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From Faith to Faith: Romans 1.17 in the Light of Greek



New Testament Studies / Volume 50 / Issue 03 / July 2004, pp 337 - 348

DOI: 10.1017/S0028688504000190, Published online: 19 July 2004

Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0028688504000190

How to cite this article:

JOHN W. TAYLOR (2004). From Faith to Faith: Romans 1.17 in the Light of Greek Idiom. New
Testament Studies, 50, pp 337-348 doi:10.1017/S0028688504000190

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New Test. Stud. 50, pp. 337–348. Printed in the United Kingdom © 2004 Cambridge University Press

From Faith to Faith: Romans 1.17 in the Light

of Greek Idiom
St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, England

Despite widespread agreement on the significance of Rom 1.16–17, agreement on its

meaning has been elusive. This study focuses on one disputed phrase, ejk pivstew~ eij~
pivstin, suggesting that it should be read, in the light of Greek idiom, as indicating
growth. In the context of Rom 1 the growth Paul is celebrating is not individual faith.
Rather, in the gospel – the prophetic announcement of the arrival of eschatological
salvation in Christ – the righteousness of God is revealed, resulting in the growing
faith of the Gentiles. Paul does not cite Hab 2.4 in Rom 1.17 as a messianic prophecy
but as scriptural confirmation that faith is the appropriate response to the gospel.

In Rom 1.16–17, as most commentators agree, the theme of the letter is set forth
in programmatic style.1 In prime position in Romans, we see the connection of faith
and gospel: the gospel is ‘the power of God unto salvation for all who believe’ (1.16).
Paul’s emphasis is on pantiv. All believers, whether Jew or Greek, receive salvation
through the gospel. But despite widespread agreement on the significance of Rom
phrase,ejk pivstew~ eij~ pivstin,suggestsapossibleinterpretation,andindicateshowthat
interpretation might also affect debate over Paul’s citation of Hab 2.4 in Rom 1.17b.
This citation has been drawn into discussion over the Pauline expression pivsti~
∆Ihsou` Cristou`, forms of which occur in Rom 3.22, 26; Gal 2.16 (twice), 20; 3.22; and
Phil 3.9 (plus Eph 3.12).2 At the centre of the debate is whether the genitive should

1 C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2
(ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1979) 87; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation with
Introduction and Commentary (AB 33; New York: Doubleday, 1993) 253; Peter Stuhlmacher,
Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1994) 87.
2 Summaries of the debate can be found in the exchanges of Richard B. Hays (‘PISTIS and
Pauline Christology’, pp. 35–60) and James D. G. Dunn (‘Once More, PISTIS CRISTOÁ’,
pp. 61–92) in Elizabeth E. Johnson and David M. Hay, eds, Pauline Theology: Looking Back,
Pressing On (SBL Symposium Series 4; Atlanta, GA: Scholars, 1997). These articles have been
recently republished as an appendix in the second edition of Hays’s book The Faith of Jesus
Christ: An Investigation of the Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3.1–4.11 (Grand Rapids, MI:
Eerdmans, 2002) 249–97. A summary of the history of the debate is in Paul Pollard, ‘The
“Faith of Christ” in Current Discussion’, Concordia 23 (1997) 213–28. 337

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338 john w. taylor

be taken as an objective construction – faith in Jesus Christ – or as a subjective con-

struction, indicating the faith, or faithfulness, of Jesus Christ. The consensus, cer-
tainly since Luther, has rested with the objective side, but the opposite case has
been gaining ground, so that there is a definite trend towards the subjective
interpretation. Some proponents of the subjective genitive have staked their case
on Rom 1.17, a verse where the construction is not even found. They interpret ejk
pivstew~ eij~ pivstin as from or by God’s (or even Christ’s) faithfulness, to our faith.
The citation of Hab 2.4 is translated ‘the Righteous One will live by faith’ (or ‘faith-
fulness’), where oJ dikaivo~ is a messianic title. According to Richard Hays, this
interpretation of Rom 1.17 is ‘a crucial one for our purposes’, presumably because
it strengthens the significance of God’s faithfulness in this key programmatic
verse.3 Douglas Campbell called it the ‘crux interpretum’ of the whole debate.4 If it
were shown that this reading of Rom 1.17 is faulty, then the terms of the debate
would shift.
Campbell holds that (1) Rom 1.17 is programmatic for Rom 1–4, and uses ejk
pivstew~ twice, and is therefore the key to understanding further use of ejk pivstew~
in Romans;5 (2) Paul’s use of ejk pivstew~ (21 times, but only in Romans and
Galatians) is determined by his use of Hab 2.4;6 (3) Paul cites Hab 2.4 in Rom 1.17b
with a messianic understanding: ‘the Righteous One [i.e. the Messiah] will live by
(his) faithfulness’, further explaining ejk pivstew~ in 1.17a; and (4) if ejk pivstew~ is thus
interpreted ‘christologically’ in Rom 1.17a and beyond, this is ‘absolutely central to
the pivsti~ Cristou` debate’.7 It also underlines the view that ejk pivstew~ ∆Ihsou` in
Rom 3.26 means ‘the faithfulness of Jesus’, and makes it likely that the other similar
constructions in Paul, including parallels with diav instead of ejk, should be trans-
lated similarly, given that Hab 2.4 is important in Galatians also (cf. Gal 3.11).
It has been shown adequately that oJ divkaio~ does occasionally function as a mes-
sianic title in early Christianity.8 It has also been claimed that Hab 2.4 was sometimes

