Did Paul Invent Justification By Faith? -- By: Hanna Stettler

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 66:2 (NA 2015)
Article: Did Paul Invent Justification By Faith?
Author: Hanna Stettler

Did Paul Invent Justification By Faith?

Hanna Stettler

([email protected])

[Electronic Edition Editor’s Note: The footnote numbering in this electronic version of this article reflect the numbering of the actual footnotes that were included in the final edition of this article. However, in the print edition certain numbers were simply deleted and left without a resequencing of the overall numbering e.g. #11, 32, 37, 45. This difference should be noted in any citation of this article which references the footnotes.]


Many researchers consider Paul’s doctrine of justification a unique teaching, which he developed comparatively late, in his debate with judaising opponents of his Gentile mission. This article seeks to show that justification by faith without works can already be found in Paul’s early writings and that Paul is by no means the first to teach it. Jesus, in his parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector found in Luke 18:9-14, taught it long before Paul, albeit in the shape of a story. The sentences Paul quotes in Galatians 2:16 and Romans 3:28 are not random remarks, but carefully phrased slogans which were handed down to Paul by those who were Christians before him. These sentences show an amazing verbal and conceptual congruity with the parable in Luke 18 and may well have been formulated on the basis of that parable. This seems all the more likely if we take into account that the parable was originally formulated in Aramaic and has a strong claim to authenticity.

1. Introduction

‘Nowhere has Paul more fully entered into the heart of Jesus’ teaching about God and man than in his insistence on justification by divine grace.’1 ‘Nowhere is the connection between Paul and Jesus so evident as here.’2 These are the words of two of the greatest NT scholars of the last century — the first being the British scholar F. F. Bruce, the

second the German Joachim Jeremias. Where two such giants agree, we have reason to dig deeper and see whether their suggestion might not have something to it.

Whereas Bruce cautiously confines his statement to the reality of justification (leaving it open whether the actual term was taken over from Jesus)3, Jeremias holds that

Paul’s doctrine of justifi...

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