Sola Scriptura: Romans 16:25; Hebrews 1:1-2

Sola Scriptura

In our studies thus far, we have seen how the Scriptures (that is, the Old Testament) continued to be authoritative for early Christians, but only in a secondary (and supplemental) sense. The primary source of authority was what we may broadly call the Apostolic Tradition. This may seem to contradict the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura; however, to make such an unqualified conclusion would be quite misleading. In point of fact, the Apostolic Tradition was the basis for the development of the inspired writings of the New Testament—and the greater revelation that was contained in those writings, ultimately to be regarded as sacred Scripture by every Christian.

With the passing of the first generation (or two) of apostles, by the end of the 1st century (and into the 2nd), the authoritative Apostolic Tradition had come to be preserved in written form (i.e., the New Testament Scriptures), gradually taking the place of the communication of that Tradition in the person of the apostles themselves (and their representatives). It seems clear, for example, that the publication of the Gospel of John was stimulated by the death of the ‘Beloved Disciple’, the leading apostolic figure of the Johannine Community (Jn 21:20-24). The authority of the apostles was based on their personal connection to Jesus himself.

The very word a)po/stolo$ (apostolos) derives its significance from the fundamental meaning of the verb a)poste/llw (“set [out] from, send forth”). An apostle is someone “sent forth from” Jesus, as his representative, an idea rooted in the early Gospel tradition and the ministry-work of Jesus in Galilee (Mark 3:14-15ff par; 6:7-13 par; Luke 10:1ff). Commissioned and sent out by Jesus, they were given (and possessed) his own divine (and inspired) authority, to preach (the Gospel) and work healing miracles. This formed the pattern for the broader apostolic mission of early Christians (Acts 1:8, 21-22, etc). The earliest congregations were founded by missionary work that was an extension of this apostolic mission, and thus the principal source of religious authority for these 1st-century congregations was the authority of the Apostolic Tradition.

The Apostolic Tradition has three fundamental components:

    1. The proclamation (kerygma) of the Gospel
    2. The words of Jesus—sayings, teachings, parables—along with his example (of what he said and did), preserved and transmitted by the apostles to the early congregations (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-4)
    3. The authoritative teaching by the apostles

A study will be devoted to each of these components; we begin with the first of these.

1. The Proclamation (Kerygma) of the Gospel

The “good message” (or “good news”), the eu)agge/lion, or Gospel, has its origins in the preaching of Jesus (Mark 1:14-15 par, et al), being carried on, even during his lifetime, by his disciples, acting as his representatives (i.e., as apostles) (Luke 9:6, etc). However, following the resurrection (and ascension) of Jesus, the “good message” gradually came to take on a distinctive form—as a thumbnail narrative of Jesus’ life and work. The sermon-speeches in Acts preserve examples of this early Gospel proclamation (kerygma). In these speeches, the Gospel narrative is extremely simple, focusing on the death and resurrection (and exaltation) of Jesus, and only slowly incorporating certain details or aspects of his earthly ministry. Noteworthy examples, representative of the earliest preaching, are: Acts 2:22-24, 29ff, 36; 3:13-15; 4:27ff; 5:30-32; 10:37-42; 13:26-32. It is easy to see how these simple narrative statements, over time (c. 35-60 A.D.), would develop into the larger narratives of the Gospels.

It must be emphasized that, from the very beginning, this Gospel proclamation held primary authority for early Christians, taking precedence over the Old Testament Scriptures. This can be seen already in the way that the Scriptures supplement (and support) the kerygma in the sermon-speeches (on this, cf. the earlier study, and throughout the series “The Speeches of Acts”). The revelation of the inspired Old Testament Scriptures (i.e., of the old covenant) are thus subordinate to the Gospel; they continue to hold authority for Christians, primarily, insofar as they point the way to the greater revelation of Christ (in the new covenant).

There are a number of New Testament passages, many of which were written when the composition and development of Gospels was still in its very early stages, which indicate that the proclamation of the Gospel (with its seminal narrative) was being compared with the Scriptures—being on a par with them, and even altogether surpassing them in many important ways. I wish to examine a couple of these passages briefly.

Romans 16:25-26

“And to Him having the power to set you firm(ly), according to my good message [eu)agge/lion] and the proclamation [kh/rugma] of Yeshua (the) Anointed, according to the uncovering of (the) secret [musth/rion] having been kept silent in (the) times (of) ages (past), but now (hav)ing been made to shine (forth) even through (the) writings of (the) Foretellers, according to (the) arrangement of (the) God of the Ages, unto hearing under trust, unto all the nations, having been made known…”

The authenticity of the doxology in Rom 16:25-27 continues to be debated, with many commentators convinced that it was neither originally part of Romans, nor written by Paul. Even if this were granted, the wording reflects genuine Pauline thought (and style), as well as the thought-world of Christians in the mid-to-late 1st century. Three key nouns are used which are largely synonymous in context: (1) eu)agge/lion (“good message,” i.e., Gospel), (2) kh/rugma (“proclamation,” transliterated as a technical term, kerygma), and (3) musth/rion (“secret,” i.e., mystery). All three are important early Christian terms, and they all refer to the seminal message (and narrative) of the Gospel. The expressions and phrases that contain these words are also closely related:

    • “my good message” —i.e., the good news of Christ that is preached by apostles like Paul
    • “the proclamation of Yeshua (the) Anointed” —the genitive can be understood in either a subjective sense (Jesus’ preaching) or objective sense (preaching about Jesus), or both.
    • “the uncovering of the secret kept silent…” —the noun a)poka/luyi$ (“removal of the cover from, uncovering”) emphasizes that the Gospel is a divine (and inspired) revelation, akin to the prophetic revelations (by God) during the time of the old covenant (cf. below).

The use of the term musth/rion (“secret”) in this respect is authentically Pauline (1 Cor 2:1, 7; 4:1; 13:2; 14:2; 15:51; cf. also 2 Thess 2:7), though it is perhaps more prominent in the disputed letters of Colossians (1:26-27; 2:2; 4:3) and Ephesians (1:9; 3:3-4, 9; 5:32; 6:19). For more on the meaning, background, and use of the term, see my earlier word study. Indeed, of the three terms, musth/rion has the greatest theological significance. Here, it relates to a distinction between the two ages or dispensations—the old and new covenants, respectively—that is fundamental to early Christian thought:

    • Old Covenant (periods of time/ages past): the Gospel-secret has been “kept silent/hidden” (verb siga/w)
    • New Covenant (“now”): it has been “made to shine forth” (vb fanero/w), i.e., has been made manifest, revealed, and has at last “been made known” (vb gnwri/zw).

The Gospel proclamation is expounded out of the Old Testament Scriptures (“writings of the Prophets”), which is fully in accord with the earliest Christian preaching and teaching, even going back to the teaching of Jesus himself. The Scriptures (especially the Psalms and the books of the Prophets) contained, in a secret and hidden way, the seeds of the Gospel (e.g., Gal 3:8); but it required the new inspired revelation of the apostles in order to “uncover” and make known this secret. On this basis alone, the Gospel represents a superior kind of revelation, however it is rooted in the Scriptures and supported by them. Indeed, without the New Covenant revelation, people remain blind to the true meaning of the Scriptures (2 Cor 3:14-16, etc).

Hebrews 1:1-2

“(In) many parts and many ways (in times) of old, God (was) speaking to the Fathers by the Foretellers, (but) upon (the) end of these days He spoke to us by a Son, whom He set (as one) to receive the lot of all (thing)s, through whom also He made the Ages…”

The same dispensational contrast—between the old and new covenants—serves as a key theme that runs throughout Hebrews, and it is established at the very beginning of the introduction (exordium, 1:1-4). It marks the current time—i.e., of the first generation(s) of believers—as a turning point, marking the beginning of a New Age (= new covenant), and presenting  a clear dividing line between the time now and all that has gone before:

    • Old Covenant: “(in times) of old [pa/lai]” —God spoke through the Prophets
    • New Covenant: “at the end [e)p’ e)sxa/tou] of these days,” that is, in the eschatological present time—God has spoken through His Son

There is a clear contrastive parallel here between the Prophets and Jesus (the Son of God), as the source of divine-inspired revelation (communicating the word of God) in each dispensation (and covenant), respectively. The superiority of the revelation in the person of Jesus is obvious, and the author develops the point systematically throughout his work. Here, this superiority is expressed by contrasting the singular revelation in Jesus with the multifaceted way that God spoke through the many different Prophets. For Jews and Christians in the first-century, of course, the revelation through the Prophets (in the old covenant) was known only through its preservation in the Scriptures (the Prophetic writings, including the Psalms). The Torah (Pentateuch) doubtless would also be included, but emphasis is given on the Prophetic oracles as the vehicle for God’s revelation.

The comparison between Jesus and the Prophets, as well as the idea of God speaking (vb lale/w), might suggest that it is the words of Jesus that are primarily in view here. The preserved words and teachings of Jesus are certainly a key component of the authoritative Apostolic Tradition (cf. above), and will be discussed in the next study; however, I believe that a much more comprehensive and holistic view of the Tradition is being expressed here. This can be affirmed by what follows in vv. 2-4, beginning with the statement that God “set” (vb ti/qhmi) Jesus (His Son) to be the “heir of all things”. This phrase reflects the fundamental Gospel tenet of the exaltation of Jesus (to the right hand of God in heaven) following his resurrection (Acts 2:33-34; 5:31; 7:55-56 [cf. Mk 14:62 par]; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1, etc). The earliest Christology was unquestionably an exaltation-Christology, focusing almost entirely on Jesus’ deity, and identity as the Son of God, in terms of his resurrection (and exaltation) by God the Father. However, by the time Hebrews was written (c. 70 A.D.?), early Christians had begun to evince a pre-existence-Christology as well, and Hebrews combines both of these Christologies (e.g., the ‘Christ-hymn’ in vv. 2-4, on which cf. my earlier study; cp. also the study on Philippians 2:6-11.

