30 March 2010

C.H. Dodd, 'One of the Best Protestant Theologians Today'

I was recently reading my friend James L. Kelley’s book, A Realism of Glory: Lectures on Christology in the Works of Protopresbyter John Romanides, and came across the following interesting passage:

It may surprise some that Fr John [Romanides]’s Protestant friend, the great biblical scholar C.H. Dodd, evinced a deep understanding of St Paul’s Orthodox interpretation of Christ’s justice. In fact, Dodd’s insights are extensively drawn upon by Fr John to sum up Ancestral Sin’s central thesis about salvation in Christ as theosis-justification. Fr John’s willingness to hinge his most important chapter in Ancestral Sin on Dodd’s writings shows his unhesitating acceptance of Orthodoxy (right opinion) wherever it is found. Dodd’s knowledge of and fidelity to the spiritual background of St Paul’s writings led him to

commen[t] that, for Paul, the word justice has the same meaning that it has in the Old Testament. Dodd says that, unlike the Greek philosophers and Western theologians, the Jews did not understand divine justice in any way to be some divine or cosmological attribute. Rather, it is an energy of God which presupposes the prevalence of injustice and evil in the world. Consequently, when Paul writes, ‘The justice of God hath appeared’, he means that God appears in Christ and destroys evil, dissolves injustice, and restores the righteous who were unjustly held captive by what is evil. [1]

Here Dodd has preserved the biblical/patristic truth, denied by [Saint] Augustine and his followers, that righteous men lived before Christ’s Incarnation. Fr John goes much farther than Dodd, however, holding that St Paul’s references to the Law—‘the letter kills’, etc.—do not allow for any opposition of the Torah to the justifying grace of Christ, but rather indicate the real meaning of the Old Testament as the Way (Torah) of vivification completed by Christ’s Incarnation and its Christological extension: the harrowing of hell (sheol). [2]

It so happened that I was already somewhat familiar with Dodd (a Welsh New Testament scholar—1884-1973), though not with his study of Romans. Years ago, in college I believe, I had somehow acquired a copy of Dodd’s fascinating The Bible & the Greeks—a study, first, of ‘The Religious Vocabulary of Hellenistic Judaism’, and second, of ‘Hellenistic Judaism & the Hermetica’. As just a taste of the sort of thing Dodd has to offer here, I shall excerpt the opening paragraph of the first chapter (please excuse me that I am not equipped to type Hebrew, and will therefore transliterate the Hebrew words):

The personal name of the God of Israel, YHWH, does not appear in any form in the LXX. The translators were here following the oral tradition (Q’re) represented in the Massoretic text, where YHWH is always givent he vowels either of Elohim or Adonai. The consonants of the name, however, remained for the reader of the Hebrew Bible. The namelessness of God is more striking in the Greek version. That the God of the Jews was nameless (as He was formless) was known to the outside world, and the fact chimed in with certain speculative tendencies of Hellenistic thought, which may have originated in Egypt. See the Pseudo-Apuleian Asclepius, §20: Non enim spero totius maiestatis effectorem omniumque rerum patrem vel dominum uno posse quamvis e multis composito nuncupari nomine, hunc vero innominem vel potius omninominem esse, siquidem is sit unus omnia, ut sit necesse aut omnia eius nomine aut ipsum omnium nominibus nuncupari [3]; cf. Corp. Herm. V. 10, dia touto onomata echei panta, oti eis esti pater: kai dia touto autos onoma ouch echei, oti panton esti pater [4]. Whether or not Egyptian ideas about the namelessness of God influenced Judaism in concealing the name YHWH, it is highly probable that the known absence of any personal name for God in the Greek version of the Scriptures strengthened the growing conviction in Hellenism that the supreme God should have no name. Christian apologists laid much stress on the point. By merely eliminating the name of God the LXX contributed to the definition of monotheism. [5]

So then, as I mentioned here, when I was cleaning out and organising my files a week ago or so I chanced across some old articles by Fr Georges Florovsky from some obscure books and journals. One of the articles, ‘The New Vision of the Church’s Reality’, includes on the final page the following comments:

C.H. Dodd, one of the best Protestant theologians today, uses the term realized eschatology. He derives his vision of realized eschatology, which is given us in the Eucharist, from the liturgical tradition of the Catholic Church. As a Congregationalist, Dr Dodd has a very high Catholic conception of the Eucharist as a real continuation or projection of the Last Supper. It is the life of the age to come. [6]

To come across two such interesting references to Dodd by esteemed twentieth-century Orthodox theologians in the same week or so seemed worth posting about. But they also resulted in a little online reading about Dodd’s work, and now I’m very intrigued by this whole ‘New Perspective on Paul’ thing, which seems to be connected with his legacy. I’ve been looking again at a copy of N.T. Wright’s What St Paul Really Said that I’ve had sitting around on the shelf for years, [7] and I’m trying to get ahold of Dodd’s book on Romans. Any comments or reading suggestions, Bible scholars?

[1] From Fr John Romanides, Ancestral Sin (Ridgewood, NJ: Zephyr, 2002), pp. 93-4. Kelley adds in a note: ‘“The justice of God hath appeared” is Romans 3:12. Fr John is summarizing Dodd’s The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (London, 1932), 9-10, 51’ (p. 47, n. 3).

[2] James L. Kelley, A Realism of Glory: Lectures on Christology in the Works of Protopresbyter John Romanides (Rollinsford, NH: Orthodox Research Institute, 2009), pp. 47-8. Keep in mind, I quote this passage because I find it highly interesting. I am not entirely certain I understand it.

