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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; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins;  it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26) with 4 occurrence of ‘pistis/faith’.  Impossible to move on from here.

So vast and numerous are the commentaries that have been put forth historically on this Roman’s treatise, until there is no ‘newness’ of life in the pages of these theologians, except you ‘see (the word made flesh— incarnation) that Paul saw’.  It is for this reason that at this juncture of the ‘pistis/faith’ exploration of Bible, I continue to present, without interpretation, some of the words that have been written by several of the most influential scholars of New Testament studies.  Of the chosen excerpts from Bultmann in the previous column which sheds light on the hows and whys of the metagenesis of ‘The Law’, it must be borne in mind that in it “both religion and morality were enjoined”.

My introduction to Ernst Kasemann came through his work “Jesus Means Freedom” substantial to the discussion of ‘Liberation Theology’.  (James Cone?  You know!).  But, for this discussion his work “Commentary On Romans” is of essence.  Under the doctoral supervision of Bultmann, Kasemann earned his PhD in New Testament at the University of Marburg having written his dissertation ‘On Pauline Ecclesiology’.  He taught New Testament at the Universities of Mainz;  Gottingen;  and Tubingen where the “Commentary On Romans” was completed in 1980.  It, too, has been translated from German.

In his Chapter entitled ‘The Righteousness of God as the righteousness of Faith’, Kassemann identifies this text,  as ‘The Thesis (3:21-26).  “In sharp antithesis to the depicted hopelessness of mankind, 3:21-26 speaks of the manifestation of the righteousness of faith and its basis.  …Mankind’s justification is the actuality of God’s right to his creation as this reveals itself as saving power, and this remains the basis, force, and truth of justification— a truth which transcends the individual and is directed toward a new world.  Without such a distinction the doctrine of justification dissolves into an anthropology of faith and the ‘extra nos’ of salvation, which is given with the Christ event, cannot be strongly preserved.  …Just because the ‘nomos’ (law) is originally intended to be a witness to salvation, its interpretation as a summons to achievement is a Jewish misunderstanding.  On the other hand the law actually reaches people only in this religious perversion, so that only Christian faith can give it back its character as promise by putting an end to pious achievement. …For the Apostle the demonstration of divine righteousness is no longer the renewal of the covenant with God’s ancient people.  It is universally oriented to faith.  …The catchword righteousness of God was most welcome to Paul as indication of the change in aeons; nevertheless, he interpreted it in terms of his own theology.  …’o ek pisteos’ (the one with faith), which characterizes faith as the source of the new life, relativizes all other conditions of existence.”

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