In any case, the point is that the declaration in v. 2b is a key component of the Gospel kerygma; thus, the contrast between the Prophets and Jesus can also be understood as a contrast between the Prophets and the Gospel. And, from the standpoint of our study, it is important to note that the written record of the Gospel (taking shape during the years c. 35-90 A.D.) forms a close parallel to the written record of the Prophets (in the Old Testament Scriptures).

Statements such as those in Rom 16:25-26 and Heb 1:2 thus are seminal (and foundational) for establishing the authority of the New Testament Scriptures. And, the authority of these new Scriptures (of the new covenant), while being on a par with the old Scriptures—in terms of their divine/prophetic inspiration and revelatory content—far surpasses that of the old. This is a vital principle that must be maintained—for believers, the new covenant in Christ (manifest through the presence of the Spirit) has entirely eclipsed the authority of the old covenant (cf. 2 Corinthians 3).

Sola Scriptura: Romans 3:10-20; 9:24-29; 15:7-13

Sola Scriptura

Romans 3:10-20; 9:24-29; 15:7-13

As we have discussed in the previous studies in this series (on the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura), the Old Testament Scriptures continued to be authoritative for early Christians, but only in a secondary (not primary) sense. The principal purpose of the Scriptures was to support the Gospel preaching and the identification of Jesus as the Messiah. This was especially important within the context of the earliest mission. In order to convince their fellow Israelites and Jews of the Gospel, it was necessary for the early missionaries to demonstrate, from the Scriptures, that Jesus is the promised Messiah. In particular, the fact of Jesus’ suffering and death was so unusual and problematic for the Messianic identification, that it had to be explained. Moreover, Jesus departed to heaven without ever fulfilling many of things expected of the Messiah. Thus, for the purpose of the mission, it was vital to find every relevant Scripture that would support the Christian view. We can see this as a key point of emphasis throughout the book of Acts (3:18ff; 5:42; 8:26-40; 9:22; 17:2-3, 11; 18:5, 28; 24:14; 26:22ff; 28:23); and, according to the Gospel of Luke (24:25, 27, 32, 44-45ff), the process of locating the relevant Scriptures began with Jesus himself. It is fair to assume that the early missionaries had access to (written) collections of these Scripture references, for use in their preaching and teaching; it is possible that the ‘parchments’ mentioned in 2 Tim 4:13 functioned as a notebook, containing this kind of information.

We have already seen this use of Scripture by early Christians in the context of the apostolic preaching (the sermon-speeches) in the book of Acts (cf. the earlier study, and throughout the series “The Speeches of Acts”). In the longer speeches (i.e., Peter’s Pentecost speech [2:14-41], and Paul’s speech at Antioch [13:16-52]), we find a sequence of Scripture citations applied in support of the Gospel proclamation (kerygma). In several New Testament Writings, these sequences take a more precise and compact form—in a homiletical and literary genre known as a Scripture “chain” (catena), sometimes also referred to as the testimonia (testimonies) genre. In this format, Scripture verses are strung together, according to a common theme, or (more commonly), by way of “catchword-bonding”—that is, associations of verses, which may otherwise be entirely unrelated, based on the presence of shared words or phrases.

The Scripture-chain (Catena), as used in the New Testament, is a distinctly Jewish genre; and it is no coincidence that the two books in which Scripture-chains features most prominently—Romans and Hebrews (cf. also 1 Peter)—were written to Jewish Christians. The congregations at Rome seem to have included both Gentile and Jewish believers (cf. below), certainly much more so than the other Pauline churches in Greece, Macedonia, and Asia Minor to which he wrote. For Israelites and Jews, the Old Testament Scriptures had primary authority, and thus, in writing to Jewish believers, it was reasonable to make frequent use of the Scriptures, citing them even in a shorthand fashion.

An earlier contemporary example is known from Qumran—specifically, the “Testimonia” text from cave 4 (4Q175, also referred to as 4QTest[imonia]). We only have fragments of what presumably was a larger text; but what survives contains a series of Scripture quotations from passages that were given a Messianic interpretation—most notably, Deut 18:18-19 and Num 24:15-17, along with Deut 5:28-29; 33:8-11, and an interpretive expansion based on Josh 6:26.  The surviving portions of the “Florilegium” text (4Q174) have a similar character. Though more in the nature of a Midrashic commentary, 4Q174 contains a sequence of Scripture citations, interpreted in a Messianic (and eschatological) context. The earliest Christian Scripture-chains would have been used for much the same purpose—to show that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah promised by God, and that the things currently taking place among believers marked the beginning of the New (Messianic) Age.

However, in Romans, Paul’s use of the Scripture-chain device has a somewhat different focus. What the chains demonstrate, we may say, is Paul’s view of the implications of the Gospel for humankind. In particular, they relate to the important theme of Jewish-Gentile unity in Romans. The three Scripture-chains span the lengthy body of the letter and evince something of Paul’s development of his theme. We may summarize this as follows:

    • 3:9-20—Jews and Gentiles are equally in bondage to the power of sin (prior to receiving the Gospel)
    • 9:24-29—Through trust in Jesus, many Gentiles have come to be part of the new People of God, along a faithful remnant from Israel (with promise of a more widespread conversion)
    • 15:7-13—In Christ, Gentile and Jewish believers are united as the People of God

Let us examine briefly each of these Scripture chains.

Romans 3:9-20

This first chain marks the climax of the first major section of the letter (1:18-3:20), containing the opening lines of argument that prove the central proposition in 1:16-17. The upshot of this entire line of argument is summarized in 3:9, with Paul having made the claim for:

“both Yehudeans {Jews} and Greeks [i.e. Gentiles], all (of them), to be under sin”

The expression “under sin” (u(f’ a(marti/an) is a shorthand for “under the power of sin” (i.e., in bondage to sin), and refers to the condition of Jews and Gentiles—that is, all humankind—prior to receiving the Gospel of Christ. Paul’s arguments in chapters 2-4 are specifically directed to Israelites and Jews, making the principal point that a person is not made right (in God’s eyes) through obeying the regulations of the Law (Torah), but only through trust in Jesus. This relates to Paul’s view of the Torah that he expresses vigorously (and with more polemic) in Galatians. He repeats much of this same line of argument in Romans, but giving to it a wider scope and more expansive treatment. In particular, there is a profound theological development of the Pauline view in chapters 5-7. It is notable, however, that this first section in Romans closes with a pointed statement regarding the Law that matches what we find in Galatians:

“…since out of [i.e. by] works of (the) Law all flesh shall not be made right in His sight, for through (the) Law (comes) knowledge about sin.” (3:20)

Paul’s view of the main purpose of the Torah regulations runs contrary to the traditional Jewish view. Rather than leading to people being made right with God, what the Torah regulations ultimately do is to show that people are in bondage to sin. Paradoxically, the more faithfully and devoutly one attempts to fulfill the Torah regulations, the more vividly it is revealed that one is in bondage to sin (cf. Paul’s provocative discussion in chapter 7).

This fact is itself proved by the whole testimony of the Scriptures, and Paul draws upon the authority of the (Old Testament) Scriptures to make his point—which he does through the chain of references in vv. 10-18, beginning with the declaration “Just as it has been written…” (v. 10). With one or two exceptions, all the Scriptures Paul cites in the three chains come from the “Prophets” (i.e., the Psalms and Prophetic books).

The first Scripture citation apparently comes from Ecclesiastes 7:20, which is unusual, and suggests that the authoritative/inspired Scriptures for first-century Christians may have included the Wisdom books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job), in addition to the Pentateuch and Prophets/Psalms. If Paul is citing Ecclesiastes here in v. 10, he does so loosely, as a simple declaration of his theme:

“There is not (anyone) right(eous), not even one”
ou)k e&stin di/kaio$ ou)de\ ei!$

The LXX, which more or less accurately renders the Hebrew, reads:

“there is not a right(eous) man on the earth, who will do good and will not sin”

Assuming it is a citation, Paul omits a&nqrwpo$ (“man”) and adds the phrase ou)de\ ei!$ (“not even one”). The Scriptures that follow essentially expound and flesh out this keynote verse:

    • Verse 11Psalm 14:2 (cf 53:1). Again the LXX accurately translates the Hebrew, and Paul’s wording represents an adaptation:
      “…to see if there is (one) putting things together [i.e. understanding] and seeking out God” (LXX)
      “there is not (any one) putting things together and seeking out God” (Paul)
    • Verse 12Psalm 14:3, a continuation of the same citation, here following the LXX more precisely
    • Verse 13Psalm 5:10, along with 140:4, again corresponding to the LXX
    • Verse 14Psalm 10:7 [LXX 9:28], Paul’s wording represents an abridgment, though essentially using the same words as the LXX
    • Verses 15-17Isaiah 59:7-8. It is possible that v. 15 could also allude to Prov 1:16, which would count as another citation from the Wisdom books (cf. above); more likely, however, the Isaiah passage is in view throughout. Again, Paul’s words represent a simplification or abridgment. Verse 16 quotes Isa 59:7b according to the LXX, as also v. 17 (of Isa 59:8), with only a slight difference.
    • Verse 18Psalm 36:2b, exactly according to the LXX. In many ways, this blunt declaration (“there is not [any] fear of God in front of their eyes”) provides an effective bookend to the initial statement in v. 10, and showing how the bondage to sin (of all humankind) leads to a more extreme and thorough kind of wickedness.
Romans 9:24-29

The second Scripture-chain is part of Paul’s discussion in chapters 9-11, regarding the relationship between Gentiles and Jews, in terms of the overall plan of God, as it is realized (from an eschatological standpoint) in the context of the early Christian mission. These chapters, in particular, are laced throughout with Scripture quotations and allusions; in every section one finds multiple references. The main reason for this lies, I think, in the nature of Paul’s subject matter. He addresses a complex and difficult question which must have burdened every thoughtful Jewish believer: why have so many (the vast majority) of Israelites and Jews (God’s people) rejected or been unwilling to accept the Gospel of Christ? In his three-part treatise here in chaps. 9-11, Paul attempts to provide an answer, one in keeping with his overall theme of Gentile-Jewish unity in Christ.

