Tuesday, March 5, 2013

R.I.P., Ralph P. Martin (1925-2013)

This morning, while perusing the blog of John Byron, I learned of the death, last week, of the veteran New Testament scholar Ralph Martin. Martin, a native Liverpudlian, received his Ph.D. from Kings College, London, and subsequently taught, inter alia, at the Universities of Manchester and Sheffield, and later at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. He was prolific as an author, beginning with his magisterial doctoral thesis on Philippians 2:5-11, Carmen Christi (1967), which he later revised under the title of A Hymn to Christ in 1997. He also wrote the underestimated two-volume New Testament Foundations and a helpful little book on Worship in the Early Church. He was, however, perhaps best known as a commentary writer, with volumes on Philippians (TNTC and NCBC), Colossians (NCBC), James (WBC) and 2 Corinthians (WBC).

Professor Martin had a great influence on me in my development as a student of the New Testament. He was one of a number of British New Testament scholars (along with the likes of I. Howard Marshall and the late F. F. Bruce) who embodied a learned and moderate Evangelicalism far different from the defensive posture of the American fundamentalist dispensationalists among whom I was raised and the dogmatic stridency of their counterparts in the Reformed tradition. From Martin and others like him I realized I had nothing to fear as an Evangelical Christian scholar from a rigorous historical study of the text. And for that I will remain forever grateful. R.I.P., Professor Martin, in the sure hope of the resurrection to eternal life.

I leave you with a couple of excerpts from Martin's commentary on 2 Corinthians (on 5:17 and 5:21) which exemplify his skill as a biblical exegete (pardon the multiple breaks, which unfortunately are due to the format of the technical series of commentaries of which this is a part):

So it is less than correct to interpret [5:17] as describing a person’s conversion after the analogy of new birth (John 3:3, 5, 7). … The accent falls on a person (tiς) entering the new order in Christ, thus making the kain ktίsiς an eschatological term for God’s age of salvation …Paul is talking of a “new act of creation,” not an individual’s renovation as a proselyte or a forgiven sinner in the Day of Atonement service. There is even an ontological dimension to Paul’s thought (so Stuhlmacher, “Erwägungen”), suggesting that with Christ’s coming a new chapter in cosmic relations to God opened and reversed the catastrophic effect of Adam’s fall which began the old creation (Kümmel 205). To conclude: [“In Christ, new creation”] in this context relates to the new eschatological situation which has emerged from Christ’s advent (p. 152). 
The purpose of God’s appointment of the innocent Christ … is twofold: on the one side, God identified his Son with the human condition in its alienation and lostness; on the other side, God declared that believers might become righteous with a righteousness that is his own … The middle link of connection in this equation is that God in Christ has acted sovereignly to establish this order, thus making “righteousness of God” (dikaiosύnh toqeoῦ) not so much an individual quality available to faith as a gift … as a technical term for the eschatological act of God in power by which the world is set right with the divine purpose ... . It is through their faith-nexus with Christ who was “appointed” … to act for humankind that believers come to share in the benefits of his reconciling deed and enter the new world of acceptance coram Deo, as God is well pleased with his Son’s ever-pleasing relationship. So “righteousness” relates to “God’s whole intervention in Jesus” (Ziesler, The Meaning of Righteousness, 159) (157-58).

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