VII. Romans 4 with Reference to 5-8

In the preceding section I argued that the thematic similarities between Romans 4 and Joseph and Aseneth support my argument that “new creation” is at work in Romans 4. However, this is clearly not sufficient. Hubbard’s argument locates “new creation” in the death-life imagery of Romans 5-8, and if “death-life” imagery is at the heart of “new creation,” then establishing textual and thematic parallels between Romans 4 and 5-8 is absolutely critical to my argument. In establishing these parallels, I will focus on Romans 8.

It is at this point that it is important to recall the various interpretations of soma that were outlined above. On the one hand were Robinson and Bultmann, arguing that soma refers to the whole person, with Robinson contending that it referred to man in his solidarity with creation, while Bultmann argued that it referred only to the whole person. On the other hand was Gundry, who argues that soma is merely part of the whole person, the functional or instrumental part. It is not my intent to address the arguments for Gundry’s position—rather, I merely want to reinforce his argument in a way that he did not. To do so, I will argue that by virtue of the parallels between Romans 4 and 5-8, Paul’s use of swvma in Romans 4.17 takes on theological significance, and furthers Gundry’s claims about the corporeality of soma.

Hubbard’s work (which again, I will adopt) on the antecedents to Paul’s uses of the Spirit leads him to conclude that there are two prominent lines of tradition that Paul interweaves: “the Spirit as the sign of the eschaton, and the Spirit as the creator of life.[60] Under the matrix of Spirit as “creator of life,” then, examine the clear linguistic parallels between Romans 4 and Romans 8.10-11:

4.17: “the God who gives life to the dead

4.19: “he faced the fact that his body (soma) was as good as dead

4.24: “but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.”

8.10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.

8.11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

Clearly soma in 4.19 is not intended to extend beyond Abraham’s procreative abilities, which were clearly dead. However, given the linguistic parallels noted above between chapter 4 and 8.10-11, it seems Paul has expanded his use of soma from procreative abilities in 4.19 to the whole body in chapters 6-8. Gundry has demonstrated from the uses of soma in chapters 6-8 that Paul is focusing on the corporeality of the human person when he uses the term. The parallel language merely provides further reason to think that he doesn’t extend it to the whole person. The textual echoes I have highlighted in chapter eight warrant the conclusion that the semantic range of sw:ma does not extend beyond corporeality to the whole man.

Textual echoes do not end there, however. As 8.10-11 demonstrate, “life giving” and “raising” are synonyms in Paul’s mind. In chapter 4, God is identified as both “life giving” and “raising” (verses 17 and 23, respectively). As was pointed out above, Abraham is reckoned as righteous for our sake as well because the God who He believed is the God who raised Christ Jesus. Both “life giving” and “raising” are used of God in Romans 8.11. If the “Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead” that dwells in us, then “He will also give life to our mortal bodies.”[61] As I have argued previously, Paul is concerned to delineate who the “children of Abraham” are.[62] In chapter eight Paul returns to the concept of “the Father,” only it is the Spirit who is crying out in our hearts, “Abba, Father.” Now we are children of God, and not children of Abraham. It is no surprise, then, that Paul also expands the concept of “inheritance” as well, from being “heirs of the world” (4.13) to “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

Clearly, then, the textual links between Romans 4 and 8 are established enough to justify the conclusion that if “new creation” can be located in the “death-life” imagery of chapters 6-8, then it can be located in chapter four. This suggests, however, that “new creation” is fundamentally anthropological, and that chapters 6-8 are an expansion of Paul’s argument in chapter four.

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

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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  1. […] Series IntroAn Intro to Pauline TheologyThe Individual vs. The CommunalAn Exegesis of Romans 3:20-31The Turn to Romans FourContinuing with Romans FourThe Anthropology of Romans FourRomans 4 with Respect to 5-8 […]

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