According to Paul’s line of argument, expounded in chapters 9-10, God has allowed the hearts of Israelites and Jews to be hardened (so as to be unable/unwilling to trust in Jesus) for the express purpose of facilitating the mission to the Gentiles. The Jewish rejection of the Gospel has opened the door for the message to be proclaimed to Gentiles throughout the Roman world—which just happens to be the focus of Paul’s own missionary work (as an ‘apostle to the Gentiles’). Once this mission to the Gentiles is complete, then Paul foresees a time ahead (relatively soon), at the return of Jesus (or just prior), when the hearts of Israelites and Jews (collectively) would finally turn to accept the truth of Christ. Paul discusses this eschatological process (and event) in chapter 11. For more this aspect of chaps. 9-11, cf. my earlier article in the series “Prophecy and Eschatology in the New Testament”.

Paul’s overall theme of the unity between Jewish and Gentile believers is expressed well in 9:24, a statement that leads into his Scripture chain:

“(so) even (for) us whom He (has) called—not only out of (the) Yehudeans {Jews}, but also out of the nations [i.e. Gentiles]”

God has called Gentiles to join with that ‘faithful remnant’ of Israelites and Jews who have accepted the Gospel and trusted in Jesus. Paul cites a chain of four Scriptures (from the Prophets) in support of this statement: (1) Hosea 2:25 (v. 25), (2) Hosea 2:1 (v. 26), (3) Isaiah 10:22-23 [conflated with a form of Isa 28:22b] (vv. 27-28), and (4) Isaiah 1:9 (v. 29). Paul generally cites these Scriptures according to the text of the LXX, though the conflation of Isa 10:23 and 28:22 in v. 28 produces a notable difference. Also Isa 10:22 has been abridged and modified slightly, under the influence of the previously cited Hos 2:1. Similarly, the quotation of Hos 2:25 also diverges, due to the influence from the wording in Hos 1:9.

Paul applies the Hosea passages, which originally referred to the Israelite people, to the Gentiles and the context of the Gentile mission. Those who are not the people of God (“not my people”, i.e. the Gentiles) have now become His people. This is instructive for a proper understanding of the early Christian view of the authority of Scripture, and how it is subordinated to the higher revelation of the Gospel. There are many instances where the New Testament authors (and speakers) quote the Scripture quite out of context, even altering and modifying the text in various ways, in order to bring out the prophetic connection with the Gospel and the life-situation of early believers.

Interestingly, the setting here in chapters 9-11, would certainly allow for an interpretation of Hos 2:25, etc, in its original context—viz., as a promise of the future restoration of Israel, when they would return to faithfulness (according to the covenant) and become God’s people once again. Though there may currently be only a ‘remnant’ who trust in Jesus (the Isaian prophecies in vv. 27-29), Paul envisions a time in the not-too-distant future, before the end, when there would be a (miraculous) widespread conversion and acceptance of the Gospel (chap. 11).

Romans 15:7-13

The final Scripture chain comes at the close of the body of the letter, and at the end of the practical instruction and exhortation in 12:1-15:13. It is thus a fitting moment for Paul to re-emphasize his important theme of unity in Christ for all believers, Jews and Gentiles alike. He expresses this in a joyous manner, in vv. 7-9, as he leads into the Scripture citations (vv. 9-12). Again he emphasizes how the Gentiles’ acceptance of the Gospel has been prophesied beforehand in the Scriptures. The passages he cites are:

    • Verse 9Psalm 18:50 [= 2 Sam 22:50], corresponding to the LXX, which more or less accurately represents the Hebrew. The idea of the Psalmist acknowledging (and confessing) the greatness of God among the nations is certainly fitting as a prophetic foreshadowing of the missionary work of apostles like Paul himself, proclaiming the Gospel among the Gentiles.
    • Verses 10-11Deut 32:43, combined with Psalm 117:1. The Psalms reference largely matches the LXX, while the quotation from Deuteronomy differs from both the LXX and the Hebrew original. In some ways, Paul’s version is a conflation of the Hebrew and LXX (which reflects a variant Hebrew text, cf. 4QDeutq):
      “Cry out (for joy), O nations, with (regard to) His people…” (MT)
      “Rejoice, O heavens together with Him, and let all the sons of God give homage/worship to Him” (LXX)
      In Paul’s version, the nations praise God together with His people (Israel), thus making the passage a prophecy of Jewish and Gentile unity in Christ.
    • Verse 12Isaiah 11:10, in an abridged form of the LXX. This passage is a key Messianic prophecy recognized by Jews (and early Christians) in the first century. The idea of the Messiah’s rule over the nations, of course, takes on an entirely new significance in a Christian context.

Paul’s theme of Jewish-Gentile unity in Romans is informed, at least in part, by his project of collecting relief money (from the congregations in Greece and Macedonia) to bring to the poor and oppressed believers in Judea. This project (his ‘collection for the saints’) has just recently been completed, and he anticipates journeying to Jerusalem to deliver the money (vv. 25-29). This was a momentous occasion for Paul, and he viewed the collection as an important symbol of the unity (in Christ) between Jews and Gentiles.

Notes on Prayer: Romans 8:26-27; 10:1; 12:12

In our survey of the references to prayer in the Pauline letters, there are three remaining references in Romans to be considered briefly:

    • Romans 8:26-27
    • Romans 10:1
    • Romans 12:12

Romans 8:26-27

“And even so, the Spirit also takes hold opposite together with (us), in our lack of strength; for th(at for) wh(ich) we should speak out toward (God), according to (what) is necessary, we have not seen [i.e. we do not know], but the Spirit it(self) hits on it over (us), with speechless groanings; and the (One) searching the hearts has seen [i.e. knows] what the mind(-set) of the Spirit (is), (in) that [i.e. because] he hits upon it over (the) holy (one)s according to God.”

Paul’s syntax is a bit tricky to translate literally, but I have attempted to do so above, as cumbersome as it might seem in modern English. I have provided exegetical notes, along with an examination of the passage within the overall context of Romans, in an earlier study, which you should consult. This is one of the key Pauline passages on prayer, and the aforementioned study discusses it in detail.

Romans 10:1

“Brothers, the good consideration of my heart, and (my) need [de/hsi$] (expressed) toward God over them, (is) for (their) salvation”

This verse marks the beginning of chapter 10, which is at the midpoint of chapters 9-11. These famous chapters, which I discuss in the earlier series “Paul’s View of the Law” and “Prophecy and Eschatology in the New Testament”, need to be understood within the overall framework of the letter. In some ways there is a parallel between chapters 9-11 and 2-4; certainly there is an interesting symmetry and balance of presentation:

    • Rom 2-4—addressed primarily to Jews, emphasizing that Gentiles are on an equal footing before God with regard to both judgment and salvation
    • Rom 9-11—addressed primarily to Gentiles, emphasizing the (future) salvation of Israelites/Jews and their inclusion into the body of Christ

In between (Rom 5-8) Paul presents a kind of “salvation history”, an exposition of the Gospel message for all human beings—Jews and Gentiles alike. Chapters 9-11 actually have the character of a personal appeal or confession—indeed, this characterizes each of the sections (matching the numbered chapters):

The opening verses of each section, with their personal and moving tone, lead into a presentation of arguments. The main issue at hand is how the Israelite/Jewish people relate to the new Christian identity. As a missionary and representative (apostle) of Christ, Paul saw how many of his fellow Israelites and Jews had been unwilling to accept the Gospel, some even being openly hostile to his missionary work (as narrated repeatedly in the book of Acts, cf. also 1 Thess 2:14-16, etc). Even Jewish believers could be opposed to his presentation of the Gospel, especially his unique view of the Law and his missionary approach to the Gentiles, as seen in Acts 15:1ff and throughout Galatians. At some level, this must have been traumatic for Paul, and difficult to understand—how could so many of God’s elect people, Israel, fail to trust in Christ? While he never really addresses this directly in his other surviving letters, it is clear that he had thought about it a good deal. The result is the wonderful, if somewhat enigmatic, exposition in Romans 9-11.

Chapter 10 is the second of the three main sections; it may be outlined as follows:

    • Rom 10:1-4—Paul’s personal address: The Law and justice/righteousness (vv. 3-4)
    • Rom 10:5-13—Argument: Justice/righteousness is realized in Christ.
    • Rom 10:14-21—Exposition: The Proclamation of the Gospel, and Israel’s response to it, in three parts:

As noted above, each of the chapters begins with a personal address by Paul. In chapter 10, the theme of the personal address (vv. 1-4) is: The Law and justice/righteousness (vv. 3-4). The reference to prayer in verse 1 thus must be understood within this context. Paul expresses his heartfelt desire that his fellow Israelites and Jews would trust in Christ and be saved:

“(my) need (expressed) [de/hsi$] toward God over them (is) for (their) salvation” (v. 1b).

