Faith of a mustard seed

Barbara A. Woods-Washington

Barbara A. Woods-Washington

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it,  the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins;  it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26) with 4 occurance of ‘pistis/faith’.

Since, then,  New Testament scholars are using the words, ‘thesis’; ‘New Covenant’; ‘new thought’ found only in Paul’; when it comes to these verses, it is impossible to move on.  Just a couple weeks ago I was in a service where the preacher was talking about ‘storing up his works and receiving grace on his life’s rainy days.’  Something even ‘more’ to the meaning of faith in this ‘thesis’ of Romans.

I’ve made mention before of the “Moffatt Translation”; receiving introduction to it by Howard Thurman when he chose this translation of Mark to read in it’s entirety to us.  I have his reading of this on cassette tape.  Awesome indeed.  Now Turning to C. H. Dodd who has written a ‘Romans’ volume for ‘the Moffatt Commentary’ series.

Born Charles Harold in 1884 Wrexham, England, Dodd began his academic career with a scholarship in the Classics to study at Oxford in 1902.  Following graduation his research interests led to the study of ‘Roman Imperial Numismatics’ (that ‘Caesar coin’) at Berlin University; and ‘Early Christian Epigraphy’ in Italy.  During these years he was ordained and served as a Congregational Pastor.  As a Professor of ‘New Testament Greek and Exegesis’ at Manchester University and ultimately at Cambridge, his writings had “Flow” (as Bishop James King entitled his message at Homecoming Sunday at Clark).  My introduction to his works was in ‘The Parables of The Kingdom’ during my PhD study of the parables.

There can be no doubt in my mind that his historical connection to Oxford, the place of translation of The Revised Standard Version of scripture, was most instrumental in his moving from ‘The Classics’ to ‘Bible’.  He was the General Director of the translation team for the ‘New English Bible’ completed in 1970, just three years before his death.  His students say it best:  “You shall love the lord your Dodd… and your Niebuhr as yourself.”

In his work ‘Romans’ written for ‘The Moffatt Commentary’ series, Dodd makes this statement:  “First, the terms righteous, just; righteousness, justice; justify; all represent Greek words from one single root.  In rendering them into English we are embarrassed by the fact that there is no English verb corresponding to the adjective ‘just’, corresponding to the verb ‘justify’, is a much less adequate translation of the Greek adjective than ‘righteous’.  The Greek word translated justify means in Greek writers ‘to account or pronounce right’ or ‘to treat justly’.  (It does not mean, ‘to make righteous’).  In the former sense it may be rendered ‘to acquit’ and Dr. Moffatt has, in fact, rendered it so in 3:20.

That is the surface meaning, so to speak, of the word as used by Paul.  Sinful men before the divine tribunal are acquitted, for nothing, by God’s decree as Judge.  They need do nothing to secure their acquittal, for it is not on the ground of any merit, but by His grace; grace being the free, even arbitrary, favour of a sovereign.”

mustardseedfaith@bellsouth.net

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