Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
SBJT 12:2 (Summer 2008) p. 78
Pistis and the Righteous One: A Study of Romans 1:17 against the Background of Scripture and Second Temple Jewish Literature. By Desta Heliso. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 2nd Series 235. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007, 292 pp., $110.00 paper.
This recent dissertation was completed at the London School of Theology under the direction of Max Turner, with significant input from faculty at King’s College London, especially Douglas Campbell. The author now serves as dean of the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology in Addis Ababa.
The appearance of this study marks the continuing development of African theological scholarship and the encouraging progress that is taking place in theological education in the developing world. It is therefore to be applauded. Moreover, despite his focus on current discussion, it is no small topic which the author engages here, but one which goes to the center of the Christian faith and upon which rest centuries of theological tradition and debate. For this reason too, the author is to be commended. The study itself, it must be said, leaves much to be desired. Its weaknesses to a large extent reflect myopic tendencies of recent scholarship. Perhaps the author will yet find his way past these problems. At least one may hope so.
As the title suggests, Heliso attempts to establish a so-called “christological reading” of Rom 1:17, particularly in respect to Paul’s citation of Hab 2:4, namely, that the Righteous One who lives by faith is none other than Christ. Yet even in the conclusion of his work, Heliso hesitates, arguing merely that “the christological reading should be afforded more weight … than has been the case thus far” (254). Perhaps he is reluctant to let go of his favored reading, but recognizes that the evidence in favor of it is lacking. Perhaps he wants to find a via media (as he says in another context, 252), but cannot quite articulate it. Perhaps he cannot make up his mind. Whatever the case may be, such reserve is not warranted here. Exegesis entails being led by the text to judgments about the text, judgments that will be controversial so long as the Word causes offense.
Heliso develops his case (such as it is) for the “christological reading” in a series of exegetical decisions, in which he demonstrates a good understanding of recent debate. We may briefly follow his chain of argument. The actual citation of LXX Hab 2:4b comes first in line. Does it refer to a messianic figure? It may well be that LXX Ha...
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