Full Text for Paul's Concept of Justification, and Some Recent Interpretations of Romans 3:21-31 (Text)

'An Essay for Lutheran Pastors Ion the Charismatic Movement !? IThe Caring God 3 [a review article) f -. i %The Historical-Critical Interpretation :of the Baptism of Jesus froin the !Perspective of Traditional Lutheran On Believing, Teaching, and Confessing: A Fresh Look at the ' Confessions JOHN F. JOHNSON Paul's Con2ept of Justification, and Some Recent Interpretations of 'Romans 3 : '2 1-3 1 WALTER A. MAIER Book Reviews Index to Volume XXXVII Paul's Concept of Justification, and Some Recent Interpretations of Romans 3:21-31 I N KOM. 3 : 2 1-3 1 Paul expands upon the theme of his epistle to the Romans as previously announced in 1 : 16-1 7, namely, "The Righteousness of God Revealed in the Gospel, Through Faith, For Faith." The eleven concluding verses of chapter 3 provide a full statement of the apostle's teaching concerning that righteousness, designated there as "the righteousncss of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe" (verse 22). This is the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith. Lutheran theology has traditionally (compare the Lutheran Confessions) cnlphasized the forensic force of the verb dikaioo as en~ployed by Paul in Romans (for example, in verses 24, 26, 28, and 30 of chapter 3) and other epistles. This sense of the verb is demonstrated clearly, in a neutral, non-soteriological context, in 3 : 4; in a soturiological, in 4: 5. Gottlob Schrenk in Gerhard I. It was against the Jewish misconception- that justification and salvation came as a reward for works done in obedience to the law and for the purpose of gaining merits which would be favorably recognized by God-that PauI contended cxten- sively, particularly in the epistles of Galatians and Romans, as well as in passages of his other letters. It is held by numerous scholars today that the statement of Paul's teaching concerning the righteousness of God and justification in Rom. 3 : 2 1-3 1 appears to he constructed around a yre-Pauline formula, a confession of faith, which was perhaps employed liturgi- cally in Hellenistic-Jewish Christianity."'This idea was first ad- vanced by 13ultmann as a possibility in a 19 3 6 research report14 and then with more certainty, under "The Icerygma of the Earliest Church," in his Theologie des Neuen Testaments1?in 1948. His views were endorsed and undergirded by Ernst Kaesemann in 19 5 0.IvThe chief points of the Bultmann-Kaesemann theory are conveniently summarized, discussed, and further developed by John Reumann in an essay titled "The Gospel of the Righteousness of God,"li which appeared in 1966. The discussion of the next para- graphs has employed the latter presentation as a prii~cipal source. According to Bultmann and Kaesemann, Paul is presumed to have incorporated an earlier Christian formula at the very center of his presentation concerning the righteousness of God in Romans, namely in 3 : 24-26a. Evidence in support of this assumption is of- fered as follows. First, 3 : 24-26a is said to be intrusive in its context. Verse 24, beginning with a participle instead of with an expected indicative and conjunction, is supposed not to carry on the thought and construction of verse 23 as they ought to be. Secondly, the repe- tition in verse 26b of a phrase from verse 25 ("for the demonstration of his righteousness") is held to mark the introduction of a Pauline comment appended to a previous citation. Thirdly, according to the form critics, the section from 3 : 24 to 3: 26a contains several linguistic fea- tures such as are found in other examples of New Testament creedal formulas. There is, for example, the participial con- struction in verse 24 (dikaiou~nenoi; compare Phil 2: 7; I Peter 3 : 1 S, 22). There is the use of a relative pronoun at the start of a clause, hon in verse 25.1S There is throughout an over- laiden style, full of genitive constructions and prepositional phrases, the sort of style which Percy (and earlier, Norden) pointed out to be characteristic of the Near Eastern hymnic and liturgical tradition. Fourthly, Ilom. 3 : 24-26a is regarded as not characteristic of Paul himself, because it is seen to contain "terms ~vhich occur either nowhere else in Paul or only rarely and (oil these occasions usually) in passages he is quoting" and also "terms which seemingly have a different meaning here than elscrvhere in Paul." The force of this argument is presumed to be undergirded wit11 the observation: It can be countered, of course, that a hapax in Paul or an odd usage of a word may be of no significance, since we (lo not have all his writings, let alone evidence of his habits in spealting; and it must be admitted that not every Greek word occurring just once in Paul is borrowed from a pre-l'auline source. Ho~vever, the concentration of so many examples in so few verses is impressivc. 