[3] Here is the translation of Brian P. Copenhaver in Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum & the Latin Asclepius in a new English translation, with notes & introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge U, 1997), p. 78:

. . . [N]o, I cannot hope to name the maker of all majesty, the father and master of everything, with a single name, even a name composed of many names; he is nameless or rather he is all-named since he is one and all, so that one must call all things by his name or call him by the names of everything.

[4] ‘. . . [T]his is why he has all names, because they are of one father, and this is why he has no name, because he is father of them all’ (Copenhaver, p. 20).

[5] C.H. Dodd, The Bible & the Greeks (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1964), pp. 3-4.

[6] Fr Georges Florovsky, ‘The New Vision of the Church’s Reality’, John XXIII Lectures, Vol. 2: 1966 Byzantine Christian Heritage, John XXIII Center for Eastern Christian Studies (NY: Fordham U, 1969), p. 110

[7] Wright has a nice little annotated bibliography. See N.T. Wright, What St Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), pp. 185-92.


Daniel said...

Having read two of the three large tomes from Wright, I suggest looking at his shorter books on Paul first. They are typically more succinct and just as well argued (in my opinion).

Ochlophobist said...


So Romanides was friends with a Welshman. I will never say another critical word of him again. I read some Dodd years ago, not knowing he was Welsh. Shame.

I just skimmed N.T.'s book Justification, after years of not reading his work. What a pompous, self lauding twit. I agree with points, of course, but in that book you should read his brief dismissal of Eastern Christianity. He is brilliant on a few points, but when off, really off.

Maximus Daniel,

Have you read Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul's Narrative Soteriology by Gorman? If so, any thoughts?

Fr. David said...

We read Dodd's The Apostolic Preaching and Its Development for New Testament this semester. A good, if too brief (and too briefly covered) primer for approaching the Scripture, kerygma, etc. Good to know that he was so respected by no less than Florovsky; very surprising that Romanides had so much good to say about him.

"Pompous, self-lauding twit," eh, Och? I haven't gotten to read his book on Justification (checked it out from the library after reading his book on Paul and wanting to go further into the idea of how the so-called "New Perspective" plays out specifically when dealing with the teaching on justification), but I am at least intrigued because of the back-and-forth with John Piper that it's sparked. What was it that he said to dismiss the East?

We are also, right after classes resume following Bright Week, going to be reading Mark Reasoner's Romans in Full Circle, the premise of which is that many 20th and 21st-Century biblical scholars are coming back around to the approaches of Origen and Augustine in terms of interpreting the book after long forays through the medieval exegetes, Luther, and Barth.

Again, in this work, the idea of narrative-based interpretation of Romans is called for. What are y'all's thoughts on this particular approach?

Aaron Taylor said...

Maximus> Thanks for the tip!

Owen> I guess you have to be suspicious any time you have two D's in a name.

I am now intrigued as well. Though it will likely only anger me, now I want to read Wright on Eastern Xianity.

David> I don't know anything about this stuff, but almost anything that goes back to ancient sources rather than Reformation ones appeals to me, obviously. I'd like to get Esteban Vazquez to comment on this. Maybe I'll give him a call--he's the real expert.

John Sanidopoulos said...

Under the title to the lecture JUSTIN MARTYR AND THE FOURTH GOSPEL (http://www.romanity.org/htm/rom.22.en.justin_martyr_and_the_fourth_gospel.01.htm), Romanides writes that he received a letter from Dodd that this subject needs to be further looked into to. And in a footnote on one of his other papers, Romanides writes:

"For the beginning of my studies regarding the catechetical reasons for the difference between the two gospel traditions in the primitive Church, see my study 'Justin Martyr and the Fourth Gospel,' in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review 4 (1958): 115-134. I received a letter from C. H. Dodd that this position needs to be looked into."

Dodd's commentaries on Romans and John are worth a read and can be found pretty cheap on Amazon.

Ochlophobist said...
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Ochlophobist said...
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Ochlophobist said...

Don't get me wrong, I always appreciate it when someone goes after Piper. But those two were meant for each other. Peas of a pod, different soteriologies notwithstanding.

On every other page of the book Wright uses the most schoolboy of "I was right and x was wrong" language. Not that he does not back this up with argument, he does, but he has that passion of the junior high nerd who is always right. The book also conveys this tone which suggested to me that the rhetoric was really meant for the good old boys club of NT scholars he associates with. It was not popular, per se, but off the cuff in the way that mega-star academics speak. I did not care for it at all. I left it feeling the way I do when I rather wish I didn't have to have this particular ally in the fight I find myself in, if you catch my drift.

If SVS has the book in the library, open it up in the middle, read 15 pages, and let me know what you think.

And for charity's sake I should admit that I would likely not be a Christian today were it not for reading New Testament and the People of God at a time in my life when I was otherwise inclined in a decidedly different direction with regard to faith.

Aaron Taylor said...

I talked to Esteban last night. He says the 'New Perspective' people make some good points, and he welcomes the attempt to get beyond Luther's (and even Anselm's) reading of Romans of course, but he says there are major problems, one of the more important being that it sounds as though rather than dispensing with a Reformation-style justification doctrine altogether, they project it beyond St Paul into (a monolithic) 2nd Temple Judaism itself (over-hastily dispensing with St Paul's very real polemic). Concerning Dodd, despite his strong points, Esteban suggested not getting too excited about him, calling him basically a 'pious liberal'.

Anyway, he promised to post a comment later today. Hope I haven't already blown all of his best points!

Daniel said...

Esteban's judgments I can see and tend to agree with them fully.

Owen, Yes, my sophomore year, very influential and eye opening to me at the time. I like what I have read from Gorman.