Notes on The Deliverance of God: Part 12, The Rhetorical Reading of Romans 1-4

Before going on to Part 5 of The Deliverance of God I thought I would try to give you the "big picture" of Romans 1-4. That is, how does the rhetorical reading work if you read Romans 1-4 straight through?

What follows is the entire text of Romans 1-4. Most of the text is from the New Revised Standard Version. However, when Douglas Campbell provided his own translation in The Deliverance of God I use his wording over the NRSV. I also tried to consistently follow Campbell's understanding of critical phrases or words. For example, "faith in Christ" is translated as the "faithfulness of Christ." As a single word "faith" is rendered as "trust" or "faithfulness." The words "justification" and the "righteousness of God" are translated as "liberation" or "deliverance." The reasons behind these choices are argued for in The Deliverance of God and I refer you to the book for details. Beyond translation I've also added extensive "Reader Notes" so that you can track the rhetorical give and take going on in Romans 1-4.

My hope is, if you read this through, that you'll walk away with a clearer sense of how Campbell thinks Romans 1-4 should be read. This reading is, as you will see, something completely different when compared to the conventional reading.

The Setting of the Letter to the Romans

Paul is planning to travel to Rome. However, he fears that Jewish-Christian missionaries will reach the city first preaching a gospel that Paul considers to be no gospel at all. Consider Paul's final warning to the Romans in the letter:
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.
The core of this false gospel is that, in the words of Acts 15.1,"unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." More specifically, these Jewish-Christian teachers preach Torah obedience to Gentile Christian converts. Although these Jewish-Christian teachers preach "Christ crucified" they have failed, according to Paul, to recognize the apocalyptic and cosmic implications of the Risen Lord. These Jewish-Christian teachers likely believe that the death of Jesus functioned as a "more perfect sacrifice" which decisively ended the era of cultic sacrifice within Judaism (cf. the book of Hebrews). Thus, while this "gospel" proclaims "Christ crucified" it is not thoroughgoingly Christological. According to the Jewish-Christian teachers Torah obedience (moral performance) is what saves you.

For Paul, the gospel of the Jewish-Christian teachers is not Christian enough. Christ merely ends cultic animal sacrifice at the Temple which, admittedly, does allow Judaism to be proclaimed to the Gentiles as the cultic life of Israel is no longer tethered to Jerusalem. But this narrow focus on the cultic aspects of Jesus' death fails to understand the liberative and pneumatological implications of Easter Sunday. By focusing narrowly on the death of Jesus the Jewish-Christian teachers have missed what, for Paul, sits at the core of the Christ-event: The ontological deliverance witnessed in the resurrection. For Paul, Torah obedience cannot save us if we are disconnected from the animating life of the Holy Spirit and remain ontological captives to the Powers of Sin and Death. Thus, Paul comes preaching a fully Christian gospel, one that proclaims the deliverance of God. The death and resurrection of Christ did not merely end temple sacrifice (although it did that), it made us a New Creation. Our ontological status has been fundamentally altered. Paul's gospel is the proclamation of this good news.

The Rhetorical Reading of Romans 1-4

The Opening of the Letter

Paul opens his letter keen to highlight how the resurrection is critical to his gospel, particularly in its pneumological implications (the power of the Holy Spirit). This is the feature of the Christ-event notably absent from the gospel of the Jewish-Christian missionaries.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, asking that by God's will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you--or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish--hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
A Prelude of Paul's Gospel

After his opening remarks Paul offers a prelude to his gospel. Paul again highlights the Christological, martyrological, and resurrection themes through a reference to Habakkuk 2.4. Specifically, the "faithfulness" of Christ ("the righteousness one") is vindicated at the resurrection: This righteous one, because of his faithfulness, will live. In this Christ "reveals" the "righteousness of God."
For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who trusts, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the deliverance of God is revealed through [Christ's] faithfulness for [our] faithfulness; as it is written, "The one who is righteous, through faithfulness, will live."
The Teacher Presents His Gospel

Paul now switches to an ancient rhetorical form known as a speech-in-character where Paul allows his opponent to "speak." Paul uses this technique in many of his letters (cf. I Cor. 1.12). In the letter to the Romans Paul allows a Jewish-Christian "Teacher" to present the opening salvo of his gospel to the pagans. Much of this speech leans heavily upon the Wisdom of Solomon, a piece of Jewish moral propaganda that decries the depravity of the pagans. The Roman Christians listening to the letter would have known that a speech-in-character had begun at this point due to a sudden shift in the literary style. Recall, Paul warns at the end of the letter to beware of "smooth talk." The Teacher's speech is filled with wordplay and alliteration, very different from how Paul typically communicated. It is a nice example of smooth talking:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God's decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die--yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them."
Paul's Diatribe Against the Teacher

