Feast upon the Word Blog

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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.

Find the reading schedule here and find Robert’s great notes on the introduction here.

Romans 1:1

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.

31 Responses to “The Life of Holiness: Romans 1:1 (Pages 21-46)”

  1. joespencer said

    Thanks for your notes and discussion, Kirk. Nice summary. I’ll add a few thoughts of my own here.

    Unquestionably, as Kirk has made clear, the force of this part of Jim’s book is in his discussion of doulos, Paul’s reference to himself as Christ’s slave. Not only does Jim use the imagery of slavery in order to think through the basic stakes of grace, but he uses it to frame the overarching question posed by the letter to the Romans: “One way to put the central question of this letter is to ask, ‘What does it mean to be owned by God?’” (p. 30). After some particularly fruitful discussion, Jim rephrases this basic question: “Thus, another way to see the question of Paul’s letter to the Romans is to ask, ‘Do we recognize him to whom we belong?’” (p. 36). These two questions are, I think, most helpful, and the path that leads Jim from the one to the other is one well worth traveling.

    The key to understanding the imagery of slavery—and so to understanding the idea of grace—is, on Jim’s account, to recognize that human beings are all slaves, inevitably and necessarily. It’s not that Paul has somehow become a slave to God; in our createdness we all simply are slaves to God. Why is that important? Because it means that there’s no such thing as autonomy, self-definition. Although we’re inclined to see our two basic existential options as freedom (autonomy) and slavery (heteronomy), Jim suggests, via Paul, that the two basic options are instead the following: “If we do not perform the works he [our master, the Lord] requires, we are rebellious slaves, refusing to do what we ought, what we owe. If we do perform that service, when he gives us something, such as a present or gift of grace and kindness, it is not because we have earned it by our work” (p. 31). We’re either rebellious or obedient slaves; there’s no other option. And that means that we’re always either rebelling against grace or that we’re responding appropriately to it. Either way, we’ve earned nothing on our own. For all these reasons, the real question, once we’ve established what it means to be owned by God, is whether we’ll recognize God as our owner, whether we’ll dispense with the fantasy that our rebellions are really just so many fruitful attempts at self-definition.

    Recognition, then, lies at the heart of the letter to the Romans, as Jim understands it. That’s an absolutely fascinating hypothesis. (Fine! I’ll finally get around to reading Ricoeur’s Course of Recognition, Jim! You’ve driven me to it!) Moreover, Jim provides us, already, with what be called the means of recognition as Paul understands it: covenant. In Jim’s words: “To enter into a covenant relation with God is to recognize that we are his, to acknowledge that he is our master” (p. 36). And that, it seems, is what interests Jim in Romans 5-8, in “the life of holiness” to be spelled out there. How do we live out a covenant that embodies recognition of our owner?

    There are a few other points in the commentary on Romans 1:1 that I might note, but I’ll leave the emphasis on what seems to me to be Jim’s overarching hypothesis. The other points a minor compared with this—though I appreciate them.

  2. Jim F. said

    Kirk and Joe, thanks for another pair of interesting responses.

  3. cherylem said

    Kirk, I could not download Jim’s interview either on my Apple computer or my Iphone. I could however download other Mormon Book Review podcasts, at least on my phone. What’s up with that?

    Regarding the pages we read this week, I have a few comments and few questions. Depending on how long this gets, it may end up being two comments.

    First, I want to say that I found the pages on Romans 1:1 accessible. Any of you out there that have doubts about reading along with this book, so far I say go for it, with this caveat: if you like your discussions of Romans to be in short sound bites, this may not be for you. This book, so far, is like eating a slow and delightful feast compared to having quick fast food at McDonalds – or like taking a quick and forgettable bite at Gospel Doctrine class! – and I teach that so I can say it.

