Paul makes three similar statements in this controversial paragraph. God “gave them over” to sinful desires, shameful lusts, and depraved minds. The verb (παραδίδωμι) is used in the LXX for God handing over Israel to an enemy (Gen 14:20, Exod 23:31). Kruse claims the word is exclusively used guilty-computer-userin the LXX for handing over people to an enemy (Kruse, Romans, 99).

The metaphor of “being handed over for captivity” would be clear to both Jews and Gentiles. Humanity has been handed over to a powerful enemy who has enslaved them and holds them in his power. Human enslavement to sin is a theme of the letter (Romans 6:15-23)

A Jewish reader of the letter may hear an allusion to the Jewish captivity. Because of the extreme rebellion of Israel God handed them over to their enemies where they were held in captivity until such time as God acts in history to restore them to Zion. The “end of the captivity” is a way of describing the end of Israel’s punishment for their sin and the introduction of a new age of peace and prosperity (Isaiah 19:22).

Because they suppressed the truth, God gave them up “in the lusts of their heart.” Lust is not always sexual, although this lust leads to impurity (ἀκαθαρσία) and dishonoring (ἀτιμάζω) of their bodies. Both words can have be used in a non-sexual way, but Paul uses impurity for sexual immorality (2 Cor 12:21, Gal 5:19, Col 3:5, Eph 5:3). Paul is referring here to sexual activity which brings dishonor to a person, the details follow in 1:26-27.

Enjoyment of a sexual relationship is part of Jewish wisdom literature, as even a glance at Song of Solomon will show. Unfortunately, Paul has a puritanical reputation with respect to sexual relationships when he does not deserve. Part of the problem is Paul is usually addressing a situation coumputer-guiltin which there is a clear sexual sin (i.e., the young man in 1 Cor 5:1-12 or going to prostitutes in 1 Cor 6:12-20).

As a Jewish teacher who is well aware of the wisdom traditions on marriage and sex, Paul would have encouraged people to enjoy their sexual relationships spouses and he did not teach every to refrain from sexual relationships and live a celibate life as he did (1 Cor 7:2-3).

Since Paul is therefore using “captivity language” to describe sexual sin, it might be appropriate to begin a discussion these verses with the observation Paul it not talking about all sexual activities, but those which are outside the intended use of a sexual relationship as God designed it in creation. Some sexual activity is good and healthy, others are addictive and can lead to a twisting of the purpose of sex so that it is no longer satisfying.

I will deal with the specific sexual practice Paul mentions in the next post, but for now I want to think a little more about how “giving them up to lust” and to an “impure heart” is the result of not acknowledging God’s revelation of himself in creation. Is it possible Paul thinks there is a natural way sex to work that is a part of creation itself? Just as God has clearly revealed his invisible qualities, perhaps he has also revealed something about our sexuality in what has been made as well.

Because humans suppress the truth and do not honor God, they became unable to respond properly to God (v. 21a). The verb “render futile” (ματαιόω) is used of idolatry (Jer 2:5) and has the sense of emptiness or worthlessness. The word-group is used to describe idols as worthless things. Several commentaries suggest the possibility of an allusion to Psalm 94:11 (LXX 93:11), “the thoughts of man are worthless.” Kruse, Romans, 96, for example. Although the form of the word is different (LXX Ps 93:11 has a noun rather than a verb), that both texts combine a word from the ματαιόω word group and διαλογισμός makes this allusion probable.

What has been “rendered worthless” is humanity’s thinking. The noun here (διαλογισμός) refers to discussions or arguments, the “content of reasoning or conclusion reached through use of reason” (BDAG). The idol-worshiper has a logical, rational reason for worshiping something which is not worthy of worship, but that reasoning is itself futile.

lord_subrahmanya_malaysiaThe hearts of those who suppress the truth are foolish and darkened (v. 21b). The heart is the place where one thinks and reasons (not the head). The word Paul uses is not the common word for foolishness but the rare word ἀσύνετος (asynetos). It is used only here and 1:31 (Matt 15:16/Mark 7:18, not understanding Jesus’s teaching).

This noun has the sense of “lacking understanding” (BDAG), but also a lack of moral character (TestLevi 7:2). An inscription at Ephesus uses this word with the sense of “stupid,” but Moulton and Milligan comment that “it seems clear that “foolish” here does not primarily denote lack of brains but moral obliquity” (MM 87).

