A Sample Passage from the Comments on Romans:
The period for the writing of this letter is determined by John A.T. Robinson (Redating the New Testament, The Westminster Press, 1976) to be circa AD 57. It is generally accepted that Paul wrote it from Corinth, or nearby Cenchrea, and had plans to visit the called-out covenant community (which likely was still meeting in homes) in Rome, and from there to proceed to Spain. He had not founded the Christian group to whom he is writing, and had not yet had opportunity to visit them, although he had friends and relatives there and some had been his co-workers in the message of Christ when they had lived in Corinth.
Paul addresses many issues in this letter, both theological and ethical, and in the passages dealing with the latter it becomes clear that there were divisions among the groups – most likely between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians (who were, apparently, the dominant group) – and so one of his aims is to effect peace and harmony between them. Paul's skill in rhetoric to achieve this end is masterfully presented in Paul’s Letter to the Romans, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, by Ben Witherington III, with Darlene Hyatt (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004).
Another view of the purpose of this letter is given by E.P. Sanders in Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Fortress Press, 1977) where he follows Gunther Bornkamm's observation (Geschichte und Glaube II, and Paul, 1971) that the situation addressed in Romans has in view the issue of the Jews and the Law, and also has in mind Paul’s impending visit to Jerusalem. Sanders says,
"The letter to Rome, while recapitulating many themes from other correspondence, is really concerned with the Jewish-Gentile problem.... [and] is to assert that salvation is for both Jews and Gentiles and that it must be based on the same ground. That ground cannot be the law and must therefore be faith" (p 487-8; emphasis his; brackets mine).
Rudolf Bultmann (Theology of the New Testament, Vo. 1, 1952) posits, "In chapter 5 [Paul] endeavors to demonstrate that eschatological life, though a matter of hope, is, nevertheless, in a certain manner already a present reality. Further, he shows in 6:1-7:6 that even sin has lost its domination for the rightwised.... [and] chapter 8 is the conclusion; it deals once more with freedom from sin (8:1-11) and from death (8:12-39)..." (p 279; brackets mine).
With a nod to these scholars, noted above, in this work I shall also draw on insights by J.R. Daniel Kirk, Unlocking Romans, Resurrection and the Justification of God (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008) where he points to the issue of theodicy (Has God been just in His dealings with Israel, considering His covenantal promises to them?) and where he discusses resurrection as a central theme of the letter.
My own comments will be based upon my translation of the text and upon views from a variety of other scholars, which will be cited within the body of the work. Among those will be Mark D. Nanos and David H. Stern whose respective works shed insights from the Jewish context of this letter. The views of C.H. Dodd will at some points present us with perspectives from his era and theology, and the more recent work of Douglas A. Campbell will inform us from The Deliverance of God, An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), with whom I agree the most – of all the scholars cited in this work. Consideration will be given to the possible alternate renderings of the Greek, which my translation provides, and some explanations of the effects of these differences in translating (or: in the variant readings of other MSS) will also be provided to assist the reader.
Werner Kummel suggested, "The Epistle to the Romans bears a double character: It is basically a dialogue of the Pauline gospel with Judaism... And yet... contains expressions which definitely characterize the congregation as Gentile Christians.... [and] is conditioned by the fact that Paul, in seeking an association with the Roman Christians in the interests of his further missionary work.... says to them what to him is the essence of Christianity and the content of the gospel..." (Introduction to the New Testament, 14th Rev. Ed., Abingdon Press, 1965, p 218, 221),
but Campbell makes a strong case that,
"Fundamentally, Romans was written for the same reasons that Galatians was written – to defend Paul's gospel against the depredations of certain hostile countermissionaries... [and is] an engagement primarily with false teachers [16:17-20]... [and] is a full-fledged engagement with 'another gospel that is really no gospel at all' [Gal. 1:6-7]" (ibid p 495ff; brackets mine).
He further sees this letter to the Romans as, "... little more than a reminder of what the Roman Christians already know independently of Paul" (ibid p 499; cf 15:14-15, below).
As in his letter to the Galatians, we will find Paul drawing upon and reinterpreting the OT stories of Abraham; and as in 1 Cor. 15, we will find references to Adam's place in God's plan of the ages. My purpose is to let Paul’s text speak afresh to us, as we consider the letter verse by verse, as well as providing some alternative interpretations from various scholars.
1. Paul, Jesus Christ’s slave (or: a slave servant of and from [the] Anointed One, Jesus; a slave belonging to Jesus [the] Anointed [= Messiah]), a called person, one sent forth with a mission (or: an ambassador or emissary by invitation), being one having been marked off by boundaries (fully parted and determined by bounds; separated away and limited off; delineated; defined) unto God’s good news (or: into a message of goodness and well-being which is God),
The way of real living that has been pointed out to us (dikaiosune) is somewhat of a paradox. In Gal. 5:1 Paul instructs us, “For freedom, Christ immediately set us free…,” and then he begins this letter by describing this new life in Christ as one of being His slave. Here, he follows the advice of Jesus for kingdom living: assume a low position – one of service (Mat. 20:26, 27; Lu. 14:7-11). In this, Paul is saying that Jesus Christ owns him, and so all the rest – being a person that has been called; being a person that has been sent forth with a mission; being a person that has been marked off by boundaries unto God’s good news – relates to and has its source in God’s sovereign ownership (the meaning of “Lord,” by the way) of Paul. What an example. We should keep this in mind when we read Paul saying,
“Progressively come to be imitators of me, correspondingly as I, myself, also [am] of Christ and from [the] Anointing.” (1 Cor. 11:1)
But to those in Rome, this self-description would not only be a humble introduction of himself, but it also would demonstrate to everyone (and especially, the “strong” – probably the Gentile component – 15:1) the attitude that members of Christ should have toward one another, as well as the position in the community which they should assume.
Next he identifies himself as a called person. His role and function was not that of a volunteer. His Master had called him to be a follower, and to serve a specific function for the body of Christ. He also identifies himself with the original twelve disciples (students, apprentices) by using this term, for Jesus had called each of them personally for the tasks that He had in mind for them.
Paul was one sent forth with a mission (or: an ambassador or emissary). As such, he had the authority of the One who sent him on this life-mission, but that mission was to bring the message of goodness, ease and well-being (an expanded meaning of the word often rendered, “evangel,” or “good news”), which is Jesus Christ (cf Mark 1:1, rendered in apposition) and which Paul says here is God’s good news: namely, Israel’s Messiah has come and all the ethnic multitudes (nations; Gentiles; goyim) are now included in His covenant and the new creation.
The final clause of this verse describes the definite call and mission that Paul was given. It defined and described his new life: one having been marked off by boundaries (fully parted and determined by bounds; separated away and limited off; delineated; defined) unto God’s good news (or: into a message of goodness and well-being which is God). The risen Christ “fully separated [him] away” from Judaism, “limited off” his purposes in life, “delineated” his function in the kingdom and for the covenant communities, and “defined” who he now was:
“For you see, to me, to be living [is] Christ (or: For the [situation] in me and for me, life [is the] Anointed One)...” (Phil. 1:21) “I was crucified together with Christ [= the Messiah], and thus it remains (or: I have been jointly put on the execution stake in [the] Anointed One, and continue in this state), yet I continue living!
