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The Anthropology of Romans Four: Conclusion and Footnotes

July 31st, 2007 | 11 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

VIII. Conclusion

My initial move was to outline interpretations of two exegetical issues, namely anthropology and justification, pointing out that a fundamental tension exists within exegesis of both issues, namely which paradigm has primacy in Paul’s thought, the individual or corporate. It seems that little clarification is offered by “new perspective” thinkers or “traditionalists” as to the nature of the relationship between these paradigms. I then turned to Romans 4, where I affirmed Moxnes’s interpretation that Paul’s purpose is to delineate who the children of Abraham are. This clearly means that his purpose is communal, oriented toward the theological relationship of Jews and Gentiles, and broadly affirms that justification entails being “righteoused,” or included in the covenant people of God. I then argued that the faith of Abraham which makes us father of all who believe was specifically in God’s creative power, which was established by the textual parallels with Romans 1, and by the identification of God’s creative power with His raising Christ from the dead. This led us to the anthropological underpinnings of Paul’s argument about the nature of Abraham’s faith. The argument proceeded on two levels: on the one hand, thematic parallels were developed between Romans 4 and Joseph and Aseneth, a text that uses the “death-life” imagery that is indicative of “new creation.” Even though no direct connection can be made, the thematic similarity between these two texts was striking. On the other hand, textual parallels between Romans 4 and Romans 8 were established and it was suggested that Paul’s anthropological explication of the “new life in Christ,” or “new creation” in shorthand is in fact undergirding Romans 1-4. The deadness of the body in 8.11 was seen as analogous to the deadness of Abraham’s body in 4.19. This gave theological significance to sw:ma; in 4.19, and adds significant support to Gundry’s thesis that Paul is operating with a view of sw:ma; that is physical. However, nowhere does Gundry elicit support from his view in this manner or from this text. Furthermore, this argument furthers Hubbard’s defense of an anthropological conception of “new creation.” If Paul is employing those concepts in his explication of Abraham’s faith, then this adduces support for an “anthropological view” in those places where he actually uses the shorthand "kaine ktises".

There still exists a tension between Romans 4 and Romans 5-8. I have argued that they are thematically interrelated. However, it is not clear how. I have argued that the anthropology of Romans 4 is consistent with 5-8, and here I will characterize the relationship between 4 and 5-8 as one of “foreshadowing-revelation.” Abraham’s experience of his “dead” body becoming “alive” as a result of his faith that God “who was able to do what He promised” is revealed in subsequent chapters for what it was: a work of the Spirit of God in an act of “new creation.” Reading backward, then, we can discern a strikingly similar anthropology in 5-8 to Paul’s anthropology in chapter 4.

One significant issue has been left undone. I am willing to grant that the “new perspective” is correct, and justification is about “inclusion in the covenant,” and the purpose of Romans 4 is to determine “who is in.” However, that still does not entail Wright’s conclusion that justification is “more about ecclesiology than the church.” Rather, justification requires a “new creation” by faith in order for the “church” to exist. Even if the purpose of Romans 4 is to delineate who the children of Abraham are, the fact that they are “of the faith of Abraham” suggests that they need the same sort of faith, and hence need to be “new creations” in the way we have argued Abraham was. They must be brought to life through faith in Him who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, no matter who they are. Clearly no “new perspective” thinker would disagree with this. However, justification itself depends upon this transformation occurring, and hence the communal interpretation itself depends upon the individual. The relationship between the competing paradigms with respect to transformation, then, has individuals as foundational, with communal transformation logically subsequent.

We have, then, reached an understanding of the relationship between individual and communal paradigms of transformation from Romans 4. The content of Abraham’s faith and experience of faith is prior to anyone being included as children of Abraham, and it is when we have faith like his (namely, faith in God’s creating-resurrecting power) that we are reckoned as righteous, or justified. Ultimately, this will be revealed for what it is, namely that we are now sons of God and heirs of Jesus Christ, not just sons of Abraham and heirs of the world.

(Footnotes below the fold)

[1] See my “The One and the Many: A Corporate View of Election,” unpublished paper. 2002.

[2] See Mark A. Seifrid and Randall K.J. Tan, eds., The Pauline Writings: An Annotated Bibliography (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 168.

[3] See Jouette Bassler, ed., Pauline Theology: Volume I (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), David Hay, ed., Pauline Theology: Volume II (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993) and David M.Hay and E. Elizabeth Johnson, eds., Pauline Theology: Volume III (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995).