To become darkened (σκοτίζω) is also used for “moral darkening” in Second Temple period literature.

TestReub 3.8 And thus every young man is destroyed, darkening his mind from the truth, neither gaining understanding in the Law of God nor heeding the advice of his fathers…

TestLevi 14.4 For what will all the nations do if you become darkened with impiety?

This moral darkening is the reason the Gentile world practices idolatry. Humans became fools by exchanging the knowledge of the creator for images of creation (v. 22-23). They claimed to be wise, but they became fools when they worshiped creation rather than creator. To worship a god that looks like a human is foolish, but at least a human is in the image of God. To worship other created things (birds, animals and reptiles) is even more foolish since they were not made in the image of God in the first place (Kruse, Romans, 97).

In describing idolatry as foolishness, Paul does not depart at all from the prophetic condemnation of idolatry (for example, Isa 44:13). Paul may be alluding to Psalm 106:20, “They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass” or Deuteronomy 4:15-18. In the context of that Psalm, the wilderness generation “forgot their God and Savior” and what he did for them at the Red Sea. Because they exchanged that knowledge for foolishness, they fell under God’s wrath (ὀργή, cf. Rom 1:18).

It is remarkable Paul would describe worship practiced by the entire world at that point in history as “foolishness,” but even some Greek and Roman writers who considered the worship of gods to be foolish. Although describing someone’s religious beliefs as foolish is not polite in the modern world, Paul is not far from his contemporaries in mocking the worthlessness of worshiping idols.

Once again, I wonder how well this “works” in modern presentations of the Gospel. In the modern west, dismissal of gods and idols is passed over quickly since few would consider worshipping an idol. But for the majority world, this is a serious question. How can the Gospel be presented to a world which does worship a variety of gods and idols in a way which dismisses the gods yet still attracts people to the Gospel? For example, how do Asian Christians deal with veneration of ancestors? I would love to hear from readers in non-Western countries on this issue: How is Romans 1:21-23 taught and preached in cultures which are dominated by worship of gods?

 

“Paul clearly does believe that when humans look at creation they are aware, at some level, of the power and divinity of the creator.” N. T. Wright, “Romans,” 432.

Although it is tempting to find some kind of Stoicism in Paul’s thought here, he is clearly consistent with Second Temple Judaism. Wisdom 13:1-5 has a similar argument from creation:

Wisdom of Solomon 13:1–5 (NRSV) For all people who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know the one who exists, nor did they recognize the artisan while paying heed to his works; 2 but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world. 3 If through delight in the beauty of these things people assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them. 4 And if people were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is the one who formed them. 5 For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.

Neither Paul nor Wisdom of Solomon advocate a “natural theology” in the sense that individuals can obtain salvation only through observation of nature (Schreiner, Romans, 86-7). But as James Dunn says, “it is scarcely possible that Paul did not intend his audience to think in terms of some kind of rational perception of the fuller reality in and behind the created cosmos” (Dunn, Romans 1-8, 58). Both Romans and Wisdom say a person is held responsible for their response to the revelation of a creator from “what has been made.”

pillars_of_creationFor Paul, this revelation is God’s “invisible qualities,” the qualities both Greek philosophy and Jewish theology would have understood as essential elements of a divine being. God is both eternal and powerful, although the Jews also understood that God as also personal (Kruse, Romans, 92).

A god that has “eternal power” is common to both Jewish and Greek philosophy. The adjective ἀΐδιος is used often in Philo to describe God (“being durable, eternal, and unchangeable” (Alleg. Interp. III 101).

Divine nature (θειότης) also is a word common to Jewish or Greek philosophy. For example, the word is used to describe Artemis, “who made Ephesus famous διὰ τῆς ἰδίας θειότητος, i.e. through manifestations of her power” (SIG 867, 31 ln. 35; BDAG).

Since this revelation is clear and understood, people are without excuse. Although the truth is out there, people “suppress the truth by their wickedness” (1:18), they prevent the truth from having any effect on the way they think. This is a willful disregard for evidence which does not fit into the system of this world’s way of thinking.  “Not having an excuse” (ἀναπολόγητος, here and in in 2:1) is used when someone cannot defend themselves against an accusation, so (Plutarch, Brutus 46.2).

