Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rom. 1.17: Anthropological vs. Christological Readings

I've currently reading through Desta Heliso's Pistis and the Righteous One (Mohr/Siebeck, 2007) which is about Romans 1.17. As I see it, this is the case, pro and con, for the christological intepretation of Rom. 1.17:

1. It is absurd to talk of human faith as the mechanism through which the "righteousness of God" is revealed when, in Rom. 3.21-26, it takes place in the Christ-event (Heliso, p. 36).
2. Could not the phrase "the righteous [one] shall live by faith" refer to the Messiah who acquired eschatological life through his faithfulness and is the one who will come to save the faithful (Heliso, p. 70)?
3. Hab. 2.3-4 was interpreted messianically in the LXX .
4. The title ho dikaios was a christological title in the early church (e.g. Acts 3.14; 7.52).

But on the negative side (see esp. Francis Watson):

1. Christ is not mentioned by name in the entire passage!
2. Paul's main concern is to demonstrate: (a) the conformity of his gospel to the pattern of Scripture, and (b) to show the link of "righteousness" and "faith" in counter-point to an ethnocentric nomism.
3. Most uses of Hab. 2.3-4 in Judaism (e.g. Qumran) were not messianic.
4. 1.16 clearly focuses on human faith, while 1.17 is probably more focused on divine faithfulness.

I find it hard to go past the anthropological reading when it is tied more closely to divine activity (as opposed to a believing versus doing antithesis). Mark Seifrid is about to argue (in our forthcoming "Faith of Jesus Christ" book) that this passage means "Faith has its source in the faithfulness of the God who promises and fulfills". Interesting stuff!


Geoff Hudson said...

Clearly the writer was planning a return (1.13) to brothers in Rome he was already very familiar with -a familiarity very evident in Romans.

Thuis 1.13b "in order that I might have a harvest among you just as I have had among the other Gentiles" is later fictitious interpolation to support the idea of a mission to Gentiles. All of 1.13b thru 1.17is Pauline fabrication, including the Pauline "righteousness by faith" in 1.17.

Continuing at 1.18, it wasn't the wrath of God being revealed from heaven, but the Spirit. It was being revealed, not "against all the godlessness and wickedness of 'men'", but against the impure spirits of "men". These did not suppress "the truth" of the gospel, but suppressed their spirit of truth - one of the two spirits possessed by all, as in the DSS. And they did it, not by "their wickedness", but by their other spirit, the spirit of deceit or darkness. The spirit of truth from God had been in "men" since the creation. (1.20). Thus it wasn't that "men" "knew" God "from what he has made", but that they heard God by the spirit of truth within them. And significantly, they didn't regard that spirit of truth as God (1.21) i.e. they rejected the Spirit of cleansing. The original prophetic writer was not referring to "men" in general, but priests. And it wasn't their "thinking" that became futile", but that their spirits of truth were darkened, by their spirits of deceit.

Rachel said...

It won't be easy for Mark S to make this case, given that you simply can't read the Hab 2:4 quotation in 1:17b as a reference to the faithfulness of God, and yet this quotation grounds a phrase in the preceding series that he wants to read in this way.... (This ground has, incidentally, been covered before.) Francis W just tends to beg the question here. When you say that the gospel is having its conformity to scripture demonstrated, (a) this isn't strictly speaking true; the quotation is underwriting the statements in 1:16-17b; and (b) it doesn't exclude a christocentric reading (obviously!). The NT frequently uses texts messianically that pre-Christian Judaism did not use messianically (!). Isa 53? That divine faithfulness is "probably" the obvious counterpart to human faith, is a pretty strange argument. And so on.

At bottom, you need to show how "faith" functions as an instrument that reveals God's righteousness. This is what the text actually says. The faithful Christ obviously does this. How does YOUR faith, or even God's faith, do this? Good luck!

Douglas Campbell