3 Hays, ‘PISTIS’, 41. He nevertheless says that Rom 1.17a ‘does not necessarily determine all
subsequent uses of pivsti~ in the letter’ (41 n. 12).
4 D. A. Campbell, ‘Romans 1.17 – A Crux Interpretum for the PISTIS CRISTOÁ Debate’, JBL
113/2 (1994) 265–85. Also John Dunnill, ‘Saved by Whose Faith? – The Function of pivsti~
cristou` in Pauline Theology’, Colloquium 30/1 (1998) 3–25, at 6.
5 Campbell, ‘Crux Interpretum’, 267.
6 D. A. Campbell, ‘The Meaning of Pistis and Nomos in Paul: A Linguistic and Structural
Perspective’, JBL 111/1 (1992) 91–103, at 101.
7 D. A. Campbell, ‘False Presuppositions in the PISTIS CRISTOÁ Debate: A Response to
Brian Dodd’, JBL 116 (1997) 713–19, at 713.
8 Richard B. Hays, ‘“The Righteous One” as Eschatological Deliverer: A Case Study in Paul’s
Apocalyptic Hermeneutics’, Apocalyptic and the New Testament (ed. Joel Marcus and Marion
L. Soards; Sheffield: JSOT, 1988) 191–215. See Acts 3.14; 7.52; 22.14; 1 Pet 3.18, and possibly also
Jas 5.6. It is also found in 1 Enoch 38.2 and 53.6. Hays relates the title to Isa 53.11 (Hays, Faith
of Jesus Christ, 135).

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From Faith to Faith 339

interpreted messianically, and that the LXX may show early evidence for a messianic
interpretation.9 The LXX of Hab 2.3 includes the expression o{ti ejrcovmeno~ h{xei, as a
translation of aboy: aboAyKi. The participle ejrcovmeno~ would seem to be a mere trans-
lation of the infinitive abo, making the verb h{xei emphatic. In the MT (as usually
translated) it is the vision (˜/zj;) that will come, but in the LXX one would expect a
feminine participle if o{rasi~ was the antecedent.10 The use of a masculine participle
suggests that ejrcovmeno~ may be a title, rather than a reference to the vision.11 It des-
ignates a ‘coming one’, who will come. If he is delayed, wait for him. The suggestion
then is that the LXX translators understood ejrcovmeno~ messianically, and this makes
it possible that oJ divkaio~ in 2.4 should be interpreted in the same way.
However, it is more likely that ejrcovmeno~ and oJ divkaio~ in the LXX of Hab
2.3–4 are not intended to refer to the same person. Rather, the coming of the
‘Coming One’ in the LXX (and quite possibly the MT) is a promise, like so many
others in the OT, of the intervention or the coming of God, not the Messiah.12 The
promise is fulfilled in Hab 3.3: oJ qeo;~ ejk Qaiman h{xei (God will come from
Teman), where the MT has a/by: ˜m;yTemi Hæ/la‘ (God came from Teman).13
In Hab 1.4 and 1.13 (LXX) oJ divkaio~ refers not to a messianic figure but to the
generic righteous person within Judah, in each case directly contrasted with the
wicked (oJ ajsebh`~).14 Likewise, in 2.4 oJ divkaio~, the righteous one who lives by
God’s faithfulness (or by faith in him), is compared directly in 2.5 with oJ katoinw-
mevno~ kai; katafronhth;~ ajnhvr, the man who drinks wine, is a despiser (cf. Hab
1.5), is boastful and finishes nothing. It is most likely that the three instances of oJ
divkaio~ were all understood by the translators of the LXX in the same way. The
subject of Hab 2.4a (LXX) is the righteous person, who is warned not to shrink
back in the face of adversity, but to live ejk pivstew~, waiting for the coming of God.

