Monday, March 5, 2012

What Is the Gospel? Part 6: Romans 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”
~Romans 1:16-17, NRSV

So writes the Apostle Paul in one of the most famous passages he ever penned.  Indeed, these two verses provide significant insight into what, in fact, he understood the “gospel” to be.

These two verses are, in a very real sense, programmatic for Romans as a whole.  In terms of the letter’s epistolary form, they constitute the conclusion and climax of its “Introduction” or letter opening.  Verses 1-7, which we discussed in our last post, form the epistolary “prescript” in which Paul introduces both the major topic to be discussed in the letter (i.e., the “gospel” of God’s Son) and himself as the apostle specially commissioned to bring this message to the Gentiles.  The “gospel,” as we saw, could be defined as the message of the fulfillment of God’s inscripturated promises in the Messianic career and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  In short, the “gospel” is the “good news” of Messiah Jesus’ enthronement as resurrected Lord.

Verses 8-15, as was customary in Greco-Roman letters,[i] comprise a thanksgiving and prayer. Paul, as apostle to the Gentiles, demonstrates his obligation to the Roman Christians by thanking God for them and continually desiring a mutually beneficial ministry among them.  The apostle continues in verse 16 by providing the reason (gar) why he was eager to discharge his apostolic commission in Rome: Paul’s eagerness to preach in Rome is due to his confidence[ii] in the saving power of the gospel.  The way the apostle develops this reason, however, suggests rather strongly that verses 16-17 serve as a concise summary of the theme and argument to be developed in the body of the letter to follow.[iii]

The first thing that immediately strikes the reader is that Paul does not define the content of the gospel in these verses.  Indeed, it is striking how often this observation goes unobserved by competent New Testament scholars.  For example, citing this passage along with Romans 3:21-26, Seyoon Kim writes that “from the beginning Paul’s gospel was centered on the much more fundamental significance of Christ’s death ….”[iv]  Kim thus assimilates these two passages because of their common assertion of the revelation or manifestation of God’s righteousness.  Indeed, the apostle will develop the significance of Jesus’ death in detail in Romans 3:24-26 and, as we have seen, the “word of the cross,” interpreted as Jesus’ death “for our sins,” is a vital element of the gospel message as Paul develops it in 1 Corinthians 1:17-18; 15:3.  Nevertheless, in the present context Paul has already defined the gospel in terms of Jesus’ exaltation, via his resurrection, to the status as reigning Messianic Lord, in fulfillment of the Old Testament promises.  That is the message in which Paul has the utmost confidence.

The NRSV translation, quoted above, doesn’t indicate it, but the second clause of verse 16 provides the reason (gar) Paul had supreme confidence in the gospel: the gospel is the effective instrument of God’s power to bring about the “salvation” of all—Jew and Gentile alike—who believe.  As in 1 Corinthians 15:2, so here: the gospel should not be understood as the message detailing how a person “gets saved.”  It is rather the message that results in people “getting saved” (eis sōtērian) when they believe the message.  Note, however, that Paul says more than this.  The gospel is not a bare “invitation” to which autonomous people can respond or not, depending on their own free “choice.”  Instead, as one might expect from the word itself (euangelion), the gospel is a royal announcement whose very proclamation unleashes God’s power[v] to “call” people effectively to salvation through faith.[vi] 

“Salvation” is another one of those semi-technical “theological” terms that most Christians assume they understand.  For most evangelicals, at least, “salvation” is tacitly understood as a conversion experience in the past that guarantees the experience a (for some, disembodied) state of everlasting bliss in heaven when one dies.  Now, Paul can speak of “salvation” as a present state dependent upon a past event (“we have been saved,” Eph 2:5, 8).  Yet he also describes “salvation” as a present process (1 Cor 1:18) as well as a future experience of deliverance from the eschatological judgment of God (Rom 5:9-10).  This should not be surprising for anyone attuned to New Testament (inaugurated) eschatology.  Like the kingdom of God to which it is contextually associated, “salvation” has in principle been achieved through Christ, with some of its benefits experienced by believers in the here-and-now.  Nevertheless, not all is now what it shall be.  The full consummation of “salvation” awaits the future, when Christ returns and we shall see “face to face” and “know even as we are known” (1 Cor 13:12).  And this future, as Paul will make clear in Romans 8, is not limited to the status and experience of the individual soul.  “Salvation,” as God’s deliverance from the presence and effects of sin, necessarily entails human re-embodiment.  Not only that—all creation will, as it must if God’s plan for creation is to be fulfilled, one day be delivered (“saved”) from its present bondage to decay to which it has been subjected because of sin.