'The words which are singled out are these: in verse 24, ayolzltvdsis (which occurs, however, also in Rom. 8 : 23 ; X Cor. 1 : 30; Col. 1 : 14; Eph. 1 : 7, 14; 4: 30); in verse 25, hilasterion and pcaresis (both words found only here in Paul); endeixis (occurring twice here, and in Phil. 1 : 28 and 2 Cor. 8: 24); anochd (which occurs also at Roin. 2 : 4); p'rotith~nzi (which occurs also at Rom. 1 : 13 and Eph. 1 : 9); dia with the accusative ("rare in Paul"); the plural ha~ntartZma ("unusual," though occurrin?, also at 1 Cor. 6 : 18; "Paul himself prefers the singular hanznrtia ); the participial form progegorzot6~~ (from a verb found only here in the New Testament); haima, for the blood of Christ (found also at Rom. 5: 9, anci at 1 Cor. 10: 16 and 1 1 : 2 5, 2 7, which record "words about the Lord's Supper . . . again from pre-Pauline tradition"; hainza "is not Paul's ~sua7, term for referring to Jesus' death; he prefers 'cross' "). The word dihaio- sztn? is also to be included in this listing, because the sense of dikaiosz.in~ (theou) in verse 25 seems different from the meaning of the phrase at other places in Paul, notably in vcrse 26 of th~s samc passage. TVhile thc precise nieaning of "(God's) righteousness" in Paul continues to be debated . . . more than a few exegetes have agreed with Kaeseinann that in verse 25 an attribute or characteristic of God is meant, whereas in verse 26 thc same term denotes the eschatological salvatory- transaction, God's saving righteousness. One must concur when Bultmann cieclares the notion, in verse 25, "of the divine right- cousness demanding expiation for former sins" to be "otherwise foreign" to Paul. A fifth and final argument offered in support of the incorpora- tion of a prc-llauline fragment in the Ron~ans text at 3: 24-26a is the one pressed by Ileted rcdeml~tion, available for the ~vhole world of men. According to Reumann, I'aul corrects this formula not only in that hc works in his char- acteristic enlphases sola fide and soln gmtin, but also in the fact that he regards the dihaiosu~zZ thcou as more than fidelity to the Old Covenant-for him it is a universal eschatological. act. This change is seen in the view of God's righteousness as a salvation-bringing pourer for all mcn. The scope of its operation is not just Israel and its covenant people from Moses on, but inen of ail sorts from Abraham on, indeed the whole fallen worlcl of Adam which has come under God's wrath. Hence Paui emphasizes thc righteousness available for "any man," however sinful hc be; God is "he who justifies the impious" (4: 5 ). In Paul's view, God's righteousness is to bc seen effecting its re- sults precisely in "the present age," and not only as a demonstra- tion once that God is righteous, but ;I demonstration now that he declares righteous sinful men. His view of Gorl, dihaion and dikaiou~zta is of One who, in Kaesemann's phrase, "is alive and rnalzes alivc." As a reaction to the Bultn~ann-Iotver, in his behavior (6 : 1 2- 14) .::I The sixth chapter of Romans is, however, in the "effects section" of the epistle (chapters 5-8), in which Paul sets forth the results of justification by faith (as (liscussed in 3: 21-4: 25). Since the union of the believer with Christ and the new creation of the inner man occur in (immediate) consequence of exclusively forensic justification, it is better, in the interest of exactness and fidelity to Pauline teaching, not to sl~eak of this justification itself as having a "creative" or "effective" powcr bestowing actual righteousness In the form of a ('oif a t" or "possession" upon the justified-as ICertelgc proposes. Justification and the reception of forensic righteousness in the apostle's theology ought rather be viewed as laying the basis for the creation "in Christ" of the new man and his actual rigl~teousness~~~ 1. Gottlob Schrenk, "dikaioo," Theological Dictionary of the New Tcsta- ment, edited by Gerhard Icittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey W. Bromiley, translatecl from the German by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids : William R. Ecrdmans l'ublishing Company, c. 1964), IT, 2 15- 216. 2. Schrenk, "dikaiosunc," Theological Dictionary, 11, 204. 3. Rudolf Bultmann, lheology of the New Testament, translated from the German by lccndrick Grobel (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951)) I, 272. 