Re: Rom 1:17

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Feb 04 1996 - 09:40:59 EST

> >On 2/3/96, John Moe wrote:
> >
> >> I have been wrestling with DIKAIOS EK PISTEWS ZHSETAI. I have always
> >> taken EK PISTEWS wtih ZHSETAI, but I am wondering why it should not be
> >> taken with DIKAIOS. At Gal 3:11 Paul has building his argument on
> >> Abraham and quotes Gen 15:6. DIKAIOS EK PISTEWOS is the point he is
> >> making there. Is there some gramatical reason that Paul's use of this
> >> phrase from Hab. 2:4 should not be taken this way. Since this seems to
> >> not be a strick quotation of the Heb or the LXX as we have them, I do
> >> not think that either of those should controle the understanding of
> >> Paul's N.T. Use.
> >> Thanks for any light you can cast.

> To which Carl Conrad replied:
> >By terms of "normal" Greek grammar, EK PISTEWS in Rom 1:17 SHOULD be
> >construed with ZHSETAI because it is in predicative position. For it to
> >mean "the one who is righteous by faith, it should be written hO EK PISTEWS
> >DIKAIOS. It has,in fact, always bothered me that Paul's central doctrine
> >appears to be based upon a grammatical misconstruction of his LXX proof
> >text as cited. As it stands, it would certainly appear to mean that the one
> >who is righteous will live (i.e. eschatological life, although I don't
> >think that was intended in the original formulation in Hab.) through faith;
> >it does NOT appear to mean that faith makes the person righteous and
> >THEREFORE that person will live.

> To which Carlton Winbery answered:
> I think that the reason that some commentators have wanted to see the
> possibility that the "quote" from Hab. was understood by Paul to be the
> "one who is righteous by faith" is that it fits very neatly with the way
> some outline Rom. 1-8. Chapters 1-4 indicate that a person is made right
> with God by faith apart from law, and chps 5-8 deal with the life of a
> person who is right with God.
> However, I would agree with Carl that he would surely have written hO EK
> he meant. There are many examples where the genitive (ablative) with the
> prepositions EK, APO, PARA, or hUPO precedes the verb form with which it is
> used. (James 1:13; I John 5:1, Matt. 21:42)

> David Moore responded:
> It may be helpful to take a little more of the context of Habakuk
> 2:4b. If one takes this context from the Hebrew, rather than the LXX,
> the message is that the person whose soul is not upright manifests pride,
> but the righteous shall live by his faith. This is in keeping with
> Paul's emphasis regarding justification which also contrasts boastful
> pride with faithful confidence in God.
> It would seem that "by faith" should be construed with "shall
> live" rather than "righteous" (See Keil & Delitzsch, _ad loc._). But I
> don't see that this goes against Paul's message, if one allows that the
> Apostle had the context of the contrast between the prideful attitude and
> faith in mind.

> Edgar M. Krentz responded:

> Carl's explanation is on target. The predicative position of EK PISTEWS
> argues against it modifying hOI DIKAIOI.
> But I wonder how Carl [or others] might react to the suggestion that we
> have here an example of SUNTAXIS APO KOINOU, i.e. that EK PISTEWS here has
> a double significance; that rhetorical device would allow you to apply it
> to both phrases. -- Just raising the possibility!
> One might ask how each interpretation agrees with Paul in Romans 4, that is
> ask what the phrase might "sum up" in advance.

This is certainly a problematic Greek sentence, at least in terms of
ascertaining with confidence exactly how Paul meant or understood the
citation from Habakkuk to mean.

Let me comment--"hysteron proteron--first to Edgar's points:

        1. I think the suggestion of SUNTAXIS APO KOINOU is definitely
worth considering, particularly in view of the rhetorical skills Paul
demonstrates repeatedly, especially in Romans and in 1 Cor (I might mention
that a former student of mine has done some studies--quite independently of
any suggestion of mine--of diatribe style in Paul's letters).

        2. I personally think chapter 4 is the pie`ce de re'sistance of
Paul's discussion of "faith-righteousness"--particularly in the suggestions
that Abraham's faith in God as creator/redeemer is a proleptic faith in God
who raises Jesus from the dead. Quite apart from the question that has been
discussed three or four times previously in this forum, whether Paul is
talking about faith IN CHRIST (objective genitive) or about faith OF CHRIST
(subjective genitive), I think chapter 4 makes clear that Paul sees
Abraham's faith as the paradigm of the faith that wins salvation in that
its holder is deemed righteous by God, and that Abraham's faith is
fundamentally a trust in God as creator/redeemer who will keep his
promises. Therefore, I think that chapter 4 exemplifies what Paul means at
1:17 with his citation from Habakkuk--EVEN if this means that Paul
MISCONSTRUED the Greek of that citation grammatically.

Secondly, in response to David Moore, I think it is certainly POSSIBLE that
Paul is thinking of the larger context of the Habakkuk passage,and I doubt
not that he knows the passage well. The question is whether he thinks
primarily in terms of the Hebrew text (and isn't there one reading of the
sentence cited, "the righteous man will live by MY faithfulness"?) or in
terms of the LXX text which he actually cites. I personally don't think
that Paul (perhaps with the great EXCEPTION of Romans 4) interprets OT
scripture generally in terms of its own context and likely
historical-contextual intent; in fact, I find rather disturbing his
applicationn of Genesis proof texts in Galatians especially (I'm thinking
of the tricks played with SPERMA and the allegorical treatment of Sarah and
Hagaar), although I think these are very likely standard contemporary ways
of interpreting scripture. So I'm personally rather dubious about Paul's
understanding the verse of Habakkuk cited in terms of its fuller
context--but I wouldn't reject that view dogmatically.

And finally, in response to Carlton Winbery, I would just note, in terms of
the "normative" grammar (if there is any such thing--and at least there's
observed common practice), it is not just a matter of an ablatival genitive
(whereby I declare my allegiance to the 8-case faction!) PRECEDING the
verb, but rather of the preposition phrase EK PISTEWS being ENCLOSED in the
article that would be required for the passage to mean "He who by faith is
righteous shall live." I.e., it should be either hO EK PISTEWS DIKAIOS or

I trust that this discussion will not stop at this point; I really am
delighted to see this question being discussed because it turns upon a
number of significant issues in Paul's thinking, his use of scripture, his
rhetorical methods, etc.

To recapitulate my own view: Paul took this verse from Habakkuk from the
LXX because it did neatly summarize his understanding of the faith-stance
of believer (in Christ) to God as Creator/Redeemer; I think he interpreted
it in terms of "the one who by faith is righteous"--and that he did so
without regard to the "niceties" of "normal" Greek grammar.

My regards to all. I sit here at my computer on a bone-chilling Sunday
morning with the thermometer outside at -8 degrees (I know that most of the
U.S., more or less, is caught up in this deep freeze, although I would hope
that Carlton, down in the Cajun country, and David, down in tropical
Florida, might be somewhat more fortunate, while I know that Edgar in
Chicago has it very much worse than I do) and wait for a plumber to come
for some urgent repairs (Ellen Adams will sympathize, I'm sure, if my
memory fails me not!). And if there's someone in Australia reading this,
I'd like to trade places with you right now!

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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