The Translation Of Romans 1:17 A Basic Motif In Paulinism -- By: Wilber B. Wallis

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 016:1 (Winter 1973)
Article: The Translation Of Romans 1:17 A Basic Motif In Paulinism
Author: Wilber B. Wallis


The Translation Of Romans 1:17
A Basic Motif In Paulinism

Wilber B. Wallis

Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri 63131

Professor D. Moody Smith, Jr. has put us all in his debt by his able article “HO DE DIKAIOS EK PISTEOS ZESETAI,” in the Festschrift for Professor Kenneth Willis Clark. Prof. Smith has used the Greek words of Romans 1:17 as the title of his article.1 Prof. Smith’s thesis is that the ek pisteos of Habakkuk 2:4 (LXX) and Romans 1:17b should be construed with the verb zesetai and not with the subject of the sentence, ho dikaios. The indieations are that the Qumran interpretation as well as Paul’s contemporaries so read the text. It will appear that the LXX also must have construed ek pisteos with the verb.

The question then arises, why have recent influential translations of Romans chosen to construe the ek pisteos with the subject rather than with the predicate? The NEB renders, “He shall gain life who is justified through faith,” and the RSV says: “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”

Commentators likewise have long been divided on the question. Prof. Smith reports that Zahn, Sanday and Headlam, Dodd, Michel, Lyonnet, Leenhardt, Sehrenk, Murray, and F. F. Bruce take ek pisteos with the verb. On the other hand, Lietzmann, Lagrange, Goguel and Monnier, Kuhl, Cerfaux, Boylan, Barrett, Nygren, and Riceiotti put ek pisteos with the subject (Studies, p. 21). Lighffoot, among the older commentators, says, “I cannot doubt that ek pisteos is to be taken with zesetai; and not with ho dikaios” (Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul, p. 250).

Prof. Smith thinks that the principal reason students have chosen to take ek pisteos with dikaios “is undoubtedly the striking relationship between this reading of the Habakkuk quotation and the structure of Romans. It is certainly true that ‘he who through faith is righteous’ is an apt heading for Romans 1–4, while ‘shall live’ or ‘life’ corresponds rather well with the contents of chapters 5–8:29” (Studies, p. 19).

Prof. Smith by exegesis of Galatians 3:11, where Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted again, endeavors to show that Paul took the ek pisteos with the verb. Though I have some reservations abo...

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