4. "Apology," 111, 184-185, Concordiu Tri lotta, edited by F. Bente, English translation by 1;. gente and W. H. f . Dau (St. Louis: Concordia PuWishir~g Housc, 1921), pp. 205, 207. Cf. XXIV, 12, p. 387, and many other statements in the Confessions. 5. Cf. Bultxnann, T7zcoZogy, I, 285 : '"lhc reason shy 'rightcousness' is call.cd 'Cod's righteousncss' is just this: Its one and only foundation is God's grace-it is God-given, God-adjuclicated righteousness (Rom. 1 : 17; 3 : 2 If., 26; 10: 3). The meaning of this phrasc (i.e. the classification of the genitive as a genitive of the author) is unec~nivocally determined by R.om. 10:3: 'For, bcing ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their ozvn, they (the Jews) did not submit to God's rightcousness,' and Phil. 3:9: 'not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, hut that which is through faith in Christ, the right- eousness from Cod that depends on faith.' As 'their own' or 'my own' means the righteousness which man excrts himself to achieve 11)' ful- filling the 'works of the Law,' so 'God's righteousness' rncans thc right- eousness from God which is conferred upon him as a gift by God's free grace alone." 6. It may be notccl in passing, at this point, that the righteousness of God rcfcrrcd to in 3:25 and 26 (tcs di.haiosuncs uz~tou, occurring twice; and cis' to cinue allton dik~ziotz) is not the j.mputed righteousness the belicver receives froin God, but thc inhcrent ~ighteousncss of thc deity- God's acting in conformity with his own justice, specifically (in context) in the process of forensically justifying believing sinners. This right- eousness of God will be further cliscussed in the short exegetical treat- ment of Rom. 3 : 2 1 -3 1 provided later in this paper (see pp. 2 5 6-25 7 and also footnotc 24). 7. E. .K. Achtcmcir, "Kightcousness in the 01'," The interprctcr's Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Gcorgc 11. Buttrick, ct ul. (New Yorlc: Abingdon Press, 1962), IV, 85. Cf. Walter E. Koehrs, "Covenant and Justification in the Old Tcstament," Co~zcordia Thcologicnl NIontlzly, XXXV (October 1964)' 596: "Israel can dare to invoke this rightcousness of God in, its 'behalf only because it rcsts its case on the promise of God that He will do the right thing in kccping His part of the covenant. God entered into an agrecmcnt with His people on the basis that Hc woulcl not let justiceH prevail in His relationship to them but bc merciful and gracious, for- giving transgression ancl sin. The person who has no right has, as a covcnant partner with God, thc right to hold God to His agreement to bc righteous, that is, to acquit him. The rigllteousness of God is the covenant God in action; He 'practices steadfast love, justice, and right- eousness' (Jer. 9 : 24). Becausc He keeps the covenant His righteousness never ccases: 'My righteousncss shall bc forever, and My salvation from generation to generation.' (Is. 5 1 : 8)" 8. Roehrs,p. 598. Cf. Gen. 15:6; Hab. 2:4. 9. See Koehrs, pp. 598-599; Achtenleier, p. 82.-For an elaboration of the idea that thc Pauline concept of righteousness presumes a covenant relationship, see P. J. Achtemeier's article, "Highteousness in the NT," Interyrctcr's Dictionary, lV, 91-99. 10. Bultmann, Theology, I, 272-27 3. 11. lbid., p. 279. 12. Cf. Schrenk, "dikaiosu~zc," who declares in his discusssion of "llight- eousness in thc Synagogue" (IGttcl-Bromiley, IT, 196) that "The Syna- gogue does not spck of the rightcousncss of God in the scnse of R. 3:21" ant1 writes (IT, 197): "Some brief indication should be given of the basis of the Ilabbinic view . . . . Evcry fulfillment of the La~v nziszoah, carries with it a merit: znhut, which the Israelite earns before God. Zakut itself originally means 'righteousness,' and the verb zkh 'to be righteous,' 'to be worthy,' 'to mcrit,' 'to have merit.' The amassing of fulfilments, i.e., of merits, is thc goal. Of help are allils, tvorks of charity, the merit of thc fathers and other fulfilments of the Law. Standing before God is in exact accordance with the predoniinance of merits or transgrcssions. The justifying sentence of God in the last juclgment ~vill be for the Israelite if his merits predominate. I-le will then stand before God as righteous. The purpose of the last judgment is to see whether merit or transgression is the greater." 13. John Reumann, "The Gospel of the Hi htcous~less of Gd," Interprcta- f tion, XX (October 1366), 432. Some o the scholars accepting (as well as rejecting) this view arc named in footnote 2 on thc samc page of Iieumann's article. 14. Rudolf Bultmann, "Neueste Paulosforschung," ?'heologische I3undsch.au, VIII (1936), pp. 11-12. 