The Debate over The Deliverance of God by Douglas Campbell goes on
Some Christmas Reading

Doug Campbell's Rereading of Romans 1-4

The biggest names in Pauline scholarship have all more or less written their big books on Paul (apart from one NT Wright, from whom we have the only teasers of The Climax of the Covenant and Paul: Fresh Perspectives). E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977), Richard B. Hays, The Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (1989 [see also his collection of essays, The Conversion of the Imagination, 2005]), J. Louis Martyn, Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul (1997 [to be read alongside his Anchor Bible Commentary on Galatians, 1997]), James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (1998), Francis Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (T & T Clark, 2004 [see also Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles, 2007]). In the case of Hays and Watson, they have moved their research focus to the gospels, which is also the case for Dunn in his retirement.

51tiXjRLs+L._SL210_In 2009 Douglas A. Campbell, after 15 years in the writing, published The Deliverance of God and said, that although these scholars had given important fresh insights to the task of understanding and describing Paul's theology, that all had failed to free themselves from what he called Justification Theory, which was like a virus that had infected all exegetical work. Justification Theory is contractual, conditional, Arian (foundationalist), a priori, Forward reading of Paul's letters which emerges fundamentally out of readings of Romans 1-4.

The reaction to Campbell's work has been that although many find much to agree with him in his understanding of Romans 5-8 (where Campbell thinks Paul is at one of his most clearest in terms of what he believes the gospel is), they are unable to join him in his reading of Romans 1-4.

What does Campbell do with Romans 1-4?

1. He says that with F. C. Baur everyone of Paul's letters is written because of opposition and this is also the case with the letter to the Romans.

2. The opposition Paul faces in Rome is the same opposition who were present in Galatia - Jewish Christian Teachers

3. Romans 1-4 then is Paul in direct engagement with this opposition. The interlocutor in Romans 2-3 is the opposition. Campbell then makes a fairly big and decisive claim that Romans 1.18-32 is not the voice of Paul, but the voice of the opposition - we have a block quote of their theology - to which the rest of Romans 2-3 is Paul demonstrates that its claims make no sense. Romans 1.18-3.20 is not Paul preparing for the gospel, but is Paul showing why another 'gospel' is wrong, that is, Romans 1-3.20 is not A which then leads to B (Romans 3.21-26), but should be read antithetically A v B.

4. Other recent attempts to provide new readings of Romans 1-4, Campbell argues tend to either reframing the text (so the likes of Watson and Sanders) or reread the text (so the likes of Dunn and his rereading of the motif of 'works of law' and Stowers). Campbell claims that none of these deal with the problem. We are stuck in a swamp!

4. Paul's gospel is unconditional, covenantal, Athanasian, a posteriori and apocalyptic - it is entirely grounded in the revelation of Jesus Christ. So instead of the slogan sola fide, he is sola Jesus.

5. If Campbell is right in The Deliverance of God it has massive implications for Pauline scholarship and yet also systematic theology and practical theology, most notably in evangelism, which are in large part wedded to the Justification Theory model. This partly why it took 15 years to write as Campbell meticulously seeks to demonstrate in the first nine chapters how so much of theology is caught by this reading.

Campbell99Last week's two-day conference on Deliverance saw Campbell present the arguments, with admittedly, a largerly friendly audience, the highlights of which was Campbell's live reading of Romans 1-3 as he understands it and later his singing of Charles Wesley's And Can it Be verse 4, as one of the best articulation's of Paul's gospel. (It was nice to meet Alan Torrance, Jeremy Begbie, Andrew Goddard, Chris Tilling, Scott Hafemann and say hello again to Eddie Adams).

In my humble (and non-specialist) opinion it is for others to offer a better reading of Paul, rather than just a dismissal, which works at every level of exegesis, argument, theory, and theology. This is one of the strengths of Campbell's argument.

Campbell was asked, what about if we agree with you, but we can't go with your reading of Romans 1-3. I don't think that works, because what then do you to with Romans 1-3.

We can look forward to Campbell's articel review of Tom Wright's Justification (and apparently Tom's reply) and also (probably) in 2013 a theological commentary on Romans, tentatively titled The End of Religion: A Theological Rereading of Romans.

If you can't face the length of Deliverance (Chris Tilling called it a monsto-graph), then let me encourage you to read The Quest for Paul's Gospel (an earlier set of essays) and Campbell's responses to Gorman and Tilling in the Journal for Paul and his Letters (Spring 2011) and Matlock and Macaskill in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament (December 2011). You will never read Paul the same way!



Decent review, Andy. It seems to me that if you agree with Campbell's general thrust, you have to assume that his re-reading of Romans 1-3 is, if not absolutely correct, at least based on the right presuppositions on how to read Romans.

