Justice, Justification and the Problem of Translating Paul

I have just taken a closer look at Michael Gorman's excellent article in the first issue of the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters: 'Justification and Justice in Paul, with Special Reference to the Corinthians' (Volume 1 (2011), 23–40.

I guess anyone who has tried to teach Paul knows that many students are unaware that significant terms from their English translations (justification, righteousness, making righteous, just, justice etc) are all related at the semantic level, and thus, so the argument goes, at the level of Paul's convictions. I have long used a little table in E. P. Sanders' short Paul volume to convey the point.  In the past I have always preferred a solution that maintains the link by translating δικαιόω as 'make righteous' thus preserving some connection with δικαιοσύνη, 'righteousness'. I think, however, that Gorman has now convinced me that the better option is to consistently translate δικαιοσύνη as 'justice' (understood primarily in restorative rather than retributive terms).

However my reason for taking this step is the diametric opposite of Gorman's. He argues (p.28) that it is necessary in order to counter the commonly found 'privatistic interpretation of Paul'. This is a well made argument especially in relation to certain forms of Protestant evangelicalism where Paul's language is too narrowly read to refer to the relationship between the individual and God.

However, the argument works with equal force when directed towards certain Christian traditions in which an emphasis on the divine mandate for social justice is in danger of being detached from what are, in my view, theologically necessary accounts of divine action, the δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ that is revealed in the gospel. In other words, for my students who state that they are Christian because they believe in social justice, to translate δικαιοσύνη as 'justice' and to make explicit the connection to 'justification' serves to remind them that their commitment is itself predicated on a particular narrative of salvation, centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that cannot be stepped around without distorting the motivation for and practice of justice in the social sphere.

The next step is to think again about what we do with πίστις language in Paul. I think that the language of faith needs to be preserved in English translations across the range of the Greek. But that is for another time.

Oh, and finally, if you are planning to attend the important conference at King's College London on Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God in December (unfortunately we leave Italy for the UK that weekend, so I am unable to be there) or if you want to know what all the fuss is about in relation to that book, then the three articles by Chris Tilling, Michael Gorman again, and Douglas Campbell himself, are essential reading. Get hold of a copy of JSPL, or better, take out a subscription – its really cheap, especially in the light of this end of year offer that came through just as I finished writing this post.

Latest Regent’s Reviews

The latest issue of the reviews journal out of Regent's Park College in Oxford, Regent's Reviews, is now available in the rather snazzy aXmag format here.

There are reviews of books by Joseph Blenkinsopp, Douglas Farrow, Nigel Biggar and Lloyd Pietersen (among many others), of some recent commentaries and of two recent books about the work of N. T. Wright. In the midst of all of that there is my review of Robert Jenson's Canon and Creed.

First Issue of Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception

The new online journal exploring aspects of reception history and religion, Relegere, has been launched. Congratulations to the editors on getting the project to this stage, for a provocative and suggestive editorial, and for securing what looks to be a clear and attractive online presence for the journal itself.

The TOC for the first issue is as follows. There is also an extensive review section. Instructions for contributors and books available for review can also be found on the home page. I wish the journal every success and would encourage anyone interested in the theory and practice of reception history to take a look.

Vol 1, No 1 (2011)

Table of Contents


Beyond Christianity, the Bible, and the Text: Urgent Tasks and New Orientations for Reception History PDF


Rethinking Premodern Japanese Buddhist Texts: A Case Study of Prince Shōtoku’s "Sangyō-gisho" PDF
Mark Dennis 13-35
David and Jonathan between Athens and Jerusalem PDF
James E. Harding 37-92
Life of Brian or Life of Jesus? Uses of Critical Biblical Scholarship and Non-orthodox Views of Jesus in Monty Python’s Life of Brian PDF
James G. Crossley 93-114
Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, the Bible, and Docetic Masculinity PDF
Gitte Buch-Hansen 115-44


Reading the Bible Intelligently PDF
Philip R. Davies

Online Journal, Conversations: Volume 4.1

The latest issue of the online journal produced here at the Centre for Theology and Ministry is now available. This latest edition of Conversations, Vol 4, No. 1, includes a series of studies by Chris Mostert on the atonement. The other articles may go under the broad heading of the interface between Christian faith and society touching on method in theological research, the relation of Christian ethics to societal practices and customs, matters of faith and work, and the use of biblical lament with adolescents. Abstracts, and the links to the .pdfs are below.

Imagining the Atonement

A series of five studies by Chris Mostert on the atonement – how do
we understand it and what does it mean for us today? The studies were
first presented as a series of Lenten Studies for Anglican and Uniting
Church congregations in North Melbourne in 2010.