Does God’s revelation in creation provide enough knowledge of God to justly punish those who reject it? Although this may have been an adequate argument in the first century, does Paul’s assertion that God has “clearly revealed himself” work as part of a Christian apologetic today?

god-hates-sinFoundational for the preaching of the Gospel is a proper view of the pervasive effects of sin on the human race. Paul therefore begins with the “pagan world,” people which everyone would agree are not living in a way that pleases God (or any god for that matter). Paul then moves on to Gentiles who do live a morally exemplary life (2:1-15) and Jews who ought to live moral lives but do not (2:16-29). He will conclude there is no one who is righteous before God and no one who even seeks God (3:1-20).

Who is this passage talking about? It is possible Paul has an earlier period of history in mind in Romans 1:18-32. Morna Hooker pointed out the rabbinic tradition that Adam’s sin was failing to give glory to God (therefore losing his own glory) and listening to the word of a creature (the serpent) rather than God’s word. A serious problem with this view is the late date of the Genesis Rabbah and the Babylonian Talmud, Hooker’s sources for this tradition.

It is tempting to see the section as describing the period from Adam to the flood, a time when humans lived by their conscience and, by the end of the period, they were wholly evil all of the time (Gen 6:5). But there is little reason to think Paul would be thinking only of the pre-flood world since his point is humans have fallen short of the glory of God at the present time.

Most commentators on Romans think Paul has the Gentile world in mind in this opening chapter. For the most part his description in this section is not unlike any other Jewish polemic against the pagan world. The Wisdom of Solomon 13-14 makes a remarkably similar to Paul’s in Romans 1. Wisdom is a Second Temple text which

Wisdom of Solomon 14:22 (NRSV) Then it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God, but though living in great strife due to ignorance, they call such great evils peace.

But as Cranfield points out, the practices listed in this chapter are true for all people, both Jew and Greek (Romans, 1:105). It is not as though the Jews avoided idolatry in the Old Testament, nor can it be said the Jewish people do not commit the sins listed in this chapter.

Paul may have expected his Jewish readers to be in complete agreement with this condemnation on the Gentiles, and the Gentiles were in a position to know he is telling the truth about the pagan world. This is a “rhetorical trap.” The Roman Christians who first heard this read in their congregations may have nodded in agreement and added a hearty “amen”!  In the next chapter Paul will then argue even those who think they have righteousness have “fallen short of the glory of God.”

I wonder if this chapter gets the same reaction in contemporary culture. Some churches would likely agree with Paul that “those people out there” are sinners and deserve to be in the hands of an angry God. But for those who are outside of traditional, mainstream churches this passage sounds judgmental, they do not like the idea of an angry, wrathful God justly judging sinners. How should Christians approach the theological idea of sin in a world which is deeply offended by Christians who call their lifestyle “sin”?

star-of-davidPaul contrasts Jesus’ physical descent from David and the spiritual declaration he was the Son of God. Although some detect a reference to Jesus’s human and divine nature in this verse, it is more likely Paul has in mind Jesus’s life prior to the resurrection and his life as a result of the resurrection (Kruse, Romans, 42).

As with the claim Jesus is the Son of God, Paul’s claim that Jesus was “descended from David according to the flesh” underscores his messianic claim. If Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, then he must be from the line of David. Both Matthew and Luke include genealogies in their gospels to connect Jesus to the line of David through Joseph. Based on 2 Samuel 7:14, Davidic origin of the messiah is found in several texts in the Hebrew Bible and the literature of the Second Temple period. For example:

Jeremiah 23:5 (ESV)  “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Psalm 89:3–4 (ESV) You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: 4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.’”

4QFlor 1:10-14 [And] YHWH [de]clares to you that 2 Sam 7:12–14 «he will build you a house. I will raise up your seed after you and establish the throne of his kingdom 11 [for ev]er. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me.» This (refers to the) «branch of David», who will arise with the Interpreter of the law who 12 [will rise up] in Zi[on in] the [l]ast days, as it is written: Amos 9:11 «I will raise up the hut of David which has fallen», This (refers to) «the hut of  13 David which has fall[en», w]hich he will raise up to save Israel. Martı́nez and Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (Translations) (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 353.