    I assumed a certain relationship with the book before I started it – I say assumed because this may change in the coming weeks, and I will try to remember to report that, if it does. I deliberately breathed slow, as in meditation or in yoga, and opened myself up to and invited slowness. My life is very fast all the time, so for the next little while I hope this book will be my slow and thoughtful space. Also, because I know Jim via the internet I will be interacting with him, even if silently. I will be interacting with Paul the author, I will be interacting with myself and I will be interacting with God. In these pages, Jim invites us to do all of that, actually. Though Jim is a professor of philosophy (and you’ll get some philosophical responses to the book from others) and is the Richard L Evans Chair of Religious Understanding (in case you didn’t know that), these pages are written in clear and inviting prose and I loved the 20 plus pages Jim gave us on verse 1.

    Some comments to add to the others:
    1. Jim’s own translation of Romans 1:1-7 sings. If someone has an easy way of copying the whole segment maybe you could do that. If not, I will try to type it in later. I look forward to the rest of his translation of the chapters being studied. Kirk quoted verse 1 above.

    2. These pages invite us to look at Paul’s words in context, in an interesting way. That is, we don’t much get the sights, smells, textures and outward signs of first century Judaism and Roman culture so much as we get the context of Paul’s words. There is a lot of interesting introductory stuff here, some of which I’ll outline:

    a. Paul is not necessarily a new name for Saul but it possibly a surname or a second or third name of the same person. Reading this, I felt myself shifting from what I thought I knew to what may be closer to the truth: coming closer to the real person Paul.

    b. What did it mean to be servant/bondman/slave in the first century? We need to travel back in time and try to erase our 21st century overlay. It was not a good thing to be a slave but it was also different, with different possibilities, than we might think. Understanding this is important to understanding how Christ Jesus was a servant of God and how Paul was a servant/bondman of Christ, and how we are all servants. One of the important takeaways for me is the voice with which one speaks when one is a bondsman: one speaks the words of and for one’s master. One’s actions are the action’s of one’s master. Jim points out that there wasn’t really any choice in the matter. Indeed, by becoming a bondsman of Christ, Paul gave up – was called to, indeed was required to by his conversation experience (p. 32) – a loss of his own personal choice. Now all his life he will not be speaking Paul’s words, but Christ’s. (Jim and others, do I have this right?) Jim compares this to the Old Testament use of the same word, the prophets being the servants of God. They do not speak their words, but God’s.

    c. This understanding of first century Christianity (though it was not Christianity yet) provides another shift in my thinking. Our church is often so focused on agency that to understand being a servant of Christ as giving up freedom of choice takes a little bit of slow thinking. But Jim suggests that this would have been the paradigm in the first century. Because Paul was speaking in the language of the day, with a metaphor that all could understand, the understanding would have been immediate. Jim writes (p. 31): “Paul’s use of the metaphor of the servant explicitly questions our ideas about freedom.”

    d. Jim writes about the fact that bondsmen (and perhaps bondswomen) could be adopted into a family as children of that family. Children themselves were not so free either, even adult children. On page 34 we read that Greek and Roman fathers had enormous (absolute?) power over their children, and could order adult children to execute themselves or to expose their own children to the elements to die (shades of Abraham/Isaac). So this is not such a pretty picture in all ways, though God, Paul will assure us, is a loving parent (and Jewish fathers were somewhat more regulated toward kindness).

    e. After a discussion of Christ as title (the anointed one) and what it means to be called – all worthy of close and slow reads – Jim talks about what it means for Paul to be set apart or separated. I found the idea of being excommunicated from the world, or Paul being excommunicated from his world (or from the Sanhedrin, which Jim says may really have happened) compelling. Alan Segal’s 1992 book Paul the Convert subheads something similar: “The apostolate and apostasy of Saul the Pharisee.” This idea is a challenge to me personally: to be excommunicate from the things of the world in order to be called of God.

    f. So we move to called of God to do what? to be what? and Jim gives us a brief discussion of Gospel, the Gospel being an ongoing proclaiming of redemption through Christ Jesus.

    I found all of this a little terrifying, actually. Jim’s understanding of Paul’s first century words calls me to something more than what I am or what I have done. The depth of this understanding can be life changing, and while I am committed to reading this book, I am not yet sure I am committed to the changes in my life that such an in-depth understanding will require (as Paul was required).

