Monday, May 28, 2012

The Deliverance of God: The Reason for Romans

We (finally!) arrive at Cambell's positive account of his understanding of justification in the thirteenth chapter. He begins with supplying what he believes to be the interpretive frame of Romans. There are sixteen basic elements that have to be explained in order to have a successful explanation for why Paul wrote Romans. By that he means why Romans has the particular content that it does. About half of these 16 items don't require further explanation, but several do and some of them are quite surprising. Particularly we must be able to explain the heavily Jewish nature of the discussion in Romans 1-4 and 9-11, Paul's mentioning of his non-interference policy, the soft and general nature of the exhortation regarding the weak and strong, the warnings of pagan Christian arrogance against the Jews, and (though not on his list) the development that is discernible between Galatians and Romans. It is on these items of the discussion that I will focus, treating each one briefly, noting how it fits in contributes towards Paul's purposes in writing Romans. I will say up front that I believe that Campbell's case is strongest so far and has the most explanatory power for the content of the letter of any theory I've encountered.

Campbell's thesis is that Paul wrote Romans to combat the impending or already actual visit of a Jewish false teacher. Most likely this is the same teacher that Paul opposed when he wrote Galatians (probably not that long prior to Romans). Romans is in a sense developing the same themes as Galatians at points. However, the argument is much more developed and even at times slightly different than Galatians. Campbell attributes this to Paul having learned from his experience in Galatia and knowing his opponent better. Romans represents a later round in the debate (see esp. 506-8).

This explains other features of the letter well, especially why Paul was so concerned in the letter with Jewish matters (particularly his espousal of a law free gospel in Romans 1-4). These matters get little of his attention elsewhere, where false teachers aren't on or soon to be on the prowl. Particularly, the question in Galatians seems to be centered around, 'who are the people of God?' Romans 9-11 is a response to concerns over Paul's position, especially with his concern that the Gentiles not become arrogant towards non-believing Jews. Paul is probably responding to critique (509). 

This understanding of the purpose of Romans also explains what is probably the hardest nut to crack in the letter - Paul's stance of non-interference - in a letter where it seems that he's interfering. Paul in fact is doing no such thing. He believes the Romans to have been already established in a gospel compatible with his. Thus he's not interfering, merely strengthening them in what they already know (501-3). It's actually a veiled shot at the Teacher. He's the one interfering, both in churches Paul founded and potentially in Rome as well. 

Lastly, I want to address Paul's exhortations to the weak and strong over matters of diet. The first thing to notice is that he's not hard on them, and also the discussion is much briefer than similar dietary discussions in 1 Corinthians. Why? It's not that big of an issue in Rome (but it still is an issue). Additionally, it's important to observe that Paul doesn't proceed in this section as many today might expect - 'don't judge those who don't observe the dietary laws because you are justified by faith and not by works.' Paul does not ground this exhortation in his earlier argument. That means that something other than concerns to see the Romans live out justification by faith is behind Paul's choice to address this issue. I think Campbell is correct in believing that Paul brings it up because he expects the Teacher to arrive soon, if he hasn't already. The Romans will need to be as unified as possible if they're going to survive the Teacher (this also explains how Paul's exhortations there tie with other pieces of chapters 12-14 that focus on unity). (510-11). 

Overall, I find Campbell's argument to be persuasive. None other that I know can better explain the features mentioned above (Campbell discuss the shortcomings of other positions at length 469-95). The next chapter begins the analysis of Romans, tackling 1:18-3:20. We will attend to that next, but it may take a few weeks as the section is lengthy and intricate.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Deliverance of Paul: Problems for the NPP

In chapter 12, Campbell critiques key Pauline interpreters who at some key points reject Justification Theory. If you've read my Galatians posts you can tell that I rely heavily on the work of James Dunn, so I thought that I might address some (but not all) of the issues that Campbell raises for Dunn's interpretation of Paul here in this post.

The largest issue is the question of how to interpret the phrase 'works of the law.' Is Dunn correct in arguing that they should be understood as boundary markers, that Paul is essentially saying that one is not justified by being Jewish, or is the traditional understanding of works correct? Campbell argues that the traditional viewpoint is closer to the truth than Dunn. I will make this comment up front. Earlier, Campbell makes the point that we have to distinguish between an action and its sociological effect. The issue in Galatia could have been the sociological effect of a traditional legalism, and perhaps not boundary markers per say (perhaps they were convenient targets). So whether or not Campbell's critique below is right on or not, does not completely invalidate the insight of Dunn and others. Now onto the critique.

