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After studying the New Perspective on Paul as well as a good deal of 2nd Temple Judaism, I agree with many scholars who are now complaining that the “old” reading of Romans really misreads the data. The problem has been that Christians traditionally have come to Romans with their own questions and they force Paul to answer them. Instead they should allow Paul and the Judaism(s) of his day to dictate their own questions to us while we eagerly listen.

Here is a link to the class that was taught on the Introduction to Romans and looking at 1:1-17

Here are the notes that I gave to the class:

Jews were expelled from Rome under the edicts of Claudius (Acts 18:2). The reason for this expulsion according to the historian Suetonius was that there were riots in Rome that resulted from the preaching of “Chrestus” in the late 40s.  When a new emperor is enthroned (Nero in 54), all of the previous edicts are rescinded.  Rome as a city did not like the Jews very much. They pictured them as a lesser race of conquered people.

It would not be hard to imagine that the now entirely Gentile Church in Rome would be thinking that God has written the Jews off for rejecting their Messiah. Furthermore, they would see no more need to evangelize the Jewish people. The church at this point frowned quite heavily on the Jewish race and saw no reason why their theology should continue to include them in any way.

Paul states that he wishes to come and visit the church in Rome (which he didn’t found) in 1:10, 13, 15, 15:22-24. His purpose of writing is therefore 3-fold:

  1. To establish Rome as his new base in the west as he continues on to Spain (15:24)
  2. To help the Gentiles understand the purpose of the Jews in God’s salvation history, which will in turn lead to unity as the Jews return to Rome (and to their church).
  3. To collect money from the church in Rome to go towards his ongoing Jerusalem collection. This will help validate in real and practical ways that Paul truly believes that the gospel is for all who believe, Jew and Gentile alike.

Breakdown of Romans
Chs. 1-4
Chs. 5-8
Chs. 9-11
Chs. 12-16 

 Paul’s gospel and what is supposed to accomplish.

                -Son of God who is born

                -descendant of David

                -raised from the dead

                -bringing about the obedience of faith among all the nations

Paul wishes that he can come and visit them. He did not found this church, but he knows that his passion for the Jew + Gentile church could solve the potential problems arising in Rome.

-Not ashamed

-Gospel = salvation

                -Jew and also equally to the Greek

                (temporal priority for the Jews, but the Gentiles are in no sense second-class Christians)

-          In the gospel, God’s righteousness is revealed        

NIV – a righteousness from God
-          -The righteous status which God’s people have from the imputation of Christ (Christ’s imputed righteousness)
NASB – the righteousness of God
-            -“God’s own righteousness”
-          Old Testament evidence never shows that God’s righteousness is a status imparted or imputed onto His people.
-        

  In the Old Testament, God’s righteousness denoted God’s faithfulness to his covenant.
-          3 levels in meaning
-                          1- Covenant (Isaiah 40-55)
-                          2- Law court
-                          3- Eschatological

            “So now, take your stand, that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous acts of the LORD which He did for you and your fathers. (1 Sam 12:7)
“You found his heart faithful before You, And made a covenant with him To give him the land of the Canaanite, Of the Hittite and the Amorite, Of the Perizzite, the Jebusite and the Girgashite– To give it to his descendants. And You have fulfilled Your promise, For You are righteous. (Neh. 9:8)
“But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham my friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Isa 41:8-10)

“I have aroused him in righteousness and I will make all his ways smooth; He will build My city and will let My exiles go free, without any payment or reward,” says the LORD of hosts. (Isa 45:13)

“Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, Who are far from righteousness. I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, And My glory for Israel. (Isa 46:12-13)

Judges (God) job:

                -Hear the case fairly (doing what is right)

                -Act impartially (no bribes or favoritism)

                -Vindicate the helpless (weak, fatherless, widow)

                -Punish the evildoer (accused or plaintiff)

When the judge does this, he is considered “righteous.”

 

-God is the judge

-Israel is again and again oppressed by pagan nations (helpless accused)

-Pagan nations (evildoing plaintiff)

Cp. Daniel 7

                -God vindicates Israel and judges the evil beasts. Therefore the world is put to order, to right. This has not happened yet…

One day God will:

                -judge the world,

                -vindicate his true people,

                -deal with sin,

                -and punish evil.

Remember that the covenant with Abraham came immediately after the sin of Genesis was at its worst (Gen. 3-11). The purpose of the covenant is to ultimately deal with the world’s sin.

In the law court, God finds in favor of one party of the other. When he does this, its is said that he “justifies” him/her. To be justified in this setting is to have the court find in your favor.

“Justification” has the law court meanings, but if the covenant is the primary lens, then it also refers to God’s declaration that these people belong to the family of God. They are in essence “covenant members.”

The future marking out of the people of God (future justification) will be recognized by resurrection, restoration, and forgiveness of sins.

The announcement of the gospel declares that in the present, this justification is seen by those who have faith.

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”

Quoting from Habakkuk 2:4, where the prophet is speaking to a people who are currently within a sinful nation. They should live by faith, which means believing that their covenant God will vindicate His people, punish the idolatrous nation, and restore them to the land.

“….from faith to faith”

Refers to God’s own faithfulness which leads to our faith/faithful response. Note the link with 1:5 (the obedience of faith).

It is a little under an hour. I’m hoping for some lively discussion.  I would kindly ask that if anyone wants to enter into Christian debate with this material that they please listen to the lesson first. Thanks.

13 Responses to “Romans from a New Perspective”

  1. on 05 Jun 2009 at 11:23 amSean

    Dustin, thanks for coming on as one of our new posters. I came across this lecture from a Teaching Company class called History of Christian Theology by Easter University professor, Phillip Cary, in which he flat out stated that Augustine and then Luther & Calvin were reading questions into Paul that were not originally there. Check out this five minute clip.