4 Ezra 12:31-32 “And as for the lion that you saw rousing up out of the forest and roaring and speaking to the eagle and reproving him for his unrighteousness, and as for all his words that you have heard, 32 this is the Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the posterity of David, and will come and speak to them; he will denounce them for their ungodliness and for their wickedness, and will cast up before them their contemptuous dealings.

In each of these examples the messiah is related to David (the seed of David, a branch out of David, etc.)  Psalm 89:3-4 and the fragmentary Dead Sea Scroll both allude to 2 Sam 7:14, a text which anticipates a son of David will rule in Jerusalem (Solomon), but also that a son of David will rule forever (Jesus). This future messiah in some way restores the broken line of David.

As Richard Longenecker points out, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, Paul does not usually connect the idea of Jesus as the messiah and his physical descent from David (Romans, 65). So why does he make the connection at the beginning of the book of Romans? Longenecker (and many others) suggest Paul is using an early Christian confessional statement in these verses. In order to connect with congregations he does not know, Paul alludes to a familiar confessional statement used in their worship.

Going a step beyond Longenecker, if this is a confessional statement, I would suggest this tells us something about the congregations in Rome. The language in the introduction is thoroughly Jewish and messianic. The gospel Paul preaches is about Jesus the Messiah, who is the son of God (a messianic title) and the fulfillment of the line of David (a messianic expectation). We know Jewish-Christian congregations in Rome were persecuted because they were rioting over Chrestus, likely an indication of intense debate within the synagogues over Jesus as the Christ.

Since Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles and has a well-deserved reputation for preaching a Law-free gospel to the Gentiles, it is important for Paul to begin his letter to messianic Jewish congregations with a clear affirmation that he believes Jesus is the Messiah and fulfills Jewish expectations about the Messiah.

At the beginning of Romans Paul describes the Gospel as concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:3-4). Although part of Paul’s address of the book to Christians in Rome, this is a rich theological description of Jesus which is based on Paul’s reading of the Hebrew Bible.

4q246The phrase “Son of God” is a messianic title, drawn from Psalm 2. Other Second Temple period texts use a similar title for the coming messiah. In Psalm 2, the king of Israel is called the Lord’s anointed one (2:2) and “God’s son” (2:7) as he is enthroned in Zion. This anointed son of God will receive the nations as his inheritance (2:8) and all the kings of the earth (the nations) are to serve the Lord in fear (2:11). 2 Samuel 7:14 may be the source for Psalm 2, since David is promise that his son would rule after him forever.

Paul’s is not far from the language used by the Qumran community to describe a coming king who will rule on behalf of God:

4Q246 He will be called son of God, and they will call him son of the Most High. Like the sparks that you saw, so will their kingdom be; they will rule several year[s] over the earth and crush everything; a people will crush another people, and a province another provi[n]ce. Blank Until the people of God arises and makes everyone rest from the sword. Blank His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, and all his paths in truth. He will jud[ge] the earth in truth and all will make peace. The sword will cease from the earth, and all the provinces will pay him homage. The great God is his strength, he will wage war for him; he will place the peoples in his hand and cast them all away before him. Martınez and Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (Translations) (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 493-95.

The writer of this document describes a coming king as a “son of God” and a “son of the Most High” (ובר עליון) who will crush the enemies of God’s kingdom and establish an eternal kingdom. The scroll alludes to Psalm 2:9 (“crushing enemies”) and Isaiah 1 (the sword being removed, nations paying homage, but also Ps 2:11). The scroll also resonates with Luke 1:35, Gabriel’s words to Mary announcing she will be overshadowed by “the Most High” so that the child she bears will be called “holy, the son of God.” Not everyone agrees the scroll refers to a messianic figure (see Collins for a survey of the options). The title “son of God” has clear messianic overtones in the New Testament, and as Collins shows, sometimes the phrase was messianic at Qumran (184).

Paul begins Romans by announcing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God. To a Jewish ear, this is a clear statement that Paul believes Jesus is the Messiah and in some ways fulfills the messianic expectations of the Hebrew Bible. But he does not burst into history and destroy Israel’s enemies, crushing them with a rod of iron and ruling over a kingdom of peace. The Gospel is “God’s intervention in Christ” (Moo, Romans, 43), but the action of God in Christ destroys the power of the real enemy, the power of sin and death.