1. Is Christianity a Redemptive Religion?

2. Is the Cross a Sacrifice?

3. Is the Cross a Victory?

4. Is the Cross our Justification?

5. The Cross as an Act of the Love of God

The Question of Method in Theological Research*

Yule pursues the question of what is an appropriate method within
theological research. While theological research has much to learn form
other academic disciplines in the way it goes about its work, ‘the
importance and the difficulty of the question of how we humans might
have knowledge of God’ must be recognised in this research. In this
context Yule asks ‘how can we approach the university ideal of
knowledge?’ In light of comments on the nature of human knowledge and
research in particular he goes on argue that ‘what we receive as valid
knowledge of God in faith should affect both the content of our
research and the methods that we develop to pursue it.’

God, Football and Christian Ethics*

begins his paper with a question raised at a UCA Presbytery meeting
whether the Presbytery should write a letter to the local Member of
Parliament to protest against plans to play AFL football on Good
Friday. This and similar concerns often ‘raise interesting theological
and political questions that are often not explored in discussions of
these issues. For instance, what is Christian ethics and how does this
apply to those who are not Christian? Is Christian ethics for
allpeople? What is the role of Christian ethics within a secular
society?’ McIntosh does not attempt to give firm answers to these
questions in this paper but, rather, to consider the theological issues
that need clarification before we can develop relevant answers. ‘Often
these prior questions are assumed without recognising their
considerable implications.’ He seeks ‘to clarify what is at stake in
questions like the church protesting against playing football on Good

Psalm 69: The Lament of Adolescence

begins with a close study of Psalm 69 a lament psalm. She compares this
with a study of the complex developmental stage of adolescence. She
concludes that the experiential reality of the adolescent is not
dissimilar to that of the psalmist. ‘This article examines these
similarities and proposes that the study of the Psalms of Lament within
the context of the Religious Education classroom has the potential to
be a positive and fruitful experience. Under the guidance of the
facilitator, a close and sensitive examination of these psalms can
assist in the social, emotional and spiritual growth of the student.
This article also provides a variety of pedagogical strategies for the
implementation of The Psalms as a valuable teaching tool within the
Year Nine Religious Education Curriculum in the context of the Catholic
School.’ While speaking from a Catholic context Cricenti provides
valuable guidance for those who work with adolescents in other contexts.

New Mohr-Siebeck Journal: Early Christianity

HT to Andy.  The first issue of the new Mohr-Siebeck journal Early Christianity is available for download. The focus of the issue is 'New Directions in Pauline Theology'. Contents are as follows

Michael Wolter
Die Entwicklung des paulinischen Christentums von einer
Bekehrungsreligion zu einer Traditionsreligion 15–40

Judith M. Lieu
“As much my apostle as Christ is mine”: The dispute over Paul between
Tertullian and Marcion 41–59

Matthias Konradt
Die Christonomie der Freiheit. Zu Paulus’ Entfaltung seines ethischen
Ansatzes in Gal 5,13-6,10 60–81

John M.G. Barclay
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy”: The Golden Calf and Divine
Mercy in Romans 9-11 and Second Temple Judaism 82–106

Jonathan A. Linebaugh
Debating Diagonal Δικαιοσύνη: The Epistle of Enoch and Paul in
Theological Conversation 107–128

New Discoveries
Peter Arzt-Grabner, Neues zu Paulus aus den Papyri des römischen
Alltags 131–157

Claire Clivaz, A New NT Papyrus: 126 (PSI 1497) 158–162

New Books

Robert Jewett, Romans (Mark Reasoner) 165–174

Martin Vahrenhorst, Kultische Sprache in den Paulusbriefen (Martin
Meiser) 174–179

Douglas Campbell, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading
of Justification in Paul (Francis Watson) 179–185
New Projects

Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, Ratio Religionis. Religiöse Philosophie und
philosophische Religion in der frühen Kaiserzeit 189–191
From the  Editorial Manifesto

Note especially Watson's review of Campbell (which is in the nick of time for my own paper on the book to be finished for next week).

Conversations: E-Journal, Volume 3, no.3 now online

And now for the contents of the November 2009 issue of Conversations, which includes papers from the recent Calvin 500 Anniversary conference held here as well as the Wisdom's Feast conference and Cato Lecture by Daniel Smith Christopher:

This issue of Conversations brings together papers and talks from
three events: Wisdom’s Feast 2009, a day long conference to celebrate
the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, and the Cato Lecture from
the recent Assembly meeting.

Cato Lecture

This was the CATO Lecture for July, 2009, given
at the 12th Assembly of the Uniting Church of Australia, University of
NSW, Sydney, Australia. We are grateful to the Cato Trust for kind
permission to publish this lecture.

