In the latest issue of JBL is an article by Paula Fredriksen on “Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the Ten Commandments, and Pagan ‘Justification by faith,’” JBL 133.4 (2014): 801-7.
Fredriksen attempts to understand “justification by faith” beyond its usual theological discourse and identify the meaning of the phrase in its original social context. Her starting point is Josephus, Ant. 18.116-19 with John the Baptist’s preaching of “piety” and “righteousness” which correspond to the two tables of the Ten Commandments: commands 1-5 (piety toward God) and commands 6-10 (justice towards others).
Fredriksen points out that while Paul insisted that Gentiles did not convert to Judaism and obey the Jewish law, even so, he still urged them to adopt Jewish practices like monotheism, avoiding fornication, and idolatry. So Paul does “judaize” them in some sense. Fredriksen contends that dikaiosyne for Gentiles involves conforming them implicitly to table 1 of the decalogue (with faith in one god) and explicitly to table 2 of the decalogue (in righteous conduct towards others).
When Paul’s pagans, then, adhered steadfastly to the good news brought by his message (“believed in the gospel”), they ceased worshiping their own gods and committed themselves to teh god of Israel through his Son (the cluster of ideas around pisteuo). Made right by God toward God, they were likewise pneutmatically enabled to make right toward each other by acting rightly toward each other, “not like the ethne who do not know God” (1 Thess 4:5; cf. Rom 1:18-32). Their pistis in Christ (confidence that he had died, had been raised, and was soon coming back) righteoused them (through the giving of pneuma, which also effected adoption) so that they could “fulfill the law,” specifically, the Law’s Second Table, diakiosyne. Thus, in the same place where Paul reviews the sins of the flesh that Christ-following pagans have left behind (Rom 13:13-14), and where he speaks urgently of the impending end (Rom 13:13-14), and where he speaks urgently of the impending end (1311-12), he also lists the commandments of the Second Table (13:9-10). “Righteoused” pagans, spirit-filled, enabled by their commitment to Christ and, through him, to God, act “righteously” toward others in community. This is what Paul meant by “justification by faith.” (p.808).
Some interesting things here:
- Fredriksen seems to think of justification as both declaration and transformation, which makes sense in some places (see Rom 6:7 and Acts 13:39), but is not a new idea, Kasemann, Stuhlmacher, and Garlington have advocated this, albeit in Protestant theological terms.
- I think Fredriksen is right that when Gentiles as justified/righteous, they are also lead by the Spirit to do righteousness, which means fulfilling the Torah, as per Rom 8:4, 13:9-10, and maybe Gal 6:2.
- The thing lacking in Fredriksen’s article I think is an account of what other Jews – whether Christ-believers or non-Christ believers – would have found objectionable to this and why.
Over at Faith Forward, Paul Holloway responds to my earlier post about his denunciation of Sewanee University for awarding N.T. Wright an honorary doctorate.Thankfully Holloway's response attempts some actual reasoning and tries to provide some kind of substance to his criticism of Wright rather than resorting to hyperbolic and vitriolic protest as he did previously. Let me say that there is nothing wrong with robust criticism of Wright, for case in point, see John Barclay's critique of Paul … [Read More...]
I just read a most intriguing article by Matthew W. Bates on "A Christology of Incarnation and Enthronement: Romans 1:3-4 as unified, Nonadoptionist, and Nonconciliatory," CBQ 77.1 (2015): 107-27 (FYI, follow the link and read it on Academia.edu).3a περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ // concerning his Son 3b … [Read More...]
I've been reflecting on Rom 12:2, "Love must be sincere," and I came across this quote from Kierkegaard: The best defense against hypocrisy is love; indeed, it is not only a defense but a chasmic abyss; in all eternity it has nothing to do with hypocrisy. This is also a fruit by which love is known … [Read More...]
Recently I've come across two notable books about Christianity and other Religions.Bob Robinson Jesus and the Religions: Retrieving a Neglected Example for a Multi-Cultural World Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2012.Robinson looks at how Jesus in the Gospels related to "others" like Samaritans and … [Read More...]
In The Atlantic is a great piece by Graham Ward on What ISIS Really Wants, which I think is compulsory reading for anyone interested in the conflict.We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of … [Read More...]
Christmas has come early for NT geeks as Codex Vaticanus (B) is now available on-line including LXX and NT.The Vatican Library has digitised Codex Vaticanus. It is an majuscule manuscript that dates to the mid-fourth century and contains almost the entire Christian canon in Greek, including most … [Read More...]
Zondervan is having a big ebook sale on books about the Apostle Paul. I thought I'd annotate these a bit with Paul's own comments.Zondervan's eBook Sale ends Sunday, March 1 at 11:59pm ET. (3/1/15)Four Views on the Apostle Paul Michael F. Bird, General Editor Deal $3.99 | Original … [Read More...]
Benjamin L. White Remembering Paul: Ancient and Modern Contests over the Image of the Apostle Oxford: OUP, 2014. Available at Amazon.comThis book is a revised version of Benjamin White's doctoral dissertation written at Chapel Hill under the supervision of Bart Ehrman. In a nutshell, White … [Read More...]
I just read a great piece by Jeremy R. Treat, "Gospel and Doctrine in the Life of the Church," SBET 32.2 (2014): 180-94. (Read the whole thing here).I liked it because it dovetails nicely with many of the things I was arguing for in my Evangelical Theology about the centrality of the gospel for t … [Read More...]
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Congrats to my former PhD student Dr. David Wenkel for the publication of his thesis with Paternoster entitled, Joy in Luke-Acts: The Intersection of Rhetoric Narrative and Emotion. According to the blurb: This monograph explores the joy theme in Luke- Acts as it relates to the dynamics of … [Read More...]
I was on a silent retreat recently and during my quiet time I read Richard B. Hays' new book Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness. Its just over a hundred pages and makes a wonderful weekend read. In short, Hays demonstrates that you have to understand the OT to u … [Read More...]
Recently N.T. Wright was awarded an honorary doctorate by Sewanee University of the South. It is Wright's 15th honorary doctorate as well. However, not everyone at Sewanee was terribly pleased about granting Wright this honour.Paul Holloway has written what can only be called a nasty and … [Read More...]