But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified about by the law and the prophets—22 that is, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
So much has been said about Paul’s Letter to the Romans, what could I, a layperson, contribute to the discussion? Probably not much in terms of original thought, but it’s on my mind since we in our Sunday School class are trudging through the book. We whirl-winded through Romans chapter 3 this past Sunday. One thing I didn’t get to point out since it wasn’t my week to teach is how most Bible translations render “faith in Jesus Christ” in the terms that I think are all-too-familiar for much of the evangelical church. I primarily use the Lexham English Bible (LEB) translation. It’s one of the so-called “literal translations”, and while it tends to be clunky and at times disjointed, I prefer it to the translations that seek to be more of a paraphrase. One of the reasons I like the LEB is that it’s disjunction forces me to pay attention when I’m reading and it’s clunkiness helps me hear freshly the Word of God. However, couple Romans with NT Wright’s mind-boggling commentary, and you begin to realize how translation decisions can impact our reading of Scripture and familiarize us in one direction or another to the extent that we need critical voices to wake us up to the newness that is always available to us as we read and re-read our Bibles. The Word should never be stale.
Wright renders and thus the LEB footnotes that the phrase “faith in Jesus Christ” can mean “through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ”. Wright warns against playing the two translations off against one another as he sees what we know as the believer’s “faith” as answering the “faithfulness of Christ.” That is, Jesus’ faithfulness comes first, and our response which we call “faith” second–in that we believe “strangely”–as Wright puts it–that Jesus has done what had been promised by YHWH to the Patriarchs.
I think Wright’s corrective here is bolstered further by what follows the phrase: “to all who believe.” If it is merely our faith that Jesus is God or that he is our King that is being talked about, why tack on the seemingly redundant phrase, “to all who believe”? The faithfulness of Jesus is in accordance with what God had promised from long ago, and the amazing Spirit-enabled ability to believe such a promise is faith answering faith. Plus, this reading makes more sense of the difficulties we have in deciphering how justification works. No one can be justified outside the faithfulness of Jesus.