9 Anthony T. Hanson, Paul’s Understanding of Jesus: Invention or Interpretation? (Hull

University Inaugural Lectures; Hull: Hull University, 1963) 6–9.
10 Watts suggests that the LXX is simply a wooden line-by-line translation of the Hebrew, with
grammatical difficulties left unresolved (Rikki E. Watts, ‘“For I Am Not Ashamed of the
Gospel”: Romans 1:16–17 and Habakkuk 2:4’, Romans and the People of God: Essays in Honor
of Gordon D. Fee on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday [ed. Sven K. Soderlund and N. T.
Wright; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999] 10).
11 Cf. MT. Heb 10.37–8 clarifies this with the addition of the definite article: oJ ejrcovmeno~.
12 The subject of the masculine participle ejrcovmeno~ cannot be the feminine noun o{rasi~. It
is possible – if unlikely – that it is kairov~ (Richard D. Patterson, Nahum, Habbakuk,
Zephaniah [WEC; Chicago: Moody, 1991] 175). In the MT the subject of aboy: may be ˜/zj;, or the
Lord, hwhy (Hab 2.2). See Robert D. Haak, Habakkuk (VTSup 44; Leiden: Brill, 1992) 57.
13 Although it may be objected that the clause in 2.4a, ejan ; uJposteivlhtai oujk eujdokei` hJ yuchv
mou ejn aujtw`,/ before oJ de; divkaio~ ejk pivstewv~ mou zhvsetai means that the ‘Coming One’
cannot be God, it is interesting that Heb 10.37 reverses the order of the two clauses, indicating
that the writer of Hebrews understood the implied subject of the first clause to be the same as
that of the second, oj divkaio~ (cf. MT).
14 TheLXX ofHab1.13renderstheMT’s WNM,m qyDx (onemorerighteousthanhe)simplywith oJ divkaio~.

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Other Jewish reflection on Hab 2.4 also points away from a messianic reading.
In the Qumran pesher on Habbakuk, the righteous who live by their faith are all
those who keep the law, and who maintain loyalty or faith in the Teacher of
Righteousness (1QpHab 7.17–8.1–3). The Targum of Habbakuk – which despite its
later date may well contain earlier tradition – reads: ‘Behold, the wicked think that
all these things [that is, the prophet’s predictions] are not so, but the righteous
shall live by the truth of them.’15 That is, the righteous are simply contrasted to the
Commentators have noted the dimensions of Habbakuk’s prophecy. It con-
cerns the final victory of God, and is for the end (Hab 2.3).16 Paul’s interest in Hab
2.4 is not simply the convenient connection of faith and righteousness. It points to
the characteristics of those who will live, in the coming eschatological judgment.17
They will live by faith. It may be that in Rom 1.17 Paul interprets pivsti~ in Hab 2.4
not simply as faith in God in a general sense, but as faith in the prophetic vision
or oracle in particular. Faith is required in the prophetic oracle that is the preach-
ing of the gospel.18 The reference to oJ divkaio~ must be understood, then, not as a
further allusion to ejrcovmeno~, but to the implied obedient hearer of Habbakuk’s
The major problem, however, for a messianic interpretation of Rom 1.17a is
with reading ejk pivstew~ eij~ pivstin as ‘from Christ’s (or God’s) faithfulness to
(human) faith”. The many options suggested for ejk pivstew~ eij~ pivstin are in the
major commentaries, and have recently been covered elsewhere,19 but they
include: (1) ‘an emphatic equivalent of ejk pivstew~’;20 (2) that, in a parallel to Rom
3.22, eij~ pivstin stands for eij~ tou;~ pisteuvonta~;21 (3) from the faith of those who

15 Kevin J. Cathcart and R. P. Gordon, The Targum of the Minor Prophets (The Aramaic Bible 14;
Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1989) 150–1.
16 Ralph L. Smith, Micah–Malachi (WBC 32; Waco, TX: Word Books, 1984) 95–7; O. Palmer
Robertson, The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (NICOT; Grand Rapids, MI:
Eerdmans, 1991) 170–1; Francis I. Andersen, Habakkuk: A New Translation with Introduction
and Commentary (AB 25; New York/London: Doubleday, 2001) 205.
17 Maureen W. Yeung, Faith in Jesus and Paul: A Comparison with Special Reference to ‘Faith
that Can Remove Mountains’ and ‘Your Faith Has Healed/Saved You’ (WUNT 2, Reihe 147;
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002) 206–7.
18 In Gal 3.11 the object of that faith is not specified, but it is certainly possible that for Paul it is
Jesus Christ, as it was in 2.16.
19 Charles L. Quarles, ‘From Faith to Faith: A Fresh Examination of the Prepositional Series in
Romans 1.17’, NT 95 (2003) 1–21, esp. 2–5.
20 Cranfield, Romans, 100. Also Fitzmyer, Romans, 263; H. Lietzmann, An Die Römer (HNT;
Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1932) 31; Douglas J. Moo, Romans 1–8 (The Wycliffe Exegetical
Commentary; Chicago: Moody, 1991) 71; Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Leicester:
Inter-Varsity, 1988) 70. The NIV reflects this interpretation: ‘by faith from first to last’.
21 Rudolph Cornely, Commentarius in s. Pauli apostoli epistolas (CSS; Paris: Lethielleux, 1896)
71; rev. David Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings: Studies in the Semantics of

