Romans 1:17

From: Eric Weiss (
Date: Wed Feb 07 1996 - 12:26:14 EST

I am so glad to see this being discussed. I've been wrestling with it for
over a month now, primarily trying to figure out how to translate this verse,
including the difficult phrase "EK PISTEWS EIS PISTIN," for the reasons Carl
Conrad mentions; i.e., it raises the question of whether Paul's key doctrine
can be grounded in the Old Testament. I was even thinking of submitting it as
a question to b-greek.

The LXX does read "hO DE DIKAIOS EK PISTEWS MOU ZHSETAI" which Hebrews 10:38
changes to "hO DE DIKAIOS MOU EK PISTEWS ZHSETAI." I don't think the "MOU"
is present (actually or implied) in the Hebrew. Keil and Delitzch (sic?) is
worth reading on Habakkuk 2:4 on this point. I think I remember that they
say that "by faith" (or "by/because of his faithfulness") goes with "will
live," not with "the [one who is] righteous," and then proceed to explain how
Paul correctly applied this verse. My "feel" for this verse is like Carl
says, that if Paul wanted to say "righteous by faith" he would have written
"hO DE EK PISTEWS DIKAIOS," but I haven't been a Greek student long enough
nor studied the Pauline (or NT) corpus well enough to say that my "feeling"
is based on a sound knowledge of Greek grammar.

Geza Vermes' translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls on the Habbakuk commentary,
if I remember correctly, translates the pesher as something like "the one who
has faith in the Teacher of Righteousness will live" -- which seems to
support the fact that the Hebrew can be translated "faith" and not just
"faithfulness" as most translations are wont to do.

It seems to me that Paul's treatment of Habbakuk 2:4 in Galatians 3:11 must
be taken as "the one who is [made] righteous by faith [is the one who] will
live" (cf. Galatians 3:12) but that the Romans 1:17 passage can be taken both
as "the one who is made righteous by faith is the one who will live" and "the
one who is righteous will live by (or "from" or "because of") [his] faith."

I wonder if one first has to deal with what is meant by "righteous" in
Habbakuk 2:4 in its Jewish Old Testament context? Is "righteous [man]"
basically a synonym for a "good man," that is, one who keeps the Law, fears
God, etc. (can Romans 5:7 shed any light on this)? Thus, Habbakuk 2:4 would
mean: "the good-doer [as opposed to the evildoer] will live because of his
faithfulness-to-me/faith-in-me"? Maybe it could be both: an Old Testament
"righteous man" is both made righteous by his faith in God and is considered
"a righteous man" and maybe even made righteous by God because of his
righteous conduct (cf. Psalm 1).

I feel the translation of all of 1:17 cannot be properly made until one
decides what Paul means in 1:17b, since 1:17b (citing Habakkuk 2:4) is Paul's
"proof-text" for 1:17a. Since I haven't been able to reconcile all the
problems with 1:17b and Paul's use/understanding of Habbakuk 2:4, I haven't
been able to determine how to translate 1:17a:

        "For a (or "the") righteousness of (or "from") God [i.e., "the
        way God makes people right(eous) before Him (or "in His sight")
        -- cf. Romans 10:3ff.] in (or "by") it [the EUAGGELION -- 1:16]
        is revealed EK PISTEWS EIS PISTIN."

Does Paul mean that God's way of making people right is revealed in the
[hearing and preaching of the] EUAGGELION; that is, the EUAGGELION
shows/demonstrates that God's way of making people right is that He does so
by that person putting faith in God, which results in God imputing
righteousness to that person (and that the EUAGGELION itself has the power to
impute this righteousness to the hearer -- cf. Romans 1:16; 10:17)? Or is
Paul saying that the understanding of the EUAGGELION comes about by
revelation, and that such revelation comes EK PISTEWS (from/by faith) -- and
that such revelation also effects saving (or: "righteous-imparting") faith,
i.e., EIS PISTIN -- "results in faith":

        "For by (or "in the message of") the gospel the way God makes
        people right before Him (resulting in their salvation -- cf. 1:16)
        is revealed, and this revelation comes through faith and results
        in righteousness-imparting faith -- as it is written: ..."

Or is he perhaps saying something else....

Well, my 2 cents has gone on long enough. Hopefully this discussion will
give us all some helpful answers.

"Eric Weiss"

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