Centuries later we are not so fortunate as the original listening audience. We have these dialog 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.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."
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.
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."
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
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. 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."
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."
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:
4. The Opponent comes right back with the conventional view of the Day of Judgment as God unleashing wrath on sinners.
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.