Final Account: Paul's Letter to the Romans

Final Account: Paul's Letter to the Romans

Final Account: Paul's Letter to the Romans

Final Account: Paul's Letter to the Romans


In his typically engaging style, Stendahl offers a provocative and compelling reading of Paul's letter to the Romans, the "final account" of the major themes of Paul's theology. Filled with fresh and creative insights from a lifetime of reflection, this book will be enthusiastically received by laypersons, clergy, students, and scholars.


Jaroslav Pelikan

As Krister Stendahl says in the preface to this slender but potent volume, we have been friends for over four decades, sometimes seeing each other quite often and sometimes not for years, but always being able to pick up the conversation almost at midsentence, even though he was at Harvard and I at Yale.

Repeatedly, that conversation dealt with the themes that sound and resound here—the relation of the two Testaments, the counterpoint between Scripture and Tradition, the creative tensions between scholarship and proclamation, and, over and over, the burden and the glory of being heirs of the Lutheran Reformation. That last theme recurs on these pages with almost Wagnerian regularity, with that combination of selfdeprecation and self-confidence at which Krister Stendahl is such a master. Holding all these themes together, for reasons that lie in our common history as well as in the special perspective of each of us, is the haunting problem of Israel and the Church. It is a problem that haunts both of us, as it haunted Paul—and as it ought to haunt the Church. And its meaning is wrapped up with the definition of Paul’s apostolic mission, and therefore with the interpretation of the Epistle to the Romans.

About two-thirds of the way through the book (page 35), this epigram suddenly looms into view: “In the very text that comes to us through tradition lies the very truth that criticizes that tradition.” I would, I suppose, tend to put it in a converse fashion: “The only reason reformers can pit the text of Scripture against Tradition is that the Tradition has preserved it.” Either way, it sets forth an axiom for which the Epistle to the Romans is one of the most fascinating of case studies (the Sermon on the Mount being another). As an earlier capsule history of interpretation puts it (page 10), “Lutheran tradition just knows that the purpose of Romans is to teach justification by faith without the works of the law. Calvinists just know that it is the chief text from which to get the proper . . .

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