Friday, December 16, 2016

like the first morning, like the first bird


Romans 1:1-7
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (NRSV)

1 Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος, ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ 2 ὃ προεπηγγείλατο διὰ τῶν προφητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις 3 περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, 4 τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν, 5 δι’ οὗ ἐλάβομεν χάριν καὶ ἀποστολὴν εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ, 6 ἐν οἷς ἐστε καὶ ὑμεῖς κλητοὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 7 πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ῥώμῃ ἀγαπητοῖς θεοῦ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις· χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. (SBL)

1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, a called apostle, having been separated for the good-news of God 2 which He promised-beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 concerning His Son— the One having come from the seed of David according-to the flesh, 4 the One having been designated as the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord— 5 through Whom we received grace and apostleship for the obedience of  faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of His name, 6 among whom you also are called ones of Jesus Christ, 7 to all the ones being in Rome, beloved ones of God, called saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (DLNT)

Okay, Greek is not my thing, I don’t do it well, not at all, but I do know enough that when I see “servant” in an English translation, my checkered flag waves to check and see if someone is being politically sensitive, not to say correct. Because “doulos” means slave, not merely servant. See it up there — Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ — Paul slave (of — it’s genitive, possessive) Christ Jesus. Notwithstanding that the NRSV has it “of Jesus Christ,” Paul likes to make it of “Christ Jesus,” why the NRSV undid that IDK. Don’t much care either.

This passage, our second reading for Sunday, is what some scholars have called Paul’s polished and confident elegance as he begins not what he meant to be his final letter and grand summa, but his gathering support for his trip to take his offering to Jerusalem before he sets out on his intended trip through Rome and on to Spain, the western limits of the empire and the ends of the earth.

As it turned out though, this was Paul’s final letter. In Jerusalem he was arrested and, expecting execution, appealed to Caesar and was shipped off to Rome where he in fact was terminated, maybe about 62 AD, I think that’s a year some scholars cite.

So the letter is Paul’s ultimate grandiloquence after all, loaded with theology that has made the church Pauline for all time. Well, partly Pauline.

What do I see Paul asserting as I wrestle this morning with a setting-in and somewhat debilitating common cold. Probably nothing rational, but nevertheless. 

  • that (1:2) the Old Testament prophets prophesied Jesus Christ, a theme that Matthew certainly picked up on years later. Whether Matthew knew of Paul’s letters and their effect on the developing theology of the early church may be arguable; if so, he took it further, including starting with his nativity narrative before proceeding to bring Mark forward. (Paul and Mark know nothing of the virgin birth). 

  • that (1:3) Jesus was true man, human flesh, a human being in David’s line, of the σπέρματος of David. Interestingly and a bit startlingly, I once had a Roman Catholic clergyman tell me that Mary’s husband was the Holy Spirit — which seems different from Paul’s assertion of Jesus' spermatological link to David, both physiologically and theologically.

  • that (1:4) Jesus ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ was “designated, decreed, declared, appointed, determined to be” Son of God (in power according to the spirit of holiness) by his resurrection from the dead. Or I suppose we might say declared miraculously (ἐν δυνάμει). But to me, again, Paul differs from Mark (son at baptism), Matthew and Luke (son when the angel came to Joseph or Mary, or at conception or birth), John (Word, son and God from eternity) and the Nicene Fathers and Apostles Creed. 

When all is said, written, contemplated and done, where I find myself is back to my friend USMC Major then Lieutenant Colonel Earl Bailey exploding in response to my assertion, “Well the admiral said …” — “Let me tell you something, Tom Weller: just because the admiral said it, that don’t make it so.” One of my two forever favorite theological positions. The other being that inscription in the lintel over the library door of my “other” seminary, “Seek the Truth, Come Whence It May, Cost What It Will.” No matter how wistfully some, many, at times myself, may want and argue, Paul did not have a high christology. 


DThos+ trepidating lightly or sinning boldly

top pic: PB407 "Morning has broken"
bottom pic 7H southern sweep, east to west


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