A New Way to Read Romans — and All of Scripture?
guided by Douglas Campbell in The Deliverance of God
A Rendering of Romans 1:1-4:3 in Dialog Form
Overview/Explanation: I offer the following rendering of Romans 1:1-4:3 based on Douglas Campbell‘s revolutionary hypotheses for rereading Romans, from his book The Deliverance of God (see my review on the Amazon.com page). The core translation provided here is from the NRSV, with key modifications based on Campbell’s many suggestions (and several of my own from the Greek). The sectioning I’ve provided renders Campbell’s main idea that Romans is an example of the Roman rhetorical convention known as Diatribe, which included an opponent’s views within the text. In the First Century, it was not commonly part of the text, however, to clearly mark the opponent’s views in the text itself. Since these were primarily oral performances of texts, those who performed the text would have had the information needed to properly read it as a dialog. (The oral performer was most often the author himself — the text being essentially a script for a speech — but in Paul’s case with Romans the oral performer would have been the letter-bearer.)
Centuries later we are not so fortunate as the original listening audience. We have these dialogical texts without any markings as to which portions of the text represent whose views. If Campbell’s thesis is correct, obviously this means that our misreading of Paul’s text of Romans has been colossal for almost twenty centuries! We have tried to read two opposing views as Paul’s view alone!
I offer the following rendering as an early attempt at making corrections to our colossal misreadings. Making my own decisions based on Campbell’s book, I have sharply divided Paul’s text into sections that represent Paul’s views and sections that represent the Opposing Teacher’s views, except for 3:1-8 and 3:27-4:3 which are rendered as back-and-forth dialog between Paul and his opponent. I give headings that indicate what I think is happening in that portion of the text.
I invite the reader to judge for herself whether or not this provides a more faithful and fruitful way to read Paul’s Letter to the Romans.
1 1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To 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.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. 9 For 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, 10 asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — 12 or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I 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.
Paul’s Introduction of Theme
14 I 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. 16 For 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. 17 The deliverance of God is revealed through the gospel by means of faithfulness for faithfulness; as it is written, “The Righteous One, by means of faithfulness, will live.” (1)
The Opposing Teacher’s Introduction of Theme
18“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For 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; 21 for 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. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and 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. (2)
28 And 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. 29 They were filled with every kind of
wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice.
Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness,
they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful,
inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents,
31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32 They 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.”
Paul’s First Rebuttal: The Teacher’s ‘Wrath of God’ Seen Instead as the Human Wrath of Judging
2 1 Therefore you have no excuse, Every Person, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, ‘we know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ 3 How do you think about it when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself: that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you disregard the riches of God’s kindness and forbearance and patience — unaware that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 So 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. (3)
The Opposing Teacher’s Restatement of the Standard View of God’s Judgment
6 …Who will repay according to each one’s deeds: (4) 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God does not respect mere appearance. 12 All who have sinned lawlessly will also perish lawlessly, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who will be righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
Paul’s Next Rebuttal: Gentiles Who Live by the Law Vs. Jews Who Don’t
14 But when Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves; (5) 15 they 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 16 on the day when God will judge the secret thoughts of all, according to my gospel, through Jesus Christ.
17But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18 and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19 and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21 you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29 Rather, 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.
First Dialogue of Paul and the Teacher — Paul as Questioner
3 Paul: 1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?
Teacher: 2 Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
Paul: 3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
Teacher: 4 By 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.”
Paul: 5 But 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.) (6)
Teacher: 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world?
Paul: 7 But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”?
Teacher: Their condemnation is deserved!
Paul Marshals Scripture Citations Before Climaxing His Argument
Paul: 9 What 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, 10 as 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.”
The Core of Paul’s Argument Against the Teacher: Universal Sinfulness Prompted Not Wrathful Judgment Under the Law but God’s Unilaterally Saving Act in Jesus Christ
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. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now, apart from law, the saving act of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the saving act of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who trust. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God intended to be a singular act of atonement effective through that faithfulness in his blood. He did this to show his justice, because in his divine forbearance he granted amnesty for sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that God’s justice is itself just in the very act of declaring everyone just from the faithfulness of Jesus.(7)
Second Dialogue of Paul and Teacher — Teacher as Questioner
Teacher: 27 Then what becomes of boasting?
