AUSTRALIAN BIBLICAL REVIEW
BOOK REVIEW Online review only, listed in Volume 61, 2013
DOUGLAS A. CAMPBELL, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2009). Pp. 1245. Paperback. US$55.00.
I am grateful to ABR for the privilege and pleasure of reviewing this mighty book. It provided me, a non-specialist in Pauline studies, with a full refresher course in what has been happening in this field since E. P. Sanderss seismic shift in Pauline scholarship (2) in Paul and Palestinian Judaism, reviewed on 97100.
Campbell has studied with great care all the significant writing on Paul in the last half century, since Sanders showed that what Paul says about the Judaism of his day does not match what can be discovered historically in the considerable variety of Jewish sects and movements that existed in first-century Palestine. Campbell has carried further the discrediting of Pauls soteriology, particularly in Romans, or, rather, of the conventional understanding of Pauls doctrine of justification that has been the hallmark of Protestantism since Luther. His project is to replace this Traditional Justification Theory (TJT) with a reading in which God is more benevolent, Christ is more central, and salvation is retrospective, participatory (communal and ecclesial), and apocalyptic.
To carry out this project required 936 pages of very fine print followed by 241 pages of endnotes in even finer print. It is hopeless for me to try to do justice to this prodigious achievement in a short review. Campbell deploys with impressive skill all the tools of contemporary criticism and hermeneutics, and his forceful writing makes the whole thing very exciting. The entire book is studded with sparkling gems of exegesis.
In a Preamble (135), Campbell analyses TJT, summarising it in 37 Argumentative Progressions in Propositional Form (2829). An initial difficulty: partisans of TJT might find it hard to recognise their beliefs in this account. It is too formal, programmatic, rationalistic, to match the actual understanding of persons who have found Christian salvation in terms of justification by faith. In Chapter 8, Campbell supplies a sketch of the Church-Historical Pedigree of TJT, limited to Luther, Menanchthon, and Calvin (with a glance back to Augustine). He shows how both Luther and Calvin virtually abandoned the voluntarism of the human response, prominent in the early days of the Reformation (and a main target for Campbells criticism), for a more radical view of human depravity, with a new emphasis on sola gratia and the sovereign work of the Spirit. Luther denies human capacity in his po-lemic against the humanism of Erasmus, while Calvin's extreme doctrine of total depravity required him to attribute human salvation to election imple-mented by irresistible grace. These factors do not figure in Campbells Argumentative Progressions in Propositional Form, although they continue to be part of traditional reformed soteriology. The understandable reaction in Arminianism has characterised popular revivalism unto this day, especially in America. Many coarse crudities can, of course, be found in todays decadent evangelicalism (God punished Jesus and the like). So perhaps a distinction should be made between serious reformed theology and sports-oval mass evangelism and folksy tele-evangelism. Campbells artificial parody leaves much of classical reformed soteriology untouched, making it easier for him to brand TJT as Arminian (or even Pelagian). Ironic!
On the basis of this summary of TJT, Campbell proceeds to point out and list several kinds of difficulties: intrinsic (7x) (Chap. 2 and p. 168), systematic (10x) (Chap 3 and p. 169), empirical (4x) (Chaps 4, 5 and p. 170), distortions (Chap 8), dangers (Chap 9), exegetical underdeterminations (11x) and overdeterminations (24x) (Chap 11), all summarised on 397411. Conclusion: TJT has feet of clay (Chapter 11). Campbell has reduced TJT to rubble, with no part of it worth saving, apparently. Campbell will claim, as the project advances, that all these difficulties are overcome and that those shortcomings evaporate in Campbells apocalyptic rereading of Pauls justification texts.
One cannot help asking whether the TJT is really as bad as Campbell makes it out to be. If so, how has it satisfied so many people for so long? Does it not seem a bit overweening to imply that all the scholars since Luther and Calvin, not to mention hosts of ordinary Christians, who have found life in Christ by embracing this doctrine, have been deluded in their reading of Romans?
Chapter 12 is transitional to Part 4. It contains very instructive reviews of four revisionist strategies for coping with the crisisthe work of Watson, E. P. Sanders, Dunn, and Stowers. None are entirely satisfactory, according to Campbell.
