God’s Righteousness in 3 Corinthians 4:12

September 9, 2011

3 Cor 4:12-18 states (my trans.):

12 But God, the almighty, because he is righteous and he did not want to annihilate his own creation, 13 caused the Spirit through fire to descend into Mary the Galilean, 15 so that, by this same pershing flesh, by which the Evil One exercised his reign, he was defeated and convinced that he was not God.  16 For Christ Jesus saved all flesh by his own body, 17 so as to consecrate a temple of righteousness in his own body, 18 by which we have been liberated.

Beginning in 4:12, 3 Cor starts to detail how God initiated his plan of salvation for humanity. At this point, the logic of the text begins to look like a significant passage in another Pauline letter: Romans 3:19-22. There, Paul says:

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

In 3 Cor, the problem that needs to be solved is that the creation was in danger of annihiliation by God (which God did not wish to do). Similarly, in Romans 3 the major problem is that every person is found guilty before God. The solution, on the other hand, is δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ, which is through the πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ for all who believe. These two phrases, δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ and πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, have themselves become centers of controversy in Pauline scholarship. Scholars dispute whether δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ refers to something God grants to believers or else an aspect of his character, over which scholars likewise debate. As for the phrase, πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, the dispute circles around whether it is “faith in Christ” or “the faith/faithfulness of Christ”. One scholar who represents the New Perspective on Paul, N.T. Wright, argues for an interpretation of Romans (e.g., Romans, NIB 10,  ad loc.) which seems to be confirmed by 3 Cor 4:12-18 here. His position is that the righteousness of God is God’s own faithfulness to his covenants, which included promises to save Israel and the world, and that πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ is Christ’s own faithfulness, the ministry and death resurrection by which God has kept his promises. 3 Cor 4:12-14 closely parallels Wright’s interpretation of that epistle. That is, here, it is because God is righteous that he sends the Spirit to Mary in order to bring Jesus into the world in flesh, and it is in that flesh that Christ saves all flesh. God’s righteousness mentioned in 4:12 provides a motive for him to save the world, not destroy it. If one asks how God’s righteousness could provide a motive for him to save the world, the simplest answer seems to be along the lines that Wright suggests for Romans: to be righteous, God must keep his promises, or else he would be a liar, because God promised to save the world in his covenants. Thus to be righteous, he must become the world’s saviour.


Open Thread: State of the the question

June 4, 2009

David Lincicum wrote the following suggestive comment:

Thank you all for such an interesting and informative site. It is quite helpful – especially the uploaded theses and articles. As one who is just completing a doctoral thesis in Paul but interested in expanding my knowledge about the Pauline legacy, I wonder if I could register a personal desideratum that might be useful to others as well: a post or perhaps series of shorter posts with some recommendations for entering the scholarly fray on these Acts. Having read, e.g., Klauck’s intro to the apocryphal Acts, I’m not necessarily asking for a full-blown introduction to the Acts of Paul, but more of an insider’s perspective on things to look at and things to avoid on certain issues – maybe some broad brush state-of-the-question type remarks on things like text, provenance, theological hot-buttons, relationship to canonical traditions, etc. (Perhaps including some positions one might encounter in the older scholarly literature but are now considered passé?) Obviously you have already discussed a lot of these on the blog already, but general orientating remarks would be equally welcome.

No pressure – just a thought

Thanks David for your interest in Acta Pauli. I open this thread to discuss the “state of the question” of the Acts of Paul, and we can add new posts as needed. I am curious about the subject of your PhD thesis (and where you study).

The influence of 1 Corinthians on the Acts of Paul

March 11, 2009

Peter W. Dunn, “The influence of 1 Corinthians on the Acts of Paul“, Society of Biblical Literature 1996 Seminar Papers (Atlanta:  Scholars Press), 438-454, with minor corrections.

This paper largely draws from my 1996 doctoral dissertation with a few additional reflections.