The Teacher's smooth talking opening salvo is completed and the rhetorical flourishes that set this speech apart from the surrounding text now stop. Paul's voice, thus, reemerges to turn upon the Teacher. Argumentatively, Paul will show that the Teacher is morally culpable in light of the very criterion (soteriological desert) the Teacher has just applied to the pagans. Paul's argument has three moves which culminate in a Scriptural broadside. The crux of Paul's argument is this. The Teacher believes that Torah obedience is the path to salvation (a righteousness that is based upon works). Without the law, the Teacher believes, we will fall into pagan depravity (see his opening speech on this score). Thus, the Jews, who have the law, are morally and eschatologically privileged relative to the pagans. That is, the Torah lifts the Jews, morally speaking, above the pagans and this superior moral performance gives the Jews an advantage before a God of retributive justice at the final Judgment. Consequently, it makes sense that if the pagans want to enjoy a similar happy fate at the Judgment they need to obey the Torah. This is the Teacher's "good news." However, Paul is about to argue that the Teacher is fundamentally mistaken on this score. The Jews have followed the Torah but they are, morally speaking, no better than the Gentiles. Thus, when they stand before a God of retributive justice at the Judgment they will enjoy no advantage. All stand condemned before this God under this soteriology (a righteousness of moral desert). It is important to note in all this that Paul is showing the internal inconsistencies within the Teacher's gospel. The God of retributive justice and the soteriology of desert are the gospel of the Teacher. Paul here adopts those propositions only to show that they lead to a dead end: Universal condemnation.

Move 1 Against the Teacher:
Paul universalizes the Teacher's principle of desert, applying it to both Jews and Gentiles:
Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. [Teacher] you say, "We know that God's judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth." Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one's deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.
Move 2 Against the Teacher: The principle of desert, when applied universally, negates the soteriological "advantage" of the Jews over the Gentiles:
There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. God is not impressed by appearances.

All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who [will be] righteous in God's sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified--[for] [w]hen Gentiles, who do not possess the law, "do" instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves; [t]hey show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them--on the day when God will judge the secret thoughts of all (according to my gospel, through Jesus Christ!).

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself ? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? For, as it is written, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart--it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.
Move 3 Against the Teacher: Paul then asks the Teacher to apply the principle of desert to himself:
Paul: What [then] is advantage of the Jew? Or what benefit of circumcision?
Teacher: Much in many respects! First, it is not that they have been entrusted with the very utterances of God?!
[Paul has gotten the Teacher to admit that being a Jew is an ethical and eschatological advantage. Paul then proceeds to question the soteriological principle of desert--the core of the Teacher's gospel--in light of this advantage. In short, if God honors this Jewish advantage isn't God being unfair to the Gentiles? That is, doesn't the principle of desert demand a level playing field?]
Paul: So what?! If some were untrustworthy, will not their untrustworthiness nullify the trust of God?
Teacher: Absolutely not! Let God be true though every person is false, just as it is written " that you might be judged righteous in your words, and blameless when you are judged."
Paul: But if our inequality highlights God's equality, what then shall we say? Is it not unjust of God to pour out wrath on us? (I am of course speaking from a human perspective.)
Teacher: Absolutely not! Indeed, how will God judge the world (if that is the case)?
Paul: But if by means of my falsehood the truthfulness of God overflows to God's glory, why then am I still condemned as a sinner?--and even as we are slandered, and as some report us as saying, should we not do evil so that good can came!?
Teacher: ...Whose judgment is positively deserved!
Paul: What shall we say, then? Are we advantaged?
[Paul forces the Teacher to face the fact that if God judges us with a criterion of desert then there can be no advantage to being a Jew. Desert, the criterion used by the Teacher to condemn the Gentiles, erases the Jewish advantage. By definition. Thus, the Teacher must admit...]
Teacher (admitting defeat): Not in every respect.
[Thus, the Teacher has contradicted himself. He started this exchange by insisting that there was an advantage to being a Jew. And now, playing by his own rules (i.e., insisting on a criterion of desert), he must admit he was wrong.]
At this point in the argument Paul has performed a kind of a reductio ad absurdum, a demonstration that the Teacher's gospel leads to a contradiction (i.e., you can't claim Jewish advantage and preach a soteriology of desert). To finish off this assault upon the Teacher Paul fires a volley of Scripture to show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jews have no ethical or eschatological (i.e., final Judgment) advantages over Gentiles:
[Moreover] we have [together, by reading Scripture] charged all publicly, both Jews and Greeks, of being under the power of sin, as it is written:

