Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Faith of Jesus

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:21-24

One of the reasons that the study of scripture is so rewarding is that it continues to speak to us in new ways. We are never done with a text. It isn’t a puzzle that we figure out once and for all. It is a living word.

Still it’s not often that I encounter a new interpretation that is radically at odds with how I have previously understood a passage. But that is exactly what happened as I was reading the Disciple Bible Study on Romans written by Dr. Pamela M. Eisenbaum.

Dr. Eisenbaum points out that in the NRSV translation there is a footnote to the familiar passage above, which radically changes how we understand it. The phrase, “faith in Jesus Christ,” might be more accurately translated as “the faith of Jesus Christ.”

Building on Martin Luther’s interpretation, the key to salvation has been understood as having faith in Jesus Christ. This new insight suggests that we are called, not to believe in Jesus, but to have the same faith that he had. In other words, to have the same faith in God that he had.

This would fit with Paul Tillich’s idea that Jesus always points beyond himself, and it also would make Paul’s theology much closer to what we see of Jesus in Matthew, Mark and Luke. It would support John Dominic Crossan’s idea that Paul and Jesus shared a basic commitment to the Kingdom of God which was at the heart of their preaching.

Something to think about.

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