PAUL AS PRIEST
A theological interpretation of Romans 15:15-16 by means of exegesis in the context of the Septuagint and the Pauline Writings
Submitted to the School of Theology
of Sacred Heart Major Seminary,
in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of
MASTER OF ARTS (IN THEOLOGY)
© 2008 by Oswald Sobrino
All rights reserved.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter I : INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT
(1) Paul's Relationship with the Roman Christians (v. 14)
(2) Paul's View of His “Work for God” Among the Gentiles (vv. 17-18)
(3) Paul’s Charismatic Ministry (v. 19)
(4) Paul’s Eschatological Worldview (vv. 20-21)
Chapter II : Exegesis of Romans 15:15-16 (NRSV)
Chapter III : Echoes of the Septuagint
Chapter IV : Insights from Other Pauline Letters
Chapter V : What Kind of Priest?
I gratefully acknowledge the expert, insightful, and careful assistance of my thesis director and professor, Rev. Earl Muller, S.J., of the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus (where I was born and raised) and the instruction provided by all my other professors at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, especially those in biblical studies: Rev. Michael Byrnes, Vice-Rector, and Dr. Peter S. Williamson. I also owe a great debt to my New Testament Greek professor, Rev. Wayne J. Jorgenson. I also thank Prof. Annette Seranon of Oakland University, Michigan, for consultation on some of the French translations. Of course, any errors remain my sole responsibility.
I am always indebted in all my endeavors to the sustenance of the koinonia at Christ the King Catholic Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan, under the model priestly leadership of the Rev. Edward Fride. I am thankful for all that my fellow parishioners do for me and my faith and for those pioneers in the Catholic charismatic renewal who made the existence of this amazing parish possible. Let all thanks and honor be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, from whom all good persons and things come. Amen.
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT
Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
To speak about Paul as priest is to invite immediate suspicion that one is engaging in blatant eisegesis because of the confessional divisions since the Protestant Reformation. Yet, such suspicion cannot reasonably foreclose exegesis of the sole passage (Romans 15:15-16) in which Paul explicitly refers to his own preaching to the Gentiles as a priestly service. The non-Catholic commentator, Ben Witherington, underlines the importance of Rom. 15:15-16: “This is the only place in the Pauline corpus that Paul so clearly presents himself as a priest doing priestly service.”2 In the broader, historic sense, Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles was certainly sui generis: he retains to this day the singular honor of being the Apostle to the Gentiles. How did Paul understand his priestly service?
This study aims to answer this question as far as the Pauline writings and related Old Testament texts allow us to do so. The following analysis will consider first the evidence for asserting that Paul does in fact intend to speak of priestly service in Rom. 15:15-16. The following exegesis then proceeds to examine these verses line by line to discover how Paul describes and defines his priestly service to the Gentiles. The analysis then turns to echoes, of varying force, of the Septuagint that we hear in these verses, echoes that Paul and his audience would have also had the opportunity to hear since the Septuagint was the Bible of Paul and his converts. The final step is to consider cross-references or “intratextual echoes” to Pauline writings outside of Romans that also point to Paul’s priestly role, all in further search for what Paul was seeking to say about his ministry in Rom. 15:15-16.
The issue of what kind of priestly role Paul writes about is important because, as F. F. Bruce pointed out years ago, there has been a tendency among some commentators to dismiss as untenable interpretations of this text that some see as “incipient catholicism,” even without detailed examination.3 This tendency persists, in perhaps a somewhat less explicit form, even today. But before we enter this thicket of issues, we must examine the general and immediate context of Rom. 15:15-16.
1. General Context Within the Letter to the Romans
The scholarly consensus is that this undisputed and historically weighty Pauline letter was likely written in the years 55 to 58 A.D. from the city of Corinth, well before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.4 The consensus is also that the recipients were Roman Christians with strong ties to the church in Jerusalem and that the Roman churches were a mixture of Gentile and Jewish Christians.5 In the structure of the letter, Rom. 15:15-16 is part of the conclusion or epilogue consisting of Rom.15:14-33. Just as the last will be first, so this closing is of major importance to the entire letter.6 This significance is evident in how the themes of the epilogue in Romans 15 parallel many of the initial themes of the letter stated in Romans 1. More specifically, we see several parallels between the beginning of the letter at Rom.1:1-15 (consisting of a lengthy introduction of Paul as the sender, the naming and greeting of the recipients, and a thanksgiving followed by explanation of Paul’s longstanding desire to go to Rome) and the epilogue at Rom.15:14-33. In this way, the Romans 1 introduction and the Romans 15 epilogue form an inclusio that neatly contains the body of the letter.7 Here are the parallel themes found in both sections of the letter:
1. Paul’s Apostleship (1:1, 5 and 15:15-21);
2. Paul’s Mission to the Gentiles (1:5 and 15:16-17);
3. Paul’s Plan to Go to Rome (1:9-15 and 15:22-33).
In addition, ín Rom 15:18, there is an explicit reference to Paul’s mission of winning “obedience from the Gentiles” that closely parallels Paul’s words in Rom 1:5 that his goal is “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.” 8 The repetition of these three themes at the beginning and at the conclusion of the letter is a strong argument for seeking to understand the purpose of Romans through these themes, namely, the purpose of explaining the mission of Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles in preparation for his visit to Rome.9 Robert Jewett has argued for just such an approach to Romans: “[My] thesis . . . is that the theology of Romans should be understood in the light of Paul’s missional purpose that is stated and reiterated in the introduction and conclusion of the letter.”10 Jewett goes so far as to propose that the “ ‘climax’ of Romans . . . is surely to be found in the peroration in chapters 15-16 rather than in one of the doctrinal themes of the earlier part of the letter.”11 For Jewett, the climactic missional purpose of the Letter to the Romans is to prepare for Paul’s eventual visit to Rome so Paul can garner the practical cooperation needed for the ambitious mission to Spain at “the end of the Roman world,” where the fabled Pillars of Hercules are found.12 Thus, the conclusion of the letter in chapter fifteen is significant to interpreting the letter as a whole. Embedded within this same chapter fifteen is the passage on Paul’s priestly ministry (15:15-16) that is the focus of this study, a passage unique in the way Paul describes his mission to the Gentiles as priestly in character. As a result, exegesis of verses 15 and 16 on Paul as priest should also be significant, along with the rest of Paul’s epilogue, for interpreting the entire Letter to the Romans.
2. Key Ideas of the Immediate Context
The immediate context for the priestly service passage at Romans 15:15-16 (printed in bold below) is Rom. 15:14-21:
14 I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters [Greek brothers], that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. 15 Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. 20 Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written,
“Those who have never been told of him shall see,
and those who have never heard of him shall understand.”
Most well-known English translations agree that verses 14-21 form a distinct unit.13 For example, the English Standard Version entitles this section “Paul the Minister to the Gentiles;” while the New Revised Standard Version, quoted above, uses the caption “Paul’s Reason for Writing so Boldly.” The Greek United Bible Societies 4th ed. labels this distinct unit as “Paul’s Missionary Commission.” Several themes are relevant for understanding more deeply the immediate context of the priestly service passage: a.) Paul’s relationship with the Roman Christians (v. 14); b.) Paul’s view of his “work for God” among the Gentiles (vv. 17-18); c.) Paul’s charismatic ministry (v. 19); and d.) Paul’s eschatological worldview (vv. 20-21).
(1.) Paul’s Relationship with the Roman Christians (v. 14)
Speculation abounds among commentators as to Paul’s relation to the Roman Christians. Such speculation underlies much discussion of the purpose of the Letter to the Romans. While there is agreement that Paul was not the first to bring Christianity to Rome and clearly had never visited Rome prior to writing Romans, there are various descriptions that can be offered of the relationship, ranging from a close relation, as evidenced by the lengthy greeting to twenty-six individuals (including some who are relatives of Paul) in chapter sixteen,14 to a somewhat tense or defensive relationship as shown by Paul’s use of the letter to defend at length the gospel that he preaches, prior to his anxious journey to bring the collection to the needy saints in Jerusalem.15 The Roman Christians had close links to Jerusalem and its Jewish Christianity.16 Based on the evidence, it is reasonable to infer both a close and a somewhat defensive relationship between Paul and the Romans. Thus, in v. 14, Paul goes out of his way to praise the goodness and knowledge of the Roman Christians.
Yet, for purposes of this study, what is most striking in considering the character of Paul’s ministry is that Paul does assert his identity and authority as apostle to the Romans whom he generously praises (something that he does not in fact do in the greetings of all of his letters17), in spite of his never having visited Rome and in spite of the suspicion with which many viewed his preaching. He asserts his authority, in the first place, by writing such a lengthy letter and will even admit later in verse 15 that he has written “rather boldly.” Paul’s writing so boldly to such an important community that he had never previously visited and in spite of his controversial reputation indicates Paul’s high view of his own apostolic authority, a high view that one cannot avoid in evaluating the priestly aspect of his ministry.
(2) Paul’s View of His “Work for God” Among the Gentiles (vv. 17-18)
In v. 17, Paul boasts of his “work for God.” He quickly clarifies that his boast is based on “what Christ has accomplished” through him (v. 18). Paul thus views his work among the Gentiles as something quite remarkable and special. At the same time, he ties his work directly to the mandate of Christ himself. This theme of Paul’s boasting in his mission is important in understanding what he means by his priestly service toward the Gentiles because Paul clearly considers himself to be specially called to fulfill a great divine mission.
Fitzmyer notes that Paul’s expression of self-confidence is also “found in other ancient Greek writings;”18 but, in vv. 17-18, Paul’s expression of self-confidence is not a mere customary flourish. As Stanley Olson has pointed out, Paul here is specifically confident about his “role, his ministry.”19 Paul expresses specific confidence in his ministry to the Gentiles because of the practical purpose he has in writing to the Romans: his hope that the Romans will take a similarly high view of “his long letter [to them], his coming to preach and work among them, and his request that they support his mission in the West.”20 Olson offers that the “work of God” (ta. πρòς τòν θεόν) about which Paul boasts likely includes his preaching, as the context clearly implies.21 Thus, Paul displays a strong sense of personal apostolic mission that he will later refer to as a priestly service. As the late Raymond Brown noted, “in the whole Bible only Jeremiah matches Paul in self-revelation.”22 Paul reveals here the same profound sense of divine calling to do God’s work that Jeremiah passionately expressed as a prophet who was, interestingly, from a priestly family “in the land of Benjamin” (Jer. 1:1), which was the tribe of Paul (Rom. 11:1).23
(3) Paul’s Charismatic Ministry (v. 19)
What Christ has accomplished through Paul’s priestly service to the Gentiles is manifested “in word and deed” as noted in v. 18. In v. 19, Paul expands this description to include explicitly the charismatic component of that same ministry “by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God.” As noted by Dunn, in 1 Cor. 12:28 (and also earlier at 1 Cor. 12:9-10), Paul explicitly identifies miracles and healings as charisms.24 Thus, the ministry marked by signs and wonders is explicitly charismatic, as confirmed by Paul’s reference to the agency of the Holy Spirit as “the power of the Spirit of God” at the end of verse 19. The charisms of miracles, healing, and exorcism given to Paul, as widely documented in the Acts of the Apostles,25 were part and parcel of his ministry of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. In 2 Cor. 12:12, Paul writes that the “signs of a true apostle were performed among you in all patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works,” using the same Greek words for “signs and wonders” that are also used in Romans 15:19.26 This ministry of signs and wonders is relevant to the understanding of Paul’s priestly service, especially when we consider later the echoes to the signs and wonders of Moses the prophet and Aaron the priest in the Old Testament. Moreover, the very text of Rom. 15:16 hints at the charismatic aspect described in Rom. 15:19 by calling Paul’s priestly offering of the Gentiles “sanctified in the Holy Spirit.”
(4) Paul’s Eschatological Worldview (v. 20-21)
In v. 21, Paul quotes Isa. 52:15 from the Septuagint: “Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand.” Paul quotes Isaiah in the context of proclaiming his ambition to preach the gospel where no one else has already done so. One commentator expresses this missionary boldness in modern terms: “[T]he primary focus of his ministry was to move into unreached areas and establish churches there. . . . Paul may also have developed the strategy of partnering with existing churches in order to further his outreach into yet unreached areas. His letter and visit to Rome would be further extension of that strategy, this time to Spain.”27 Here is the great and urgent mission to the Gentiles, a mission now seeking fulfillment by going to Spain, the western edge of the known ancient world.
Commentators have observed how Paul’s urgency to play the pioneer in the drama of salvation points to the eschatological vision of bringing to God the “full number of the Gentiles” so that “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:25-26).28 This eschatological perspective points directly to the priestly service passage (Rom. 15:15-16) which speaks explicitly of Paul’s offering the Gentiles themselves to God. The implications, to be discussed more fully in chapter three, are that this priestly service is eschatological and on the very frontline of efforts to usher in the great day of salvation for the whole world.
The epilogue in Romans 15 reiterates the themes with which Paul introduces the entire letter in Rom. 1:1-15, namely, the character and calling of his apostleship, his mission to the Gentiles, and his plan to visit Rome. Thus, Romans 15 captures the purpose and occasion of the entire letter: to prepare for Paul’s visit to Rome, with the more precise information finally revealed in Rom. 15:24, 28, that Paul will pass through Rome on the way to Spain, the western edge of the known Mediterranean world of that time. In the immediate context of the priestly service passage (Rom. 15:15-16) which is the focus of this study, we see various themes that will mark and influence our understanding of Paul’s priestly service to the Gentiles: 1.) Paul’s weighty apostolic authority that emboldens him to write to an important church in a city in which he had never been physically present; 2.) Paul’s divine calling from Christ to minister to the Gentiles; 3.) the charismatic nature of Paul’s ministry in signs and wonders; and 4.) Paul’s eschatological world view which colors his ministry to the Gentiles. All of these themes shape how Paul understands his priestly service.
CHAPTER II: EXEGESIS OF ROMANS 15:15-16
We now turn to a verse by verse exegesis of the priestly service passage that is at the heart of this study. This passage is unique in the New Testament because it is the only place where an individual Christian is identified as a priest. The only other references to priests in the New Testament--other than to the Jewish priests of the Temple--are to Christ himself or to Christian believers as a whole.29 Although the exegesis that follows uses the New Revised Standard Version, the continuous, natural style of the New English Bible captures even better the force of Paul’s unique and striking statement: “[N]evertheless I have written to refresh your memory, and written somewhat boldly at times, in virtue of the gift I have from God. His grace has made me a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles; my priestly service is the preaching of the gospel of God, and it falls to me to offer the Gentiles to him as an acceptable sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit.”30 We have in these two verses a unique, distinctive statement, with no significant textual variants,31 that deserves close scrutiny.
1. “Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder because of the grace given me by God . . .”
The word τολμηρότερον (replaced in some witnesses by τολμηρότερως, with no material difference in meaning) gives us the phrase “rather boldly” in v. 15. 32 This comparative adverb raises the issue of whether Paul is simply begging indulgence for his magisterial, lengthy letter; or whether he is merely using a diplomatic convention33 out of respect for this important group of Christians in the empire’s capital. The word for “boldly” carries the sense of “daring” in both the LXX and in the rest of the New Testament.34 In 2 Cor. 11:21, we see Paul’s ironic use of τολμάω (to dare): “But whatever anyone dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.”35 Paul, unsurprisingly, given his temperament and undisputed genius, demonstrates that he is fully capable and open to using τολμηρότερον in a subtle or ironic sense.
