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Faith of a mustard seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington

Barbara A. Woods-Washington

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it,  the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction;” (3:21-22).  Again, the eleventh occurrence of ‘pistis/faith’ in Paul’s Letter To The Romans.  It must be noted that what appears as a single use of ‘pistis/faith’ in this 22nd verse is in fact a double use.  Lost in translation is the form ‘pisteuontas’ rendered ‘believe’ not just here (RSV) but also (KJV).  We are, then, looking at the eleventh and twelfth occurrence of ‘pistis/faith’ in Paul’s Letter To The Romans.

Every Master of Divinity, every Doctor of Philosophy and Sacred Theology, more specifically those of Bible concentration,  are not so without the work of the German theologian Rudolph Bultmann.  As modern and contemporary as it gets, while he was born in 1883 he lived until 1976 having given 30 years of teaching at the University of Marburg.  Can’t begin to speak in this small space of his influence upon New Testament theology, only to say that two of his works, “Keryma And Myth”, and the one that the following excerpts are taken from remain among my most important sources.  In his “Primitive Christianity” (translated from German), he speaks to the meaning of the Law for Judaism in a chapter entitled ‘Jewish Legalism’.

“From the time of the Exile, Israel lost her independent existence as a state.  …Until the ‘Fall of Jerusalem’ in A. D. 70 the city and the temple were the focal point of the nation’s life.  …That status was gradually taken over by synagogue.  …it’s central feature was the reading of the scripture and it’s exposition in the sermon.  …By binding herself to her past history, Israel loosened her ties with the present, and her responsibility for it.  …God was no longer bound to his people.  …God’s purpose was no longer confined to Israel, but embraced the whole universe.  …Bible was no longer primarily an historical record of God’s dealings with his people, but a book of divine Law.  …The national leaders were neither the politicians, nor the priests, but the scribes, who combined the functions of lawyers and theologians.  Both religion and morality were enjoined to the Law, and were not therefore separable from jurisprudence.  …Fundamentally, the Law was incapable of undergoing any further development.  Since it was God’s Law, it was valid for all time in the exact form in which it was delivered from the time of Moses.  …Again, the Law failed to give guidance for the new circumstances which, despite the isolation of the people, inevitably arose through the influence of the outside world.  It was therefore necessary for the scribes to apply the old laws to the new conditions.  …This led to a good deal of discussion among the scribes, and to the forming of various schools of thought which took the place of political parties.  The Sadducees were the conservatives, the ‘orthodox’, accepting only those laws which were codified as the Pentateuch (that is, those laws which were incontrovertibly Mosaic), and rejecting the traditions which had grown up around the original deposit through generations of scribal activity.  The Pharisees, with their zeal for the strict regulation of daily life, formed a kind of monastic order.  …Eventually the tradition, as was inevitable, was fixed in writing, though the scribes resisted this development as long as they could  The oldest codification is the ‘Mishna’, a re-edition of earlier collections undertaken towards the end of the second century A.D.  … The ‘Talmud’ represents a continuation and commentary on the Mishna.”

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