Book of Romans, Qumran, Diaspora, Augustine/Pelagius Debate, LaRondelle vs Priebe et al


The Book of Romans was one of Paul’s last books. He wanted to visit that church but then could not. Anyone reading the book need to know about the times that Paul wrote to finally see, that our own time is almost no different.

Herman Olshaussen in his commentary on Romans (before 1839, volume 3 online download from Harvard University), pointed out that what is behind the book of Romans interpretations of the church is the debate between Augustine and Pelagius on salvation and sin. He said that in Antiquity, preceding his own writing, they knew only of two ways to discuss Romans, either the way Augustine did and with variations and nuance differences to the point of semi-Augustinian or fractional Augustinian views and opposed to that the way Pelagius saw it or variations, nuance differences to the point of semi-Pelagianism or fractional Pelagianism. He said that with Pelagius, complete or partial, these interpreters conceived of humanity as “an aggregate of independent, free, intelligent individuals, in virtue as in sin, every person stands and falls by himself”. One should hear the voice of Denis Priebe and his YouTube videos here. On the other hand, the Augustinian interpreters conceived of mankind as “a collective, selfcompleted body, in which separate individuals are by no means disengaged and independent wholes, but integrating parts of the totality”. Then Olshaussen makes a strange observation (he died 1839) that if one interprets with the Pelagian model, then one has to disagree with Paul but stand with the rest of the Bible but in his opinion, Augustine is the wholesome view that agree with Paul “alike with the Apostle Paul, and the whole Scripture” (page 575).. It is not difficult to see on whose side he is on. In his own time he wanted to introduce a new stance different than the two systems. It is a system that finds echo with the Hegelians (Martin Hegel) asserting that evil is just a negation. It was the view of Origen which they revived, says Olshaussen. “Adam’s fall could be no loss to him, for he had nothing to lose, but only the manifestation of that deficiency which clave to him as a creature; the sinfulness of the race could not proceed from Adam’s act, because all bear themselves the same deficiency which made Adam’s fall necessary and they just as much as Adam must have been brought into that opposition, of which it is no advantage to know; Christ accordingly worked only so far in redeeming and atoning, as by his Divine fullness of life he made up the created deficiency in the creature.” It was the view of Usteri (Paul Lehrbegr, 4th edition page 24, described by Olshaussen on page 577). Olshaussen did not want to accept Pelagian rationalism of the biblical texts neither this new view that saw evil as a mere negation because he felt that Scripture does not support such a view. They view it that evil is without substantial being but rather in actually disturbed relations (Olshaussen 577). Olshaussen then used a metaphor that is pleasant to read. He said that Adam’s sin was like opening a gate to the Spirit to enter just as a spark enters into wood to burn it. He said that without the kingdom of darkness, Adam’s sin could not have caused such injury. Adam was the porter with the keys of the gate and held the destiny of mankind in his hands. Adventists operate with the Great Controversy between Satan and Christ and the Rebellion motif and his actions after Creation in the Fall is essential to understand the origin of sin in the human race. Ellen White also described it in narrative style bringing together scanty texts from Isaiah, Ezechiel and elsewhere to sketch the scenario in vivid detail, in which she was not alone attempting to do that since Grotius, Joseph von Vondel in his Epic Poem Lucifer, Milton and others did the same. There is a long history of this problem in heaven and earth. The reality cannot be overlooked.

LaRondelle’s discussion on Romans should be seen from his Dissertation on Perfection & Perfectionism. It was originally published in 1971 at a time when the Brinsmead and Ford debates started to increase their momentum slowly. It was in 1973, or close to that, that Ford completed his doctorate and went to Avondale. He was the one who tried to revive the views of Luther on sin and righteousness in the Adventist church. Magazines from California followed suit to produce in the second half of the seventies articles comparing Luther and in their view, legalism. To have their view is correct, but to have the opposite view was legalism. It was that strong. With tapes, booklets, pamphlets, sermons, they tried their best to create a crisis in Adventism and made comments on the Shaking in Adventism. Even in those years it was clear that Augustinian and Pelagius views or Luther and Arminius or Calvin and Wesley, or as LaRondelle brought it out, the debate between Zinzendorf and Wesley on the 3rd of September 1741 (LaRondelle, 319). LaRondelle found himself at home with Luther but not with Wesley. That is clear if one reads his dissertation from the back to the front instead of from the front through the biblical exegesis to the back. The Old Testament and New Testament passages interpreted could be done so with nuance differences depending on what baggage or mental theological view (Augustinian or Pelagian) one approaches the text. It was always a pleasure to listen to LaRondelle preaching or teaching. His dissertation brought out some problems though.