15. Rudolf Bultmann, Theologic des Weuen Tcstclments (Tucbingcn: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeckl, 1948, pp. 47-48). [English traoslatj.on, The- ology, I, 46.) 16. Ernst Kaesemann, "Zum Verstaendnis von Eoemer 3, 24-26," originally in Zcitschrift fuel- die Ncutestamentlichc Wisscnschnft, XLIIT (1950/ 5 I), pp. 150-1 54; reprintcd in the collection of Kaesemann's writings, Excgetische Vcrsuchc und Besinnungen (unaltered 2nd edition; Goet- tingcn : Vandcnhoeck und Ruprecht, 1960), I, 96-1 00. 17. Reumann, pp. 432-452. 18, Reumann in footnote 10, p. 136, invites comparison with "the use of 17.0s at Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15, perhaps 1:13; I Tim. 3:16, I Peter 2:23, ;mtl Rom. 4 :25, a11 in thc nominative." He adds: "The use of thc rela- tive pronoun in the accusative at Rom. 3 :25 scems unparalleled in other creedal formulae, but the point stands that the relative pronoun style occurs herc. Perhaps the use of hon is cviclence that 3 : 25 coultf not have been the beginning of the quotation." 19. Bultmann, Theology, I, 46. 20. Otto Kuss, Dcr Rocmerbrief (Part 1 ; Kegensburg : Verlag Frieclrich l'ustet, 1957), p. 160. 21. Cf. C. H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to thc Ko~n~lns in The. Mofatt Nc~v Testnment Conzmentury (New York: Harper and Row, C19321, p. 4 9 1 . / I' 22. This is thc association of expressions in these verses which is preferred by William Sand;iy and Arth~~r C. Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on ~hc Epistle to the Roman, in Thc International Critical Oommentury (Eleventh edition; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906), pp. 85-86. 23. The view that an "objective" justification of the world of sinners is here spoltcn of is to be rejected. 24. John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, in Tho New .International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerd- mans l'ublishing Company, c.1959), I, 118-119, writes: "There are coillpelling reasons for thinking that the righteousness of God in this case is the attribute of justice, as in verse 5. . . . In verse 26 Paul returns to this same consideration and informs us specifically of the end to which this demonstration of righteousness is directed; it is to the end 'that he may be just and thc justifier of him who is of the faith of Jesus.' This intimates that the exigency in view is the justice of God in the justification of sinners. In the provisions of propitiation two things co- here and coalesce, the justice of God and the justification of the ungodly. This justice of God implied in the expression, 'that he might be just,' cannot hc the righteousness of God that is operative unto and constitutive of our justification. The form of the expression shows that it is the inherent righteousness of God that cannot be violatcd on any account and must be vindicated and conserved in the justification of sinners. This shows that the righteousness contemplated in the demonstration in verse 25, as well as in verse 26, is the inhcrcnt justice of God." Cf. Schrenk, "dihiosune," Theological Dictionary, 11, 204 : "God both is and demonstrates Righteousness. The dihaiosune theou makes it plain that God is righteous, that righteousness is proper to Him: R. 3 : 25 f.: cis endeixin tes r~ikaiosztnes autou-eis to cinai auton dikaion. This state- ment, howcver, does not imply a static quality. It is grounded in the demonstration of the endeixis of His judicial action. Dikaiosune is an ex- pression of grace, but of such a kind that the justice of God is also displayed. The endeixis prevents misunderstanding of the paresis and is thus given concrete form in an act of atonement. Cf. thc conjoining .of the thought of judgment with the divine action at the cross in GI. 3 : 13; 2 C. 5 : 2 1 ; R. 8 : 3. Ncvertheless, the endeixis is also a declaration of the pardon which brings salvation. We thus have duality, justice and grace t)eing conjoinccl. Judaism had striven in vain to relate the goodness of God to His justice . . . . That Gocl's clemcncy was greater than His strict equity was only a flickering hope. From the saving act of thc cross Paul gathers assurance of faith that the justice and grace of God ;ire here united for all time and on the deepest level. This means that the antinomian misunderstanding of Iaxity and feeble compromise is ~inconc!ition;illv excluded. Forgiveness is an act of judgment in which the justice of God is fully vindicated. It thus means redemption in sacred purity and with an uncompromising No against evil. If the nomistic Pharisee says that the coinmanding righteousness of God is revealed in thc Law, Paul, the Pharisee who has bcen apprehencled hy Christ, goes on to say that the judicial ancl gracious righteousness of God is declared in the act of salvation." 