The proposed reconstruction begins in Part 4A Rhetorical and Apocalyptical Rereading. This is based on the premise that [a]ny explanation of the original production of Romans must be able to account for all the data in that letter (470). It will be no small feat to carry this off, and there is much in Romans that Campbell does not account for. All readers find many places where Romans seems incoherent. Chapter 7 comes to mind as particularly troublesome.
In proposing his "explanation
that satisfies all the relevant criteriathe only theory that seems to be able to do so, Campbell takes his cue from Pauls caustic warnings in the letter closing against false teachers (16:1720), the only feature in the data that seems self-sufficient or independently valid and capable of expansion in a way that can plausibly explain all the other issues (495).
The well-known critical question about the authenticity of Romans 16 is handled with the assertion (without supporting arguments) that Romans 16 looks more integral to the letter than separate (at least on text-critical grounds (482). The integrity of the whole letter is a compositional question, not just a text-critical one, and the two endings leave open the possibility that Chapter 16 was an add-on. But, even assuming that Chapter 16 is part of the letter sent to Rome, it would be strange to supply the key to the whole letter at the very tail-end.
Several purposes have been proposed for the writing of Romans, and its composite nature suggests that the letter had more than one purpose. Campbells rereading is based on only one of the several purposes that have been proposed. Romans was written for the same reason that Galatians was writtento defend Pauls gospel against the depredations of certain hostile counter-missionaries (ibid.), like those who dogged Paul from Jerusalem to Antioch to Galatia to Philippi to Rome (506).
The letter presents features of diatribe (dialogue with an imaginary interlocutor), a possibility that Campbell recognises. His supposed Teacher is not therefore a portrait of the actual empirical opponent (512). Even so, he brings the Teacher to life as someone who was already spreading his mischief in Rome or expected soon. Paul wrote Romans to oppose a certain false teacher and his teaching (499). Romans is an attempt to negate the Influence of Hostile Counter-missionaries in Rome (495).
Campbell then identifies the Teachers gospel by finding his voice in various portions of Romans that have been traditionally ascribed to Paul, turning the arguments inside-out. Thus Romans 1:1832 is the Teachers Rhetorical Opening (543). The Teacher, not Paul, preached the wrath of God. Pauls message is altogether benevolent, bringing deliverance and life through the resurrection of Christ.
Under Textual Voice Reconsidered (53034), Campbell suggests that, when composing the letter, Paul could have marked the Teachers portions by speaking for a time in the voice of another figure (541), and that Phoebe could have mimicked him when she read the letter (a set of performances by a letter bearer to an audience of listening Christians (531). This is somewhat fanciful.
Of course, in various places in his letters, Paul makes dramatic use of questions and quotations; there are many cases in 1 Corinthians. But is that what he is doing in Romans? You can see what the questions and expostulations are doing in 1 Corinthians: But someone will say, How are the dead raised? And so on. There is not the slightest hint, in the text of Romans, that it is structured as a debate between two opposing persons.
Campbells entire treatment is based on this highly speculative hypothesis. Pauls authentic gospel is then found in his putative responses to what the Teacher (allegedly) says. Campbells resulting analysis of the argument is carried out with great ingenuity; but it is so contrived and artificial as to be unpersuasive. Another case of feet of clay.
Having subtracted the Teachers words, Campbell constructs Pauls gospel from what is left. The centrepiece of Campbells counter-proposal is found in Part 4 (A Rhetorical and Apocalyptic Rereading ), particularly in Chapters 15 and 16 (60172) that concentrate on Rom 3:2126. Here Campbells exegetical probity is at its best and the summary of the results in chapter 18 is cogent.
Campbell re-examines in great detail the well-studied issues of the meaning of the key phrases the righteousness of God and (the) faith of Christ, concluding that the genitives are both subjective. Gods righteousness is his act of liberation, not retribution, in the Christ event. The faith of Christ is Christs fidelity.
I would have to read the whole book all over again now that I know what Campbell is on about in order to make sure that my misgivings and reservations are fairly taken and not just a hangover from nearly seventy years of living as a Christian in terms of the justification theory that Campbell has demolished.
I will mention just a few matters that give me pause. Early in the book (Chapter 3), Campbell intimates that An Alternate Pauline Theory can be found in Romans 58. He gives a concise exposition, summarised in twenty-one propositions (7273). Having concluded that TJT has feet of clay, Campbell devotes Part 4 to rereading Romans 14 (467761), claiming that his new theory solves all the problems he laid bare at the beginning (593-600; 711-14; 750-61), declaring his reading to be problem-free (760). We can expect this perhaps over-sanguine claim to be tested in the further research that Campbells formidable study is bound to stimulate.