Those accosted by the gospel respond in “faith,” which is presented here, as elsewhere, as the instrument through which God’s saving power is experienced.  Paul will have much to say about faith in this letter, particularly in chapters 3-4.  Like Abraham, the great exemplar of faith, this involves both belief in the message of the gospel (4:16-17) and reliance upon/commitment to the crucified and risen Christ and the God who raised him from the dead (4:18-22).  One must stake one’s very life and existence upon the promises of God fulfilled in Christ because, as Paul would say, one’s life and existence really do depend on it, appearances in the present notwithstanding.

What Paul says next is too often underappreciated by Christians for whom “Gentile Christianity” is the given, culturally normal state of affairs.  This, however, was emphatically not the case in the 50s of the first century CE and, as we will see in a future post, “justifying” God’s ways vis-à-vis his faithfulness to Israel and the inclusion of the Gentiles is one of, if not the, driving concern of Romans. 

According to Paul, the gospel message is available to “all”—Jew and Gentile alike—on the same terms.[vii]  This emphasis, as controversial in the apostle’s day as it is uncontroversial in our own, was the driving force behind his earlier, “hot-headed” letter to the Galatians, and is tied specifically to the commission he received from the risen Lord on the Damascus Road.  At this point, the apostle doesn’t provide rationale for it, but the implication from verses 2-4 confirms what he argues more forcefully in Galatians: the Christ-event—in particular, the resurrection of Christ—inaugurates the new creation which simultaneously brings to fulfillment God’s unconditional covenant promises, including the most basic promise that he would bless all nations in Abraham.  What is implicit here is made explicit in verse 17.

Verse 17 begins with another “for” (gar), indicating why it is that Paul has such confidence in the saving power of the gospel.  The gospel is God’s saving power because it reveals the eschatological saving righteousness of God promised in the Old Testament scriptures.  It is here that Paul introduces one of the most important theological terms found in his letters, namely, the “righteousness of God” (dikaiosynē theou).  On this all agree.  Unfortunately, this is where the scholarly agreement ends.  Indeed, the importance of this expression is matched by a pervasive interpretive pluralism that continues to the present day.[viii]

One interpretation that has proven especially influential in Protestant exegesis and theology derives from Martin Luther.  Luther had been an Augustinian monk trained in the Via Moderna of Gabriel Biel.  Accordingly, he had understood the “righteousness of God” in keeping with the Latin translation equivalent, iustitia.  Not surprisingly, he interpreted the iustitia dei in the Aristotelian-Ciceronian sense of “distributive justice.”[ix]  Luther, however, had a very sensitive, introspective conscience, and the Anfechtung which consideration of his own unworthiness aroused in him is legendary.  Indeed, he himself confesses that resolution only came when he discovered a “new definition of righteousness.”[x]  In Luther’s own words:

I had certainly been overcome with a great desire to understand St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, but what had hindered me thus far was not any ‘coldness of the blood’ so much as that one phrase in the first chapter: ‘the righteousness of God is revealed in it.’  For I had hated that phrase ‘the righteousness of God’ which, according to the use and custom of all the doctors, I had been taught to understand philosophically, in the sense of the formal or active righteousness … by which God is righteous, and punishes unrighteous sinners.

Although I lived an irreproachable life as a monk, I felt that I was a sinner with an uneasy conscience before God. … I did not love—in fact, I hated—that righteous God who punishes sinners, if not with silent blasphemy, then certainly with great murmuring … thus I drove myself mad, with a desperate disturbed conscience, persistently pounding upon Paul in this passage, thirsting most ardently to know what he meant.

At last, God being merciful, as I meditated day and night on the connection of the words ‘the righteous of God is revealed in it, as it is written: the righteous shall live by faith,’ I began to understand that the ‘righteousness of God’ as that by which the righteous lives by the gift of God, namely by faith, and this sentence, ‘the righteousness of God is revealed,’ to refer to a passive righteousness, by which the merciful God justifies us by faith.  This immediately made me feel as though I had been born again, and as though I had entered through open gates into paradise itself ….

