So Then You Also Were Made to Die

In Rom 7:1–6, Paul appears to draw on Num 5:11–31 as a metaphorical way of characterizing the Christian community’s history.1 While her husband lives, the wife’s involvement with another man would make her liable to the charge of adultery from her current husband. From this charge, the wife would also become liable to the ritual of Num 5:11–31, and the serious consequences that it would entail if she had indeed committed adultery (Num 5:21–22, 24, 27–28).2

Such would also have resembled the situation for those whom Paul addresses in Rom 7:1–6 but for one thing: they have “put[] off the old man [and] walk not in the oldness of the letter but in the newness of the spirit” (cf. Rom 6:6; 7:1, 4, 6).3 Having become unlinked from τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας (Rom 6:6; the body of sin; cf. Rom 7:24), they have become united with τὸ σώμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ (Rom 7:4; the body of the Messiah). Because of the old person’s death,4 they do not have the fruit that comes from an accurate accusation of adultery (Rom 7:1, 5; cf. Num 5:21–222427–28).5 Rather, in union with Messiah Jesus, they have the fruit of righteousness, which is pleasing to God, and of eternal life (Rom 6:12–23; 7:5).6

1. Barrett, Romans, 127; Cranfield, Romans, 332–33; Dunn, Romans, 359–60; Moo, Romans, 411–12; Osborne, Romans, 168; Rehmann, “The Doorway into Freedom,” JSNT 79 (2000): 97.

2. Numbers 5:11–31 suggests that only the wife would undergo the ritual (Ephraim Syrus, On Our Lord, 6 [NPNF2 13:308]; cf. Jerome, Epist., 55.3 [NPNF2 6:110]). Yet, Prot. Jas. 16 (ANF 8:364–65), has Mary and Joseph both drink water from the priest’s hand. Because they both “return[] unhurt,” they are both cleared from wrongdoing in Jesus’ conception (see Prot. Jas. 15 [ANF 8:364]).

3. Jerome, Epist., 69.7 (NPNF2 6:146); cf. Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 112.5 (NPNF1 7:417); see also Rehmann, “The Doorway into Freedom”; Tertullian, Marc., 5.13 (ANF 3:456–59); contra Origen, Comm. Matt., 12.4 (ANF 9:451–52).

4. Cf. Sanday and Headlam, Romans, 171–72; Thielman, Paul and the Law, 196–97; Wright, Climax of the Covenant, 196; Wright, “Letter to the Romans,” 558–59; see also Barrett, Romans, 127–28; Barth, Romans, 231–34; Bruce, Romans, 144–45; Chrysostom, Hom. Rom., 12.7.1–6 (NPNF1 11:418–20); Dunn, Romans, 363, 365, 368; Moo, Romans, 413; Rehmann, “The Doorway into Freedom,” 102. Chrysostom, Hom. Rom., 12.1–4 (NPNF1 11:418–19), suggests that, in Paul’s scenario, both the husband and the wife die (Rom 7:1–4). In Chrysostom’s reading, because the wife has also died, her resurrection to be united with her new husband leaves her so much the freer from her previous spouse’s claims on her.

5. Cf. Augustine, Faust., 11.8 (NPNF1 4:182); Augustine, Serm. Dom., 1.14 (NPNF1 6:17); Tertullian, Mon., 13 (ANF 4:70).

6. Augustine, Grat., 15 (NPNF1 5:450); Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 3.9 (NPNF1 7:22).

Worthy of More Glory

Moses, confronted about his Cushite wife
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In Num 12:1, Miriam and Aaron confront Moses because of his marriage to a Cushite woman, and in so doing, they attempt to claim equal prophetic status with Moses (Num 12:2a). Apparently, on this occasion, Moses’ meekness constrains him from responding (Num 12:3; cf. Rom 12:191 Clem. 17 [ANF 9:234]; Socrates, Hist. eccl., 7.42 [NPNF2 2:176]), but יהוה hears the conversation and summons all three siblings to the tent of meeting (Num 12:2b, 4). יהוה then summons Aaron and Miriam for a special rebuke (Num 12:5): however high may be their claim to apparently equal prophetic status with Moses, Moses own status still surpasses that of prophet (Num 12:6–9). The status that Aaron and Miriam claim for themselves gets them only so far—only to dreams and visions (Num 12:6). By contrast, Moses is not limited to dreams and visions, but פה אל־פה אדבר־בו ומראה ולא בחידת ותמנת יהוה יביט (Num 12:8a; with him, I [יהוה] speak mouth to mouth, plainly, and not in riddles, and he looks upon the form of יהוה). More than a prophet, Moses is a faithful servant in all יהוה’s house (Num 12:7; Heb 3:5).

So much the greater, then, is he with whom Moses the faithful servant and Elijah the prophet appear on the mountain (Matt 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30–31; cf. Irenaeus, Haer., 4.20.9–11 [ANF 1:490–91]). Yet, far from contending with this Jesus for their own status, Moses and Elijah discuss with him ἡ ἔξοδος αὐτοῦ, ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ (Luke 9:31; his departure, which he was about to complete at Jerusalem; cf. Leo the Great, Serm., 51.4 [NPNF2 12:163]; Origen, Comm. Matt., 12.38 [ANF 9:470]). Not being sufficiently sensible of the situation, however, the newly awakened Peter does suggest a certain equality of status among the three glorious individuals he sees before him (Matt 17:2–4; Mark 9:2b–6; Luke 9:29–33; Leo the Great, Serm., 51.5 [NPNF2 12:163–64]). The divine response again comes in a cloud (Num 12:5; Matt 17:5a; Mark 9:7a; Luke 9:34). Nevertheless, the heavenly voice does not answer by assigning Jesus to the category of “servant,” however noble or faithful, but acknowledges him as the so much superior son (Matt 17:5b; Mark 9:7b; Luke 9:31–32, 35; cf. Hippolytus, Noet., 18 [ANF 5:230]; Jerome, Epist., 46.13 [NPNF2 6:65]; Leo the Great, Serm., 51.6 [NPNF2 12:164]; Rufinus, Symb., 4 [NPNF2 3:544]; Tertullian, Praescr., 22 [ANF 3:253]), who is himself deserving of all allegiance and honor (Matt 17:5–8; Mark 9:7–8; Luke 9:35–36; Heb 3:1–19; Augustine, Serm., 28.3–5 [NPNF1 6:347–48]; Clement of Alexandria, Paed., 1.11 [ANF 2:234]; Cyprian, Epist., 52.14 [ANF 5:362]; Leo the Great, Serm., 51.7 [NPNF2 12:164]; cf. Ambrose, Epist., 43.57 [NPNF2 10:464]; Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 5.4 [NPNF1 14:390]; Cyril of Jerusalem, Lectures, 10.7–9 [NPNF2 7:59–60]; Hilary of Poitiers, Trin., 6.24 [NPNF2 9:106]).