K:JNWTS 29/3 (December 2014): 17-42

A Review of Robert Jewett on Romans[1]

Part 1: Romans 1-8

Scott F. Sanborn

Robert Jewett's commentary on Romans in the Hermeneia series is a significant contribution, seeing that Dr. Jewett has spent a great deal of time studying this epistle. The strengths of the commentary include its excellent introduction and the structural insights that Jewett presents at the beginning of his discussion of each pericope. In the introduction, Jewett lays out a great deal of historical material to provide the context of the letter to the Romans. The Roman tenement dwellings are carefully described. And Jewett presents his own view of the purpose of the letter. He agrees with those who think there were factions in the Roman tenement church, which Paul must address in order to establish a unified base for support of his mission to Spain. He then goes on to interpret much of the letter in light of this perspective. Unfortunately, Jewett does not recognize that the social elements of the letter grow out of the semi-eschatological manifestation of justification in Christ. Thus, his commentary is overly flat and horizontal, following similar trends in the study of Paul made popular by E. P. Sanders. Below we will lay this out in more detail before examining the commentary as it moves from chapters 1 to 8 in Romans.

The Approach of the Commentary as a Whole: Its Horizontal Nature

Here we will focus on two aspects that are significant in this commentary as a whole—its horizontal/sociological (as opposed to vertical) nature and Jewett's treatment of justification. The two are interrelated, but we begin (for the sake of discussion) with the horizontal aspect. While Jewett considers the rhetorical character of the letter in light of major rhetorical handbooks (such as those of Cicero and Quintilian), his commentary highlights the sociology of the Greco-Roman world. This largely explains its essentially flat character, that is, it does not expand on the semi-eschatological nature of Romans. Together with this, it does not develop the redemptive-historical background of Paul's epistle. For instance, when dealing with "not ashamed" in Romans 1:16, Jewett does an adequate job highlighting the role of honor and shame in the Greco-Roman world, noting that the gospel of a crucified Messiah would have been considered shameful in that context. The Romans used crucifixion primarily as a form of shameful or humiliating death. However, Jewett does not expand on the significance of this lack of shame within its redemptive-historical background. For instance, we believe Paul here foreshadows his comments in Romans 10:11, in which "whoever believes in him will not be put to shame". Here Paul is quoting from Isaiah 28:16, in which those trusting will not receive the shame of exile that surrounds it in Isaiah 28:15 and 18. This exile is a revelation of the covenant curses of the law of Moses. And this reversal of curse and shame takes place in this new economy in which there is "no distinction between Jew and Greek" (Rom. 10:12), a designation that distinguishes this new economy from the former one under Moses. This reversal implicitly takes place in Christ's justifying work (Rom. 8: 34 in contrast to sufferings which were formerly manifestations of the old covenant curses, Rom. 8:35). This work brings a fuller manifestation of justification, which we call semi-eschatological justification. This manifestation of God's righteousness is found in Romans 1:16-17, a manifestation in which the old covenant curses are reversed. As a result, Paul is not ashamed. He instead is a participant in the eternal righteousness of eschatological fulfillment, now semi-realized in Christ.

Jewett need not reject this redemptive-historical perspective in order to do justice to the social elements of Paul's message. Instead, it is a result of this eschatological reversal of shame and exile that Jews and Gentiles are joined together in Christ. The universal (cosmic) nature of the eschaton is now semi-realized. Thus, the covenant cannot be focused in one geo-political nation. Instead, the inheritance of God's people is now transcendent in the Spirit. And this allows it to be cosmic and go out to all people. As a result, Paul's gospel is to both Greeks and Jews alike.

In this, the shame of both Greeks and Jews is reversed. To the Greeks and Romans, crucifixion would be a shameful form of death (as Jewett notes), and they would have considered following someone so crucified as shameful association. But for Paul, the Gentiles are already put to shame for rejecting the natural revelation of God. Instead of living in honor, they dishonor their bodies (Rom. 1:24) and so live in shame before the Almighty. For they are under God's wrath (Rom. 1:18), which is a foretaste of eternal tribulation (Rom. 2:9), the opposite of honor (Rom. 2:10). In that, they are committing dishonorable acts; they are receiving in themselves and their dishonor the due penalty for their perversion. They are dishonored. Thus, they are presently under God's wrath in which they are dishonored and put to shame.

At the same time, the Jews considered themselves ashamed as a result of Romans occupation. This occupation was parallel to Israel's exile and captivity in Babylon. As a result, the Jews looked forward to a day in which they would not be ashamed in captivity, a day in which the Messiah would deliver them from their enemies. To both groups, Paul is able to preach his gospel. To the Jews, he proclaimed that the day of deliverance had already arrived, that Christ (though crucified in shame) has been raised in glory, that he has brought the eschatological day of deliverance from exile. His kingdom was semi-realized through Christ's resurrection in the heavenly places (Rom. 4:22-5:2). And he will come again to deliver his saints to their eternal inheritance (Rom. 8:16-25).

Paul preaches the same message to the Gentiles. Christ, by being shamed has borne our shame. And his shame (together with our shame in him) has been reversed in his resurrection. In his resurrection, he has been declared righteous, no longer condemned or ashamed. And we likewise are declared just in him. His kingdom will not perish like the Roman empire for Christ's reign is semi-eschatological. Christ is exalted over Caesar and will one day put to shame all who do not trust in him (Rom. 2:9, the reverse of Rom. 2:10).

Our concern here is that Jewett's commentary is essentially horizontal, not vertical. It is focused on the social elements of the life of the church in Rome, not on the theological and eschatological glorification of God's name in Jesus Christ. That is, Jewett believes Paul's goal in writing this letter was to reconcile the weak and the strong in the Roman house churches so that they would be able to support his mission in Spain. While we believe this may be Paul's subordinate purpose (whether Paul is addressing problems in the Roman church remains debatable), this cannot be Paul's final goal. For Jewett, this horizontal purpose is Paul's end goal, his teleology. On the other hand, it seems to us that Paul's teleology is the revelation of the glory and righteousness of God. That is, Paul's final goal is the manifestation of the eschatological glory of God's name. And the manifestation of the glory of his name is caught up with defending and saving his covenant people as he promised. Thus, God's glory is most fully manifested in his power and righteousness whereby he brings eschatological salvation to his people, even now insofar as it is semi-realized in Christ. The righteousness (and thus glory of God's name) is already manifest in Christ's life, death (Rom. 5:18-19) and resurrection (Rom. 1:4; 4:25). It is further manifested after Christ's resurrection in the forensic and vital union of Jews and Gentiles with Christ's righteousness by faith (Rom. 3:21-22; 16:25-26). And it will be most fully manifested when Christ returns for the salvation of his people (Rom. 5:2; 8:20-21) and the judgment of those who oppose him (Rom. 9:17, 22). That is, Paul's goal is the glory of God among his people, and for this purpose he writes to them, further desiring that they may participate in the manifestation of that glory through supporting his mission in Spain. Thus, his seemingly horizontal purposes are always in light of his vertical and eschatological teleology. And thus, they take on the air of that present and future heavenly environment of the Spirit of Christ. That is, God's salvation of his people manifests his power and righteousness and so brings the nations to worship him for the greatness of his name.

One further indication of this is the flow of the epistle itself. Romans 14, in which Paul deals with the relationship of the weak and the strong is not the crescendo of the letter, as Jewett's horizontal approach would seem to imply. Structurally Romans 15:7-9 comes closer to fulfilling that role. For its note of praise among all nations reverses the false idolatrous worship of Romans 1:18-32. In light of the fuller revelation of God's righteousness now manifest with Christ's death and resurrection (as Paul expounds it in Romans), Gentiles as well as Jews are made equal participants in that righteousness by grace. God thereby shows himself to be truthful in keeping his promises (Rom. 15:8, a theme connected with his righteousness, Rom. 3:4-7; 9:6, 14). This leads to the praise of God's righteous name among all nations (Rom. 15:9). Among all the gods/idols of the nations, he is the only wise God (Rom. 16:27). In this, he reveals his eschatological glory even now in Christ Jesus.