How does this apocalyptic reading of the first line of Romans playout over the rest of the book? How is Jesus “God’s intervention”?

 

See also:

García Martínez F. “The Eschatological Figure of 4Q246,” in Qumran and Apocalyptic. Studies on the Aramaic Texts from Qumran (STDJ 9; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992) 162–179.

Collins, John J. “The Messiah as the Son of God,” in The Scepter and the Star (Second Edition; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2010) 171–190.

Cross, Frank Moore. “Notes on the Doctrine of the Two Messiahs at Qumran and the Extracanonical Daniel Apocalypse (4Q246),” in D.W. Parry, S.D. Ricks (eds.), Current Research and Technological Developments on the Dead Sea Scrolls (STDJ 20; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996): 1–13.

“Le premier contact fut écrasant.” – “The first encounter was overwhelming.” M.-J. Lagrange, Saint Paul: Épître Aux Romains. Études Bibliques. Paris, 1950.

Romans 1:16–17 (ESV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

In Romans 1:16-17 Paul states his theme: the Gospel is the power of God for salvation for anyone who believes. Paul begins the letter by stating clearly the real good news is not about the emperor or the empire.   The real power for salvation comes from God, not the emperor or the empire.

main-themes-of-romansFirst, humans are estranged from God, unwilling and unable to respond to the revelation of God in creation (1:18-3:20). Paul demonstrates Gentiles suppress knowledge of God even though he clearly reveals himself in creation, then argues the Jewish people are just as estranged from God because of their own rebellion. By Romans 3:20, there is no one who seeks God nor is there anyone who even tries!

Second, despite human rebellion, God has provided salvation through Jesus Christ (3:21-5:21). Paul uses a courtroom metaphor: the believer is “declared righteous” because of what Jesus has done on the cross. The believer obtains that righteousness through faith, not obedience to the Law or performance of rituals.

Third, those who believe are wholly identified with the death and resurrection of Jesus, therefore they should live a new life in Jesus (Romans 6-8). Those who believe are “dead to sin.” Once slaves to sin, now slaves to righteousness, but Paul goes on to say those who are in Christ are now children of God. The ethical implication of this new relationship with God is that the “in Christ” person is to act like they are part of the family of God. This new status cannot be lost, those whom God justified he will ultimately glorify.

Fourth, someone might object to this promise of faithfulness. God made promises to Israel in the past, and they appear to now be rejected as God’s people. Can we trust God when he says we cannot lose our salvation, since the Jewish people appear to have be rejected as God’s people, despite his promises in the Old Testament. In Romans 9-11 Paul shows that God is faithful to his promises, even those he made to the Jewish people. Paul constructs a detailed theological argument which shows God was not unfaithful in the past and he will act again on behalf of the Jewish people, so that “all Israel will be saved” (11:25-32).

Fifth, the “in Christ” life transforms thinking in every aspect of life. Paul describes this new life as a living sacrifice and transformed thinking (12:1-2). The gospel confronts both Judaism and the pagan world. By living out the life described in Romans 12-15 a Jewish person goes beyond the Law by exercising the law of love in every aspect of their life (very much like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount). But Paul goes beyond Jesus to discuss how Jews and Gentiles relate to one another (the stronger and weaker in chapter 14). But the life described in Romans 12-15 subverts Roman cultural scripts as well. The one who is in Christ does not pursue his own honor (like a good Roman), but seeks to serve others.

Hays, J. Daniel. The Temple and the Tabernacle. A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2016. 208 pp. Pb; $19.99. Link to Baker.

In this richly illustrated book Daniel Hays presents a biblical theology of the Temple. The book is written at the popular level and will serve as an excellent introduction for the layman or pastor seeking a deeper understanding of how the Temple functions throughout the Bible. More importantly, Hays avoids allegorical excesses which tend to find too much in the symbolism of the Tabernacle and the Temple.

hays-templeThe first chapter sets the agenda for the book by introducing the reader to the vocabulary used for temples in the ancient world. Although many of these terms refer to specific buildings, Hays points out this vocabulary often refers to a heavenly tabernacle or temple. In Hebrews 8-9, for example, there is a heavenly sanctuary in which Jesus completes the final sacrifice. From this it is clear Hays is interested in the theological importance of temple.