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From Faith to Faith 341

preach to the faith of those who hear;22 (4) for the growth of faith;23 (5) from the old
covenant faith to the new covenant faith;24 (6) on the grounds of and for the sake
of faith;25 and (7) from God’s faithfulness to human faith.26 It is this last interpret-
ation that is claimed to be vital for the subjective genitive interpretation of pivsti~
The first problem with such an interpretation is that the reader would have too
much to read into the phrase. It is theoretically possible that the two instances of
pivsti~ could have two different senses, faithfulness and faith. Word-play is always a
possibility in Paul.27 But it is highly unlikely that each instance of pivsti~ would also
have a different referent, God (or Christ) and man, without this being made very
obvious. This requires the reader to read too much information into the text. There
are simply not enough contextual clues to allow for such variation in meaning.28
Paul has already indicated his interest in the faith of the Roman church (1.5–6,
8, 12), and this alone would make it more likely that the reader would read ejk
pivstew~ eij~ pivstin as a reference to human faith. Some writers object that this
would make God’s revelation of his righteousness too dependent on human
response. According to Campbell, ‘to make the eschatological disclosure of God’s
saving power conditional upon the believer’s faith would be to press the role of
anthropocentric faith too far’.29 But in Rom 3.5 human wickedness is said to dis-
play the righteousness of God. Why should human faith not also be a means for
the display of his righteousness?
The second and more significant problem for subjective genitive advocates,
however, is that there is evidence that the series ejkAeij~A, where ‘A’ represents

Soteriological Terms (SNTS MS 5; London: Cambridge University, 1967) 157; John Murray,
Epistle to the Romans: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes, vol. 1:
Chapters 1 to 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1959) 32.
22 Augustine, De spiritu et littera 18.
23 Jean Calvin, Commentary on Romans 1–16 (Calvin’s Commentaries 19; Grand Rapids, MI:
Baker Book House, 1993) 65; William Sanday and A. C. Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical
Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1895) 28.
24 Quarles, ‘From Faith to Faith’, 19.
25 Adolf Schlatter, Gottes Gerechtigkeit: Ein Kommentar zum Römerbrief (Stuttgart: Calwer,
1935) 41–2.
26 Karl Barth, Der Römerbrief (München: Chr. Kaifer, 1933) 16; James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1–8
(WBC 38A; Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1988) 44; Hays, ‘PISTIS’, 41; Campbell, ‘Crux
Interpretum’, 269 (for Campbell it is the faithfulness of Christ).
27 Dunn (Romans 1–8, 44) notes that it is good Greek style to play on double meaning.
28 ‘Context normally . . . acts in such a way as to cause a single sense, from among those associ-
ated with any ambiguous word form, to become operative’ (D. A. Cruse, Lexical Semantics
(Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1986) 53). Deliberate ambiguity is rare and usually sig-
nalled. See R. Barry Matlock, ‘Demythologizing the PISTIS CRISTOÁ Debate: Cautionary
Remarks from a Lexical Semantic Perspective’, NT 42/1 (2000) 1–23, esp. 3–11.
29 Campbell, ‘Crux Interpretum’, 273.

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a single noun that is repeated after each preposition, is a Greek idiom. Both BDAG
and Louw and Nida see the Greek idiom as an emphatic.30 But Dunn calls it an
idiom ‘clearly denoting some sort of progression, where ejk represents the starting
point and eij~ the end’.31 A recent study by Charles Quarles has examined every
instance of the series ejkAeij~A in the TLG, and concluded that it was not an
idiom of emphasis, but expressed ‘range, duration, repetition, source and desti-
nation, previous state and new state, or progression’.32 Quarles holds to the position
maintained by several of the church fathers (Origen, Theodoret, Chrysostom) that
saw ejk pivstew~ eij~ pivstin as indicating the movement from Judaism to
Christianity: from the old to the new covenant, from faith in the law or the prophets
to faith in Christ, or from the old dispensation to the new. My own research in TLG
has also led to an abandonment of the notion that ejkAeij~A is emphatic. But I
have come to a different conclusion to that of Quarles in regard to Rom 1.17.
The idiom ejkAeij~A has three main functions. It indicates movement,
extended time, and progression or increase. There are many examples of the
movement or spatial idiom. A common one is ejk tovpou eij~ tovpon (from place to
place), often associated with a verb or other term of change, such as metabavllw,
metavbasi~, metavstasi~ or metabaivnw. Other spatial uses include ejk qalavtth~ eij~
qavlattan,33 ejk povlew~ eij~ povlin, and ejk peravtwn eij~ pevrata. There are a
number in the LXX. These include: ejk th`~ gh`~ tauvth~ eij~ th;n gh`n h{n w[mosen oJ
qeov~ (Gen 50.24); ejk ajggeivou eij~ ajggeivon (from vessel to vessel, Jer 31.11); ejx
oijkiva~ eij~ oijkivan (Sir 29.24; cf. Luke 10.7); and the similar ajp j a[krou th`~ gh`~ e{w~
a[krou th`~ gh`~ (‘from one end of the land to the other’, Deut 13.8).
The sense of extended time, or repeated action over time, is common too,
especially in biblical idiom: ejk tou` gevnou~ . . . eij~ ta;~ geneav~ (from generation to gen-
eration, Lev 21.17); ejk mhno;~ eij~ tou;~ mh`na~ (every new moon, Num 28.14); ejx hJmerw`n
eij~ hJmevra~ (from day to day, but meaning year after year, a transliteration of µymiYm : i
hm;ymiy; 1 Sam 2.19); ejx hJmevra~ eij~ hJmevran; and the similar ajp j aijwn` o~ e{w~ aijwn` o~ (Jer
25.5) and ajpo; kairou` e{w~ kairou` (Ezra 4.10).34 The LXX use of ejk . . . eij~ or ajpo; . . . e{w~
mostly translates the Hebrew d[æ . . . ˜mi, l[æ . . . ˜mi, or sometimes l] . . . ˜mi.35