The noun de/hsi$ is something of a Pauline term; of the 18 New Testament occurrences, 12 are in the Pauline letters, including including 7 in the undisputed letters—in addition to its use here, it also occurs in 2 Cor 1:11; 9:14; Phil 1:4 [twice], 19; 4:6. The related verb de/omai is also used in Rom 1:10; 2 Cor 5:20; 8:4; 10:2; Gal 4:12; 1 Thess 3:10. The fundamental meaning of the verb is to be in need; in the context of prayer to God, it denotes making one’s need known (to God). The noun has a similar meaning, as it is used here, for example. It is a need for Paul because it is a burden on his heart, and so he expresses it to God.

In verses 2-3 he offers his diagnosis regarding Israel’s current situation:

“For I witness regarding them that they hold a fervent desire of God, but not according to (true) knowledge upon (Him); for, lacking knowledge of the justice/righteousness of God, and seeking to stand (up) th(eir) own [justice/righteousness], they did not put themselves (in order) under the justice/righteousness of God.”

Then follows, by way of contrast, the famous statement in verse 4, functioning as a concise (and controversial) summary of the Gospel:

“For (the) Anointed (One) is (the) completion [te/lo$] of the Law unto justice/righteousness for every (one) th(at) is trusting.”

For more on this verse, cf. my earlier note. Salvation is to be found, not through observing the Torah regulations, but through trust in Christ. His desire is for Israel to be saved, and he believes that this will yet take place, however unlikely it may seem from his current vantage point. Chapters 9-11 represent a complex and powerful treatise on Israel’s ultimate conversion within the framework of early Christian eschatology (cf. the article in the earlier series “Prophecy and Eschatology in the New Testament). Paul’s thoughts on this subject also relate to his current missionary efforts, which include his journey to Jerusalem with the “collection for the saints”, which, in his mind, symbolized the unity between Jewish and Gentile believers. Chapters 9-11, including his prayer-wish in 10:1, also reflect this same hope for unity.

Romans 12:12

“…rejoicing in hope, remaining under in distress, being strong toward speaking out toward (God)”

Chapters 12-15 comprise a new section in Romans, in which Paul offers a range of ethical and practical instruction. If the theme of justification (i.e., being made right before God) by faith is a central theme of the letter in the earlier chapters, then chaps. 12-15 could be described as “a paraenetic development of the consequences of justification” (Fitzmyer, p. 637), illustrating how the justified believer should live. The basis of this instruction is found in the opening verses—the declaration in verse 1 that believers are to present their bodies as “living sacrifices” to God, followed by the directive in verse 2:

“and do not be conformed to the (pattern of) this Age, but be changed in form [i.e. transformed] by the renewing of the mind, unto the considering (acceptable) by you what the wish of God (is)—the good and well-pleasing and complete (thing).”

Justification leads to the transformation of the believer—a change in his/her entire way of thinking and acting; only this requires a certain willingness of the believer to be guided by the Spirit, as well as by the teaching and example of Jesus (embodied in the love principle). In verses 3-8, Paul goes on to emphasize the extent to which this new way of life takes place with the community of believers. In Romans, no less than in the Corinthian letters, Paul strongly emphasizes the ideal of the unity of believers.

This brings us to the instruction in verses 9-21, which, indeed, begins with the love principle (v. 9, cf. 13:8-10). This entire paraenesis follows a distinctive syntactical pattern, with an object noun (or phrase) in the dative followed by a participle that possesses the force of an imperative. This chain of habitual actions and attributes begins with the injunction in verse 9:

“…hating (thoroughly) the evil, (and) being joined [lit. glued] to the good”

The dualistic command has its roots in Old Testament tradition (Amos 5:15; Psalm 97:10), and was developed as an ethical principle within Judaism (e.g., 1QS 1:4-5); Paul’s wording resembles that in Testament of Benjamin 8:1 (cf. Fitzmyer, p. 653). The chain of injunctions that follows, utilizing the same grammatical pattern, illustrates what it means to “hate the evil and be joined to the good”. Prayer is just one of these attributes for believers, albeit an important one:

“…being strong/firm toward speaking out toward (God) [proseuxh/]” (v. 12)

The verb proskartere/w, which I translate literally above as “be strong/firm toward (something),” occurs primarily in the book of Acts where it functions as a key term expressing the unity of the early believers in Jerusalem (1:14; 2:42, 46; 6:4; 8:13). Paul uses it again in Rom 13:6, and in Col 4:2 it is used in virtually the same context as here (emphasizing the importance of being devoted to prayer). This verb signifies the active nature of believers’ prayers—the strength/firmness reflecting both their faith and devotion to God, but also their commitment to Christian unity (cf. above), since prayer is made over the needs of others as much as (or more than) it is made for one’s own needs. Certainly also implied is the idea of continual prayer, that believers are constantly engaged in prayer to God, which elsewhere Paul expresses by the adverb a)dialei/ptw$ (“without [any] gap [i.e. interruption],” cf. 1:9; 1 Thess 1:2; 5:17).

References above marked “Fitzmyer” are to Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 33 (Doubleday / Yale: 1993).

Notes on Prayer: Romans 1:8-10; 15:30-33

Romans 1:8-10; 15:30-33

In these studies on the references to prayer in the Pauline letters, we turn now to the letter to the Romans, that veritable compendium of Paul’s theology and teaching, in which he touches on virtually every important area of early Christian thought.

By contrast with Galatians (cf. the previous study), Romans follows the epistolary pattern of the Pauline letters, with positive references to prayer, occurring primarily in the introduction (thanksgiving) and closing exhortation sections. As we have seen, such references tend to emphasize two important aspects of Paul’s relationship to the congregations to which he is writing: (1) he prays for them, that they will continue growing in faith and virtue, in response to the Gospel; and (2) that they would pray for him, that he would be strengthened and continue to find success in his mission of proclaiming the Gospel.

Romans 1:8-10

The introduction (exordium) sections of Paul’s letters typically contain a thanksgiving portion, in which he publicly mentions giving thanks to God on behalf of his audience (in this case, the Christians in Rome). The situation in Romans is somewhat different, in that Paul did not play a key missionary (apostolic) role in founding the Christian congregations there. Even so, he addresses them in the thanksgiving section much as he does in the other letters:

“First, I give (thanks) to my God for (His) good favor, through Yeshua (the) Anointed, over all of you, that the news (of) your trust is given (all) around in the whole world.” (v. 8)

The positive prayer-references in the thanksgiving sections tend to be expressed in terms of praise for the faithfulness of his readers, with such praise being intended, in large part, to encourage them to continue acting and behaving in a faithful manner. Also typical is a statement by Paul that he repeatedly makes mention of the believers (and congregations), to whom he is writing, in his prayers to God:

“For God is my witness, to whom I perform service in my spirit in (proclaiming) the good message of His Son, how, without any interruption [a)dialei/ptw$], I make mention of you always, upon [i.e. at/during] my (time)s of speaking out toward (God)” (v. 9)

The noun proseuxh/ is, of course, the common noun for prayer (rel. to the verb proseu/xomai, “speak out toward [God]”), while the adverb a)dialei/ptw$ (“without any gap throughout”, i.e., without interruption, without ceasing) was used by Paul, in a similar context, in 1 Thessalonians (1:2; 2:13; 5:17). The focus of Paul’s prayers regarding the Roman Christians is unique, and reflects the fact that he was not a founding missionary (apostle) of those congregations. As verse 10 makes clear, Paul prays to God for the opportunity to visit those congregations in Rome, seeing them for the first time:

“…making request if, (some)how, sometime now I will be set well on the way, in [i.e. by] the wish of God, to come to you. For I long to see you…”

Even though Paul does not hold the same position (as an apostle) to the Roman Christians, he still wishes to extend to them something of that ministry, giving forth to them as well a “spiritual gift” (xa/risma pneumatiko/n). There is a special kind of poignancy in the humble way Paul states this wish of his in Romans.

Romans 15:30-33

At the close of the letter, Paul mentions again his desire to come to Rome, framing it in the wider context of his missionary work (15:22-29). A visit to Rome would, in his mind, be a fitting climax to his missionary labors (throughout much of the Roman empire). He mentions it specifically in connection with his intended journey to Jerusalem (vv. 25-26ff), to deliver the money for the poor that he has been collecting, through a major relief effort, among the churches of Greece and Macedonia (2 Cor 8-9, etc). This mission to Jerusalem informs Paul’s wider teaching on Jewish-Gentile unity throughout the body of the letter, and there can be no question that he saw the ‘collection for the saints’ as a concrete and symbolic expression of that unity. Once Paul has delivered the money, on his way for a possible missionary journey into Spain, he plans to stop at Rome to visit the Christians there (v. 28). Because of the significance (and spiritual value) of his relief effort, Paul is confident that he (and his fellow missionaries) will receive a special blessing on their way to Rome (v. 29).

In verse 30, Paul asks the Christians in Rome to pray for him regarding this journey:

“I call you alongside, [brothers,] through our Lord Yeshua (the) Anointed, and through the love of the Spirit, to struggle together with me in (your moment)s of speaking out toward God over me.”

His wording echoes that of 1:9 earlier (cf. above), only instead of his prayers to God (on behalf of the Romans), he asks for their prayers on his behalf. Even though Paul does not share the same kind of apostolic relationship with the Romans that he does with other Christians elsewhere the Empire, he and they still share the basic bond of unity as believers, which he expresses as twofold: (1) “through our Lord Jesus Christ”, and (2) “through the love of the Spirit”. On the important association of love and the Spirit, cf. 5:5 and the ethical teaching in 12:9-10; 13:8-10; 14:15 (in light of Gal 5:6, 13-15, 16ff).

