There is None Righteous…

April 15, 2024

It is interesting that of the various passages Paul quotes and cites in his catena of Romans 3:10–18, only the (possible) first is about universal sinfulness in its original context, i.e. Ecclesiastes 7:20 (which appears to me the most probable allusion at 3:10a for the phrase “there is none righteous”).

In the remaining passages (Ps 53/14; Ps 5:9; Ps 10:7; Isa 59:7–8; Ps 36:1), the “all” is in fact not universal, but refers specifically to those who oppose David or the poor oppressed of Yahweh etc.

Moreover, the overwhelming sin-type found in this catena regards not sexual perversion, covetousness, theft etc, but violence against Yahweh’s chosen, whether his anointed king or his people.

This fits with a Christocentric reading of Rom 3:1–8. While Paul is indeed advocating a generalized, universal human sinfulness (illustrated by the apparent Ecc 7:20 citation), it appears he is following up the preceding passage. This, for him, is the climactic “fall” of Israel, as becomes very clear at the end of Romans 9, where he speaks of them stumbling over Christ, the Rock whom God has appointed (cf also Rom 11:11).

Sin abounds through Torah in Israel (Rom 5:20), and it comes to a head specifically in her encounter with her own Messiah.