30 Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek–English
Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of
Chicago, 2000) 298; J. P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Greek–English Lexicon of the New
Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, vol. 1 (New York: United Bible Societies, 1988) 692.
31 Dunn, Romans 1–8, 43.
32 Quarles, ‘From Faith to Faith’, 13.
33 Occasionally ajpo; qalavtth~ eij~ qavlattan is found.
34 See also Luke 11.51, ajpo; ai{mato~ “Abel e{w~ ai{mato~ Zacarivou.
35 Similar expressions with a time reference are also found in Qumran. Among several: ≈qm ≈ql
(4Q427, Col 7.II.17: from age to age). Among spatial references: [wxqm la [wxqmm (from angle
to angle, 11QT 36.7).

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From Faith to Faith 343

But there is a further use of the idiom ejkAeij~A. It is noticeable that when the
subject is not time or space, but ‘A’ is an abstract noun, the sense is one of increase,
progression, or movement from a lower to a higher state. Ps 84.8 is well known:
poreuvontai ejk dunavmew~ eij~ duvnamin (they go from strength to strength). This indi-
cates growth in strength or power.36 In Jer 9.3 (LXX 9.2) the prophetic judgment is ejk
kakw`n eij~ kaka; ejxhvlqosan (‘They have gone from evil to evil’). This clause is an
explanation of the preceding line: yeu`do~ kai; ouj pivsti~ ejnivscusen ejpi; th`~ gh`~
(‘Falsehood and not trustworthiness has strengthened in the land’). The sense of
growth or progression is clear. In Plutarch’s Galba 14.1.9 we read of Roman soldiers
that ‘some evil spirit drove them from treachery to treachery’ (daivmonov~ tino~ aujtou;~
ejk prodosiva~ eij~ prodosivan ejlauvnonto~). In context, the army has changed loyalty
from Nero to Galba and then Nymphidius. The mutineers have gone from treachery
to increased treachery. In Clement of Alexandria’s Stromata VI., growth in
divinely given knowledge is ejk fwto;~ eij~ fw`~, from light to light.37 Didymus Caecus
criticizes heretics who go from blasphemy to blasphemy (ejk blasfhmiva~ eij~ blasfh-
mivan, De Trinitate 39.849.2). Those who are zealous, who receive the knowledge of the
truth, are called to transfer, not from place to place, but from state (condition) to state,
from the lower to the higher situation or goal.38 Gregory of Nazianzus criticizes
Eunomius, because by making the Only-Begotten merely a creature, his coming was
ejk douleiva~ eij~ douleivan, a passage from servitude to (a worse) servitude.39
This idiom, which can indicate growth, progression, or movement from a lower
state to a higher state, is what Paul uses in 2 Cor 2.16: oi|~ me;n ojsmh; ejk qanavtou eij~ qav-
naton, oi|~ de; ojsmh; ejk zwh`~ eij~ zwhvn. Rather than awkward attempts to define ejk and
eij~ here as source and goal, it is simpler and more faithful to Greek idiom to translate:
‘To some (we are) the aroma of the advance of death, but to others the aroma of the
advance of life.’ Likewise, in 2 Cor 3.18, metamorfouvmeqa ajpo; dovxh~ eij~ dovxan, using
the similar ajpovAeij~A construction,40 indicates a growth or advance from

36 Quarles takes this as the only instance in the LXX of an abstract concept in the ejkAeij~A
structure; but he has missed Jer 9.3 (Quarles, ‘From Faith to Faith’, 9). Efforts to reinterpret
the underlying Hebrew ly {j as ‘fortress’ (Ps 84.8), thus ‘from fortress to fortress’, are not con-
vincing. In any case, the LXX has interpreted ly {j as ‘strength’.
37 ClementalsospeaksoftheLordleadinghumans ejk kovsmou eij~ kovsmon,fromthisworldtotheother
(Stromata VI. Clement, like Chrysostom, treats ejk pivstew~ eij~ pivstin as a transfer from
the law of Moses to faith in Christ (Quis dives salvetur 8.5.1), that is, from the lower to the higher faith.
38 oujc i{na metabatikw`~ kinhqevnte~ ejk tovpou eij~ tovpon e[lqwsin, ajlla; ejk diaqevsew~ eij~
diavqesin, ejx ejlavttono~ katastavsew~ ejpi; th;n meivzona kai; teleiotevran (Commentarii in
Psalmos 29–34 197.2). This example in itself is enough to disprove the theory of Benware, who
holds that the repeated noun in this idiom must have ‘exact conceptual identity’ and cannot
represent a change in degree (W. A. Benware, ‘Romans 1:17 and Cognitive Grammar,’ The
Bible Translator 51, no. 3 (2000): 330–339, at 337).
39 Contra Eunomium III.3.54.13.
40 Other examples of ajpovAeij~A: Exod 13.10; 17.6; Jdg 21.19; 1 Chron 9.25; 16.20; Ps 10.6 (LXX
9.27); 77.8 (LXX 76.9); 85.5 (LXX 84.6); Sir 10.8; 28.14; 39.20; PsSol 18.10.