[It is] no longer I, but it is Christ continuously living and alive within me!” (Gal. 2:20) This is how Paul regarded himself, and how he presented himself to those in Rome whom he desired to help with this letter.
Right from the start, Paul is alerting his audience that the message that he proclaims is the fulfillment of God’s promise – and it was a promise that was delivered to Israel, by Israel’s prophets. From this we should conclude that he expects the community in Rome to have some familiarity with the OT.
If we recall the incident when the resurrected Jesus spoke with two people (presumably, disciples, since they knew where to find “the eleven”) on their way to Emmaus, we see that,
“beginning from Moses, and then from all the prophets, He continued to fully interpret and explain to (or: for) them the things pertaining to (or: the references about) Himself within all the Scriptures.” (Lu. 24:27)
So Paul is laying the foundation for his arguments which will follow. He will base them upon Israel’s Scriptures. It is not unreasonable to assume that Paul would have been aware of this incident from Luke, who wrote his gospel around the same time that Paul is writing this letter (following Robinson’s dating).
Paul uses the same verb bounded (etc.) about God’s Son that he does about himself, in vs. 1, minus the intensifying prefix, apo (from which we get “fully parted and determined by bounds,” or, “fully separated”). Paul is subtly saying that just as Jesus had a set course for His life, determined by God (which the passive voice implies), he, too, was bound to follow the same course as his Master – as an extension of the same work. If we take the extended meaning of the verb, “appointed” (in fact Moffatt renders the word, “installed”) it would then point toward reading Paul as using the phrase God’s Son in the sense that it was used of Israel in Ex. 4:22, 23, making a definite connection to the salvation history of Israel, and the deliverance executed by God with their exodus. Or, this title would flow with vs. 3, where he is affirming His being in the royal lineage, and he might be echoing Ps. 2:
7. Do let me recount the statute of Yahweh: He has said to Me, My Son, [are] You; I, today, have begotten You.
Or, 2 Sam. 7:14, referring to Solomon,
“I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.”
However, taking the more literal meaning of the word: “defined, separated or determined (by a boundary),” we can connect the phrase God’s Son with what follows. Let us consider this chain of three prepositional phrases:
a) immersed within the midst of power and in union with ability. I have given two renderings of the preposition en, the first indicating location or sphere, the second indicating union from being centered-in and thus joined-to. I also have expanded dunamis to its two central meanings: power and ability. Both of these renderings of the phrase make sense, and giving the two expands our perceptions of what Paul was saying. Christ was either ontologically God’s Son, and existed immersed in God’s Spirit of setapartness with an attitude of holiness and sacredness, or, as a man (stressing the line of thought from vs. 3), immersed at His baptism, when the Breath-effect descended upon Him, anointing Him and setting Him apart as the Messiah.
b) down from (or: corresponding to and on a level with; in the sphere of) a Breath-effect of setapartness (or: an attitude of holiness and sacredness; a spirit pertaining to being set apart). Here the preposition is kata. My first rendering, down from is the most literal, is a spatial and directional meaning. It would indicate that the object of this preposition, a Breath-effect of set-apartness (etc.) is the source of the power and ability. The second rendering is a use that signifies correspondence, so this would indicate that the power and ability “corresponded” to “a spirit of being set apart,” or “an attitude of holiness and sacredness,” or that the effect of God’s qualities of being “set-apart” had a corresponding influence that gave Christ power and ability. The next two renderings, “on a level with” and “in the sphere of” indicate that the power and ability have an intensity equal to God’s holiness, and operate within the realm of God’s influence and existence within His creation.
c) forth from out of a resurrection (a standing back up again) from among dead folks. From this phrase, some have suggested that Paul is saying that it was His resurrection that “defined and determined” Jesus Christ as God’s Son. However, from the semantic range of the verb, discussed above, it can also be concluded that it was the resurrection that “designated” and “marked [Him] off” as a Son who is God (reading this last genitive phrase as apposition). The theological view of the reader will guide him or her in the conclusion of which is the correct rendering of those on offer in my translation.
Still another view of “from standing back up again (or: out of a resurrection), out from among dead people” is that of this being a vindication of who He was and is, and it was this act of God that “declared [Him] to be God’s Son.”
It is this early mentioning of Christ’s resurrection that leads J.R. Daniel Kirk (ibid, p 39ff) to rightly see that this is one of the defining themes of this letter. We will encounter this theme again, and Kirk points out that “the inclusion of Gentiles as Gentiles is often linked with Jesus’ resurrection lordship in Romans” (ibid, p 37). Recall Paul’s passionate response to some in Corinth who said that there is no resurrection of the dead:
“Now if there is presently no resurrection of dead people (or: if there continues being no resurrection of dead ones; if a resurrection of dead ones does not constantly exist), neither has Christ been awakened and raised up. So if Christ has not been awakened and raised up, our message which we preach [is] consequently empty and without content – and your [other MSS: our] faith and trust [is] empty and vacuous…” (1 Cor. 15:13-14)
Resurrection is definitely a central element of Paul’s theology, so we should expect to find it in his most extensive theological work. Note the present tense of the verb, in vs. 13 of this quote. It is worth pondering. Paul is speaking of an existential reality to the Corinthians.
Campbell points to this verse as an indicator of Paul's emphasis on eschatological, resurrection life,
saying, "In the light of this cue, it is difficult to interpret the citation of Hab. 2:4 in Rom. 1:17 in any other sense; 'the righteous one because of faithfulness will live' in the sense of '... be resurrected" (ibid p 686).
In reference to this text, from 1:1b-4, he recommends this emphasis on Jesus' Davidic descent "be correlated in a significant interplay with the ancient discourse of kingship," as found, e.g., in many of the Psalms, and that we should, "begin to recognize [this theme] as programmatic for much of the rest of Romans" (ibid p 695; brackets mine).
One thing that this verse firmly establishes is that Jesus is the Messiah, and that He is our Lord, not Caesar (remember, he is writing to the capital of the Roman Empire, and allegiance to the emperor was affirmed by saying, “Caesar is Lord.”). But Paul’s long sentence continues:
5. through Whom we receive grace, as well as a sending off with a mission [leading] unto faith’s obedience (or: obedience that springs from trust and loyalty; [the] paying attention associated with loyal allegiance; or, as apposition: "obedience which faith is" – Rudolf Bultmann) among all the ethnic multitudes, over [the essence, reality and power of] His Name
(or: through means of Whom we at one point received a joy-producing act of favor, and then suddenly took in hand a commission as emissaries with a view to a humble and submissive hearkening – along with an appropriate response, which is faithfulness – and a giving-of-the-ear from beneath [Him], with compliant listening and paying attention that has its source in trust and involved commitment, within all the non-Jewish nations for the sake of and in behalf of His Name [and reputation]),
The statement, through Whom we receive grace echoes John’s gospel, in 1:17,
“the Law was given through Moses, yet grace and truth are birthed (or: joyous favor and reality came to be) through Jesus Christ.”
This not only affirms Paul’s distinction between the Law and the good news from Jesus Christ, but it also is a witness that Paul and the other followers of Jesus proclaimed the same evangel, even if they were given different understandings about it, and received individual revelations about what the Christ event inaugurated.