Paul: It is excluded.
Teacher: By what teaching? By that of works?
Paul: No, but by the teaching of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is delivered by faithfulness apart from works of law.
Teacher: 29 Or is God the God of Jews only?
Paul: Is he not the God of Gentiles also?
Teacher: Yes, of Gentiles also.
Paul: 30 If God is one — the God who will deliver the circumcised through fidelity — then he will deliver the uncircumcised through that same fidelity.
Teacher: 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?
Paul: By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
4 Teacher: 1 What then are we to say was found out in relation to Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about.
Paul: But not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham trusted in God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
Reflections: In the popular way of naming the Bible as “God’s Word,” it is common to see the entire text as all one category of truth. God is still seen in the philosophical categories of unchanging and eternal, so it is assumed that the Bible in its entirety contains an unchanging and eternal truth.
The beginning of an alternative to that position is that Jesus gave us another way to see God: not in Greek philosophical categories but rather as “Our Father.” Loving parents do not deal with their children in timeless, unchanging, and eternal ways. They deal with them in age-appropriate ways. The rule of never going into the street without holding the hand of an adult is not an eternal rule. It stays in place until the child demonstrates being able to go safely into the street on her own.
The second step is to take an anthropological perspective on our species, homo sapiens. If God is like a loving parent to us, are there age-appropriate rules for human beings as a species? For eons, for example, God allowed human beings to order themselves around religions centered on killing living creatures on altars. Slowly, gradually, we have moved to other ways of ordering ourselves, using armed police, courts of law, armies, etc. The Bible was written over a vast number of years. In this perspective, should all of “God’s Word” to us be timelessly true? Or age-appropriately true, so to speak, to our species? The laws in Leviticus, for example, were written during the time that human community was ordered by blood sacrifice. We no longer see them as applying to us in the same way.
The Hebrew Scriptures themselves bear witness to this development: earlier ways of ordering community are criticized at later times by the prophets. The core view of law, sometimes named as Deuteronomic, is also questioned and criticized, especially in the central poetry of the Book of Job. In short, the Bible itself seems to witness to the kind of dialog that Paul models in the Letter to the Romans. The Opponent represents a standard view of God’s wrathful and just judgment — a standard view of Retributive Justice. Paul represents an alternative view in Jesus Christ based on God’s grace. We all deserve God’s wrathful punishment but instead we get God’s unconditionally loving and unilaterally saving action in the cross and resurrection. It is a view of Restorative Justice that invites us to begin moving beyond the standard view of justice as retributive.
And we can interpret that as Paul being faithful and consistent with the message of Jesus. Briefly considering the testimony of the Gospels, Jesus himself seemed to have this bigger anthropological picture in mind for his teaching on the law. The Sermon on the Mount gives us a series of “You’ve heard it said . . . but I say to you.” His giving of the law as fulfilled in love seems to be for human beings come-of-age — for human beings living in God’s Spirit as we were meant to from the beginning. In Jesus Christ and the coming of his Spirit on all people, we are being invited into growing up as a species, of more fully maturing into the creatures that God created us to be. And, from Paul’s perspective, that teaching was incarnated and became a real possibility through the events of cross and resurrection.
I believe that this resonates with Campbell’s contention of what Paul’s core salvation is all about. Read Romans 5-8 (Campbell’s choice for the core of Paul’s theology) in your favorite translation to see if it makes sense in terms of God saving us through the Second Adam to truly be who we were created to be — an anthropological salvation in the sense of God’s redeeming our way of being human. God’s saving act through Jesus Christ, his faithfulness as the true Son, has made it possible for the rest of us to fully mature as God’s children. We are now able to live in his Spirit rather than in “the flesh” of the First Adam. This is decidedly anthropological talk and not just theological. It is about our growing up as a species for the sake of the rest of Creation which “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.”