At the heart of Campbell's critique is that Dunn can't actually prove his case. Paul never clearly associates works of the law with boundary markers. Particularly key is Campbell's claim that 2:15-21 looks forward to the rest of the letter and that we can't use 2:1-14 to define works of the law in 2:15-21. Campbell also observes that boundary markers don't come into the discussion in 3:2, 5, and 10. (450)

He presses Dunn for this kind of iron clad proof because he does not see a Judaism that is obsessed with boundary markers as such. Additionally, he doesn't think that there is enough proof that Jewish Christians were opposed to Paul's mission because they were offended by the elimination of the boundary between Jew and Gentile and nothing else. (449).

To make matters worse, in Campbell's eyes, Dunn carries over this tenuous meaning of works of the law to Romans with no textual warrant. If anything, the discussion there comes during a discussion of judgment by dessert. Works in Romans seem to be meritorious good works. (450-1).

I'll briefly respond to some of what Campbell says here. The heart of Campbell's argument related to Galatians seems to rely on seeing a major break between 2:1-14 and 2:15-21, almost as if there's no tie. I don't think that is the case. Yes 2:15-21 does look forward, but why does that eliminate it looking backwards? 2:15-21 is Paul's response to the problems in 2:1-14. The question is, is Dunn's understanding of works of the law correct or is Paul getting fired up because of the really really bad implications of bad theology (of an understanding of justification that separates God's people)? In Galatians, at least, I lean towards the former, but then Romans is harder to integrate. However, if Romans 2 represents the Teacher's teaching to wayward Jewish Christians, then the problem may be solvable (it also may not be), but we will address that in more detail in a future post.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Song of Songs 1:5-2:7: In Love

5 I am black and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. 6 Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has gazed on me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept! 7 Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock,   where you make it lie down at noon; for why should I be like one who is veiled beside the flocks of your companions? 
8 If you do not know, O fairest among women, follow the tracks of the flock, and pasture your kids beside the shepherds’ tents. 
9 I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. 10 Your cheeks are comely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels. 11 We will make you ornaments of gold,   studded with silver. 
12 While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance. 13 My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh that lies between my breasts. 14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms   in the vineyards of En-gedi. 
15 Ah, you are beautiful, my love; ah, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. 16 Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly lovely.Our couch is green; 17 the beams of our house are cedar,   our rafters are pine. 
I am a rose of Sharon,
   a lily of the valleys. 
a lily of the valleys. 
2 As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens. 
3 As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. 4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his intention towards me was love. 5 Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples; for I am faint with love. 6 O that his left hand were under my head, and that his right hand embraced me! 7 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the wild does: do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready! (NRSV)
This section of the Song begins with the woman being a bit defensive and defiant. In her culture, being tan was not beautiful. Perhaps it may have signaled that one was part of the lower classes. She feels the weight of her culture's definition of beauty. It will not define her. She is dark skinned and beautiful, wildly exotic and rare. Staring isn't welcome. She has been burned, both by the sun and by her brothers. However, in spite of her brothers' actions, she still has pursued her love and won him with her natural beauty. While she has won him, though, she is still under her brothers' control and not with her man as much as she desires. She wants to be with him but does not know where he will be pasturing his flock next. She asks him to tell her where he will be. Surely he doesn't want her going around tent to tent looking for him. The reply is that it is to these tents that she must go because that is where he will be, after all he is a shepherd. When she finds him her desire will be satisfied.[1] By taking her goats she would cover her tracks.[2]

Starting in verse 9, the man affirms her earlier self proclaimed beauty, and that's all that matters. Who cares what society thinks. While her beauty may be natural, she knows how to make herself look good (contradicting her earlier claim). The man will spare no expense to adorn her to maximize her elegance.[3]

In verse 12 the woman resumes. In addition to her jewels, she is adorned by something else. Her lover is as the finest of perfumes, but a scent that she alone indulges in their intimate moments. A pleasure that overwhelms her.

They continue trading compliments. They are enraptured with one another, totally in love, enjoying themselves in the beauty of nature.[4] We get a glimpse into the garden of Eden. They are two ordinary people, but there is great beauty in the ordinary. Great pleasure to be found in the common flower and on the branches of fruit trees.

They know why they are where they are. It is with a single purpose that they have come together. It is to explore the depth of their love for each other, and to enliven themselves on delicacies.[5] Pleasure is maximized, and it is exhausting! And it leaves her begging for more.[6]

When you are in love, your world completely changes. You are conquered. Nothing is more exhilarating or exhausting. It fills you up and leaves you unsatisfied. The woman would tell us to make sure we know what we're doing before we get involved. Love is the most wonderful thing one can experience but it is costly, and the woman of the song is probably just beginning to learn about the cost of love.

Love stories and poems like this one are so refreshing because one can tell that neither the man nor the woman are using their power for their on advantage. The man, in particular has great power over the woman, but we never get the feeling that he's taking advantage of her. Love will not wield power for its own purposes. Love is the perfect antidote to the abuse of power. Love enables us to experience Eden, if only on a small scale.