Paul makes use of a rare compound verb (used only here in the New Testament), sunagwni/zomai, “struggle together with”. It expresses an important aspect of the role of prayer in missionary work. Believers across a wide geographic area (even around the entire world) are united together with missionaries, at a spiritual level, through prayer. Even when not physically present on the mission field, those praying labor together with the missionaries, and play no less an active and vital role in the work. Paul realized this keenly, and it is an important part of why he frames the prayer-references in his letters as he does (cf. above).

Believers praying to God contribute, in a real sense, to God’s response in aiding and helping the missionaries (in this case, Paul and his co-workers). This is part of a key New Testament teaching (and principle) regarding prayer: when one prays selflessly, for the needs of others (rather than focusing on one’s own needs), such prayer is certain to be answered by God. Paul recognized the danger he faced on his journeys—especially this last journey to Jerusalem (cf. Acts 20:22ff)—and so he calls on the Roman Christians to assist him (and his fellow missionaries) through their prayers:

“…that I might be rescued from the (one)s being without trust in Yehudah, and (that) my service to Yerushalaim would come to be well-received by the holy (one)s” (v. 31)

A successful completion of this mission will result in the opportunity for him to travel to Rome in joy and blessing (v. 32). As it happened, Paul’s journey to Rome turned out much different than he might have imagined, yet his prayer-wish was fulfilled, and he was able to visit the Christians in Rome, and to impart from his inspired gifts and experience, teaching and encouragement to them (Acts 28:15, 30-31).

November 28: Romans 1:4 (continued)

Romans 1:4, continued

Following up on the discussion in the previous note, in our study on the Christological formula in Rom 1:3-4, it remains to examine the central expressions of second part of the formula (in verse 4):

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

The prepositional expression e)n duna/mei (“in power”) qualifies the primary statement in verse 4—i.e., “the (one hav)ing been marked out (as) Son of God”. It introduces the predicate of the clause, but there is some uncertainty regarding the syntax: does it modify the participle o(risqe/nto$ or the title “Son of God” (ui(o\$ qeou=)? If the former, then the sense would be adverbial—that is, “having been marked out (by God)…in power”. If the latter, then it is adjectival, clarifying the sense in which Jesus is the Son of God, i.e., “the Son of God in power.”

Much depends, I think, on whether the expression truly is a Pauline addition to an earlier formula, or whether it represents an intrinsic part of the (original) formula as composed. The syntactical question, in this regard, is whether “in power” is an intentional parallel to “out of the seed…”, or whether the principal parallel in the two couplets is “out of the seed of David” / “out the resurrection of the dead”. In my view, the first option is to be preferred, in which case e)n duna/mei would have been part of the original formula. This means the full expression “the Son of God in power” is parallel with “out of the seed of David”, and may be intended to express a contrast along the lines of the Philippians hymn—i.e., incarnate human being vs. exalted divine being. His death/resurrection is greater than his birth, and moves in the opposite direction (ascent vs. descent).

What is certain is that the “power” (du/nami$) is the power of God, the very power that raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him to the “right hand” of God in heaven. In early Christian tradition, the power of God is closely aligned with His Spirit—Acts 1:8; 8:19; 10:38; Luke 1:35; 4:14; cf. also Matt 12:28 par, etc., an association that goes back to Old Testament tradition (e.g., Mic 3:8; Zec 4:6). Paul’s thought follows in line with this (1 Thess 1:5; 1 Cor 2:4; Rom 15:13, 19), and he certainly emphasizes the power of God’s Spirit in raising Jesus (Rom 8:11ff), and how the exalted Jesus shares that same Spirit (1 Cor 15:45; 6:17). Thus, “Son of God in power” is an apt expression for the idea that the exalted Jesus possesses the very Spirit of God and is united with it.

2. kata\ pneu=ma a(giosu/nh$

This phrase is parallel with kata\ sa/rka in v. 3, and thus juxtaposes sa/rc (“flesh”) and pneu=ma (“spirit”). However, this is not the antithetical flesh-vs-Spirit dualism familiar from Paul’s letters (including a number of key passages in Romans); rather, it is meant to illustrate a more fundamental metaphysical contrast—of the material earthly realm (of human beings) with the divine and heavenly realm (of God). This has been seen by commentators as another piece of evidence for a pre-Pauline origin of the formula in vv. 3-4 (cp. a similar contrast in the hymn of 1 Tim 3:16, discussed in prior notes).

Here the term contrasted with “flesh” is not simply “spirit”, but “spirit of holiness [a(giosu/nh]”. This expression does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, but is a literal rendering of vd#q) j^Wr in the Old Testament (“spirit of [God’s] holiness” = His “holy Spirit”), Psalm 51:13; Isa 63:10-11; cp. Dan 4:8-9, 18; 5:11. As such, it certainly refers to the Spirit of God, but specifically in reference to the presence (and effect) of His Spirit upon human beings (the people of God). The Qumran Community demonstrates a development in this line of tradition that is, in certain respects, comparable to that which took place within early Christianity. The references in the Dead Sea texts to the “holy Spirit” or “spirit of [God’s] holiness” are worth studying carefully; I have done this in a recent two-part article which I strongly recommend you consult as part of the current study.

If the formula in Rom 1:3-4 took shape earlier, among Jewish Christians, or if Paul himself composed it, then the Qumran usage would be important for an understanding of the background of the Christian development of this concept of God’s holy Spirit. In an early (Jewish) Christian context, the modifying expression (“according to [the] Spirit of holiness”) here would have several particular points of significance:

    • The ancient line of tradition whereby God empowers His chosen ones (prophet, king, etc) with His Spirit
    • As the spirit of holiness, God’s Spirit purifies and perfects His people (the chosen ones); this could easily be applied to the idea of resurrection from the dead
    • It is especially characteristic of the heavenly realm, the throne/sanctuary where the presence of God Himself resides; there is a strong correspondence in the Qumran texts between the faithful ones of God’s people (on earth) and the divine/heavenly beings (Angels, etc), both are designated as “sons of God”, “sons of Light”, etc.

These lines of tradition certainly would have informed the idea of Jesus’ exaltation, according to the contours of the earliest Christology. It was the special understanding of Jesus’ unique identity as the “Son of God” that gave to the Old Testament and Jewish tradition a powerful new Christian significance. At the time Paul wrote his letter to the Romans (c. 57-58 A.D.), this Christology had begun to develop substantially, due in no small part, I am sure, to Paul’s own inspired contribution. The very fact that “Spirit of holiness” (pneu=ma a(giosu/nh) is used here, rather than the more common “holy Spirit” (pneu=ma a%gion), is another indication that Paul is adapting an older formula in Rom 1:3-4.

Following his use/inclusion of this formula, Paul returns in v. 5 to the main thrust of his greeting (v. 1), continuing the identification of himself as a missionary (apostle) and minister specially appointed by Christ (“through him”). The relative pronoun refers back to the concluding words of v. 4, to “Yeshua (the) Anointed, our Lord” (which themselves echo the opening words of v. 3, “Son [of God]”). Paul is a minister of Jesus Christ, commissioned by him and “set forth” (a)po/stolo$) by him to preach the Gospel and establish congregations (of believers). Even though Paul played no direct role in founding the congregations at Rome, he includes them as fellow believers, with whom he shares a common bond as people “called of [i.e. by] Yeshua (the) Anointed” (vv. 6-7).

The implication is that true believers will affirm the Christological statement in vv. 3-4; there would be no real question on that point. So we may safely regard the statement as a fundamental confession of faith, to be cherished as one of the earliest that has come down to us. The Christology, rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus, defines the essential identity that we all share as believers in Christ. It encompasses his birth as a human being and reaches to his final exaltation as the Son of God in heaven—all in just a few short lines.

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.

November 26: Romans 1:3 (continued)

Romans 1:3, continued

The first part of the Christ-hymn (or confessional formula) of Rom 1:3-4, discussed in the previous note, deals with the incarnation of Jesus as a human being, and specifically refers to his birth. As such, it makes a fitting entry to our Advent- and Christmas-themed studies this year. However, there are two aspects of the verse which require a more detailed examination; I framed these as two questions to be addressed:

    1.  Whether (or to what extent) the identification of Jesus as God’s Son implies the idea of divine/eternal pre-existence, and
    2. What is the precise significance of the expression “seed of David”?

Let us deal with the second of these questions first.

spe/rma Daui/d (“seed of David”)

The word spe/rma (something “scattered,” i.e., “seed”) often refers to the biological descent of a child (son) from his father (or ancestor[s]). This means that: (a) “seed of David” is a reference to a descendant of David, and (b) that the expression is equivalent to “son of David”. The latter expression occurs a number of times in the Synoptic Gospels (Mk 10:47-48; 12:35ff pars; Matt 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 21:9, 15), and is tied to the fundamental Messianic belief in a ruler from the line of David, who will appear at the end-time to defeat/subdue the nations and restore the kingdom of Israel. This is the Davidic-ruler figure type, which I discuss in great detail in Parts 68 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”.