Campbell also is translating the language of “righteousness” (dikaiosyne in Greek) — very dominant in Romans 1-4 and not as much in the rest of Romans — into language of “deliverance” or “saving acts.” In other words, I would suggest that he is arguing that Paul is making the translation akin to our contemporary terms from Retributive Justice to Restorative Justice. Dikaiosyne can (and perhaps should) simply be translated as “justice.” But what kind of justice is the issue: our typical Retributive Justice that God has allowed us in the early millennia of our species, or the Restorative Justice that God has always had planned for an incomplete Creation on its way to completion. We show our thinking in terms of Retributive Justice by translating the word for “justice” as “righteousness,” a word used primarily in the context of retributive thinking, of dividing between the righteous and unrighteous in our judging. Campbell argues that, in the context of Paul’s theology, it should be translated as “deliverance.”
In short, our choice for translating Paul’s dikaiosyne, “justice,” belies our own thinking about justice. The choice laid out by Paul himself in Romans is between (1) his opponent’s standard thinking of Retributive Justice: God righteously judging between the righteous and unrighteous according to their just deserts; or (2) Paul’s own interpretation of what God actually does in the cross and resurrection of Christ, namely, deliver us from the powers of sin and death for a new life lived in his Spirit — a Restorative (and Reconciling) Justice that begins to restore all our broken and incomplete relationships. Because the Law seems to be about wrathful judgment, or retribution, our salvation is now apart from the Law in that sense. It is based instead on faith, trust, in the new thing that God is doing in Jesus Christ. God is inviting us to move from Retributive Justice to Restorative Justice as an act of our own faithfulness in following Jesus.
So what does that mean as we consider our current system of Criminal Justice? How can we as followers of Christ invite our fellow citizens into shaping our justice system beyond the Retributive to the Restorative? Again, it is helpful to also think along with the bigger anthropological picture before us. As a species, I suggest we are probably still in our teenage or young adult years. We are not mature enough to entirely forgo Retributive Justice. (Is that Paul’s concession in Romans 13:1-7?) We are thankful for Retributive Justice that keeps us relatively safe. Yet, as followers of Christ, there are three very important factors that urge us to be reformers of our human justice.
First, anthropology in Christ (especially through the renewed understanding of the Gospels and Paul made possible via the work of René Girard) helps us to better understand the challenge of sin that we are rescued from (truly a “deliverance” in Campbell’s terms) because it is impossible for us to solve on our own. We come to see how the powers of sin have themselves tainted and distorted our human systems of Retributive Justice. (Is this the picture of the Law enslaved to sin we have in Rom. 5-7?) The very origin of our species witnesses an original sin of our turning the imitated violence of everyone against everyone into a relative peace of a violence of everyone against one, or a majority against a minority — which is the beginning of basing our human ordering on the division between righteous and unrighteous.
In our time and place, for example, our system is still very Racist and Classist. It works much better for white people and rich people, those who are justified by the majority as righteous. (Is that akin to Paul’s argument against the Teacher, that the Law shouldn’t be slanted in favor of Jews because they aren’t in reality more deserving?) We have debunked the racist justifications (though not by any means universally accepted), but the racist formations of our institutions over the last four hundred years are still far from being dismantled.(8) Meanwhile, the Classist justifications seem to still be under debate. Candidates for President in 2012, and their supporters, are occasionally framing the election as being a struggle between the Lower and Middle Classes and the Upper Classes — or as accusing the opponent of framing it that way (while they themselves presumably are not). This very way of framing things, on whichever ‘side’ one finds oneself, seems to me to be dangerously trapped in the divisiveness of the dualistic thinking of Retributive Justice. I would offer that the thinking of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and Paul, which urges us forward to Restorative Justice, seeks to transcend the divisions in favor of seeing humanity as one family. And justice in a family is most properly centered on helping the least in the family (e.g., Matt. 25:31-46).
