Reviewing Campbell (4)

So far I’ve been positive. However (before I head off to SBL)…

Douglas is quite certain, and quite dismayed, that Romans 1-3, especially 1:18-32, contains a “prospective” soteriology of desert. But I would contend that this analysis is misguided. The allegedly prospective character of Romans 1-3 should not be confused either with Paul’s basic understanding of the structure of the gospel itself or with the structure of the “plan of salvation” that Paul presented to potential converts. Romans 1-3, as part of the rhetorical and theological structure of the letter to the Romans—not of Paul’s gospel or preaching—is exactly what Douglas says it is not: a retrospective argument.

The early part of Romans does not contain a soteriology of desert based on divine retributive justice but rather a theology (properly speaking) of fairness (divine impartiality) and an anthropology of commonality—specifically of common requirement and common inability due, ultimately, to a common enslavement. Indeed, there is really no soteriology in these chapters at all. The texts that might be read as presenting a soteriology of desert function rhetorically and theologically for Paul, not to portray the means to salvation, but rather to indicate the need for such a means outside of the self, precisely because of the explicit and implicit anthropological affirmations (what Douglas calls “ontology”) found throughout Romans 1-3. These affirmations can only be made retrospectively, in light of Christ and of being in Christ.

7 Responses to “Reviewing Campbell (4)”

  1. Geoff Smith says:

    After watching this session I went ahead and bought the book, but I feel that the greatest challenge to Campbell’s thesis is that there are actually no rhetorical signifiers that Paul is using impersonation in Romans 1:18-32, or anywhere really but Romans 7.

    I’m no expert on Paul, but there seems to be too much coherence in the letter for me to imagine that Paul is refuting the beginning of the letter in chapters 5-8.

  2. MJG says:


    Of course Douglas says that Phoebe interpreted it for the Roman audience (time did not permit me or him to say much about that), but of course that is an argument from silence—underdetermined, to say the least.

    The coherence is strengthened by the appearance of words and themes from 1:18-32 etc. later in the letter, which Seyoon Kim noted, too—and Douglas conceded that if Kim is right (and by implication I as well), he is wrong.

  3. Geoff Smith says:

    She certainly would have interpreted it for them. But again, why so complicated an explanation when the data clearly lends towards another interpretation. Chris Tilling seems to think that the book itself is more convincing. The problems raised by yourself in the session and in private conversations afterwards are glaring. The fact that a large amount of people who agree with Campbell’s interpretation of Paul’s gospel do no need to discard the beginning of the letter as Paul’s strawman is telling.

  4. MJG says:

    Chris’s post and the comments there, including one from Campbell (“Rachel”) are quite interesting. I just don’t think Douglas (Campbell) has dealt with my critique. Calling it another example of “reframing” does not answer the problems I have raised.

    BTW, several people asked Richard Hays what he thinks, and his response was, “Mike Gorman said what I think.” I asked Francis Watson what he thinks about the book, and he replied, “I don’t believe a word of it.”

  5. Geoff Smith says:

    Wow, Watson was harsh, but big claims need big arguments.

  6. MJG says:

    Yes, but that was not a public statement. His forthcoming review is barely critical, more of a summary (and a very fine one).

  7. [...] of God. Michael Gorman posted some previews of his contribution in four parts, one, two, three and four, with a retrospective part five after the panel. Amomng other bloggers Chris Tilling was quick off [...]

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