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one degree of glory to another, by comparison to the fading glory associated with
How would this interpretation read in Rom 1.17? Quarles has suggested, in line
with Chrysostom and some of the Fathers, that Paul is saying ‘that the revelation
of the righteousness of God extends from the faith of the Old Testament believer
to the faith of the New Testament believer’.42 It began with OT believers and
extended to NT believers. It was first revealed in the law and the prophets (Rom
3.21), and then fulfilled in Christ. Quarles bases his view on Chrysostom’s repu-
tation as an interpreter of the Greek, and on a high view of the continuity between
old and new covenants. Paul uses Abraham as the example of faith in Rom 4, and
Rom 9–11 shows the Christian gospel as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise.
However, one would wish for more immediate contextual indicators if a
person reading through Romans were to understand Paul from this perspective.
In Rom 1.1 the gospel is said to have been promised through the prophets in the
scriptures. But there are several references to faith between 1.1 and 1.17, and they
do not concern the old and new covenants. It is unlikely that ejk pivstew~ eij~
pivstin would have been understood in this way by the first recipients.
As already noted, Calvin, and some others, have suggested that ejk pivstew~ eij~
pivstin indicates the growth of faith, in the sense of the believer’s growth in faith
and knowledge. Calvin says, ‘Righteousness is offered by the gospel and is
received by faith. He adds to faith for as our faith makes progress, and as it
advances in knowledge, so the righteousness of God increases in us at the same
time.’43 For Luther, by analogy to 2 Cor 3.18, the phrase points to growth and
increasing clarity in faith, so that the justified person grows in righteousness.44
Fitzmyer writes: ‘God’s economy of salvation is shared more and more by a
person as faith grows.’45 There is merit to this suggestion in that it fits with the
idiom of growth. But Paul is not discussing growth in personal faith in 1.16–17, but
the eschatological event that is the preaching of the gospel.
How then does the idiom function? In order to understand it, it is necessary to
look closely at both the context of the statement in Rom 1.17 and its background in
the OT. The issue is when and under what circumstances is God’s righteousness
revealed?46 As has been noted by others,47 dikaiosuvnh ga;r qeou` ejn aujtw`/

41 See also 2 Baruch 51.1–10.

42 Quarles, ‘From Faith to Faith’, 19.
43 Calvin, Romans, 65.
44 Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, ET
1954) 25.
45 Fitzmyer, Romans, 263.
46 Regarding the background to the meaning of dikaiosuvnh qeou` in Rom 1.17, it is these same
OT passages that speak of the revelation of God’s righteousness that are most relevant. It is
not necessary to draw in every possible mention of the righteousness of God.
47 Cranfield, Romans, 96; Fitzmyer, Romans, 257.

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From Faith to Faith 345

ajpokaluvptetai, while not being a direct quote, is an allusion to one or more OT

texts. Ps 98.2 (LXX 97.2) reads: ‘The LORD has made his salvation known and
revealed his righteousness to the nations.’ The psalm concerns the celebration of
Yahweh’s victory on behalf of Israel, and calls for the nations, indeed all creation,
to recognize it and offer praise. That is, when God’s righteousness is revealed, the
nations (or Gentiles) are to see and respond. In the LXX version, three key words
from Rom 1.16–17 are found: swthvrion (though this is the neuter form, not the fem-
inine found in Romans), dikaiosuvnh, and ajpokaluvptw. The nouns dikaiosuvnh
and swthvrion are used in synthetic parallelism. God’s salvation is in some sense
equivalent to the exercise of his righteousness.
In Isa 51.4–8 righteousness and salvation are paired three times, in a promise
of deliverance for Israel and the rule of God, with the arm of the Lord bringing jus-
tice to the world: ‘the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope’. In Isa
52.10, in a promise of the restoration of Jerusalem and the coming reign of God,
the Lord is said to reveal not his righteousness but his holy arm (wOvd“q; [æWrz“)
before all the nations, and the ends of the earth see his salvation (LXX swthriva,
MT h[;Wvy“). And in Isa 56.1 the promise is that ‘my salvation [LXX swthrivon, MT
h[;Wvy“] will soon come, and my righteousness [MT hq…d…x] but LXX ejleov~] will be
revealed (ajpokaluvptw).’ Once again the prophetic promise is of the imminent
revelation of righteousness and the coming of salvation. Immediately following,
in 56.3–8, foreigners are encouraged to join Israel, to come to the holy mountain
and hold to the covenant.
Similar ideas are present in the prophetic complaint of Isa 53.1: ‘Who has
believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ Once
again revelation is mentioned, and the arm of the Lord. But in this case the pro-
phetic question is rhetorical, with an assumed negative answer: no one has
believed or had a revelation. But according to the immediately preceding verse (Isa
52.15), through the Servant of the Lord the kings of the nations will see, even though
they have not been told (before), and will understand, even though they have not
heard. Thus the rhetorical question of 53.1 does not elicit an entirely negative
response. The underlying thought is that even though Israel has not believed, the
nations will see and understand.48 It is Isa 52.15 that Paul applies in Rom 15.21, estab-
lishing his ministry to the Gentiles: to preach the gospel to those who have never
seen or heard it before. The revelation of righteousness, in the Psalms and Isaiah,
happens through the eschatological salvation of Israel and the coming rule of God.
It is announced by the prophets, and is received with gladness by the Gentiles.
In this light, when we examine ejk pivstew~ eij~ pivstin in Rom 1.17, knowing that
the idiom is one of progress, increase or advance, it is our suggestion that the
48 In John 12.38–42, Isa 53.1 is treated as a rhetorical question concerning the Jews, with a nega-
tive answer. Jewish unbelief in Jesus is fulfillment of the prophecy. But John adds: ‘Yet at the
same time many even among the leaders believed in him’.