Daniel Smith-Christopher begins with a question: how is the Old
Testament a source of guidance for Christian faith and practice? He is
convinced that we must continue to engage the Hebrew tradition as
modern Christians, but he has not been happy with many of the
traditional and recent approaches to doing this. He notes that in its
fullness the Hebrew Bible does not leave us either in the Promised Land
or in the United Monarchy of David or Solomon. Rather, the Biblical
narrative leaves the Hebrews in exile. He describes how one might
engage in a Biblical Theology of the Old Testament for modern
Christians that is a theology of exile and diaspora, more engaged with
movement, journey, identity, and witness to an often hostile
surrounding culture than with power. He concludes by looking at Jonah
and Ezra as symbols of critical issues for modern Christians in Exile.

Wisdom’s Feast

Two papers from the conference ‘Wisdom’s Feast’ held at the Centre for Theology and Ministry, June 19-23, 2009.

Beginning with some remarks in the area of the
sociology of religion and its role in providing comfort, Rachael Kohn,
builds on the idea that religious life does not only hinge on the
perpetuation of beliefs, but on the maintenance of community. She
explores the struggle of Jews through history for comfort and justice
which is not just about equality of opportunity and resources in a
material culture, but about recognising hatred and stopping it from
spreading, wherever it is found. She argues that the God of the
prophetic scriptures, which is one of the Jewish gifts to the world,
works his purposes in history, only when we let him; that is, only when
we let him work through us.  

500th Anniversary of the Birth of John Calvin

A day-long conference was held on August 29 to celebrate the
anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. Also attached is a sermon
preached on John Calvin on Reformation Sunday.

notes that when Calvin emerged on the scene in Geneva, the Reformation
was already well under way and, indeed, Protestants themselves were
already divided. Calvin was not a pioneering innovator like Luther, but
his gifts for organisation, thought and writing, ensured that his place
in Reformation history. McKee explores how Calvin was not only a very
Biblical theologian, but also a very pastoral and practical one.  He is
best understood as a man of the 16th century, ‘who addressed the people
and context of his own day with all the intensity of the conviction
that God had redeemed him and called him to be an instrument of
proclaiming that redemption by teaching, preaching, correcting, even as
an exile, a foreigner, though still a part of a Christian world.’ She
argues that we honour Calvin best and gain the most from ‘by
understanding him in his own context and ministry’.

lived in a time of great spiritual vitality and renewal. While many
spiritualities of the time, even those of noted reformers, were shaped
by monastic piety and its priorities, Calvin had a different
experience. He had never been part of a monastic community. ‘For
Calvin, spirituality grew out of a lived encounter with God, who had
graciously revealed forgiveness through Jesus’ work on the Cross,
justifying and regenerating us.’ His spirituality, with its framework
founded on the Scriptures, was both Catholic and contextual, providing
people with practical suggestions about how to grow into Christ and His
community. The corporate aspect of his spirituality was further
demonstrated by his conviction that Christian citizens were committed
to the creation of a more Christian society, in which Church and
Magistrate were vocational partners on the pilgrimage to eternal life.

Goswell explores Calvin’s debt to preceding Jewish exegetes on the
Psalter and seeks to determine how explicitly Christian his
interpretation of the Psalms was. Use is made of the medieval Jewish
commentator Rashi as a conversation partner. When it came to Jewish
exegesis of the Psalms, Calvin was neither uncritical nor
hypercritical. He was neither a prisoner to Jewish or earlier Christian
opinion. Calvin’s focus on the historical context of psalms was not
derived from Jewish exegetes but from his humanist training and
inclination. He related a psalm to its historical setting but then saw
no difficulty in a psalm referring to David and at the same time being
a prediction of Christ.

loved and lived the psalms. A lifetime of reflection and praying them
stands behind his commentary on the Psalter. The Preface to the
commentary, in which Calvin tells much of his own story, is revealing
of his hermeneutic when dealing with the psalms. Parallels between his
own life and that of David as psalmist functions as a major key for
interpretation. This article explores Calvin’s hermeneutic when dealing
with the psalms and notes ways in which it correlates with principles
of composition of the Psalter itself.

focuses on how the reformers Luther, Zwingli, Bucer and Calvin
approached the question, ‘What is a Sacrament?’ The sacramental
controversies of the 16th century were concerned with understandings of
earth and heaven, the eternal and the temporal, and gave rise, not only
to the question of their relationship, but also to where ‘God chooses
to make himself known in the commonest elements of his creation’.

Book launches and reviews:

  • Psalms, Readings; Sheffield Phoenix, 2009, by Howard N. Wallace. Remarks at the launch of the book by Mark G. Brett, Sept. 18, 2009.