In the early Christian preaching (kerygma) as recorded in the first half of the book of Acts, Jesus is associated with David in several ways: (1) David prophesied in the Psalms regarding Jesus’ death and resurrection, (2) specific Psalms given a Messianic interpretation are applied to Jesus, and (3) Jesus is seen as fulfilling the covenant and promise to David. The most notable references are:

    • Acts 2:25-36, which cites Psalm 16:8-11 in the context of Jesus death and resurrection (vv. 25-28), and Psalm 110:1 in terms of Jesus’ exaltation to the right hand God in Heaven (vv. 34-35). In verse 30, Jesus is seen as the descendant of David who would sit on the throne as King (cf. Ps 132:10-11 and 2 Sam 7:11-16 etc), and is specifically said to be the “Anointed (One)” of God in the concluding verse 36.
    • Acts 4:25-27, where Psalm 2:1-2 is cited and applied to the Passion of Jesus; again he is identified with the “Anointed (One)” of God.
    • Acts 13:22ff, 33-37—again Psalm 2 and 16 are cited (Ps 2:7; 16:10), as well as Isaiah 55:3, indicating that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise/covenant with David.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, there are several references to Jesus as a descendant of David (including here in Rom 1:3):

    • 2 Timothy 2:8—”Remember Yeshua (the) Anointed (One), having been raised out of the dead, (and) out of the seed of David…”
    • Revelation 22:16—(Jesus speaking) “I am the root and the ge/no$ of David…” (cf. also Rev 5:5, and note 3:7)

In Rev 22:16, ge/no$ is literally the coming to be (cf. gi/nomai in Rom 1:3), in the sense of something which grows or comes forth (from the ground, womb, etc), i.e. “offspring”, but given the use of “root” (r(i/za) something like “sprout” or “branch” may be intended. Jesus declares that he is both the root of David and the branch/sprout coming out of the root. For the Messianic significance of such images (from Isa 11:1ff etc), see the discussion in Part 7 of the aforementioned study series.

In the Matthean and Lukan Infancy narratives, the birth of Jesus is clearly tied to the idea of his Davidic descent (on the references, cf. the discussion in Part 8 of “Yeshua the Anointed”), a point that is reinforced by the genealogy of Jesus in each Gospel. Despite their differences in detail, the Matthean and Lukan genealogies show Jesus’ ancestry as stemming from David’s line (cf. the explicit statement in Matt. 1:1). However, both genealogies clearly belong to Joseph and not Mary, and so attest to a legal, rather than biological, ancestry. Yet the wording in Rom 1:3 indicates that a biological descent from David is in view, a view (from Paul’s standpoint) that would tend to be confirmed by the parallel with Galatians 4:4:

“…God se(n)t out from (Him) His Son, (hav)ing come to be (born) out of a woman

Here the expression “out of a woman” matches “out of (the) seed of David”. This would imply that Jesus’ mother also was of Davidic descent, a belief which, to be sure, came to be held by many early Christians, even though the only available New Testament evidence suggests that Mary was from the tribe of Levi, rather than from Judah (Lk 1:5; 36, 39ff).

Far more important, however, is the identification of Jesus as the Davidic Messiah, which along with the title “Son of God”, was the central Christological designation for Jesus among early believers; on the pairing of these titles, cf. Mk 1:1 [v.l.]; Lk 4:41; Matt 16:16; 26:63; Jn 11:27; 20:31, etc.

o( ui(o/$ au)tou= (“His Son”)

I have already noted the close connection between the titles “Anointed One” (Messiah) and “Son of God”; on the Messianic significance of the title “Son of God” itself, and also its relation to the Davidic-ruler figure type (“Son of David”), cf. Part 12 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”. The main question I wish to consider here is whether the use of “His Son” (i.e. the Son of God), in this context, implies a belief in the divine pre-existence of Jesus, such as we find in the Philippians Christ-hymn (2:6).

The earliest Christology was defined almost entirely by the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus; this is a point that I have discussed at some length in earlier studies (cf. the notes on the Philippians hymn), and will not repeat here. It was not until c. 60 A.D., at around the time that Paul wrote Philippians, that we see a pre-existence Christology emerge and begin to develop into greater prominence, by the end of the 1st century. That Paul indeed held such a Christology, at least in a rudimentary form, is suggested by several references, in his letters, to God sending His Son. The most significant of these is Gal 4:4, mentioned above:

“when the fullness of time came, God se(n)t out from (Him) His Son, (hav)ing come to be (born) out of a woman…”

Since the “sending” precedes Jesus’ birth as a human being, the implication is that he is to be identified as God’s Son even prior to his earthly life (and his resurrection). Similarly, in Rom 8:3 (cf. also v. 32), the divine Sonship of Jesus precedes his incarnation as a human being. The relatively close parallel in wording between Gal 4:4 and Rom 1:3 suggests that, at the very least, Paul would have viewed the two passages in a similar way. Romans was presumably written sometime during the years 57-58 A.D., likely a few years earlier than Philippians.

If Paul is drawing upon an earlier Christological statement in 1:3-4, then a plausible time-frame for the statement itself would be c. 45-55. We can only speculate as to whether a substantive pre-existence Christology had developed among believers by c. 50, and what form it may have taken. Based on a traditional-conservative view of the sermon-speeches in Acts, the speeches would be representative of authentic Christian preaching during the years 35-60 A.D., and yet I find no trace of a pre-existence Christology in any of those passages. The earliest evidence for a belief in the pre-existence of Christ would seem to be the letters of Paul (i.e., Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Romans) written in the mid-50s, but even there the evidence is rather slight. On the whole, Paul seems to have followed the earlier exaltation Christology, focusing on the death and resurrection of Jesus, in accordance with the main lines of the Gospel kerygma in the apostolic period (c. 35-60). This will be discussed further when we consider the use of the term ui(o/$ (“Son”) in verse 4, in the next daily note.

 

 

November 25: Romans 1:3

Romans 1:3-4

Introduction

In the recent notes, we have been examining several of the most significant “Christ-hymn” passages in the New Testament—Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; and 1 Tim 3:16. These are hymnic statements regarding the person and work of Christ, and, according to the view of many scholars, they represent pre-existing works which the New Testament author (i.e., Paul) adapted and included within the flow of the letter. Much the same can be said of Romans 1:3-4, though the short statement in these verses is perhaps better designated as a confessional formula, rather than a hymn per se.

Several details of vocabulary and style, atypical of Paul’s letters, provide a relatively strong argument in favor of a pre-Pauline source for the formula in vv. 3-4. These details will be discussed at the appropriate point in the notes.

The lines of this ‘Christ hymn’ (if we are to call it such) comprise part of the epistolary prescript—that is, the opening address and greeting of the letter (vv. 1-7), which reads as a single sentence in Greek. The key term in the opening verse is eu)agge/lion (“good message”, i.e. Gospel):

“Paulus, slave of (the) Anointed Yeshua, called (as one) sent forth [a)po/stolo$], having been marked out from (others) [i.e., separated, set-apart], unto (the) good message of God…”

In typical manner, Paul identifies himself as a specially appointed missionary (apostle) and servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The preposition ei)$ (“into, unto”) in the concluding phrase indicates a goal or purpose—i.e., “for the purpose of (proclaiming) the good message”. The second verse builds syntactically upon the noun eu)agge/lion:

“…which He gave a message about before(hand), through His Foretellers [i.e. Prophets], in (the) holy Writings…”

The neuter relative pronoun (o%) refers back to the neuter noun eu)agge/lion, i.e., “the good message…which…”. It qualifies the Gospel as something about which God spoke through the Prophets of Israel in earlier generations. Early Christians found many passages in the Old Testament which were seen as foretelling (or prefiguring) the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—that is, the Gospel message—along with the mission work of believers in proclaiming the Gospel. Paul himself mentions a number of these in his letters, either as allusions or by direct quotation. For a survey of some of the key Old Testament Scriptures utilized in this way by early believers, cf. the article “He opened to us the Scriptures”, along with the various articles in the series “Yeshua the Messiah”.

Romans 1:3

“…about His Son,
the (one hav)ing come to be (born) out of (the) seed of David according to (the) flesh”

The Gospel message, foretold by the Prophets (v. 2), is specifically about (peri/) Jesus Christ (v. 1), identified according to early Christian belief as the Son of God (“His Son”). As noted above, many commentators feel that here Paul is introducing a confessional formula, one which may have been in use by believers prior to his writing Romans, and which he himself may not have composed. There is a clear poetic parallelism to the lines, which can be seen when we include verse 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…”

There are several key points of parallelism:

    • two substantive (passive/middle) aorist participles, from the verbs gi/nomai (“come to be [born]”) and o(ri/zw (“mark out”), signifying the beginning (birth) and end (death/resurrection) of Jesus’ earthly life, respectively
    • the expressions “seed [i.e. son] of David” and “Son of God”, each of which has Messianic significance and is uniquely applied to Jesus by early Christians
    • juxtaposition of “flesh” (sa/rc) and “Spirit” (pneu=ma)

The first line, or couplet, of the poetic formula (v. 3) emphasizes the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life. This refers to what we would call the incarnation, his existence as a flesh-and-blood human being, and it plays a central role in the hymns of Philippians (2:6-11) and 1 Timothy (3:16), no less than in the great hymnic Prologue to the Gospel of John (1:1-18, to be discussed in upcoming notes). The first half of the Philippians hymn (vv. 6-8) deals specifically with the lowering/emptying of the pre-existent Son of God (Christ), so that he should become a human being. The same aorist middle participle of the verb gi/nomai is used in v. 7: “(hav)ing come to be [geno/meno$] in (the) likeness of men”. The verb gi/nomai (“come to be, become”) often connotes coming to be born, and Jesus’ human birth is certainly implied, though not stated directly, in the hymn. In 1 Timothy 3:16, the term sa/rc (“flesh”) is used specifically to indicate the idea of incarnation, just as it is in Jn 1:14.

Thus, it is fair to view Rom 1:3 as referring to Jesus’ birth, one of only two such references in all of the Pauline letters (the other being Gal 4:4). The incarnation of Jesus is defined, in conventional/traditional terminology, as “coming to be (born)…according to the flesh”, i.e., born as a (real/physical) human being.