The Approach of the Commentary as a Whole: On Justification

Focusing as he does on the horizontal, Jewett does not do justice to the vertical manifestation of justification in the present time (as we have noted). As a result, Jewett does not recognize the essential nature of this justification which is now more fully manifested. That is, he does not believe that justification involves the forensic imputation of Christ's righteousness. However, the final judgment of eschatology (both in justification and condemnation) is essentially forensic. The justification of the saints in all ages manifests this forensic declaration before the time, as a foretaste of final eschatological vindication. To put it another way, the present semi-eschatological nature of the kingdom more fully manifests the justification of the saints that has always existed since the fall because the essence of that justification was always dependent on eschatology from the beginning. That is, when Abraham was justified he was experiencing a foretaste of the final eschatological justifying verdict of God before the time in anticipation of its greater manifestation in this semi-eschatological age and the final age to come. The essence of his justification was a forensic eschatological act. It is because of this that when the eschaton is now more fully manifested in these last times, the justifying verdict of believers is also more fully manifested. It is not something de novo.

But Jewett, focusing on the horizontal cannot see this vertical justifying act of God. As a result, following much modern scholarship, Jewett teaches that the Reformation was not correct about justification. The reason he gives is that we have now discovered that justification is relational. Here he is following in the footsteps of James Dunn and others who promote the New Perspective on Paul. They wrongly conclude from the relational aspects of justification that it cannot involve forensic imputation. However, Jewett produces no clear proof to show that because righteousness is relational it cannot involve forensic justification. We, on the other hand, would argue that the relational nature of righteousness does not make it impossible for this relation to be forensically imputed to sinners. Relationship is simply an essential part of righteous for a human being. But that righteousness constituted in relationship can be imputed to others. As a result, they are forensically declared to have the same relationship. In other words, if a human being (such as Christ) is righteous, his righteousness exists because of his relationship to God. The relationship between God the Father and Christ is one that involves a vital relationship between the inner heart of Christ and God the Father. For Christ the Mediator, his righteousness is dependent on his relationship to the Father. Rectitude of relationship to God is essential for true righteousness. But this does not forbid Christ from imputing to sinners the status of that relationship. That is, he can impute to them his own legal status of having a perfect relationship to God. And he can do this without infusing into them a perfect internal disposition toward God. That is, they are legally accounted as if they loved God perfectly with a flawless inner disposition. But Christ is able to credit this to them without simultaneously giving them a perfect disposition. Further, Christ's righteousness involves his perfect active obedience to God's will. And he is able to credit this to them without producing within them that perfect active obedience. At least for Jewett to make his case, he must prove that this these things cannot logically cohere. He must prove that righteousness as a relation logically excludes the possibility that it can simultaneously involve imputation. But he has not done this. We hope we have shown that the two are logically compatible. Thus, to discover if Paul believed both, we must look at his other passages on the subject. And here we find that Paul indeed taught that justification involves imputation (Rom. 4:8-10).

In the above, we have considered the relationship between Christ in his human nature and God the Father. But the relational aspect of righteous may also reflect the eternal relationship between God the Father and Christ as God (Rom. 9:5). Here we suggest that both the unity of God's being and the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity are the inseparable ground of all his attributes. That is, when we consider the one (unity of God's being), we are lead to the three persons. And when we consider the three persons, we are lead to the one. In terms of the love of God, Christians point out (in distinction from Islam) that if God is not both unity and three persons, we cannot do full justice to him as a loving God. Certainly, Islam can say that God loves himself. But this love is not love in the sense that love goes out to another. They cannot say that one person of the Godhead expresses his love to another person of the Godhead. In this, we find the ground of God loving another. As Cornelius Van Til points out, the Trinity provides the final explanation of the one and the many. And here we see the intratrinitarian love, the one and many, as the ground of God creating image bearers whom he loves. If this can be said of God's love (something so characteristic of God that John can say "God is love"), then why can it not be said of his other attributes, including righteousness? Thus, God's righteous intratrinitarian relationships provide the ground for God's righteous relationship to the many made in his image. Therefore, we conclude that the relational nature of righteousness does not limit it to the horizontal relationships between human beings. While Jewett does not quite say this, his approach undermines the forensic vertical nature of imputed righteousness in the interest of righteousness as relational. If on the other hand, the relational begins in the vertical relationship, and is manifested in the righteous relationship between Christ and God the Father, this righteousness can be imputed to others (Jew and Gentile alike) so that they are now related to one another as those equally justified in Christ Jesus. Thus, the vertical semi-eschatological relationship transforms and defines the horizontal relationships in the church.

Admittedly, Jewett would not defend the Trinity from Romans, believing that Romans does not portray the Spirit is a divine person. However, we beg to differ for the Spirit is a personal witness, Rom. 8:16. If righteousness is relational (as Jewett argues) then it makes sense that the Spirit who is righteousness (2 Cor. 3:8-9) should be a person.

Following Jewett's rejection of forensic imputation, he also suggests that the dichotomy between justification and sanctification has been transcended. Let us briefly note that this probably also reflects Jewett's own dialogue between Protestants and Catholics in his study of Romans. Here Jewett reflects the present ethos of ecumenical conciliation. We will deal with these issues surrounding justification in greater detail as we consider Jewett's comments on the various chapters of Romans. Thus, the remainder of this review will primarily go through the commentary in sequence, beginning with the critical introduction and then covering Jewett's comments on Romans 1-8. Jewett's one-volume commentary also deals with chapters 9-16 of Romans, but we hope to deal with those chapters in a separate review.

The Commentary's Critical Introduction

Jewett discusses numerous historical details in an engaging and enlightening manner. For instance, with respect to Tertius (Rom. 16:22), he discusses the role of the scribe in the Roman empire. The difficulty and time consuming nature of using the available writing materials at the time explains why scribes were used. That is, it took more time to write down letters. (This may be why even Thomas Aquinas had several secretaries, each receiving dictation on a separate work.) He deals with scribal education, the place of shorthand, and the scribe's role in delivering and explaining some correspondence.

Jewett's introduction to the historical background is well researched and informative. While all may not agree with his conclusions (some of which have more evidential support than others), he provides a well-reasoned case. Among other things, he argues that later churches were often built on sites that originally housed the early church. Some of these churches were clearly built on cites that were once occupied by tenement housing. Thus, he argues that some of the early churches were not house churches (i.e., churches that met in the house of a wealthy patron), but were rather communal churches that met in the downstairs shop of tenement apartment or one of the more spacious apartments. Since Priscilla and Aquila probably did business in a shop at the bottom of such an apartment building, theirs may have housed such a church.

Based on historical evidence, Jewett concludes that the Christian population in Rome was probably larger than some theories can account for. Since only 20-40 people could reasonably have met in one location, there is good reason to believe that there were numerous gatherings of Christians in Rome. Jewett does not call these churches because he assumes (or so it seems) that a church is a place that people meet, such as a house church. However, this reviewer can see no reason why each of these local gatherings should not be called churches even if they met in tenement locations rather than in the house of a wealthy patron.

Jewett follows the tradition (which he notes in Kummel's Introduction to the New Testament) that Paul wrote Romans to garner support for his mission in Spain. He adds to this a historical explanation as to why this may have been especially crucial for this mission. The historical evidence does not suggest that any synagogues were in Spain at the time Paul intended to embark on his mission. Thus, Paul's usual method of first going to the synagogue would not be available to him. As a result, there would also be no God-fearing Gentiles in the region to provide him with patronage as he set up shop in a new town. Thus, he would need to have patronage before going to Spain. He would also need any contacts in Spain that the Roman Christians could provide him.

Further, this would be the first time that Paul would encounter a significant language barrier. Only a few locations on the eastern coast of Spain spoke Greek. The heavily Roman occupied areas used Latin. However, many of the people were still hostile to Rome and spoke a variety of languages. How could Paul engage these people without hostility and communicate with them? Paul clearly needed contacts familiar with the people and languages of the region to fulfill his mission.

At the same time, Paul's mission would not be successful if the church in Rome (who supported that mission) continued to live with the same imperial worldview that oppressed the people of Spain. Jewett sees this imperial worldview in the honor/shame perspective of the Greco-Roman world. Jewett finds this theme throughout the letter. Paul thus counters the honor/shame worldview wherever it is found in the Roman church.

To incorporate chapters 12-14 into his explanation of Paul's purpose in writing, Jewett suggests that several churches in Rome considered themselves better than other churches in Rome. (Here, unlike Jewett, we are using the term church to include gatherings of Christians in tenement locations.) In this respect, they lived according to the honor/shame perspective of the Roman imperial world. Paul's exhortation for the weak and the strong to get along is an exhortation for various churches to get along. Presumably Jewett thinks that some of these churches were composed mainly of Jews (the weak regarding diet) and others of Gentiles (the strong). Even if this is not the case (and each church was a mixture of both), Jewett's claim may still have validity, representing tensions within local congregations.  Jewett goes into a historical explanation of how the Jews were expelled, losing their position in the church of Rome, only to find themselves disregarded when they returned. For him, this supports the notion that the Jews composed one of the groups while the Gentiles composed another. If the church in Rome continues to live according to the honor/shame worldview of the Roman empire, it will be difficult for it to make inroads into the Spanish world, which finds it oppressed by the Roman empire and its worldview. Therefore, Paul's attempt to reconcile Jews and Gentiles in the church of Rome fits well with his missionary goals.

