The Righteousness from Faith

The Lord commanded Moses to say to the people of Israel: “For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11)

The Righteous from Faith says: … (Romans 10:6)

Scripture Scholar Richard Hays writes:

The apostle Paul introduces as spokesman for his gospel a character named The Righteousness from Faith, who repeats lines penned long before in Israel’s Scripture:

Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven? . . . or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ . . . The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. (Rom 10:6-8)

The words echo Deut. 30:11-14, a passage in which Moses exhorts Israel to keep the commandments of the Law. Moses’ point is that the Law is near: the commandments of God are neither esoteric nor impossible to obey, for they have been graciously given to Israel in ‘this book of the Law.’  In Romans 10, however, a puzzling shift occurs: as Paul interprets these words, they refer not to the Law but to ‘the word of faith which we preach‘ (Rom 10:8b). Indeed, while claiming Moses’ words from Deuteronomy, The Righteousness from Faith now appears to speak as Moses’ adversary. Through a series of parenthetical interpretive comments, Paul takes possession of Moses’ exhortation and transforms its sense so that Moses is made to bear witness to the Gospel. (ECHOES OF SCRIPTURE IN THE LETTERS OF PAUL, p 1)

For St Paul the real hero of the Jewish Scriptures is Abraham more than Moses. Moses was the giver of the law. Abraham, the Man of Faith, is the Father of all those believe – not just Jews but Gentiles too because he is the Man of Faith.   Abraham foreshadows Jesus, another Man of Faith.  It is through the faith (faithfulness) of Jesus that we all are saved.  As Abraham is father of all the faithful, Jesus is our brother in the faith, as well as the Lord we believe in.

However, Moses as a prophet bears witness to Jesus Christ. So, St Paul is willing to take a text attributed to Moses (in this case from Deuteronomy) and use it to bear witness to the Gospel and to Jesus as Messiah. St Paul reads other texts of the Jewish Scriptures in similar fashion, seeing in all of them a revelation of Christ.  The Jewish Scriptures clothe Christ – give Him some reality in our world, so that we can begin to see and know Him.  But these same Scriptures which clothe Christ (make Him, a spiritual being, partially visible), also veil or cover Him so that we cannot see Him completely.  For St Paul the coming of the Christ in the flesh opens all of the mysteries of the Scriptures so that we can see them, experience them and understand them. No more mystery or shadow, now the Scriptures are both revealed and alive in Jesus Christ. The Law (Torah) was not meant to be a set of rules to distinguish Jew from Gentile. As it turns out the Law’s purpose was to reveal the Gospel and the Christ. The meaning of all Scripture is found in Christ. It is the crucified and resurrected Christ who both fulfills all the Scriptures and reveals their meaning to us.  

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