Two other details in the verse require further examination, as they relate specifically to the Christology of the formula, and how the formula is used and understood by Paul; this may be framed in the form of two questions:

    1. Whether (or to what extent) the identification of Jesus as God’s Son implies the idea of divine/eternal pre-existence, and
    2. What is the precise significance of the expression “seed of David”?

Both of these questions will be discussed in the next daily note.

Notes on Prayer: Romans 8:26-27

Romans 8:26-27

Paul mentions prayer numerous times in his letters, but specific teaching on prayer is surprisingly rare; indeed, there are relatively few teachings on prayer in the New Testament as a whole. One of the key Pauline references is found in Romans 8:26-27, set at a climactic point within the structure of the main body of the letter, the probatio (1:18-8:39), in which Paul expounds his central proposition (1:16-17) using various lines of argument. The probatio can be divided into four sections, the first three of which I summarize as:

    • Rom 1:18-3:20: Announcement of God’s (impending) judgment, according to the Law (of God)
    • Rom 3:21-5:21: Announcement of God’s justice/righteousness (in Christ), apart from the Law (Torah)
    • Rom 6:1-7:25: Announcement of Freedom from the Law and Sin

This last section (chapter 8) I would divide as follows (for more on this outline, cf. the article in the series “Paul’s View of the Law”):

    • Rom 8:1-30: Announcement of Life in the Spirit (Exhortation)
      8:1-11: The conflict (for believers) between the Spirit and the Flesh
      8:12-17: Believers are sons (of God) and heirs (with Christ) through the Spirit
      8:18-25: Believers have the hope of future glory (new creation) through the Spirit
      8:26-30: Believers experience the work of salvation through the Spirit
    • Rom 8:31-39: Doxology: The Love of God (in Christ)

As indicated above, the primary theme of chapter 8 is the new life in the Spirit that believers experience, representing the culmination of the “salvation history” or “order of salvation” that Paul lays out in the probatio of Romans. In verses 12-17, believers are identified as the children (“sons”) of God, an identity that is realized through the Spirit (cp. Gal 4:6). In verse 18, this discussion shifts to the future aspect of our Christian identity, comparing the situation for believers currently (whether understood as Paul’s time or our own) in the world, with what awaits the faithful in the Age to Come.

In verse 26, as noted in the outline above, Paul shifts to discuss briefly the salvation believers experience, already in the present, through the Spirit. If ultimately we shall realize it in glory, even now we still experience this work of the Spirit in the midst of our human weakness, as Paul begins in v. 26:

“And even so, the Spirit also takes hold opposite together with (us), in our lack of strength [a)sqe/neia]…”

The noun a)sqe/neia is usually translated “weakness”, but literally means “lack of strength”, being “without strength”. I have translated the compound verb sunantilamba/nomai in an extremely literal manner: “take (hold)” [lamba/nw] “opposite” [a)nti/] “(together) with” [su/n]. A useful image might be of two people lifting a large object, holding it together from opposite sides. This effectively summarizes the helping/guiding work of the Spirit for believers in all aspects of our lives (8:9ff), insofar as we allow ourselves to be guided (Gal 5:16-25). Prayer certainly would be included as part of this daily life that is (to be) aided and directed by the Spirit, and it is the area that Paul specifically mentions here.

In a prior study, I pointed out how, in Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Luke 11:1-13, the coming of the Spirit is presented as the ultimate goal and purpose of the disciples’ prayer (v. 13). Much the same point is made by Jesus in the Johannine “Last Discourse”(14:13-17, 25ff; 15;16, 26; 16:23-26). In this regard, it is worth considering again the interesting variant reading in the Lukan Lord’s Prayer (v. 2), in which the Kingdom of God is effectively identified with the presence of the Spirit in and among believers. The petition for the coming of the Kingdom is transformed into a request for the Spirit to “come upon us and cleanse us”. If the coming of the Spirit is the answer to prayer, what role does the Spirit play in the prayer of believers once it is present working in and among us?

In Romans 8:26, Paul provides something of an answer to this question, giving us a rare and precious glimpse of how the Spirit works within the believer. As I mentioned above, such descriptions are rare in the New Testament, and even here the language and imagery lacks precision; however, the basic idea comes through:

“…for th(at for) wh(ich) we should speak out toward (God), according to (what) is necessary, we have not seen [i.e. we do not know], but the Spirit it(self) hits on it over (us), with speechless groanings”

Paul’s syntax is a bit tricky to translate literally, but I have attempted to do so above, as cumbersome as it might seem it modern English. Let us elucidate the vocabulary:

“speak out toward (God)” —this is the verb proseu/xomai, the regular verb used for prayer in the New Testament; it quite literally indicates a person speaking out, uttering a prayer or petition that is directed “toward” (pro/$) God.

“according to (what) is necessary” —this translates the expression kaqo\ dei=; the impersonal verb dei= (3rd person singular) means something like “it is necessary”, referring to something which needs to be done; here it more accurately connotes the right and proper way in which something should be done.

“we have not seen” (ou)k oi&damen)—in Classical and New Testament (Koine) Greek, the verb ei&dw (“see”) is more or less interchangeable with ginw/skw (“know”), along with the concepts of seeing/knowing. The New Testament Scriptures make fine use of the dual-concept, especially in the Johannine Gospel. To say “we do not see (clearly)”, essentially means “we do not know”, even as in English idiom.

“hits on it over (us)” —this is a literal translation of the compound verb u(perentugxa/nw; the verb e)ntugxa/nw means “hit on (something)”, in the sense of realizing and dealing with something that one encounters, particularly dealing with issues related to an encounter with another person. The prefixed preposition u(pe/r (“over”) indicates that this is done on behalf of someone. In a technical sense, the compound verb can connote interceding on a person’s behalf.

“speechless groanings” —the noun stenagmo/$ means a “groan” or sigh (the related verb stena/zw was used earlier in v. 23), while the adjective a)la/lhto$ literally means “without speaking”, i.e. without speech, speechless, sometimes in the sense of “unspeakable”. Before offering an explanation of what Paul exactly is describing, let us proceed with the continuation of his statement in verse 27:

“and the (One) searching the hearts has seen [i.e. knows] what the mind(-set) of the Spirit (is), (in) that [i.e. because] he hits upon it over (the) holy (one)s according to God.”

In other words, the Spirit does its work on behalf of believers (“holy ones”) according to God (kata\ qeo/n). This expression is sometimes glossed in translation as “according to God’s will”, which is accurate enough (cf. the following thought in vv. 28ff); however, I feel it is better to keep more closely to the literal wording (“according to God”). Since the Spirit itself represents the active presence and power of God, it acts according to God’s own power and purpose. This belief follows the well-established line of Old Testament and Jewish tradition; what is unique for early Christians is the idea that the Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Jesus Christ—Christ (the Son) and God the Father being united in one Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 6:17; 15:45). Thus, the work of the Spirit, interceding before God on behalf of believers, is simultaneously performed by the exalted Jesus himself, envisioned as standing “at the right hand of God”. Attempts to draw clear theological or metaphysical distinctions between the exalted Jesus and the Spirit go far beyond the New Testament evidence, and are generally ill-supported by the Scriptures themselves.

The characterization of God as “the one searching the hearts” draws upon a familiar Old Testament and Jewish idiom (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; Psalm 7:11; 17:3; 139:1; 1 Cor 4:5; Rev 2:23); in Acts 1:24 and 15:8 the idea is expressed through a specially-coined theological term, “heart-knower” (kardiognw/sth$). In searching the hearts of believers, God finds his own Spirit speaking on their behalf, and instantly recognizes its thought and will as his own. Paul uses the noun fro/nhma, which I translate as “mind-set”, that is, a way of thinking, a tendency or inclination of thought and feeling. This word occurs just four times in the New Testament, all here in chapter 8 of Romans. In the previous three occurrences (vv. 6-7), Paul contrasts the “mind-set” of the Spirit with that of the flesh—part of the Spirit-vs-flesh dualism that we find throughout his letters (esp. Romans and Galatians). The mind-set of the “flesh” is hostile to God, opposed to His will, and leads to death for the human being. The believer is saved from this; the Spirit leads to life, and yet there remains a conflict with the flesh that the believer must deal with on a regular basis (vv. 9-13, etc). This conflict is part of the “groaning” we experience in the present, as we live within the current order of creation (vv. 18-25).

Paul touched upon some of these same themes earlier in 1 Corinthians (2:6-16), only he there described the work of the Spirit in a different manner—instead of God searching the hearts of believers, it is the Spirit who searches the depths of God, and making the “deep things” available as a gift to believers. The emphasis in 1 Cor 2 is on wisdom and revelation, rather than prayer; yet, there can be no doubt that the same essential dynamic is involved—whereby the Spirit of God is at work, manifesting His own presence and power, in and among believers.

Let us attempt now to clarify what Paul is describing in vv. 26-27. The basic premise in v. 26 is that human beings, without the guiding presence of the Spirit, are not able fully to understand how they should pray. Jesus himself offered instruction on prayer to his disciples, including a pattern in the Lord’s Prayer, but this represents only a beginning—just like all of the teaching of Jesus we have recorded in the Gospels. The fullness of his instruction comes through the presence of the Spirit, through which he continues to instruct believers on a daily basis. So it is that we must be instructed in prayer by the Spirit of God and Christ. Paul indicates that this Spirit-guided instruction takes place in a manner that transcends a message in words, stating that it occurs “with speechless groanings” (stenagmoi=$ a)lalh/toi$), which might also be rendered “with unspeakable groanings”.

