Re: Romans 1:17

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Feb 07 1996 - 16:01:24 EST

On 2/7/96, Eric Weiss wrote--lots and lots and lots:

> 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.

I certainly did not mean to imply that I did not think Paul's key doctrine
can be grounded in the OT; I certainly believe that he has succeeded
admirably in doing so, particularly in chapter 4 of Romans. What I did mean
to say was that I personally don't find the kind of argument employed using
the word SPERMA and using the allegory of Hagar and Sarah in Galatians very
persuasive. That doesn't really bother me particularly because I think the
method of exegesis we would employ is very different from Paul's and from
that of the rabbis and sectarian Jewish interpreters of his day.

On the other hand, I think that it is central to Paul's teaching that
salvation or grace precedes grateful obedience--or put it that obedience is
the grateful and faithful response of the saved to the savior. I think that
is already laid out in the formulation of the decalogue with its opening
reminder of the salvation Israel has received and its implicit indication
that for this very reason Israel shall observe these norms to govern its
existence. I think that a lot of the same idea governs Deuteronomy also,
where Israel is reminded how little it deserves the grace given it by
Yahweh and where the interpreter of the Law endeavors to base Israel's
obedience upon gratitude for the salvation already given Israel.

> 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.

I have been misunderstood, at least in part, here. I never said that Paul
would have written otherwise had he intended a different meaning; rather, I
said that the "normal" phrasing of the Greek text that Paul cites ought to
have shown EK PISTEWS in the attributive position to hO DIKAIOS rather than
in a predicative position. In fact, however, the Greek phrasing is an
excerpt from a Greek translation of a Hebrew original--and the LXX
translators notoriously don't observe the "normative" patterns of Greek
grammar with any great regularity. I find the argument set forth by Edgar
Krentz and argued further for by Edward Hobbs quite plausibly that Paul
intended EK PISTEWS to be taken ambiguously and even APO KOINOU with hO
DIKAIOS and ZHSETAI, even as Eric is suggesting in the next 2 paragraphs
that I cite here:

> 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."

Indeed, why not both? "by faith is righteous" AND "will live by faith."
This could even be the sense of EK PISTEWS EIS PISTIN. It is trust and
commitment in the first place that accounts for the attribution DIKAIOS,
and it is trust and commitment that enables the believer to live an
eschatological existence in the Pauline sense of growing in DIKAIOSUNH so
as to be able to exhibit its "fruits" on the Day of Christ.

I really wonder to what extent Paul is actually building on the context of
Habakkuk and to what extent he has simply, as Edward Hobbs has said, chosen
the phrase as a "motto" for the exposition of faith-righteousness that is
to follow. I somehow think that the last thing to look for in Paul is an
exploration of what the OT text meant in its original context. Yet
nevertheless, I really think that the meditation on Abraham's faith in
Chapter 4 is as profound an exegesis as we'll ever find of that text.

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

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