"There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
there is no one who has understanding,
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
there is no one who shows kindness,
there is not even one."
"Their throats are opened graves;
they use their tongues to deceive."
"The venom of vipers is under their lips."
"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery are in their paths,
and the way of peace they have not known."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Paul Anticipates the Presentation of His Gospel

Having reduced the Teacher to absurdity, Paul now anticipates the presentation of his own gospel in Romans 5-8. This is a gospel that proclaims the "righteousness of God." For Paul the righteousness of God is God's liberative act in Christ which rescues a helpless and powerless humanity. In short, the "righteousness of God" proclaims "the deliverance of God" through the work of the faithful Christ. Thus, the language of faith, justification, righteousness, and redemption are interpreted in Christologicial and liberative terms.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For "no human being will be liberated in his sight" by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

But now, apart from law, the deliverance of God has been revealed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the deliverance of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who trust in God. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; but they are now liberated by his grace as a gift, through the release that is in Christ Jesus, whom God intended to be an atonement by means of Christ's faithfulness, by means of his blood. God did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine mercy he released us from the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous because he liberates the faithful Jesus.
The Teacher Returns

Having listened to, rhetorically speaking, Paul's gospel of "faith," the Teacher's voice reemerges with some criticisms. Is Paul really eliminating a works-based righteousness? The source of Jewish moral pride ("boasting") in relation to the pagans? Yes, Paul is rejecting this works-based righteousness. The Teacher goes on to suggest that Paul, by proclaiming this gospel of faith, is dismissing the Torah and the promises made to Abraham to whom the promises were made via the covenant of circumcision.
Teacher: Then what becomes of boasting?
Paul: It is excluded.
Teacher: Through what sort of Torah--a teaching of works of law?!
Paul: No, but by the Torah of faith. For we hold that a person is liberated by faithfulness, apart from works of law.
Teacher: Or is not God the God of the Jews only?!
Paul: Is he not also the God of the pagan nations?
Teacher: Yes, he is also God of the pagan nations.
Paul: If God does in fact delivers the pagans "through faithfulness," [i.e., through Christ] then he is indeed the God of the pagan nations as well as the God of the Jews.
Teacher: Do we then overthrow the Torah by this faith?
Paul: By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the Torah.
Teacher: What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?
The Faithfulness of Abraham

The Teacher has brought up the story of Abraham to refute Paul's gospel of faith. Were not the promises given to Abraham marked by the covenant of circumcision? How, then, can Paul dismiss circumcision? Paul takes up this challenge and shows his exegetical skill. Paul shows how Abraham is actually a witness for Paul's gospel of faith. The Teacher is embarrassed once again. Even Abraham has turned against him.

The Teacher raised questions above about works, merit-based "boasting," and the law. Paul shows that Abraham had nothing to boast about. Abraham simply trusted in God's promise:
For if Abraham was liberated by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? "Abraham trusted God, and it was credited to him with righteousness." Now to one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who liberates the ungodly, such trust is credited with righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God credits as liberated apart from works:

"Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not credit sin."
The Teacher also asked questions about the superiority of the Jews over the Gentiles. Aren't Jews privileged by God in salvation history? Paul uses Abraham to show him to be the father of the "circumcised" and "uncircumcised":
Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, "Faithfulness was credited to Abraham with righteousness." How then was it credited to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the deliverance that he had through trust while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who trust without being circumcised and who thus have deliverance credited to them, and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Finally, the Teacher asked above if "faith" is nullifying the Torah. Paul shows in the story of Abraham that faith cannot make the promises made to Abraham "void":
For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the liberation of trust. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, trust is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on trust, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the trust of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us).
Having used Abraham to refute the objections of the Teacher Paul goes on to frame Abraham's faith Christologically. Abraham's faithfulness is but a shadow or prefiguring of the faithfulness of Christ who was vindicated at the resurrection. Specifically, the promise of Isaac--the son brought to life from the deadness of Sarah's womb--is the image of the Christ: the son raised to life on Easter Sunday. Once again Paul highlights the liberative themes of the resurrection.
As it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations." In the presence of the God in whom he trusted, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he trusted that he would become "the father of many nations," according to what was said, "So numerous shall your descendants be." He trust did not weaken when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faithfulness "was credited to him with righteousness." Now the words, "it was credited to him," were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be credited to us who trust in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our deliverance.
What we find in this reading is that there is no hint of a wrathful, retributive or perfectionistic God in Paul's gospel. These are aspects found only within the Teacher's gospel, the gospel Paul is rejecting point by point. In contrast to the Teacher, Paul is declaring the deliverance of God revealed by the faithfulness of the Christ. This deliverance frees us from the ontological bondage of Sin and Death. Humanity is now called to trust in the faithfulness of the Christ who secured our freedom.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

