Book Notice: Colin Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Book Notice: Colin Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans July 23, 2012

Colin G. Kruse
Paul’s Letter to the Romans
PNTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012.
Available at

Colin Kruse teaches at the Melbourne School of Theology. I first came across Colin Kruse’s work when I read his helpful volume Paul, the Law, and Justification, which was one of the most helpful and nuanced things on Paul back in the late 1990s (esp. on the “righteousness of God”). It was formative for for my own book The Saving Righteousness of God. I also liked his 2 Corinthians commentary as well when doing some sermon prep on 2 Corinthians. (TNTC). But Kruse is not just a Pauline scholar, he’s also worked in John and Kruse has written commentaries on John (TNTC) and the Johannine Letters (PNTC). He was also a contributor to the book I co-edited with Joel Willitts on Paul and the Gospels, writing one of the essays on Paul and John for which Kruse was ideal for. Here Kruse’s piece replaces  a work by a fellow Australian, Leon Morris, in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series. Let me give a few highlights.

According to Kruse, Romans is really an exposition and defence of the gospel. The primary purpose of Romans was to minister to the believers in Rome for whom Paul felt a certain responsibility and to ensure that their understanding of the gospel was worthy of God. Secondarily it was to prepare for his visit to Rome and his journey to Spain. In his introduciton, Kruse has a section on the New Perspective, where he notes how Dunn and Wright have clarified their positions in recent years and assuaged some reservations. Even so, he adds: “However, while justification of believers does lead on to their being incorporated into the people of God, that would appear to be a by-product of rather than intrinsic to justification itself” . Kruse, very reminiscent of Morris, argues that Romans (and Paul) are very theocentric. Kruse states:

The gospel Paul expounds is the gospel of God in which the righteousness of God, the grace of God, and the love of God are revealed. God’s sovereign will is determinative in the matter of salvation as he exercises his divine perogative to have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. God himself is the primary agent of salvation, and he effects it through the redemptive activity of the Son whom he put forward as an atoning sacrifice for sins. Accordingly, the focus of Paul’s exposition of God’s saving activity is upon the work of the Son. Perhaps it may be said, then, that, as far as Romans is concerned, the centre, heart, and organizing principle of Pauline theology is the action of God thorugh the person and work of Jeuss Christ to deal with the effects of human sin, individually, communally, and cosmically. In brief, as far as Romans is concerned, the centrum Paulinium is the gospel of God comprehensively conceived (p. 33).

Kruse believes that the “righteousness of God” in Rom 1:16 has five different aspects: distributive justice, covenant faithfulness, saving action, gift of a right relationship, and leads to a righteousness of/in life. At its root is the conception that God acts in accordance with his own nature for the sake of his name (a la Piper). In Rom 2:14, Kruse contends that physei pertains to the Gentiles themselves and not to do their “doing” of the law, i.e., the Gentiles who by nature do not have the law. He regards “works of the law” (e.g., Rom 3:20) as primarily the moral commands of the law.

Kruse adopts an objective genitive reading for pistis christou in Rom 3:22. Then in Rom 4:25, Kruse sees “the death and resurrection of Jesus as one great salvation event that secured both our forgiveness and our justification.” He sees Romans 5 as connected to Romans 5-8. Kruse understands Rom 5:12 to mean that the “primary cause [of death] is Adam’s disobedience, through which death first entered the world, and the secondary cause is the sin of disobedience of all human beings, who likewise bring death upon themselves.” Romans 7 gives a historic and experiential exposition of what life is like under the law. Concerning Romans 9, Kruse thinks that there is an election of individuals since some persons accept the gospel and others do not, which is what Paul is trying to explain. In Rom 11:25, he supposes that “all Israel” is the elect of Israel of all time rather than “all Israel” redefined as all believing Jews and Gentiles. Kruse adopts the traditional view in Romans 14 that the “weak” are Jewish Christians possibly including proselytes, while the  “strong” are Gentile Christians including some Jewish Christians like Paul. On Junia vs. Junias in Rom 16:7, Kruse comments: “The assumption that it must be male is a striking indictment of male presumption regarding the character and structure of earliest Christianity.” Though he thinks “apostle” in this context means “travelling missionary.”

A very good solid commentary. While some remarks struck me as a tad stale, like Kruse’s handling of “works of law,” it is still insightful and learned at most points. Worth having on hand and a good addition to any library.

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