the Gentiles becomes significant (Rom 1:5-6).  The resurrection and Lordship of Christ, in other words, are good news less for what they say about Christ’s person than for what they entail for the fulfillment of both the Davidic and Abrahamic covenants.

That this is indeed Paul’s point is confirmed in what has been termed the letter’s peroratio,[xxxiii] Romans 15:7-13. Here the apostle provides a catena of four Old Testament texts speaking of the eschatological salvation of the Gentiles:
 7Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing the praises of your name.” [Ps 18:49; 2 Sam 22:50]

10Again, it says,
“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” [Deut 32:43]

11 And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; [Ps 117:1]
let all the peoples extol him.”

12 And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.” [Isa 11:10]

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 
The gospel of God’s crucified and risen Son, Paul argues, creates a people consisting of both Jews and Gentiles.[xxxiv]  And this is, as Paul argues, precisely how God had planned and promised things to be.

[i] Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).
[ii] E.g., P. Lond. 42 (168 BCE): “Isias to her brother Hephaeston, greeting.”
[iii] Cf. L. Ann Jervis, The Purpose of Romans: A Comparative Letter Structure Investigation (JSNTSup 55; Sheffield: JSOT, 1991) 42.
[iv] Neil Elliott, The Rhetoric of Romans: Argumentative Constraint and Strategy and Paul’s Dialogue with Judaism (JSNTSup 45; Sheffield: JSOT, 1990; Samuel Byrskog, “Epistolography, Rhetoric and Letter Prescript: Romans 1.1-7 as a Test Case,” JSNT 65 (1997) 27-46).
[v] This is one of multiple reasons why I think it likely that verses 3-4 are a (redacted?) quotation of a pre-Pauline formulation of the gospel message.
[vi] On this subject, see especially Christopher G. Whitsett, “Son of God, Seed of David: Paul’s Messianic Exegesis in Romans 2 (sic!):3-4,” JBL 119 (2000) 661-81.  This claim anticipates Paul’s later comments in 3:21, 31.
[vii] Dietrich-Alex Koch, Die Schrift als Zeuge des Evangeliums (BHT 69; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1986) 21-24, lists 89 citations in the Pauline corpus, 51 of which are to be found in Romans. The numbers would be higher were he not to count the catena in Rom 3:10-18 as one citation.  On scriptural “echoes” in Romans, cf. the penetrating analysis of Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale, 1989) 34-83.
[viii] The normal way to express this would have been with the participle gennwmnou.  The verb gnomai had, however, assimilated to the verb gennw (cf. BDAG, 197), so this might not be significant.  However, Doug Moo suggests—and he may be right—that the choice of verbs was deliberate, and that Paul thereby hinted that Jesus’ birth entailed a “becoming” or change of existence vis-à-vis that in his eternal preexistence (Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans [NICNT; Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996] 46).
[ix] Martin Luther said concerning these verses, “As far as I know, this passage has not been adequately interpreted by anyone” (Luther: Lectures on Romans [ed. Wilhelm Pauck; LCC; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961] 12).  The situation, I believe, has improved considerably. Despite some residual differences of opinion, a reasonable consensus has emerged.
[x] Cf., e.g., Chrysostom, The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily I (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Series 1) 11:340; Luther, Lectures, 12-13; John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and Thessalonians (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries; trans. Ross MacKenzie; ed. D. W. Torrance amd T. F. Torrance; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960) 15-17; Charles Hodge, Romans (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1986 [1864]) 17-21; William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (5th ed.; ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1902) 7; B. B. Warfield, “The Christ That Paul Preached,” in Biblical Doctrines (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1988 [1929] 233-52.  Many modern translations appear hesitant to jettison this translation (e.g., NASB; NRSV; ESV).
[xi] One might suggest, with little hesitation, that the apparent “orthodoxy” of the view led to its popularity, the Nicene and Chalcedonian formulae providing the lens through which the text was read.
[xii] G. Schneider, EDNT, 2:531-32.
[xiii] James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1-8 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1988) 13.
[xiv] Cf. also Galatians 5:16-26.
[xv] The standard discussion remains that of Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (trans. John Richard DeWitt; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975) 64-68.
[xvi] Cf., e.g., Ridderbos, 65-67; John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols. (NICNT: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959-65) 1:5-12; C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols. (ICC: Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975-79) 1:57-64; Martin Hengel, The Son of God (trans. John Bowden; London: SCM/Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976) 59-61; Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans (trans. G. W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 11; Richard B. Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology (Philipsburg, N.J.: P & R, 1987) 98-114; Dunn, Romans 1-8, 13; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans (AB; New York: Doubleday, 1992) 233-37; Moo, 44-51; Brendan Byrne, Romans (Sacra Pagina; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical, 1996) 43-45; Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998) 39-43; Larry W. Hurtado, “Jesus’ Divine Sonship in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans,” in Romans and the People of God: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Fee on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday (ed. Sven Soderlund and N. T. Wright; Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1999) 217-33; J. R. Daniel Kirk, “Appointed Son(s): An Exegetical Note on Romans 1:4 and 8:29,” BBR 14 (2004) 241-42.