And now, where I had once hated the phrase ‘the righteousness of God,’ so much I began to love and extol it as the sweetest of words, so that this passage in Paul became the very gate of paradise for me ….[xi]

Luther thus understood the “righteousness of God” here to refer to the righteousness granted as a gift to those who believe.  This righteousness is to be distinguished from the righteousness we can achieve, and is the only righteousness that avails before God at his judgment seat.  For centuries the majority of Protestant scholars agreed.[xii]  Recent scholars holding this view have tended to nuance the position slightly differently from Luther.  They now tend to see “the righteousness of God” as the gift of a righteous status from God.[xiii]  It is this understanding of the term “righteousness of God” which has, more than anything else, led to the common Protestant correlation of the gospel and the doctrine of justification by faith.

Nevertheless, for a number of reasons this venerable interpretation is less than satisfying: (1) the use of the verb “revealed” (apokalyptetai) fits awkwardly with a putative reference to a righteous “status;”[xiv] (2) The parallel between the (simultaneous?) revelations of both the “righteousness” of God (1:17) and the “wrath” (orgē) of God (1:18) suggests that the former, like the latter, must be understood as an attribute and/or activity of God; (3) The phrase “the power of God” (dynamis … theou) in 1:16 suggests that the righteousness of God must, in some sense, refer to God’s saving power in action; and (4) most significantly, the most plausible background of the expression lies in the Old Testament (mainly the Psalms and Isaiah 40-66) and Intertestamental Jewish literature, where God’s “righteousness” is often found in “synonymous” parallelism with “salvation.”  In such texts, God’s “righteousness” must refer to his own righteousness rather than to a status given to people.  It is, in short, God’s saving activity in behalf of his people.[xv]

Years ago, Richard Hays demonstrated that all of Paul’s significant vocabulary in Romans 1:16-17 echoes, no doubt deliberately, the language of the LXX.  Indeed, “in certain LXX passages these terms converge in ways that prefigure Paul’s formulation strikingly.”[xvi]  Note, for example, Psalm 98:2-3:

The LORD has made known his salvation (sōtērion);
He has revealed his righteousness (apekalypsen tēn dikaiosynēn autou) in the presence of the nations (ethnōn).
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness (alētheias) to the houseof Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation (sōtērion) of our God.

Note also Isaiah 51:4-5:

Give attention to me, my people,
And give ear to me, my nation.
For the law will go out from me,
And I will set my judgment for a light to the nations (ethnōn).
My righteousness(dikaiosynē) draws near,
My salvation(sōtēria) has gone out,
And in my arm(cf. dynamis, “power”) will the Gentiles (ethnē) hope.

Or consider Isaiah 52:7, 10:

How delightful it is to see approaching over the mountains the feet of a messenger who announces (euangelizomenou) peace,
A messenger who brings good news (euangelizomenos agatha), who announces salvation (sōtērian),
Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” …
And the LORd will reveal (apokalypsei) his holy arm before all the Gentiles (ethnōn),
And all the corners of the earth will see the salvation (sōtērian) that is with God.

This evidence is decisive.  There is no going back to comfortable evangelical verities that equate the “gospel” with an individualistic, ahistorically-understood doctrine of justification by faith.  By using Old Testament language as he has, Paul clearly defines the gospel as an announcement of the death and resurrection of Christ, theologically interpreted as the decisive, climactic expression of God’s saving righteousness, which both fulfills his covenant promises to Israel and extends salvation to the Gentiles.  “God’s righteousness” thus demonstrably refers, in this context, to his saving intervention on behalf of his people in faithfulness to his covenant promises.[xvii]