    I do have some specific questions of the text, which I’ll post separately. Hope this is not too long, all.

    • Jim F. said

      Cheryl, I don’t know whether bondwomen could be adopted. I assume they could, but I’m not sure. I probably ought to have done more research to find out and then made the discussion of that more gender-neutral (assuming I could).

      I recognize the terror you see in Paul’s writing. It is the terror of letting go, the terror of metanoia, “repentance.” But contrary to much of the way talk of repentance, it doesn’t just mean “sorrow for sin and ceasing to do this or that thing.” It means changing our very being, conversion from one thing to a new thing. “Coming to one’s senses” might also be a good translation of metanoia, but in this case when we come to our senses we discover that we are someone we’ve never known.

      As terror-filled as the anticipation of this change is, the assurance is that, from the other side, we discover that the creature we will become is one who lives in peace and joy. What looks terrible now will then be something that we recall with pleasure.

      • cherylem said

        Thank you Jim. One of the benefits of group discussion is understanding that we are not alone . . . so interesting that the terror has a name, or is related to a name. And you have added the promise of safe passage, which is totally remarkable.

  4. cherylem said

    My questions and a few further comments.

    1. Jim’s language is gender inclusive, something I know he has worked at over time, and something I truly appreciate, because it makes the text more accessible to me. Kudos, Jim!

    2. Jim’s take on the atonement seems to be that of the sacrificial model. I don’t know how I feel /think about this. When I read, on page 30, “…Christ bought us through his sacrifice . . . ” I wonder if that is really what happened. I do not understand the atonement very well, and this is not because I have not thought and studied about it. Is there a sacrificial model? There are other models: moral, penal, ransom, satisfaction, substitutionary, even blood. What is the sacrificial model and is this model a result of first century thinking rather than absolute truth?

    3. On page 35 Jim quotes Philippians 2:6-7, using his own translation: “Who, existing in the form of God, did not think to cling to equality with God, but emptied himself, taking upon himself the form of a slave and being born in the likeness of a human being.” I wonder what “emptied himself” means. NIV says “he made himself nothing,” and KJV says: “But made himself of no reputation.” When I read Jim’s translation I thought it meant that Jesus emptied himself of himself. In some way he erased himself. This may be okay for Jesus but I’m not sure it’s okay for me (;->) yet Jim seems to think that is what Paul did and what we all need to do. So: am I reading this correctly?

    4. On page 37 Jim connects Romans 1:1 with Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” For the first time I wondered if God’s work and glory were to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of one specific man: Jesus, with all of us as secondary recipients.

    • Jim F. said

      By the way, thank you very much for the kind things you said about my writing. I worried a lot about that.

      I wasn’t trying to advocate for a sacrificial model of atonement. Instead, that’s the model that I see Paul using. Perhaps he isn’t, but it looks to me as if he is. As for myself, I don’t know which way of thinking about the atonement is best.

      Yes, I think you are reading correctly: Jesus emptied himself of his own desires and wishes and took up the desires and wishes of the Father. That’s what Paul says we need to do, and I think it is based on his experience. He thought he knew what was right and he worked very hard to bring that about. But on the road to Damascus he was brought up short: his desire to defend God and the people of God were in reality a persecution of God. I assume that he couldn’t have been more surprised. And what he discovered was that he could only to the will of God by emptying himself of his own will and allowing that will to be taken over by the will of God. (Isn’t that what the gift of the Holy Ghost is all about, a commandment to receive the will of God through the Holy Ghost?)

      That giving up of will means the extinction of our own personality only if our identity is given by our will. But if identity comes through love rather than will, then it may very well be that loving sufficiently to empty ourselves and continue to love reinforces rather than extinguishes our identity. (And thank you for this question. I think I will probably think about it some more and use it to generate my Patheos column this week.)

      I’ve never thought of reading Moses 1:39 as you do. I’m going to have to think about that.

      • cherylem said

        Again, thank you. I will think about what you said: the possibility that our identity does not come from our will, but from love.

        And I don’t think about Moses 1:39 like that exactly, or I haven’t in the past. It just came to me as I read page 37 that the link might be stronger than I had before realized. (or not). It is an interesting concept, anyway.

