Grace Theological Journal 1.1 (Spring 1980) 43-69.

[Copyright © 1980 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;

digitally prepared for use at Gordon and Grace Colleges and elsewhere]









THE worthy reputation of Hab 2:4b in both Jewish and Christian

circles is well attested. For example, "the Talmud records the

famous remark of R. Simlai (Makkot 23b), 'Moses gave Israel 613

commandments. David reduced them to 10, Isaiah to 2, but Habak-

kuk to one: the righteous shall live by his faith.'"1 New Testament

theology is also built upon that text's firm foundation. Concerning

Paul’s utilization, Johnson appropriately asserts: "'The just shall live

by faith,'--it is, without question, near the soul of Pauline the-

ology."2 Historically, the testimony of the text as a theological

benchmark continued to grow. The preeminent illustration of this

phenomenon was the text's catalytic effect in leading to the Reforma-

tion: "Habakkuk's great text, with his son Paul's comments and

additions, became the banner of the Protestant Reformation in the

hands of Habakkuk's grandson, Martin Luther."3 Consequently,

Feinberg's appraisal of Hab 2:4b should not be regarded as an

overstatement: "The key to the whole Book of Habakkuk. . . the

central theme of all the Scriptures."4

In spite of this reputation, the text has occasioned many critical

investigations. These studies range from those immediately associated

with the text to those which are tangential; in terms of result, they

range from those which are destructive to those which are construc-

tive. This endeavor is intended to be a general survey of the most

significant challenges relating to Hab 2:4b.

Since the text is particularly strategic, every conservative student

of the Word of God has the theological responsibility of sharpening

his focus on the tensions manifested by these studies. Also, this


*The author would like to thank Mr. William D. Barrick for his labors in

reference to the revision of the format of this paper for publication.

1 S. M. Lehrman, "Habakkuk," in The Twelve Prophets, Soncino Books of the

Bible, ed. by A. Cohen (London: Soncino, 1948) 219.

2 S. L. Johnson, Jr., "The Gospel That Paul Preached," BSac 128 (1971) 327.

3 Ibid., 328.

4 C. L. Feinberg, The Major Messages of the Minor Prophets: Habakkuk. Zephaniah,

and Malachi (New York: American Board of Missions to the Jews, 1951) 23.

44                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


responsibility cannot be avoided merely because an ultimate resolu-

tion of all the tensions is improbable.5

The occasion of these tensions is related primarily to the "tex-

tual, hermeneutical, exegetical, and theological problems raised by

the use of Hab 2:4 in the New Testament."6 A corollary to this

central concern is the alleged Paul/James antithesis between faith and

works. However, when all the scriptural data is synthesized, the

arguments are found to be complementary, and a biblically balanced

approach emerges.7

A larger, concentric corollary involves the scriptural data which

may be systematized within the doctrine of the perseverance of the

saints. Larger yet is the concentric corollary of divine sovereignty and

human responsibility. In all of these cases and from the reference

point of an exegetical, systematic theology, the issues are not illumi-

nated by an either/or methodology but by a both/and sensitivity. The

key word of biblical and systematic studies in theology must be

"balance. "




It is expedient to examine the text of Hab 2:4b first. There are at

least two good reasons for this tack: textual variants are minimal, and

consequently, the line becomes a poetical reference point which

provides important clues concerning the interpretation of the more

difficult lines within the immediate context.8


Textual considerations9

The major textual problem concerns the third masculine singular

suffix attached to hnAUmx<. Brownlee summarizes the pertinent data:


5 Concerning a tangentially but yet vitally related discussion on the significance of

the genitive qeou? in the phrase dikaiosu<nh qeou? within its context (i.e., Rom 1:17a; cf.

Hab 2:4b quotation in Rom 1:17b), Cranfield honestly concludes that "the last word in

this debate has clearly not yet been spoken. It would therefore be irresponsible to claim

that the question has been conclusively decided either way" [italics added]. C. E. B.

Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (ICC;

Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975), 1.98-99. The extended discussion of this problem by

Cranfield represents only one facet of the tension related to the present study.

6 Johnson, "The Gospel That Paul Preached," 338, n. 31.

7 Cranfield carefully describes the Protestant/Catholic tensions over dikaiou?n. His

recognition of both distinction and concord with regard to justification and sanctifica-

tion is noteworthy. Cranfield, Romans, 1. 95.

8 In the light of the textual complications of vv 2:4a and 2:5a, the latter reason is

particularly significant. Cf. D. E. Gowan, The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk (Atlanta:

John Knox, 1976) 45; C. F. Keil, Minor Prophets, in vol. 10 of Commentary on the Old

Testament in Ten Volumes, by C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

n.d.), 2. 73; E. Henderson, The Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets (London: Hamilton,

Adams, and Co., 1845) 303.

