Glory in Romans and the Unified Purpose of God in Redemptive HistoryWritten by Donald L. Berry Reviewed By Jackson Wu
Donald Berry correctly highlights the significance of Glory in Romans and the Unified Purpose of God in Redemptive History when he states, “This study marks the most thorough exegetical treatment of Paul’s use of the δόξα word group in Romans to date” (p. 195). I can vouch for his claim. In my own research, I’ve discovered a severe dearth of resources with the depth found in Berry’s recent book. One of his major objectives is to show the purpose and prominence of this motif within Paul’s letter. As he notes, “Of the ninety-six occurrences of δόξα in Pauline writings, twenty-two are found in Romans” (p. 4).
According to his thesis, glory in Romans refers to the eschatological life of believers, which will finally be revealed at the resurrection. Ultimately, glorification is the manifestation of the nature and character of the invisible God whose image we are made to reflect.
Rather than give equal attention to each section of Paul’s letter, Berry’s study carefully examines specific passages that explicitly speak of glory [δόξα]. Aside from the introduction and conclusion, three chapters look at Romans 1–4, two chapters consider Romans 5:1–8:16, two more explore Romans 8:17–30 before concluding with individual chapters that survey Romans 9–11 and Romans 12–16. He also includes two appendices. The first briefly reviews the relationship between glory and the image of God in the OT. The second revisits the discussion about whether God’s glory is his ultimate purpose and humanity’s ultimate end.
Berry’s exposition of the glory-motif in Romans draws from the stories of Adam and Israel. In fact, he argues, “For Paul, eschatological glory is the realization of God’s purposes for Adam and for Israel to see and to show forth the glory of God” (p. 5). According to Berry’s reading of Romans 1, Paul’s use of glory throughout Romans is primarily rooted in OT themes like image of God and sonship. Multiple times, Berry nearly equates humanity’s glory with image of God language (pp. 27, 83, 141, 148, 206–9).
When interpreting Romans 8, Berry pays significant attention to “functional glory” whereby humanity reigns by representing God in the world through bearing the ethical likeness of Christ. While sharing in Christ’s glory entails resurrection and adoption, it also includes inward transformation. Practically, this means “the Spirit, through the very sufferings that believers face, produces in them the perseverance and tested character that are the precursors to final, eschatological glory” (pp. 122–23).
Berry communicates his findings with a balance and clarity that make his book accessible to a wide range of readers. As a revised dissertation, Glory in Romans and the Unified Purpose of God in Redemptive History demonstrates exegetical rigor yet with surprising brevity (less than 200 pages). He anticipates potential objections, such as whether there is a conflict between God’s glory and human glorification. He answers, “This is because his glory is responsible for their glory. His death and resurrection have made possible their glorification. And the glory that is displayed in the saints is a reflection of his own glory. It is theirs derivatively, it is his by nature” (151).
What might readers find concerning or unconvincing about Berry’s book? He seems overly dependent on a handful of commentators, especially Schreiner, Moo, and Piper. One wonders what would emerge through increased interaction with other scholars and themes within Romans and Pauline theology. Due to his methodology (pp. 7–10), the book says nothing about the meaning and function of δόξα within the historical and social context of Romans. Because Berry’s study narrowly focuses on Paul’s δόξα usage, he also does not explore closely related concepts like honor and shame, which appear throughout the letter. Perhaps this explains why he translates καταισχύνω inconsistently as “be put to shame” (pp. 77–78) and then “disappointed” (p. 156).
The book should spur further research that considers questions left unanswered in this book. For instance, it seems that more needs to be said about the role of glory-related themes in Romans 12–16, which Berry only briefly touches on. Also, Berry’s focus on Adam limits how much he connects glory with Israel in Romans. Therefore, he does not delve deeply into the OT background of Paul’s quotations in Romans 9–11, although those OT texts are rich in glory language.
Berry’s excellent work is constructive. He does not spend much time critiquing others’ views. His tone is generous and measured. Like every book, Glory in Romans and the Unified Purpose of God in Redemptive History has natural limitations. Nevertheless, Berry has gone further than others into a much neglected topic. For interpreters of Romans and anyone who wants to better understand Paul’s view of glory, Berry’s book is important reading.
Jackson Wu is the theologian-in-residence for Mission One. He regularly blogs at jacksonwu.org.
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