Thus far we, like Hays, have assumed that God’s righteousness was unveiled apocalyptically in Jesus’ death and, in the present context, in his resurrection.  And so, to anticipate Romans 3:21, it was.  But Paul here makes an even more astounding claim: God’s righteousness is presently being revealed (apokalyptetai) in the gospel.  The gospel message, as the apostle says in verse 16, is the vehicle God’s saving power and, as such, creates the faith that saves. In other words, each proclamation of the gospel is itself an instantiation of the once-for-all revelation of God’s righteousness in the historical events of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The gospel reveals God’s righteousness, claims Paul, “by faith(fulness)” (ek pisteōs) and “for faith(fulness)” (eis pistin).  Few statements of the apostle have generated as much discussion and disagreement as this cryptic one.  The problems revolve around the ambiguity of both the meaning of the noun pistis—“faith” or “faithfulness”—and the one who either exercises “faith” or manifests “faithfulness.”[xviii] 

It is generally agreed that the second phrase (“for faith”) anticipates the phrase “to those who believe” (eis tous pisteuontas) in Romans 3:22, thus indicating that the believing/faithful reception of the gospel is that to which God’s righteousness is directed in its proclamation.  Dispute, however, is rampant with regard to the former phrase (“by/out of faith[fulness]”).  One view, which seems to gather more momentum by the year, is that this refers to God’s faithfulness as the fountainhead of his righteous saving activity.[xix]  God’s righteousness, on this view, proceeds from God’s (or Christ’s) faithfulness toward its designed goal of calling Jews and Gentiles to faith.  The other common view is that the second phrase adds emphasis to the first:  God’s righteousness is operative, and can thus be experienced, by faith and nothing but faith.[xx]

It is essential to note that the phrase ek pisteōs derives from the LXX of Habakkuk 2:4, and must be understood in accordance with its meaning—or at least how Paul understood its meaning—there.[xxi]  This becomes obvious when the apostle immediately quotes that prophetic text as confirmation (kathōs) of his affirmation about God’s righteousness: “Just as it stands written, ‘the righteous one’ (ho dikaios) by faith shall live.”[xxii]  I have deliberately translated Paul’s language in a wooden, word-for-word fashion because the text is potentially open to a number of different interpretations.  In effect, the two readings that command the most assent may be dubbed the “Messianic” and “non-Messianic” interpretations.  Simply put, is Paul saying that “the Righteous One (i.e., the Messiah/Jesus) will ‘live’ by virtue of his faithfulness?”[xxiii]  On this interpretation, Habakkuk 2:4 serves as “Exhibit A’ in Paul’s arsenal of texts demonstrating that the gospel of the resurrection of God’s Son was “preannounced” in the Old Testament scriptures.  Or is he making the more general claim that “the (generic) person who is ‘righteous by faith’ will find (eschatological) ‘life’?”[xxiv]  The question is easier to articulate than the answer is to determine, however.

Despite the fairly strong case that can be made for the “Messianic” interpretation, I remain unconvinced, for basically two reasons.  First, in Habakkuk the “righteous one” who lives by faithfulness must be understood in light of the contrast, established in 1:4, between the “wicked” who were prospering and the “righteous” who were oppressed and waiting for God’s justice.  [xxv]  To be sure, it is possible that Paul could be making an exegetical innovation here in keeping with the representative, “inclusive” nature of his theology of Messiahship, but evidence that he is in fact doing so has proved illusory.[xxvi]

Second, and decisively, Paul’s use of Habakkuk 2:4 and its phrase ek pisteōs in Galatians clearly relate to the faith of the believer in Christ.[xxvii]  This is evident, first of all, in Galatians 3:7 where, after citing Genesis 15:6 (“Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”), Paul deduces (ara) that is “people of faith” (hoi ek pisteōs) who are Abraham’s true descendants.  The connection between these verses is determinative: The people “of faith” are those who, like Abraham, have exercised faith in God, and have hence been reckoned righteous like he was.  Paul goes on to quote Habakkuk 2:4 in Galatians 3:11 as proof that no one is justified by works of the law.  Since “no one” is structurally parallel to “the righteous one,” the latter must be understood, as in the traditional view, to be a generic reference to any righteous person.[xxviii] 

It is thus evident that Paul understood Habakkuk 2:4 to be a testimony to his contention that faith (sc. In Christ) is the sole instrument through which people—not only Gentiles, but Jews as well—experience the saving benefits of God’s righteousness.  But we do Paul a disservice if we imagine that he simply used Habakkuk 2:4 as a “proof-text” after rummaging around his mental concordance and conveniently finding the words “righteous” and “faith” in close proximity.