Yet, when we consider more closely the context of the use of τολμηρότερον in Rom. 15:15, we see that Paul explicitly justifies his boldness in writing to the Romans “because of the grace given me by God.” Paul is not being ironically polemical as in the above example from 2 Corinthians. Paul’s reference to the grace given to him by God is no mere begging of indulgence from the Romans; nor is it a mere formulaic36 matter of conventional style given the actual boldness inherent in Romans’ powerful exposition of faith in Jesus Christ as replacing the Law. Rather, Paul is making a straightforward assertion of a quite significant fact: I have indeed and undeniably37 written rather boldly to you—at length and in a tour de force, even if I have yet to set foot in Rome—precisely because of the grace given to me by God, who has commissioned me to write boldly to the Gentiles, wherever they may be.38
This assertion reflects the exalted view of apostolic mission held by Paul, also seen in the previous discussion about Paul’s relationship with the Roman Christians. Brendan Byrne captures the dramatic sense of mission with which Paul viewed the Roman church(es) in the context of his wider divine mission to unify Gentile and Jew in one Church:
Made up of Jewish and Gentile believers, the Roman Christians can, when purged of divisive attachment to the law, form in their mutual acceptance and common praise of God (15, 6-7) a microcosm of the entire world-wide church. Paul will have performed his “priestly duty with respect to the gospel of God” (15, 16). He will also have eliminated the increasingly glaring “exception” to his responsibility to the Gentiles constituted by this significant church standing at the crossroads of the Eastern and the (projected) Western fields of his apostolic mission.39
Paul writes “rather boldly” to the Romans in order to fulfill his ministry to the Gentiles. Paul writes boldly because he has a bold and ambitious ministry commissioned by God himself. There is here a hint of the priestly aspect of the ministry that Paul will describe in the next verse. In Exod. 4:10-16, Aaron the priest-to-be is said to be “fluent” in his speaking abilities (the New American Bible and the Vulgate use “eloquent”). Compared to the slow speech of Moses, Aaron, the eventual high priest, was indeed “bold” of speech.40 Paul’s recognition of his own boldness as the spokesman for Christ, the New Moses of the Gospels (especially in Matthew and John), is suggestive of the boldness of Aaron the priest as the spokesman for the first Moses.41
2. “…to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. . .”
We now encounter the first of five42 highly significant cultic terms that together describe the priestly aspect of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. In this instance, “minister” is the translation chosen by the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) for λειτoυργός. Paul Bony summarizes the use of λειτoυργός in his 2003 study of Romans:
Leitourgos designates someone who exercises a public service (see Rm 13, 6). This service may be profane or sacred. The verb leitourgein is often used in the Greek Bible for the service of the temple and the altar, sometimes about priests, sometimes, in a more general way, about “servants” other than the priests and Levites. The noun leitourgos is rarely used specifically to describe the priests (Ne 10, 40; Is 61, 6), or even, in an inclusive way, in designating the priests along with the other officiants, ministers and servants (Esd [Ezra] 7, 24).43
As noted by Bony, in Neh. 10:40 (LXX), we have the two terms in apposition: “the priests the ministers” (oi` i`erei/j oi` leitourgoi....).44 We also see the same two terms equated in the LXX Greek of Isa. 61:6,45 as in the NRSV translation from the Hebrew text: “but you shall be called priests of the LORD, you shall be named ministers of our God; you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory.” In Ezra 7:24, the LXX text is not as clear, as the other citations by Bony are, in including priests in the class of temple servants46 or ministers.47 Yet the Aramaic text48 refers to priests as part of the class of temple servants, as confirmed by the NRSV: “We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on any of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God” (emphasis added). The LXX text for Ezra 7:24 uses λειτoυργός for “servants.” Surprisingly, Bony fails to mention the equating of priests and ministers (leitourgou.j) in Sir. 7:29-30 (LXX). Bony also does not mention the description of the priestly “service at the altars” of the high priest in Sir. 50:14 (LXX), which uses the participle of λειτoυργός (leitourgw/n) to describe this priestly service.
Bony also leaves out the reference in Exod. 28:43 to Aaron the high priest and his priestly sons who “come near the altar to minister [leitourgei/n] in the holy place.” Bony focuses exclusively on the noun form λειτoυργός because that is the exact form found in Rom. 15:16. Such a grammatically narrow focus leaves out those verbal forms that share a related meaning with the noun. Focusing on only one isolated grammatical form denies us the shared sense of meaning common to words that are closely related. For example, in Exod. 28:43, only priests are said “to minister [leitourgei/n]” at the altar (NRSV translation; LXX Greek equivalent in brackets).49 The priestly minister at the altar is thus a λειτoυργός, just as Paul is in Rom. 15:16. The one who ministers is a minister. The same situation arises in Sir. 45:15, another reference not noted by Bony, in which Aaron the high priest is said “to minister [leitourgei/n] to the Lord and serve as priest.”
Yet, in spite of the explicit nature of the above references to the priestly sense of λειτoυργός and its verbal forms, Bony chooses to emphasize the rarity of the LXX references equating ministers (leitourgoὶ) with priests.50 His emphasis on the paucity of such diachronic references in the Old Testament can be mitigated by also considering the more contemporaneous or synchronic references equating λειτoυργός with priest.51 If we turn from the LXX to other writings closer in time to the Letter to the Romans, we also find λειτoυργός and i`ereύj (priest) equated. In Heb. 8:1-2, Christ the high priest is λειτoυργός:52 “[W]e have such a high priest [avrciere,a] . . . a minister [leitourgo.j] in the sanctuary.” We see the same equivalence between priest and minister at 1 Clement 41:2 and at other points in 1 Clement (approx. 81-96 A.D.) and also in the non-canonical Infancy Gospel (Protoevangelium) of James at 23:1-3 (second century A.D. and possibly as early as 150 A.D.),53 albeit later in time.54 It is reasonable to give weight to these other references because they are closer in time to Paul. As a result, contrary to Bony’s analysis, the weight of the evidence favors concluding that Paul’s use of λειτoυργός in Rom. 15:15 certainly has a priestly cast based on both the LXX and on relatively more contemporaneous Christian usage.
Moreover, Douglas Moo points to intertestamental references in which λειτoυργός refers to priest(s). 55 These references either precede or are contemporaneous with Paul’s writing of Romans in the fifties. The first two references are to documents from the Jewish Pseudepigrapha. The first document is the Epistle of Aristeas (possibly dating anywhere from 130 B.C. to the first century A.D.) which refers to the sacrifices offered by the priests.56 The other pseudepigraphal document is the Testament of Levi, possibly dating from the second century B.C., in which Levi the priest is the central figure.57 Moo also points to similar usage at various points in the writings of Philo, who lived circa 20 B.C. to 50 A.D.58
Bony also notes that λειτoυργός is used to refer to public ministers, servants of the state, in Rom. 13:6. In Rom. 13:1-4, Paul emphasizes the extensive character of the God-given authority of such public ministers or servants:
1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God's servant [dia,kono,j] for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.
Paul emphasizes that God has instituted the authority of the state’s ministers and that Christians are to obey them or “incur the judgment” of God. In Rom. 13:6, these same authorities are called “God’s servants”: “For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants [leitourgoί qeou/], busy with this very thing.” Thus, in addition to the priestly sense of λειτoυργός, we see that for Paul λειτoυργός bears a strong sense of one possessing authority directly from God. This strong sense of authority for public ministers matches Paul’s own strong sense of divine appointment as apostle to the Gentiles evident in Paul’s boldness in writing to the Romans. Moreover, in the Old Testament and into the time of Jesus and Paul, priests had real authority in resolving legal disputes.59
While Bony considers only one New Testament reference to λειτoυργός, there are other relevant New Testament references. There are five appearances in the New Testament of the noun λειτoυργός, with one being the verse that is the exegetical focus of this section (Rom. 15:16). We have already discussed above two other instances of λειτoυργός (Heb. 8:2 and Rom. 13:6). There remain two more instances of λειτoυργός to consider: Phil. 2:25 and Heb. 1:7.
In Phil. 2:25, Paul refers to Epaphroditus as “my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister [λειτoυργός] to my need.” If, as this study argues, λειτoυργός can often carry a priestly aspect, then this reference to Epaphroditus is potentially the second such passage in the New Testament (after Rom. 15:16) referring to an individual Christian in a priestly role.60 It is telling that in Phil. 4:18, the same Epaphroditus called λειτoυργός in Phil. 2:25 is also the one who brings gifts from the Philippians to Paul, gifts described as “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” Thus, Epaphroditus’s status as λειτoυργός is linked to the priestly act of offering acceptable sacrifice. The “acceptable sacrifice” brought by Epaphroditus the λειτoυργός in Phil. 4:18 echoes “the offering of the Gentiles” by Paul the λειτoυργός in Rom. 15:16, an offering Paul seeks to make “acceptable.”
It is noteworthy that Paul also calls Epaphroditus a “co-worker” (sunergo.n), a title he also applies to Timothy (Rom. 16:21) and Titus (2 Cor. 8:23), among others. In the Pastoral Letters, we see Timothy and Titus as teachers and rulers officially authorized by Paul as his “delegates”61 in Ephesus and Crete, respectively.62 The co-worker status shared by Epaphroditus with authoritative teachers such as Timothy and Titus supports the view that Paul’s application of λειτoυργός to Epaphroditus suggests a role as an authoritative teacher of the faithful, a role also obviously filled by Paul himself. Although, admittedly, there is not sufficient evidence for reaching a definite conclusion, these links between Epaphroditus and Paul as leitourgoi.... who offer acceptable sacrifices, along with the co-worker status shared by Epaphroditus with authoritative teachers like Timothy and Titus, suggest that Paul might have viewed the activity of Epaphroditus described in Philippians as having a priestly aspect similar to the priestly aspect of Paul’s own authoritative mission to the Gentiles in Rom. 15:16.63
In Heb.1:7,64 the author refers to God’s angels as “servants” [leitourgou.j], quoting Ps.104:4 of the Septuagint. Unlike the NRSV, the English Standard Version prefers the translation “ministers.” Under either translation, the immediate contextual emphasis is on the angels worshipping Christ, as asserted in Heb. 1:6. We see, in this association with worship, the cultic aspect of λειτoυργός that is consistent with its priestly aspect.
This cultic aspect of λειτoυργός is also emphasized when we consider its cognate leitourgi,a, variously translated as ministry or service. In 2 Cor. 9:12, Paul refers to the leitourgi,a of those contributing to the Jerusalem collection that is so prominent a theme in Romans 15. Paul views this collection, as will be seen in the next section, as a sacrificial or cultic offering in Romans 15. In fact, in Rom. 15:27, the verbal form of λειτoυργός is used to refer to the Jerusalem collection by which the Gentiles “ought also to be of service [leitourgh/sai] to” the saints in Jerusalem. In Phil. 2:17, Paul describes himself “as being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering [leitourgi,a|] of your faith.” He clearly emphasizes the cultic usage of leitourgi,a as an offering.65 A.M. Denis further confirms this cultic use of leitourgi,a when he states that the “LXX employs in effect the term leitourgi,a to speak uniquely about a sacred service and especially that of the temple.”66
In addition, in Heb. 8:6, Jesus’ ministry as our high priest is referred to as “a more excellent ministry [leitourgi,a]” than that of earthly priests [using i`ereύj to refer to priests in Heb. 8:4]. Another cultic use of leitourgi,a in Hebrews includes Heb. 9:21’s reference to sacrificial worship in the time of Moses. The cultic aspect of the cognates of λειτoυργός is also apparent in Heb. 10:11’s use of the verb form leitourgέw to refer to the sacrifices offered by the Temple priest who “stands day after day at his service [using the present participle “serving” or leitourgw/n], offering again and again the same sacrifices.” Finally, also using the same participle, Paul’s companion, Luke, refers to Christians “worshiping [Leitourgou,ntwn] the Lord” in Acts 13:2.67
In sum, consideration of usage in the LXX, in the undisputed Pauline-authored writings, in the Pastoral Letters, in Hebrews, in 1 Clement, and in the Protoevangelium of James confirms that the name λειτoυργός that Paul applies to himself in Rom. 15:16 has a definite priestly aspect linked to the cult of sacrifice and worship.
3. “… in the priestly service of the gospel of God . . .”
If there is any lingering doubt that Paul the λειτoυργός of Christ Jesus has a priestly role, that doubt is removed by the next phrase in Rom. 15:16. The original Greek of this crucial phrase reads as follows: i`erourgou/nta to. euvagge,lion tou/ qeou/. What is immediately noticeable is that we have a Greek present active participle i`erourgou/nta describing Paul the λειτoυργός, although the NRSV translates the participle as a prepositional phrase so: “in the priestly service.” Yet, in the original text we are dealing with the Greek verb i`erourge,w rather than with a prepositional phrase. Other translations capture better the active verbal form of the original Greek, e.g., the King James/Authorized Version (“ministering the gospel of God”), the New International Version (“with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God”), and the New American Bible (“in performing the priestly service of the gospel of God”).
Even closer to the Greek participle’s exact meaning are two other translations: the New American Standard Bible from 1995 (“ministering as a priest the gospel of God”) and Young’s Literal Translation from the nineteenth century (“acting as priest in the good news of God”). The latter two translations have the advantage of fully preserving the verbal form of the participle combined with fidelity to the priestly character of the activity. In these two translations, no substantives, such as “service” or “duty,” replace in whole or in part the active Greek participle.68
But does i`erourge,w in fact mean “acting” or “ministering” precisely as a priest? The locus classicus for this narrow lexical inquiry is the monograph by Claude Wiéner published in 1963.69 The inquiry is complicated by the fact that i`erourgei/n appears in the New Testament in Rom. 15:16 only (and thus is a hapax legomenon) and not at all in the canonical LXX.70 According to Wiéner, the closest thing to another biblical reference is one pseudepigraphal variant reference at 4 Macc. 7:8, which refers to priests under persecution: “Such should those be whose office is to serve [i`erourgou/ntaj] the Law and defend it with their own blood and honourable sweat in the face of sufferings to the death.”71 Schrenk renders i`erourgou/ntaj in 4 Macc. 7:8 with the phrase “to discharge priestly ministry.”72 Yet,Wiéner does not mention another instance of i`erourgei/n, appearing at 4 Macc. 3:20, that is more relevant to the priestly sense of the verb: “At a time when our ancestors were enjoying profound peace because of their observance of the law and were prospering, so that even Seleucus Nicanor, king of Asia, had both appropriated money to them for the temple service [εἰς τὴν ἱερουργίαν] and recognized their commonwealth.”73 This citation--not mentioned by Wiéner-- is precisely the one that directly and specifically ties i`erourgei/n with service at the temple.