Hays argues Genesis presents Eden as “God’s Garden Temple.” This brief chapter is similar to “garden as temple” studies such as John Walton, Lost World of Genesis (IVP 2015) or Greg Beale, Temple and the Church’s Mission IVP, 2004). Hays lists nine features of the garden which indicate “Eden was indeed very much like a temple of God” (9). To be evicted from the garden was to be sent out of the presence of God. In the later Old Testament, the Tabernacle and Temple represent God’s physical presence as he dwells among his people.

Three chapters are dedicated to the Tabernacle and Temple in the Old Testament. Hays begins with a survey of the construction of the Tabernacle, including the Ark of the Covenant. This discussion deals with the long section in Exodus describing the command to construct the Tabernacle and the construction of the shrine. He includes sections on the various furniture in the tabernacle including the Table of the Bread of the Presence, the Golden Lampstand, the incense holders, and other architectural features. With respect to the history of the Tabernacle, Hays could have included the movement of the shrine in the early part of Samuel and the so-called Ark Narrative (1 Sam 4-6) and the shrine at Nob (1 Sam 21). In addition, David’s restoration of the Ark of the Covenant to a shrine in Jerusalem (2 Sam 6) merits more attention since in anticipates later the building of the Temple. Given the parameters of the book, the omissions are understandable. Not every text can be covered in equal detail in a popular level book.

Hays concludes the chapter with a comment on the appropriate use of typology in the study of the Tabernacle. Popular preachers and teachers have often gone crazy in their interpretations of the curtains and the colors in the Tabernacle in order to tease out some characteristic of Jesus Christ or the Gospel. Although the worship conducting in the Tabernacle anticipated the sacrifice of Christ, the Tabernacle itself should not be allegorized.

Hays offers a detailed contrast between the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple. Here he lays out a great deal of Scripture to show that Solomon’s temple was the product of human design in contrast to the Tabernacle, which was designed by God. He argues it is “clear and undeniable that the Solomon story in first Kings 1-11 is intertextuality connected to the story of the Exodus” (85). Hays provides a detailed description of the various items of furniture and architectural features of the Temple. There are several accompanying charts and graphs to illustrate this section.

Just as the key theological point of the Tabernacle was the presence of God, the departure of the presence of God from the Temple is the key theological point of Ezekiel 8-11. Ezekiel has a vision of God’s presence leaving the Temple, allowing Babylon to destroy it. But Ezekiel’s prophecy concludes with a future restoration of the Temple. Hays deals with the differences between Solomon’s Temple in this future temple. Certainly Ezekiel is a key prophet with respect to the theology of the Temple, Hays could have improved his discussion of the Temple by including Isaiah’s call (which Hays does mention briefly but does not deal with the details of the vision or discuss whether Isaiah sees a heavenly Temple). In addition, Jeremiah’s condemnation of Jerusalem’s confidence in the Temple (esp. Jer 7) is critically important for understanding the disaster of the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C.

The Old Testament material concludes with a discussion of the Cherubim. He compares these angelic beings to other ancient near Eastern creature appearing in various temples in the Ancient Near East. He also briefly wonders what happened to the Ark of the Covenant and deals with several of the legends it developed as a result of the disappearance of the Ark.

Hays describes the rebuilding of the Temple in the intertestamental period (chapter 6). He begins with the return from exile in the struggle of as Ezra and Haggai to rebuild the temple. (This is the order given in the heading on page 127, despite the fact Haggai was active when the temple was first rebuilt, before 515 B.C. Ezra does not arrive in Jerusalem until 458 B.C.) The bulk of this chapter describes the splendor of Herod’s temple. This section is richly illustrated with photographs from Jerusalem as well as the model of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum. Since he is interested in the theology of the Temple, Hays is quick to point out there is “no evidence the presence of God ever resided in the most Holy Place in Herod’s Temple” (165).

In the New Testament, the Temple (chapter 7) Hays begins by surveying the references to the Temple in the Gospels and Acts. As he puts it, “the presence of God did not return to the temple until Jesus Christ walked through its gates” (167). During his final week teaching in the Temple, Jesus functioned like an Old Testament prophet, condemning the worship there as hypocritical.