LaRondelle held to a view which is Lutheran but called: simul iustus et peccator. At the same time just and sinner. Why was it important for LaRondelle to hold to this view and oppose Wesley because he did not hold this view? Throughout LaRondelle’s dealings with scholars of the past, in his disseration, it was because they did not subscribe to this essential element simul iustus et peccator that LaRondelle resisted their teachings (LaRondelle page 320 footnote 420).  The Reformers had the view that original sin is in everyone and no matter of regeneration, it remains in a person causing many problems in faith. Wesley believed also like Augustine in original sin in a person but after regeneration, original sin was removed like a rotten tooth is taken out (LaRondelle page 323 footnote 444). In Adventism, Priebe presents that original sin is not an Adventist concept, and so it was presented also by Don Neufeld in his Sabbath School Quarterly in 1980. Wesley was of the opinion that deficiancies remain but not sin. LaRondelle wanted a saint to constantly say that he/she is a sinner in need of Christ’s salvation. Wesley wanted a sinner to constantly pray to God that he/she may be worthy of the price He paid for us. Luther wanted the sinner also to realize that although he is a saint, he is also a sinner = simul iustus et peccator. Pelagius, Arminius , Wesley, and Denis Priebe would find each other in good company. Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Zuzendorf, Olshaussen, LaRondelle would find each other in good company. So we sit with LaRondelle versus Priebe just as we sit with Augustine and Pelagius?

What would LaRondelle say of Romans 6:21: “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22. But now being made free from sin, and become servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life”. Saved by grace instantaneously it seems elsewhere in Paul but here in Paul that salvation instantaneously available, is apparently ‘just in hope’ which only realizes “in the end”. In between is “your fruit unto holiness”. Sanctification is not discounted by Paul but maintained by him. Forensic justification is only the beginning of salvation not the absolute end of it. That justification is apparently daily necessary but on the progress road of sanctification which is developmental spiritually, mentally and experientially for the person. Objective justification frees from sin as guilt, condemnation, pardon, overlooking, but fruits of that regeneration is a sanctification process that kicks in leading to holiness which, if we are worthy of the price He paid for us, we obtain everlasting life as reality and no longer as just a mere hope.

If Luther and LaRondelle wants to hold to simul iustus et peccator, then how do they interpret Romans 6:22 “now being made free from sin”? Not a freedom at the eschaton. “Now” is in the time of the composition of the book of Romans. There is of course the caution here that “sin” in Romans does not always refer to our sins but to Satan, the originator of sin. In Romans 7, many times it is not original sin in my body, but Satan that worked sinful passions. “Sin” in that context is Satan and has nothing to do with original sin. What would LaRondelle, Ford, Luther, Augustine make of Hebrews 3:14 saying: “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end”. The condition is sanctification. Justified by Christ move on now to sanctification, Paul says here.

Paul was aware of the views of Qumran and LaRondelle makes a great point in his dissertation of the link between the views at Qumran in the Manual and the Thankgiving Hymns and Paul’s views in Romans 7. My own research shows a link between Peter and Qumran, John the Baptist and Qumran. John the Revelator is an interesting one. All the Isaiah citations that we find in Revelation are in 1QIsa scroll at Qumran marked with strokes in the margin. The marks are very striking. It was almost as if John had this Qumran scroll in his hands writing or copying for his great book on the visions at Patmos. I have found similar language between Pesher Habakkuk and 1 Peter 4:17 on the view of the Investigative Judgment that must precede the Executive Judgment in future. An article on this will soon appear. Paul did not plagiarized Qumran and neither did the apostles. Their library was an excellent opportunity to read the scriptures and they may have spent time there reading and making notes for their books. Also in those days there was a common method, like the Chicago style of writing, going around with a midrash interpretation style that we find in the Targums, Qumran, and in apparent LXX citations in the New Testament. They all used the same method of writing, they all shared the same views almost, but what was different is that they identified different Messiah’s to come or came. John 1 is almost a sermon addressed to the Qumran community in their jargon to explain how Jesus is the one they were expecting to come as well as the role of John the Baptist. Many phrases are the same as Qumran. Another point was made by W. Davies in his book on Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, (1948) namely that the Pharisees in Jerusalem was more conservative and Hebrew/Aramaic orientated while the Pharisees in Rome and elsewhere in the diaspora was more Hellenized and spoke rather Greek and Latin. They use to invite knowledgeable people from Jerusalem as speakers in their synagogues because they wished to learn how to live better in the community with the government and society. This is why the apostles were so easily received in these synagogues of the diaspora Jews.


To be continued…..