Given the rarity of biblical usage, Wiéner understandably considers pagan usage of i`erourgei/n. Interestingly, Wiéner notes one pagan text where the term describes the Roman emperor as “having a priestly role.”74 This priestly dimension of the state ruler is consistent with λειτoυργός as used for both governmental and strictly religious ministers. Yet, we must keep in mind that in the ancient world, whether pagan or Jewish, there was no necessarily ironclad chasm between strictly sacred and strictly royal individuals. Kings and rulers also acted as priests in the ancient world.75 So the fact that i`erourgei/n is used of kings or other state officials in no way derogates from its priestly meaning. Unfortunately, Wiéner fails to give due weight to this ancient reality and instead summarily concludes that mere reference to an emperor detracts from a specific priestly dimension.76
Wiéner does provide a very useful list of persons described as offering sacrifices with the verb i`erourgei/n in various writings of Philo and Josephus: Abel, Abraham, Moses, Jeptha, Saul, David, the King of Moab, and “a great priest” (“un grand prêtre”).77 The use of i`erourgei/n for sacrifices by figures who were not specially consecrated to serve exclusively at the Temple does not detract from a priestly sense precisely because the early patriarchs of Israel and royalty were also considered, at different points in the history of Israel, to fulfill the role of priests.78 Vanhoye describes the evolutionary nature of the process culminating in the specialized role of priests:
Originally, the right to offer sacrifices was not the exclusive prerogative of the priests. Abraham, who was not a priest, offered holocausts to God; Jacob consecrated pillars, and we see him offering a sacrifice and inviting his kinsmen to it [Gen. 22:13; 28:18; 31:54; 35:14]. In the time of the Judges we read that the father of Samson offered a kid as a holocaust (Jg 13:19). According to the books of Samuel and Kings, David and Solomon offered solemn sacrifices [2 Sam. 6:13, 17f; 24:25; 1 Kg 3:4, 15; 8:5, 62-64; 9:25]. Little by little, however, the offering of sacrifices was reserved to the priests and a text in Chronicles [2 Chron. 26:16-20] relates that King Uzziah had been punished by God for having dared to offer incense on the altar of incense. This privilege of priests can be considered as one among several cases of social specialization. 79
By failing to take this historical evolution of the priestly role into account, Wiéner concludes that i`erourgei/n lacks any necessary connection to a priest. Yet, if the role of priest gradually evolved in the history of Israel toward the exclusive offering of sacrifice by consecrated priests in the Temple service, this conclusion is unwarranted. Wiéner’s use of examples from the early stages of this evolutionary process in Israel’s history leads to a misleading and incomplete interpretation of i`erourgei/n. Wiéner’s analysis is anachronistic because it injects a later, more exclusive definition of the priestly role to an earlier point in Israel’s history and so denies a priestly role to the early patriarchs and to kings. The patriarchs and kings indeed had a priestly role connected with i`erourgei/n, just as the specialized priests of Israel’s later history would have. The later specialization cannot erase the historical record of an earlier priestly role that was more inclusive.
Wiéner also examines other texts from Philo and Josephus in which both priests and non-priests are said to offer sacrifices (i`erourgei/n).80 From these texts, Wiéner concludes that: “i`erourgei/n, in the Jewish texts, seems surely to signify, in the most prominent sense, ‘to offer sacrifices’ . . ., without specifying if the author of the action is the priest or the faithful who address themselves to him.”81
Wiéner then turns to the context of the particular focus of this study, Rom. 15:15-16, and favors translating these verses without explicit reference to Paul as a priest, as done in the Jerusalem Bible: “. . . the grace that God has given me to be a servant of Christ Jesus for the pagans, presenting them as a sacrifice, the announcement of the Gospel of God, so that the pagans may become an agreeable offering . . . .”82 In the end, he carefully refrains from reaching a decisive conclusion about the priestly sense vel non of i`erourgei/n in Rom. 15:16.83
His failure to reach a definite conclusion is not surprising because Wiéner began his analysis by unnecessarily foregoing any reliance on the priestly aspect of λειτoυργός.84 This study has already shown that λειτoυργός definitely has a priestly aspect, as attested to by various biblical and non-biblical references. Wiéner considers the mere fact that Paul calls the ministers of state in Rom. 13:6 leitourgoi.... sufficient to exclude the priestly aspect of λειτoυργός from his analysis.
In contrast, this study has shown the strong priestly cast of λειτoυργός and in fact proposes that Paul’s use of λειτoυργός to refer to both state ministers and exclusively religious ministers is logically consistent because of the divine authority inherent in both types of leitourgoi..... This shared meaning of λειτoυργός as applied to both government and cultic ministers is based on their common roles as bearers of divinely sanctioned authority, as already established in the Old Testament.85 The use of the same word to denote different individuals should lead us to look for shared meaning or, to borrow from the philosopher of language Ludwig Wittgenstein, for “family resemblances.”86 Otherwise, the exegete falsely assumes that each word has one and only one unique use as if he were dealing with an abstract variable in a mathematical function. The unwarranted assumption of such a unique, exclusive meaning for words contradicts the fluid use of human language in different historical contexts, then and now. Wiéner asserts that λειτoυργός is used “rather loosely” (“assez lache”) for the term to have a priestly meaning.87 Such untidy “looseness” is precisely the nature of human language from which all linguistic analysis begins. To require more precision than is historically realistic is to invite premature termination of the analysis of words.
If, instead, we take into account both the priestly sense of λειτoυργός and the priestly sense of i`erourgei/n, Paul’s priestly service emerges clearly in Rom. 15:16. Wiéner himself recognizes this approach as a possible way of establishing the priestly aspect of Paul’s mission in Rom. 15:16.88 By the time of Paul, the sacred worker or minister (λειτoυργός) offering sacrifices (i`erourgei/n) is presumptively a priest because the Old Testament eventually singled out the priest for the exclusive role of carrying out the service at the altar of sacrifice, as shown in Num. 18:7: “But you [Aaron] and your sons with you shall diligently perform your priestly duties in all that concerns the altar and the area behind the curtain. I give your priesthood as a gift; any outsider who approaches shall be put to death.” In the LXX, the words referring to the service of the priests in Num. 18:7 are forms of λειτoυργός. Literally, in the LXX, God tells the priests that “you will serve the services” (leitourgh,sete ta.j leitourgi,aj). The New Jerusalem Bible better captures the sense expressed by this phrase in the LXX: “You and your sons will undertake the priestly duties in all that concerns the altar and all that lies behind the curtain. You will perform the liturgy, the duties of which I entrust to your priesthood. But an unauthorised person approaching will incur death” (emphasis added). This fundamental definition of the priest as the one who offers sacrifice carries over into the New Testament, as seen in Heb. 5:1 which explicitly defines a high priest as one who “is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their [mortals’] behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”89
Considering λειτoυργός and i`erourgei/n together eliminates the alleged ambiguity, noted by Wiéner, of whether the one offering the sacrifice is the priest or refers merely to the faithful offering through the priest. In Rom. 15:15-16, Paul the λειτoυργός is the one who makes the offering. By the time Paul writes the Letter to the Romans, the need for a priest in sacrificial offerings is well-established in Judaism, thus making moot the alleged ambiguity noted by Wiéner. Even if one wishes to consider the possibility that the non-priestly faithful are the ones offering the sacrifice, a priest still remains essential to performing the actual Temple sacrifice on behalf of the faithful.
D.W.B. Robinson agrees with this reading of Rom. 15:15-16:
In other words the matters Paul writes about spring from the nature of his priestly cult. In this cult the god is Jesus Christ, and Paul is his leitourgo.j i.e., the priest. The worshippers are the Gentiles, and the priest’s responsibility is to ensure that their prosfora, or offering is presentable (euvpro,sdektoj( h`giasme,nh) according to the requirements of the cult. . . . It is in preaching and expounding it [“the gospel of God”] that Paul acts as a priest (i`erourgou/nta to. euvagge,lion tou/ qeou/).90
Robinson goes further and situates this priestly reading of Rom. 15:15-16 as central to the purpose of the Letter to the Romans, a letter which is “both an exposition of the gospel of hope and at the same time Paul’s apologia for his ‘priesthood’ in that gospel.”91 As noted earlier, the themes of Romans 15 form an inclusio with the themes of Romans 1.92 Robinson notes that to these themes we can add an explicit priestly theme found in both Romans 1 and Romans 15 because “[t]his remarkable [priestly] metaphor [in Romans 15] is perhaps foreshadowed in the expressions Paul employs at the beginning of the epistle: ‘servant (dou/loj) of Jesus Christ, set apart for the gospel of God . . . whom I serve (latreu,w) with my spirit in the gospel of his Son’ (1:1, 9).”93 Like Robinson, Richard Dillon also points to the use of latreu,w in Rom. 1:9, commenting that the word refers to “ritual worship” and agreeing with Robinson that “liturgical terminology . . . unites Paul’s characterization of his preaching ministry in the introduction and epilogue to Romans.”94
Consequently, there is ample evidence that Paul is indeed identifying his ministry as priestly in Rom. 15:15-16. As the above quotation from Robinson points out, the remaining references in the passage to the acceptable offering of the Gentiles further support this conclusion, as will be demonstrated in the next section.
4. “… so that the offering of the Gentiles …”
We now come to the third of five major cultic, sacrificial terms in Rom. 15:15-16: i[na ge,nhtai h` prosfora. tῶn evqnῶn (“so that the offering of the Gentiles may be”). The key word in this phrase is offering or prosfora.. Paul the λειτoυργός is “ministering as a priest [i`erourgei/n] the gospel of God” (NASB translation) actualized in the prosfora. of the Gentiles. The term prosfora. can refer either to “the act of offering (cf. Acts 24:17; Heb. 10:10, 14, 18) or, as here, [to] what is offered (Acts 21:16; Eph. 5:2; Heb. 10:5, 8.”95 Does prosfora. have a priestly aspect, as found in the usage of λειτoυργός and i`erourgei/n? In a previous section, we saw that in Sir. 50:14 (LXX), the high priest served at the altar with the participle form of λειτoυργός used to denote that “service.”96 In the very same verse, the high priest’s service as λειτoυργός at the altar is linked to an “offering” to God. In Sirach 50:14 (LXX), prosfora. is used to denote that priestly offering, as is done in Rom. 15:16. In Heb. 10:8, prosfora. is also used to refer to the sacrificial and high priestly offering of Christ himself.97 The related verbal form prosfe,rw is applied to priestly sacrifice in Heb. 10:11, which also invokes the verb λειτoυργe,w echoing Paul the λειτoυργός of Christ Jesus: “And every priest stands day after day at his service [literally “serving” or λειτoυργῶn), offering [prosfe,rwn] again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins.” Even more striking is the first century Christian usage in 1 Clement 40:2: “He [Christ the “Master”] commanded us to celebrate sacrifices and services [ prosfora.ς kaὶ λειτoυρὶaς] . . . .”98 1 Clement 36:1 likewise refers to “Jesus Christ, the high priest of our offerings [prosforῶn].”99 Luke presents Paul himself using prosfora. to refer to sacrifices offered at the Temple in Jerusalem in Acts 24:17-18, where he speaks of his journey to Jerusalem “to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices [prosfora.ς].”100 As with λειτoυργός and i`erourgei/n, we have in prosfora. a word linked to Temple sacrifices offered by priests.
But of even more interest, as Vanhoye explains in detail, is how Paul’s reference to the offering of the Gentiles dispels any doubt that in the offering of sacrifice [i`erourge,w] Paul views himself as the priest who offers the sacrifice and not as a mere layman sponsoring a priestly sacrifice:
What follows [the verb i`erourgei/n] in the text, however, would seem to exclude this last interpretation [of Paul as “the layman who provides the victim for the sacrifice”] when it mentions the “oblation of the pagans.” In his study of hierourgein, Weiner has not noted this detail. Undoubtedly he has relied too much on the current translation, which gives the pagans only a passive role in the phrase: “so that the pagans may become an offering . . . .” But in fact Paul speaks of the “oblation of the pagans,” and this expression must be understood in an active sense: the pagans furnish the victim of the sacrifice, even if this victim, from the point of view of Romans 12:1, is their own persons. Paul is then viewing himself as a celebrant, one who offers, and not as an ordinary believer. The opposite would have been surprising coming from him, since he hardly made a habit of minimizing his own vocation.101
If, as Vanhoye points out, Paul is not offering sacrifice as an ordinary believer but as the celebrant, then Paul is clearly identifying himself as a priest. This lucid insight by Vanhoye not only dispels the view that Paul is a mere layman offering sacrifice but also necessarily dispels the view that he is likening his role to that of a non-priestly Levite assisting Christ the high priest to offer sacrifice, as proposed by Cranfield,102 because, like the ordinary layman, the non-priestly Levite cannot be the celebrant of the sacrifice but at most merely assists the Temple priest.
5. “… may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
The last part of Rom. 15:16 gives us the final two cultic terms in verse 16: “acceptable [eὐpro,sdektoj]” and “sanctified [ἡgiasme,nh],” both describing the “offering of the Gentiles” presented by Paul acting as a priest. We see eὐpro,sdektoj repeated in Romans 15:31, where Paul seeks the prayers of the Romans so that his “ministry [diakoni,a] to Jerusalem may be acceptable [eὐpro,sdektoj] to the saints.”103
Grundmann notes that eὐpro,sdektoj corresponds to dekto,j.104 Grundmann also confirms that both terms “are connected with the sacrificial cultus.”105 We find dekto,j applied to sacrifice [qusi,an] in Phil. 4:18b: “I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable [dekth,n] and pleasing to God.” The figure of Epaphroditus again surfaces. Paul calls Epaphroditus λειτoυργός and also calls himself λειτoυργός in Rom. 15:16.106 In addition, Epaphroditus as a λειτoυργός like Paul presents a sacrifice acceptable to God.107 In both the case of Epaphroditus and of Paul, dekto,j refers to a sacrifice presented by a λειτoυργός.
In 1 Pet. 2:5, we have the same form of “acceptable” used in Rom. 15:16 applied to the sacrifices (again, qusi,aj) of Christians as a “holy priesthood” (ἱera,teuma): “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable [eὐprosde,ktouj] to God through Jesus Christ.” It is worth noting that ἱera,teuma or priesthood shares the root for “holy” (ἱero,j) also found in the verb i`erourge,w in Rom. 15:16 to describe Paul’s priestly activity. Again, we find that, like the other cultic terms in Rom. 15:16, Paul’s emphasis on acceptable (eὐpro,sdektoj) sacrifice is directly connected to priests and priesthood. In addition, one of the important roles of Old Testament priests was to determine if the ritual impurity of a worshipper, such as leprosy, would render a sacrifice unacceptable.108 Paul is here making a similar priestly determination as to the offering of the Gentiles.
The mark of the acceptable sacrifice is that it is “sanctified [ἡgiasme,nh] by the Holy Spirit,” the words that finish Rom. 15:16. Again, there is a cultic and priestly link. The verb here is a`gia,zw and in the LXX refers “[m]ostly . . .[to] priests, people, and holy vessels . . . separated from what is profane and set in a consecrated state.”109 In Neh. 3:1, we have priests sanctifying: “Then the high priest Eliashib set to work with his fellow priests and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They consecrated [LXX: h`gi,asan] it and set up its doors; they consecrated [LXX: h`gi,asan] it as far as the Tower of the Hundred and as far as the Tower of Hananel.”
In John 17:19, we have Christ in his priestly prayer also sanctifying: “And for their sakes I sanctify [a`gia,zw] myself, so that they also may be sanctified [h`giasme,noi] in truth.” Feuillet calls attention to Christ the priest who sanctifies: “In both [John 17 and in the Letter to the Hebrews], Christ is seen chiefly as a priest who is also sacrificial victim; Christ is the sanctifier and others are ‘sanctified’ in him (cf. the use of hagiazein in Jn 17:17, 19 and in Heb. 2:11; 10:10; 13:12).” 110 These references further corroborate the cultic and priestly aspect of Paul’s reference to the sanctified offering of the Gentiles.
We have considered in detail the five cultic terms in Rom. 15:15-16: minister [λειτoυργός ]; to serve as a priest [i`erourgei/n]; offering [prosforὰ]; acceptable [eὐpro,sdektoj]; and sanctified [ἡgiasme,nh]. While one cannot say that all of these terms are exclusively, semper et ubique, used of priests or their priestly work, these terms are indeed closely linked to the ministry of priests in the LXX and in other writings, both in the New Testament and beyond, that are even closer in time to Paul than the LXX. N.T. Wright captures well the impact of what Paul has done by his synergistically combining these dense, cultic terms into one single sentence found at Rom. 15:15-16: “This [Rom. 15:15-16] is not the only time that Paul uses sacrificial and priestly language to describe his apostolic vocation, but it is the fullest and most striking such occurrence (see too Phil 2:16-17).” 111 The venerable Catholic exegete Ándre Feuillet also captures what Paul has given us in Rom. 15:15-16, by directing our attention to the “piling up of cultic terms in this text.”112 The venerable Protestant scholar F. F. Bruce captured the drama of this significant moment in Paul’s life found in Romans 15: “A major phase of Paul’s apostleship had now come to an end; before he embarked on a new phase he would render an account of his stewardship thus far. He looked on his stewardship as a ‘priestly service’ and desired that ‘the offering of the Gentiles’, the fruit of that service which he was about to ‘seal’ in Jerusalem, might be ‘acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 15:16).” 113 As a result, my own view, as well as that of most commentators and translators, whether non-Catholic or Catholic, is that Paul has clearly identifed a priestly aspect to his apostolic mission.114
In contrast to some prominent prior studies, this study has more fully recovered the priestly aspect of Paul’s apostleship in Rom. 15:15-16 by carefully and comprehensively considering together all five cultic terms in these two verses. By considering a broader range of references in the LXX, in addition to references closer to the time of Paul, both canonical and non-canonical, we have seen that, when paired together, λειτoυργός and i`erourgei/n establish a clear priestly reference by Paul that cannot be ignored or minimized in exegesis. This priestly reference is further strengthened by the explicit reference to an “offering” which Paul judges to be acceptable and sanctified in the Holy Spirit.