10 thoughts on “Notes on The Deliverance of God: Part 12, The Rhetorical Reading of Romans 1-4”

  1. All that's needed is staging directions. Beautiful.

    A small point, but it functions in a crucial place: "For" is the first word in the mouth of the Teacher in Campbell's rereading ("For the wrath of God is revealed..."). But "for" seems to connect back to Paul's gospel, and that contradict's the view that a different gospel is being introduced, on first blush. I have been puzzled that Campbell has not dealt with this, and now see that you make no mention here either.

    Here's my suggested "stage direction." The Teacher is explicitly concerned to connect his "gospel" to Paul's. Therefore placing a connective "for" at the head of his initial points is the best way to prepare the Romans for his arrival and message. Moreover, if the performer exagerates the Teacher's rhetoric a bit--and if Paul has in the script as well--the reading will come off humerously as "shtick," and be more memorable. In fact, when the Teacher arrives with his "gospel," he just might get laughed off the stage. What could be more effective!? The a priori contradiction turns into an a posteriori confirmation, once the "speech-in-character" staging of the Teacher's "gospel" is considered. Very cool.

    Yes, I am thoroughly convinced by Campbell's book, now that I've actually read it. :)

    Thanks for sharing/doing this important work, Richard and Dr. Campbell.

    You know, it just occurred to me that my favorite part of "The Deliverance" was "Rereading the Frame" where 16 features of the text's structure are explained by the rereading. What I liked is how the features were historically connected to place, time, and Paul's motives in writing. A very strong sense of connection to the historical person and situation resulted. Quite a feat! To the point: It seems a pretty accurate rendering of scene, person, time, and "letter" could all be accomplished using Dr. Campbell's rereading. Someone get the screne play ready and call Mel Gibson! (Only half kidding.)


  2. i do have a hard time with this in ROM 3:21-31,,,,rats
    and i under stand the principle of the dissuasion that Paul is having and so good it is.

    Although because of the liberal mind that Douglas might have there might be a predisposition,to drop or not see 3:26-7 as part of the story in the development that Paul is bringing us(SAINTS) also to "to be of the faith of Christ",and the finalization of the story that is continued in chapter 12,....

    "to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name",

    I WOULD FIND IT HARD TO REDUCE,WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING TO A MEARE BIT OF CONJECTOR,albeit important with out the injection of the purpose that comes out in the opening statement.

    blessings rich constant

  3. a
    atonement by means of Christ's faithfulness, by means of his blood. God did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine mercy he released us from the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous because he liberates the faithful Jesus









  4. Fascinating -- never saw it that way before.

    Can your rhetorical reading be applied to the difficult chapter of Romans 9?

  5. I'm a little disappointed, actually. I found this sort of unconvincing. I'm not sure why ... it just seemed like a lot of work to get it to read that way.

  6. This post is very helpful for pulling the full reading of chapters 1-4 together. However, a couple of things jumped out.

    "Without the law, the Teacher believes, we will fall into pagan depravity (see his opening speech on this score)..."

    Where in his "speech" does the Teacher make this claim? In re-reading that section, I hear the speaker saying that God speaks just fine without the Law. Thus, we have the implication that the Law is not necessary for a certain level of clear revelation. And such a position seems inconsistent with Campbell's Judiazing Teacher.

    "What we find in this reading is that there is no hint of a wrathful, retributive or perfectionistic God in Paul's gospel."

    I have to question this on several fronts. First, why again must we associate these characterizing terms with JT in order to knock them down? Is Campbell wanting to portray wrath and retribution as being enttirely beneath God, or what? For example, it is so clear from the whole of Scripture that God has at times exercised divine wrath (in connection with judgment) combined with warnings that more may be exercised in the future (again, in the context of judgment). Does this somehow mandate a characterization of "wrathful"? I personally don't believe that necessarily follows. Does scripture emphasize a real characterization of God as being full of lovingkindness? I would argue yes, and that characterization is not mutually exclusive of retributive capability (as opposed to being "full of retribution").