Many commentators have noted a general parallel with the gift of tongues, as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians. While some in the Corinthian congregations were apparently enamored with the display of this gift in a public worship setting, Paul argues strongly that it is more appropriate in a setting of private prayer, where the individual believer is speaking directly to God (14:1-19). In that passage, the gift of tongues functions as a special kind of prayer-language, which likewise transcends ordinary intelligible words, spoken out by a person’s spirit as it is touched/inspired by the Spirit of God. The situation in Rom 8:26-27 is somewhat different, though not entirely unrelated. Paul is describing not a special gift, but something common to all believers, insofar as we all are guided by the Spirit. This guidance in prayer is “without speech”, functioning at a primordial level that goes beyond simple language. It is a stirring, a vibration, an energy that touches our deepest thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

As believers, are we receptive to this stirring, this “groaning” of the Spirit within us? Are we willing to let it guide us in our prayer as we speak out to God in different ways? This is just one part of the larger, continual challenge we face—of allowing ourselves to be led by the Spirit, to “walk about” in it at all times. The need of praying “in the Spirit” was understood and appreciated by the New Testament writers, even if they did not express it so clearly or vividly as Paul does in Rom 8:26-27. It is certainly stated in Eph 6:18 and Jude 20, and we may assume it as part of the wider concept of worshiping God in the Spirit (cf. Phil 3:3; Rev 1:10, etc; also John 4:23-24). We may also assume that Jesus’ time spent in prayer also took place in the Spirit—in any case, this would definitely be part of the Lukan portrait of Jesus’ ministry (cf. 4:1, 14, 18; 10:21). All of this to say that we should be ever cognizant of the importance of our prayer being guided by the Spirit, those wordless groanings which allow us to touch the depths of God, and which help our own way of thinking to be conformed to God’s own thought and mind.

July 7: Romans 8:26-27; 9:1; Colossians 1:9, etc

Today I wish to survey the remaining references to the Spirit in the Pauline letters—passages which have not yet been addressed in these notes. For the most part, this will be done in summary fashion, giving more attention to references which represent, in some way, a distinct development of the early Christian tradition.

Romans 8:26-27; Phil 1:19; Eph 6:18

Let us begin with a further discussion of Romans 8 (cf. the two previous notes), which contains Paul’s most extensive treatment of the Spirit, emphasizing the freedom and new life that exists for the believer in the Spirit. In verse 16, Paul mentions how the Spirit “gives witness together with our spirit”, indicating the sort of active, dynamic presence that the Spirit has in and among believers. This co-operation is emphasized again in verse 26f, using the verb sunantilamba/nomai, which literally means something like “take up together” —i.e. the Spirit works together with us, in our weakness (a)sqe/neia, “lack of strength”). This is framed in terms of “speaking out toward (God)” (vb proseu/xomai), i.e. prayer—since, in our human weakness, we do not always know how to communicate with God, the Spirit aids us in this process. The verb e)ntugxa/nw essentially means “have an effect on” someone or something, and the added prepositional prefix u(per– can specifically connote doing this on behalf of another—i.e., the Spirit communicates with God on our behalf, since God understands (“sees, knows”) the mind of the Spirit (it being His own Spirit).

This idea of the help or assistance provided by the Spirit is also expressed by Paul in Philippians 1:19, where the rare expression “the Spirit of Yeshua (the) Anointed” is used:

“For I have seen [i.e. known] that this [i.e. my imprisonment] will step forth into my salvation through your request (to God) and (through) the (contribution) of the Spirit of Yeshua (the) Anointed brought upon (it).”

In other words, the action of the Spirit (which is also the Spirit of Christ) in helping Paul comes in response to the believers’ prayer to God; the context of prayer here is similar to that in Rom 8:26-27. On Eph 6:18, cf. the discussion in the next daily note. The term para/klhto$ in the Johannine tradition (Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; 1 Jn 2:1) captures this idea of help and assistance given by the Spirit—the Spirit of God (and Christ) being “called alongside” (vb parakale/w) to help.

Witness of the Spirit—development of prophetic and Wisdom tradition

Along these same lines, the Spirit speaks to the believer, giving wisdom and insight, as well as special revelation (i.e. inspiration, cf. below). Paul does not often refer to the Spirit as a witness, but it is an important point of emphasis in Rom 8:16 (cf. above), and one which continues in the beginning of the next major section of the letter (9:1), as he begins his famous treatise on the place of Israel in the New Covenant, punctuated as it is with such poignant personal remarks:

“(In) truth I say (this) in (the) Anointed (One)—I do not lie—my sunei/dhsi$ giving witness together with me in the holy Spirit…”

This statement replicates the idea in 8:16, of the Spirit giving witness together with the believer’s spirit (using the same verb summarture/w); only here it is sunei/dhsi$, rather than the “spirit” of the person—a slightly different aspect being emphasized. That particular compound noun is difficult to translate in English; literally, it means “seeing (things) together”, or the ability to see (and put) things together. In English, we might say “perception”, both in terms of the intellect, but also touching on a deeper sense of insight and understanding. The word can also carry the same ethical/moral connotation as our “conscience”. Paul’s witness in chapters 9ff is thus both truthful and inspired, since it is given “in Christ” and “in the holy Spirit” —a correspondence which illustrates again how the Spirit is understood as both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ.

While this sort of revelatory insight and “inspiration” is common to all true believers in Christ, since they/we all possess the Spirit, Paul recognizes that certain individuals are specially gifted by the Spirit in specific areas of activity and leadership within the Christian Community (on the subject of “spiritual gifts”, cf. the recent note on 1 Corinthians 12:1-3ff). This special giftedness of individuals represents an early Christian development of the older tradition of prophetic inspiration by God’s Spirit. It would seem to contradict the egalitarian principle expressed in Acts 2:1-4ff, 17-18 (citing Joel 2:28-29, cf. also Num 11:29) and elsewhere in the New Testament. At the same time, however, the organization of functioning congregations required the designation of at least a loose leadership structure (of elders, ministers, active prophets, etc); Paul both admits and affirms this fact in his letters, while maintaining the ideal (and hope) that all believers might, in their own way, obtain the higher giftings of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:6ff; 3:1ff; 12:31; 14:1ff).

Paul certainly acknowledged that he, himself, was a uniquely inspired minister, appointed by God to proclaim the Gospel and establish congregations throughout the Roman world. This meant that he possessed the Spirit, and interacted with it, in a special way; interestingly, he does not often state this directly—1 Cor 7:40 being one of the few examples. The comparison of inspired ministers and apostles with the Old Testament prophets (and thus the older tradition of prophetic inspiration) is part of the wider Christian tradition regarding the Spirit. The idea is expressed most clearly in the Pauline letters at Ephesians 3:5 (cf. also 1 Tim 4:1).

The association of the Spirit with wisdom is equally ancient, as discussed frequently in these notes (cf. on 1 Cor 2:9-16). In Colossians 1:9, Paul (assuming he is the author) expresses the traditional idea that believers will be “filled” with wisdom through the Spirit:

“…that you would be filled (with) the knowledge of [lit. about] His will, in all spiritual wisdom and su/nesi$.”

The adjective pneumatiko/$ is usually translated “spiritual”, which is accurate enough; however, in such a Christian context, it properly denotes “belonging to the Spirit”, i.e., possessing the nature and character of the Spirit. The noun su/nesi$ is comparable to sunei/dhsi$ (cf. above on Rom 9:1), and likewise means the ability to “put (things) together” in the mind (i.e., intelligence, understanding, knowledge). A comparable prayer is expressed in Eph 1:17, though with the idea of revelation joined to that of wisdom and understanding:

“…that He would give you the Spirit of wisdom and uncovering [i.e. revelation], in (the) knowledge of [lit. about] Him”

Power of the Spirit—development of the ecstatic (prophetic) tradition

In the ancient tradition of ecstatic inspiration, the Spirit of God would come (or “rush”) upon a person, resulting at times in strange or violent action. Typically, this inspiration had a positive effect—such as giving a king or military leader strength and ability in battle. For the prophet this could also be manifest in unusual or supernatural ability, of various kinds. In early Christianity, the activity of the Spirit in and among believers produced comparable effect, in line with the older prophetic tradition. This involved not only the miraculous speaking in “tongues”, but the performance of healing miracles, and so forth. It also represented the fulfillment of an idea expressed earlier in the Gospel tradition, whereby the close disciples of Jesus (i.e. the Twelve) were able to share in his Spirit-inspired power to work miracles, etc (similar to the ancient tradition in Num 11:16-30, discussed in an earlier note).

When speaking of the power (du/nami$) provided by the Spirit, Paul is not only referring to the sorts of miracles recorded in the book of Acts (some of which he himself performed), but has in mind a more comprehensive sense of all that the Spirit accomplishes for believers, and to the Christian ministry in all its aspects (cf. Rom 15:19-20, etc). One of the most notable of these summary statements is in 1 Cor 2:4, in which Paul contrasts earthly wisdom with the “power of God”, manifest in the Spirit; he uses the pairing “Spirit and power” (for more on this passage, cf. the earlier note). He has in mind principally the effect of the proclamation of the Gospel—its transforming power—upon the hearts and lives of believers. Other verses associating the Spirit with power are:

    • 2 Cor 6:6-7—note the parallel between “in the holy Spirit” and “in the power of God”; the emphasis here is on “power” in terms of truth, love, righteousness, and God’s very word (cf. Eph 6:17)
    • Rom 15:13—Paul’s wish is that believers would be filled with hope, the same hope that comes with trust in Christ—this is realized “in the power of (the) holy Spirit”; note also the association of the Spirit with “peace and joy” (cp. 14:17)
    • 2 Tim 1:7— “For God did not give to us a spirit of timidity, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”
    • Eph 3:16—the prayer is that the “inner man” of the believer will be strengthened, through God’s Spirit, “in power” (duna/mei)

The remainder of this survey will continue in the next daily note.