Second, anthropology in Christ more positively calls us to discipleship such that we follow the true Son, our Elder Brother. We are called to grow up in Christ and move beyond lives lived solely by externally imposed rules (“the flesh”), to lives lived in the Spirit of God’s love in Jesus Christ. We are invited to live by faithfulness to God’s Restorative Justice. In this context, I would suggest an alternate title of Campbell’s book, The Deliverance of God, which is his suggested translation of Paul’s dikaiosyne theou (most often translated as “the righteousness of God,” e.g., Rom. 3:22). We might alternatively title it The Restorative Justice of God. Dikaiosyne definitely conveys Justice; adding the word Restorative makes it clear what brand of justice is God’s. Thus, we might ask: being disciples of Jesus and citizens in a democracy, does that mean that we advocate in our democratic process of human justice to move beyond the current orientation, which is largely toward Retributive Justice only, to increasingly finding ways of enacting Restorative Justice?
Finally, there is the “apocalyptic” element, a very significant element in the New Testament. For Paul, who represents the earliest writing in the NT, we may perhaps see a development from an urgency to be ready for the second coming of Christ to an urgency increasingly based on the consequences of not undergoing the transformation God offers us in Christ’s first coming. What are the consequences of us not growing up as a species? In Romans 8 the whole creation is waiting for us to grow up, for “the revealing [apocalypsis in Greek] of the children of God.” We have tended to think in terms of a divine revealing or apocalypse, when God will enact Retributive Justice. But I contend that Paul and the New Testament came to think in terms of an anthropological revealing or apocalypse. Will we grow up as a species into the love of God’s Spirit such that we avoid the ongoing and continual consequences of our “storing up wrath for ourselves” (Rom. 2:5) and then unleashing it on each other? In a time when we now have Weapons of Mass Destruction, can there even come a time that it becomes too late for us to grow up before we destroy ourselves? Isn’t this the urgency we need to be citizens of the world community in ways that advocate for Restorative or Reconciling Justice? Within our own nation, what are the consequences for our democratic society of focusing too much on prisons and not enough on preventive measures that work to heal persons, especially children and youth, from the traumas and hurts which have the potential to lead one into crime? Are those programs of healing and restoration more or less expensive (in whatever ways we want to measure cost) than warehousing large numbers of people in prisons for years? Could the ultimate cost of not ‘growing up’ increasingly into Restorative Justice be the eventual collapse of our nation — its end as so many others before it in history?
One final word since the apocalyptic in the NT is the penultimate word and not the ultimate word. The last word in the New Testament is always Resurrection and New Creation.(9) Even if extinction or near-extinction is possible for the species homo sapiens in history, God will seemingly not let that be the Last Word. Jesus’ own resurrection is the first fruits of a greater resurrection someday, a day when God’s power of love and life will be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:19-28). History matters a great deal, since it is the unfolding of God’s heavenly purposes for Creation. But no matter what happens in history we have God’s promise that there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:31-39). Thus, we are called to work in the kingdom without fear — neither fear of our own failure, since this is ultimately God’s project of Restoration; nor even fear of death, since God in Jesus Christ has defeated that last enemy. We are called to fearlessly do justice (of God’s own Restorative variety!), love compassion, and walk humbly with God (knowing that this is God’s project to lead and not ours).
1. Campbell argues (see The Deliverance of God, especially pp. 377-380 and 613-616), and I agree, that Paul reads Habakkuk 2:4 as referring to Christ as the Righteous One whose faithfulness in going to the cross meant the life he received in the Resurrection — a faithfulness that now gives life to those who trust in and are faithful to Christ. Hab 2:4 is not in the first instance about any and all persons who believe in Jesus Christ. It is not really even about belief as a mental state; it is about faithfulness in relationship. And it is first of all about Jesus Christ himself, “the Righteous One,” and then only derivatively about those who follow him in faithfulness and trust. Paul is much more radical in emphasizing the grace of God’s acting through the faithfulness of Christ than the Reformation has tended to be, where the emphasis shifted to our faith in Jesus, as a mental state of belief. Campbell is another of the modern interpreters who translates Paul’s pisteos Iesou Christou (e.g., Rom. 3:22) as “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” rather than the typical “faith in Jesus Christ.” Paul is emphasizing Jesus’ faithfulness, not our works of belief.
