One lesson down, another one begins.  Such is life.

(On the upside, as one of my long-time jerk friends likes to say, my “gunner” mentality has served me well as I may have “eeked!” or fist pumped or clicked my heels or whatever gunners do when they receive their first 10 out of 10.  But that’s not the point.  Well, not the only point…)

 (1) Abraham, “the father of us all”: (A) Briefly discuss what you think to be the relationship between what Paul says in Romans 3:27–31 (especially the issue of establishing the Law in v. 31) with what Paul says about that which Abraham has found in chapter 4. (In what ways does Abraham serve to demonstrate the ‘establishing’ of the Law [Torah]? How does the issue of “boasting” come up in this context? What is the role of the Law in the Abraham narrative that Paul is telling? How does Abraham relate to “the righteousness of faith” and to the Law?)
(B) Next, noticing the “faith vs. works” antithesis (in 4:1–12) and the “faith + promise” correlation (in 4:13–25), discuss the manner in which Paul seems to offer a ‘re-reading’ of the Abraham story in Genesis to do the following two things: (1) One, to reframe Abraham’s character as being one primarily of belief in the divine promise rather than as the supreme exemplar of pious conduct (and thus possibly having a reason to boast); and (2) Two, to de-center Abraham as the primary character in his own narrative, replaced by the God who gives life to the dead.

 

1A.  Verse 31 of Romans 3 expounds upon Paul’s last statement in verse 30 in such a way as to, almost facetiously, ask the question, “Do we then destroy the law through faith?”  According to Keck, the interlocutor is asking the question because the idea that Jews are rectified the exact same way as the Gentiles is offensive to him (i.e. them, the Jews) and appears to endanger the cardinal significance of the law for Jewish existence.  Further, the interlocutor is posing the question in such a way (I am imagining a heated back and forth with “tone”) to correlate it negatively with what he asked in 3:1:  “What is the advantage of the Jew, or the value of the circumcision?”[1]  This whole exchange and seeming affront at the Jews is striking a big nerve [with the interlocutor], as it goes to the origin/seed/root of Jewish identity.  And who is synonymous with the origin/seed/root of the Jews?  Abraham.
Because common Jewish assumption is that the Jews are not only elect, but Abraham (who is like, the human mascot of election) and the law are inseparable, Paul has to make his point by separating the two.  But here’s the rub, he has to do this – without at the same time dismissing the notion that giving prominence to faith actually maintains the law.
Oddly enough, what Paul says about the law in Chapter 4 doesn’t necessarily “maintain” it at all; rather, everything he says about it is negative (esp. 4:13, 15).  Yet Paul skillfully puts forth Abraham as plausible evidence that he (Abraham) was also rectified “apart from the works of the law,” and therefore is the archetype of all those who trust in God who raised Jesus from the dead.  By treating Abraham in this regard, Paul absolutely believes he is asservating the law in its proper role of attesting God’s rectitude apart from the law.[2]  The impact that this separation (God’s rectifying apart from the law) has on Jewish identity and self-understanding is huge, especially in relation to Gentile salvation.  Enter “feeling superior,” i.e. boasting.  
The interlocutor brings up boasting (3:27) in an effort to defend his sense of identity.  The “bragging” goes back to 2:17; that the interlocutor asks the question of “Where, then, is boasting?” in 3:27 infers that he has accepted the portrayal given by Paul – he calls himself a Jew; he relies on the law and boasts in God; he has the truth in law, he teaches Gentiles; he boasts the law.  The role of the law in this narrative, I believe, is to essentially reframe the mindset of the interlocutor (representing an entire Jewish identity).  Why?  The effort is to level the playing field, if you will, in a two-fold manner:  Jews v. Gentiles and Law v. Faith.  Again, Paul is brilliantly (can you tell I have bias?) tackling underlying issues at the core of a believer’s heart against the larger rubric backdrop of the central message of the gospel – salvation.
 

1B.  Chapter 4 offers a rereading of the Abraham story in Genesis for the predominant purpose of “removing” Abraham as the corollary protagonist and replacing him with the “always” protagonist, God.  It was necessary for Paul to engage in an interpretation of the Abraham story in order to demonstrate his gospel message and continuity with Torah (i.e. the law).  Categorically, Rom. 3:27-4:1 previews Paul’s telling of the Abraham story in 4:2-25, with careful attention to four issues:  exclusion of works (including boasting) in justification (3:27-28; 4:2-8); Abraham’s justification before his circumcision (3:29-30; 4:9-12); the cohesion between the law (Torah) and faith (3:31: 4:13-15); and the nature of Abraham’s fatherhood (4:1; 4:16-25).  Abraham is the father of both the Jews and the Gentiles, and Paul sees the fulfillment of God’s promise to give Abraham a son (Gen. 17:19) as something which was reconciled not through circumcision, but through Abraham’s own faithfulness in and toward the God who gives life to the dead (i.e. Christological presuppositions by Paul).  I believe this means that Abraham serves, for Paul, as a representative figure whose story has typological portrayals of Paul’s gospel.
Paul’s overarching message was one of relationship with regard to rectification / modification / reformation.  In that diakaiosynemeans that the relation to a norm is right, what occurs in justification and rectification is making right the relation to the norm, namely God.[3]  As Keck says so decorously: “justification and rectification does NOT make one good.  It corrects the relationship so good can follow.”[4]  Paul was freeing the future for good to occur.
 Again, the necessity of reframing the story is to remove any possible potential to credit Abraham’s obedience as his own righteousness (instead of God’s, though His grace, cf. 3:24) and instead, refocus the reliance solely on God.  By using Genesis 15:6 as Abraham’s justification and rectification without [his own] works, Paul implies that this rectification (and righting of the [hierarchical] relationship) occurred when God reckoned Abraham’s faith as righteousness.[5]  The reliance on the promise of what a right relationship with God means – salvation, giving life to the dead – was Paul’s mission in all circumstances, even if it meant reframing his writings through repetitious means for his audience(s).


[1] Keck, Leander E.  Romans.  Page 117.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 2005.
[2] Keck, Leander E.  Romans.  Page 114.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 2005. 
[3] Keck, Leander E.  Romans.  Page 124.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 2005.
[4] Keck, Leander E.  Romans.  Page 124.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 2005.
[5] Keck, Leander E.  Romans.  Page 124.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 2005.
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