Reviews of

Scripture, Texts, and Tracings

In A. Andrew DAS, Anthony Royle, Fortress Press, Intertextuality, Lexington Books, Linda L. BELLEVILLE, Romans, Scripture, Septuagint on March 26, 2022 at 2:00 pm
Book cover

2022.03.04 | Linda L. Belleville and A. Andrew Das (eds.). Scripture, Texts, and Tracings in Romans. London: Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, 2021. pp. xiii + 267. ISBN: 978-1-9787-0471-8.

Review by Anthony P. Royle, University of Glasgow.

Scripture, Texts, and Tracing in Romans is a collection of twelve essays presented at the Society of Biblical Literature seminar on Scripture and Paul from 2017 and 2018. This is the second edited volume in a planned four volume series. (The previous volume on 1 Corinthians was edited by Linda Belleville and B. J. Oropeza.) In this volume Andrew Das is co-editor with Belleville, who also contribute two chapters alongside notable senior Pauline scholars invited to deliver papers to the seminar.

The introduction outlines the volume’s rationale to ‘explore the recent interpretation of Romans and strive toward resolving longstanding questions of how Paul interpreted and applied the Jewish Scriptures’ (p. 1). While it is ambitious to ‘resolve’ longstanding questions on the rich networks of citations and allusions in a work densely populated with antecedent literature such as Romans, it must be acknowledged that this volume is an example of scholarly discourse and collaboration. The difficulty with edited volumes, and with collected papers on a whole, is the often-neglected attention to some of the meta-critical issues in the field. However, this volume seeks to engage with some of the methodological difficulties, while maintaining the individual exegetical or theological questions in each essay. 

There is a lot of familiar ground in this book with chapters on key themes in Romans, particularly those with historical reformed theology interests. For instance, the first chapter by Roy Ciampa, ‘Habakkuk 2:4 in Romans: Echoes, Allusions, and Rewriting’, looks at the meaning of ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως and its wider use in the context of Romans. Likewise, Harry Hahne’s chapter ‘Righteousness by Faith, Not by the Law: Paul’s Argument from Scripture in Romans 10:1–8᾽equally investigates Paul’s use of πίστις and νόμος rooted in Jewish scripture. Similarly, Brian Abasciano’s chapter, ‘Who Do You Think You Are? Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9:20–21’which was adapted from a section in a previous monograph, wrestles with the subject of election and Paul’s use of Jeremiah’s potter imagery. Andrew Das’ first chapter, ‘Περὶ Ἀμαρτίας: as Sin-Offering in Romans 8:3: A Critique’challenges the well-established translation of περὶ ἁμαρτίας as sin-offering advocated by N. T. Wright and others, and argues that linguistically and contextually mean ‘for sin’. Furthermore, there are familiar biblical themes explored in Joseph Dodson’s chapter, ‘The Interceding Spirit: Reevaluating the Background of Romans 8:26–27’, and Steven Sullivan’s essay on ‘The Isaianic New Exodus Wisdom Polemic in Romans 9–11’.

The volume also addresses issues of Paul’s sources, although not extensively. The introduction states, ‘the prevailing approach has been to compare Paul with the post-Pauline Masoretic Text and to locate Paul’s interpretative approach in the changes between the two’ (p. 1). I would also add that modern scholarship has sought to locate Paul’s sources among the Old Greek text and possible Hebrew recensions. The overarching problem in studies of the NT use of the OT is the treatment of later critical editions as historical documents. Therefore, I appreciate Stuart Langeley’s essay, ‘Agency and Obduracy: A Comparison of Romans 11:8 and 1QIsa 6.9-10’which looks at the historical document of 1QIsaa. The inclusion of material texts for intertextual studies in sorely neglected in our field. 

The underlying methodology of most of the chapters of this volume stems from the work of Richard B. Hays and the literary theory of metalepsis. Neil Elliot’s chapter, ‘Text and Topos: Intertextuality in Romans and the Question of Paul’s Politics’, is the most explicit chapter of Hays’ methodology, with a section on Hay’s infamous seven-fold criteria. Elliot argues that the scope and effect of echoes should include political ideologies pervading the languages contemporary to Paul. The broader considerations for what may be recognised by the reader/hearer appeals to the criteria of availability and historical plausibility. Andrew Das’s second chapter, ‘Christ as Messiah in Romans’in contrast to Elliot, subverts the political ideology behind messianic terminology in Romans. Michael Bird’s chapter, ‘Echoes and Allusions to the Jewish Scriptures in Paul’s Ethical Discourse in Romans 12:9-21’, is also reflective of Hays’ methodology in Romans 12 and Graeco-Roman ethical discourse. The context of readership and historical situation is helpful in establish what the initial readers/listeners of Romans were ‘hearing’. Bird’s chapter is also helpful in highlighting what today’s reader should be ‘hearing’ in Paul’s ethical discussion with a timely reminder to repay evil with good, echoing Paul’s exhortation (p. 181). A notable chapter is Michael Weinberg Graham’s chapter, ‘To David? Paul’s Use of Composite Quotations in Romans 3:10–18’. Graham’s essay envisages Paul’s composition a little differently to the other essays, viewing Paul’s readership of the Torah through the Psalms.

This volume would have benefitted from more diversity in exploring different methods of intertextuality (see Exploring Intertextuality by B. J. Oropeza and Steve Moyise), especially from some of the cutting-edge literary theories. It would have been helpful to see how these methodologies differed in interpretating Romans and how they contribute to understanding the early readership of Romans. Scholars critical of Hays’ work may wrestle with some of the terminology in this book. (Terminology is a contentious issue for the field of the NT use of the OT anyway.) And scholars may object to assumptions that ‘Paul’s reader would have understood this’, and ‘Paul’s audience were familiar with that’ (especially the conclusion of Hahne’s chapter; p. 147). However, this volume still demonstrates the valuable contribution of Hays decades later. 

Craig Keener provides an insightful ‘Afterword’ in the concluding section of this volume. Rather than summarise each chapter, Keener notes their merits, as well as his reservations. Further consideration could have been made to some of the meta-critical issues raised in the volume, but Keener concludes with a statement that articulates the need to look at intertextuality more broadly: ‘intertextuality, for all its importance in addressing Paul’s canon, belongs to a wider concern for the contexts that informed the language, imagery, argumentation, and concepts of both Paul and his first audiences’ (p. 230). 

Finally, I wish to note this volume includes an endorsement from the late Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, James D. G. Dunn which is a nice touch. Dunn succinctly comments that these essays enable ‘readers to hear with the ears of first-century readers/hearers—that is, to hear what Paul intended the recipients of his letter to hear. Who could ask for more?’ This is indeed high praise, and I concur with Prof. Dunn. This volume is a robust set of essays that will guide scholars and students into the inner part of Paul’s meticulous reading of the Jewish scriptures.

Anthony P. Royle
University of Glasgow
2616009R [at] student.gla.ac.uk

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