November 27: Romans 1:4

Romans 1:4

“…about His Son,
the (one hav)ing come to be (born) out of (the) seed of David
according to (the) flesh,
the (one hav)ing been marked out (as) Son of God in power
according to (the) Spirit of holiness,
out of a standing up of (the) dead
—Yeshua (the) Anointed, our Lord

The second part of the Christological formula of Rom 1:3-4 (v. 4) is indicated in bold. The parallelism is clear enough, with “Yeshua the Anointed…” matching “His Son”, as an inclusio for the entire statement, uniting the two primary titles of Jesus— “Anointed One” (Messiah) and “Son of God”. The two couplets also have a parallel form; only the phrase “out of a standing up of (the) dead” (in italics above) disrupts the poetic structure. That phrase, along with the qualifying expression “in power”, are sometimes considered by commentators to be Pauline additions to an older confessional formula.

As I mentioned in a prior note, the two couplets reflect the beginning and end of Jesus’ earthly life, respectively—that is, his birth as a human being, and his death and resurrection. The second couplet refers to his resurrection, and, as such, follows the earliest Christology, associating Jesus’ identity as the Son of God primarily with his exaltation by God (following his death/resurrection).

The aorist passive participle o(risqe/nto$ matches the middle participle (geno/meno$) in v. 3 (cp. Gal 4:4). Just as Jesus came to be born (vb gi/nomai) as the “son of David”, so he came to be “marked out” (vb o(ri/zw) as the “Son of God”. I have translated the verb o(ri/zw in its fundamental sense of marking (out) a boundary or limit, etc; however, it can also be used in a more general, figurative sense of fixing or establishing something, including the technical meaning of appointing a person (to an office, etc). The verb is rare in the New Testament, occurring just 8 times, primarily in the early Christian preaching recorded in the book of Acts. There it is used as an eschatological term (i.e., the time determined by God for the great Judgment), and, in a related sense, applied to the exalted Jesus as the one appointed by God (to oversee the Judgment)—cf. Acts 10:42; 17:31 (cp. Heb 4:7). It was the resurrection that established (and confirmed) Jesus in this role, in accordance with the will and purpose of God (Acts 2:23).

This is essentially the same meaning and context of the verb here in Rom 1:3-4, indicating that, by the resurrection, God has “marked out” Jesus as His Son. This is fully in line with the early exaltation Christology, as I have noted above (and on a number of other occasions). Given the use of the verb o(ri/zw in the early preaching, and the fact that Paul never uses it elsewhere in his letters, this serves as evidence in support of Rom 1:3-4 as stemming from an earlier (non-Pauline) source.

In his own letters, Paul’s references to Jesus as God’s Son tend to follow the older Christology, focusing on the resurrection. The clearest example of this is 1 Thess 1:10, but cf. also the context of 1 Cor 15:28; Rom 8:29. The kerygmatic association of Jesus’ Sonship, as fundamental to the Gospel message, almost certainly refers to the resurrection/exaltation as well (1 Cor 1:9; 2 Cor 1:19; Gal 1:16; Rom 1:9). And, if we are to accept the authenticity of the Acts sermon-speeches as representing Paul’s missionary preaching, then we should note his citation of Psalm 2:7 as referring to the moment of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 13:30, 33ff).

Moreover, if the words “out of a standing up [i.e. resurrection] of (the) dead” in Rom 1:4 are a Pauline addition to an earlier confessional formula, then it would demonstrate that he specifically understands the title “Son of God” primarily in terms of Jesus’ resurrection. In any case, that is certainly the significance of the phrase here, qualifying the prior lines to explain how, and in what manner, God “marked out” Jesus as His Son. There is also an oblique parallel between the phrase “out of a standing up of the dead” and the expression “out of the seed of David” in v. 3, and this may confirm that Jesus’ identity as the (Davidic) Messiah is also defined (primarily) by the resurrection. On this latter point, cf. the Acts references cited in the previous note (cf. Part 8 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”). Of special importance in this regard is the statement in Acts 2:36 that God “made” Jesus to be “(the) Lord and Anointed (One)” through the resurrection/exaltation.

It remains to examine the central expressions of v. 4, as, in some ways, they cause the greatest difficulties for interpretation:

    1. e)n duna/mei (“in power”), and
    2. kata\ pneu=ma a(giosu/nh$ (“according to [the] pneu=ma of holiness”)

These will be discussed in the next daily note.

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