In Part 5 Campbell tests his claim that his new reading fits also the rest of Romans and other Pauline justification texts (mainly in Galatians and Philippians). Some readers might share my surprise and disappointment that Campbell jumped straight from Romans 4 into Romans 9, when chapter 3 makes the reader expect a thorough exposition of Romans 58, which is generally recognised as a distinct portion of the letter, and perhaps the heart of Pauls gospel. This would have served his purpose better than the rest of
Romans, unhampered by the point-for-point, scriptural engagement with the Teachers gospel (757) found in Romans 14.
Here his main methodological weakness is his reliance on the substitution fallacy. This is an interpretive ploy in which, say, the word faith in a sentence is replaced by Christ. Because the new reading is meaningful, it is de-clared to be better. Having concluded that faith is an alternate locution for Christ, in the discussion of Galatians 3:1529 Campbell declares that it is really impossible
to construe the pistis as anything or anyone other than Christ himself (875), authorising the identification of Christ with the motif of pistis throughout (ibid.). This gambit is so overdone that little room is left for the faith of the Christian.
It is ironic that Campbell accuses Dunn, Wright, and Watson of importing a considerable amount of explanatory material into the gaps in [the] text (865), when this is just what he himself does all the time, even though he claims that an
apocalyptic rereading does not need to import anything (ibid.).
An example: Campbell recommends a thick reading of the analogy between Abraham and Christians (752). If we consequently insert a mediating christological dimension between Abrahams fidelity and later Christian fidelity, thickening the nature and terms of Pauls analogy, then we solve all of our difficulties (753; authors italics). Similarly, in Romans, life always means the eschatological life of the age to come (863).
The role of the sinner in accepting justification by faith is thus left unclear if faith in Romans refers only to Christs fidelity; indeed, by metonymy, faith all by itself can be code for Christ, according to Campbell. One of Campbells strongest criticisms of TJT is that justification is a voluntarist model throughout (25belief voluntarism ). Crudely, believing is something (the only thing!) that the sinner has to do. Of course, there is an antinomy here. Faith is also a gift of God (by grace), a work of the Holy Spirit, but that doesnt cancel human freedom. The apostolic answer to the reasonable question, What must I do to be saved? (compare 817) is Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:3031; see Rom 10:810). Of course, this cryptic answer leaves a lot unsaid, but it states the briefest of essentials. It is interesting to notice how Campbell squirms in his examination of Rom 10:810 (81719). He is reluctant to accept any reading that implies that faith is a criterion or condition of justification, preferring a thick reading (more christocentric and apocalyptic  as the correct one (or, at least, the better one) (817). It is better, because it fits his reading. In other wordsand he does this frequentlythe choice between two equally possible (856) readings, as he often concedes they are, is constrained by his hypothesispetitio principii!
There can be no objection to Campbells insistence that justification in Paul is christocentric; but that does not mean that the human response can be left out of the equation.
A very serious omission is the lack of any substantial discussion of atonement through the death of Christ, in spite of otherwise competent exegesis of 3:2126, although the sacrificial connotations of blood and hilasterion are downplayed. The handling of this theme in Chapter 16 is inadequate (resonance with 4 Maccabees and Genesis 22 notwithstanding). A theme of martyrdom need not be denied, but it is not just an event in a persons life with blood denoting the same event of heroic martyrological death as hilasterion (653; authors italics). There is more to Christs death than martyrdom.
Campbells rereading is remarkably unforthcoming as to how the Christ eventhis death and resurrection as Gods righteous actgets rid of human sinfulness. Understandably he finds some of the talk about this in TJT repugnant. Many do. But there it is. In his baptism, Jesus identified with us in our sin-death. In our baptism we are taken into his sin-death where our sins are engulfed in the vehement flame of Gods love. So we are liberated from them. This is the cup of agony we bless and partake of in eucharist. This is the participation that Campbell rightly highlights to replace the crass individualism of decadent TJT. It is participation in Christs risen life that is sharing in Christs sufferings [Phil 3:10], filling up on [our] part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in [our] flesh for his bodys sake, which is the church [Col 1:24] and other like sayings of Paul. Christocentric surely, but sinners are now in that centre with Christ.
FRANCIS I. ANDERSEN
Classics and Archaeology, University of Melbourne