Here grace, another core theme of Paul’s teachings, also makes an early appearance. It, too, is a key ingredient that we will see further developed as we proceed through his letter.
The second half of the first clause brings up not only another key ingredient of their mission (note Paul’s use of the word “we,” here: he is speaking corporately). The phrase faith’s obedience has been a topic of debate, over the centuries. It is either a genitive or an ablative phrase, and my bold rendering translates it as a genitive of possession, indicating the obedience which belongs to faith – that is, an obedience that is a part of the faith that has been implanted into us through the proclamation of the message of good news, the Word which is Christ.
The next option expresses this phrase as an ablative, indicating the source: obedience that springs from trust and loyalty. Here, there are two possibilities:
1) the obedience spawned in us is the result of Christ’s faithfulness, trust, faith and loyalty, i.e., the result of the work of the cross.
2) the obedience comes from the trust and loyalty that has been implanted within us by the coming of the Word and the Spirit to dwell within us.
A third option combines grace and the mission of the sent-forth folks as the driving force [leading] into “[the] paying attention associated with loyal allegiance” of those unto whom they are ministering.
The forth option, suggested by Rudolf Bultmann, takes the genitive of “faith” as in apposition to “obedience,” and we have “obedience which faith is.” In other words, faith becomes obedience, because that is what obedience is – it is the fruit, the inherent produce, of faith and trust (and here again we have the ablative, presented in our second option). Or, we can say that the two are identical.
The phrases, among all the ethnic multitudes, over [the essence, reality and power of] His Name, describe first the scope of the effects of the Christ event, moving through Paul’s and his co-workers mission, beyond the original mission “unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (by Jesus and his first disciples), on to “all the ethnic multitudes.” The whole world is now included. This foreshadows Paul’s arguments based upon the promises made to Abraham, seen below, and his reaching back all the way to the story of Adam to demonstrate the universal reach of the work of the cross.
The second phrase gives the key and authority that operate and rule over the essence, reality and power of God’s message of goodness: His Name. It was into His Name (which encompassed all the aspects of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) that His disciples were to,
“…instruct and make disciples (at some point enlist students and apprentices) of all the ethnic
multitudes (the pagans; the Gentiles; the nations; the non-Israelites).” (Mat. 28:19)
They had the same mission as did Paul.
I have offered an alternate rendering of the entire verse in the parenthetical expansion. I owe this rendering of grace, as “a joy-producing act of favor,” to Jim Coram, a scholar whom I highly respect. “Took in hand” gives a more personally involved, and literal, picture of what is rendered receive, and gives a simple past rendering for the aorist tense, instead of the simple present of the bold rendering.
For the phrase faith’s obedience, I expanded and conflated other ways of saying this, as:
“with a view to a humble and submissive hearkening – along with an appropriate response, which is faithfulness – and a giving-of-the-ear from beneath [Him], with compliant listening and paying attention that has its source in trust and involved commitment.”
Yes, all that just from two Greek words. Here, you can look at what Paul was saying, as it were, from all four directions and have a comprehensive view of the semantic range of these two words. It is really a beautiful picture, and I just had to paint it for you.
Once again, the final phrases, in different dress: “within all the non-Jewish nations for the sake of and in behalf of His Name [and reputation].” “For the sake of,” and “in behalf of” are two extended meanings of the word that I first rendered literally: over. The former two are more easily understood, as we would say in English, “for His sake,” or “over Him.” But in meditating upon the term, His Name, following the preposition over, the sense that came to me was that it meant something more than something like “for Him.” There is a mystery and a power in His Name.
There in Rome, they were within the midst of all the ethnic multitudes, being examples of the result of the mission of all the followers of Christ. It has been suggested that the Roman community of believers had originated from folks that had been in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. That initial explosion of the fruit of the Spirit scattered many seeds. Notice that Paul is identifying these folks as also being “called ones,” just as he is. He is showing solidarity with them and is validating them. This would not only open their hearts to him, but it would also point out to them that they, too, have a mission among the Gentiles who live in Rome.
7. to (or: for) all those being in Rome: God’s loved ones (folks dearly loved of God), set-apart (holy) called ones, joyous grace and peace to you (or: favor and harmony [= shalom] [are] in and with you) from God, our Father and Lord, Jesus Christ (or: from our Father God, and [the] Master, Jesus Christ; or: from God our Father, even [the] Owner – [the] Anointed Jesus).
The foregoing was a preamble to the letter’s greeting, which he now gives. He further affirms and firmly establishes who they are in Christ: God’s loved ones. They now occupy the same place in God’s heart as does Israel (Deut. 11:10b; Zech. 2:8b). They have been grafted-in among the believing branches of His tree that is the source of anointing people (11:17, below), and which grows within His garden. Next he again affirms their functional relationship to God: set-apart (holy; sacred) called ones. Now everything (and everyone) that God set apart (and thus makes sacred) was (and is) understood to be treated in this way for a purpose. They were to be the Light within the darkness.
Now Paul speaks a blessing: joyous grace and peace to you. However, this could also be another affirmation of their situation: favor and harmony [= the Hebrew word, shalom] [are] in and with you. The prepositions “to, in, with” are all functions of the dative case of the pronoun you. A. E. Harvey points out that instead of the more usual greeting (chairein, literally, “to rejoice”) Paul uses the word charis (joyous grace; favor) and says, “this is almost a pun: the two words are derived from the same stem” (The New English Bible Companion to the New Testament, Oxford University Press, 1970, p 505). In what Harvey suggests as being “a conscious twisting of a conventional expression” (ibid.), we may be able to see not only his again bringing grace forward as a theme, but also his proclaiming that God’s peace is among them and is thus also opening their hearts for internal group reconciliation to heal the division that he will address later in his message to them.
Then we see that Paul speaks for God in the foregoing announcement of there being grace and peace among them (or, he is prophesying this into their midst). God’s emissary holds God’s authority. Furthermore, God is the source of joyous grace, as well as of peace and harmony. He identifies the God of whom he is speaking (for Rome was full of gods, including some of the Caesars who thought of themselves as gods, or as sons of god): our Father and Lord, Jesus Christ. My parenthetical expansion gives alternative renderings of this string of titles: from our Father God, and [the] Master, Jesus Christ; or: from God our Father, even [the] Owner – [the] Anointed Jesus. You may choose the rendering which best suits your views – I am simply offering potential ways that this string of phrases can be translated.
In assessing these first seven verses, Witherington states,
“It is important to bear in mind from the outset that Paul is drawing on and alluding to a storied world... his own story... and the story of Jesus...” (ibid p 30).
With these thoughts to inform us, as we read through the rest of Paul’s letter we may become more aware that Paul had a strategy for what he brought to their table, and when he does it, as he weaves his arguments throughout the entire text.
8. First, indeed, I am constantly giving thanks to my God (or: expressing the well-being and goodness in the grace and favor by my God) – through Jesus Christ – about (with reference to; concerning) all of you folks, because (or: that) your faith, trust and loyalty are being repeatedly proclaimed (or: announced) down within (= throughout the midst of) the whole ordered System (world of culture, economy, government and religion; or: = the Roman Empire).