Jewett's suggestion is intriguing and may help piece together the various pieces of Romans. However, in the form presented by Jewett, it may contain an implicitly false assumption. Without further explanation, Jewett seems to imply that the Spanish rejected the honor/shame worldview of the Roman empire. However, Jewett has not shown by any historical research that this is the case. Is it not equally plausible that the honor/shame worldview was a worldview that was common to the Mediterranean region, irrespective of the ruling authorities? Some sociologists have suggested that European cultures where people spend more time living outdoors are more social than those who spend more time indoors. These more social cultures are often thought of as honor/shame cultures. And people who are indoors more frequently (as in northern Great Britain) and are thus less social are often thought of as more introspective. Thus, these cultures are less focused on honor/shame and more focused on guilt. Whether this explanation is adequate is another question. If anything, these cultural propensities of social honor and shame versus isolation and inward guilt may only be matters of emphasis. However, the point is that Spain may have been an honor/shame society just as much as Greece or Rome. The only difference may have been that the Spanish had Spanish honor and shame as opposed to Roman honor/shame. Admittedly, it may have been less pronounced among the Spanish since they were under subjugation (which tends to humble a people to some degree). But these issues require more research, similar to that which Jewett has painstakingly given to other matters.

Nonetheless, Jewett's explanation (with a little reworking) may be enlightening. Perhaps Paul finds in the Roman church the honor/shame perspective that is opposed to the gospel. This would be a hindrance to the gospel for at least a couple of reasons. First, if the Spanish were to sense an air of cultural superiority in the Christians, they might associate them with the Roman empire that was oppressing them. But second and more importantly, if the Christians were to come with that air of superiority, they would not embody the gospel, which alone can break down all the worldly barriers that separate human beings. That is, the nature of the gospel requires the union of those in Christ. It witnesses to something higher than what the Spanish themselves have attained. For they are still too much like their captors. This is important because Jewett's explanation as given leaves the impression that the Spanish are innocent of honor/shame and that the culprit is the Roman empire. Thus, Jewett's commentary becomes an analysis of political oppression of the underdog (who is otherwise weak and innocent) rather than a message that liberates all oppressed peoples to a heavenly kingdom (even those in bondage in Spain).

Finally, Jewett deals with textual criticism. In this light, he follows many higher critical scholars in rejecting Rom. 16:25-27 as part of the original text.  However, the majority of our manuscripts have these verses even if they are not found in this position. For example, one of the oldest manuscripts (P46) has these verses, even though it places them at the end of chapter 15. Thus, we have quoted these verses in the assumption that they are original. Now we turn to consider Jewett's comments on chapters 1 through 8 of Romans.

Romans 1

Jewett's discussion of Romans 1:18-32 is generally well done. He divides the discourse appropriately, but does not add much to our knowledge of its rhetorical construction. He misses the eschatological thrust of the chapter. However, he rejects the Barthian approach to discarding natural theology. And he rightly suggests that Paul's claim that we know God by means of reflection on the natural world rather than on ideal forms may be a rejection of Platonism. Like Cranfield, Jewett argues for the universal character of the condemnation, not restricting the passage to Gentiles. He continually emphasizes the passive verbs and argues that they represent God's judgment on humanity. And he rejects the position that Paul is not opposing homosexuality in Romans 1, even though he thinks we have gone beyond Paul. At least, kudos to him here for not trying to mold the text after his own views.

We would suggest to him that Paul presents an eschatological goal of natural revelation in Rom. 1:18-32. That is, if one were to worship and serve God and love her neighbor aright she would be living a life in accord with the coming eschatological glory of God. That is, one would be living a life of honor looking forward to the future honor of the eschatological consummation. Such a life perfectly carried out would be rewarded with eschatological glory. This is what natural revelation offers to humanity. This appears to be the case when we notice that all the elements presented in natural revelation (righteousness, truth, glory, honor, immortality) are associated with eschatology in Rom. 2:7-8. Paul's discussion in Rom. 2:7-8 naturally flows out of the discussion in Rom. 1:18-32. This suggests that Paul has already been considering natural revelation in terms of eschatology in chapter 1. That is, the movement from chapter 1 to 2 makes a clear connection between those elements revealed in natural revelation and later in the law. Thus, those elements associated with the law (Rom. 2:7-8) are implicitly associated with natural revelation in Rom. 1:18-32. We will not take the time to develop this further here. However, if this is the case it presents a framework in which to understand the reversal in Romans. That is, the nations reject God and his transcendent eschatological consummation in Rom. 1. But God reverses this in Christ by bringing eschatological justification (semi-realized in Christ) and with it a foretaste of his eschatological glory to the nations. In revealing the eschatological glory, power and righteousness of his name to the nations, they have come to believe in Christ. And so they put aside their idols and worship his excellent name (Rom. 15:7), now semi-participating in that eschatological glory which they had formerly rejected.

Romans 2

Jewett has some useful reflections on Rom. 2. He believes that Paul's equalizing of Jew with Gentile in this chapter sets us up for Rom. 14, in which the weak and the strong are put on a similar footing. This is suggestive, but we are afraid that Jewett limits his concerns too much to this social element (as we have already indicated). Paul's primary focus in Rom. 2 is convicting the Jew's of their vertical relationship with God and their rejection of his eschatological glory. This central break with God results in their social relationship of pride over against the Gentile world. Thus, God rebukes their social pride vis-a-vis the Gentiles in order to convict them of their rebellion against God, which is the root of their problem.

We agree with Jewett's interpretation of Rom. 2:15 and think it has this function—rebuking Jewish pride with Gentile belief. Jewett agrees with Cranfield (following Augustine) in seeing the people in Rom. 2:15 (like Rom. 2:28-29) as converted Gentile Christians. Paul uses these converted Gentiles to rebuke the Jewish pride of exclusivity in order to lead them to God. The Jews cannot depend on their attainment of the law for salvation. That is not what defines salvation, for those without the law can be saved when God writes the law upon their hearts. Thus, the Jews who rely on the reception of the law (as that which distinguishes the true Jew) will be condemned. For the true Jew is one inwardly, by the Spirit, not by the written code (Rom. 2:29).

However, Jewett does not point out in Rom. 2 (or in Rom. 1) that Paul argues for the universal sinfulness and condemnation of humanity in order to argue for the necessity of their justification by the forensic imputation of righteousness. As most traditional Protestant commentators have seen it, Paul argues both universal sin and condemnation in Rom. 1-2 to set the stage for its opposite, the forensic imputation of Christ's righteousness and justification for believers. But this is not found in Jewett in this context (at least to this reviewer's recollection). Admittedly, Jewett does believe that Rom. 1 argues for the universal nature of sin. But Paul's purpose in this (according to Jewett) is to humble the Christian factions in Rome and not to set us up for the forensic imputation of Christ's righteousness in justification. This will have implications for his treatment of Rom. 3ff.

We would also encourage Jewett to consider something he passes by, namely, the significance of Paul's quotation of Ezek. 36:20 in Rom. 2:24 for the theme of the righteousness of God in Romans. That verse in Ezekiel: "When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned my holy name, because it was said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord; yet they have come out of his land.'" God then promises to glorify his name among the nations by returning his people to his land (Ezek. 36:21-24). To summarize matters, we might say that the text assumes a dilemma (but only from a human point of view). On the one hand, God must execute his wrath as he did by sending Israel into exile, Ezek. 36:18. On the other hand, if the nations overcome God's people and bring them into exile it will appear that the gods of the nations are more powerful than the God of Israel. And this will profane God's name. So God must resolve this dilemma. To eternally glorify his name, God must find a way to execute his wrath and at the same time bring his people to their holy inheritance forever. Only this would fulfill his covenant promises. We think the apostle Paul (as others before him) finds the resolution of this dilemma in the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ bears the curse of the law (and thus its resulting exile) in his death. Having satisfied God's wrath, Christ is raised to the right hand of God, entering the inheritance of the Spirit without end. And so he brings his people into this inheritance in the Spirit forever. This is the fulfillment of the prophetic eschatological promises, now semi-realized. Therefore, God fulfills his word through Ezekiel and manifests that he alone is truly just and greater than all the so called gods of the nations. He magnifies the holiness and transcendence of his great name. Seeing this, the nations praise his name forever.