25. K. C. H. Lenslti, Thc Intcrprctatio~z of St. Paul's Epistle to the Rornans (Columbus: Lutheran Book Concern, 1936), p. 265. Cf. T. Fahy, New Testament Problems (Dublin: Clonmore and Reynolds, 1963), pp. 44- 53. 26. The Revised Standard Version renders hilasterion as "expiation"; the King James Version, as "propitiation." A principal reason for the writer's preference for thc rendering "mercy-seat" may bc briefly stated as folIows: in the LXX hilustcrion is a technical term, translating the technical Hebrew term Kapporct and referring throughout to the physical lid of thc ark of the covenant. Hilasterion in the LXX lnay 1)e given the English translation "mercy-scat." ("Mercy-seat" is the English term used both by the HSV ant1 the KJV to translate the Hebrew Kapporct; cf., e.g., Ex. 25: 17-22.) As the LXX was the "Biblc" to most of Paul's Roman Christian addressees, it woulcl be natural for them, when hilasterio~z was mentioned, to think irnmcdiately of the lid for the ark. It is not likely that Paul would use a technical term like this other than in the sense of the LXX for his readers. I-iad Paul meant at 3 :25 to signify something other than the ark's lid, he doubtless tvould have given some indication of this in the context, in connection with the use of the term hilasterion. With hilastcrion, Paul designates Christ as the great Antitype of the cover-lid of the physical ark. In the final analysis, of course, either of the translations for hilastcrion, "mercy-seat" or "propitiation," conveys an identical ultimate significance in its application to Christ. Because of the presence of the following dia pisteos the translation "expiation," however, is inadequate. Christ was an "expiation" (an expiatory, redeeming Sacrifice) regardless of whether men receive Him in faith or not. On the other hand, He is a Propitiation or Mercy-seat only for those who believe.-Anders Nygren is representa- tive of scholars who prefer to render hilasterion as "mercy-sat"; see his Commentary on Rortzans, translated from the Swedish by Carl C. Ras- musscn (Philadelphia : Muhlenberg Press, 1949), pp. 15 6- 158. 27. Charles H. Talbert in an article titled "A Non-Pauline Fragmcnt at Romans 3 :21-26?" Journal of Biblical Literature, LXXXV (September 1966), pp. 287-296, contends that a traditional fragment is to be found at Rorn. 3:25-26 rather than at verses 24-25. He also expresses the view that 3:25-26 is not integral to Romans but is a later interpola- tion into the epistle. The arguments presented by Ta1ber.t are no more convincing than those adduced in support of the Bultmann-Kaesemann theory. For the idea that 3:25-26 are a later interpolation there is not a shred of manuscript evidence. 28. Karl Kertelge "Rechtfertigung" bei Pnulzrs (Muenster: Verlag Aschen- dorff, 1967), pp. 80-81. For the elaboration of KaesernannJs thesis, re- ferred to by Kertclge, see the former's essay " 'The Righteousness of God' in Paul," in New Testament Qz_uestiolzs of Today, translated from the second German edition by W. J. hqontague (Philadelphia: Fortress Pess, 1969), pp. 168-182. 29, Ibid,, p. 123. 30. Ibid., pp. 158-159. For a similar view, cf. Jortchinl Jeremias, The Central Message of th.c Nezv ?'csta.in.ent (Xew York: Charlcs Scribner's Sons, 1965), p. 64. 31. For a detailed study of the significance of the Christian's baptismally established union with Christ, sce the present writer's unpublished Master's Thesis titled "The Christian Under Grace, According to ltomnns 6: 1-14," Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, 1967. 32. The Lutheran Confessions emphasize the same tlloi~ght, when Jis- cussing, e.g., the distinction between the terms "justification" and "regenerati~n,~) as employed in the confessional writings. The Formula of Concord declares: "Concerning the righteousncss of faith before God we believe, teach, and confess unanimously, in accordance with the comprehensive summary of our faith and confession presented above, that poor sinful man is justified before God, that is, absolved and de- clared free and exempt from all his sins, and from the sentcnce of well- deserved condemnation, and adopted into sonship and heirship of eternal life, without any merit or worth of our own, also without any preceding, present, or any subsequent works, out of pure grace, because of the sole merit, complete obedience, bitter suffering, death, and resurrection of our 1,ord Christ elonc, wI~ose ohedicnce is recl