What do I think of Ron Fay’s book published by Fontes Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
You can find books on Paul’s Christology, his view of the Lord’s Supper, his view of justification by faith, his eschatology, his pneuamtology, his doctrine of the church, his doctrine of sin, his view of the resurrection, etc. I could go on down the list more if I wanted to. However, how often do you see a book on Paul’s view of the Trinity or at least his doctrine of God?
Fay seeks to change that with this interesting book. In it, Fay looks at Romans 8 and sees what Paul has to say there that indicates at least a proto-Trinitarian understanding of God and to see if the Romans would have seen it the same way. This is not to say that Paul was running around talking about the hypostatic union and quoting the Nicene Creed, but that Paul saw that there was one God and somehow saw the Father, Son, and Spirit as God and did not see them all as one person.
Before even getting to Romans 8 though, Fay looks at the Greco-Roman idea of god. This is not to say that Paul was borrowing from pagan religions, but that Paul spoke a language that would have had a certain meaning to those who came out of pagan religions and were familiar with the concepts, like the Roman Christians. All the while, he would be working with his own Jewish idea of God which Paul would have never abandoned, but would have integrated his new view of Jesus with.
From there, Fay goes on to touch about pretty much every subject in the chapter. He talks about God and creation and God and Law and God and adoption. Again, we could go on and on. Adoption is a key concept since we don’t know as much about Jewish views of adoption as we do about Roman views of adoption and considering a Caesar on the throne had been adopted, the Romans would have understood it.
Then once again, as we went through God and every topic in the chapter, we look at the Son and the Spirit in the same way looking at every topic. It is hard to imagine being even more thorough looking at a single chapter of Scripture. It’s also a great reminder that a look at the historical and social context of a chapter can provide great insight.
Finally, we look at if the Romans would have received this as a look at the Trinity as well and Fay concludes that they would have. Again, the doctrine was worked out over centuries in the church, but the seeds were there.
A caution I would have for every reader though is this is written by a scholar mainly for other scholars. There are many points the layman will not understand, such as Greek words and phrases used that are not translated. This is not to say the reader will get nothing out of it, but some things will be lost. I do not know if Fay is planning a version of this for the average man on the pew, but I certainly think it would be helpful.
Now if you are of the scholarly persuasion and you are reading this, then this will be a helpful book for you to read and one that I hope will spark debate. I would like to see more works on Paul and the Trinity from a scholarly perspective. I hope this is indeed not the end, but the beginning of the discussion.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)