--------------------------
[1] As Exum points out, the double entendre is very heavy in these verses.

[2] As helpfully noted by Longman.

[3] The struggle of some, like Pope, to understand that the comparison to the horse is only to point to something highly ornamented and nothing else surprises me.

[4] I think that Bergant's tentative suggestion is correct - that the lovers are meeting in an outdoor setting, perhaps in the woods.

[5] The NRSV does not capture 2:5 well. These are raisin cakes not just raisins that she is asking for.

[6] This passage makes me want to write a fun post contrasting 2:1-6 with Business Time by Flight of the Conchords. I can't think of a more complete contrast. We shall see if I have the time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Deliverance of God: Exegetical Problems

After skipping a large chunk of the book we're back to our examination of Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God. Today's post will look at some of the difficulties at the exegetical level that the traditional theory of justification runs into. Campbell breaks these difficulties down into two categories, underdeterminations and overdeterminations. He finds 11 of the former and 24 of the latter. Some are minor, but some are very serious. We will look at one significant example in each category to give you a flavor of the types of problems that crop up with the traditional exegesis of Romans 1-4.

Campbell is working under the assumption that Romans 1-4 serves as the textual base for justification theory. That's a reasonable assumption. It's the only place in the Bible that has such a sustained discussion of justification. You would then expect to see the key components corroborated in this text. The thing is, we have several underdeterminations; cases where the text doesn't actually ever say what justification theory requires.

One key component of justification theoy is the 'perfectionist axiom.' This is the claim that God requires perfect righteousness in order to be justified without exception. Interestingly, Romans 1-4 never makes that claim. The issue seems to be a thoroughgoing depravity not the failure to be perfect.  One then recognizes that this exacerbates the problems we ran into  earlier. How can any so thoroughly depraved person grasp their own depravity and evaluate themselves and their need for a savior without outside help (which would be an epistemologically different system from justification theory)? (347-9).

In addition to the underdeterminations, we have a lot of material that's unneccessary to support justification theory. One that's particularly thorny recurs in Romans 2. Who are the righteous saved? Since no one is righteous by works (according to the perfection assumption), why create them as a category? It's even weird for them to function as a hypothetical, since it's a category that's impossible for anyone to fall into. Justification theory can't explain why they appear at this point (367-8).

Again, these are just two of the 35 exegetical problems that Campbell enumerates. These combined with some of the problems we discussed in earlier posts in this series make justification theory problematic enough that we need to start looking for alternatives.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Romans 1-3:Who's on First?


On Monday I posted some suggestions to build towards a rereading of Romans 1-3. It centered around how to determine when Paul was speaking in his own voice and when he was giving voice to his opponents. Today, at the request of Mark Heath, I'm going to place the NRSV translation of Romans 1-3, with labels as to who I think is speaking when, along with occasional comments. This is still preliminary thinking on my part. I'm interested to see what you all think. Portions of chapter 2 are difficult, but I feel pretty comfortable with the rest.

Romans 1:1-18 - Paul (I'm torn on verse 18, but if 'suppress the truth' in vs. 18 is better rendered 'oppose the truth' - which I think it is, then it may be functioning like Gal. 1:8-9). If not then it may best go with vv. 19 ff., however, there is a significant change in writing style starting at vs. 19, also suggesting vs. 18 goes w/ 1:1-17.
1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. 9For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, 10asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. 11For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. 14I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15—hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.16For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” 18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.
Romans 1:19-32 - Opponent
19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. 24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.26For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. 28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done.29They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips,30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.32They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.
Romans 2:1-4 - Paul - this is tentative. Paul's words could extend through vs. 5 or, possibly, the whole paragraph could belong to his opponent.
Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
Romans 2:5-29 - Opponent - the end of this section is interesting - the circumcision discussion does sound like Paul at times, however it's important to note that the view here does find some value in circumcision, something Paul does not find elsewhere.
5But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11For God shows no partiality. 12All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.17But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” 25Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.
Romans 3:1 - Paul
1Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?
Romans 3:2 - Opponent
2Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
Romans 3:3 - Paul
3What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
Romans 3:4 - Opponent
4By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written, “So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.”
Romans 3:5 - Paul
5But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)
Romans 3:6 - Opponent
6By no means! For then how could God judge the world?
Romans 3:7-8a - Paul
7But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”?
Romans 3:8b-20 - Opponent
Their condemnation is deserved! 9What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. 12All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.” 13“Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of vipers is under their lips.” 14“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15“Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16ruin and misery are in their paths, 17and the way of peace they have not known.” 18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”19Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
Romans 3:21-31 - Paul - the 'but now' indicates a sharp break from the preceding paragraph. I take it as signalling a change in speaker.
21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.