We believe this provides a background to the righteous of God now manifested in Romans. (Even if Paul is alluding to Isa. 52:5 in Rom. 2:24 a similar background is evident, Isa. 52:6-7, 10.) In Ezekiel, the moral corruption of Israel lead to their exile and the profanation of God's name. Here in Rom. 2:17-29, Israel's moral corruption once again forms the background which sets us up for the next chapter. Will God be faithful to his word in spite of Israel's sin (Rom. 3:3)? Yes, God prevails when he is judged by the nations (Rom. 3:4). He keeps his covenant promises and so justifies his name (Rom. 3:4). In this roundabout way, our unrighteousness makes the righteousness of God stand out (Rom. 3:5). "Through my lie, the truth of God abounded to his glory" (Rom. 3:7). By keeping his covenant promises in spite of Israel's sin God glorifies his righteous name. And so God demonstrates his righteousness in the work of Christ (Rom. 3:25-26). As a result, the nations respond in faith (Rom. 3:29) and are justified in him (Rom. 3:26, 29). We think this provides a vertical eschatological orientation to God's righteousness in Romans (one with social implications) that should encourage Jewett to abandon his primarily horizontal perspective.

Romans 3

Jewett's horizontal orientation to Romans is so pronounced that he interprets numerous elements of the letter as mere means to horizontal ends. This leads him to conclude that Paul does the same, even to the point of bending biblical texts. In Romans 3, Jewett believes that Paul strains the meaning of Old Testament texts to prove that Jews and Gentiles are all sinners, primarily to show Christian Jews and Gentiles in the Roman church that they are sinners. Paul's hope (for Jewett) is that this will humble them so that they will be reconciled to one another (Rom. 14) and thereby be able to support his mission to Spain together. As noted, Jewett believes that Paul is pushing these texts to bear a meaning that they do not really have, and Paul does this for his horizontal goal (as Jewett sees it).

It is this horizontal goal and not justification in the sight of God that is central to Jewett. Thus, as we have seen, for Jewett Rom. 1 and 2 do not prove the universal sinfulness and condemnation of humanity in order to set us up for justification as the forensic imputation of their opposite, namely righteousness and justification. And this would make sense since Jewett does not ascribe to Paul a Reformation doctrine of justification nor to a doctrine of propitiation (or even expiation!) in Rom. 3:23-26.

Here we find a note of unnecessary reductionism in Jewett's approach. Why can he not argue that Paul is providing the background for a Reformation doctrine of justification, and further argue that the equal participation of weak and strong in justification by grace alone provides the ground for reconciling these two parties? This mercy of imputed righteousness (Rom. 12:1) would seem to be a most forceful argument for the reconciliation of the weak and the strong in Rom. 14. All have been equally justified in Christ since imputed righteousness is perfect and cannot exist in various degrees. Therefore, one in Christ cannot exalt himself over another. All in Christ should be reconciled.

But Jewett cannot do this within the paradigm he has adopted, which (with all its finer nuances) still appears too much to resemble James Dunn and others who argue that justification is simply the reconciliation of parties opposed to one another. In fact, as we have intimated, this is how Jewett interprets Rom. 3:23-26. Paul is not speaking here about propitiation or expiation but about social reconciliation.

Reconciliation with God is central to this reconciliation, but Jewett defines this reconciliation in a way that stems more from liberal Protestantism than the New Testament. That is, Jewett argues that reconciliation with God takes place when people turn themselves away from their hostility towards God and making themselves friendly toward God. That is, it does not suggest that God is angry with humans (as sinners) and that Christ's death and resurrection satisfies God's anger toward sinners, so that he is no longer hostile toward them. Jewett quotes Matera to the effect that this traditional view does not make sense of God's relationship to human beings. And for this Jewett appeals to 2 Cor. 5:17, claiming that the reconciliation here envisaged is human beings turning away from their hostility toward God. We believe 2 Cor. 5:17 teaches the opposite, that it is an angry God who turns aside his wrath from human beings. In this serious blunder (which we believe compromises the essence of Paul's gospel), Jewett fails to recognize a cogent argument from one of the commentator's he quotes, namely John Murray. Murray has shown that when Paul says, "reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor. 5:17) this does not mean that God was turning a hostile world (angry at God) toward him, so that this angry world would now befriend him. Instead, it means that God was angry with sinners and he is now pacified toward them. For this Murray notes some parallels. Perhaps the most striking is that in Matthew 5:23-24 where Matthew says, "if . . . your brother has something against you . . . go . . . be reconciled to your brother". Here it is clearly the brother who is angry. And the person who is angry follows the phrase "be reconciled to" in the sentence. Be reconciled to your angry brother. Change his disposition toward you. So 2 Cor. 5:20 reads, "be reconciled to God". The one who is angry (God) follows the phrase "be reconciled to" in the sentence. In accordance with this, Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:19, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself" (emphasis added, see also v. 18). God is the one who was angry and needed pacification. And this is supported by the remainder of the verse ("not counting their trespasses against them") as if he would be against them, but no longer now in Christ. So Jewett is not only mistaken about the lack of propitiation in Rom. 3:23-26 (of which we have yet to argue), but he is also mistaken about the doctrine of reconciliation. We do not deny that sinners are also turned from hatred toward God to a loving enjoyment of him. However, to deny (as Jewett does) that reconciliation involves God turning from his anger toward sinners in Christ to befriend them is to undermine the essence of Paul's doctrine of reconciliation.

The above discussion of reconciliation implies propitiation, turning aside God's wrath. This is usually found in Rom. 3:23-26. However, Jewett translates the Greek word often translated "propitiation" or "expiation" in 3:25 as "mercy seat". This is not uncommon, but it helps him avoid the notion of propitiation. But even this translation should not gut the passage of an allusion to propitiation as Jewett implies. For the mercy seat of the Old Testament itself implied propitiation. This is suggested by the writer to the Hebrews: "Therefore, he had to be made like his brethren in all things, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17). One of the main duties of the high priest was to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:14-15) for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:16). This Hebrews describes as making propitiation, to turn aside God's wrath. Hebrews speaks this way as if it were simply discussing something well known among the Jews. And so, whether Rom. 3:23-26 should be translated propitiation or mercy seat, propitiation is implied. However, Jewett's rejection of propitiation (implying the centrality of the vertical relationship to God) fits with his horizontal approach to reconciliation and justification.

Why does Jewett reject the Reformation doctrine of justification? His reasons seem similar to those of Hendrick Boers in The Justification of the Gentiles. There Boers observes that Paul is arguing against the exclusivity of groups, such as the exclusivity of Jewish privilege. Thus, suggests Boers, Paul is arguing against all forms of exclusivity per se. As a result, Paul would be opposed to modern forms of Christianity which distinguish those who trust in Christ from those who do not, as if only those who trust in Christ will be saved. For such a distinction implies that those who trust in Christ thereby form an exclusive group. But Paul argues against exclusive groups in Romans and Galatians. Thus, he would be opposed to this form of Christianity. Such is Boers's line of reasoning, and Jewett's argument seems similar. At least, Jewett argues that Paul would be opposed to anyone who says that believing a certain doctrine of justification is necessary to have favor with God. For one thereby creates an exclusive group of people who are distinguished from others. And Paul's main point in Romans (for Jewett) is to argue against exclusive groups and thereby reconcile the Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome. It makes sense from this that Jewett argues that Paul's inclusive statements of Jews and Gentiles imply universalism, every single man, woman and child will be saved in the end.

However, this sets Paul against Paul. When interpreting Paul we should take into account all that he says and seek to reconcile his many statements with one another as we would do with any great thinker. At the very least, we cannot draw conclusions from Paul's statements that flatly contradict other claims he makes. And he clearly argues that some people will receive eternal judgment, even in Romans (9:22; the wrath of 9:22 must be as eternal as the opposite glory of 9:23).

Thus, how do we interpret Paul's exclusive statements? Paul is not arguing against exclusivity per se, but against exclusivity according to the flesh. No earthly standard or descent provides the basis of distinguishing one group from another, especially when such people have been united by the Spirit. Jewish descent according to the flesh, for instance, does not distinguish one from others. However, Paul does argue for exclusivity according to the Spirit. That is, those who have the Spirit of Christ belong to Christ and possess eternal life. But those devoid of the Spirit (to use Jude's language) are on the way to judgment unless they repent and trust in Christ. As Paul says, "if anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed" (1 Cor. 16:22). Their end will be eternal destruction under God's wrath (1 Thess. 5:3, 9; 2 Thess. 1:9).

