Read my notes on Chapter One: The Puzzle of Pauline Hermeneutics here.
In this chapter, Hays focuses on two aspects of God’s righteousness:
- His covenant faithfulness (Rom. 1:16-17)
- Judgement on the wicked (Rom. 1:18-3:20)
This is important because Hays identifies one of Paul’s main focus in Romans as addressing “the problem of God’s saving righteousness in relation to Israel.” (p.34)
The first passage Hays examines in depth is Rom. 1:16-17, regarding the revelation (apocalypse) of God’s righteousness (p.36). He identifies echoes that God will reveal his righteousness from Isa. 51:4-5; 52:10, where God’s deliverance of Israel “will be a manifestation of God’s righteousness because it will demonstrate, despite all apperances to the contrary, God’s faithfulness to his covenant people; the promised salvation will constitute a vindication of God’s name and of his poeple who have trusted in him through their suffering and exile” (p.37).
Thus, Hays understands these passages affirming God’s righteousness in delivering his people as addressing the issue of theodicy (p.38). Why theodicy? Because if God promised goodness and faithfulness to his covenant people (in an irrevocable covenant?), their suffering and exile calls into question God’s character. So God’s “righteousness” is then understood as “covenant faithfulness.” This idea seems to be echoed by N. T. Wright.
The gospel of Jesus' death and resurrection are therefore “God’s eschatological vision of those who trust in him - and consequently of God’s own faithfulness” (p.39) to his promises to Israel. That is why Paul is not ashamed of it, echoing Isa. 28:16.
He later understands the quotation of Hab. 2:4 as “the righteous one shall live by my (God’s) faithfulness” (p.40). In this reading, the implication is not that one lives through one’s faith in God, but a call for the community of faith to wait for God to act in a righteous manner, that is, to keep his promises and be faithful to his people.
In Rom. 1:18-3:20 then, as Paul indicts both Jew and Gentile, he “establish[s] beyond all possible doubt the affirmation that God is just in his judgement of the world (p.50).” Hays continues to affirm that the major issue for Paul here is theodicy, not soteriology (p.53), thus in Rom. 3:21-26, the emphasis should be on God’s truthfulness to his covenant, and He will graciously save his people (Hays identifies an echo here with Psalm 143).
Thus Hays writes that “the driving question in Romans is not ‘How can I find a gracious God?’ but ‘How can we trust in this allegedly gracious God if he abandons his promises to Israel?'” (p.53) When I was reading Romans in Christchurch Durham, I began to see that the Jew-Gentile issue seemed to be the underlying concern of the letter. Hays’ reading seems to confirm it. The issue isn’t individual salvation before an angry God, but about how God’s faithfulness to Israel’s covenant is fulfilled in Jesus and the inclusion of Gentiles into his covenant community.
In the next section, Hays understands Paul’s appeal to Abraham as arguing “that Judaism itself, rightly understood, claims its relation to Abraham not by virtue of physical descent from him (kata sarka) but by virtue of sharing his tust in the God who made the promises (p.54).” Thus, Paul’s “reading of Scripture - juxtaposed to an ethnocentric misreading - is in fact the right reading of what Israel’s Scriptures have always proclaimed (p.57).” Again, the issue here is not salvation by works versus salvation by grace through faith. Rather, it is about Gentile inclusion.
The next section considers the reality of suffering as Christians (Rom. 8:18-38). Hays writes that Paul reads Psalm 44 as prefiguring the suffering of the Christian church (p.58). His points mirror Beale in that both affirm that the OT “prophesies” that the eschatological community will suffer (p.58, 62, 63).
The next section focuses on Rom. 9-11. For Hays, the purpose of this section is to demonstrate “the congruity between God’s word in Scripture and God’s word in Paul’s gospel” (p.64). This is achieved by arguing that God’s treatment of Israel now is consistent with His actions in the past, and His “declared purposes” (p.64). Interestingly, Hays refers to Rom. 15:7-13 as an important summary of the letter’s themes, where he envisions a church comprising of both Jews and Gentiles, rooting them in the OT.
The next section deals primarily with Paul’s treatment of Deut. 30:11-14. Hays summarises his argument thus:
Paul provocatively reads Deuteronomy 30:11-14 not as a summons to do what the plain superficial sense of the Law requires, but as a summons to discern the true content of the word […], which has always been the word of the righteousness of faith. The word that was near to Israel in the Law is identical with the word that is now near in his Christian kerygma. (p.81) What Paul has in fact done is, simply, to read the text of Deuteronomy 30 as a metaphor for Christian proclamation.
What is the righteousness of faith? “The answer is given in Rom. 10:4: ‘For Christ is the telos of the Law, for righteousness to everyone who believes’ (p.75).” This means that the Law has always talked about this righteousness of faith, which now has been revealed in Jesus. “The problem is not that they are unable to do what the Law requires: the problem is that they pursue obedience not ek pisteos (throught faith) but ex ergon (through works). This suggests that the aim of the Law is actually not perfect performance of works at all, but something else” (p.75).