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346 john w. taylor

phrase indicates the progress of the gospel. ‘From faith to faith’ is Paul’s excited
report of the success of the gospel and the growing number of believers, and in
particular of the advance or growth of faith among the Gentiles. That is, in the
gospel – the prophetic announcement of the arrival of eschatological salvation –
the righteousness of God is now being revealed, either by or resulting in the grow-
ing faith of the Gentiles. Pivsti~ in each case thus stands for a believing response
to the gospel, but the increase in faith indicated by the idiom is not personal or
individual growth in faith but the mounting number of converts that Paul has
seen in his ministry. Paul is not individualizing here: he is talking in macro terms
of the plan of God that is now being realized through him.
This interpretation is upheld by the context of the passage in Rom 1. There is a
repeated emphasis on the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles, and their
positive response. The gospel was promised beforehand by God’s prophets in the
scriptures (1.2). Paul’s commission was for the sake of the obedience of faith
(uJpakoh;n pivstew~) among the nations (1.5).49 Paul thanks God that the faith of the
Roman believers is being proclaimed in all the world (1.8). This is pastoral encour-
agement, and part of the epistolary rhetoric of thanksgiving, but Paul’s thankful-
ness and the spread of the good report from Rome underline the significance of
their faith. Paul wants to encourage their faith (1.11–12), and he wants a harvest
among them as he has already had among the rest of the Gentiles (1.13). He has an
obligation to Gentiles (both wise and foolish, 1.14) and is longing to preach the
gospel to the Romans (1.15). Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, ‘for it is the power
of God for salvation to every believer, to the Jew first and also to the Greek’ (1.16).
The drumbeat, or heartbeat, of the passage is the revelation of God’s righteous-
ness to the Gentiles through the proclamation of the gospel. And the expected
response is faith.
If the righteousness of God is revealed by the faith of the Gentiles, then Paul is
taking their response as a confirmation that the eschatological salvation has
indeed arrived. Gentile faith in Israel’s Messiah fulfills Isaianic predictions that
the nations will come to Zion. The concerns of Campbell and others that reading
pivsti~ in Rom 1.17 as human faith gives that faith too much significance in reveal-
ing God’s righteousness are not then so relevant. It is the fact of Gentile response
to the gospel that Paul interprets as the fulfillment of prophecy. The salvation of
the Gentiles, as well as of the Jews, is the result and demonstration of the revel-
ation of God’s righteousness in the gospel.
In the passages from Psalms and Isaiah which have just been examined, from
where Paul derived his language of the revelation of God’s righteousness, the rev-

49 The genitive construction here, uJpakoh;n pivstew~, could be subjective: the obedience that
comes from faith, but it is perhaps best read as epexegetical: the obedience that is faith, and
obedient response to the gospel is one that believes.