Paul's view of universal sinfulness indicates that people do not differ from one another. That is, they do not make themselves to differ. They do not differ in themselves from others. "For who makes you to differ? What do you have that you did not received? And if you did received it why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7). Paul's view of unconditional grace follows his view of universal moral inability. It is God who effects grace in their hearts and so they believe, and it is God who efficaciously gives them every good work of his Spirit. Thus, in themselves, they do not differ from others. However, he has given some his Spirit and not others as Romans itself testifies (Rom. 8:5, 13, 15, 28, 30; 9:11-13, 18, 22-24). As a result, he has made a church of trusting souls who have a unique relationship to him not shared by others. They alone are justified by his grace and others are not. Thus, we must explain the nature of this justification since Paul argues for its nature. And since this nature does not imply that every single individual is accepted by God, we must look elsewhere.

This is where the Reformation recognized statements in Romans such as Romans 8:33-34, "God is the one who justifies, who is the one who condemns?" This passage opposes justification to condemnation. The same is done in Romans 5:18. If condemnation is found in a law court setting, so also must its opposite be, namely justification. And as condemnation does not mean to make evil so justification cannot mean to make righteous (as Jewett translates it). Instead, as condemnation means to declare someone evil and pass the appropriate sentence, so justification must mean to declare someone righteous and pass the appropriate sentence. Does this mean that the justified are in themselves righteous and so are declared to be such in justification? Clearly not; Paul argues that all are unrighteous (Rom. 3:10). Thus the justified must receive their righteousness elsewhere.

Romans 4

But from where and how is this righteousness transferred to them? Is it infused in them? No! then how is it transferred to them? We will seek to deal with this question as we consider Rom. 4 and Jewett's comments on this chapter. As we have seen, justification cannot mean to make someone righteous. Thus, the other language used to describe the reception of righteousness must fit with this. The language used for this transfer is that of imputation. Romans 4:9 states, "it was imputed to him for righteousness."

Here we will focus on how Jewett deals with imputation in this chapter and reflect upon it, building the argument we began on justification above. Jewett rightly recognizes that Paul builds his argument about Abraham in such a way as to argue for the justification of the Gentiles. That is, since Abraham was uncircumcised when he was justified, he can become the father of uncircumcised, yet justified Gentiles. In his comments on Rom. 4:9 (the passage cited above), he points to the Day of Atonement and the forgiveness of sins connected with it. He notes that in this context and David's own day, the focus of forgiveness was upon Israel. For Paul however, Gentiles are justified equally with Jews. These historical and social comments are the primary focus of his commentary on this chapter. And many of these surface comments, as far as they go, are salient. Not all commentators have done justice to them, and perhaps they can be useful to various interpreters. We might add as an aside that one may benefit from his rhetorical analysis of this chapter, as with many others.

However, Jewett does not deal with the nature of imputation directly where one would expect to find it, e.g., Rom. 4:9. Jewett instead focuses on the historical and social relationships involved in justification. This follows the horizontal propensities of his commentary. And when he discusses justification, he primarily limits it to forgiveness or making righteous, so as once again to focus on the horizontal. In this, he is in line with James Dunn and other advocates of the New Perspective on Paul. Once again, there is no real concrete reflection on justification as a foretaste of the final eschatological verdict and the implications of this for the present nature of justification as imputation of righteousness. He does not carefully consider the horizontal in light of the vertical vector of eschatology.

We will here consider probing the question of imputation and then (at the end of our discussion of Rom. 5) see how a Reformation view of justification can be related to the historical elements that Jewett rightly points out in the text. First, we note that imputation is not the infusion of something, but the legal crediting to one's account of something. As Paul says to Philemon, concerning his slave Onesimus, "but if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge (in Greek "impute") that to my account" (Phil. 1:18). Paul is not asking to have something infused into him, but to have something legally credited to his account. So when Paul states in Romans 4: 9, "it was imputed to him for righteousness," he is saying that God legally credited something to Abraham for righteousness.

What then did God credit to Abraham's account? Proponents of the New Perspective on Paul do not want justification to involve the imputation of Christ's righteousness to believers. Classic Arminians answer that Abraham's own faith itself was the righteousness credited to him for righteousness. To defend this view, they argued that Paul simply states that faith was credited to him as righteousness. But in defense of the Reformation's teaching of justification, we suggest that this is a summary way of putting the matter and the language is not to be pressed strictly as if the faith itself was righteousness. This is a shorthand way of describing the means by which Abraham received the righteousness. That Paul viewed the matter this way can be seen by his more precise statements on the matter. First, he says, "we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Rom. 5:2). Here faith is simply a means of access into grace, not the substance of the righteousness itself. This clarifies what he means in Rom. 5:1 with the words "justified by faith". A similar perspective is found in Phil. 3: 9: "and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." Here faith itself is not the righteousness. Instead faith is the means of receiving something else as righteousness, some other righteousness which is from God. Since this faith is in Christ, it is reasonable to conclude that this righteousness comes from Christ. This is cemented by Paul's expression, "to be found in him", that is in Christ. It is "in Christ" that he has righteousness. This reminds us of the Psalms in which God is the Rock of his people, the rock in which they hide. They are in God and there find their protection and salvation. God is their salvation. So here, Paul wishes to find himself in Christ as his hiding place. He wishes to find his righteousness in Christ. Thus, Christ's is his righteousness. In other words, Christ's righteousness is Paul's righteousness. It is Christ's righteousness imputed to him.

Romans 5

The fact that Paul teaches this imputed righteousness in Romans is indicated by Rom. 5:12-21. Rom. 5:12 sets up this discussion by stating, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." The question arises here, does this verse speak about inherited depravity as the means of our condemnation or does it speak about Adam's sin being legally imputed to his posterity resulting in their death? The question is an important one for justification because of the parallel between Adam and Christ in Rom. 5:12-21. If in Rom. 5:12, Paul is discussing inherited internal depravity arising from Adam, then he is discussing infused internal righteousness given by Christ. If on the other hand (as we believe), Rom. 5:12 deals with the legal imputation of Adam's sin, then Paul is speaking about the legal imputation of Christ's righteousness in Rom. 5:15-21. How can we answer this question? We believe that Rom. 5:13 is very helpful here. In it Paul states, "for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come." Here Paul immediately brings up the language of imputation, not infusion. Thus, it seems to us that Paul is providing a proof for the fact that Adam's sin must have been legally imputed to all his descendants. This is the case on either of two interpretations of this passage, either that in which all people from Adam to Moses are included or that in which infants are singled out.

First, the view that Paul is speaking of infants is usually connected to the view that he is alluding to natural law. When Paul says "sin is not imputed when there is no law", he wishes to remind us that this is never the case. There is always natural law. And since Paul has addressed the issue of natural law earlier in Romans (at least chapter 1), then he wishes people to be reminded that people are condemned because of natural law. But infants have not committed actual sins against natural law. How then is it that infants die? Adam's sin has been imputed to them.

Second, we consider the view that the imputation of Adam's sin accounts for why all his descendants during the period from Adam to Moses died. They died because Adam's sin was imputed to them. This interpretation does not think Paul's reference should be restricted to infants partially because if Paul wished to single out infants why not refer to all infants? Why refer only to infants from the time of Adam to Moses? There is nothing unique to infants in this period in terms of not committing actual sins (something true of all infants throughout history). Thus, Paul must have singled out this period for a different purpose. One suggestion is that a special law and sanction was given with both Adam and Moses. The curses of the Mosaic law are an example of this special imputation of sin. Adam also had a special law and sanction. Since people from Adam to Moses did not have their own special law and sanction, they must have died under that of Adam's, imputed with his sin and guilt. (For an example of this view, see Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, p. 96). This view must somehow relate Adam's headship to natural law so that it does not deny that sin under natural law brings death. If it can do so, it indicates that Adam's sin is imputed to his descendants.

Jewett would not accept this approach because he says that Rom. 5:13 denies that Adam was under law. In other words, the idea that there was no law from Adam to Moses places Adam in the no law period. However, we think that since Moses is certainly part of a legal administration then Adam (who is the other bookend here) is also under law. Thus, this interpretation (whatever its other merits) cannot be refuted by suggesting that Adam was not under law. Thus, if Paul is discussing all those from Adam to Moses, he is setting up the argument that since there was no special law and sanction given under this period, people died because they were imputed with Adam's sin. Thus, on either of these two readings of Rom. 5:13-14 (all people between Adam and Moses or infants primarily), Paul is seeking an explanation of how those people whose sins are not imputed to them by law nonetheless die. The answer—Adam's sin is legally imputed to them. In light of this, parallel to Adam, Christ (Rom. 5:15-19) imputes his righteousness to his people in justification.