The parenthetical rendering in the first clause sets forth the core elements that are involved when Paul speaks of giving thanks to my God. The stem of the verb is charis (grace and favor) which is prefixed by the particle eu- (well-being, goodness, ease). This should instruct us about the kind of thinking (our attitude, our outlook) from which we should draw our expressions of gratitude to God, and also remind us that He is the source of the grace and favor that He constantly brings to us, and the goodness that we inhabit in Him. Also, the noun God is in the dative, with no expressed preposition, so we give thanks TO God, and recognize that all this goodness is BY God.
Because we are “in Christ” it is only logical that our communication with God be through Jesus Christ,
for in Col. 3:3 Paul informs us,
“for you folks died, and your life has been hidden so that it is now concealed together with the Christ, within the midst of God (or: in union with God).”
Whether Paul is using hyperbole, or whether it was actually true, the whole Empire knew about the Christians in Rome. Now the word kosmos had a wide semantic range, so it may have been more the world of the Christians, or the broader sense of the religious worlds of paganism, Judaism and Christianity. The thing that was noted about them (and here Paul may be doing some bragging on them – not an unknown rhetorical device) was their faith, trust and loyalty. They were thus well-established believers, so Paul can feed them something more than milk.
9. For you see, God is my Witness (or: continuously exists being my Evidence) – to, in and with Whom I continuously render service (or: for Whom I am hired to constantly work), within my spirit (or: in union with my Breath-effect; in my attitude), within His Son’s good news (or: in union with the message of goodness, ease and well-being pertaining to, coming from, having the character of, and which is, His Son) – how unintermittingly (without intervals in between; unceasingly) I am habitually constructing a memory (or: producing a recollection) pertaining to you (or: making mention of you folks),
Here Paul echoes his opening story of his being God’s slave. He continuously renders service to Him, as one hired to constantly work for Him. But let us not too quickly pass over in, the locative aspect of the dative form of Whom. Paul lives and works/serves IN God, as Col.3:3, above, affirms. Then there is the aspect of God’s imminence: God is also within the service and work of proclaiming His Son’s good news, and so Paul was serving along with God. We see this idea in Mark 16:20,
“He continuously cooperating and working together, and repeatedly establishing (setting on good footing) the message (the Word; the thought; the idea).”
We get a beautiful picture of this in 1 Cor. 3:9,
“For we are God's fellow-workers (or: we are co-workers of and from God; we exist being coworkers who belong to God). You folks are God's farm (or: field under cultivation), God's building (or: construction project; structure, or act of building).”
Our work is within and in union with the message of goodness, ease and well-being which pertains to, comes from, has the character of, and WHICH IS, His Son. This expansion represents the genitive-ablative form of the phrase His Son, expressed in its various functions.
The last clause tells us that Paul, along with the rest of the Empire, was acquainted with various aspects of their community life in Rome, and he was both habitually constructing a memory of the reports that he had heard, and was “making mention” of them to God and to others. Rhetorically, we see that he is telling them that they are already part of his life, even thought they have never met. His prayers (making mention of them) show his solidarity with them and his personal involvement. He will not be coming to them as a complete stranger; already he is a part of them.
10. always upon my thoughts and expressions toward having things go well (or: my prayers), continuously requesting (or: asking) if by any means (or: somehow), at length, I shall sometime be prospered along the path within God’s will and purpose to come to you folks and be face to face with you,
He tells them that he is for them, on their side, and that he wishes them well. In fact, he wants to come to be face to face with them. He not only wants them to know of his work of prayer for them, but he also wants to prepare their hearts to receive him. He expresses his affection by stating his continuously requesting of God that he would be prospered along the path within God’s will and purpose (remember, he is God’s slave; he died, and his life is now hidden with the Christ, within God; his actions depend upon His Master’s will and purpose) to come to them. The phrase if by any means expresses his passion to do this.
11. for I constantly long (or: am increasingly yearning) to see you, to the end that I may share and exchange some spiritual effect of favor with you folks (or: mutually partner in the impartation to you people, and among you, of some gift that is a result of grace and which has its source in the Breath-effect) [leading] into the [situation for] you to be established (firmly settled and made steadfast; stabilized).
The first clause expresses his deep emotions that have a view toward seeing them. They must indeed be special to him, as he above stated that they are to God.
Now he moves to the motive for his visit to them. After all, he could just bypass Rome on a ship bound for Spain. But no, he has a purpose in his visit: to share and exchange some spiritual effect of favor with you folks. This clause and the attending parenthetical expansion both need some explanation. The verb is the word that means “to give” that is prefixed with the preposition meta- which has the root sense of “with” or “together” or “mutual,” but also, in combination – such as here – means “change” or “exchange.” So the meaning of the verb means either “share (i.e., give with, and thus to others),” or “exchange (mutual giving; together giving).” So the sense can also mean “mutually partner in and impartation (or: gift).”
The noun which is the direct object of the verb (just discussed) is charis-ma. Here we encounter our word “grace; favor” again, this time with the –ma ending which signifies effect or result. So what Paul desires to share or exchange with them is an effect of God’s favor, or a result of His grace. He qualifies the noun charisma with the adjective pneumatikos (spiritual; having the character of, and its source from, the Breath-effect, or Spirit). Interaction and inter-participation is key to a healthy community life. He was coming to receive, as well as to give. The life of the body of Christ is a life where each member plays a part.
The goal, the result of such a corporate event is being “established (firmly settled and made steadfast; stabilized)” both individually and corporately.
12. Now this means to be called together to be side-by-side for an interchange of aid, encouragement or consolation among you folks, through the faith and trust within each other – both yours and mine.
Paul now plainly restates in general terms what he has just said in vs. 11. The exchange of the effects of grace will happen when they are all called together to be side by side one another as they exchange encouragement, consolation or help in whatever the need may be. The verb does not describe a formal meeting with one person at the front talking to others. The Greek is sum-para-kaleo: together-beside-to call. It gives the picture of intimacy – small groups, like that which Jesus described in Mat. 18:20, “You see, where there are two or three people that have been led and gathered together into My Name, I am there (in that place) within the midst of and among them."
13. Yet I do not want you to continue to fail to know (or: be unaware or remain ignorant), brothers (= fellow believers and members of the Family), that I often set before myself (purposed and proposed) to come (or: go) to you – and I was prevented until now (up to this point) – to the end that I may have
(or: could hold and enjoy) some fruit within you folks (or: among you), correspondingly as also [I do] within (or: among) the remaining ethnic multitudes (or: the rest of the nations – the non-Israelites; the Gentiles).
In anticipating what he has just expressed regarding his desires to see and be with them, he now impresses upon them his sincerity in these desires, explaining to them that he has often purposed to go to them, but circumstance (or: the Lord – he does not explain) have not let that happen.
He uses an agriculture metaphor in the last part of this verse: fruit. Plants bear fruit only when they have reached a certain stage of maturity, so Paul may be implying that he considers them to be mature enough to be producing the fruit of the Spirit, as in Gal. 5:22, 23,
"love (unrestricted acceptance and the drive to overcome existential separation), joy, peace (or: harmony; [= shalom]), length before a stirring of emotion (slowness of rushing toward something; long-enduring; longsuffering; patience), useful kindness, goodness (virtuousness), faith (or: faithfulness; trust; trustworthiness; loyalty; reliance; reliability; allegiance; fidelity), gentle
friendliness (meekness; mildness), inner strength (self-control)."
