Review of Douglas Campbell’s “Deliverance of God”

Briefly Noted: In the latest issue of the Bulletin for Biblical Research, Tom Schreiner has a brief but helpful review of Douglas Campbell’s mammoth work on justification, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Eerdmans, 2009). Even though the book is a massive work of scholarship, Schreiner is critical. I’ve been reading the book myself, and from what I’ve seen Schreiner’s critique is right on the money.

Campbell essentially adopts a novel interpretation of Romans that understands different parts of chapters 1-4 not as the voice of Paul, but as the voice of his opponents. So what you read in Romans 1-4 is not always Paul, but an interaction between Paul and an opponent who is designated as “the Teacher” (sounds a bit like The DaVinci Code to me, but I digress). The whole scheme seems quite implausible, and that is what Schreiner identifies as the primary shortcoming of the book.

For Schreiner, the weakness of the book comes down to this:

“In the final analysis, Campbell’s construal stands on the basis of his own exegesis… It is difficult to believe that his own reading will be anything other than a historical curiosity in the long run.”

I couldn’t agree more.

[Here’s the bibliographic info for those who might want to track down the review: Bulletin for Biblical Research 20.2 (2010): 289-90.]

4 Responses to Review of Douglas Campbell’s “Deliverance of God”

  1. John August 2, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    Don’t be naive. Of course its perfectly legitimate to reinterpret Paul however one sees fit. It helps if you are Oxford educated and a bishop, though.

  2. Scott August 2, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    Campbell’s interpretation is not “novel” (as if that were a pejorative term), but assumes a rhetorical argument is in play. It’s not his own exegesis.

    Why do you guys at Southern even bother reading work’s not written by each other or by one of Carson’s crew? The end result is always the same.

  3. BPRJam August 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    I don’t think that the comment about the Da Vinci Code belongs in any sort of irenic review.

    Campbell is noticing something interesting about the ancient use of diatribe and the first few chapters of Romans. People should feel free to disagree with Campbell, of course, but the use of diatribe is well attested in other Roman works of this time.

    No one is reinterpreting as they see fit. They are using the tools of history and exegesis to try to get back to the original meaning of the text.

    Are we really so proud of reformed interpretations that we can’t politely listen to another work hard to wrestle with the text? I see unwarranted mocking in the OP and ad hominem in the first comment!

  4. Daniel Owens August 2, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    Don’t I remember Calvin (in the Institutes) being charged with “novelty” also?

    I guess its okay for him and not for someone that is critical of the view currently held…

    Yeah, that makes sense and is fair! (That was sarcasm!)

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