CHAPTER III: ECHOES OF THE SEPTUAGINT
Oh that I knew how all thy lights combine,
And the configurations of their glorie!
Seeing not onely how each verse doth shine,
But all the constellations of the storie.
George Herbert, “The Holy Scriptures”115
Paul writes as a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5, ESV), with a mind, heart, and soul immersed in the Old Testament. Paul writes in Greek quoting and alluding to the Old Testament in the Greek of the Septuagint. Thus, exegesis of Paul’s Letter to the Romans must consider the echoes of the Septuagint in the minds of Paul and of those hearing and reading his letter in the first century. Richard B. Hays confirms this view of Paul’s use of Scripture:
[T]he original Hebrew language of the biblical writings was not a concern of Paul. His citations characteristically follow the Septuagint (LXX), a Greek translation from the second or third century B.C.E., which was in common use in Hellenistic synagogues during Paul’s lifetime. Rarely do Paul’s quotations agree with the Masoretic Hebrew text (MT) against the LXX; even the few cases of apparent agreement with the Hebrew can be explained as evidence of variant LXX text forms that have been subjected to “hebraizing revisions,” . . . . It appears that Paul, whose missionary activity concentrated on predominantly Gentile congregations in Asia Minor and Greece, normally read and cited Scripture in Greek, which was the common language of the eastern empire of his time.116
Rom. 15:15-16 and its immediate context resonate and echo with several Old Testament passages. In this chapter, we will examine the following LXX passages:
1. Exod. 4:14-17, 27-31: Aaron as doer of signs and priest;
2. 1 Sam. 2:35: a new faithful priest;
3. Isa. 52:7-15: the Suffering Servant;
4. Isa. 66:18-24: the eschatological universal worship of the Lord.
First, we will consider briefly the methodology of Richard B. Hays that will guide our efforts to examine these echoes in Paul.
1. The Intertextual Methodology of Richard B. Hays
Hays defines “intertexuality” as “the imbedding of fragments of an earlier text within a later one.”117 This intertextuality is evident in Paul and in the LXX itself that is cited by Paul. Already in the Old Testament, we have Scripture itself engaging in a re-reading (relecture) of other parts of Scripture, as seen, for example, quite blatantly in Sirach 44-50, which reviews the historical panorama of Israel’s great figures. Hays describes the method to be followed:
I propose . . . focusing on his [Paul’s] actual citations of and allusions to specific texts. This approach to Paul is both possible and fruitful because Paul repeatedly situates his discourse within the symbolic field created by a single great textual precursor: Israel’s Scripture. . . . .The vocabulary and cadences of Scripture—particularly of the LXX—are imprinted deeply in Paul’s mind, and the great stories of Israel continue to serve for him as a fund of symbols and metaphors that condition his perception of the world, of God’s promised deliverance of his people, and of his own identity and calling. His faith, in short, is one whose articulation is inevitably intertextual in character, and Israel’s Scripture is the “determinate subtext that plays a constitutive role” in shaping his literary production.118
In Rom 15:15-16, Paul the priest describes, to borrow from Hays, his “own identity and calling,” in terms “of God’s promised deliverance of his people,” in the offering of the Gentiles. There are several LXX echoes of that calling and that deliverance in Rom. 15:15-16. In my own reading of his work, I did not find that Hays gives a direct definition of an “echo” but rather that he indirectly describes it, variously, as a “recollection,” an “allusion,” and as a “resonance.”119 In my own considered view, an “echo” is simply a reference to another text that can arise either through direct quotation, indirect allusion or paraphrase of varying degrees, thematic resonance, or some combination of the above. All of these ways can recall a previously known text to a reader. We will find instances of all of these ways in this study.
Hays sets forth various criteria, tests, or “rules of thumb” for the art of locating allusions and echoes in the Pauline writings. These rules of thumb, as applied in this study, can be described as follows:
1. Availability: Did Paul and/or his readers know about the precursor text? The following analysis meets this test because all of the passages come from the LXX, which was certainly available to Paul and also to his Roman audience which had strong ties with the church in Jerusalem and which included Jewish Christians.
2. Volume: “[H]ow distinctive or prominent is the precursor text within Scripture, and how much rhetorical stress does the echo receive in Paul’s discourse?”
3. Recurrence: “How often does Paul elsewhere cite or allude to the same scriptural passage?” Did Paul consider “a passage [to be] of particular importance”?
4. Thematic Coherence: “How well does the alleged echo fit into the line of argument that Paul is developing?” I consider this criterion the heart of the task at hand.
5. Historical Plausibility: “Could Paul have intended the alleged meaning? Could his readers have understood it?” Hays rightly notes the importance of Paul’s continuing identity as a Jew in applying this rule of thumb.
6. History of Interpretation: “Have other readers . . . heard the same echoes?” Hays views this criterion as the “least reliable” because of the rapid emergence of an even more predominantly Gentile Church further removed from the Jewish mentality of Paul. Hays advises that “this criterion should be rarely used as a negative test to exclude proposed echoes that commend themselves on other grounds.” I agree with Hays’ negative assessment of this criterion: if the other tests establish that Paul’s original audience likely understood the echo, then the reaction or lack thereof of later readers is of little import.
7. Satisfaction: “[D]oes the proposed reading make sense? Does it illuminate the surrounding discourse?” Hays views this criterion as the “most important test” and further describes it as seeking to determine “whether the proposed reading offers a good account of the experience of a contemporary community of competent readers.”120 To the extent that all of the LXX passages below affirm the priestly role of Paul, they certainly offer “a good account of the experience” of “competent readers” in those contemporary Christian communities (Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican) that affirm a Christian priesthood with biblical roots. More importantly, the whole, self-evident point of the following arguments is to persuade the reader of this study that these echoes indeed make sense within and illuminate the discourse of Romans 15. Thus, normally, I will not explicitly mention this obvious criterion in the following discussion.
Fortunately for his readers, Hays admits that “[t]o run explicitly through this series of criteria for each of the texts that I treat would be wearisome” and trusts “the reader’s competence to employ these criteria and to apply appropriate discounts to the interpretive proposals that I offer throughout.”121 In this study, I will also avoid a tiresome mechanical application and instead explicitly point out in each instance which of Hays’ rules of thumb carry the most weight and are most significant in finding a particular allusion or echo in Rom. 15:15-16 and its immediate context.
2. Exodus 4:14-17, 27-31: Aaron as Doer of Signs and Priest
In these passages, the Lord commissions Aaron as the spokesman of Moses.122 The Lord commands that Aaron “shall serve as a mouth” for Moses (Exod. 4:16). The Lord then directs Moses to “take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform signs.” Later in Exod. 4:30, we see Aaron not only speaking to the people but also performing the signs himself: “Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and performed the signs in the sight of the people” (italics mine). Aaron is chosen because he “can speak fluently” (Exod. 4:14: in the original Hebrew “speaking he speaks”123; cf. 7:9) and forcefully to Pharaoh. Although Aaron does not formally become known as a priest until Exodus 28, the figure of Aaron is firmly linked to the priestly role in the Jewish mind as it ponders the Exodus and its founding of the nation. In Rom. 15:15, Paul likewise refers to his bold proclamation to the Romans (“I have written to you rather boldly”). As we have seen in the previous, lengthy exegesis, Paul in Rom. 15:16 describes himself as being in the priestly service of the gospel of God. The priestly and cultic language in Rom. 15:16 suggests the historic liberating proclamation and working of signs of the soon-to-be high priest Aaron. Paul is, as the priestly minister124 of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, the “mouth” of Christ in proclaiming liberation through the gospel in the same way that Aaron is the “mouth” of Moses proclaiming liberation for the children of Israel. In fact, Exod. 4:16 already prefigures the analogy between Jesus and Paul by comparing the relation of Moses and Aaron to the relation of God to a prophet: “[H]e [Aaron] shall serve as a mouth for you, and you [Moses] shall serve as God for him.” Recall that Paul refers to Christ as the Rock in 1 Corinthians, a term that Moses applies repeatedly to God himself.125
The continuing priestly character of God’s spokesman became more prominent as the history of Israel progressed. In a way, the role of Aaron as spokesman for Moses in Exodus 4 already prefigures the close association of the prophetic dimension of proclamation and the priesthood. As Vanhoye points out:
The priests were [eventually] entrusted with the task of transmitting the “instruction” that came from God . . .the sum total of divine instructions was entrusted to them: “They teach . . .thy Law to Israel” [Dt 33:10]. According to Deuteronomy, Moses . . . had commanded the priests and the elders to “proclaim this Law in the ears of the whole of Israel” [Dt 31:9-13, 26]. After the return from the Exile, a verse of Malachi recalls that
the lips of the priest are to preserve knowledge
and it is from his mouth that instruction is to be sought;
he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts. (Mal 2:7)126
Paul as “apostle” is quintessentially a “messenger” sent by the Lord, as the Greek root for “apostle” indicates.127
In addition, in the LXX, Exod. 4:30 uses shmei/a for “signs.” In considering the immediate context of Rom. 15:16, we have already seen that in Rom. 15:19 Paul boasts in Christ of his own widespread proclamation of the gospel “from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum,” as a proclamation confirmed by “signs” (also using shmei/a).128 Another commentator points to how Paul’s signs echo Exodus: “The phrase ‘signs and wonders’ sets the miraculous demonstrations of the power of the Spirit in the preaching of the Gospel and the founding of Christian communities in the context of the exodus tradition (for example, Exod. 7:3 as in 2 Cor. 12:11-12).”129 Both Aaron the priest-to-be and Paul in his priestly service confirm their liberating proclamations with signs. This charismatic aspect ties in directly to the explicit invocation of the Holy Spirit in Rom. 15:16 and fleshes out Rom. 15:16’s statement that the offering of the Gentiles is sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
The most prominent criteria that suggest this particular recalling of Aaron the priest in Rom. 15:16 are volume and/or recurrence due to the persistent, central role of the Exodus theme in Judaism and in Paul’s writings (cf.1 Cor. 10:1-4)130 and also a thematic, textual coherence at three precise points: the similarity 1.) of two priests (one, Aaron, whose identity as a priest-to-be was already fixed in the minds of Paul’s audience thus making it unnecessary to invoke Aaron by name) 2.) performing signs as just discussed above 3.) for the liberation of God’s people from slavery, a liberation which for Paul comes about precisely through “the priestly service of the Gospel of God” in Rom. 15:16 (cf. Paul’s celebration of freedom in Christ from the yoke of slavery in Gal. 5:1).131 In addition, as already discussed in chapters one and two of this study, we have the similarity of Paul’s boldness toward the Romans in Rom. 15:15 with the boldness of Aaron as spokesman for Moses. As noted before, Paul even explicitly asserts that he possesses the boldness that Moses lacked (2 Cor. 3:12-13). Another textual warrant for recalling Aaron the high priest in Romans 15 is Paul’s use of λειτoυργός in Rom.15:16. In chapter two of this study, we have already seen that in Exod. 28:43, Aaron the high priest and his priestly sons “come near the altar to minister [leitourgei/n] in the holy place.” We also saw in chapter two of this study that in Sir. 45:15 Aaron the high priest is said “to minister [leitourgei/n] to the Lord and serve as priest.” Chapter two of this study also documented the same connection between the priestly service of Aaron and cognates of λειτoυργός in Num. 18:7. Thus, Paul’s assertion that he is a λειτoυργός in Rom. 15:16 recalls the role of Aaron the high priest (cf. Wis. 18:21 and Num. 16:46-50).
3. 1 Samuel 2:35: A New Faithful Priest
In 1 Sam. 2:35, a prophet communicates God’s condemnation to the priest Eli and his sons and also their replacement as priests: “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed one forever.”132 In the LXX, the priest (i`ere,a) will go before God’s “anointed one” (cristou/). Rom. 15:16 echoes the LXX because the minister of Christ (the “anointed”) Jesus (leitourgo.n Cristou/ VIhsou/) offers sacrifice as a priest (i`erourgou/nta). There is another nearby reference to God’s anointed in 1 Sam. 2:10b in Hannah’s song of praise: “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed,” where for “anointed” the LXX again uses cristou/. The immediate context of Romans 15:15-16 echoes this eschatological view of God’s judging the ends of the earth, as will be seen in the next section of this study on Isaiah 52. Paul plays the role of the new priest of the Messiah, the “anointed one,” raised up by God to proclaim the gospel of God to the “ends of the earth”—to Spain, the literal western “end” of the ancient world, by way of Rome. This echo is both thematically coherent and historically plausible because Paul in Rom. 15 is explicitly presenting himself as being in the priestly service of the Messiah, the anointed one, who advances the worship of God to the ends of the earth.
4. Isaiah 52:7-15: The Suffering Servant
In Rom. 15:21, Paul actually quotes Isa. 52:15 to explain his ambitious missionary and priestly service of the gospel: “Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand.” The Isaian context is the theme of the Suffering Servant. Paul also quotes the closely related Isa. 52:7 in Rom. 10:15: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” In Christian exegesis, the Suffering Servant is, of course, a Christ figure, foreshadowing the atoning suffering of Jesus. Paul is framing his priestly service of proclaiming the gospel in the framework of the Suffering Servant and so “identifies the experience of the earlier prophet [Isaiah] with that of himself and his coworkers.”133
Yet, this echo goes beyond merely identifying with the prophetic mission of Isaiah. Paul is at the same time identifying himself with the Suffering Servant. The understandable tendency is to try to fit Paul in some other way because of the traditional christological interpretation of the Suffering Servant, but there is no reason to avoid the conclusion that the Suffering Servant image can apply not only and primarily to Christ but can apply also in a secondary or even participatory sense to Paul himself. Witherington concisely states the case for Paul as a “Suffering Servant”:
The importance of the [Isa. 52:15] quotation in [Rom. 15] v. 21 needs to be stressed. It is a verbatim rendering of the LXX of Isa. 52.15. This text comes near the beginning of the crucial fourth Servant Song (Isa. 52.13-53.12) and brings to light an interesting part of Paul’s self-understanding. This song speaks of the servant’s impact on the Gentile nations. Did Paul see himself as that Servant? The answer seems to be, in and through Christ, yes he did. It must be remembered that early Jews did not read those texts in an exclusively messianic way. Paul, the servant of Christ sees his ministry as an extension of Jesus’ ministry, and, as v. 19 says, he sees his mission as a completing of the gospel of Christ.134
What Witherington is describing is Paul’s participating in the work of Christ (“in and through Christ”), so that the primary christological interpretation of the Suffering Servant also bears a secondary or participatory application to Paul’s priestly service of the gospel described in Rom. 15:16. Witherington emphasizes, by quoting Käsemann, that Paul thus has an “apocalyptic self-understanding” which is “the criterion” for finding “one’s own action prefigured in Scripture in such a way that its prophecy is directed personally to the apostle and makes him the executor and therefore the predestined instrument of salvation history.”135 In the following section, we will see more clearly the scope of Paul’s “apocalyptic self-understanding.”