What does Jewett do with this discussion? Jewett sidesteps the issue. That is, he does not think that Paul is dealing with the question of how sin is imputed to people. But how can he sidestep so obvious an issue in Rom. 5:12-21 you ask? He does so by indicating that Paul's point is how Christ's righteousness exceeds the sin of Adam. That is, Christ's justification abounds (Rom. 5:15) and "reigns" supreme over death in Adam (Rom. 5: 17, 21). We agree with Jewett that this is Paul's ultimate purpose. And here we might note the discontinuity between Adam and Christ indicated by the phrases, "but the free gift is not like the transgression" (5:15) and "the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned" (5:16). However, this discontinuity (in which Christ's justifying life reigns over Adam's sin and death) is grounded in a continuity in which Christ (as second Adam) is similar to the first Adam. And Paul implies and articulates this continuity in Rom. 5:12-21 to address the discontinuity. The one cannot exist without the other.

Thus, if Rom. 5:12 deals with the imputation of Adam's sin (credited to our account, to use the language of Philemon 1:18), then Rom. 5:15-21 deals with the imputation of Christ's righteousness credited to our account. That is, it argues that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us.

Also, Rom. 5: 18, "through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men". Here it is Christ's righteousness, not something else (like the believer's faith) that "leads to justification"; that is, Christ's righteousness is the ground and cause of our justification. Thus, it is Christ's righteousness that strictly speaking is imputed to us. That is why Paul calls it the "gift of righteousness" (Rom. 5:17). In the light of what we have seen in Rom. 5:12-14, we must conclude that when Paul says in Rom. 5:19 "through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous", he essentially means that through the obedience of the One the many will be constituted righteous. That is, Christ's righteousness will be imputed to them.

How does Jewett deal with these passages? As we have noted, he does not see that they involve forensic imputation. But in addition to this, he restricts the righteousness of Christ spoken of here to his final act of giving himself up on the cross. Thus, he does not think that Paul is speaking of Christ's whole life of obedience to the law, only his final act on the cross. To support this, Jewett points to the comparison with Adam, in which only Adam's first sin and fall is considered in the death of his descendants. As only one sin brought death, so only one act (Christ giving himself up on the cross) leads to life. However, as the churches of the Reformation (and the writers of its confessions, e.g., the Westminster Confession) recognized, righteousness must here be used in terms of its Old Testament background to describe the whole righteousness of a person; thus his or her whole character and life. We believe this is further supported by the fact that nothing in Christ's life can be separated from his final act of giving himself up on the cross. As a founding apostle of the Gentile churches, we have every reason to believe that Paul's understanding of Christ was similar to that written in the gospels. And they present Christ living a whole life of obedience whose final purpose involved his death and resurrection. Thus, his whole life was a life unto death and resurrection. Therefore, Christ's act of obedience involves his whole life of obedience leading unto death. This was necessary for righteousness. On the other hand, the introduction of sin into the world through Adam's first sin was sufficient of itself to constitute him a sinner and bring death into the world. It was not necessary that Adam continue to live on so that this one act would be followed by many other personal transgressions. He was constituted a sinner and given the sentence of death once this one sin was committed. Thus, his one sin contained within itself all his following acts of transgression. The reverse is true for Christ, all his preceding acts of righteousness are found in (and are culminated in) his final act of giving himself up on the cross. And it was necessary that he must accomplish what Adam failed to accomplish that this righteousness might reign over Adam's death. Thus, some discontinuity between Christ and Adam is necessary (in sin on the one hand and righteousness on the other) in order to account for the very discontinuity that Jewett himself recognizes in Christ's reign over Adam's sin and death (though he wrongly uses this issue of discontinuity to avoid the issue of imputation). Unfortunately, Jewett only emphasizes the discontinuity between Adam and Christ to avoid dealing with the issue of imputation and then appeals to the continuity to argue that only Christ's act of obedience on the cross was significant for justification.

In addition, Christ's righteousness cannot be separated from the righteousness declared to be his in his resurrection. For Paul has already referred to this at the end of Rom. 4. And he implies it by the life (i.e., resurrection life) that results from righteousness (Rom. 5: 17, 18, 21). It is this righteousness of Christ that is imputed to believers. As Paul says in Rom. 10:4, "For Christ is . . . for righteousness to everyone who believes."

If the Reformation was correct in its doctrine of justification, how can we do justice to the historical and social elements that Jewett points out in the text, especially in Rom. 3-4? How does Paul's doctrine of justification itself argue for no distinction between Jew and Greek? Paul certainly allowed that David was justified (Rom. 4:6-8), but there was a distinction between Jew and Gentile in his day. Resident aliens in Israel could enjoy the worship of Israel's God. But only the Israelites had full participation in the covenant blessings of God. So why does Paul's teaching of justification imply no distinction between Jew and Gentile? How can something that existed in the past and allowed a distinction then, now (of itself) bring no distinction between Jew and Gentile? In other words, how can Paul imply that justification now implies that God is equally the God of Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 3:28-29)? Our suggestion is that with Christ's death and resurrection the justification of God's people has been more fully manifested (Rom. 3:21; 16:25-26). This greater manifestation of justification results in the equal union of Jew and Gentile in Christ. This greater manifestation of justification is seen by comparison to the Mosaic covenant in which the curses of that covenant were externally manifested upon the visible church of Israel, especially in her exile. The Old Testament prophets then foretold a day in which this manifestation of curse would be reversed eternally (eschatologically) with a greater manifestation of God's righteousness, forgiveness and justifying grace. Thus, unlike Israel in exile, his people would never be cast out from any arena that was considered their inheritance in God. This would then manifest God's own power and righteousness in judging sin and saving his people as he promised. This has now arrived in Christ's death and justifying resurrection. Those who are united to him now do not receive a greater imputation of Christ's righteousness, i.e., greater than that of the saints of the old covenant. Instead, that imputed righteousness (that is equally perfect in all periods of redemptive history) is now more fully manifested. This manifestation is a foretaste of the final eschatological judgment in which the justification of God's people and God's own righteousness will be more completely and gloriously revealed. Thus, the present manifestation of God's righteousness imputed to his people may rightly be called semi-eschatological justification.

We conclude the consideration of Rom. 5 with a few desultory comments on Jewett's commentary. We believe his treatment of the love of God (e.g., Rom. 5:5) is generally a good one. Unfortunately, his use of word studies runs amuck on "weak" (Rom. 5:6), causing him to excise it from the text. He cannot imagine that Paul would describe the Christian's pre-conversion state with a word he later uses to describe one of the parties in Rom. 14:1-2. This would seem to prejudice the word and thus the group described as weak in Rom. 14. Once again, this simply shows how much Jewett's eye on Rom. 14 controls his understanding of Romans.

Romans 6

Jewett interestingly suggests that there is military background in statements like "and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (Rom. 6:18) and "but now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit" (Rom. 6:22). He appeals to writers such as Herodotus to show that enslavement often took place in a military context in which one could be freed from one form of slavery and put in subjection to another form of slavery. This is an example of one of those small but stimulating considerations that Jewett sometimes sprinkles in his commentary. It may suggest further reflection in a context in which Paul is talking about not letting sin "reign" over you (reflecting back on the reigns of death versus righteousness, Rom. 5:17, 21), using one's members as weapons (Rom. 6:13). Romans 6:13 twice uses the same Greek word for weapons that Paul had used in 2 Cor. 10:4, stating "for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses". And earlier in that letter (2 Cor. 6:7), he had called these "weapons of righteousness" as he later does in Rom. 6:13.

Romans 7

Jewett takes the view that Romans 7:7-14 is about Paul as a Pharisee prior to his conversion. He does not think that the struggle represents Saul the Pharisee's own assessment of himself. Instead, Romans 7 is Paul as a Christian now reflecting back on his pre-Christian state as a Pharisee, uncovering what was really going on in him at that time, though he was not aware of it at that moment.

We do not think this view can account for all the evidence. For instance, the speaker in verse 22 states that "I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man." This can only be truly said by a saint and Paul was not even a saint by Old Testament standards prior to his conversion. Jewett claims that this represents Paul's position as a Pharisee. He loved the law of God and tried to carry it out, yet he failed. However, we believe the language is too strong to allow a simple surface concern for the law. It represents a renewed heart that loved the law. The language of the inner man represents the true inward state of the person in Paul. In this way, Paul distinguishes the inner and outer man in 2 Cor. 4:16: "Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." This distinction between inner and outer man is a description of the human constitution per se and it takes on special application for the Christian, whose inner man is renewed by the Spirit while his outer bodily existence is wasting away.

