ROMANS, CHAPTER FOUR–FROM THE GREEK TEXT

In the fourth chapter of Romans Paul turns the corner on his opening thoughts, where he outlines that the whole world is condemned, in one way or another, and comes down a stretch where he explains why exactly not only faith in Jesus matters, but also why it works.  Romans four might be the most Jewish chapter in the whole New Testament.

Translation Notes:  The reoccurring word I have translated here as “counted” is a sticky wicket.  It can be rendered in so many different ways, and they all would be accurate.  It might be reason, reckon, thought, considered or even evaluated.  I seriously thought about going with evaluated, because I think that is part of what Paul is communicating:  “God evaluated Abraham’s faith as righteousness.”  I am also intrigued by the word being translated here, because it is in the same root family from which the English word “logic” comes from:  “It was a logical conclusion that Abraham’s faith was righteousness.”  I like that a lot because of the shocking and alarming juxtaposition of “logic” and “faith” so close together.

One other note, about verse 14.  I have rendered the last phrase as, “the promise doesn’t work” but the actual word should probably be translated as “broken.”  I opted not to do that because it would indicate that the covenant is broken, but that is not really what Paul is saying.  Therefore, I opted for “doesn’t work” instead.

Theological Notes:  This entire chapter reads like a proof for a geometry problem we all had to work on in high school.  Remember those?  This one goes like this.  If Abraham was counted as a righteous person before he was circumcised and if it was his faith that made him righteous, then he is the spiritual father of all those who have faith, regardless of genetics.

Paul then tells us that the object of faith now is Jesus and his resurrection.

Chapter Four
1. Then what can we say about Abraham, was it only biologically that he was found to be our ancestor?
2. If Abram was made righteous because of works he has something to boast about, but not before God.
3. For what does the scripture say? “But Abram believed God and it was counted as righteousness to him.”
4. Now, to someone who has worked wages are not counted as a gift of grace, but as a debt.
5. Yet to the one not working, the one believing in him who makes the ungodly righteous, it is his faith that is counted as righteous.
6. Just as David says, “Blessed is the person who God counts as righteous without works.
7. Blessed are those whose lawlessness has been forgiven and those whose sins are covered.
8. Blessed is a man whose sins the Lord does not hold against him.”
9. Therefore, who is this blessing for then, the circumcised or those uncircumcised too? We say, “He counted Abram’s faith as righteousness.”
10. When was he counted? Was it when he was circumcised or while uncircumcised? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
11. He received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness of faith he had when uncircumcised, to be a father of many people who believe yet are not circumcised, so that righteousness might be counted to them too,
12. to be not only a father to those who are circumcised, but to those who are outside of circumcision who follow the footsteps of the uncircumcised faith of our father Abraham.
13. It was not by law that the promise to be heirs of the world was made to Abraham’s offspring, but by the righteousness of faith.
14. If it is by law that they are inheritors, then faith is empty and the promise doesn’t work.
15. The law causes wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
16. That is why it is by faith through grace, so that the promise might be reliable for all the offspring; not only those from the law but those who also are from the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
17. Just as it is written, that “I have appointed you as a father to may nations,” in the sight of God, whom he believed gave life back from the dead and called forth things into being that did not exist.
18. He hoped against all hope. He believed that he would become, “A father to many nations,” according to the words spoken, “about his offspring.”
19. And not weakened in faith, he considered his already impotent one hundred year old body, not to mention Sarah’s dead womb,
20. but he did not doubt the promise of God in unbelief. Instead he was strengthened in his faith, giving glory to God.
21. And he was fully convinced that the one who had promised is able to do it.
22. And this is why, “He counted him righteous.”
23. That it was, “counted to him” was not written down for him only.
24. But it is for us that it is counted, those believing upon the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead.
25. Who was handed over because of our trespasses and was resurrected for our righteousness.

Romans One

Romans Two

Romans Three

ROMANS, CHAPTER THREE–FROM THE GREEK TEXT

So, I’m a little behind schedule.  I hope to make up time during the month of June and still finish this translation of the New Testament letter from Paul the Apostle to the church in Rome before Independence Day.

Translation Notes:  In rendering this particular passage, I opt for the phrase ‘made righteous’ where a lot of English translations choose ‘justified’ to allow the English reader to perceive it is all the same word group. Also note, my verses 25 and 26 are very different from most English translations. I don’t really know what their problem is?

Theological Notes:  In my opinion the key text here is Romans 3:22 & 23, with its ringing judgment that everyone, Jew and gentile alike, are not righteous before God but through faith they are able to receive grace.  This is the main work of Romans 3, to put everyone on equal footing.  God doesn’t play favorites, as we were told in Chapter 2, and Paul is telling us that here is the proof, proof that has been there all along, according to his long string of quotations from Psalms, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Proverbs in verses 10-19.