The other obvious criterion for finding Paul’s own ministry prefigured in the Suffering Servant is precisely Paul’s assertion of his priestly role in Rom. 15:16 occurring just before Paul alludes to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah in Rom. 15:21. In fact, Paul’s priestly role directly links him to the Suffering Servant associated with “an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:10; cf. Isa. 53:5; Phil. 2:17; emphasis added). The Suffering Servant in the fourth Servant Song is himself a priestly figure who “bore the sins of many” as a mediator (Isa. 53:12, NETS LXX). The quotation of the fourth Servant Song in Rom. 15:21 leads the attentive reader to detect an echo of the priestly Suffering Servant in Paul’s priestly service of the gospel in Rom. 15:16. In accord with Witherington’s analysis, we can view Paul’s priestly service as an extension of the priestly service of the Suffering Servant. Discussion of the next echo will further show how these two facets of Paul’s mission (the apocalyptic and the priestly) are complementary and not necessarily exclusive of each other.
In light of Hays’ tests, the presence of an actual quotation from Isaiah 52 in Romans 15:21 makes a strong case for historical plausibility, i.e., for Paul’s intention to invoke the Suffering Servant image in Rom. 15:16. In addition, Paul’s mission as apostle to the nations, in the face of strong persecution, also makes his own identification with the Suffering Servant historically plausible and thematically coherent.136 Moreover, Paul’s earlier quotation of Isa. 52:7 in Rom. 10:15 and of Isa. 52:5 in Rom. 2:24 meets the test of recurrence.
5. Isaiah 66:18-24: The Eschatological Universal Worship of the Lord
In the last chapter of Isaiah, we have the eschatological vision of “all flesh” coming to Jerusalem to worship the Lord (Isa. 66:20, 23). As part of that vision, the prophecy is that the God of Israel will be proclaimed to all the nations: “I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud--which draw the bow--to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations” (Isa. 66:19). The echo in Romans 15 is clear because Paul also goes forth to proclaim the gospel of God to all who have not heard it (Rom. 15:21, quoting Isa. 52:15, as discussed in the previous section).137 Some commentators find the echo to be even more exact by linking Tarshish to Spain, Paul’s ultimate missionary destination in Romans 15. Dunn refers to the “fascinating hypothesis” of R. D. Aus on Paul’s eschatological perspective in which he “understood Spain to be the Tarshish of Isa 66:19: only when he has brought Christian representatives from Spain ([Rom.] 15:16, 24) as part of his collection enterprise ([Rom.] 15:25-27) will the ‘full number of the Gentiles come in’ ([Rom.] 11:25) and the grand finale of [Rom.] 11:25-27 unfold.”138 This theory bolsters the historically plausible nature of this echo and certainly meets the test of satisfaction by further illuminating Paul’s strongly expressed desire in Romans to get to Spain via Rome.
What is of special interest in this study is that the eschatological vision is specifically liturgical. In Isa. 66:21, there is even a reference to the priesthood: “And I will also take some of them as priests and as Levites, says the LORD.”139 Thus, it is not surprising that Paul in Rom. 15:16 asserts his priestly service of proclaiming the gospel of God to the nations. It is precisely in his priestly service to the nations that Paul is in the midst of an eschatological drama that is linked to the worship of the Lord by all nations. The thematic coherence between this echo and Romans 15 is both eschatological in the declaration of God’s glory to the nations and also specifically liturgical. In addition, the echo of Isaiah 66 meets the tests of volume and recurrence when we consider that Paul quotes twice from Isaiah 65 in Romans 10:20-21.
Chapter IV: Insights from Other Pauline Letters
In addition to echoing the Septuagint with which he was intimately familiar, in Romans 15 Paul also repeats or alludes to themes that are found in other letters that he himself has written.140 One prominent scholar refers to these types of references to other writings of Paul as “intratextual echoes.”141 These themes give us further insight into the character of the priestly service presented in Rom. 15:15-16 and in its immediate context. Although these cross-references to other Pauline writings are obviously not the Old Testament echoes examined by Hays, I will still apply his criteria to the extent that they are illuminating of Paul’s discourse in Romans 15. Given the space limitations of this study, I will discuss only the theme of sacrifice in this chapter.
Sacrifice: 1 Cor. 9:13-14; 1 Cor. 10:18-21; Phil. 2:17
The most significant of the intratextual themes for the purpose of understanding aul’s priestly service is that of worship and sacrifice found at 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, where Paul addresses the question of material support for those who proclaim the gospel, as he himself does: “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is sacrificed on the altar? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” Paul directly and concretely links the proclamation of the gospel to priestly service at the altar of sacrifice, as he does in Rom. 15:16. Wiéner, whose study of Rom. 15:16 was considered earlier, points to this passage as significant to understanding Paul’s identity as priest.142 The key linking phrase in the passage is “in the same way” (literally, ou[twj kai. or “so also”). The comparison is quite concrete and not merely metaphorical: those who proclaim the gospel are to get their living in the same way as those who served the altar in the Temple. In Rom. 15:16, Paul goes even further than the already strong, concrete comparison in 1 Cor. 9:13-14, and directly identifies himself as engaged in the priestly service of the gospel. Reading both of these passages together is important because their concrete invocation of priestly service undermines the view of some commentators that Paul’s priestly service is metaphorical only, due to their rejection of the possibility of a priestly service for Paul that is as real and concrete as the old priesthood of Judaism although radically transformed. This cross-reference certainly corroborates Paul’s assertion of his priestly service in Rom. 15:16 and thus surely meets Hays’ criteria of historical plausibility, thematic coherence, and satisfaction.
In 1 Cor. 10:18, we likewise see Paul connecting Christian activity to the altar sacrifices of Israel: “Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar?” In 1 Cor. 10:19-21, Paul proceeds to show that those who participate in pagan sacrifices become “partners with demons.” He concludes that the Christian cannot therefore “drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons . . . cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” What is significant here is that Paul identifies the Eucharist as a sacrifice so that those who partake in the Eucharist become partners with the Lord. Paul’s reference to the “cup of the Lord” [poth,rion tou/ kuri,ou] in 1 Cor. 10:21 is unequivocally eucharistic as confirmed later in 1 Cor. 11:27: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord [poth,rion tou/ kuri,ou] in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.” Paul describes a Christian sacrifice, no less genuinely sacrificial in its consequences than the sacrifices of Israel and the sacrifices of pagans. Paul’s concrete identification of a Christian sacrifice in 1 Corinthians 10 weighs against embracing a merely analogical interpretation of Paul’s priestly service of the gospel in Rom. 15:16. This cross-reference is thus thematically strong because of the cultic references set forth above and is also strong in its historical plausibility because it shows that these sacrificial references were familiar to Paul and his converts.
In 2 Cor. 9:11-15 and in Phil. 2:17, we see references to the λειτoυργός of Rom. 15:16. In 2 Cor. 9:12, we see Paul label the generous gifts of the Corinthians to their fellow Christians as a “service” or leitourgi,a. This reference reminds us that in Romans 15 Paul focuses on the collection for the needy saints in Jerusalem which is part of Paul’s priestly service of the gospel. In Phil. 2:17, we see Paul referring to his being poured out “over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith.” The NRSV’s translation “offering of your faith” disguises the original Greek phrase speaking of the “service of the faith” [leitourgi,a| th/j pi,stewj]. Again, we have a textual link to the λειτoυργός of Rom. 15:16 that helps us interpret Paul’s priestly activity. These references point to a broad semantic range for sacrifices in Pauline thinking, ranging from the eucharistic as just seen in 1 Cor. 10:18-24, to collecting gifts for the saints in 2 Cor. 9:11-15, to the offering of the faith of believers in Phil. 2:17. Paul’s broad range of sacrificial references warns against automatically favoring an overly narrow or restrictive view of the full range of the sacrifice envisioned in Rom. 15:16, either as referring to the Jerusalem collection only or, as is more commonly held, as referring solely to the faith of the Gentiles. This broad range of sacrificial references is consistent with the usage in Rom. 15:16 and thus meets the important test of thematic coherence. These sacrificial references corroborate the conclusion that Paul is asserting an admittedly new, but no less real, type of priestly service in Rom. 15:16 and is not making merely a distant analogy, empty of true priestly content, with the priesthood of the Old Testament.
Chapter V: What Kind of Priest?
This chapter discusses how Paul’s priestly service provides a biblical basis for considering and evaluating priestly ministry today. In Rom. 15:15-16, the priestly sacrifice offered by Paul is held by most commentators to be the Gentiles as new believers in Christ. What is foremost in Paul’s priestly service is evangelization of the nations, precisely the “service of the gospel of God” as stated in Rom. 15:16. As noted by Bernard Sesboûé, the Council of Trent declared that the “principle function of bishops” (“fonction principale de évêques”) is precisely the preaching of the Gospel.143 Thus, it is not contrary to tradition to emphasize today, as Paul does, that the priest is primarily an evangelist. This emphasis on the priest as evangelizer does not detract at all from the eucharistic ministry of the priest. In fact, what Paul loudly proclaims in his ministry is precisely “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23; cf. 1 Cor. 2:2; Gal. 3:1). In 1 Cor. 11:26, Paul explicitly links proclamation and Eucharist: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” The Eucharist tangibly and concretely re-presents that same crucifixion and therefore is central to a priestly ministry focused on preaching Christ crucified. Priestly ministry can be both emphatically evangelizing and eucharistic within a Pauline biblical framework. In fact, the emphasis on priestly proclamation ties the Christian priesthood to the priests of the Old Testament who were charged, as stated by both Vanhoye and Bony, to mediate and transmit the Word of God, as well as to offer actual sacrifices.144
The other significant aspect of Paul’s priestly service is the charismatic, an aspect that cannot be evaded despite modern reluctance to focus on charismatic aspects that are jarring to an excessively rationalistic mentality. It is undeniable that charismatic signs and wonders fueled and made possible the proclamation of Paul in his priestly service of the gospel of God, as abundantly shown in the Acts of the Apostles and as explicitly noted by Paul himself, in the immediate context of Rom. 15:16, in Rom. 15:19 (see also 1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor. 12:12; 1 Thess. 1:5). The question for today’s priest is whether his priesthood can fulfill the mediation of the Word of God without such a charismatic dimension. In a recent study of the charisms in 1 Corinthians 12-14, Vanhoye also attentively and carefully considered Rom. 15:15-16, because Paul there refers to “the grace given [donnée] me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles,” and thus to a gift or charism from God to fuel his priestly service.145 This particular Pauline challenge to present-day priests remains for future study.
Appendix: Old Testament Texts and Texts from Pauline Letters Related to Romans 15:15-16 (in the order discussed)
Romans 15:15-16 5 Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
1. Related Texts in the Old Testament
Exodus 4:14-17 14 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, "What of your brother Aaron, the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. 16 He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him. 17 Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs."
Exodus 4:27-31 27 The LORD said to Aaron, "Go into the wilderness to meet Moses." So he went; and he met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which he had sent him, and all the signs with which he had charged him. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and performed the signs in the sight of the people. 31 The people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.
1 Samuel 2:35 35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed one forever.
Isaiah 52:7 - 52:15 7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." 8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the LORD to Zion. 9 Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. 11 Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of it, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the LORD. 12 For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. 13 See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. 14 Just as there were many who were astonished at him--so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals--15so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Isaiah 66:18-24 18 For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, 19 and I will set a sign among them. From them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud-- which draw the bow-- to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20 They shall bring all your kindred from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and on mules, and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring a grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. 21 And I will also take some of them as priests and as Levites, says the LORD. 22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says the LORD; so shall your descendants and your name remain. 23 From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the LORD. 24 And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.
2. Related Pauline Letters
1 Corinthians 9:13-14 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is sacrificed on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
1 Corinthians 10:18-21 18 Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
2 Corinthians 9:11-15 11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13 Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Philippians 2:17 17 But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.
1 Corinthians 2:4 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
2 Corinthians 12:12 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty works.
1 Thessalonians 1:5 5 because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.
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1 All Scripture quotations in English are taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), unless otherwise identified. New Testament Greek quotations are from Novum Testamentum Graece, ed. Eberhard Nestle, Erwin Nestle, Kurt Aland, et al. 27th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993).
2 Ben Witherington, III, with Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2004), 355.
3 F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (1977; reprint, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2000), 432 & n29. Bruce pins this tendency to view any hint of “incipient catholicism” (Frühkatholizismus) as alien to Paul on German biblical scholars. Ernst Käsemann is a prominent figure among such scholars. Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 769-70.
4 Brown, Introduction, 560; James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 38A (n.p.: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 1988), xliii; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Romans, The Anchor Bible, vol. 33 (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 85-87; Brendan Byrne, S.J., Romans, Sacra Pagina, vol. 6 (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1996), 8-9. The fact that the Jerusalem Temple is still standing when Paul makes the cultic references in Rom. 15:15-16 is striking because Paul is bringing the offering of the Gentiles to Jerusalem, the city of the Temple, as will be discussed in chapter two of this study.
5 Brown, Introduction, 560-64; Dunn, Romans 1-8, liii; Fitzmyer, Romans, 36; Byrne, Romans, 10-12. The strong Jewish character of Roman Christianity means that the echoes of the Septuagint discussed in chapter three of this study will be significant and understandable to the recipients of the letter.
6 The closing of a Pauline letter is variously called a postscript, epilogue, or, in the Latin, peroratio. Murphy-O’Connor describes the classical rhetorical view of a peroratio: “The deliberative speech [that is, one seeking to persuade someone to adopt or reject a course of action] concludes with a peroration. In it the speaker recapitulates his arguments (enumeratio), incites the audience to hatred of the refused alternative (indignatio), and strives to win the pity of his hearers (conquestio).” Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options, His Skills (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1995), 77. Romans 15 recapitulates the introduction in Romans 1, as shown in the discussion of the general context. Both chapters fifteen and sixteen also seek to win the sympathy of the Roman Christians, as part of Paul’s wider purpose of obtaining an eventual welcome among them en route to Spain. The element of indignatio is, for the most part, not present, in contrast to the famously polemical Letter to the Galatians.
7 See Dunn, Romans 1-8, lv, who also considers the body of the letter to consist of 1:16 through 15:13, thus falling between the two “bookends” or inclusio of 1:1-15 and 15:14-33. Although Romans 16 follows what I have called the epilogue and is also a conclusion, chapter sixteen consists mostly of a lengthy series of greetings of individuals known to Paul in Rome and thus is an appendage to the thematic conclusion in chapter fifteen. The issue of whether chapter sixteen was originally part of the letter is not germane to this study, although the present scholarly consensus is that at least most of chapter sixteen, especially the greetings, is indeed an original part of Romans (see Byrne, Romans, 29). Käsemann considers chapter sixteen to have “the character of an appendix” and to be a “letter of recommendation.” Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1980), 409.
8 Chapter sixteen makes this inclusio with the beginning of the letter even more dramatically evident because 16:26 speaks of the gospel’s purpose in bringing about the “obedience of faith”—the exact phrase used in 1:5. Cf. Jeffrey A.D. Weima, “The Reason for Romans: The Evidence of its Epistolary Framework (1:1-15; 15:14-16:27),” Review and Expositor, 100 (Winter 2003): 30. Richard B. Hays agrees with this view of chapter sixteen: “My own inclination is to regard Rom 16:25-27 as Paul’s own original and rather elegant conclusion to the letter, not least because the passage provides, along with Rom 1:1-7, a satisfying inclusio.” Richard B. Hays, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2005), 27 n. 7. These matching phrases favor the consensus that chapter sixteen is indeed original to Romans. Surprisingly, in his commentary on chapter sixteen, Käsemann mentions but does not emphasize the significance of this repetition of Rom. 1:5, possibly because he views this particular part of chapter sixteen as “inauthentic.” Käsemann, Romans, 427.