Therefore, it is our view that Paul is speaking about a person indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who genuinely rejoices in the law of God. This cannot be said of Paul the Pharisee. Perhaps Jewett's semi-Pelagian view of the pre-converted sinner makes this difficult for him to see. For on this view, fallen humans are still capable of truly loving God's word in some measure.

We, on the other hand, believe Paul is speaking about Old Testament saints specifically. The Psalmists of the Old Testament voice their love for the law of God. At the same time, this view allows for the elements of redemptive-historical transition in Rom. 7:5-6 and 8:1. Space does not allow for a full exposition of this passage. Nonetheless, we point to several elements that point in this direction. First, Romans 7:5 is parallel in numerous ways to Rom. 7:7-25 and Rom. 7:6 sets us up for Rom. 8:1ff. The "but now" of Rom. 7:6 and 8:1 is perhaps the most obvious element here. This language is used in Rom. 3:21 to introduce a historical transition in redemptive history. Thus, we suggest it is also used in this way in Rom. 7:6 and 8:1. Rom. 7:6 also sets up a historical contrast saying, "so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter". This reminds us of the relative contrast between the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant in 2 Cor. 3:5-6: "God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit." That Paul is dealing with a relative historical contrast between the old and new covenants is evident when he states, "how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory . . . For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory." The language of "much more" is that of a relative (not absolute) contrast between two administrations of God's grace in the history of redemption. The new abounds in that which was already found in the old. Going back to Rom. 7, we have reason to see the language in Rom. 7:6 in the same way. "Newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter" represents a relative contrast between two eras in history. And its connection to Rom. 8:1ff is further confirmed by its emphasis on the administration of the Spirit (Rom. 7:6), which is not mentioned again until Rom. 8:2. However, after Rom. 8:2 it is a recurrent theme (Rom. 8: 4-6, 9, 11, 13-16). This suggests that Paul is referring here to the Spirit insofar as he is poured out in greater abundance at Pentecost. Thus, he is alluding to the semi-eschatological gift of the Spirit.

Romans 7:5 is then seen to connect with Rom. 7:7-25 in its themes of sin (Rom. 7:17, 20, 23, 25), in the members of our body (Rom. 7:23-24), to bear fruit to death (Rom. 7:24). It is this law of sin and death that is reversed in Rom. 8:2. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death."

If Rom. 7:5-6 represents a relative contrast between the old and new eras in redemptive history, then Paul's allusions to the old covenant (in which God was married to his people) versus the new (Rom. 7:1-4) are another indication that Paul believes that the relationship between these two covenants in this context is relative and not absolute. This is reinforced by Rom. 7:22. This old covenant context suggests that the inner love for the law of God in Rom. 7:22 is an administration of the old covenant. This implies that the old covenant which administers this inner love is a covenant of grace. Thus, Paul is contrasting two covenant administrations of covenant grace which further implies that the contrast between them is a relative one.

There are two other elements that stand out in support of this view. Jewett seems to agree with us on these minor points though he holds to a different position overall. First, the present tense in verses 14-25 does not argue for the view that Paul focuses on present Christians. For Rom. 7:7-25 is structured in terms of two rhetorical questions (vv. 7 and 13) which are both in the past tense. Thus, while vv. 14-25 uses present tense verbs, they are used as an answer to a rhetorical question in the past tense (v. 13). The point here is not that the past tense verbs of verse 13 of themselves argue that this situation took place in the old covenant (in the past). Instead, it simply points out that the present tense of itself cannot be used to argue that Paul focuses on the present (new covenant) situation of Christians. The present tense of the verbs (vv. 14-25) articulates a situation that can just as easily be described in the past tense. Or to put it another way, the time of verse 13 (whatever that may be) governs the time of vv. 14-25. Jewett would agree with this particular assessment insofar as he disagrees with James Dunn, who (following Augustine and the Reformers) interprets the struggle of Rom. 7 as that of a present day Christian. (For a discussion of passages in Paul relating to the present struggle of Christians, see Herman Ridderbos, Paul, pp. 255-56.)

Finally, Jewett rightly points out that Rom. 7:14 uses a word for "sold" that was used to describe the selling of slaves. In other words, we might say that the NASB translates Rom. 7:14 correctly when it states, "I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin." But Paul nowhere else describes new covenant Christians as those under bondage to sin, either here in Romans or elsewhere. On the other hand, he does describe old covenant saints as those under bondage to the elementary principles of this world (Gal. 4:3). In this context, those being described are children of God (Gal. 4:1), who are simultaneously slaves. This describes the old covenant saints who owned all things, but awaited their future redemption according to the date (the fullness of the times) set by their father. Thus, that administration of the law under which they lived was servile compared to the greater administration of grace given with the fullness of the times. Paul's depiction of the people in Rom. 7:14 and 22 is similar to Gal. 4:1-3 insofar as both describe people who are simultaneously children, delighting in God's law and at the same time under bondage. By comparison to the greater age of liberty in the new era, the bondage of the former administration is seen to lead to sin and death.

The above exegetical considerations seem to indicate that the "I" of Rom. 7:14-25 does not directly refer to Paul himself. This may make sense within the rhetorical convention of speech in context, articulated by Stanley Stowers and alluded to by Jewett. According to this convention, a writer can place words into the mouth of another in the first person, sometimes to dramatize the pathos of the subject matter. The speaker may include others with himself in this "I" or use it purely to express the thoughts and feelings of another. Paul uses it in the first way where he includes others with himself in Gal. 2:19-20. And the context suggests that he uses it here with reference to Israel in Rom. 7:14-25.

Jewett rejects the view (which we have articulated) that Israel is here described. (We have qualified this as righteous Israel.) We do not believe his reasons are sufficient. Jewett says it is very unlikely that the "I" of Rom. 7:14-25 refers to the people of Israel because this would be to impose an introspective consciousness on first century Judaism. But first century Judaism does not show a tendency in this direction. We note here the influence of Krister Stendahl and his assumption that an introspective consciousness is associated with the west. For Jewett, this would seem to mean 'not Israel'. But this is not completely fair because Jewett is willing to find this introspective conscious in the zealot Paul. Still, we think Jewett's dismissal of Israel here is too hasty. Just because such an introspective conscious is not representative of first century Judaism, why can it not represent the righteous of the Old Testament era (primarily found in earlier Judaism)? For instance, the language of 7:22, "joyfully concur with the law of God" is something we find in the Psalmists. And their awareness and confession of sin is also well known. Thus, they loved the law, but found sin in themselves. Loving the law, they must have hated this sin. As a result, can we not assume that they struggled against the sin within themselves? And yet they lost this battle frequently enough to confess their sins. Is this not Romans 7:14-25? To cap it off, the person in Rom. 7:14-25 calls himself or herself "wretched" (7:24). Jewett notes some interesting parallels to this language in the ancient world. We add to this that in the ancient world people often referred to themselves as wretched when they were cursed and cast off from their homeland. (For example, see the Trojan women in Euripides's play The Trojan Women.) And one may consider here some of Jewett's own allusions to honor and shame in the Greco-Roman world. Israel was wretched in the same way when she went into exile. Thus, the final result of life under the administration of the law was the administration of death in exile, and this in spite of the life and salvation that the Mosaic covenant administered.

This position represents other exegetical advantages over Jewett's view that Paul is describing himself as a Pharisee. As we have noted, "but now" in Rom. 8:1 (like Rom. 3:21) represents a redemptive-historical "now". That is, it reveals a transition from the former era of redemption to the new era with the death and resurrection of Christ. It thereby represents a historical transition in the administration of God's grace. And thus it applies to all God's covenant people to whom this grace was administered. Individuals (as members of that body) also experienced this shift in their own lives. But this shift does not simply represent the shift in one individual's life (such as a Zealot), as if Paul was saying nothing about a transition in redemptive history. Instead, he is reflecting back on the previous administration of God's grace to all his covenant people, and those people in the former era were the righteous of Israel. Once again, since it focuses on the shift for the righteous in Israel, Paul prior to his conversion, is excluded as an unrighteous persecutor of the church.