With respect to how New Testament authors understood the Temple in the present age, with Paul’s description of the church as the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3, Eph 2:21-22). Although he has used Hebrews 8-9 the book of Hebrews which uses tabernacle and temple imagery to describe Jesus his work in providing atonement. It is at this point in the book he discusses Ezekiel’s temple vision and deals with the very difficult problem of the fulfillment of the prophecy. As he says, “scholars are widely widely divided over the meaning of Ezekiel’s vision” and the details “are problematic if interpreted literally” (181). For example, Hays understands Jesus’ “living water” (John 7:38) as an allusion to the river flowing out of the mountain in Ezekiel.

It is disappointing that there is only two pages devoted to the temple in the book of Revelation, and then focusing only on the final two chapters of the book. There is more Temple imagery in Revelation than just those two chapters. For example, the Ark of the Covenant appears in Rev 11:19 and there are several references to the altar of God (14:18). Some of the imagery of worship seems to evoke the Old Testament temple. Since the subtitle of this book includes “Genesis to Revelation” one would expect more attention to the final book of the New Testament and temple imagery.

Finally, Hays offers a short meditation on the meaning of the Temple for modern Christians. This chapter has a pastoral emphasis, focusing on the church as the presence of God. If the church is in fact the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” then there are implications for our worship.

Conclusion. The book includes photographs, illustrations and other charts which will assist the reader in visualizing the Tabernacle and Temple. The book is printed on heavy, glossy paper so the full-color illustrations clear. Hays includes a great deal of Scripture in each chapter. This is significant since his goal is a biblical theology of Temple.  Because this is a popular level biblical theology, there are some frustrating omissions, but these ultimately do not distract from the overall value of this book. Hays has contributed a useful introduction to the history and theology of the Temple which will provide important background for students of both the Old and New Testament.

 

NB: Thanks to Baker for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

From the book of Acts we know Paul wrote Romans after a long and bitter controversies in both Galatia and Corinth. As a result of these conflicts, Romans “constitutes a ‘manifesto’ setting forth his deepest convictions on central issues” (Kruse, Romans, 9). This manifesto was written and published to gain the widest publicity. It is possible the core of the letter was sent to other Pauline churches, although there is no manuscript evidence for this.

Paul also wrote Romans just prior to his trip to Jerusalem to deliver the collection to the poor saints in Jerusalem. The book of Romans may have been intended to gain the favor of the Roman church as he approached the contentious Jerusalem church. Romans 15:30-33 specifically asks the Roman church to pray for Paul because he is not sure what reception he will receive when he arrives in Jerusalem.

paul-statue-romeThat he calls his potential opponents in Jerusalem “unbelievers” is instructive. It is at least possible he means the gentile, Roman authority in Judea. Certainly the Romans would be suspicious of a cash gift to potential revolutionaries! He also may mean Jews who have not accepted Jesus as messiah and are therefore not part of the community led by James? But could Paul be referring to the Jewish believers in Jesus as the Messiah who insisted on Gentiles keeping the Law, the Judaizers who worked against his mission in Galatia.

Whatever the case, Paul assumes Roman church had close ties with Jerusalem and some communication regularly occurred between these two communities. Paul may have though the Roman church had some level of influence on Jerusalem leaders like James, the brother of Jesus. In fact. At least one scholar suggested the real target audience of the letter is the Jerusalem church. Paul wants the letter to get to the potentially hostile Jerusalem church to make clear his theology in order to diffuse any suspicion.

With this in mind, Paul wrote Romans gain the cooperation of the Roman church for his mission to Spain. He needed the assistance of the Roman Christians to provide contacts in Spain because of the lack of Jewish population there that could provide him with a base of operations. Paul faced an unusual problem in Spain, Greek was commonly spoken. He may have needed local help from Romans to assist him in Latin. Romans would then be a kind of discipleship letter which ensured the Roman churches were equipped with his Gospel and were not exported a Roman system of pursuit of honor to “barbarian Spain.” Paul argues in Romans that God saves all sinners impartially regardless of culture through Jesus Christ.