2. That these verses which are so key to current arguments about GLBTQ persons might not even represent Paul’s views but his opponent’s views obviously has the potential to drastically change that discussion, too. Campbell does have a very brief mention of this issue on pp. 206-207, where he concludes with wonderful understatement: “The terms of this significant debate are significantly altered.”
3. I have written in many places about what I think is at stake in these verses, namely, Paul’s transformation of his opponent’s views of the “wrath of God” into an anthropological understanding of wrath as our thing, as something we regularly “store up for ourselves” that is then unleashed on a day of wrath — think something like D-Day or Gettysburg. And “God’s righteous judgment” for Paul is God’s unilaterally gracious saving act in Jesus. For more on this transformation of the “God of wrath” in Romans see the following portion of “My Core Convictions” essay:
5. Paul begins his counter-argument to the conventional view of God’s judgment — which involves not being able to, in the end, judge anyone not guilty of the wrath we store up for ourselves and regularly unleash on one another. We all sin. But Paul begins by muddying the waters with instances of Gentiles who appear relatively righteous and Jews who don’t appear righteous at all.The italics emphasis in verse 16 are mine in order to highlight the clue that “my” gives us. Why would Paul specify this Gospel with the word “my” unless he was also laying out someone else’s version?
6. Paul, for the sake of argument, himself voices the conventional view of God’s judgment here, while also immediately making it clear that this is the human way to see things, as opposed, presumably, to God’s own way to see things.
7. This is primarily my translation of verse 26, which in Greek is: en tē anochē tou theou pros tēn endeixin tēs dikaiosynēs autou en tō nun kairō, eis to einai auton dikaion kai dikaiounta ton ek pisteōs Iēsou. Paul piles up his use of the dikai- word-group, using it in three forms: a noun, dikaiosynēs – “justice”; an adjectve, dikaion – “just”; and a participial verb, dikaiounta – “declaring just.” The NRSV translates it: “it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus” — compared to my translation which, I maintain, is more literal to the Greek: “it was to prove at the present time that God’s justice is itself just in the very act of declaring everyone just from the faithfulness of Jesus.” Paul is telling us explicitly in what God’s justice consists. Rather than a retributive punishment, God’s justice simply declares all sinners to be just through the faithfulness of Jesus in going to the cross.
8. Three recent books that give us a portrait of race and the Criminal Justice system today are: Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010); Michael Tonry, Punishing Race: A Continuing American Dilemma (Oxford University Press, 2011); Samuel Walker, Cassia Spohn, and Miriam DeLone, The Color of Justice: Race, Ethnicity, and Crime in America, 5th ed. (Wadsworth Publishing, 2011).
9. On apocalyptic as penultimate and resurrection as ultimate: In Matthew, Mark, and Luke we see the prominence of apocalyptic sayings since they are the very last teachings of Jesus before his Passion: Mark 13, Luke 21, and one could argue that Matthew in chapters 21-25 has shaped the entire last week to be apocalyptic in tenor. Yet Resurrection does most assuredly come last.
John is quite different in seemingly replacing the apocalyptic of the Synoptics with the Farewell Discourse of John 13-17. But can we see the Discourse as a more positively framed way of making the same point, namely, that we are invited to grow up into full humanity? The apocalyptic of the Synoptics emphasize the consequences of not growing up. John’s Farewell Discourse emphasizes the process of actually growing up by living in the Spirit (Paraclete) that Jesus will send us through his lifting up on the cross which simply continues in the raising on Easter and the Ascension.
The Book of Revelation is obviously mostly about apocalyptic, the terribly violent consequences of our choosing the way of Satan (whose power of Accusation represents Retributive Justice) rather than the way of the Lamb Slaughtered (whose nonviolent power of life-giving love represents Restorative Justice). The terrifying drama in chapters 18-20 might even represent a human self-destruction, a picture of extinction of homo sapiens in history, the “end of the world” as we know it. But the Last Word in Revelation 21-22 represents the poetically beautiful description of New Creation.