Prolegomena To Understanding Romans 9:14-15: An Interpretation Of Exodus 33:19 -- By: John Piper

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 22:3 (Sep 1979)
Article: Prolegomena To Understanding Romans 9:14-15: An Interpretation Of Exodus 33:19
Author: John Piper


Prolegomena To Understanding Romans 9:14-15:
An Interpretation Of Exodus 33:19

John Piper*

I. The Task And Approach

When a trained Neutestamentler dares to offer the scholarly community an interpretation of an OT text, some justification is in order. Having been called to take one of the NT chairs at the University of Munich after the untimely death of Leonhard Goppelt, Ferdinand Hahn gave his Antrittsvorlesung on November 5, 1976. In it he discussed the interrelationship of the theological disciplines. He argued—rightly, I think—that “theology does not allow itself to be divided up into different ‘departments’ (Fächer); within theological research there are merely points of emphasis (Arbeitsschwerpunkte), which are closely intertwined.”1 The inference he draws from this is “the fundamental fact that the representative of one branch (Teildiziplin) of theology is responsible for the whole of theological work and accordingly must also have the right to join the discussion (Mitspracherecht) of the other areas of research. Moreover the scholar will not be able meaningfully to perform the tasks of his own area of emphasis if, in the midst of all his specialization, he does not keep in view the problems of the other areas of emphasis and continually regard them along with his own.”2 These observations are especially true with reference to the areas of OT and NT studies. Hence my venture into OT exegesis.

My motivation for studying Exod 33:19 was the hope that this will shed more light on Paul’s argument in Rom 9:14–15 where he cites the phrases, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Among the questions arising from this Pauline text that OT exegesis helps us answer are the following: (1) Are the divine words cited from Exod 33:19 a reference to a specific act of mercy toward Moses, or are they a more general principle guiding all God’s dealings?3 (2) Is the mercy referred to limited to God’s use of men and nations on the plane of history, or does it have reference to

*John Piper is associate professor of Biblical studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

eternal salvation as well?4 (3) When Paul denies that God is unrighteous (v You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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