The alternatives that the author discusses on what the theme of Romans is will all sound very similar, to the point that we wonder what fussing there must be among scholars. Is the difference, then, like something that one observer sees in a painting as the main interest of the painter, versus what another observer sees?
First, we should test the idea of the author, that the gospel is the theme of Romans, for comprehensibility. Does he use a defined term?
The previous page has an explanation, which will serve for now, we must suppose: "how God has acted in Christ to bring the individual sinner into a new relationship with himself (chaps 1-4), to provide for that individual's eternal life (chaps. 5-8), and to transform that individual's life on earth now (12:1-15:13)" (p. 28).
Another thing, before the reader must go on in the next few pages armed with definitions of "miniscule" and "uncial," and when the author says UBS, don't look at the bottom for a footnote about it (!). "4" is not a footnote number on these pages! The author, in interacting with scholars who "vote" differently on the theme, says why their vote wasn't his....
Not "justification by faith," because, although true, it doesn't cover everything. But very interestingly, "it expresses, in the sphere of anthropology, a crucial element in Paul's understanding of God's work in Christ." (p. 29). The gospel makes sense as being about God's work, news about which, there now is! Justification by faith "expresses ... its entirely gracious character" (p. 29).
This phrase, "in the sphere of anthropology," surely does justice far better than the sloganeering to the effect that "it's not about me." Yes, the gospel is about God's work, and justification by faith is "a crucial element." Not an "anachronism." (p. 28). Best of all, "it expresses the resolute resistance of Paul, and the NT authors, to the constant human tendency to make what people do decisive for salvation." (p. 29). Amen. Luther's back.
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