Tuesday, December 07, 2004

No one is righteous?

Lots of people read “There is no one who is righteous, not even one” etc (Rom 3:10-18) and they get the idea that Paul is saying no human is righteous in their natural state, that we are all horribly fallen, radically tarnished before a holy God, unable to achieve ourselves any meaningful level of righteousness.

People so often don't bother to read context.

Paul in Romans 3:10-18 makes six quotes from Old Testament passages. I strongly recommend when reading the New Testament that you have a look at the Old Testament context for every Old Testament quote... context can be very important.

The above interpretation of Romans 3 contradicts all six of the passages Paul is quoting from... quite an impressive level of disachievement all things considered.

I know it's an extremely daring and radical suggestion... but perhaps Paul didn't systematically and repetitively misquote and misinterpret the Old Testament? Perhaps Paul did know the context?

Edited because I still proper grammar can't use.


Blogger Nathan said...

Uh... Psalm 14: 2-3
" 2 The LORD looks down from heaven
on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned aside,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one. "
Sounds like thats talking about everyone being sinners right?

Blogger Andrew said...

~sigh~ Your context has no context. Try reading the entire psalm... it's not exactly lengthy.

Try to pay attention to the plot and to what the writer's point is, rather than grabbing the first verse that you like the look of.

Here are some reading comprehension questions to help:
a) What are the unrighteous/evil people doing?
b) Who are they hurting?
c) Does the writer use the word "righteous" for anyone?
d) Whos aid is the Lord coming to?
e) What do these things tell you about the writer's conception of who is unrighteous and who is righteous?
f) What is the overall plot/theme of the Psalm?
g) What is the author's point?
h) Based on the above is it the writers intention to state that every individual is horribly fallen? Does he believe that doctrine?

Blogger Scott said...

You're right. Not everyone realises their unrighteousness before God.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners'?"
On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
(Matt 9:10-13)

I'd rather be a sinner.

Blogger Nathan said...

Ok, for a start, I didn't pick the verse because I liked it, I picked it because a) cross references direct to those two verse and b) v2 is the obvious immediate context. Who are the people he's talking about? Well, the previous verse tells us - the sons of men
Ah the joys of late-night-devils-advocacy posts.

[Could the interpretation still be valid, assuming ps 14 is talking Sons of man = Gentiles, compared against Sons of God = Jews? If Jews and Gentiles are no different (v9 "... both Jews and Greeks are all under sin"), and Gentiles are all sinners, then it follows that all are sinners right?]

Anyway, shouldn't really get into this now - theres plenty of time for it next year, and I really should be spending time with auckland people while in Auckland.

Blogger Andrew said...

Ok, for a start, I didn't pick the verse because I liked it, I picked it because a) cross references direct to those two verse and b) v2 is the obvious immediate context.

I know, I was just trying to be funny.

The trouble with interpreting it various ways is:
1) If you say that he's calling all men evil in vs 1-3, then it blatently contradicts vs 4-7.
2) Assuming there's no blatent contradictions intended, it seems reasonable to assume 1-3 is a poetic exaggeration, emphasising their perceived wickedness and widespreadness of it.
3) The group the author is intending to call unrighteous is clearly the wicked Gentiles he has met who live in and around Israel who are now apparently invading it... The intention of the human writer is hardly to claim that all American Indians are evil for example.
4) I don't see a problem with identifying the "sons of man" in vs 2 with gentiles, since that's clearly who it's meant to refer to.
5) I do however see a problem with the attempt to extract a universal theological statement from a psalm talking about a specific historical circumstance.

The obvious problem with your "Sons of men"=Gentiles=Sinners="No difference between Jews and Greeks"="All are sinners" is that the conclusion is contrary to the Psalms it is supposed to be derived from... which was my point.

Have fun in Auckland. Yes, I imagine the Bible will still be around when you get back to argue over if you wish! ;)


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