An Echo from “Testing Pauline Pseudonymity”

February 11, 2009

I found the following thread from Corpus Paul archive written by my friend Dan Bailey. Thanks for the feedback on my paper “Testing Pauline Pseudonymity: 3 Corinthians and the Pastoral Epistles Compared”.

Unconvinced of Pseudonymity

Daniel P. Bailey

DanPBailey[at]aol[dot]com Sun, 20 Feb 2000 16:19:25 … On 04/27/99, “kraft[at]ccat[dot]sas[dot]upenn[dot]edu (Robert Kraft)” wrote:

If time permits, now that classes are over, I may try to argue that a Paul  of the type responsible for the Pastorals also wrote “3 Corinthians” (for a text, see my web page, Paul course, texts) — in hopes that some methodological consistency can be introduced into the discussion!

I know that the above message is almost a year old and I suspect that the corpus-paul discussion has now moved on (…why was I spending a Sunday afternoon reading these archives? you might ask). But Dr. Kraft’s interesting idea of comparing the Pastorals and 3 Corinthians to shed light on questions of authorship has recently been pursued in a paper presented to the Paul group of the Midwest Regional Meeting of the SBL, on Tuesday 15 February 2000 at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. The author was Peter Dunn of Toronto (Ph.D. Cantab.). Peter showed that the heresies in view in 3 Corinthians seem to reflect a later time (ca. 120-145 CE) than those reflected in the Pastorals. Many in the audience seemed to think that Peter had made a good case for dating the Pastorals around 100 CE. However, Peter’s own feeling that they might have been even earlier (perhaps even reflective of a situation not far removed from Paul’s own lifetime) seemed to encounter a lot of scepticism. In any case, I’m sure Peter would welcome correspondence on the topic. Email: [comment below]. Sincerely, Dan Bailey

Daniel P. Bailey (Ph.D. Cantab.) …


Tertullian and the Acts of Thecla or Paul? Readership of the Ancient Christian Novel and the Invocation of Thecline and Pauline Authority

January 30, 2009

Tertullian is uncomfortable with an authoritative text, entitled the Acts of Paul, which records a tradition of Paul, where Paul authorizes a woman to teach, and as a result of her teaching authorization, she also has the right to baptize. This Pauline tradition is threatening to Tertullian because it threatens to undermine the necessity of a Bishop, who plays a significant role in the baptismal process. I am going to make the argument that Tertullian is concerned that the Cainite woman and others have found and are using a Pauline tradition that threatens to eliminate the need for the hierarchical episcopate of the early church, rendering the dominant orthodox model as useless. Read More (pdf) ….


The Acts of Paul and the Pauline Legacy (Cambridge, 1996)

January 21, 2009

The Acts of Paul and the Pauline Legacy in the Second Century (pdf; 1.3 mb)

At long last I offer my PhD dissertation on the world wide web.  Perhaps an explanation is necessary as to why I failed to publish it before now.  I began writing a commentary on the Acts of Paul and I hoped to exploit the written material in the dissertation.  But I have since learned that the writing of an extended argument about the Acts of Paul is very different than writing a commentary, and I find now that there will be minimal overlap in the two publications.

I am offering it as a web publication in the hopes of encouraging others to make their work available on the internet free of charge.  The internet in my view is perfectly suited for this sort of academic publication.  My work in Africa, where bibliographic material is not readily available encourages me to publish on the internet as well.  I retain the copyright and all rights are reserved.  The security features in the pdf will prevent users from using copy and paste feature, but it is possible to print the document.

My thanks to Prof. Willy Rordorf my Doktorvater; and to the late Dr. Caroline Bammel, the Rev. Dr. Lionel Wickham, and Prof. Morna Hooker, my supervisors in Cambridge; and to the late Dr. Ernst Bammel, Dr. Stuart G. Hall, and Prof. William Horbury, my examiners.

For a summary, Read the rest of this entry »