Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Moo Commentary on Romans (pp. 44-50)

1:2-3.   You know that you're not in Kansas anymore when BAGD is quoted not as an authority settling an issue, but one source with a view on the meaning of a phrase (p. 46 n. 34). And that's OK. Moo is taking pains like that, to do some things to help us understand Paul's letter, and such things as that are worth it. As we are following along in Romans we certainly should listen to one another, without the compulsion to believe one another. Reading a commentary should remind us of that, the distinction between the Word of God and comments.

One thing Moo does in his discussion of 1:2-3 on p. 46 is the reminder that in the Greek of 1:3 you get what doesn't come out in English. "γ ε ν ο μ έ ν ο υ   ἐ κ"   is very well discussed as not simply "born of," but we hear the Greek "become from." The Son of God wasn't simply "born of" a seed of David, but "having become from" him, he was also .... His Son is after all, God's Son, and He was not simply "born of" so and so, as His beginning.

It well may be learned, about the Incarnation, that we must do "first things first, but not necessarily in that order." In this case, one group may say, "We don't talk like that, 'became from,' in English. It's not understandable English. It needs to be conveyed differently." To which the answer is, let not our English ALWAYS constrain how we think, and what we think about.... The Son of GOD -- became from a seed of David. Nicely put in Greek. Hard to say in English.

One thing that also bedevils us, besides our English, is our theology. Sometimes we want to do "theology talk." Moo wants to discuss "promise beforehand" in 1:2, and rightly recognizes that this has a "redundant" (p. 44) ring to it. A promise is already something beforehand, so what is that which is beforehand to something beforehand? He says (p. 44) that Paul "emphasizes the temporal sequence of promise and fulfillment." Well sure, but the word says more. The promise is promised beforehand! The good news has promises in it. And God promised those promises beforehand. It's OK to hear that the Lord "told us way back that He was gonna ...."

1:4.  Concerning the meaning of "declared" or "designated." Moo prefers "designated," which is a fine word to describe something connected with an event. Moo rightly points out the Resurrection is not the manifestation of something that has always been true, as if it only needs to declared again. Instead, it is an event combined with an appointment. This appointment "has to do not with a change in essence" (p. 48), but with "a new and more powerful position in relation to the world" (p. 49).

That is an understatement, compared to Matthew 28:18. But in both places, there is constraint of language. In Matthew 28:18 it is "all authority." Here, it is "with power." Power is an attribute of God. God is not an attribute of power. The worship of God is not the worship of power, or pleasure, or of abstract goodness. These can be idols. Christ was designated the Son of God with power.

One thing that Moo might be missing in the discussion of what designated means regarding Christ Himself, is the characteristic Hebraism of discussing the actions of God using the passive voice. When Paul says "was designated," there is no doubt that it is God who designated ... whatever He designated Him to be, as we've been discussing. But God did it. That's why it is natural for Paul to add "according to the Spirit of holiness," which Moo thinks is so difficult (p. 49). Again, Moo points to the solution for understanding "the Spirit of holiness," which, if it refers to God as it does -- is not good Greek for that. Moo points out the solution: it is good Hebrew (p. 50 n. 55).

1 comment:

Larry said...

(commenting on Moo p. 47):

"according to the flesh" -- this phrase Moo defines as "according to the merely human" for Paul. This is well-suited to understanding Romans 8:13. It is often the case -- and this is one of the great values of dictionaries -- that when we are dominated by a pre-understanding of a passage, to talk about the phrase in a different passage helps.

In a sense, it is a different procedure than the procedure of taking context into account. People often mean, when they say, "in context, this means xyz," that according to their pre-understanding, it means xyz. A dictionary is sometimes helpful to show the pre-understanding to be unnecessary. Pre-understandings -- opinions arrived at, as if we had them before we read the text -- always seem so necessary!

Anyway, in Rm 8:13, "according to the flesh," being understood as Moo understands the phrase in Romans 1:3, helps. Paul is not measuring performance in Rm 8:13, but talking about what kind of life a person has, and there are two possibilities -- first, the life is that of the "merely human" -- no Spirit present -- then the future of that life is death. If the life is by the Spirit already, then the person with that life ... will live. Jesus was born of a seed of David ... according to the flesh ... according to the merely human. That's not a pejorative attribute in Rm 1:3, nor in 8:13.


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