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From Faith to Faith 347

elation of the righteousness of God in his saving acts on behalf of Israel draws
forth response from the Gentiles, response which includes praise (Pss 96.1; 98.4),
hope (Isa 51.5), understanding (Isa 52.15), and believing (Isa 53.1). Paul summarizes
the appropriate response in the words of Hab 2.4: ‘The righteous shall live by faith’
(Rom 1.17). Thus it is in the gospel that the righteousness of God is revealed, with
increasing results as the Gentiles believe.
This much I think can be upheld. But it may be possible to go one step further,
if a little more tentatively. In my examination of the ejkAeij~A idiom, I found
no instances at all where ‘A’ in both cases had a different sense from among those
available for the word. I did find a number of instances where ‘A’ in both cases had
a different referent. This is especially the case in the spatial or geographical uses,
such as ejk qalavtth~ eij~ qavlattan, where two different seas are the referents of
the repeated word. But the sense was always the same. It is highly unlikely that the
sense of pivsti~ would vary in Rom 1.17. But one might still hold that the referent
or the implied subject of pivsti~ in each case is different. In Rom 1.16 the salvation
that is expressed in the gospel is for all believers, but ‘to the Jew first, and also the
Greek’. It is possible that this pattern of Jew first and then Greek is repeated in the
next verse. The idiom of expansion of faith represented by ejk pivstew~ eij~ pivstin
would then speak of the growth of faith, starting with Jews, and then among the
Gentiles. By this I do not mean beginning with OT believers, or with faith in the
law, and then progressing to faith in Christ, but faith that started with the origin of
the church among the Jews and is now, Paul sees, spreading to the nations.
This understanding would fit well with those passages in Isaiah and Psalms
already discussed which speak of the victory of God on behalf of Israel as a revel-
ation of God’s righteousness to the Gentiles.50 It also fits well with the overall
thrust of Romans, including chapters 9–11. The pattern of ‘Jew first, and then the
Greek’ is found in 2.9–10. In 15.8–9 Paul says that ‘Christ became a servant to the
circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to
the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy’. Paul
describes how he has preached the gospel ‘from Jerusalem all the way round to
Illyricum’ (Rom 15.19). Although Paul grieves for the lack of openness to the gospel
among his fellow Jews (Rom 9.1–3; 10.1), he does speak of at least a limited Jewish
response. God has called people ‘not only from the Jews, but also from the
Gentiles’ (9.24). There is a Jewish remnant, of whom Paul is an example (9.27;
10.1–5). In the end all Israel will be saved (11.26), but for now Paul’s mission is to the
Gentiles (15.16–18). When the idiom ejkAeij~A is taken seriously in analysis of

50 Campbell complains that in the traditional view of Rom 1.17, the ‘revelation . . . denoted by
ajpokaluvptetai is assumed to be one directed to the generic individual’. He shows that Paul more
usually uses the word ‘to describe cosmic eschatological disclosure’ (Campbell, ‘Crux Interpretum’,
276, 271). This is precisely the sense of the verb that fits with the interpretation suggested here.

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348 john w. taylor

Rom 1.17, it is possible to understand the verse: ‘For in the gospel – the prophetic
proclamation of salvation in Christ – the righteousness of God is now being
revealed, starting from the faith of the Jews first, and now growing also among the
It is therefore necessary to briefly comment further on Paul’s use of Hab 2.4 in
Rom 1.17b. Those who read 1.17b as a description of Christ’s faithfulness want to
read that understanding back into 1.17a. Campbell is right to suggest that Paul’s
frequent repetition of the phrase ejk pivstew~ derives from his use of Hab 2.4.51 But
ejk pivstew~ eij~ pivstin is not one of those repetitions. It is an idiomatic expression
in its own right. The introductory kaqwv~ gevgraptai shows that Paul uses the
quote from Habakkuk to confirm what he has just said. If the above analysis of ejk
pivstew~ eij~ pivstin is correct, then Paul uses Hab 2.4 in particular to substantiate
the significance of the growing response of faith in the gospel, especially among
the Gentiles. It emphasizes that the nature of that response is faith. In this case oJ
divkaio~ indicates the generic believer, or all believers (Rom 1.16), as it does in Gal
3.11.52 Faith is the characteristic of the righteous person in the eschaton, and is the
means through which the promised salvation is received. That is why they are
called believers.
One further note: commentary on Rom 1.17b has debated whether ejk pivstew~
modifies the verb: ‘the righteous will live by faith’, or the subject: ‘the one who is
righteous-by-faith will live’. The latter interpretation has won popularity because
of the Reformation concentration on righteousness that is received by faith. But
with our interpretation of 1.17a in mind, it is possible to see that for Paul the stress
in oJ de; divkaio~ ejk pivstew~ zhvsetai must fall on pivstew~. That is, in this verse
Paul is not discussing the reception of righteousness, but the faith with which the
gospel is received. The righteous will live by faith.53 Paul diverges from both the
LXX’s ‘by my faithfulness’ (ejk pivstewv~ mou) and the Hebrew ‘by his faith’ (or faith-
fulness, MT: wOtn:Wma‘B), , in that he omits any possessive pronoun. The effect is to
simplify the expression and probably focuses the attention on faith.
Thus Rom 1.17, introduced by the explanatory gavr, re-expresses what was said
in 1.16. It is believers who receive the salvation that is in the gospel. That this
needed to be restated shows how Paul’s repetitive use of faith language was delib-
erate and, to him, necessary. Paul celebrates the growth of faith among the
Gentiles as evidence that God’s righteousness is being revealed.

51 Campbell, ‘Pistis and Nomos’, 101.

52 Again, Paul is not individualizing: divkaio~ is in the singular because that is how the LXX is writ-
53 Thus I take dikaiosuvnh qeou` in 1.16 to mean God’s own righteousness, a righteousness that
is revealed and made known in the gospel, in the coming of eschatological salvation.

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