Jewett may also reveal one of the weaknesses of his own view when he says that Rom. 8:1 or 2 goes back to the discussion of Rom. 7:1-6, which Paul had presumably left aside momentarily. If Jewett is saying that 8:1 picks up what we found in 7:6, we agree. But if he is suggesting that even 7:1-5 was left off by Paul in 7:7-25, we cannot concur. That this is Jewett's meaning may be indicated by that fact that his view of Paul's previous life in Judaism does not fit well with 7:1-5. In other words, the covenant marriage language in Rom. 7:1-5 in its inward sense cannot justly be applied to the unrighteous Paul. So he must put aside the subject matter of these verses while he describes his pre-conversion state in Rom. 7:7-25 (on Jewett's view). If this is Jewett's intention (and this remains questionable) then it reveals a weakness in his exegesis. It is far more likely to see Rom. 7:7-25 developing 7:1-5, especially that side of the matter articulated in verse 5. And we think this supports our view that Paul is here speaking of Israel's Old Testament saints.

Romans 8

Jewett's suggestions on Rom. 8 are a mixed bag. We believe some of his better insights are those at the end of this chapter. Some of the others are problematic. First among the latter is a comment he makes on Rom. 8:1. Here he thinks Paul may overstate the matter when he says that there is "no condemnation" for those in Christ Jesus. For, says Jewett, Paul still looks ahead to a future judgment for Christians in the future (Rom. 2:6-13; 1 Cor. 3:12-17) . As a result, Jewett believes that Paul has not worked out a consistent relationship between justification and the future judgment.

Here we cannot agree. There is a difference between someone being judged (which may result in their vindication or condemnation) and someone being condemned in the judgment. Paul has stated that Christians are no longer under condemnation. As a result, they will not be condemned in the future judgment. Instead, they will be vindicated. That is, the justification that is theirs in this life will be fully manifested at the future judgment.

Further, this claim that there is no condemnation to those in Christ results from the redemptive-historical transition of "now" (Rom. 8:1) that separates Rom. 7:14-25 from Rom. 8). Paul is implying that the manifestation of the curse that appeared to be on Israel is now reversed. It has now been reversed by a greater manifestation—the present manifestation of God's justification of his people. This greater manifestation of "no condemnation" does not imply that the saints of the Old Testament were truly under condemnation. It is just that this true justification is now more fully manifested. This is also the way to look at the relationship between our present justification and its even fuller future manifestation at the final judgment.

Thus (in response to Jewett), there is no need to posit a difference in kind between our present justification and the future judgment of the saints, in which our present justification will be more fully manifested. Jewett may not explicitly posit such a difference in kind. However, only if we need to posit such a difference is there a tension between our present justification and the future judgment. If there is no difference in kind, there is no tension between the two. The only difference is that our present justification involves the initial act of justification whereas the future is only the manifestation of that same justification. But the essential nature of both is the same—the perfect imputed righteousness of Christ.

The Christian's present state of no condemnation will be the ground of God's future judgment of them all. It will be the basis on which he declares them to be just. Thus, Paul is not overstating the case when he states they are in no way condemned. If this were an overstatement, then there would be no ground on which God would judge them acceptable at the final judgment.

As far as the judgment according to works at the last day (Rom. 2:6-8), for Paul these works cannot be acceptable to God unless they are justified before God's throne. And that requires the prior imputation of Christ's righteousness. This can be seen from the fact that (in Romans) what lies behind the rewards of truth, righteousness, glory, honor and immortality is the work of Christ who brings the truth of God (Rom. 15:9), righteousness (Rom. 3-6), and glory (Rom. 8). Thus, his mercy through what he does, brings and embodies is the basis of the saint's having works acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1).

Jewett also takes a restitutional view of Rom. 8:18-22. That is, he believes that the new creation will simply be a return to the Garden of Eden, but now in a cosmic way. Thus, he does not envision a new creation whose very nature transcends the present creation. We have dealt with this issue sufficiently in a previous review of N. T. Wright, who holds a similar position [see Kerux: NWTS 25/3 (December 2010) 38-43]. Thus, we will move on briefly. Needless to say, we believe this is a mistaken notion of eschatology in an apostle who says, "Eye has not seen and ear has not heard . . . all that God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2:9). And it does not allow for a true semi-realized aspect of this eschatology in the present time. For if the final eschatological state does not transcend the present creation, how was it able to be semi-realized since the resurrection of Christ? For it had to have a nature that allowed it to exist alongside of this present suffering world? A nature that transcends this cosmos would allow that. This semi-eschatological realization of the new creation is necessary to do justice to Paul's semi-eschatological view of justification, apart from which the apostle would not say with the same strength of conviction, "I am not ashamed of the gospel".

In spite of these significant reservations, we believe Jewett has some useful comments on Rom. 8. He points out that verses 4-15 deal with the corporate obedience of the church, not simply with the obedience of individuals. In this way, he once again suggests this prepares us for Rom. 14. We think this is salient and prepares us to ponder Jewett's added suggestion that such a life in the Spirit is a recognition that those in the church should not seek their honor (as opposed to shame) through competition with one another. We might suggest in relation to this that the "no condemnation" of Rom. 8:1 (semi-eschatological justification) is the basis of the saints's fuller endowment with the Spirit. And this semi-eschatological justification implies that the saints are not put to shame. Thus, the reversal of their shame is found in Christ's justification, more fully manifested now. They need not seek the reversal of their shame by the attainment of special honor in the community. Since this is true for them and all the saints who possess this honor in Christ, they should treat one another as those raised from the dead in the Spirit. How central these considerations are in Rom. 8 itself may be debated, but the overall salience of these points deserve further reflection.

Jewett has some useful reflections on Rom. 8:33ff. Among other things, he rightly notes that the catalogue of sufferings in Rom. 8:35 reminds us of the curses of the covenant in Deuteronomy. If this is the case, why does Jewett not recognize the judicial nature of justification in which justification (Rom. 8: 33-34) is the opposite of condemnation (seen as curse)? This would open him up for two possibilities (that in our view are more than possibilities), the first being that the Reformation was correct in describing justification as a forensic act. Secondly, since Jewett recognizes the connection between the condemnation of Rom. 8:33 and 8:1, he might be open to another possibility—that the manifestation of justification in this period of the history of redemption is in relative contrast to the former era under the law. That is, Jewett recognizes that the sufferings of Rom. 8:35 (which were Deuteronomic curses) are not a curse to Paul and the church. We encourage Jewett and his readers to consider the implications of these insights. The situation of Paul and the church is in relative contrast to the administration of the law, in which these sufferings in some measure separated God's people from his covenant blessings. We might say that in Israel, they reminded one that the curse was yet to be borne by Christ. But that is no longer the case since Christ's historical death and resurrection (Rom. 8:34). This represents the fuller manifestation of justification in the present era. And in our view, this theme in Rom. 8 reinforces the idea that Paul is addressing the saints of the old covenant in Rom. 7. The "no condemnation" of Rom. 8:1 is in partial contrast to Rom. 7:7-25. That "no condemnation" implies we are no longer under the display of God's curse found in the old covenant (Rom. 8:35). Thus, that which precedes Rom. 8:1 involves that display of God's curse in the wretched state of exile and death (Rom. 7:24).


The reviewer is grateful for the extensive research and work that Jewett has put into this volume. The historical and cultural material on the tenement apartments in Rome and the other extensive background material in the introduction is especially helpful. Jewett's thesis that Paul is concerned with conflict in the Roman church is by no means a universal conviction among scholars, but Jewett has provided us with some insights of how the letter might be read if this is true, even to a small extent. The structural suggestions at the beginning of each pericope are well thought out and worth the careful consideration of the interpreter. Unfortunately, those using this commentary (like most critical commentaries) will have to do more of their own theological reflection. While Jewett does not buy into every argument of the Sanders, Dunn and Wright guild, he does follow many of their assumptions. This can be seen in his treatment of justification and his primarily horizontal approach to the text. As a result, the centrality of Christ and his justifying life loses its heavenly and eschatological character. He also fails to see how Paul makes a relative contrast between the former administration of the law and that of his gospel to the nations. We think that if he were to reflect on these elements, he would be able to see Paul's semi-eschatological approach, which allows Paul to see a greater union in the church between Jew and Gentile alike (horizontal) in light of the fuller heavenly manifestation of God's declaration of justification in Christ (vertical). This manifestation has revealed more fully the justice of God in saving his people. Thereby, God has reversed the idolatry of Rom. 1:18-32 and brought praise to his just and powerful name among all nations (Rom. 15:9 with 9:17; 1:16-17). May the church continue to sing praise to his name, in joy and exaltation in Christ Jesus—and so may the nations come and stream to the house of God.

[1] Robert Jewett, Romans: A Commentary (Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006. 1140pp. Cloth. ISBN: 978-0-8006-6084-0. $90.00.