Such qualities within the Roman community would have gone a long way to ending any divisions. He also may have been calling to their mind the need to be "abiding in the Vine" (John 15:4, 5).
Bringing up the remaining ethnic multitudes (or: the rest of the nations – the non-Israelites; the Gentiles) may have been his way of reminding them that having a reputation of having divisions or causes for making one another stumble does not seem to fit with what has been their reputation for having faith, or faithfulness, (vs. 8, above) – especially among the covenant communities which Paul had established. He calls to their sense of honor and shame: a key ingredient in the Greco-Roman world in that time.
14. I am (or: I continue being) a debtor to (or: for; or: with) both Greeks (Hellenists) and to (for; with) barbarians (non-Hellenists: those who do not possess Greek culture); to (or: for; with) both wise ones and to (for; with) those without understanding (unintelligent ones; foolish ones; folks who lack sense).
Having just included the covenant community in Rome in the same category as "the rest of the nations – the non-Israelites," or Gentiles, where he was seeking to find the fruit of Christ, he now lets them know that his mission is to all cultures, classes, mental capacities and levels of education. God has not just called smart people, or the elite, or a favored nation, or folks with special talents, but rather, this new creation which brought forth a new arrangement between God and people, and which was established by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is inclusive of all humanity. C. H. Dodd comments, "Thus Greeks and barbarians means practically 'cultured and uncultured.' Similarly, wise and foolish mean educated and uneducated" (The Epistle to the Romans, The Moffat NT Commentary, Harper and Brother Publishers, 1932 p 8).
He further describes his outreach using debt language: he owes this message of freedom to everyone, and is under obligation to bring Christ to all. This phrasing calls to mind the story of the servant who was forgiven an inconceivable debt, and perhaps Paul has this story in mind, and the great debt of which he himself had been forgiven. It was a parable about the kingdom of the heavens, which Jesus told in response to Peter's question about the extent of forgiveness:
"Master (or: Lord), how many times shall my brother be habitually wronging me (or: failing to do or perform unto me as he rightfully should; committing a sin [which penetrates] into me [like being hit with an arrow]), and I shall continue to let it pass away for him (or: forgive him)? Until seven times?" (Mat. 18:21)
Jesus answered him in a way that would suggest making forgiveness of other people a way of life. He said, "Until seventy times seven!" He ended the parable (which was a warning about the consequences of NOT forgiving the debts that people owe us) by saying that each person should release and forgive his brother (fellow human being, or, fellow believer) "from [their] hearts" (vs. 35). Paul saw his own life as a letter to be read and imitated, as cited above, and he describes himself as the foremost of sinners (thus, perhaps, one who had incurred the greatest debt to humanity),
"The Word [is] full of faith, and [is] deserving of every welcome reception of equal value, because (or: Faithful and trustworthy, even worthy of all and complete acceptance, [is] the message and saying that) Christ Jesus came into the ordered System (the world of secular culture, religion, government and economy; or: the cosmos) to rescue failures (to deliver those missing the target; to save and make sinners healthy and whole; to restore outcasts to their rightful position), of whom I myself exist being first (or: am foremost). But nonetheless, through this I was mercied (or: I am given mercy), to the end that within me first (= as the foremost case) Jesus Christ may point out so as to publicly display every emotion which is long in arriving (all long-suffering patience) with a view to being an underline (toward [being] a subtype; as facing a sketch or outline; for a pattern) of those about to be habitually believing(or: progressively trusting; one-after-another placing faith) upon Him, [that is,] into the midst of eonian life (into Life which pertains to and has the qualities and characteristics of the Age [of Messiah]; into life of, and which lasts through, the ages)." – 1 Tim. 1:15-16
Perhaps Paul is picturing himself here, to the Romans, as being a debtor to all cultures and classes so as to plant the seed of forgiveness in his listeners, in regard to the divisions and stumbling blocks among them – which he addresses later on, in this letter.
[Point of history on Pauline exegesis: the second century Christian Gnostics (e.g., Valentinus and his students) interpreted the "wise" (who they thought to mostly composed of Gentiles) in this verse as the spiritual people, and the "foolish" as those who are soulish (who they thought to mostly refer to the Jewish Christians, e.g., "the weak" of 14:1, below) and who read Paul in natural or physical terms, specifically, as the orthodox Christians did (e.g., Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus and Origen). Since Paul says that he ministered to both, they felt that he wrote in a way that presented two levels of interpretation. (Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Paul, Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters, Trinity Press International, 1975, p 7)]
15. In this condition (or: Thus so) – commensurate with me, the ready (willing; eager) one – [I] myself [desire and intend] to also bring and proclaim (or: announce) the message of goodness, ease and well-being (or: Good News) to and among you folks (or: for you folks) in Rome, for you see, I am not in the habit of being ashamed of (= I am proud of and thrilled about) the Good News (message of goodness, ease and well-being; [other MSS add: of, from and which is Christ]).
And so we see that to "bring and proclaim (or: announce) the message of goodness, ease and wellbeing (or: Good News)" to them was the means of his discharging what he perceived as his debt to everyone. And he is ready, willing and eager to do so.
The cultural concept of honor versus shame was a core value in the Greco-Roman world. For a person to be crucified on a Roman cross was the ultimate shame. In the eyes of this culture, it branded a person as a criminal and an outcast of society. But the message about the crucified Messiah was central to Paul's message. In fact personal identification with "Christ crucified" was what he wanted to see in the followers of Jesus. To the divided body of Christ at Corinth, he at one point said,
This is what he wanted to see displayed in the way that they lived with each other. Later, in this letter to Rome, we find him admonishing these folks,
"Consequently, brothers, I am repeatedly calling you folks alongside to exhort, implore and encourage you, through God's compassions to stand your bodies alongside (or: to set or place your bodies beside) [the] Well-pleasing, Set-apart (Holy; Different-from-the-usual), Living Sacrifice by God (or: in God; for God; to God; with God), [this being] your sacred service which pertains to thought, reason and communication (or: your reasoned and rational service; the logical and Word-based service from you folks)" – (12:1, below).
16. You see, God’s power (or: the ability of God; the capacity from God; or: the power which is God) is unto deliverance (or: exists [leading] into rescue, salvation, health, wholeness and restoration to the original state and condition) for everyone (or: in all; to everyone) – to, for, in and with the person continuously having faith and trusting (or: believing and relying upon [it]; being faithful): for (to; in) [the] Jew first, also for (to; in) [the] Greek (or: = non-Jew)
(or: – for both the believing and trusting Jew, firstly, and then for the Hellenist as well) –
Now in vs. 17, we see that God’s act of power in resurrecting Israel’s Messiah also unveils God's justice (and everything that is included in the parenthetical expansion there). Also note that I have rendered the word "faith; trust" there as faithfulness. Faithfulness is one of the meanings of the word pistis, and I have chosen this as my preferred reading, because I see this as being Christ's faithfulness to do the Father's will and submit to the cross. His obedience (which Paul expands upon in ch. 5) to His Father, "not My will but Your will be done," carried Him to the cross, and from out of His death and resurrection His faith now comes to us, part and parcel of the message of goodness, ease and well-being (gospel; good news). The impartation of the life of Christ, via the preaching of Christ's goodness to humanity, is the power of life from the dead. And His power, which is God Himself, leads humanity unto deliverance, through Christ. Deliverance, rescue and a return to wholeness is the goal of God’s power. Salvation is the target toward which His plan and purpose has aimed, through Christ. He will not fail, or miss the target!
