Monday, July 30, 2012

The Deliverance of God: How Does Romans 2 Fit with the Rest of Romans?

At SBL in 2009 there was a session on the Deliverance of God. Michael Gorman objected to Campbell's construal of Romans 1-3, arguing that Keener, in his 2009 commentary on Romans, had shown decisively that Romans 2 is integral to the rest of Paul's argument in Romans and hence should not be assigned as a reductio of the Teacher's position.[1] This is a significant claim, and if correct, it severely weakens Campbell's case. It would give him exegetical problems on par with those he exposed in justification theory. In this post we'll assess the case.

Keener has two charts, one on page 45 and one on 47 which list the themes of Romans 2 that get developed elsewhere in Romans. I'm not going to go through them all, and I do believe some of them are not really relevant. Before we start looking at a couple of representative cases, I want to bring up one point. One should expect, even if Romans 2 is a reductio, to have some ties between Romans 2 and the rest of Romans. After all, both Paul and the Teacher claim to be Christian so one would expect some overlap in thought. One also might expect that Paul might revisit some of the problems he reveals from the Teachers thought, showing how his gospel is superior.

I would argue that of the relevant parallels, all of them should be classified as either of the two types above. First, we'll bring up an example of the first type. In Romans 2:17-18a Paul says, 'But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God and know his will...' In Romans 12:2 Paul says, 'Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God: what is good and acceptable and perfect.' Both the Teacher and Paul make a statement about knowing the will of God. Is this surprising? Clearly access to the will of God would be important in any Christian ethical system. I don't see why this shared theme hurts Campbell's case at all. It's simply a parallel (and obvious) concern in both systems. Now to a type two example.

Romans 2:7 states, 'to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life,' holding out the offer of salvation for those who do good works. Romans 3:28 states that, 'For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.' It's obvious that Paul is stating something in tension with Romans 2:7. Deeds don't result in salvation. Yes, Paul is picking up his point from 2:7 here in 3:28, but he's contradicting it. This connection is actually easier to explain under Campbell's interpretation. Paul is offering his alternative to the exegesis of the Teacher. Now we don't have to struggle to integrate these two distinct perspectives into one.

Overall, I do think that Campbell's exegesis of Romans 1:1-3-20 does hold up under scrutiny.

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[1] To be perfectly clear, this post isn't an assessment of Keener's claims per say, it's more an assessment of Gorman's argument building on Keener's observations.

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