Thursday, January 11, 2007


It is well known that Bishop Wright maintains that the ‘righteousness of God’ in Paul should be understood as ‘God’s covenant-faithfulness’.

The counter argument proposed by Stephen Westerholm points out that ‘when Paul speaks of God’s promise he never speaks of God’s righteousness, and when he speaks of God’s righteousness he never speaks of God’s promises’ (Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004], p. 292)

I personally wonder if this Westerholmian argument is not an exaggeration, and whether it really takes account of thematic resonations within larger lines of Pauline argumentation.

Wright himself, though not naming names, responds as follows:
‘Exegesis needs the concordance, but it cannot be ruled by it. It is no argument against calling Paul a covenantal theologian to point out the scarcity of diathēkē in his writings. We have to learn to recognise still more important things, such as implicit narratives and allusions to large biblical themes. Just because we cannot so easily look them up in a reference book that does not make them irrelevant’ (Paul: Fresh Perspectives [London: SPCK, 2005], 26)
But who is right?


At 1/11/2007 2:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lean into Wright on this over Westerholm, although he does have valid points. I do so because I think I've come to realise that God's righteousness is intimately related to His covenant faithfulness. His covenants are about what He will do, because and for and through His righteousness.

At 1/11/2007 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice one Chris. Wright is right. No excuses for sloppy exegesis either way though.

At 1/11/2007 11:52 AM, Anonymous Volker said...

Hi Chris,
perhaps it would be worth interacting with my friend Desta Heliso's PhD (also supervised by Max Turner) on Rom. 1.17 - it has just been accepted by WUNT. I can put you in contact if you like.

At 1/11/2007 1:00 PM, Anonymous Michael F. Bird said...

Chris, Seifrid is probably better than Westerholm on this one. Seifrid points out that all covenant keeping is righteous, but not all righteousness is covenant keeping. In the OT, sedeq/dikaiosyne also has a creational (not just covenantal) background, e.g.s Ps 98.

At 1/12/2007 1:08 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Rich,
Have you read Paul: Fresh Perspectives? It is a real good read that helped me in relation to some of these issues.

Hi Jason, couldn't agree more!

Volker my friend, yes I know Desta already. I've only read a chapter of his work, at that LST NT conference in which Max showed us why he is planet-brain. I would like to see his completed work, though, and read his conclusion.

Hi Mike,
Thanks, that is a really helpful comment.
I totally agree with this agrument in terms of righteousness - I haven't read Seifrid on this yet, but just from what I gleaned from Westerholm. I wonder if matters are more complicated, though, when we speak specifically of God's righteousness.

I'm really looking forward to your book coming, btw - I need to re-read it, me thinks, as writing in this field has changed my relationship to the secondary material in that I am a little more at home in all of the discussions and could thus learn a lot more than in my first reading.

Plus my own ideas have changed. I now get the feeling that Wright has often been too 'all or nothing', and mediating works such as your own are most valuable.


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