The present participle, continuously having faith and trusting (or: believing and relying upon [it]; being faithful), should inform us about the continuous, habitual aspect of the life in Christ that provides progressive and repeated deliverance and wholeness to us. Recall the words of Jesus about the branches of the Vine, and the need to continue "abiding; dwelling" in Him (John 15:1ff). If we do not stay connected to Him, we wither and die – and lose our state of living in deliverance (which is for here and now), our condition of wholeness, and our "salvation" or rescue from the worthless age in which we lived our lives. Paul's use of the term soteria, deliverance, is his first echo of one of the main defining stories from Israel's history, the exodus. It was a deliverance from the slavery in Egypt, which led to their being established as a nation. We will see this "deliverance from slavery" theme again, below, in this letter. But although Israel had been "saved" from Egypt and experienced the Passover, with the blood applied to their homes, the older generation died in the wilderness, and later generations lost their state of being rescued and saved when Yahweh sent them into exile because of their having turned from Him and for treating the poor unjustly.
When the Word (that's what the message is) enters into the mind or heart of a person, the Spirit of God (recall that Jesus said that His words were both spirit and life – John 6:63) and the life of Christ enter into the person. This Spirit, this Life, contains the power, ability and capacity to raise the spirit/mind/consciousness of a person to life from the dead. It is the power to change our thinking (i.e., it causes repentance, which means a new attitude, a turning toward God, a new way of thinking, a new perspective and a new world view). My friend, Mark Eaton, put it this way,
"The Dunamis [power] of God is Revealed, and reaches it mark as deliverance. It is one thing to know God's power, His Mind, but this Dunamis is the Good news that comes out of the heart of God. The Gospel is the effect of the Sovereign Dunamis." (from a personal email; emphasis his; brackets mine)
The faith that is imparted to us, via the preaching of the Word, engenders faithfulness and allegiance through the Spirit that now inhabits “the believing folks.” Yet if folks turn from the Path, and unhook themselves from the flow of the Sap (a figure of the Spirit) of the Vine, they will wither and die, and experience God's cleansing fire (John 15:6), as a field is burned off to prepare it for another planting (Heb. 6:7-8). But just like unbelieving Israel whom God broke out of His olive tree (11:17, below), God will yet graft these withered branches back in again (11:24). Notice, below, the OT quote that Paul inserts into the next verse, and how it emphasizes LIVING.
So why did Paul next say, for (to; in) [the] Jew first, also for (to; in) [the] Greek (or: Hellenist; = non-Jew)? Recall, above, that Witherington pointed out the "storied" character of Paul's narrative? Here I suggest that he is once again accessing the story of Jesus, and the statement which He made about His earthly ministry,
Yet He, making a discerning reply, said, "I was not commissioned and sent off as an emissary (representative) – except into the midst of those sheep having been destroyed, the ones that belong to the house of Israel (or: unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel)." (Mat. 15:24)
To use my friend Lawrence Garcia's term, "phase one" of the mission of the Messiah was to Israel, which was to inaugurate the fulfillment of the promises made by Israel's prophets. Phase two was the mission to the ethnic multitudes (or: Gentiles), including the entire world in the effects of the work of Israel's Messiah – and as Paul argues below, the embodiment of the Promises that Yahweh made to Abraham. By citing these two Jewish classifications of humanity (Jew/Greek), we see that God’s power brings deliverance to the entirety of humanity.
Not only this, but Paul's rhetorical design is to validate and bring honor to the Jewish Christians in Rome. Just a few years earlier, Claudius had banished all Jews from Rome, so upon their return they continued as second-class citizens in the eyes of the Gentiles. It is now commonly accepted that "the weak" of chapter 14, in this letter, refers to the Jewish Christians within the community. However Mark D. Nanos (The Mystery of Romans, The Jewish Context of Paul's Letter, Fortress Press, 1996) questions this assumption and devotes chapter 3, "Who Were the 'Weak' and the 'Strong' in Rome?," to suggest that the "weak" were non-Christian Jews (p 85ff).
Paul's normal practice, when first visiting a city where there was not yet an established called-out group, was to go to the synagogue of the Jews, for he himself was a Jew, and furthermore, the Good News was based upon the Scriptures of the Jews. He further gives insight for this statement in 9:3-5, below.
David H. Stern (Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish NT Publications, Inc., 1992, p 329) points to
one of the major theses of this letter,
"... so far as salvation is concerned, Jews and Gentiles are equal before God (2:7-12; 3:9-31; 4:9-
12; 5:12, 17-19; 9:24; 10:12-13; 11:30-32)."
17. for by Him (or: in it) God’s justice (solidarity in fair conduct; equity; righteousness; [covenantal] qualities of the Way pointed out; way of righting what is wrong; right relationship [with us]; or: a means of turning us in the right direction by an eschatological deliverance, which is God,) is continuously and progressively being unveiled (revealed; disclosed), from out of faithfulness (or: forth from the midst of faith, trust and conviction), [proceeding] into faith, trust, conviction and loyalty, according as it has been written,
"But the one righteous (or: just) out-of-faith/faithfulness will himself continue living
(or: Yet the Just One will experience life in himself from faith/faithfulness; or: Now the one in accord with the Way pointed out from trust, will in himself be living; or: And the person rightwised from out of faith will continuously live; or: So the One being fair and equitable from trust will progressively receive life into Himself from that trust)." [Hab. 2:4]
In this continuation of Paul's sentence, the opening prepositional phrase is a rendering of a pronoun in the dative case. The bold rendering, by Him, takes God, in “God’s power” (vs.16, above), as being the antecedent – a reference to God raising Jesus from the dead. The alternate rendering of the pronoun, "in it," would be read as referring back to the Good News, at the end of vs. 15, concerning Christ’s death and resurrection.
The question that now faces us is, Why does he say that by Him, or “in it,” God's justice (fair conduct; etc.) is continuously and progressively being unveiled (revealed; disclosed; Greek: apokalupsis – and Paul's use of this word should alert us to the eschatological nature of God's work in the Messiah!)? He uses this same verb in vs. 18, below, but for another purpose. Here, in 17, we are reminded of what is written in Eph. 1:17,
“that the God of (or: pertaining to; or, reading the genitive as in apposition: Who is) our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of the Glory (or: the founder and archetype of, and which is, this manifestation which calls forth praise), might give (suddenly impart) to you a spirit (or: breath-effect; attitude) of wisdom and revelation (unveiling; uncovering; disclosure) within the midst of a full, experiential and intimate knowledge of Himself
(or: in a full realization of Him; or: within and in union with His full, personal knowledge; or: centered and resident within an added insight from Him, and which is Him).”
We find in Eph. 3:4-5 that it is, “the secret (or: mystery) of the Christ… [that] is now (at the present time) uncovered (unveiled; revealed) in spirit (or: within a Breath-effect; or: in union with [the] Sprit)…”
Then we read in 8:18b, below, about, “[being] face to face with the glory (or: [are] of insufficient weight when put in balance to the manifestation which calls forth praise as well as the reputation and good opinion) which is progressively about to be disclosed unto us, and for us (or: unveiled into our midst; revealed to and [enter] into us).”
