The Life of Holiness: Romans 1:1 (Pages 21-46)
Posted by kirkcaudle on March 6, 2013
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One thing that I really appreciate that Jim does in this book is that he includes the actual text that he is working with. He provides both the KJV and his own translation. One thing that I suggest when reading the Bible is to reference alternative translations. I know that some of us can read Konie Greek, but I recognize that the vast majority of people cannot. Therefore, consulting alternative translations (especially for difficult verses) can be an excellent resource for one’s own study.
I will be dealing with pages 21-46 in this post, which encompasses Romans 1:1. Yep, that’s it…one verse. With Jim’s help, I will attempt to provide a few thoughts on this opening verse of the book. Jim spends 15 pages on this one verse. I, however, will spend nowhere near that much time in this post! I will assume that most of the people reading these notes will have easy access to a KJV. Because of this, the verse that I quote below will come from Jim’s own translation. I suggest comparing it will others that you find.
Paul, a bondman of Christ Jesus, one called as an apostle, one set apart for the gospel of God
Verse one acts as an introduction to the entire Book of Romans. Here Paul uses a common introduction. I think that readers of Paul’s letters might find it interesting to go through each letter and notice how Paul introduces himself in each one. Note the differences and ask yourself, “Why is Paul presenting himself this way?” Jim notes that although Paul uses a common greeting here “he expands it considerably . . . taking the first six verses to say whom the letter is from” (22). Why do you suppose that such a long introduction is necessarily?
The third word in the translated verse above is the Greek work doulos. Doulos is an interesting word because it means “slave.” The KJV translates this word as “servant” and Jim uses the word ”bondman.” Personally, I prefer slave in my own translations. If you look through different Bibles I am sure that you will find all three of these words used. Jim notes that doulos ”is a word that emphasizes the dependence of the salve on his or her master. According to the New Testament, all Christians are slaves” (27). Today the word slave sounds harsh to us. The word also brings up questions surrounding our own freedom in this life. Thinking that we are a slaves to anything might make some readers uncomfortable. Most of us really enjoy believing that we are free to do what we want (even if that involves suffering negative consequences).
Jim provides some really thought provoking analyzes on the works/grace debate surrounding this notion of doulos. He says, “If we think about our works as Paul does, then they are not what we do to earn our salvation, for a slave can earn nothing. A slave works, but by definition, a slave works without being paid; he or she works without earning anything. Thus, if we follow this understanding of what it means to be a slave of God, our works are what we do because we have become the servants, or bondsmen and bondswomen, of Jesus Christ. Our works are what we owe him because he own us; he has bought us with a price, so we are obliged to serve him” (30-31). Perfect.
And while I am on a roll with great quotes from this section allow me to offer one more, “The prophets are slaves to God, but that slavery gives them a great deal of power, authority, and responsiblity; precisely because they are slaves, what they do is accomplished by the authority of God” (35). Further, if we are slaves then that would mean we must do what our master says. I see the words ”called” and “apostle” sharing an interesting connection in this first verse because the greek word for apostle literally means one who is sent (and maybe even called) out.
The word for “set apart” (or separated in the KJV) comes from the greek word aphorizo. Jim points out that aphorizo is a word which is used in connection with separating the righteous from the wicked. Most interestingly, the word can also mean “excommunicated.” Why would Paul be describing himself as excommunicated though? Perhaps he is describing his new life and his estrangement for his former life. In other words, he has a new life devoted to the Christian God. Somehow it seems, to me anyway, that Paul is making it clear that he is in a new space in life now. Jim describes how we think differently than Paul in my respects regarding excommunication and the gospel because when ”we speak of someone being cut off from a church or other group, Paul says he has been cut off to the gospel. He has been separated from unrighteousness to the gospel. Similarly, if we will be members of Christ’s church, we must be separated from ungodliness; we must be excommunicated–separated–from the world to the gospel” (italics in original 43). Which brings me to the word gospel itself, what exactly is the gospel?
Many of us are probably familiar with the word gospel meaning “the good news.” If so, we are right. However, as Mormons, we often think of the gospel in broader terms than that. Honestly, I have no issue of thinking of the gospel in broader terms, I am just not sure if Paul thought of it this way or not when he wrote. On this subject Jim says, “We often think of the gospel as the beliefs, doctrines, and so on that are taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sometimes we use the word even broadly, to refer to Christianity and the Christian message generally. However, the New Testament use of the word gospel is tied more closely to its literal meaning (“pleasing message”) and to its Old Testament connections” (italics in orignal 45).
So, those are my notes for this section. I will leave with one question, given all of this information, which translation of the word doulos are you most comfortable with as a reader?
Hear Jim talk about this book in his own words here.
Purchase a copy of The Life of Holiness: Notes and Reflections on Romans 1, 5-8.
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