Re: Re-posting on Romans 1:17

From: Carlton Winbery (
Date: Sun Feb 04 1996 - 12:47:36 EST

Professor Hobbs wrote;
> Both Carl and Carlton have suggested ways Paul SHOULD have rewritten
>this text if he thought it meant "The righteous through faith shall live."
> But I would argue that he did not feel free to rewrite the text. Paul
>does not rewrite his citations from the LXX to conform to his grammar.
>E.g., he uses the future ZHSW, not the classical ZHSOMAI, except when
>citing LXX, where he retains the future middle form (classical). See
>Zerwick, Section 226. He almost certainly could read Hebrew, and I would
>be incredulous if I were told that he didn't even bother to look in his
>Bible(s) for one of the two most central texts in his thinking. Hence he
>saw both "HIS" and "MY" as modifiers of "FAITH(FULNESS)", thus a legitimate
>variable he could omit to universalize the text.
> (And Carl, I would incline to think of this is the MOTTO for
>Romans, not a "proof text.")
> Now, how did Paul understand this text? (I won't refer you to my
>piece on this published just forty years ago, since I can't find it here
>myself.) Carlton put it correctly when he said that some commentators base
>their interpretation (The one who is righteous through faith shall live) on
>the structure of Romans. The modern commentator who fought hardest for
>this was Anders Nygren; his _Romerbrevet_ argued the case at great length
>and with substantial evidence. What question is Paul offering to answer in
>Romans? Is it, "How shall the righteous live? -- Answer: They shall live
>by faith." Or is it, "How can anyone find life, the goal of all human
>striving? I.e., Who shall live? Answer: The righteous through faith shall
> Ch. 1-4 -- The righteous through faith
> Ch. 5-8 (or 5-15) -- Shall live
>And in each case, he argues first negatively (what righteous through faith
>is not: it is not UNrighteousness, nor is it righteousness through
>law/works) (what life is not: not being under the power of wrath, sin, law,
>or death) then what it IS.
> No point in repeating Nygren (my copies of the original Swedish and
>the ET are in my office, not here in my cold basement, so I couldn't
>anyway, could I?); you can all read him.
> But he convinced me, long ago; and he convinced the RSV translators in
>1946. Alas, the NRSV went back to Luther's interpretation, and consigned
>Lutheran Bishop Nygren to the margin. But then they usually got Paul
>wrong, I suspect.
> A final point on word order: Carl said,
>'By terms of "normal" Greek grammar, EK PISTEWS in Rom. 1:17 SHOULD be
>construed with ZHSETAI . . . .'
> But as Carl well knows, lots of things in Hellenistic writers,
>including Paul, do not follow classical canons; and this example is
>probably one of them. Whether Paul would have moved EK PISTEWS before
>DIKAIOS if he felt free to re-write his Biblical text, I don't know; but
>I'm somewhat doubtful. The issue isn't whether this text COULD mean "The
>righteous shall live by faith," but whether it HAS to mean that. In my
>opinion, it doesn't--it can quite plausibly be read "The righteous through
>faith shall live," probably with the same ambiguity as that English
I worked my way through Nygren back in the sixties. I could not recall
whom I was referring to but I knew that the outline of Romans had
influenced some commentators. I also appreciate very much the work of
Dieter Betz on Galatians. It sits right next to my old copy of the ICC on
Galatians by E.D. Burton. You may be right about Paul not rewriting the
text, but he did seem free to choose the LXX or use some other when it
favored the point he wanted to make such as his point about SPERMA and
SPERMATA in Galatians.

Carlton L. Winbery
Prof. Religion
LA College, Pineville, La

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