Doing Right

Chris Tilling’s Beyond Old and New Perspectives on Paul reviews, summarizes, evaluates the work of Douglas Campbell, especially his monumental The Deliverance of God. It’s a thorough review. There are essays from leading New Testament scholars, and Campbell responds to each, and also contributes several substantial essays of his own, to which others respond.

In his essay on the dikaio– language of Paul, Campbell highlights the connection between God’s righteousness and His kingship. Drawing on Richard Hays, Campbell argues, as he did in his book, that Romans 1:16-17 echoes Psalm 98’s declaration that King Yahweh has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. From this and other evidence, Campbell concludes that the word dikaiosune in Paul “seems to have a connotation of rightness’” (201).

God displays His righteousness when He acts rightly, and since He is king it’s right for Him to rescue. As Campbell points out, the distinction between executive and judicial wasn’t known, or at least wasn’t clear-cut, in the ancient world. Kings judged, and they judged not only in a courtroom setting but in “executive actions” (202), which often took the form of saving actions.

Thus, “It is ‘right’ for a king to save his people when they are in extremity; this is the appropriate ethical action for a ruler in relation to the ruled. . . . And the same applies to the divine monarch. In situations of duress something right is happening precisely in and as something saving happens” (202).

Kingship, Campbell argues, is more fundamental than covenant, but Scott Hafemann responds by pointing out that the appeal for God’s saving help is rooted in God’s prior commitment, His covenant commitment to Israel: “What obligates God is not the fact that he is a king per se, but the fact that he is a King over Israel as a result of His own covenant-creating and covenant-sustaining actions in fulfillment of his promises to the patriarchs” (218). 

Hafemann is right to stress the covenant form of God’s kingship. Taking that into account, we can still affirm Campbell’s point that God’s righteousness is right action, that it is right action because it is action in accord with God’s status as King of Israel and Judge of all the earth, and that righteousness is necessarily a saving, delivering act. 

"FYI our Uniting Church of Australia has its Pitt Street Uniting Church led by a ..."

Canon and Church
"I quite agree. But our knowledge of Jesus comes from the narrative traditions which were ..."

Canon and Church
"If God is indeed real and good then anyone whom does not teach good is ..."

Canon and Church
"Why use Paul (just some guy) as your measuring stick. His philosophy was entirely different ..."

Canon and Church

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!