That said, I think that Robin Griffith-Jones did make a reasonable objection regarding speech-in-character - or rather, said enough to stop Campbell getting too carried away with speech-in-character in Romans. But as Campbell himself said, I don't think that G-J's objection was a crippling blow. I wonder if Campbell has any doctoral students researching speech-in-character...

Steve Martin

No exactly sure I totally understand what Cambell is shooting for.

I have always believed that Romans 1:18 - 3:20 set forth the problem of all mankind.

And that 3:21 and following set forth the antidote.



I reached a similar position to Campbell regarding speech-in-character in Romans 1-3 independently of him, so I was quite pleased to see he had publicized the arguments in favour of this position.

I found particularly helpful in this area the article Romans 1.18–32: Its Role in the Developing Arguement by C.L. Porter, and Stanley Stowers' book Rereading Romans. They provide good reasons for thinking that the 'voice' in Rom 1:18-32 is "not Paul". So I would be quite interested in seeing Robin Griffith-Jones' arguments against this.

I also think the parallel between Romans 1:18-32 and Wisdom of Solomon 13-14 is particularly compelling. Not nearly enough attention has been paid by scholars to the fact that Paul begins Romans with such a lengthy quotation/paraphrase from Wisdom. Terminology from that work also occurs often in the rest of Romans. The next key observation is that a primary theme of the work Wisdom of Solomon is the evils of the gentiles and how they deserve God's wrath, and how the Jews by contrast will receive great reward. This unequal view of Jews and Gentiles is diametrically opposed to what we know to be Paul's view. This tells us that Paul's use of the Wisdom text is not a supportive one: It provides the position which he is arguing against. Indeed, whenever an allusion to Wisdom is made in Romans, we see Paul follow it up immediately with a rejection or denial or critique.

I do differ to Campbell a bit in terms of how we assign particular bits Romans 1-3 to variously Paul and the Teacher. I find his scheme to be overly complex, and too much driven by his assumptions about Paul's theology.

Terry raises an interesting question to think about - to what extent does Campbell's interpretation of Paul (and by extension, my own) rely on interpreting Romans 1-3 in a particular way (particularly, with regard to dependency on Speech in Character)? Having spent a little time thinking about this, I would have to agree with Campbell's sentiment in DoG: It is justification theory that is dependent upon reading Rom 1-3 in a certain way, not us. As Campbell points out in his book, justification theory is primarily founded upon a certain reading of Rom 1-3, and nowhere else in the bible are all the elements of justification theory laid out in such a systematic way. Therefore, if justification theory loses its reading of Rom 1-3, it loses its primary evidence and in fact has precious little left to go on. Whereas Campbell's view, and my own, which are not founded upon Rom 1-3, are not dependent upon it being read in any particular way. Thus the motivation that Campbell and myself have for finding the correct reading of Rom 1-3 is not so much to support our own positions (though that would be nice, of course) as to undermine justification theory's primary supporting passage. Of course we need not necessarily come up with any explanation of what Rom 1-3 says. We could, like EP Sanders, just say that justification theory's interpretation of Rom 1-3 is unsatisfactory (I agree it is unsatisfactory), and then admit that we (like the rest of the world) have no idea as to what the correct reading of it is, and perhaps wonder if it may be suffering from interpolations which might prevent it ever being successfully reconstructed. However, Campbell and I both go further than that and think that we do have the correct reading of it. But if it turns out that we don't then it doesn't actually matter too much.


I'm generally supportive of Campbell's approach to Romans, but one thing nags at me. As Campbell makes his transition away from picking apart Justification Theory and toward asserting his own reading, he hints at the identity of the Teacher. I don't recall the page number, but he says something like 'The position of the Teacher or his later followers can arguably be found in the New Testament.' Then, infuriatingly, in a book full of over-the-top footnoting... there is no footnote. My guess is that he is hinting at the book of James or maybe Hebrews. I was wondering if someone could shed some light on this (and also maybe shed some light on why Campbell would leave this one detail unresolved in a book in which every other dead horse is thoroughly beaten).



The profile of the Teacher is carefully reconstructed in all essential details by Lou Martyn. I agree with pretty much everything he says--certainly all the key moves. But I see the same construct in Romans as he does in Galatians. The original influence here is, as you probably know, F. C. Baur.

The reconstruction of Jewish Christianity seems to be undergoing a renaissance in NT studies at present, although it's embarrassing that we ever lost sight of it.

In the NT, have a careful read of Matthew, Revelation, and of course James. I don't think Hebrews is relevant here. Baur leaned heavily on the Pseudo-Clementines, which are still important and highly indicative.


Spencer Hodgens

For those who are interested, I noticed through a google search that recordings of the conference are available at:

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