Abraham, the friend of God, in Rom 5. A Short Notice

Karl Olav Sandnes 1
  • 1 MF Norwegian School of Theology, Postoks 5144, Majostua, 0302 Oslo, Norway.


The pivotal role of Abraham in Paul's theology is uncontested in New Testament scholarship. Naturally, reference is made mostly to Gal 2,15–3,22 and Rom 4. Paul found the basis for justification by faith versus law in Old Testament traditions about Abraham and Gen 15,6. Abraham thus becomes the biblical prototype for those having faith in God. Accordingly, he is the father of all Christ-believers, be they Jews or Gentiles. As for Romans, the role of Abraham is almost exclusively linked to chap. 4. In my view, scholars have, more or less, unanimously overlooked the οΰν by which Rom 5,1 is introduced, and the implications thereof. This οΰν works very much like οΰν in Rom 3,27 and 4,1, which takes the argument one step further, thus implying that the analogy with Abraham is not limited to chap. 4. In the scholarly literature on Rom 5,1–11 Abraham is almost out of the horizon. Some significant exceptions are worth mentioning though. In his commentary on Romans, James D.G. Dunn says that “δικαιωθέντες is best taken to denote God's acceptance into that relationship and status (which Abraham enjoyed as ‘the friend of God, …’).” Dunn claims a similarity between faith exercised by Abraham and faith as described in Rom 5,1 ff. The point of comparison is “faith in God's faithfulness to his promise.” Likewise, Philip F. Esler says: “In our faith we can expect to be subject to the ups and downs of human life, needing to be sustained by hope, just like Abraham, just as Paul makes clear in 5,1–5.” It is the merit of these scholars to have drawn attention to a neglected aspect of Paul's text. They have rightly pointed out that Paul's use of Abraham is not exhausted in Rom 4. All the same, none of them have substantiated that Abraham's role somehow continues in Rom 5,1 ff. This short notice will provide some substantiation for their claim.

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A highly reputed journal published since 1900, the Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft is an international journal for the exegesis of the New Testament and knowledge of the early church (patristics).