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).

Sanday and Headlam, “Romans”

Google Books has available the full text of Sanday and Headlam’s commentary on Romans in the International Critical Commentary (5th ed.; 1899). The basic bibliographic entry is available here (BibTeX).

If you’re interested in more volumes from the International Critical Commentary, see too “Free Access to the International Critical Commentary.”

והיתה בריתי בבשׂרכם לברית עולם

Abraham
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In Gen 17:13, God tells Abraham that his whole household was to be circumcised והיתה בריתי בבשׂרכם לברית עולם (and my covenant will be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant). Yet, Paul strongly opposes Gentiles’ submitting to circumcision in connection with their membership in the Christian community (Galatians) and asserts that ὁ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ Ἰουδαῖος, καὶ {ὅτι} περιτομὴ καρδίας ἐν πνεύματι οὐ γράμματι (Rom 2:29; the Jew is one who is such inwardly, and [that] circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit, not by the letter). What then becomes of the בבשׂרכם []ברית עולם (Gen 17:13; everlasting covenant in your [= Abraham’s household’s] flesh)? It is precisely there because of the circumcision of Abraham’s messianic seed (Gal 3:16), ἐν ᾧ καὶ περιετμήθητε περιτομῇ ἀχειροποιήτῳ ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει τοῦ σώματος τῆς σαρκός, ἐν τῇ περιτομῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ (Col 2:11; in whom you also were circumcised with an unhandmade circumcision in the removal of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah; cf. Gal 3:23–29; Bede, Genesis, 284; Chrysostom, Hom. Col. 6 [NPNF1 13:285]; Cyril of Alexandria, Catena on Genesis [ACCOT 2:56]; Theodore of Mopsuestia, Colossians [ACCNT 9:32]).

Rasputin and Romans 6

In his Tyndale series Romans commentary, F. F. Bruce offers the following colorful, if also sad, illustration as he discusses Rom 6:

A notable historical instance [of a tendency to read Paul as advocating antinomianism] may be seen in the Russian monk Rasputin, the evil genius of the Romanov family in its last years of power. Rasputin taught and exemplified the doctrine of salvation through repeated experiences of sin and repentance; he held that, as those who sin most require most forgiveness, a sinner who continues to sin with abandon enjoys, each time he repents, more of God’s forgiving grace than any ordinary sinner (134).

A reported discussion between Rasputin and one Vera Zhukovskaya expresses a similar example of Rasputin’s saddening and disturbingly illogical “evil genius” on this topic (Radzinsky, 240).


In this post:

Romans (TNTC)
F. F. Bruce

The Rasputin File
Edvard Radzinsky

The Stumbling Stone of Rom 9:32–33 as Torah and Jesus

In a 2003 article, Morna Hooker makes the following, insightful argument about the referent(s) of the λίθος (stone) language in Rom 9:32–33:

Is Paul affirming here that Israel’s problem is simply that she has failed to believe in Christ? The majority of commentators accept this interpretation, but the possibility supported by some scholars that the stumbling-block is the law should not be too easily dismissed. It should be noted after all that Christ has not been mentioned since 9:1–5 and that the two subjects under discussion in Rom 9:30–31 are the law and righteousness. Moreover, what Paul has just stated is that Israel has misunderstood the function of the law. Perhaps then the stumbling-block over which Israel has fallen is the law.

But the reason that a stone causes one to stumble is normally that it is hidden from view—hardly true of the law. The metaphor suggests something obscure, which appears here to be the “hidden” meaning of Scripture. What was hidden from Israel seems to be the fact that the law could not be attained by works and that the righteousness promised in the law came only through faith—i.e., trust in God. It was this, says Paul, that Israel had failed to grasp even though it is set out in the law itself (3:19–22). In other words, Israel has tripped up because she has misunderstood the law and been unaware of its true significance. Scripture promises that those who have faith will not be ashamed (9:33). But in whom or what should they believe? The ambiguity in the quotation in v. 33 reminds us that the answer is still hidden from Israel. It will be spelled out in the next paragraph, where Christ is revealed as the “purpose” or “goal” of the law, and where the promise that those who believe on him clearly refers to him. The “hidden” meaning of Scripture is then Christ himself and the righteousness that is found in him. Those who maintain that the “stumbling-block” is Christ are also right! (57; cf. Wright 204, 239–44)

In this light, 1QS 8:1–12 is certainly instructive, but Paul’s preceding argument even within Romans itself (e.g., 3:21—31; cf. Gal 3:14:7) seems to move along similar tracks also.


In this post:

Climax of the Covenant
N. T. Wright
  • Morna Hooker, “The Authority of the Bible: A New Testament Perspective,” Ex Auditu 19 (2003): 45–64
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“But What about Israel?”

The Evangelical Theological Society’s southeastern, regional meeting begins tomorrow and will feature some interesting-looking papers, a couple of which I have been able to preview as they have come through Southeastern’s Writing Center. Fellow blogger Alan Knox will be presenting on “A Theology of Encouragement in Hebrews,” and my own paper, “But What about Israel?: A Biblical-Theological Approach to the Question of Individual and Corporate Election in Romans 9–11” has also been included in the program. To abstract this paper briefly:

Exegetes and theologians have repeatedly wrestled with the vexing issues related to Paul’s perspective on election in Rom 9–11. Some have assigned to Paul mainly an individual view of election in these chapters, and others have assigned to him mainly a corporate view. Yet, Rom 9–11 only fully satisfies its rhetorical obligations within Romans as a whole when both the individual and the corporate elements within Rom 9–11 have their full effect. That is, rather than arguing from either an individual or a corporate perspective on election over against the other, Paul prosecutes his argument in Rom 9–11 precisely by highlighting election as a divinely-established reality that takes shape in the interplay between its corporate and individual dynamics. Moreover, when the church attends properly to this interplay, Rom 9–11 provides an even more robust resource for her theological formation.

Writing this paper has been an interesting and stimulating exercise, and I am very much looking forward to the interaction and feedback that the conference should afford. For more information about the southeastern, regional meeting and other society news from the past year, those interested may see the annual newsletter, which has also become available fairly recently.