The Interpretive Tradition of Exodus 23:7 and Isaiah 5:23 in Romans 4:5

Some NT interpreters note Exodus 23:7 and Isaiah 5:23 in their explication of Romans 4:5. However, their exposition essentially constitutes a modern interpretive tradition, raising concern about its credibility. It is essential, therefore, to answer the following questions: (1) Who began the interpretive tradition of reading Romans 4 with Exodus 23 and Isaiah 5? (2) What fueled the tradition? (3) Which NT experts maintained the tradition? (4) How did they interpret Paul’s text with the two OT passages? Lastly, (5) why did this tradition disproportionately materialize in the Modern era rather than in the preceding eras?

Consequently, this article shares a history of interpretation of Romans 4:5 through the Patristic, Medieval, Reformation, and Modern periods, noting preeminent explicators and, specifically, their analysis of δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ. An expanded discussion, to be sure, ensues of modern specialists who discuss Exodus 23:7 and Isaiah 5:23 when interpreting Paul’s text. Finally, the article explains why the contemporary expository tradition disproportionately occurred in the Modern era rather than in the preceding eras.

It is significant to note that if the modern interpretive tradition is credible, it advances a close reading of Romans 4:5—a close reading predominantly untraceable in the previous interpretive eras. Specifically, if Exodus 23:7 and Isaiah 5:23 contributed to Romans 4:5, Paul’s text would indicate a judicial interpretation of Abraham’s justification in Genesis 15:6. This article advances new research that plays a meaningful role in the debated topic of Paul’s doctrine of justification. Promoting an ecumenical dialog among the major explications of δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ in Romans 4:5—moral transformative (Augustine), forensic (Luther), and covenantal (Dunn)—the article supplies a nuanced discussion of the origination and development of this modern expository tradition within Romans 4:5’s broader interpretive history.

4 thoughts on “The Interpretive Tradition of Exodus 23:7 and Isaiah 5:23 in Romans 4:5”

  1. The Interpretative Tradition of Ex 23:7 & Isa 5:23 in Rom 4:5
    This paper seems to involve more of a historical overview of how Roman 4:5 has been interpreted in light of two OT texts than a specific exegetical issue for which the paper will propose a new understanding. The topic is fine for a PhD thesis but does not seem to result in a very interesting or novel academic paper.

  2. maybe too much on history of interpretation
    I would rather than he spend more time on the exegetical and intertextual issues, but it still might be worth hearing. Not sure if this is basically the history of interpretation chapter of his dissertation.

  3. what is the thesis?
    I take it that the history of interpretation sets aside the modern interpretation of Rom 4:5 in order to make way for a “new” interpretation (even more modern? postmodern?) that is not articulated in the proposal.


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