      • cherylem said

        Jim: you write: “his (Paul’s) desire to defend God and the people of God were in reality a persecution of God.” I wonder if I am not guilty of this myself, from time to time. On a larger scale, I wonder if this isn’t a sin of any institutional church and the people who represent its authority. Or at least, if there isn’t some impulse toward this that must be always guarded against.

      • Jim F. said

        Cherylem: I think it is an impulse toward which individuals and their institutions cannot but be inclined toward persecuting God by being wrong about whom to defend. It is difficult, though, even to see that we are doing it. It took a blinding vision for Paul.

      • kirkcaudle said

        Huh, now you have me wondering about that reading of Moses 1:36 Cheryl. It is different, but I think I like it.

  5. James Gartner said

    I’m new to this. My level of thinking may be different from all of yours. Apologies in advance. Have patience.

    First, there is much that I loved in this reading. Paul vs. Saul. Paul as an “apostolos” of the Sanhedrin. Excommunication. Paul the Pharisee being separated from the separatists by Jesus Christ. –On and on.

    But I have a question/comment/issue(?). Beginning at page 30. We are slaves (Jesus bought us), and so we are “owned by God.” I suppose this is right. He owns us in that we have submitted ourselves to him. Fully. “Indebted to him?” Yes. Of course. And in this sense, “we are saved not by works but by grace … for a slave can earn nothing.” Still another spin on how we can’t “earn” our salvation.

    But I’m a tad thrown by the notion of a banker-God who perhaps thinks of us as “owing” him. Yes we are owned, but do we “owe?” Jim says, “…what we owe God is related to what God gives us” (31). Does God think of us as someone “owing” him?” Is that what we might call “the substitution theory” – where God demands a debt paid – thus Christ steps in on our behalf – and now we “owe” Jesus? Feels a bit “icky” to me. Is God like that?

    Yes, we’re slaves, and slaves we want to be. We cannot not be slaves to Jesus once we have had our own Damascus experience. And yes, our agency is gone in this sense: we leave behind a slavery, and enter a new slavery. Christ really did own Paul on the road to Damascus.

    But again: we are owned, but do we owe? Isn’t this new slavery just the natural course of entering into this spiritual slavery – and “owing” has nothing to do with it? As Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped/snatched, but made himself nothing (beautiful words), taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness … and became obedient to death…” This unfathomable act of God setting aside his Godhood and coming to earth was a part of his being. I suppose I’m suggesting, getting to this place is a spiritual evolution and the notion of what we owe God is a separate issue, if it’s an issue at all. God doesn’t care about being paid back, he only wants us to absorb more and more of Him. And for us to do so, we must be in a position to receive the gift (slavery—being owned), or the gift is left unopened.

    I may well be missing Jim’s point – or perhaps this is Jim’s point – which means I’m missing Jim’s point. –Either way, it was good reading.

    • Jim F. said

      Good question, James. I don’t think of what we owe God as something that he demands from us. I owe my mother respect, but she doesn’t demand it or even think about it. I owe my wife my faithfulness, but not because she demands it. Rather, I owe it because that is what it means to be married. Similarly, given the position of a slave, I owe the One who masters me my service because that is what it means to be a slave. But that says nothing about the Master’s attitude toward me, which I don’t think is an attitude of demand or expectation.

      Let me emphasize that our relation to God as slaves is preliminary: we will cease to be slaves and become members of the family; we begin as slave, but the maturity of conversion is a familial relationship rather than a slave relationship.

  6. kirkcaudle said

    “Kirk, I could not download Jim’s interview either on my Apple computer or my Iphone. I could however download other Mormon Book Review podcasts, at least on my phone. What’s up with that?” -Cheryl #3

    I’m not sure what is up with that, but I am trying to figure it out. Someone else just e-mailed me about the problem also though. It seems that every episode other than Jim’s and one other one work. I am trying to get to the bottom of it.