  2. on 05 Jun 2009 at 11:57 amKarl

    Hi Dustin and Sean,

    I would really like to listen to the windows media file about the new perspective on Paul. This would have some relevance to the ongoing discussion I’m having with Mark on another post. However, the only way I could possibly take the time to listen to it would be as a mp3 file on my Ipod. I’ve tried to convert it to a mp3 with my converter but it won’t work. Could either of you convert it to an mp3 and put a link to it online, or Email it to me? Thank you very much.

    Karl

  3. on 05 Jun 2009 at 12:25 pmWolfgang

    Hello,

    The problem has been that Christians traditionally have come to Romans with their own questions and they force Paul to answer them. Instead they should allow Paul and the Judaism(s) of his day to dictate their own questions to us while we eagerly listen.

    After listening into the “new perspective” idea, I am wondering if this isn’t almost an exchange of one somewhat wrong perspective for another at the other end of the pendelum

    I would say agree, and have said so various times here in different posts on different topics that one will most likely not arrive at a correct understanding of the Scriptures IF one reads and interprets passages from the perspective of a later reader (whether that is from a theologian’s work of a few centuries after the Scriptures were written or from a reader’s perspective almost 2000 years later who is reading a passage now). This seems to be what the speaker in the mentioned class terms “coming to Romans with their own questions”. This is what many Christians today do and are instructed to do for reading the Bible …. ever heard the talk about “when you read, ask yourself “what does this mean for you now?”

    I would say that a correct understanding of the Scriptures can only be arrived IF we the Scriptures are read and understood from the author’s / wrriter’s perspective and keeping such things as the time of writing, the originally intended audience, the originally addressed subject matters and contexts in view … this however is no “new perspective”, but rather a simple old principle which any person should have learned in school.

    I’ve found that people usually do apply this correctly when reading letters and other correspondence or secular reference materials, etc … but for some strange reason, Christians seem to no longer adhere to this when it comes to reading the Bible, and they read the Scriptures as if they had been written just yesterday and were directly addressed to them living today ….

    Reading the Scriptures (how about not just Romans, but all the NT books and epistles) in this light will enable us to come to a true understanding of what has been written and what it means … and then — only then — can we determine how what we’ve read does or perhaps does not or no longer apply to us today.

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  4. on 05 Jun 2009 at 12:38 pmKarl

    Hi Sean and Dustin,

    Nevermind, I found a way to convert it. Thank you.

    Karl

  5. on 05 Jun 2009 at 12:40 pmSean

    Karl, it is an mp3…no need to convert it…just click on the link I dropped above and then underneath the windows media player click the link which goes to the mp3 file

  6. on 05 Jun 2009 at 1:13 pmKarl

    Sean,

    I was referring to the original lecture that Dustin posted

  7. on 05 Jun 2009 at 2:45 pmSean

    ohhhhh….how did you convert it….we were trying to figure that out

  8. on 05 Jun 2009 at 3:29 pmKarl

    Hi Sean,

    I have two programs that can do it: SoundConverter and FFMpegX. Do you want me to send you the mp3?

  9. on 05 Jun 2009 at 6:11 pmJoseph

    I found that the program “super” is the best program out there for converting any kind sound and video, and is free…

    http://www.erightsoft.com/SUPER.html

  10. on 09 Jun 2009 at 12:00 pmMark C.

    This lecture was very thought provoking. I would love to hear the rest of the series. Is it available somewhere?

  11. on 09 Jun 2009 at 3:25 pmDustin

    It is a Wednesday night class I am doing at my church. Each week I will post the next available audio file. This Friday = Rom. 1:18-32.

    Dustin

  12. on 13 Jun 2009 at 10:41 amSean

    I enjoyed this first installment and look forward to listening to more. I’m still up in the air on “the righteousness of God” being equated with “God’s covenant faithfulness”. Furthermore, I’ll be interested to see how justification works out in chapter 4.

    Also, I don’t really know how Israel would have known that its job was to be the light of the world since the only texts anybody ever uses are in the second half of Isaiah! What would being the light of the world look like? Wouldn’t it not look like Israel under David or Josiah or Hezekiah? It is the light of the world because it is faithful to the covenant not because it is inclusivistic, right? I take Isarel’s inaugural understanding from the massively ignored yet significant text in Exodus 19:

    4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.
    5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
    6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
    (Exo 19:4-6 NAU)

    I guess you could argue that as a kingdom of priests they would mediate to the rest of the world, but that would rub against the clear statement of v5 that they are called out from the world to be God’s special people who live in a special way (shabbat, kosher, holidays, circumcision, etc.). I don’t get the impression Israel failed to evangelize the world, because I don’t get the impression that that was their mission. I think their mission was to be faithful to the covenant and to enjoy the blessings of God as he remains faithful to the covenant as well.

    I’m not asking anyone to defend the other position, I just wanted to express my view, we can discuss this if you like, but I certainly don’t want to be perceived as negative here. I think the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) has a lot to offer, not the least of which is having a place for Romans 9-11 as opposed to the traditional view, which can’t seem to make heads or tales of it. I also like that NPP is so global in outlook rather than individualistic. Paul is not being individualistic in Romans 1 nor is he in 4 with Abraham nor in 9-11 with national Israel. To read Romans as a gospel tract for individual salvation just doesn’t work as a primary grid.

    I should also mention that N.T. Wright did a fascinating class on Romans as well from the New Perspective. (it’s $30). http://christianaudio.com/product_info.php?products_id=107

  13. on 24 Sep 2009 at 11:15 amKarl

    Hello Dustin and Sean,

    Is the rest of this series of studies going to be posted?

    Thanks

  

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