The key to understanding Paul’s citation of Habakkuk 2:4 is to realize that Habakkuk, like Romans, was written in response to the problem of theodicy.  Indeed, the imminent demise of Judah at the hands of the wicked Babylonians raised the very issue of “the righteousness of God.”[xxix]  In response to, not one, but two complaints by the prophet, God points to the future, in which the Babylonians, after playing their role as God’s disciplinary agents, will themselves be justly punished by the sovereign Lord who sits in his holy temple (2:20).  Indeed, Habakkuk can only be understood in light of the covenantal curses found in Deuteronomy 30.  Like Moses himself predicted, the Law had failed to curb Israel’s sinfulness (Hab 1:4!), and thus the ultimate covenant curse of exile overtook them at the hands of the Babylonians.

Yet, as every Jew understood, that was not the end of the story.  For God—the righteous, covenant-keeping God—had unconditionally promised to restore the nation.  And it is this eschatological restoration that both Habakkuk and Paul have in mind.  God explicitly states that the revelation “speaks of the end” (Hab 2:3), during which time of devastation and (implied restoration) the righteous person would “live by his faith(fulness)” (2:4).  Habakkuk himself illustrates the type of steadfast faith called for in chapter 3, verses 16-18.

Paul believed the time of the fulfillment of Habakkuk’s prophecy had come, and it is those who believed in Christ who would “live” in the end (cf. Rom 5:18; 6:22).  Yet the issue of theodicy—and, hence, the relevance of the Habakkuk text—remains, for the Jews, the promised covenantal beneficiaries, by and large don’t experience the benefits of the fulfillment of their own covenants!  It is this issue that we will discuss next time in Romans 3.

[i] Cf., e.g., P. Lond. 42 (168 BCE): “If you are well and other things are going right, it would accord with the prayer which I make continually to the gods.  I myself and the child and all the household are in good health and think of you always.  When I received your letter from Horus, in which you announce that you are in detention in the Serapeum at Memphis, for the news that you are well I straightaway thanked the gods.”

[ii] Commentators have often interpreted Paul’s “I am not ashamed” (o ... paiscnomai) in a psychological sense, viz., that he had overcome the natural human tendency to be embarrassed about a message as apparently unimpressive and foolish as the gospel (classically articulated by C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [2 vols.; ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975-79] 1:86-87).  Somewhat better is the suggestion of C. K. Barrett (“I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel,” in New Testament Essays [London: SPCK, 1972] 116-43) that the text should be understood as reflective of the Jesus tradition later recorded in Mark 8:38, and thus should be understood as a litotes denoting confession.  Some years ago Richard Hays pointed to an even better way to understand the expression when he noted the use of the verb ascunein and its related compounds in the LXX of the Psalms (particularly in psalms of lament) and Isaiah in contexts where the terminology of “righteousness” is also found (Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul [New Haven: Yale, 1989] 38).  For example, Isaiah 28:16 LXX (a passage later quoted by Paul in Romans 9:33), reads, “Whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”  Likewise, Psalm 71:1-2 reads, “In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.  In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me.”  In such a context, “shame,” as N. T. Wright says, “is what God’s people feel when their enemies are triumphing” (“The Letter to the Romans,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 10 [Nashville: Abingdon, 2002] 424).  Thus Paul’s language of not being “ashamed” signals his supreme confidence that the “gospel,” tied as it is to the exercise of God’s “righteousness” (see below), can deliver, and has delivered, the “salvation” promised by God in the Old Testament scriptures.

[iii] In terms of ancient epistolary form, these verses form the letter’s propositio.  Cf. Robert K. Jewett, Romans: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007) 135.  The notion that 1:16-17 provide us with a summary thematic statement for the letter is well-nigh universally recognized by commentators on Romans.

[iv] Seyoon Kim, Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2002) 49.

[v] Here we see the contextual appropriateness of Paul’s emphasis on the resurrection.  The very power by which God raised Jesus Messiah from the dead is operative and effective in bringing about the salvation of human beings.

[vi] Not surprisingly, this is emphasized by the Calvinist commentator, Thomas R. Schreiner, in his Romans (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999) 60.  Thus also the Roman Catholic, Joseph Fitzmyer: “Whenever the gospel is proclaimed, God’s power becomes operative and succeeds in saving.  His power thus catches up human beings and through the gospel brings them to salvation” (Romans [AB; New York: Doubleday, 1993] 256).