[4] See J.Christiaan Beker, The Triumph of God, trans. by Loren T. Stuckenbruck (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990).

[5] Rudolph Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, Vol. I, trans. by Kendrick Grobel, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951), 191.

[6] Bultmann, Theology, 192.

[7] Bultmann, Theology, 193.

[8] Ibid. Bultmann notes several: I Cor. 13.3, 9.27, 7.4, Phil. 1.20, etc.

[9] Bultmann, Theology, 195.

[10] J.A.T. Robinson, The Body: A Study in Pauline Theology, SBT 1/5 (London, 1952), 15.

[11] Ibid., 31.

[12] Robert Gundry, SĹŤma in Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1987), 244.

[13] Ibid., 194.

[14] Ibid., 243.

[15] Ibid., 80.

[16] Ibid., 202.

[17] Though I have not read this, and hence am dependent upon other writers’ characterization of it, consensus as to its content and emphasis is strong enough to warrant explicating it here. See James Dunn’s Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, Ralph P. Martin ed. (Dallas: Word, 1988) lxv, Donald Hagner’s essay “Paul and Judaism: Testing the New Perspective,” in Peter Stuhlmacher, Revisiting Paul’s Doctrine of Justification, (Downers Grove: IVP, 2001).

[18] Dunn, Romans, lxv.

[19] E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 544, in James Dunn, Theology of Paul the Apostle, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 338.

[20] N.T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans 1997), 155.

[21] See Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 119.

[22] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 117.

[23] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 119.

[24] Moxnes’s reading of Romans, which will receive substantial treatment below, clearly falls in this category. See Halvor Moxnes, Theology in Conflict, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1980).

[25] See again my “The One and the Many: A Corporate View of Election,” Unpublished Paper, 2002.

[26] Douglas Moo, Romans, NICNT, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 28.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Dunn, Theology, 354.

[29] Moo, Romans, 207.

[30] See Moo, Romans, 211-217. See also Francis Watson, “Not the New Perspective,” Unpublished Paper, 2002.

[31] Dunn, Theology, 354.

[32] Moo, Romans, 255-257.

[33] Moxnes, Theology in Conflict, 108-116.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Moo, Romans, 255 n.1.

[36] See also Edward Adams, “Abraham’s Faith and Gentile Disobedience,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 65 (March 1997): 47-66. I reached my conclusions independent of Adams’ work, only to have them confirmed by it.

[37] Moxnes, Theology in Conflict. This, broadly stated, is the thesis of Part I.

[38] Richard Longenecker, “The Focus of Romans: The Central Role of 5:1-8:39 in the Argument of the Letter,” Romans and the People of God, eds. Sven Soderlund and N.T. Wright, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).

[39] Romans 4.b12, emphasis mine.

[40] Moo, Romans, 275.

[41] Dunn, Romans, 214.

[42] See Romans 3.24.

[43] See Genesis 16.16.

[44] See his essay “Abraham’s Faith and Gentile Disobedience.” I am dependent upon him both for pointing out the absence of idolatry in Romans 4 and for identifying the tradition that undergird the link I had already identified.

[45] See, for instance, Philo On the Migration of Abraham 211-16, On Abraham 68-72. Also the Apocalypse of Abraham 1-8.

[46] And Dunn concurs, Romans, 205.

[47] Adams, “Abraham’s Faith,” 61.

[48] Joseph and Aseneth, trans. C. Burchard, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Volume II, James H. Charlesworth, ed., (Garden City: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1985), 8.5.

[49] Ibid., 8.10-11.

[50] Ibid., 12.11-13.2.

[51] Ibid., 14.7.

[52] Ibid., 14.5.

[53] Ibid., 16.8.

[54] Ibid., 8.11.

[55] Hubbard, New Creation, 240.

[56] Hubbard, New Creation, 76.

[57] This, broadly stated, seems to be the thesis of Hubbard’s work. Pauline references are Galatians 6.15 and 2 Corinthians 5.17.

[58] Moxnes, Theology in Conflict, 244.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Hubbard cites a number of passages from Ezekiel and other OT writers. New Creation, 113.

[61] Emphasis mine.

[62] See his references to Abraham’s fatherhood in 1, 11, 12, 16, 17, and 18.

Other posts in this series:

Series Intro

Prefatory Remarks

An Intro to Pauline Theology

The Individual vs. the Communal

An Exegesis of Romans 3:20-31

The Turn to Romans 4

Continuing with Romans 4

The Anthropology of Romans 4

Romans 4 with respect to 5-8

Conclusion and Footnotes

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.