Interview with Colin Kruse on Romans

Interview with Colin Kruse on Romans August 7, 2012

Here is my interview with Dr. Colin Kruse of Melbourne School of Theology on Romans and his Romans commentary:

1. What did you learn most about Paul, God, and the Christian life in writing a Romans commentary?

Paul stands out as a dedicated pastor committed to promote the Christian understanding and faithfulness to God of those for whom he was responsible. He felt deeply for his own people who had not yet embraced their Messiah. In dealing with both these matters he reveals himself as one with a clear understanding of the gospel of God and how it applies in concrete situations. God is revealed as the sovereign Lord of creation and history who out of deep love for humankind initiates the great plan of salvation. His righteousness is emphasised both in his acts of judgment and salvation, but above all it is his grace and love for all people, including the people of Israel, that is emphasised. The life of the Christian is predominantly one lived under the under the grace of God where there is no condemnation, and where nothing can separate the believer from the love of God in Christ. The believer is freed from the law–it no longer has a place in the conscience as far as acceptability before God is concerned. Gratitude to God and love fellow believers are the motivating forces of the believer’s life.

2. What other commentaries or studies did you find the most helpful in your own study of Romans?

This is a difficult question to answer because I have profited in different ways from so many scholarly contributions. Among others, major commentaries by Moo, Jewett, Fitzmyer, Byrne, Dunn, Cranfield, Witherington and Wright all proved stimulating, as did articles and monographs on particular exegetical issues that are too many to list.

3. Like Leon Morris you emphasize the theocentric element of Romans. How has this been eclipsed or down played in recent years?

I have not paid particular attention to the way earlier works have or have not emphasized the theocentric element in Romans. Rather it was in my reading of Romans that I recognised the central factors of God’s initiative in salvation, the defence of his righteousness, the stress upon his love, and his sovereign purposes. These things led me to highlight the theocentric element in Romans.

4. You have a fairly comprehensive view of the “righteousness of God,” why five elements and not just one like “covenant faithfulness” or “saving justice”?

As I worked through Romans it became evident that to restrict Paul’s understanding of the righteousness of God to either ‘covenant faithfulness’ or ‘saving justice’, important though these themes are, fails to do justice to the ways Paul employs the concept. In particular it fails to take proper notice of Paul’s insistence that God is righteous when he recompenses people according to their works, and of the importance of God’s gift of righteousness to those who believe in his Son.

5. What did the NPP get right and what did it get wrong?

The new perspective on Paul has made a positive contribution in drawing attention to the fact that in principle Jewish religion ought to be one based on God’s election and grace, rather than one in which people obtained justification by performing works of the law. It has also helpfully drawn attention to the fact that Paul’s doctrine of justification was worked out in the context of his mission to the Gentiles, and forms part of his defence of the right of believing Gentiles to be included in the covenant community. What it failed to take proper note of is that the Jewish literature of the Second Temple period, while in places reflecting what may be described as covenantal nomism, in other places it clearly reflects a legalistic approach to religion.

6. Briefly, what does Paul say about the atonement in Romans 3?

Paul introduces the concept of atonement in Romans 3 in defence of the righteousness of God in justifying sinners. Providing Christ as the ‘sacrifice of atonement’ (hilasterion) enables God to be both just and the justifier of sinners who believe in his Son. Hilasterion can carry the meanings of expiation (removal of sin) propitiation (removal of the wrath of God towards sinners) and the mercy seat (the place where in the OT cult where the blood of sacrifice was sprinkled). There may be an allusion the to mercy seat in Romans 3, and expiation is certainly involved. The idea of propitiation cannot be excluded in a letter where Paul stresses that in the gospel the power of God for salvation is revealed because the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of human beings.

7. Why did you not adopt a subjective genitive of pistis christou in Rom 3:22?

There was a time when I was attracted to the view that pistis christou in Rom 3:22 was to be interpreted as a subject genitive (the faithfulness of Christ), but in light of the overall thrust of Romans to emphasize that it is by faith in Christ, rather than through works of the law, that people are justified by God I have changed my mind. I now construe it to mean ‘faith in Christ’. The objection that this latter approach involves redundancy in Rom 3:22 (‘through faith in Christ for all who believe’) may be overcome when the statement is regarded as one of emphasis: through faith in Christ for all who believe, i.e. through faith in Christ for both Jews and Gentiles.

8. In a nutshell, what is your view of the “wretched man” of Romans 7?

In my view, the ‘wretched man’ of Romans 7 is an instance of the ‘speech-in-character’ mode of address used to denote Israel’s historical encounter with the law and her ongoing experience of life under the law. To this some aspects of the autobiographical view that the ‘I’ represents Paul’s pre-Christian experience could be added because he could identify with the predicament of the Israel since, prior to his conversion to Christ, he would have experienced what it was like to live under the law.

9. What do you think is the most important thing that reading and studying Romans can do the churches today?

If I understand it correctly, the essential purpose of Romans was to establish Roman believers firmly in their faith and commitment to Christ through an clear explanation of the gospel and its implications for Christian living. Continual engagement with the letter can have similar benefits for believers today.

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