And in16:25b, below, Paul refers to, “an unveiling of a secret (or: a revelation and a disclosure of a mystery) that had been being kept silent (or: quiet) in eonian times (or: for time periods of the [preceding] ages; to [the] times [that would] pertain to the Age [of Messiah]).”
So we see that Christ is directly tied to what God was unveiling, and it is in the context of God’s justice, which is the faithful, righteous act which God, in Christ, performed.
Just what is God's "justice"? This is the Greek word dikaiosune (see my discussion of the word in John, Judah, Paul and ?, Harper Brown Publishing, 2013). Tom Wright (Paul for Everyone, Romans Part One, Westminster John Knox Press, 2004 p 9) renders this phrase, "covenant justice." Witherington states that this word is a "relational term" (ibid p 54), as seen in my renderings, "solidarity in fair conduct," "equity," or, "right relationship" (a rendering supported by William Barclay), or, a "way of righting what is wrong." It has been traditionally rendered "righteousness" or "justice," but as you can see from my parenthetical expansion, it has a wide semantic range. Bultmann preferred that the verb form be translated "rightwised," which means "turned in the right direction," and Witherington renders it "set right" in 5:9, below, (ibid p 133).
Wright insightfully suggests that "righteousness (to use the old technical term) is essentially the same thing as 'membership in the covenant'" (ibid p 69). This comports with the basic meaning of the Greek term, "the Way pointed out," which I suggest is synonymous with Jesus saying,
"I Myself am (exist being) the Way (or: Path), the Truth (the Reality) and the Life (or: = I am the way to really live)" – John 14:6.
So being in "the Way pointed out" equals being "in Christ," and this, in turn equals membership in the new covenant. Wright further states that "God's covenant justice was always designed to put the whole world to rights" (ibid p 73) – which echoes Witherington's suggested expression, "set right."
It is from this concept of "covenant," which Yahweh established with Abraham via His promise to him, and which He established with Israel via the Law which He gave to create that society, and the promises made to Israel via God's prophets, that Kirk is seeing an issue of theodicy (whether or not God was just and faithful to His covenants). He concludes that Paul is arguing in defense of God's justice, showing Him to have been faithful to these promises via the Messiah, and I agree with this. However, I see this as a secondary benefit of Paul's central themes. God's justice was expressed in both His promises and His Law, and His Law was holy and just and good (7:12), as well as spiritual (7:14). But the continual, progressive unveiling of God's dikaiosune (rightwising eschatological deliverance into the Way pointed out, which includes covenant membership) has brought so much more than proving that God's dealings with Israel and humanity have been right, as Paul will progressively unfold. He discusses this topic in chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10, and lists this word as one of the central aspects, or qualities, of God's kingdom in 14:17.
Paul states that this unveiling has come from out of faithfulness (or: forth from the midst of faith, trust and conviction), [proceeding] into faith, trust, conviction and loyalty. It comes into the world of mankind from out of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ submitting to the death on the cross. It comes from out of His faithfulness to, and trust in, the Father, and from His conviction that this was the Way pointed out. What His faithfulness accomplished was to impart faith, trust, conviction and loyalty (or: faithfulness) into those whom He makes alive by placing them into Himself,
"each person within the result and effect of his or her own class (or: ordered place; appointed position [in line]; arranged time or order of succession; = place in a harvest calendar, thus, due season of maturity)" – I Cor. 15:23.
As he says, below, in 6:5,
"For since (or: You see, if) we have been birthed (have become; have come to be)folks engrafted and produced together (or: planted and made to grow together;
brought forth together; congenital) in, by, to and with the result of the likeness of (or:the effect of the similar manner from) His death, then certainly we shall also continue existing [in and with the effects of the likeness] of The Resurrection (or: which is the resurrection; or: from, and with qualities of, the resurrection)."
So what about this OT quote to which Paul reaches back (into Israel's story) so as to use as thelegitimizing of his argument?
"But the one righteous (or: just) out-of-faith/faithfulness will himself continue living (or: Yet the Just One will experience life in himself from faith/faithfulness; or: Now the one in accord with the Way pointed out from trust, will in himself be living; or: And the person rightwised from out of faith will continuously live; or: So the One being fair and equitable from trust will
progressively receive life into Himself from that trust)." [Hab. 2:4]
Moffatt renders this, "Now by faith shall the righteous live." Witherington gives, "The righteous from faith shall live" (ibid p 49). The NEB (1970 ed.) reads, "[H]e shall gain life who is justified by faith." Here, together with the other possible renderings on offer in my translation, are a number of statements to consider.
One text of this verse in the LXX reads,
"Yet the Just One will habitually live (or: continue living) from out of My faithfulness/faith."
Let us review what these various renderings are indicating:
It seems to me that all of these can fit Paul's thinking, and each one gives a nuanced view of this verse – as Dan Kaplan has said, it is an example of "God's greatly diversified (exceedingly varied in colors, as a tapestry that depicts a scene; or: = many-phased) wisdom" (Eph. 3:10).
Stern (ibid p 330) notes that Paul's quote of Habakkuk, above, should alert folks to the fact of faith, trust and faithfulness being a core element of Judaism.
Sanders includes an Appendix by Manfred T. Brauch who quotes Ernst Kasemann (Gottesgerechtigheir bie Paulus, p 377-8):
"God's righteousness is what it must be as the power which rightwises the sinner, namely
God's victory over against the rebellion of the world.... For Paul it is God's dominion over this world revealed eschatologically in Christ.... God's righteousness is his power which creates salvation... to be led back into God's Lordship in the world's redemption" (Sanders, ibid p 528).
Brauch also gives a summary of K. Kertelge ('Rechtfertigung' bei Paulus, p 112) on this topic, in saying: "The sinner is transferred into the sphere of God's righteousness and experiences his justification as a result of the action of God's grace" (Sanders, ibid p 535).
Campbell (ibid p 688) credits Richard Hays as suggesting that 1:17, here, is "informed" by Ps. 97:2-3,
LXX), "The Lord made intimately and experientially known His deliverance (or: salvation); He unveiled (or: reveals; disclosed) His Way pointed out (or: release into a rightwised life of solidarity in covenant participation). He remembered His mercy to and for Jacob and His truth (or: reality) to and in the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth saw (and: see) the deliverance (salvation) of, from and which is our God." (JM)
This act of deliverance culminated in Christ's resurrection, which gave birth to the new creation: a rightwised life of solidarity (with God, with all humanity and with creation) that is participation and membership in a new arrangement – a new covenant.
Julie Ferwerda (Raising Hell, Christianity’s Most Controversial Doctrine Put Under Fire, Vagabond Group, 2011, p 119) points us to the “law of liability” that was codified in Ex. 21:33-34,
“When a man opens a cistern or pit, or when a man digs a cistern or pit, yet does not cover it, and a bull (or: ox) or an ass falls therein, the owner/possessor of the pit/cistern shall make it good (or: repay); he shall restore (pay back) silver to the owner [of the bull or ass] – and the dead animal shall be his.”