[vii] Paul states that the gospel message is directed “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”  This has at times been understood, rather unimaginatively, simply in temporal terms.  The Jews were the first, on this understanding, to hear the proclamation of the gospel in the Book of Acts, before the message was extended to the Gentiles (so, e.g., Charles Hodge, Romans [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1986 {1864}] 29-30).  On the contrary, even though there is “no distinction” between Jews and Gentiles in their need of the gospel message because of sin (3:22-23), the apostle maintains a theological priority for the Jews because it was to them that the promises were first made.  Hence the gospel message, as a message about the exalted (Jewish) Messianic Son, applies in the first instance to them (cf. Rom 15:8).  The emphasis thus lies, as elsewhere in Paul, on Gentile inclusion in the people of God as an implicate of the irruption of the eschaton.  Paul will later discuss this relation of Jews and Gentiles to the gospel and God’s plan in chapter 9-11.  Almost all scholars now recognize the note of theological priority here. Cf. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, 1:91; John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols. (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959-65) 1:29; Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans (trans. G. W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 23; Fitzmyer, Romans, 257; Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) 68-69.

[viii] The best brief introduction to the history of the discussion remains that of Fitzmyer, Romans, 257-63.  Cf. also the convenient chart of interpretive options found in N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997) 101.

[ix] The convenient Latin expression which summarizes this understanding of iustitia is virtus reddens unicuique quod suum est.  That is, righteousness is “a virtue which renders to each man according to his due.”  Cf. Aristotle, Eth. Nic. V. 1129 a-b; Cicero, Rhet., lib. II cap. (further texts in Alister McGrath, Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther’s Theological Breakthrough [Oxford: Blackwell, 1985] 101 n.9; 112 n.44; Gottlog Schrenk, TDNT, 2:193)

[x] Martin Luther, D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe. 61 vols. (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus, 1883-1983 [=WA]) 57.69.14.

[xi] WA 54.185-86 (translation is that of McGrath, Theology of the Cross, 95-97).

[xii] E.g., Hodge, Romans, 30, deems this interpretation “obvious.”  Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 1:30, explicitly identifies it with the “obedience of the one” in Rom 5:19, thus seeing it as Christ’s righteousness imputed to believers in justification.

[xiii] E.g., Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, 1:96-99; Rudolf Bultmann, “Dikaiosnh Qeoῦ,” JBL 83 (1964) 12-16; Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of his Theology (trans. John Richard DeWitt; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975) 163.  The genitive qeoῦ is thus understood as a genitive of authorship or source rather than as an objective genitive.

[xiv] On the apocalyptic significance of this term, cf. esp. Markus Bockmuehl, Revelation and Mystery in Ancient Judaism and Pauline Christianity (WUNT 2.36; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1990). On Romans 1:16-18, see pp. 138-41.

[xv] Cf. Ps 51:14; 71:2, 15; 98:2; Isa 9:7; 11:4; 32:16; 33:5; 41:10; 42:21; 45:8, 21, 23. 24, 46:13; 48:18; 51:5, 6, 8; 54:14, 17; 56:1; 58:8; 59:9, 16-17; 60:17; 61:10-11; 62:1; 63:1; Mic 7:9; 1QS 10.25-26; 11:12; 1QM 4.6; T. Dan 6.10; 1 En. 11:14.

[xvi] Hays, Echoes, 36-37. Hays’s thesis has been resoundingly confirmed by Douglas A. Campbell, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2009) 688-90.

[xvii] This does not mean that the expression “God’s righteousness” means covenant faithfulness,” as N. T. Wright and others have sometimes intimated.  His righteousness, as always, is that aspect of his character by virtue of which he always does what is right.  However, in contrast to abstract notions of justice, Hermann Cremer argued more than a century ago that “righteousness” in the Old Testament is fundamentally a concept of relationship (Verhältnisbegriff) (Die paulinische Rechtfertigungslehre in Zusammenhange ihrer geschichtlichen Voraussetzunggen (2nd ed.; Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1900).  The norm by which “righteousness” is to be judged that of the demands incumbent on a person by virtue of his or her relationship with another person.  In the Old Testament the relationship within which the concept of “righteousness” is most at home is, of course, that of the covenant between Yahweh and Israel.  Yahweh, Israel’s God, had made unconditional promises in the Abrahamic-Davidic-New Covenant(s).  As a “righteous” God, he must fulfill those promises, and hence his faithfulness to those promises constitutes his “righteousness” and takes the form of saving intervention on his people’s behalf.

