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The Deliverance of God: Romans 1:-18-3:20


It's finally time to return to the Deliverance of God now that I've finished reading through the many many chapters laying out his understanding of Romans. In this post I will give an extremely brief overview of Campbell's approach to 1:18-3:20. In my next post on this book (probably not for about two weeks), I will take up the suggestion of Michael Gorman from SBL in 2009 and contrast Campbell's work on Romans 2 with that of Craig Keener's recent commentary.

According to Campbell, 1:18-32 functions as a case of speech-in-character, meaning Paul here writes in another's voice. Rather than being the authentic voice of Paul, it's the voice of the Teacher. Here Paul has worked up a speech conversant of Wisdom of Solomon that presents part of the Teacher's opening salvo. Paul does this, so that he can pick it apart, and show its inconsistency with other portions of the Teacher's teaching.

Starting in 2:1 Paul begins the attack. In fact, 2:1 overtly signals a shift in voice. It requires 1:18-32 to have been the voice of another. Paul proceeds through chapter two, condemning the Teacher for being judgmental, and then showing his inconsistency. If the Teacher really believes in a judgment on the basis of dessert, then Jewish privilege is abolished and following the Torah becomes unnecessary. Pagans with more ethical righteousness would 'get in' ahead of Jews with less. If that's the logical outcome of the Teacher's argument in 1:18-32 then he's in trouble, because we know from Galatians that the Teacher tried to enforce law observance on Gentile converts. His grounds have been cut out from underneath him. Following the Law has no advantage. 


Paul continues to push in chapter 3. He asks the Teacher a series of rhetorical questions aimed at producing the same contradiction, and in fact he does. The Teacher has so thoroughly committed himself to a God of retributive justice that he undercuts any notion of Jewish privilege. Paul closes the argument by listing off a litany of verses reinforcing that. If God judges retributively then we're all screwed because everyone is sinful to their core.

Paul doesn't go through this just to undercut a rival teacher, but because he sees deficiencies in the Teacher's theology. First, is the lack of Christological focus. Paul emphasizes that salvation is by Jesus, contrasted with the Teacher's emphasis on works of the Law. Second, Paul has a very different view of God. God is fundamentally benevolent in Paul's theology, where as the Teacher paints God as a strict authoritarian figure.

This is a unique way of reading Romans 1-3. Very little of the content is directly fleshing out Paul's theology. It certainly is possible and has a very high degree of coherence, but is it correct? We'll look at some potentially countervailing evidence from Keener in our next post.

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