    Second, in Campbell's reading, Paul says "For the law brings wrath..." (4:15). Where does this wrath come from, if not from God? "Paul's gospel" in Romans 5:9 says we are 'saved from God's wrath through [Christ]'. And yet we are told there is no hint of a wrathful God?? And back in Romans 2, Paul speaking again (not the Teacher): "But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one's deeds..." It seems we are being asked to believe that Paul is here only applying the Teacher's logic against himself [the Teacher] and not really committing himself [Paul] to the propositions, even though Paul is quoting a Psalm (where the desert context is lovingkindness, by the way) and even though Paul will repeatedly discuss both "the kindness and severity of God" later in Romans. Isn't it more reasonable to assume that Paul agrees with the propositions (e.g. God will render to every man according to his deeds), but he is arguing that this truth is not good news (i.e. false gospel)? Just because something is true, does not make it gospel. So in this sense, of course a wrathful God is not part of Paul's gospel! Who has ever claimed this to be a part of any gospel? Rather, Paul later turns to the truth that is the gospel, that is good news, in that it is capable of transcending and superseding the prior truth of God rendering deserts. So, it appears that JT is just a straw-man as being construed in these posts (specifically "step 1"). What am I missing?

  7. Carl,
    Some of the problem is my trying to condense a lot of material in the book into a few posts. Plus, I'm writing quickly and so when I pick words I'm not always checking for 100% fool-proof consistency.

    So consider my posts a vague, not wholly consistent sketches rather than accurate representations of Campbell's argument. Your questions are best addressed by the book itself.

    But some of the concerns you raise are likely due to my sloppiness. For example, you note in your first concern that the Teacher never expresses in his opening remarks a fear about us sliding back into pagan morality. That is true. My characterization of the Teacher on that point is taken from the whole scope of his concerns with Paul across the letter. That is, at various places the Teacher asks if we should continue to sin so that grace may abound. The concern here, from the Teacher's perspective, is that Paul's gospel is too libertine. That is, without the structure of the Torah what is to prevent us from sliding into the sins of 1.18-32?

    Your second concern about wrath is also a product of my sloppiness. I don't think that Campbell would say that wrath or judgment has no place in the character of God. When I used that adjective I was trying to connect it to the suite of terms "perfectionistic" and "retributive." So it's not that God doesn't have wrath but that God's wrath isn't his defining characteristic or driven by a desire for perfectionsitic moral performance.

    Finally, I don't know if JT is best seen as a "straw man." It's not an argument. It's a "theory," a way of organizing the data. So Campbell isn't trying to refute JT. He's just asking if it can account for the textual data. He puts the two readings side by side and shows that JT doesn't account for the data as well as the rhetorical reading. Think of a scientific theory trying to account for or explain empirical data.

  8. Carl,

    Are you just trying to say that you have a hard time buying that Paul is arguing against the gospel of the teacher (a wrathful god handing out just deserts) in Step One? That Paul also sees God's retribution as playing a role in his [Paul's] gospel, so he is essentially defeating himself by making this move?

  9. pecs,
    I think you misunderstood my comment. I was concerned that Paul or Campbell or both were being misrepresented in the summary. Dr. Beck did a fair job of addressing my concern above.

    I don't want to cover old ground about terminology, but 'a wrathful god handing out just deserts' is not gospel in the strict sense for either Paul or the Teacher in this case. As I already said, it's not good news. Even if I accept the premise that Paul is arguing rhetorically, it seems he is arguing against the Teacher's logic/methodology/hypocrisy, and not a theological supposition on the nature of God.

    However, I think the question you raise is brought up in chapter 9 of Romans when Paul (or the rhetorical Teacher?) asks "so why does He still find fault?". There is an interplay of arguments going on in that chapter that I won't get into, but basically Paul responds with some speculation:
    * What if God wanted to demonstrate his wrath and power?
    * But what if He wanted to demonstrate His glory and mercy even more?
    * Then, the prior two suppositions are still consistent with the universal gospel [Paul is] expounding for both Jews and Gentiles.

    Paul does not throw out the idea of God exercising wrath and power in service of divine justice...he just doesn't claim (as a human) to know exactly what divine justice is; i.e. he is more concerned with getting people into Christ than he is with 'theodicy issues'. But my current interpretation of that chapter is that Paul is not opposed to God finding fault, whether or not free will is even involved.

  10. read the first 7 verses of the first chapter this sets the stage of those to be delivered and and why and how.
    putting wrath in the proper position of the definition heb4:11-13
    rich constant

Leave a Reply