[xviii] All major commentaries on Romans deal with the various options.  Particularly lucid discussions may be found in, inter alia, Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, 99-100; Schreiner, Romans, 71-73.

[xix] This view is thus related to the view that Paul’s famous expression, pstiς Cristoῦ, found in Romans 3:22, should be translated as “the faithfulness of Christ” rather than the traditional “faith in Christ.”  See, for example, James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1-8 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1988) 44; Douglas A. Campbell, “Romans 1:17—A Crux Interpretum for the Pstiς Cristoῦ Debate,” JBL 113 (1994) 265-85; Rikki E. Watts, “’For I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel’: Romans 1:16-17 and Habakkuk 2:4,” in Romans and the People of God: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Fee on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday (ed. Sven K. Soderlund and N. T. Wright; Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1999) 3-25; Wright, “Romans,” 425; J. R. Daniel Kirk, Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2008) 47.

[xx] E.g., Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, 100; Fitzmyer, Romans, 263; Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 76; Schreiner, Romans, 72-73.

[xxi] On this, cf. especially Francis Watson, “By Faith (of Christ),” in The Faith of Jesus Christ: Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies (ed. Michael F. Bird and Preston M. Sprinkle: Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2009) 147-64 (149-55).

[xxii] Paul’s citation differs from both the Masoretic Hebrew text (“The righteous one will live by his faithfulness”) and the standard LXX (B) Greek text (“The righteous one will live by my faithfulness”).  The difference is likely to be explained by the Greek translators’ confusion of the pronominal suffix ו for י (cf. William H. Brownlee, The Text of Habakkuk in the Ancient Commentary from Qumran [JBLMS; Philadelphia: SBL, 1959] 44).  For complete discussion of the textual data, cf. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “Habakkuk 2:3-4 and the New Testament,” in To Advance the Gospel: New Testament Studies (New York: Crossroad, 1981) 240-44.

[xxiii] See, e.g., C. H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures (London: Nisbet, 1952) 51; A. T. Hanson, Studies in Paul’s Technique and Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) 39-45; Richard B. Hays, “Apocalyptic Hermeneutics: Habakkuk Proclaims the ‘Righteous One’,” in The Conversion of the Imagination (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2005) 119-42; Desta Heliso, Pistis and the Righteous One: A Study of Romans 1:17 against the Background of Scripture and Second Temple Jewish Literature (WUNT 2.235; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007); Campbell, Deliverance, 613 (who deems the reference “plainly” to be to Christ; “arguably,” perhaps, but certainly not “plainly”).

[xxiv] This is the traditional view, still held by such scholars as Cranfield, Fitzmyer, Moo, and Schreiner.

[xxv] This is indeed how the text was interpreted at Qumran, where “faith” is understood in terms of faithfulness to the law and to the teachings of the “Teacher of Righteousness” (1QpHab 8.1-3).

[xxvi] Hays, Campbell, and others have tried to suppose he does by arguing that “Righteous One” was a demonstrable Messianic title in early Judaism and early Christianity.  The evidence in Judaism is particularly sparse, limited to the Similitudes of Enoch (1 En.37-71).  The New Testament is likewise less than fertile ground: Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; 1 Pet 3:18; 1 John 2:1.  The particular difficulty here is not simply the paucity of references, but more importantly the fact that the probable conceptual background to this title is found in Isaiah 53:10-11.  Cf. Watson, “By Faith (of Christ),” 155-56.

[xxvii] See especially 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,” PhD diss, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1996) 211 n.61; 261 n. 185.

[xxviii] Cf. James D. G. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians (BNTC; London: A & C Black, 1993) 174-75.

[xxix] On what follows, cf. McGahey, 261, n.185; Hays, Echoes, 39-41; Watts, “I Am Not Ashamed.”

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