Chapter Three
1. What, then, is the Jewish advantage, and what exactly is the benefit of circumcision?
2. A lot, and in every possible way. It is primarily because they were entrusted with the words of God.
3. So what if some of them were unfaithful, did their lack of faith nullify the faith of God?
4. Of course not! People are liars, but God is true, just as it is written, “So that you will be vindicated in your words and victorious in your trials.”
5. Humanly speaking, then, if the righteousness of God leads to our unrighteousness, what can we say? Is God unrighteous in bringing the wrath?
6. Never! How then could God judge the world?
7. But if my lie magnified God’s truth and glory, then why am I being judged as a sinner?
8. And why not say—as we are slandered as having said—that we should do evil so good might come of it? Those who say this of us deserve their condemnation.
9. What now? Are we better? Not at all, for we determined beforehand that both Jews and gentiles are sinners.
10. Just as it is written, “There is no one righteous.
11. No one understands, no one seeks God.
12. Everyone turned away together, becoming useless. No one shows kindness, not even one.
13. Their throat has become an opened grave. Their tongues deceive. Asp venom is upon their lips.
14. Their mouths, full of curses and bitterness.
15. Their feet, swift to shed blood.
16. Ruin and misery is their way.
17. They have not known the way of peace.
18. The fear of God is not before their eyes.”
19. We know at least this much, that the law says it shuts every mouth of those under it, and eventually the whole world shall be held accountable to God.
20. Therefore, because of this sin consciousness, it is not from works of law that all people will be made righteous before him,
21. but now the righteousness of God has been made clear apart from the law as attested to by the law and the prophets.
22. Through the faith of Jesus Messiah the righteousness of God is for all those believing, for there is no difference.
23. For everyone has sinned and come up short of the glory of God.
24. They are being made righteous as a gift of his grace through the redemption that is in Messiah Jesus.
25. God designed a place of propitiation with blood by his faith as proof of his righteousness, by overlooking their sins committed beforehand.
26. God’s tolerance toward us back then is proof of his righteousness right now, to the righteous and those he is making right by the faith of Jesus.
27. Where then does all this boasting come from? That was done away with, but by what kind of law? Works? No—not at all, but through the law of faith.
28. For we reason people are made righteous in faith without works of the law.
29. Is God of the Jews only? Not also the gentiles? Yes, yes, in every way.
30. If true, then God will make righteous those circumcised by faith and those uncircumcised through faith as well.
31. Do we therefore abolish the law because of faith? Never. Instead we keep the law.

Romans, Chapter One

Romans, Chapter Two

DIGGING JESUS–A BOOK REVIEW OF JESUS AND HIS WORLD

Vacation allows me a chance to catch up with my reading, and I thought I would break from my packed schedule of doing nothing to share with you a review of one of the books.  It is Jesus and His World:  The Archaeological Evidence by Craig Evans.

I “dig” this book

Many of my readers know that I love archaeology and enjoy learning about how the material remains of the distant past enlighten my understanding of the Scriptural context.  Someday I hope to actually work an active dig.

Evans’ book has three things going for it.  First, it is written in simple terms that do not insult.  Second, it is written from a faith perspective without preaching.  Third, it does not try to do too much; the author simply outlines parts of Jesus’ life in connection with what has been discovered from archaeological spadework.  The book is a quick read at 152 pages plus detailed endnotes and references.

Introduction:The introduction deploys the writer’s tone for his subject as he answers how archaeology helps us understand the life of Christ as a historical reality rather than a theologically constructed fable.

Chapter OneIn the Shadow of Sepphoris:  Growing up in Nazareth:  Sepphoris was a major city near the village of Nazareth where Jesus grew up.  Sepphoris has also been excavated and provides many detailed insights into life in the 1stcentury.

The theater at Sepphoris–A place for hypocrites?

Of particular interest is Evan’s debunking of Jesus as “cynic philosopher” and his discussion of the discovery of the theater at Sepphoris and how some of Jesus’ recorded teachings might have been influenced by it.

Chapter TwoAmong the Devout:  Religious Formation in the Synagogue:  This might have been my favorite chapter.  Excavation of synagogues in Capernaum, Gamla, the Herodium, Jericho, Magdala, Masada, Modi’in, Qiryat Sefer and Shuafat put in context some of the history of Jesus’ life recorded in the gospels as well as the location of his teachings.

The Masada Synagogue: Columns, benches, Torah arks, and the “Seat of Moses”

Chapter ThreeIn the Books:  Reading, Writing, and Literacy:  This chapter is consumed with one key thought—“Could Jesus Read?”  The obvious answer to a Christ-follower is yes, as Christianity is a literary faith.  Evans gives evidence from the archaeological and epigraphical record to support this assertion.  A side fact in this chapter is Evan’s discussion about the long-term use of books.  In antiquity books could be expected to last from 150-500 years.  Evans puts forth the idea that manuscripts from the second and third century might well have been copied from autographs or from copies of autographs.

Chapter FourConfronting the Establishment:  Ruling Priests and the Temple:  Jesus faced his enemies head on in the synagogue, Temple courts, and in everyday life.  Much of the evidence we have about the ruling religious and political class of 1st century Judea comes from tombs.

Chapter FiveLife with the Dead:  Jewish Burial Traditions:  Evans covers a lot of different topics in this chapter, but his best work is perhaps the discussion of how the gospel record of Jesus death and burial is in complete accordance with the understood Jewish burial practices of the 1stcentury.  There is nothing irregular or awkward about anything that was done with Jesus—even that a member of the council that condemned him, Joseph of Arimathea, would be concerned about his burial.  This was my second favorite chapter.

“James the Brother of Jesus” Ossuary

Appendices—In addition to these chapters, the Evans includes two brief appendices.  One is on the salacious report of finding Jesus family tomb and his ossuary (guess, what, it is a fraud) and the other is speculation about what Jesus might have looked like.

I loved this book and think it is a must have for anyone who is interested in the life of Christ.