As F. F. Bruce pointed out in The Romans Debate, any combination of the suggestions made over my last several posts may be in the background of Romans. Paul had several motivations to write a complex book like Romans, in contrast to a letter like Galatians which is targeted at a single issue, or 1 Corinthians which deals with serious problems in the church and answers several questions.

Unlike most of Paul’s letters, the occasion for the letter is not obvious. Although there seems to be a clear purpose statement in 15:24-29, it is not clear why Paul would have written the bulk of the book to support that purpose. There is no indication he is responding to questions from the Roman church nor does he address reported problems in the church similar to 1 Corinthians or 1 Thessalonians. Paul has yet to visit the church and it does not appear he has had an influence on the church prior to this letter (unlike Colossians, for example, a church founded by a disciple of Paul).

scribe-at-workThe consensus view until modern scholarship is that the main purpose of Romans is to set forth Paul’s theology in clear terms. He begins with sin, then on to salvation by grace, the role of the law, sanctification and finally the practice of the Christian life. For many, Romans is as close to a systematic theology as we get from Paul. In fact, many modern Systematic theologies follow this same general outline.

But if this is a “compendium of Pauline Theology,” there is a great deal missing (the resurrection of Jesus, for example), and it is difficult to account for Romans 9-11. Paul’s discussion of Israel is often treated like a digression from his main point, as if it could be dropped from the book without damaging Paul’s argument. One additional factor is fact Paul’s letters are all written in some historical and social context. He did not appear to write books for the sake of putting his thoughts down for future generations to read and ponder.

Is Paul responding to a situation within the Roman Church? (I am heavily indebted to Colin Kruse, Romans, 8-9 for this section.) There are several suggestions for explaining Paul’s pastoral response.

First, since the Roman church was not established by an apostle, Paul wrote Romans to provide the church with an “apostolic presentation of the gospel (Fitzmyer, Romans, 75; Kruse, Romans, 8).” Paul would do this in person when he arrives in Rome, but the letter offers a “pre-read” for the church prior to Paul’s arrival.

Second, Christian Jews expelled from Rome by Claudius returned to find the house churches in Rome now organized much differently than the Jewish synagogue. The Jewish Christians found they were not the minority within a Gentile church. Paul therefore wrote Romans to encourage the Gentiles to live in harmony with Jewish Christian. But this suggestion has some difficult because there is no evidence Gentile converts had rejected distinctive Jewish practices. Unlike Galatia, it is possible the only Gentile converts in Rome were God Fearing Gentiles and quite happy with most Jewish practices.

Third, since the status of the Law is an important issue in Romans, Paul may have written because Christian Jews who continue to observe the law were now in conflict with law-free Gentile Christians. This is like other Pauline churches, but it is not clear Gentiles in the Roman church had rejected the Jewish Law. Nor is there evidence of Judaizers in Rome. Roman Gentile Christians do not seem to have struggled with Judaizers like the Galatia Christians did. Romans 14-15 is unclear on who the weak and strong are and vague about the actually issues at stake. There may have been some God-fearing Gentiles who kept some the Law and other Gentiles who came into the church who were not at all attracted to Jewish traditions.

Fourth, it is possible Paul did not consider the Roman Christians to have been “evangelized” yet. In Romans 15:15-16 Paul says he has written boldly to the church, so that “so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” The letter therefore demands a response to the gospel from the Roman readers with respect to Paul’s understanding of the Gospel.

Fifth, it is also possible Paul wanted the Roman Christians to hear his gospel in order to draw them “apostolic orbit” (Kruse, Romans, 8). Since Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles, he may have felt the Gentile believers were part of his commission regardless of how they originally came to hear the Gospel. Perhaps Romans 15:20 is an apology for taking as long as he has to come to Rome, the largest and most important city in the Empire (Fitzmyer, Romans, 76). If the Roman churches had grown to the extent Nero could use them as a scapegoat (ten years after Romans was written), then Paul cold be accused of overlooking a significant population of Gentile Christians.

In summary, any of these suggestions (or a combination of them) could explain why Paul wrote the letter to the Roman church. But it is possible he was motivated to write the later because he was moving into a new stage of his apostolic ministry rather than to meet some pastoral need in the church.

 

Follow Reading Acts on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,268 other followers

My book Jesus the Bridegroom is now available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle

Christian Theology

%d bloggers like this: