Homeless in this world, not yet at home in the next, we human beings are wanderers between two worlds. But precisely as wanderers, we are also children of God in Christ. The mystery of our life is God's mystery. Moved by Him, we must sigh, be ashamed of ourselves, be shocked and die. Moved by Him, we may be joyful and courageous, hope and live. He is the origin. Therefore, we persist in the movement and cry out: 'Hallowed be Thy name! Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!"
Konfirmandenunterricht, 1909-1921, 372-3
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
The syntax of 15:8-9 has not been finally resolved; Cranfield lists no less than six suggested explanations. Keck clearly sets out the crux of the debate: either there are two parallel purposes to Christ's servant-hood (confirming the promises and Gentiles glorifying God), or there is a single purpose (confirming the promises is the means to the Gentiles glorifying God). Moo believes the first alternative best reflects Paul's theological argument here. However, Lambrecht sets out the key objection to this parallelism: the resulting change in subject between clauses is syntactically awkward. Moo attempts to explain the awkward construction by appealing to Käsemann's noting of the theological tension between the equality of Jew and Gentile, and the salvation-historical priority of the Jew. The NIV adopts the second alternative, and translates the conjunction as 'so that', therefore subordinating Christ's servant-hood to the circumcision to the purpose of leading the Gentiles to glorify God. Cranfield himself reads the conjunction as an adversative: 'but the Gentiles glorify God for [his] mercy'. This gives the sense that the Jews should glorify God, but actually only the Gentiles are doing so. Cranfield's solution avoids the awkward syntax of the first alternative, but does not do justice to indications of parallelism in the text. Dunn concurs with Cranfield's reading, but is more ambiguous as to the meaning: 'Paul's whole point is that Christ became servant of the circumcised not with a view to their salvation alone, but to confirm both phases of God's saving purpose: to the Jew first but also to the Gentile'. Wagner produces what we believe is the most satisfying solution, which is achieved by proposing Christ, not the Gentiles, as the subject of the second clause. Wagner's solution can be represented thus:
For I say that Christ has become
a servant to the circumcision
on behalf of the truth of God
in order to confirm the promises to the fathers
And [a servant] to the Gentiles
on behalf of the mercy [of God]
[in order] to glorify God
In filling the ellipses directly from the parallelism, a solution is obtained which is both syntactically and theologically balanced, where the progression of salvation history from Jew (here denoted by the circumcision) to Gentile is reflected in the differentiated roles of God's truth and mercy, and where equality is powerfully underlined in the servant-hood of Christ to both.
References to authors are usually to their major commentaries on Romans. Wagner's paper is 'The Christ, Servant of Jew and Gentile: A Fresh Approach to Romans 15:8-9', JBL 116.3 (1997).
Sunday, August 23, 2009
The important point is that Gentile Christians are considered as wild (uncultivated) olive braches that have been grafted (contrary to nature) into an already existing cultivated olive tree with a rich (pioths) root. Unbelieving Jews are considered to be broken off. The olive tree therefore represents the covenant people of God which has continued into the New Covenant Age from the Old, onto which Christians are grafted and become members. This idea of a renewed covenant with Israel, of which Gentile Christians then become beneficiaries through their in-grafting is reflected in the New Covenant passage in Jeremiah 31, and in the Pentecost narrative. This strong theme of continuity in Paul's thought must be recognised when interpreting Paul.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
In Chapter 7, Paul writes specifically to Jews (7:1). If you don't pick that up, then interpreting this next section is (more) problematic. Paul's great concern is to explain that the Law has served it's purpose (the argument here ties in very well with that in Galatians 3:15-29, esp 24-25). Obviously, as becomes clearer later in the letter (and is evidenced in other parts of the NT), Jewish Christians' attitude to the Law was a major stumbling block to church unity. So, Paul tackles this in the Roman church. If he can address it there, then he has addressed in in the congregations at the centre of the known world. The Law is holy and good (but Paul would still maintain that Christ has superseded the Law). It provided a framework for covenantal obedience, and highlighted sin, revealing to the attentive Jew the need for forgiveness and the importance of faith.
In this context, the problematic section in 7:14-25 then is not about the Christian life, but about the experience of a Jew. Paul could possibly be speaking autobiographically, but I prefer the view that he assumes the persona of a faithful Jew. He is obviously not describing a legalistic, or careless, Jew since the 'I' is joyfully concurring with the law of God in the inner man. That he is describing a Christian is unlikely, simply because he describes the general experience of not doing the good that he wishes, and doing the evil that he does not wish. I don't believe that's a description of the Christian life. It is likely that this is a description of life under the Law. Paul then makes the transitional argument at the beginning of Chapter 8 that there is 'therefore now' no condemnation. That's an eschatological 'now': now, in the New Age, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you/me free from the law of sin and death (the situation he described in 7:14-25). If this is true then Chapter 7 helps us to answer the theological question about the different experience of God's people under the Old and New Covenants, leading into the practical effect of the adoption as sons (8:15, cf8:23), which is an eschatological benefit of the New Covenant.
Interestingly, I think Lloyd-Jones recognised the problem of interpreting this as a description of a Christian and took the view that Paul here was describing the experience of someone becoming a Christian. I wouldn’t agree, but this view has more merit than others.
Friday, August 21, 2009
- Soteriological: to reinforce his point that only obedience to God which is the result of faith (inward circumcision in the language of Deuteronomy) is true obedience, because justification is by faith. Paul wants to emphasise that the promises given to Abraham, the foundation for the great hope of all believers are given to those who have faith and are realised in the New Covenant, not in the Sinaitic Covenant.
- Ecclesiological: to emphasise to the Jewish believers in Rome that the Law was subservient to the true means of justification before God, which is faith. Therefore, Paul can disconnect both circumcision (4:10) and obedience to the Law from justification (4:13, see Galatians 3:17-18). Abraham did not have the Law (contrary to some Rabbinic teaching, which illustrates the problem Paul had!) and so justification cannot rely on the Law. Abraham was justified (his faith reckoned as righteousness) while uncircumcised, so justification cannot rely upon circumcision.
On 3:27, Dunn writes:
Once the centrality of 'faith' in the preceding section is grasped, the movement of thought in v27 becomes clear, for in the resumed diatribe of vv27-31 it is precisely this point which is hammered home: faith as the proper understanding of the law, faith as the indispensible basis of 'doing the law'.
Justification has always been by faith. In the New Age, both Jews' and Gentiles' faith must be in Jesus (Paul's Christology is clear here). In fact, those Jews justified under the Law (their 'doing' of the Law a result of their circumcision of heart, or faith) were also redeemed by Jesus Christ because God had merely passed over their former sins in his forbearance. But now, atonement has been made, and redemption accomplished in Christ.
Romans 3 adequately demonstrates the obstacles in interpreting Paul and the Law. The interpreter is ranging across eschatological and covenantal boundaries. At once dealing with Jewish legalism and obedience under the Old Covenant, and debates on the Law, then with the New Covenant in Jesus Christ, and justification through faith in him.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Paul stresses that circumcision is of value to the one who practices the Law, but to the one who is a transgressor, it becomes uncircumcision (2:25). In the same way, the pagan who is obedient is justified, rather than the Jew who is a transgressor. 'Transgressor' here must be interpreted in as the antithesis of the 'doer' of the Law – it is the person who has no heart concern for obedience. Paul makes clear that this obedience is the sign of an inward change (2:29). Circumcision is of value, if it is followed by circumcision of the heart. The Law itself stresses this – circumcision of the heart, the Law in the heart, is the means to life (see Deut 10:16; 30:6, Cf. 6:4-6; 11:18).
As to who the Gentiles are who instinctively do the things of the Law (2:14,15), or the uncircumcised who keeps the Law (2:27), Paul could be referring to God-fearers (or theoretically to proselytes in the former case), but I think it likely that he here refers to Gentile Christians.
See also my former post on Romans 2.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Paul's critique in Romans 1 bears similarities to Jewish renunciations in Wisdom 11-15. Dodd characterises God's wrath (1:18) as the inevitable process of moral forces. Dr Bird's notes rightly reject this. But, I wonder whether perhaps we should add a 'merely'. It is a theme apparent in OT Wisdom that God's order is stamped in the fabric of the world. Therefore God's wrath is not merely eschatological, or a proactive discrete intervention, but also it is outworked in the fabric of the world, in the structure of his order, and in the effects of the disorder of chaos which works against God's order through the forces of darkness. The giving up (or handing over) of 1:24ff suggests God's grace in holding back the consequences of his wrath revealed in the natural order, but when this grace is removed sinful societies as well as people begin to debase and destroy themselves (they receive the due penalty, 1:27). This is an aspect of God's wrath.
If we want to square this with a conception of 'active wrath', it's not difficult. Paul in Colossians writes of the role of Christ in God's maintaining of the order of matter - at that level natural processes are founded on the order generated by God himself.
As with all of these, there is much more I could write, but I'll leave it there...