9 Cf. Robert Jewett, “Ecumenical Theology for the Sake of Mission: Romans 1:1-7 + 15:14-16:24,” Society of Biblical Literature 1992 Seminar Papers, 31: 598-612 (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press).
10 Ibid., 598.
11 Ibid., 600, 610.
12 Ibid., 610.
13 Cf. English Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, New American Bible, New Jerusalem Bible. Both the Greek Nestle-Aland 27th ed. and the Greek United Bible Societies 4th ed. also indent vv. 14-21 as one paragraph. The New International Version sets off vv. 14-22 as a separate section.
14 Byrne, Romans, 446, notes that Paul’s lengthy greetings show “the wide basis of support he already enjoys in Rome.”
15 For example, Käsemann remarks, with traditional Lutheran emphasis, that one should remember that hovering over Paul’s ministry is the reality that Paul’s “focus on faith alone apart from law was and remained in primitive Christianity in the position of a theological outsider and that it represents a provocation which has not found total acceptance even to this day.” Käsemann, Romans, 392. Byrne makes the same point in a less strident tone by noting that by the time Paul wrote Romans he was “a highly controversial figure, suspected of playing fast and loose with the Jewish heritage of Christianity.” Byrne, Romans, 9. Another commentator summarizes Paul’s tense situation within the particular context of the Letter to the Romans in this way: “Faced with his upcoming challenge in Jerusalem, Paul keenly felt the lack of support from the Roman community with its deep Jewish roots, a support that he often thought could prove so valuable for facing a test by the Jewish element regarding the acceptability of his gospel.” George Smiga, “Romans 12:1-2 and 5:30-32 and the Occasion of the Letter to the Romans,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 53 (1991): 272. In Acts 20:22-23, Luke has Paul express anxiety about his trip to Jerusalem (“And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me”). In Acts 24:17, Paul links this Jerusalem trip with the purpose of bringing “alms to my nation.” Paul expresses similar anxiety in Rom. 15:31, where he asks the Roman Christians to pray for his deliverance “from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.”
16 See Brown, Introduction, 562, and Dunn, Romans, xlvi-xlvii.
17 In contrast to Romans 1:1, Paul does not identify himself as an apostle in the initial greetings found in Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. This point was raised in conversation with Rev. Michael Byrnes, Feb. 25, 2008.
18 Byrne, Romans, 713.
19 Stanley N. Olson, “Epistolary Uses of Expressions of Self-Confidence,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 103.4 (Dec. 1984): 591.
21 Ibid., 593; see also John Knox, “Romans 15:14-33 and Paul’s Conception of His Apostolic Mission,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 83, no. 1 (March 1964): 2 (Paul “interprets his calling as an apostle to be primarily a call to proclaim” the gospel).
22 Brown, Introduction, 446. For Paul’s not always confident self-revelation, see James D.G. Dunn’s interesting insight on Paul’s concerns about the final success of the Jerusalem collection, an event that is so prominent a topic in Romans 15, in Dunn’s The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1998), 711.
23 Cf. Jer. 20:9 (where Jeremiah likens the word of the Lord to a “burning fire” in his heart that he cannot restrain); Gal. 1:15-16, where, recalling the words of Jeremiah, another “prophet to the nations,” in Jer. 1:5, Paul describes his own divine calling in the same terms of being set apart before birth.
24 Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, 559.
25 See, e.g., in Acts: the blinding of Elymas the magician which led to the conversion of a proconsul (Acts 13:8-12); the healing of the cripple at Lystra causing an uproar in which the mob sees Paul as Hermes because Paul was “the chief speaker” (Acts 14:8-12); the exorcism of the female slave at Philippi leading to Paul’s arrest (Acts 16:16-18); the earthquake opening the prison doors at Philippi leading to the jailer’s conversion (Acts 16:25-34); Paul’s miraculous “handkerchiefs or aprons” used for healings and exorcisms (Acts 19:11-12); the raising from the dead of the fallen Eutychus leading to the comfort of the Christians in Troas (Acts 20:7-12); Paul’s amazing the Maltese by surviving contact with a viper (Acts 28:3-6; an especially interesting echo of the charismatic litany of signs at Mk 16:17-18).
26 The Greek terms are σεμει̑ον (semeion/sign) and τέρας (teras/wonder). Cf. Klaus Haacker, “Paul’s Life,” in The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul, ed. James D.G. Dunn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 30 (referring to “miracles . . . cherished as ‘signs of an apostle’ ”); Acts 2:43 (“many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles”).
27 Steve Strauss, “Missions Theology in Romans 15:14-33,” Bibliotheca Sacra,160 (Oct.-Dec. 2003): 464.
28 In his historic commentary, Barth noted that Paul’s Spanish mission was “really more apocalyptic than rational.” Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans (1933; reprint, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), 534.
29 See Heb. 3:1 (Christ as “apostle and high priest”); 1 Pet. 2:5, 9 (Christians as a “holy” and “royal priesthood”); Rev. 5:10; 20:6 (believers as “priests” and rulers with Christ).
30 It is interesting to note that The New English Bible was a translation sponsored exclusively by various Protestant denominations in Great Britain, virtually all of which, except for the Church of England, do not refer to their clergy as priests. The style is intentionally focused on providing “a continuous translation ” using “natural English” with prose passages set forth in paragraphs. See the note at p. xxi in the 1970 edition published jointly by the Oxford University Press and the Cambridge University Press. Paul Achtemeier directs attention to the NEB by noting that “the NEB captures the priestly flavor of the language better than the RSV.” Paul J. Achtemeier, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Romans, (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1985), 230.
31 See Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994), 473. But see Dunn, Romans, vol. 38B, 856 n. h: “Various omissions and alterations indicate the kind of slips, modifications, and attempted improvements which could easily transform the text little by little—many of them involving B alone. The number of variants in this section [Rom 15:14-21] is unusually large.” Yet, Dunn’s own commentary on Rom. 15:15-16 does not attach any exegetical significance to such omissions and alterations in the two verses that are the focus of this study.
32 See Dunn, Romans, vol. 38B, 855, 858.
33 See Stanley N. Olson, “Pauline Expressions of Confidence in His Addressees,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 47 (1985): 292, where Olson classifies the unit consisting of both vv. 14 and 15a, as an example of the “diplomatic use of a confidence-expression” to defend Paul’s “boldness in writing to advise and teach the Romans.”
34 Gottfried Fitzer, “τολμάω,” vol. 8 of Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, ed. and trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1972), 181 (hereafter “TDNT”).
35 Cf. Ibid., 184.
36 Pace Fitzer, although Fitzer’s remarks seem cryptic here. Ibid., 186.
37 N.T. Wright is, with typically British understatement, in accord: “He [Paul] has put things, he says, with a degree of boldness, a statement no reader of Romans is likely to dispute.” N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans: Introduction, Commentary & Reflection,” vol.10 of The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 2002), 753.
38 Dunn, Romans, vol. 38B, 858, sees a “tentativeness” in Paul’s stating that he has written “rather, or somewhat, boldly” because Romans is “his first communication” with a community he “had not founded.” Dunn’s view seems to arise from an egalitarian understanding in which “all believers,” not just Paul, were “commissioned” to admonish their fellow Christians (citing Rom. 12:6). While not denying the general duty of all Christians to exhort and admonish, I find more significant (and more attuned to the Pauline temperament and to Paul’s express plans) the explanation that the reference to boldness is a straightforward assertion of Paul’s bold ambition and divine calling to foster unity in Rome, as stated by Brendan Byrne in the discussion that follows.
39 Brendan Byrne, “ ‘Rather Boldly’ (Rom 15,15): Paul’s Prophetic Bid to Win the Allegiance of the Christians in Rome,” Biblica 74 (1993): 95.
40 Conversation with Rev. Earl Muller, S.J., March 2, 2007, who raised the analogies pairing Christ as the New Moses with Paul, the spokesman of Christ, playing the role of Aaron. Rev. Muller also pointed to Paul’s similarly suggestive statement that in the New Covenant, we “act with great boldness, not like Moses” (2 Cor. 3:12-13). Luke provides us an example of Paul’s bold eloquence in recording Paul’s oral remarks to King Agrippa, a “pharaoh” of his day, closely connected to Rome. The highly passionate nature of Paul’s speech led the Roman governor Festus to label Paul as mad (Acts 26:1- 32). Agrippa himself was taken aback that Paul would have even Agrippa become a Christian in the course of a single speech (Acts 26:28). Paul himself refers to the bold character of his speech at Acts 26:26 (“to him [the king] I speak boldly”; English Standard Version). Paul, of course, would credit the Holy Spirit, rather than any natural forensic ability, for such passionate eloquence in the face of the powerful (see 1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor.12:9-10). While Paul declines to base the effectiveness of his preaching on “words of wisdom,” he does not hesitate to claim that his spoken words demonstrate “the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4). We see Paul’s Spirit-driven, face-to-face boldness also on display when he tells the Corinthians that if he visits them again he “will not spare them—since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me” (2 Cor. 13:2-3). In the English Standard Version, Paul says that he “will not be lenient” when he visits again (2 Cor. 13:2). Because of the evident power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we need not assume natural or learned oratorical skill to explain Paul’s boldness of speech.
41 For the identity of Christ as the New Moses, see the exegesis of the Gospels by Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger), Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 1, 65, 80, 144, 235-36, 241, 244-45, 264-66. Benedict rightly points to the importance of the theme of the New Moses and the New Exodus in Paul himself where Christ, like Moses, gives water from the rock (1 Cor. 10:1-4). Benedict, Jesus of Nazareth, 244.
42 The five cultic terms are λειτoυργός, i`erourgεῖν, prosfora,, eὐpro,sdektoj, ἡgiasme,nh.
43 Paul Bony, “Une lecture de l’Épître aux Romains: L’Évangile, Israël et les Nations: Nouvelles (Rm 15, 14-33) et salutations finales (Rm 16),” Esprit et Vie 81 (mai 2003): 14:
Leitourgos désigne quelq’un qui exerce un service public (voir Rm 13, 6). Ce service peut être profane ou sacré. Le verbe leitourgein est souvent employé dans la Bible grecque pour le service du temple et de l’autel, tantôt au sujet des prêtres, tantôt, de manière plus générale, au sujet de «servants» autres que les prêtres et lévites. Le substantive leitourgos est rarement employé pour qualifier expressément des prêtres (Ne 10, 40; Is 61, 6), ou alors, de manière englobante, en désignant les prêtres parmi d’autres officiants, ministres et servants (Esd 7, 24).
All English translations from the French in this study are my own, at times assisted by consultation with Prof. Annette Seranon, Special Lecturer, Oakland University, Michigan.
44 Alfred Rahlfs, ed., Septuaginta (Stuttgart: Württembergische Bibelanstalt / Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1935).
45Rahlfs, ed., Septuaginta. Henceforth all LXX references are from the Rahlfs Greek text.
46 “Servant” is another accepted meaning for λειτoυργός in both pagan and Christian usage. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, rev. and ed. Frederick William Danker, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), s.v. “λειτoυργός.”
48 This portion of Ezra (7:12-26) is in “imperial or official” Aramaic. Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, “Ezra-Nehemiah,” The Oxford Bible Commentary, ed. John Barton and John Muddiman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 308.
49 Note that in this study the Old Testament and Deuterocanonical quotations are from the NRSV, unless otherwise noted, with the Rahlfs LXX Greek equivalents placed in brackets within the quotations.
50 Yet, Bony does admit that λειτoυργός is often used in connection with the temple cult.
51 Daniel Wallace gives a balanced view favoring synchrony: “Since the genesis of modern linguistics with Ferdinand de Saussure’s Cours de linguistique générale, most lexicographers have recognized the priority of synchrony over diachrony. (Synchrony has to do with the language as used at a given time; diachrony looks at a language throughout its history or, at least, over a much longer period of time.) . . . . This is not at all to say that diachronic study is without value, just that synchronic texts will be judged more relevant to the syntactical phenomena embedded in the NT.” Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996), 4.
52 A Greek-English Lexicon, rev. and ed. Danker, s.v. “λειτoυργός.”
53 For the dating of 1 Clement., see T.H. Olbricht, “Apostolic Fathers,” in Dictionary of New Testament Background, ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 84; Raymond E. Brown, Carolyn Osiek, and Pheme Perkins, “Early Church,” in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary 80:37 (1990). For the dating of the Infancy Gospel of James, see Ronald F. Hock, introduction to the The Infancy Gospels of James and Thomas, vol. 2 of The Scholars Bible (Santa Rosa, California: Polebridge Press, 1995), 11-12 (estimating a range from 150 to 200 A.D.). For further information on the dating of this non-canonical gospel, see also R.J. Bauckham and S.E. Porter, “Apocryphal Gospels,” in Dictionary of New Testament Background, ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 76.
54 1 Clement 41:2 reads in relevant part as follows: “the offering is first inspected by the High Priest [άρχιερέως] and the ministers [λειτουργῶn] already mentioned,” where “ministers” includes priests and Levites. “1 Clement,” in The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1, trans. Kirsopp Lake, Loeb Classical Library, ed. G.P. Goold (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1912), 78-79. See also 1 Clement 40:5, where the tasks of the High Priest are referred to as “ministrations” [λειτουργιαι], Lake, 1 Clement, 78-79, and 1 Clement 43:4, where the writer quotes Moses as referring to the tribe “God [has] chosen for his priesthood and ministry [eivj to. i`erateu,ein kai. leitourgei/n auvtw], Lake, 1 Clement, 82-83 (emphasis added). The relevant text from the Infancy Gospel (Protoevangelium) of James, reads as follows: “Herod, though, kept looking for John [the Baptist] and sent his agents to Zechariah [the priest and the father of John the Baptist] serving at the altar with this message for him: ‘Where have you hidden your son?’ But he answered them, ‘I am a minister [leitourgὸv] of God, attending to his temple. How should I know where my son is?” The Infancy Gospels of James and Thomas, ed. Hock, 73, 75. The matching Greek text follows (emphasis added): JO de< JHrw>dhv ejzh>tei to<n uἱόn sou; kai< ajpe>steilen uJphre>tav έn tῷ qusiasthpίῳ pro<v Sacari>an le>gwn aὐtῷ\ Pou ἀpe>kruyav tῷ naῷ sou; ὉJ de< ἀpekrίnato lέgwn aujtoi~v\ Ἐjgw< leitourgo<v uJpa>rcw qeou~ kai< prosedreu>w tw~| naw~| aujtou~. Tί ginw>skw pou~ ejstin oJ uiJo>v mou. Infancy Gospel of James 23:1-3¸ ed. Hock, 72, 74. It is also of interest that the Didache uses the related verbal form leitourgέw and the noun leitourgi,a to describe the ministry of bishops and deacons and apparently of others with official roles (prophets, teachers) in the early Church. “Didache,” 15.1, in The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1, 330 & 331 (“Appoint therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, meek men, and not lovers of money, and truthful and approved, for they also minister [leitourgou]s] to you the ministry [leitourgi,a] of the prophets and teachers.”). It is possible that this particular portion of the Didache dates to the latter half of the first century. M.W. Holmes, “Didache, The,” in the Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Development, ed. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 301. The priestly aspect of leitourgo.j finds further reinforcement because the same prophets who are exercising a ministry [leitourgi,an] are explicitly called “high priests”: “Take, therefore, all the first fruits of the produce of the wine press and threshing floor, and of the cattle and sheep, and give these first fruits to the prophets, for they are your high priests”. “Didache,” 13.3, in The Apostolic Fathers, trans. and ed. Michael W. Holmes, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007), 365.
55 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1996), 889 n. 30.
56 Herbert T. Andrews, introduction to the “Epistle of Aristeas,” § 3, in R.H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (London: Oxford University Press, 1913; repr., Bellingham, Washington : Logos Research Systems, 2004), 2:87; “Epistle of Aristeas,” 92-6, in R.H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2.