Ferwerda then cites Stephen Jones, “This is the law that sets the standard of liability. It is the owner of the pit who is liable, and he must then buy the dead ox for himself. “In applying the spirit of this law to Adam’s situation in the garden, God is both the owner of the pit [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; the serpent] and the owner of the ox (Adam). First, God dug a pit, because He created an opportunity of Adam to sin. God did not cover this pit in that He created Adam with the potential to sin and created a tree of knowledge, putting it within Adam’s reach. He did not build a ten-foot fence around that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God created an opportunity for Adam (the ox) to fall into the pit (sin and death). That made God legally liable by His own law and created a ‘tension’ that demanded a resolution” (“Free Will,” God’s Kingdom Ministries: www.gods-kingdom-ministries.org/free_will_-_chapter_2.htm; emphasis original; brackets mine).
So God’s justice is that He bought the dead bull/ox (humanity) and dead humanity belongs to him: it is His responsibility to “restore (repay),” and this is what He did in the Christ event. Resurrection of humanity out of the pit of death and into life was the restoration by the Owner of the pit (tree; serpent). Ferwerda (ibid p 120) then points us to Ps. 30:3,
“O Yahweh, You have brought my soul up from the unseen (Sheol); You have preserved me alive from descending into the pit.”
Although David did not physically die, in the context of this psalm, humanity did, and still does.
18. You see, God’s personal emotion (or: mental bent; natural impulse; teeming desire and swelling passion; temperament; disposition; or: anger; wrath; or: an inherent fervor, which is God,) is continuously and progressively being unveiled (revealed; disclosed) from heaven upon every irreverence (lack of awe or absence of pious fear; disrespect) and injustice (wrong; unrighteousness; situation or act contrary to the Way pointed out) of mankind (or: that arises from humans) – the folks continuously holding down (restraining; stopping while possessing) the Truth (or: reality) in the sphere of (or: within the midst of) injustice (unrighteousness; that which is not right; unfairness and inequality) –
Verses 17 and 18 are parallel structures in the Greek, and are joined by the conjunction gar which I have translated, You see. Paul's thoughts move from verse 17 to almost a mirror image in vs. 18. The first clauses of each verse have the same verb, unveiled, each verse revealing something different in God. The one God's justice, the other God's personal emotion. Harvey points out: "This sentence, and the sentence before, both contain the word revealed, and each expresses a complementary side of God's activity towards men" (ibid p 507).
As you see from the parenthetical expansion of personal emotion, the Greek orge has a wide semantic range. Both ends of this range describe deep, core human emotions. They can all be seen in circumstances that we might deem as good (although the English term "wrath" is usually considered something bad) and they can all be focused on bad intent, or be bent away from the good. The terms "temperament" and "disposition" are usually considered neutral, but a person can have a good temperament and disposition, or a bad temperament and disposition. Such assessments come from both observation and experience of human beings.
But how should we assess God's personal emotions? Should we tie to His orge the character and qualities of an estranged, alienated (or: "fallen") human being? Or are all of His personal emotions pure and holy? Does the creator God whom Jesus addressed as "our Father" and who 1 John 4:16 instructs us "is Love" have the same estranged inherent fervor; mental bent, natural impulse, teeming desire, swelling passion, temperament, disposition, anger or even wrath that we encounter in those who are "dead in trespasses and sin" (Eph. 2:1)? I am laboring the point to engender mature thought concerning what we ascribe to God from this verse. How we have been programmed – either by unloving natural parents, or by the traditions of whatever religion enculturated us – should not be imported into Paul's thinking or the meaning in this text. He is a God of justice and judgment (decisions made after evaluation), but we should let the kind of judgment that we see in Israel's Scriptures inform us, just as Paul uses these same writings to inform his arguments. There we see that all His judgments and corrections were acted out in this life.
Paul now says that God's personal emotion is continuously and progressively being unveiled (revealed; disclosed) from heaven upon every irreverence (lack of awe or absence of pious fear; disrespect) and injustice (wrong; unrighteousness; situation or act contrary to the Way pointed out) of mankind (or: that arises from humans). If it is "continuously and progressively" being unveiled and disclosed, then people are able to observe its effects upon humanity. We find Amos proclaiming,
"Would there come to be evil in a city and Yahweh not have done it?" (3:7) Isaiah 54:16 informs us that Yahweh "created the ravager to destroy (the CV reads: the ruiner to harm)," and in Isa. 45:7 Yahweh says,
"Former of light and Creator of darkness; Maker of good and Creator of evil (Heb. ra),
I, Yahweh, make all these [things]."
God has never ceased to be active in our world. The entire OT is replete with His works upon this earth. He rules, and John 3:36 teaches us that,
"the person now continuing being unpersuaded by the Son (or: presently being constantly incompliant, disobedient or disbelieving to the Son; being repeatedly stubborn toward the Son) will not be catching sight of (seeing; observing; perceiving) [this] life.To the contrary, God’s personal emotion and inherent fervor (teeming passion and swelling desire; mental bent and natural impulse; propensity and disposition; or: anger, wrath and indignation) is continuously remaining (is now habitually dwelling and abiding) upon him."
This last clause describes an ongoing situation. Note the present tense (continuously and progressively) and the passive voice (being unveiled, revealed and disclosed) in vs. 18a, above. Both the good and the bad habitually dwell upon people. His orge constantly remains and abides upon humanity. This is the nature of the universe which He created, and the conditions under which He placed us. Recall that Job told his wife, amid all of Job's woes,
"What? [he asks her in amazement] Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not also receive evil?" (Job 2:10)
Now it is evident from what comes next in this verse that here, and in the passages to follow, Paul is referring to God's judgment upon humans, and he makes it specific upon whom: the folks continuously holding down (restraining; stopping while possessing) the Truth (or: reality) in the sphere of (or: within the midst of) injustice (unrighteousness; that which is not right; unfairness and inequality). C. H. Dodd observes that Paul does not ever uses the verb, "to be angry," with God being the subject of this verb (ibid p 21). Paul will now go on to give a generalized storied-narrative as he builds his first argument.
It is with this verse that Campbell (ibid, 495ff) reads Paul as beginning a presentation of a competing gospel put into the mouth of his interlocutor – a Jewish Christian teacher, and his followers, who want all Christians to observe the Law (to Judaize). He sees Paul as presenting this alternate scheme from here through 3:20, below. So we can read the text with this question in mind: Is this Paul’s revelation of life in the new creation in Christ, or, are these the views of the false teacher? Is Paul presenting this picture to his listeners so that they will recognize it when they hear these teachers, and thus know to reject it – in favor of what they have already been taught, and what he presents as a reminder (cf 6:17; 15:15, below), in contrast, in chapters 5-8, below? In 16:25, below, Paul characterizes the good news as,
“an unveiling of a secret (or: a revelation and a disclosure of a mystery) that had been being kept silent (or: quiet) in eonian times (or: for time periods of the [preceding] ages; to [the] times [that would] pertain to the Age [of Messiah]).”
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If you like the Amplified Bible, this translation unpacks more Word!
GOD'S MESSAGE OF
WHICH BRINGS GOD'S
GIFTS OF HIS SPIRIT,
HIS LIFE, HIS GRACE,
HIS POWER, HIS
FAIRNESS, HIS PEACE
AND HIS LOVE