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The “obedience of faith” in its prophetic context (Romans 1:5)

In my book, I argue that Paul’s phrase “the obedience of faith” in Romans 1:5 can be better understood when read in the context of prophetic (Isaianic) motifs.

Paul and the Vocation of Israel: How Paul's Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to RomansIn Rom 1:5, Paul claims that his own apostolic ministry brings about “the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.” This recalls another strand of Jewish eschatological expectation: the “obedience” of the non-Israelite nations to the God of Israel. As we have already seen in our discussion of Rom 15:18, this theme is particularly prominent in Isaiah 60 (esp. Isa 60:10 – 14). Isaiah 60, along with other eschatological texts, describes how the obedient offerings of the nations will glorify God’s “name” (ὄνομα, Isa 60:9; cf. ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος, Rom 1:5). While Paul regards the eschatological events of verses 3–4 as having already been substantially completed, in verse 5 the obedience of the nations is presented as a “work in progress”; a work which he himself is accomplishing, and in which his readers are directly involved (Rom 1:6). Furthermore, Paul describes this work in the outer frame of Romans using the verb εὐαγγελίζεσθαι (Rom 1:15, 15:20) which, as we have seen, recalls the activity of both the eschatological herald of Isa 52:7, and the eschatological preacher of Isa 61:1. (pp. 134-135)

However,

in Rom 1:5, Paul significantly qualifies the term “obedience” (ὑπακοή) by the genitive “of faith” (πίστεως). As we have seen, in a number of Jewish eschatological expectations, the theme of Gentile obedience involved political subservience to Israel and her God (Isa 60:10 –14). Paul’s qualification, however, suggests that this term “obedience” ultimately needs to be read in light of the “faith” which he expounds in the inner argument of the letter as a key element of his “gospel.” In fact, within this inner argument, Paul often uses the word “faith” in antithetical and polemical contexts to describe an alternative view of the significance of Israel and her “Law” (cf. e.g. Rom 3:21–22, 27–28; 4:13–16; 9:30 –10:6). Furthermore, when we come to examine Rom 10:16 in detail, we will see that Paul claims that the true “obedience” of “faith” is not political subservience to Zion at all, but rather “faith” in the “report” about the suffering Servant (Isa 53:1). In light of Paul’s argument in the rest of Romans, then, it is clear that his view of the nature of Gentile “obedience” has an anomalous character. (pp. 136-137)

The full details of the argument and further references may be found in chapter 4 of the book (esp. pp. 130-137). The chapter is available from the publisher in electronic format:

Windsor, Lionel J. Paul and the Vocation of Israel: How Paul’s Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans. BZNW 205. Berlin / Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2014.

Published inIsaiahPaulRomans

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

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