57 R.H. Charles, introduction to “The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,” in R.H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, 2:290; “Testament of Levi,” 2:10; 4:2; 8:3-10; 9:3-4, in R.H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2.
58 David M. Scholer, foreword to The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged , ed. Charles Duke Yonge (Peabody, Massachusetts : Hendrickson, 1993); “Life of Moses,” 2.94, 149; “Special Laws,” 1.249; 4.191; “Posterity,” 184, all in Yonge, Works of Philo.
59Albert Vanhoye, Old Testament Priests and the New Priest According to the New Testament, trans. J. Bernard Orchard, OSB (Petersham, Massachusetts: St. Bede’s Publications, 1986), 22. See also Deut. 17:10-12.
60 Interestingly, The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament, trans. Robert K. Brown and Philip W. Comfort, ed. J.D. Douglas (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1990), in fact translates λειτoυργός in Phil. 2:25 as “priestly minister.”
61 I borrow the term “delegates” from Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 1999), 431.
62 In the Pastoral Letters, Paul repeatedly urges and commands both Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3; 4:11, 13; 6:2; 2 Tim. 4:2) and Titus (Titus 1:13; 2:1, 15; 3:8) to teach and correct with authority. While the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Letters remains in dispute, this study’s analysis is not based on proving that Paul is the actual author of the letters to Timothy and Titus. The focus in this study is the sense in which Paul uses certain cultic terms in Romans 15. In such a study, even other New Testament writings that may not have been written by Paul are relevant for discovering the usage of such cultic terms in Paul’s time by his fellow Christians, not to mention such writings’ relevance in capturing the canonical sense of Paul’s cultic terms. In the case of the Pastoral Letters, our reliance is even better grounded because of their undeniably Pauline character, regardless of actual authorship, as noted by Luke Timothy Johnson: “No one denies that they [the Pastoral Letters] represent a strain of Paulinism. They are written in his name, and seek to communicate teaching which is recognizably Pauline.” Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, 424. Johnson himself concludes that “it is difficult to make any assured claims about either authenticity or inauthenticity of the Pastorals as a whole or as individual letters.” Johnson, 431. Even the Letter to the Hebrews, which is of unknown authorship, can arguably be used in seeking to understand Paul’s usage of cultic terms due to its “number of [Pauline] touches,” and its dating to “any time between 35 and 95 C.E.,” Johnson, 460-61. Although Johnson does not explicitly embrace this exegetical use of the Letter to the Hebrews, such use of Hebrews is appropriate, given Johnson’s own description of the “Pauline touches” of the Letter to the Hebrews. Certainly, Hebrews, as part of the New Testament canon, can be used to derive the canonical sense of the cultic terms used by Paul in Romans 15.
63 David J. Downs also finds the role of Epaphroditus to be a significant parallel to the role of Paul in Rom. 15:16: “The application of the term leitourgo,j to both the gift-bearing delegate Epaphroditus in Phil. 2.15 and to Paul in Rom. 15.16 strengthens the claim that Paul’s priestly service on behalf of the gospel of God in Romans is related to his delivery of the collection to Jerusalem.” David J. Downs, “ ‘The Offering of the Gentiles’ in Romans 15.16,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 29.2 (2006): 178. Notice that Downs refers to Epaphroditus as Paul’s “delegate,” just as Johnson refers to Timothy and Titus as “delegates” of Paul. Epaphroditus the “delegate” is consistent with the view that Paul’s co-worker Epaphroditus may have been an authoritative teacher in Philippi just as Paul’s other co-workers Timothy and Titus were authoritative teachers in the communities of Ephesus and Crete, respectively. In considering the role of Epaphroditus at Philippi, the exegete cannot ignore that Paul’s greeting in Phil. 1:1 refers to the presence of bishops and deacons at Philippi.
64 See footnote 62 above for the rationale for considering the usage in Hebrews although the author of Hebrews is admittedly unknown.
65 In comparison, the other use of leitourgi,a at Phil. 2:30 lacks the same degree of cultic emphasis found in Phil. 2:17.
66 A.M. Denis, “La fonction apostolique et la liturgie nouvelle en Esprit: Étude thématique des métaphores paulinnienes du culte nouveau,” Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques 42 (1958): 404. The original reads: “Les LXX empoient en effet le terme leitourgi,a uniquement pour parler d’un service sacré et surtout celui du temple . . . .”
67 At this point, it is necessary to mention the proposal by Cranfield, citing Barth, that in Rom. 15:16, Paul is using λειτoυργός to refer to himself as a non-priestly Levite or assistant to Christ who is properly the only priest. Cf. C.E.B. Cranfield, Romans 9-16, vol. 2 of The Epistle to the Romans, International Critical Commentary (London: T& T Clark, 1979), 754-55. Cranfield bases his proposal on the argument that the genitive phrase “of Jesus Christ” (Cristou/ VIhsou// ) requires a priestly λειτoυργός offering sacrifice to Christ himself, instead of merely assisting Christ the high priest. For unstated reasons, Cranfield finds a priestly offering to Christ theologically inappropriate and proceeds instead to argue for a non-priestly λειτoυργός who merely assists the priestly Christ who is the sole proper offeror of the sacrifice. Cranfield, Romans 9-16, 755. Yet, Cranfield admits that the verb leitourgeῖ/n and the noun leitourgi,a in the LXX are “quite often used with reference to priests.” Cranfield, 755. Anticipating the next section of this study, Grant Osborne points out the tenuous and unpersuasive nature of Cranfield’s proposed interpretation: “[Paul] use a specific term [λειτoυργός] that, while it can refer to a minister or servant, often connotes a priestly office (as in Is 61:6; Neh 10:40; Sirach 7:30), and in this context that fits very well. In his priestly work, he proclaim[s] the gospel of God to the Gentiles and then makes them an offering acceptable to God.” Grant R. Osborne, Romans, vol. 6 of The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 388 (original emphasis indicates quotation of biblical words and phrases). Osborne comments further: “Some (Barth 1933; Cranfield 1979) believe that Paul is calling himself a Levite rather than a priest, with Christ the high priest whom Paul is serving as a Levite. This is certainly possible, since the term is often used of the levitical office in the LXX (Ex 38:21; Num 1:50; 3:6; 1 Chron 6:32-33; and so on). However, the context here does not support this interpretation, and it is best to see Paul using priestly imagery for his apostolic work.” Osborne, Romans, 388-89 n. Douglas J. Moo also dismisses the Cranfield proposal: “But while leitourgός often refers to the Levites in the LXX, the context here makes a reference to priestly service clear (so almost all commentators).” Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1996), 889 n. 30. Dunn also dismisses the Cranfield proposal as “too strained.” Dunn, Romans 9-16, vol. 38B, 859. Witherington similarly rejects the view that Paul is presenting himself as a non-priestly Levite in this passage. Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 355 n. 11. Strathmann confirms the strained nature of the Cranfield proposal when he notes that in Sir. 45:15, the phrase leitourgei/n kai. i`erateu,ein (rendered in the NRSV as “ to minister . . . and serve as priest”) as applied to Aaron, Israel’s first high priest, “is a double expression for the same thing.” Hermann Strathmann, “leitourgo.j,” TDNT, vol. 4, 221. Strathmann notes also that leitourgi,a “is always used of the ministry of priests and Levites in and at the sanctuary, especially the ministry of priests at the altar.” Ibid. As to λειτoυργός, Strathmann lists three instances in the LXX where it corresponds “to the priestly ministry” (Is. 61:6; Neh. 10:40; Sir. 7:29-30). Ibid., 230. Strathmann also agrees, with only slight hesitation, with Osborne that in Romans 15:16, the context “shows that he [Paul] is using leitourgός cultically almost in the sense of priest.” Ibid. Strathmann wisely concludes that the context, not the mere presence of the term, is determinative of any reference to a priest. Strathmann, TDNT, vol. 4, 231. When we consider λειτoυργός in the full context of Rom. 15:16, Paul is indeed describing himself as a priest, as will be seen more fully in the following discussion of Rom. 15:16.
68 Cf. the similar view on the translation expressed by Everett L. Wilson, “The Priestly Service of the Gospel of God,” The Covenant Quarterly 30 (August 1972): 32.
69 Claude Wiéner, “ Ἱerourgeῖn (Rm 15, 16),” Studiorum Paulinorum Congressus 2 (1963): 399-404.
70 Wiéner, Studiorum, 400. Cf. Richard J. Dillon, “The ‘Priesthood’of St. Paul, Romans 15:15-16,” Worship 74 (March 2000): 162 n. 20.
71 R.H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, 2: 674. The variant replacement for ἱerourgoύntaς is dhmiourgou/ntaj, resulting in the translation “those who are administrators of the law” in the NRSV.
72 Gottlob Schrenk, “i`erourge,w,” TDNT, vol. 3, 252 (1965).
73 Cf. A.M. Denis, “La fonction apostolique,” 405. The complete Greek text for 4 Macc. 3:20 is as follows: Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ βαθεῖαν εἰρήνην διὰ τὴν εὐνομίαν οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν εἶχον καὶ ἔπραττον καλῶς ὥστε καὶ τὸν τῆς Ἀσίας βασιλέα Σέλευκον τὸν Νικάνορα καὶ χρήματα εἰς τὴν ἱερουργίαν αὐτοῖς ἀφορίσαι καὶ τὴν πολιτείαν αὐτῶν ἀποδέχεσθαι.. Ken M. Penner, David M. Miller , and Ian W. Scott, eds. The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha (Atlanta, Georgia: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006), http://www.purl.org/net/ocp/4Macc.html (accessed Oct. 1, 2007).
74 Wiéner, Studiorum, 401: “l’empereur romain comme personnage officiel et sacré, ayant un rôle sacerdotal.”
75 Vanhoye, Old Testament Priests and the New Priest According to the New Testament, 24. A prominent example from the pagan world is Augustus who in 12 B.C. became chief priest or pontifex maximus, in addition to being the ruler of the Roman empire. Anthony Everitt, Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor (New York: Random House, 2006), 31, 269.
76 This quotation reads in the original: “Mais le mot évoque-t-il ici spécifiquement ce sacerdoce?” Wiéner, Studiorum, 401. For this same reason, Wiéner superficially dismisses, with virtually no discussion, the priestly aspect of λειτoυργός by noting that St. Paul applies it to government ministers in Romans 13. Ibid., 400.
77 Ibid., 402.
78 Scott Hahn notes that the firstborn sons of the patriarchs were considered part of a “pre-levitical natural priesthood.” Scott Hahn, “A Biblical Theological Study of Covenant Types and Texts in the Old and New Testaments” (PhD diss., Marquette University, May 1995), 181 & n. 32, http://www.mediafire.com/?btdameo0w3l (accessed Oct. 1, 2007). In addition, Melchizedek is identified in Genesis 14:17-20, as both priest and king; and “David’s sons were priests” as stated in 2 Sam. 8:18.
79 Vanhoye, Old Testament Priests and the New Priest, 24 & nn. 21-23.
80 Wiéner, Studiorum, 402-3.
81 Ibid., 403-4: “i`erourgεῖν, dans les textes juifs, semble bien signifier, au sens le plus large, «offir des sacrifices» . . . , sans préciser si l’auteur de l’action est le prêtre ou le fidèle qui s’addresse à lui.»
82 Ibid., 404.
83 Ibid. («Nous ne voulons pas conclure de façon décisive.»). Ponthot follows Wiéner in refusing to conclude that Paul is identifying himself as a priest in Rom. 15:16 because of the “risk of anachronism” (“risque d’anachronisme”). Joseph Ponthot, “L’Expression cultuelle du ministère paulinien selon Rm 15,16,” L’Apôtre Paul: Personnalité, Style et Concepton du Ministère (Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 1986), 257 (introduction by Albert Vanhoye). Wiéner proposes that future research consider the potential priestly sense of 1 Cor. 9:13-14, together with 1 Cor. 10:18-20. This study considers this fruitful suggestion in chapter four.
84 Wiéner’s peremptory rejection of a priestly λειτoυργός is surprising given his citation of the same article by A.M. Denis in which Denis affirms the priestly aspect of leitourgi,a as referring especially to temple sacrifices. Cf. Wiéner, Studiorum, 400, and Denis, “La fonction apostolique,” 404 & n. 11, in which Denis quotes Bonsirven for the finding that the Hebrew equivalent of leitourgi,a “is exclusively reserved for the temple cult and more specifically for the sacrificial liturgies” (“est exclusivement réservé au culte du temple et plus spécialment à la liturgie des sacrifices”). See, for example, LXX 2 Chron 35:14, 16, in which leitourgi,a is used to refer to the “service” which includes the sacrifice of burnt offerings by the priests. The Hebrew equivalent here is td:’Ab , as Bonsirven points out.
85 See Lev. 10:11; Deut. 17:10-12 ; Deut. 33:10, for the authoritative community roles of Old Testament priests.
86 Wittgenstein’s work provides insight, to be used cautiously and critically, for studying the complex usage of words: “[H]e points to ‘family resemblance’ as the more suitable analogy for the means of connecting particular uses of the same word. There is no reason to look, as we have done traditionally—and dogmatically—for one, essential core in which the meaning of a word is located and which is, therefore, common to all uses of that word. We should, instead, travel with the word's uses through ‘a complicated network of similarities, overlapping and criss-crossing.’ ”Anat Biletzki and Anat Matar, "Ludwig Wittgenstein,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta, Winter 2006 ed., 3.4, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2006/entries/wittgenstein/ (accessed Oct. 1, 2007). This advice is especially useful when tracing the meaning of biblical words used over centuries in many different contexts and still used today.
87 Wiéner, Studiorum, 400.
88 Ibid., 404: “Nous avons suggéré en commencant que la rapprochement des deux termes λειτoυργός et i`erourgei/n pourrait éventuellement faire pencher la balance dans le sens «sacerdotal»” (“We have suggested at the beginning that the similarity of the two terms λειτoυργός and i`erourgei/n might actually tip the scales in favor of a priestly meaning”).
89 Vanhoye contends that “the most characteristic trait of the priesthood was not the offering of sacrifices—for other persons also exercised this function—but the close relationship with the sanctuary.” Vanhoye, Old Testament Priests and the New Priest, 20. Yet, we have already seen from Vanhoye himself that the fact of other persons’ offering sacrifices reflects the evolving specialization of the priestly role, not necessarily the absence of that role. In addition, as Vanhoye himself later states, “[i]n the sanctuary the priests perform cultic ceremonies, the most important of which is sacrifice.” Ibid., 24. When the priest enters the sanctuary, “the decisive part is played by the sacrifice, which establishes contact with God.” Ibid., 31. The value of the sanctuary was precisely as the place of sacrifice. At the end of his painstaking analysis, Vanhoye concludes that “the most specific element of the priesthood” is “the exercise of mediation.” Ibid., 32. Certainly, sacrifice is essential to that mediation as the means by which, to use Vanhoye’s language quoted above, contact with God is established. Vanhoye also refers to this contact with God as the “communion with God” which is the goal of mediation. Ibid., 31.
90 D.W.B. Robinson, “The Priesthood of Paul in the Gospel of Hope,” in Reconciliation and Hope: New Testament Essays on Atonement and Eschatology presented to L.L. Morris on his 60th Birthday, ed. Robert Banks (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1974), 231.
91 Ibid., 232.
92 See chapter one of this study discussing the general context of Rom. 15:15-16 in the Letter to the Romans.
93 Robinson, “Priesthood of Paul,” 231 n. 1.
94 Dillon, “The ‘Priesthood”of St. Paul, Romans 15:15-16,” 160-61.
95 Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 890 n. 33. Dunn, Romans 9-16, vol. 38B, 860, agrees with Moo, almost verbatim.
