The righteousness of God in Romans: A study in Paul's use of Jewish tradition

Lynn Larry Martin, Marquette University

Abstract

A history of exegesis on Romans reveals a number of interpretive options for the phrase dikaiosyne theou. Among the more time-honored definitions are the following: God's distributive justice, God's gift of righteousness to the believer, and God's creative power to save humans. The debate was renewed with vigor in the twentieth century when Ernst Kasemann challenged the prevailing Protestant view of God's righteousness as that gift by which humans are acquitted before the standard of God's justice. Interpreters of Romans since the Kasemann 'revolution' continue to debate the options. Overlooked in the discussion has been a detailed investigation of the Jewish scriptural traditions that are quoted or echoed in the five 'righteousness of God' texts in Romans (1:16-17; 3:1-8; 3:21-26; 9:14-18; 10:1-4). The way Paul used scripture reveals a decided lack of interest in what has preoccupied centuries of biblical scholarship on Romans, namely, the construction of a soteriological theory (the question of how God saves). Rather, it appears that Paul used scripture to address the social/cultural issues of soteric domain (whom God saves). According to Paul, scripture proved that God's righteousness was God's salvation of the faithful person qua faithful, and not simply the Jewish faithful person. Jewishness, as established by certain cultural rites like circumcision, was not a necessary condition for being among the saved. The paradigm for God's righteousness as a reward for faithfulness was Jesus, whose resurrection stood for God's vindication of the faithful person (Jesus) and the subsequent disqualification of those who according to Paul were guilty of rejecting him, unfaithful Jews. The resurrection thus re-categorized humankind into faithful and unfaithful, challenging the older classification of Jew and pagan. God's righteousness in Romans cannot be abstracted from the missionary agenda of the more liberal wing of early Christianity, whose open inclusion of Gentiles in the church challenged the symbolic universe of Jewish Christianity. The 'doctrine' of God's righteousness was the ideological superstructure of what beneath constituted the social emergence of Christianity into a full-blown sect outside of Judaism.

Recommended Citation

Lynn Larry Martin, "The righteousness of God in Romans: A study in Paul's use of Jewish tradition" (January 1, 1991). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9200158.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9200158

Share

COinS