    So far I can only come up with one idea on why it is not working…Satan does not want us listening to Jim! :)

  7. kirkcaudle said

    Ok, the interview is working again. Somehow it got deleted. I have no idea how that happened. Very strange.

    Here is the link:

    http://www.themormonbookreview.com/page/2/#.UTxXldZ80xE

  8. Alan Goff said

    Both James and Cheryl are raising questions about the soteriology: what does the atonement mean? how does salvation work? Cheryl is uncomfortable with the sacrificial model. I think it is the model Paul is thinking through (the book of Hebrews, whoever the author is, more than doubles down on the sacrificial interpretation). Other models have been advanced (including five or more recent ones by LDS authors), but each has tremendous difficulties. The standard metaphors for salvation are (and the list isn’t exhaustive) (1) the ransom theory, (2) the penal-substitution model, (3) the satisfaction theory, (4) the moral influence theory, and (5) the governmental theory. Each theory has at its base a view of God that we moderns ultimately find unacceptable for one reason or another. So at some point we have to admit that we just don’t understand, but the atonement can be efficacious even without our comprehension. Rene Girard’s version of soteriology falls under the category of moral influence theories. Jesus resisted not evil in order to show the futility of violence and show us a example of how to overcome violence and murder without retaliating in kind. Paul is clearly a believer in a sacrificial version of salvation. If we find that model unacceptable, then we would have to find some way to read around the disagreement. Cheryl does that by suggesting that the sacrificial way of thinking was a historical artifact of the first century, and we live in the twenty-first century. I think the best approach is to admit gaps in our knowledge about the atonement.

    • James Gartner said

      Are you all familiar with Loren Hansen’s analysis on the Atonement in Dialogue vol 27 n1 (Spring 1994). Excellent, in my opinion.

      • Jim F. said

        Here’s a link to Loren’s piece: https://www.dialoguejournal.com/archive/issue-details/?in=105 (scroll down for a downloadable PDF).

      • Alan Goff said

        Yes, that essay is called “The ‘Moral’ Atonement as a Mormon Interpretation.” It is a variety of the moral influence theory of atonement. The idea of this cluster of theories is that Jesus sets an example for us to follow. Liberal Christianity tends to prefer these theories because you don’t need a deity, just a good moral instructor. And any moral teacher will do. So the moral influence theories take away from the uniqueness of Christ and the events of the last week of his life.

      • cherylem said

        FWIW. I have started Hansen’s article and will react more to Alan’s comment when I have finished it. However, I wanted to relay a conversation I had last night with a friend who, before he retired, taught Catholic theology and history to high school students for 40 some years. We were talking about a presentation we had both just seen regarding Christ-figures in film. He pointed out that the atonement and the nature of atonement theory had interested him all his life, dating from his Master’s study. He said that during the first century thinkers forgot that there were two types of OT sacrifices: the peace offering and the blood offering. He had often thought that Jesus’s sacrifice was the peace offering, but by the end of the first century all emphasis was given to the blood offering (and this was what was emphasized in the presentation). He said I should read Bernard Cooke and Roland DeVaux.

  9. Robert C. said

    Cheryl #3, I really like how you described your approach to reading: “[I] opened myself up to and invited slowness.” My life also feels too fast and harried, and I’ve been thinking more and more about reading and pondering as a form of resistance to the increasing pace of modern life.

    All, I should have notes up for the next reading soon, in the next day or two.

  10. [...] to show how [various facets of the subject matter] are interconnected” (p. 49). I think Cheryl’s comment #3 in the previous post nicely expresses the challenge in our fast-paced modern society of valuing the [...]

  11. [...] Romans 1:1 (pp. 21-46) [-Kirk C.] 3/11: Romans 1:2 (pp. 47-68) [-Robert C.] 3/18: Romans 1:3-7 (pp. 69-88) [-David G.] [...]

  12. [...] Life of Holiness: Reading Romans with Jim F. « Feast upon the Word Blog on The Life of Holiness: Romans 1:1 (Pages 21-46) [...]

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  14. […] Find some of my thoughts on what it means to be a servant of Jesus Christ in my notes from reading The Life of Holiness here. […]

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