96 See p. 17 of this study.
97 See also Heb. 10:18 for a closely related usage.
98 “1 Clement,” in The Apostolic Fathers, trans. Kirsopp Lake, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1912), 76 & 77.
99 Ibid., 70 & 71.
100 See also Acts 21:26 for the same usage.
101 Vanhoye, Old Testament Priests and the New Priest, 269 (emphasis added at end of quotation). Vanhoye’s description of the phrase “oblation of the pagans” (“offering of the Gentiles,” in the NRSV) as having an active sense whereby the pagans or Gentiles are furnishing themselves as the sacrificial victims is interesting in light of the debate as to whether the genitive in the phrase h` prosfora. tῶn evqnῶn is an epexegetical or subjective genitive. The debate is about whether the Gentiles are the offering (epexegetical or appositional genitive), or whether the offering is instead the money contributed by the Gentiles (subjective genitive) that Paul is planning to bring to the saints in Jerusalem. David J. Downs provides a strong, detailed argument for the subjective genitive reading. Downs, “ ‘The Offering of the Gentiles,’ ” 176-86. Vanhoye seems to adopt a mixed view in which the Gentiles are indeed the offering but are actively (“subjectively”) offering themselves. The dispute over the exact genitive involved is not determinative of the priestly sense of Rom. 15:15-16, which is the focus of this study. Whether the Gentiles themselves are the offering or whether the offering refers to the monetary collection contributed by the Gentiles, Paul remains the priest who presents the sacrifice of either persons or the monetary collection or both to God. In fact, Downs notes that at least one “modern interpreter . . . thinks that this allusive phrase [“the offering of the Gentiles”] can be taken both objectively and subjectively, and that therefore the expression ‘contains a double reference: while it speaks of the Gentiles as Paul’s offering, it also alludes to the Gentiles’ contribution, namely the collection, as an offering’ (p. 206).” Downs, 176 n. 4 [citing S. Wan, “Collection for the Saints as Anticolonial Act: Implications of Paul’s Ethnic Reconstruction,” in Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation (Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl), ed. R.H. Horsley (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity, 2000), 191-215]. In addition to Downs, another scholar also does not view the Gentiles themselves as the offering: “In Rom 15:16, in a unique and ad hoc metaphor, Paul speaks of himself as priest of the Messiah Jesus, and describes his leading the Gentiles to God as his offering (the Gentiles themselves are not the offering), a statement that, considering that the Jewish temple was still standing, signified a clear separation.” Wolfgang Schenk, “prosforὰ,” in Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1993), 3:178 (original emphasis). Relevant to this discussion is the fact that Epaphroditus, like Paul also a λειτoυργός, presents, just as Paul does in Rom. 15:16, a sacrifice acceptable to God, a sacrifice which is precisely the material gifts contributed by the Philippians to Paul (see Phil. 4:18).
102 See the previous extended discussion of Cranfield’s proposal at note 67.
103 Based on a conversation with Rev. Michael Byrnes on February 25, 2008, I note that one can reasonably raise as an issue whether Paul’s horizontal offering to the saints in Jerusalem detracts from the priestly nature of a vertical offering to God himself. The question is relevant because, as noted earlier at note 101, the “offering of the Gentiles” may be the Gentiles themselves, their monetary donations, or both. D.W.B. Robinson argues that the “better sense is that the prosforὰ is what the Gentiles offer to Christ, namely their own glorifying of God (15:9), or their obedience (15:18).” Robinson, “Priesthood of Paul,” 231. Such obedience to God includes monetary donations to the poor saints in Jerusalem. The offering even if identified exclusively as money for the saints thus retains its vertical character as ultimately being an offering of obedience to God.
104 Walter Grundmann , “dekto,j,” TDNT, vol. 2, 59.
106 See pp. 21-22 of this study.
107 The parallel between Paul and Epaphroditus is even stronger if the argument is accepted that the “offering of the Gentiles” in Rom. 15:16 refers to the monetary collection for the saints in Jerusalem just as Epaphroditus brought material gifts to aid Paul in Phil. 4:18. See note 101 above.
108 Vanhoye, Old Testament Priests and the New Priest, 25. The concern for purity also extended to “choice flour” for a grain offering and for sacrificial animals “without blemish” (see, e.g., Lev. 2:1; 3:1; see also, more generally, Lev. 10:10).
109 Otto Procksch, “a`gia,zw,” TDNT, vol. 1, 111.
110 André Feuillet, The Priesthood of Christ & His Ministers, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1975), 77.
111 N.T. Wright, The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 10, 754 (emphasis added).
112 Feuillet, The Priesthood of Christ & His Ministers, 270 n. 44. Schreiner also refers to the “piling up of cultic terms” in Rom. 15:16. Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 1998), 766.
113 F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 323.
114 Cf. Moo, Epistle to the Romans, 889 n. 30 (“so almost all commentators”); C.G. Kruse, “Ministry,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 2.1, 605 (“He [Paul] saw himself as a priest responsible for the offering of the Gentiles, and particularly for the purity of that offering.”).
115 George Herbert, “The Holy Scriptures,” in The Works of George Herbert (Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 1994), 49 [quoted in Richard N. Soulen and R. Kendall Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 3rd ed. (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 88, s.v. “Intertextuality”].
116 Richard B. Hayes, preface to Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), x-xi (emphasis added). In this chapter, I use A New English Translation of the Septuagint, ed. Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), to evaluate, and if necessary replace as indicated, NRSV quotations from the Old Testament (hereafter “NETS”).
117 Hays, Echoes, 14. Many scholars acknowledge Hays’ work as significant for biblical exegesis: “Hays’ contribution is now widely recognized, and has led to numerous fresh and creative studies of New Testament passages.” Peter R. Rodgers, review of The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture, by Richard B. Hays, Novum Testamentum 49 (2007): 301. Cf. Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, s.v. “Sensus Plenior.”
118 Hayes, Echoes, 15-16 (emphasis added).
119 Ibid., 20-21. Hays also uses at times the technical term “metalepsis” to signify when “a literary echo links the text in which it occurs to an earlier text , [such that] the figurative effect of the echo can lie in unstated . . . points of resonance between the two texts.” Ibid., 20. Hays finds metalepsis to be frequently present in the writings of Paul. Ibid.
120 Hays, Echoes, 29-32.
121 Ibid., 32.
122 Appendix A conveniently sets forth in full the Old Testament passages discussed in chapter three of this study.
123 Similar wording is retained in the LXX. Conversation with Rev. Michael Byrnes, Feb. 25, 2008.
124 Interestingly, given the reality of confessional divisions on the theme of ministry, Baptist exegete Thomas Schreiner also uses this same phrase (“priestly minister”) in his commentary on Rom. 15:16. Schreiner, Romans, 767.
125 See 1 Cor. 10:1-4. Moses repeatedly refers to the Lord as “Rock” in the Song of Moses (Deut. 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31), although not in the LXX. David does refer to God as “rock” in 2 Sam. 22:2 of the LXX.
126 Vanhoye, Old Testament Priests and the New Priest, 22 (emphasis added).
127 A Greek-English Lexicon, rev. and ed. Danker, s.v. “ἀpόstoloj.”
128 See notes 25 and 26 in chapter one above. It bears emphasis that consideration of Rom. 15:19 is methodologically legitimate because it is part of the immediate context of Rom. 15:16 and because v. 19 fleshes out the explicit invocation of the Holy Spirit in Rom. 15:16. In other words, v. 19 explains the priestly service of Paul asserted in v. 16. As we will see in the next chapter, we can even term Rom. 15:19 an “intratextual echo” of Rom. 15:16.
129 A. Katherine Grieb, The Story of Romans: A Narrative Defense of God’s Righteousness (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 138 (emphasis added). See also Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 356 (citing Grieb and adding more references to Exodus, namely, Exod. 7:9 and 11:9-10); Schreiner, Romans, 768 (“the terminology [of signs and wonders] harks back to the exodus”).
130 The centrality of the Exodus story for Paul and his Jewish Christian readers cannot be overemphasized. The Exodus story is part of the historically plausible cultural matrix that governs how Paul and his audience, especially those of Jewish background, understood God’s ongoing saving action. See Sylvia C. Keesmaat, “Exodus and the Intertextual Transformation of Tradition in Romans 8.14-30,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 54 (1994): 35-7, 44. Moreover, even Paul’s Gentile converts “who celebrated a meal modeled on the Passover, would quite likely have been acquainted with this formative Israelite story.” Ibid., 48.
131 N.T. Wright places Paul squarely in the first century Jewish eschatological tradition of expecting a New Exodus. See N.T. Wright, Paul In Fresh Perspective (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005), 131-35, 138. In recalling Aaron’s role in Romans 15, it is helpful to keep in mind, as Wright also notes, that “Jewish literature from the Bible to the present day is soaked in certain controlling stories, such as those of Abraham, of the Exodus, and of exile and return, so that a small allusion to one of these within a Jewish source is usually a safe indication that we should understand the whole narrative to be at least hovering in the background.” Ibid., 8. Paul is certainly a Jewish source; and the Exodus is, as shown above, “hovering in the background” of Romans 15. See also Keesmaat, “Exodus and Intertextual Transformation,” 43 n. 41, on Paul’s “understanding of sin which is reminiscent of the Israelites’ ‘bondage’ under Pharaoh.” Although beyond the scope of this study, Jewish Christians, especially, might have also heard a somewhat fainter echo in Romans 15 of Ezra the priest who brought his people back to Jerusalem from exile in another “New Exodus.”
132 The comment to this verse in the Tanakh translation notes that “[p]ossibly the [new] priest meant is Zadok, who replaced Abiathar, a descendant of Eli (1 Kings 2.26-27).” Shimon Bar-Efrat, “First Samuel,” in The Jewish Study Bible: Tanakh Translation, Jewish Publication Society, ed. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 566. In the Christian Bible, there is a fuller, canonical sense (sensus plenior).
133 Grieb, The Story of Romans, 139. The Hebrew of Isa. 52:15 even states that the Servant will “sprinkle” many nations, a reference susceptible of a priestly interpretation. See G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007), 691.
134 Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 357. Witherington’s reference to Paul’s “completing of the gospel of Christ” parallels Paul’s description of his own apostolic sufferings in the ministry of proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles as “completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24). Col. 1:21-29 is another description of Paul’s personal participation in the work of Christ.
135 Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 357 (quoting Käsemann, Romans, 396).
136 The Suffering Servant “shall startle many nations” (Is. 52:15). In addition, Rom. 15:16 also echoes Isa. 56:7, which states that the Lord will bring foreigners to his “holy mountain [where] . . . their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” We also have the reference to “good news” in Isa. 52:7, which is echoed by Paul’s priestly service of the “gospel of God” in Rom. 15:16. Thus, the Isaiah quote in Rom. 15:21 opens up a variety of resonating links between Rom. 15:16 and the later chapters of Isaiah. These links seem to match what Hays calls “metalepsis,” in which an echo leads to the further discovery of implied, unstated resonances.
137 Cf. Dillon, “The ‘Priesthood”of St. Paul, Romans 15:15-16,” 166-67, who also finds the same echo of Isaiah 66. See also Jürgen Baehr, “Priest, High Priest,” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1978), 3:38, where Baehr notes the reversal of the identity of who is being offered, namely, how in Isa. 66:20 the Jews are the offering; while in Rom. 15:16, the Gentiles are the offering.
138 Dunn, Romans 9-16, vol. 38B, 872, citing R.D. Aus, “Paul’s Travel Plans to Spain and the ‘Full Number of the Gentiles’ of Romans 11:25,” Novum Testamentum 21 (1979): 232-62.
139 It is interesting, given the Cranfield proposal discussed earlier at note 67, that Isaiah mentions both priests and Levites explicitly. But when it comes to Romans 15, Paul chooses instead to emphasize the specifically priestly aspect alone without mentioning the Levites, as done in Isa. 66:21. Paul could have also easily and explicitly mentioned the Levites, given the biblical precedent in Isaiah; but Paul chose not to do so.
140 A note on methodology is in order. Pauline echoes of the Septuagint easily meet Hays’ test of availability because the Septuagint existed before the Pauline letters. In this section, Paul is, in contrast, referring to themes in his own writings, which may have been written before or after his Letter to the Romans (we could simply call them “cross-references”). Generally speaking, scholars agree that 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians were written before the Letter to the Romans. Thus, when Romans alludes to themes in these particular letters, the test of availability is met. In contrast, when we discuss in this section the reference in Romans to a theme found in the Letter to the Philippians, we are dealing with a different situation because Philippians was written after Romans. Yet, the study of Paul’s understanding of the priestly aspect of his ministry does not require that the referenced source exist before the writing of Romans. This flexibility is justified because canonical exegesis legitimately considers how Paul treated the same theme in his various other canonical writings, whether written before or after Romans, in order to deepen our understanding of Romans 15:15-16. Does this approach violate Hays’ test of availability requiring that the text being echoed be available to Paul? Technically, the answer is yes, within the framework of Hays’ particular project. Yet, consideration of Paul’s similar thematic references in his other writings still has great and immediate interpretive value because we are dealing with the same mind of the same writer, not with later writings of a different writer. The consensus is that all of the Pauline letters discussed in this section were written by Paul. See Brown, Introduction, 419. For a recent consensus chronology of the Pauline letters, see Dunn, ed., Cambridge Companion to St. Paul, xx
141 Sylvia C. Keesmaat, “Exodus and Intertextual Transformation,” 39.
142 See note 83 of this study.
143 Bernard Sesboüé, “Ministère et Sacerdoce,” in Le ministère et les ministères selon le Nouveau Testament (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1974), ed. Jean Delorme, 481 (citing Trent’s 1546 Décret de Réformation sur l’enseignment et la prédication, Session v, no. 9). Cf. the translation of the same Tridentine decree in Norman P. Tanner, S.J., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1990), 669 (“the preaching of the gospel . . . is the chief task of bishops [praecipuum episcoporum munus]”). Vatican II also emphasizes the priority of proclamation of the gospel: “it is the first task of priests as co-workers of the bishops to preach the Gospel of God to all men.” Second Vatican Council, “Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests” (Presbyterorum Ordinis), vol. 1 of Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post ConciliarDocuments, ed. Austin Flannery (Northport, New York: Costello Publishing, 1998), §4, 868 (citing the same Tridentine decree as Sesboüé).
144 Vanhoye refers to this oracular function as “the mediation of the Word of God” (“la mediación de la Palabra de Dios”), in Albert Vanhoye, “Aspectos fundamentales del sacerdocio en el NT,” Cuestiones Teológicas 30 (2003): 277-98, abstract in Selecciones de Teología, 44 (2005):30 (abridged by Josep M. Bullich, S.J.). Vanhoye emphasizes this oracular or instructional function as a “fundamental aspect” (“aspecto fundamental”). Ibid., 31. Bony agrees with Vanhoye: “Déjà les prêtres de l’Ancien Testament avaient pour première fonction de transmettre la Parole de Dieu (Dt 33, 10)” (“Already the priests of the Old Testament had as a premiere function the transmission of the Word of God ”). Bony, “Une lecture de l’Épître aux Romains : L’Évangile, Israël et les Nations: Nouvelles (Rm 15, 14-33) et salutations finales (Rm 16),” 14.
145 Albert Vanhoye, “L’utilité des carismata selon 1 Cor. 12-14,” in Diakonia,Leitourgia, Charisma, Festschrift for Georgios Galit (2006): 578. Vanhoye notes that the grace given to Paul in Rom. 15:15 is similar to that of other gifts: “La situation est semblable pour beaucoup d’autres dons” (“The situation is similar for many other gifts”). Interestingly, Benedict XVI finds that in the Gospel of Mark “the apostolic ministry is a fusion of the priestly and prophetic missions.” Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 171. For Paul, prophecy is the most desirable charismatic gift (1 Cor. 14:1).