[xvii] Greek eagglion qeo.  Qeo here should be understood as a genitive of source.  Cf. Cranfield, 1:55.
[xviii] Greek per to uo atoῦ.
[xix] On these (most likely) inherited formulations, cf. Eduard Schweizer, “Zum traditionsgeschichtlichen Hintergrund der ‘Sendungsformel’ Gal 4, 4. Rom 8, 3f. Joh 3, 16f. 1 Joh 4,9,” ZNW 57 (1966) 199-210. 
[xx] This is acknowledged by almost all scholars, with the notable exception of James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980) 33-46.
[xxi] The confession states that Christ was born of David’s seed “according to the flesh.” Though the term is often used in the New Testament in a negative sense of sinful human existence outside of, and prior to Christ (so-called “ethical flesh;” cf. James R. McGahey, “’No One Is Justified by Works of the Law [Gal 2:16a]: The Nature and Rationale of Paul’s Polemic against ‘Works of the Law’ in the Epistle to the Galatians,” Ph.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1996] 199-200, n.34), that is certainly not applicable here.  It certainly is meant to designate Christ’s natural biological descent from David (cf. Rom 9:3).  But the contrast is clearly an “aeonic” one, i.e., between two successive ages in the outworking of God’s purposes.  Thus Christ’s birth as “Messiah designate” is portrayed as a perspective that will be superseded in the next clause.
[xxii] For the same idea, cf. Acts 13:32-33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5.  That the title “Son of God” was a current Messianic designation is clear from the Dead Sea Scrolls (e.g., 4QFlor 1.10-13, 18-19; 4Q246 2.1; 1QSam 2.11-12).  Cf. also Paul-Émile Langevin, “Quel est le ‘fils de dieu’ de Romains 1”3-4?” Science et esprit 29 (1977) 145-77, who points to 1 Enoch 105:2 and 4 Ezra 7:28-29; 13:32, 37, 52; 14:9.
[xxiii] Whereas Paul refers to Jesus as the Son of God 17 times, he speaks of him as “Lord” more than 260 times.  Indeed, in Romans 10:9 he cites what is undoubtedly the earliest Christian confession (“Jesus is Lord”), a confession likely derived from Jesus’ own use of Psalm 110:1 (Mark 12:36 et par.), another royal psalm. 
[xxiv] N. T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 10 (Nashville: Abingdon, 2002) 383-770.  Elsewhere he says, “‘[T]he gospel’ is a message primarily about Jesus, and about what the one true God has done and is doing through him” (Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision [London: SPCK, 2009] 156).
[xxv] J. Ligon Duncan, “The Attractions of the New Perspective(s) on Paul,” @
[xxvi] Ibid.
[xxvii] Reformed church historians are quick to denounce contemporary New Testament scholars like Dunn and Wright for their portrayals of writers in the Reformation traditions.  Cf. especially Carl Trueman’s 2000 lecture delivered at Tyndale House, “A Man More Sinned against Than Sinning?” (  Unfortunately, such church historians don’t extend the same courtesy they demand to the writers they criticize. See Dunn’s trenchant response to Trueman @
[xxviii] Wright, Justification, 156, where he cites 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
[xxix] Cf. his defense of the doctrine of penal substitution in relation to Jesus’ fulfillment of the role of the Isaianic servant of YHWH, @  Likewise, note his definitive argument that Paul’s expression, per martaς, in Romans 8:3 should be translated “sin offering” (The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1992] ch. 11).  Note, finally, Wright’s discussion of Romans 3:25-26 in his “Romans,” 472-77, where he interprets lastrion in verse 25 in terms, not only of expiation, but of the propitiation of God’s wrath against sinners.
[xxx] Duncan, “Attractions.”
[xxxi] Cf., e.g., Justification, 175.  Duncan claims that Wright, despite his protestations to the contrary, de facto diminishes sin when he defines justification in terms of ecclesiology (membership in the covenant community) rather than soteriology (one’s relationship with God).  This, frankly, is unfair.  I would argue that Wright’s earlier formulations, when he made that distinction, are imprecise (I would say justification has both soteriological and ecclesiological dimensions).  Nevertheless, Wright is explicit and clear that one’s relationship with God is established via faith-union with Christ, which is logically prior to justification, the latter of which is God’s declaration that one is part of the sin-forgiven people of God. 
[xxxii] Cf. his Justification.  Of course, Wright draws the ire of Reformed writers because of two matters: (1) his denial of the scholastic notion of double imputation—in particular, of the notion that the basis of justification is the imputation of Christ’s active obedience to the account of the believer; and (2) his distinction between present and future justification, with the latter “on the basis of,” or “in accordance with” works, based on Romans 2:16.  Nevertheless, Wright strenuously affirms justification by faith as a forensic, anticipatory declaration of a “right status” that will be confirmed at the last judgment.
[xxxiii] Hays, Echoes, 70.
[xxxiv] Hays, Echoes, 70-73, demonstrates how the larger contexts of each of the texts cited picture Gentiles and the restored Israel worshipping and glorifying God together.


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