Romans 3:23 Reconsidered: Paul’s Understanding of Glory Lost and Restored in Judaism

Paul’s theological anthropology describes a loss of glory through sin which is restored in Christ. This paper will reconsider the meaning of Romans 3:23 in light of the interpretive traditions of Second Temple Judaism. Several sources attest that as a consequence of sin, Adam and Eve lost the reflected glory of God. Such a reading then posits the restoration of glory as a consequence of future redemption. Romans 3:23 may reflect this interpretive tradition when Paul presents the plight of sinful humanity as a loss of glory. The key verb ὑστερεῖν is used frequently in Paul’s letters with a clear meaning “to lack” (1 Cor 1:7; 12:24; Phil 4:12). For Paul, fallen humanity has exchanged the glory of God (Rom 1:23) and now reflects a disfigured image of God in a pattern of life and conduct that corresponds to idolatry and the pattern of this age. Such a reading of Romans 3:23 further illuminates Paul’s account of restored glory through faith in Christ. Believers stand in grace and hope of glory (Rom 5:2). Creation looks forward to the glory reflected in redeemed humanity (Rom 8:17-18). The ultimate goal of justification is glorification (Rom 8:30). In light of God’s mercy in Christ, humanity now presents their physical bodies as offerings of worship, restored to reflect the image and glory of their Creator, in a pattern of life and conduct that corresponds to God’s will and the age of redemption (Rom 12:1-2).

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