9 For extended discussions, see: W. H. Brownlee, "The Placarded Revelation of

Habakkuk," JBL 82 (1963) 322ff.; J. A. Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic

ZEMEK: HABAKKUK 2:4b                           45


Instead of vtnvmxb in Hab. 2:4, G, Aq., and Old Latin read ytnvmxb

It is no loss that the word in vii. 15 [i.e. 1QpHab] is no longer extant,

for in the script of the scroll v and y could not have been distinguished.

The interpretation Mtnmx ("their faith") at viii. 2, however, fortunately

confirms the 3rd per. suffix. T's NvhFwvq interprets also the 3rd sing.

suffix--the plural number being merely a part of the translator's free

representation of the thought. The Palestinian recension reads

en pis[e]i autou with MT against G's ek pi<stewj mou . . . . In the

N.T. neither suffix is attested (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38), but

the interpretation is consonant with the 3rd pers.10


Semantic considerations pertaining to qyDica

1. General considerations. With the introduction of the semantics

of the qdc words, the battle for balance in this study commences. To

a greater or lesser degree, every scholar's presuppositions color his

interpretation of the data. Generally speaking, Hill's treatment demon-

strates commendable balance. Dodd's treatment is based upon a

legitimate footing; however, at times, he becomes eccentric to the

right. His footing is worthy of citation:

It is evident that this study of the Greek renderings of qdc has an

important bearing upon the uses of diakiosu<nh, di<kaioj, dikaiou?n in

the New Testament. In particular, the Pauline use of these terms must

be understood in the light of Septuagintal usage and the underlying

Hebrew. The apostle wrote Greek, and read the LXX, but he was also

familiar with the Hebrew original. Thus while his language largely

follows that of the LXX, the Greek words are for him always coloured

by their Hebrew association.12


Problems of Habakkuk II. 4-5," JTS 28 (1977) 10ff. [note pp. 17-18 for further

bibliography]; P. J. M. Southwell, "A Note on Habakkuk ii. 4," JTS 19 (1968) 614-16

[a good synopsis of the data with the texts conveniently printed]; F. Delitzsch,

Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, trans. by T. L. Kingsbury (2 vols., reprinted;

Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1978),2.198-99; F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964) 272-73 and nn. 195, 196. In n. 196, Bruce outlines the various

ways that the LXX witnesses position the possessive mou with di<kaioj. Ibid., 273 n. 196.

10 W. H. Brownlee, The Text of Habakkuk in the Ancient Commentary from Qumran

(JBLMS 11; Philadelphia: Society of Biblical Literature, 1959) 44-45. Concerning the

mou of the LXX, it "could mean either 'because of my [sc. God's] faithfulness' or

‘because of his faith in me.'" Cranfield, Romans, 1. 100. It is obvious that the active

and passive options of pi<stij contribute to this ambivalence. For further comment on

the diversity of the possessive pronouns in Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, see:

J. Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians

(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1869) 244.

11 For an excellent discussion of the root qdc, with generally credible syntheses,

D. Hill, Greek. Words and Hebrew Meanings: Studies in the Semantics of Soterio-

Logical Terms (SNTSMS 5; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1967) 82-162 [i.e., chap.

4, "The Background and Meaning of DIKAIOSUNH and Cognate Words"]; note

especially pp. 82-98.

12 C. H. Dodd, The Bible and the Greeks (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1935) 57.

46                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


It will be seen that Barr's slightly left-of-center polemic will help to

check indiscriminate extensions of the aforementioned principle,

regardless of the specific words involved (e.g., qdc, Nmx, etc.).

After an etymological survey of the root qdc (cf. Ugaritic,

Phoenician, and Arabic).13 Hill concludes:

On the basis of these illustrations of early usage it is difficult to

assert with confidence a single primary meaning of the root qdc. The

most we can say is that they suggest that the fundamental idea of qdc

available to us is that of conformity to a norm which requires to be

defined in each particular case.14


Turning to the Old Testament, it is first necessary to note that there is

a "two-fold application of the qdc-terms"15: ""The application of

qdc-words to Yahweh" and ""the application of the qdc-words to

Israel and to the individual."16

Cranfield's survey adequately presents the most significant data

and exposes the judicial and ethical subcategories:


Where sedek is used in connexion with the conduct of persons, it refers

to the fulfillment of the obligations arising from a particular situation,

the demands of a particular relationship. As far as Israel was con-

cerned the supremely important relationship was the covenant between

God and His people; and sedek in the OT is to be understood in the

context of the Covenant. The adjective saddik is used to describe those

whose conduct and character, whether specifically in relation to the

administration of justice or quite generally, are characterized by sedek.

But [italics added] there are passages in which saddik used of Israel or

of the individual Israelite, refers to status rather than to ethical

condition (see, for example, Ps. 32:11 in the light of vv. 1, 2 and 5; Isa.

60:21). The cognate verb used in the Qal, can mean (i) "be just," "be

righteous" (e.g. Job 35:7; Ps. 19:9 [MT:10]; 51:4 [MT:6]); (ii) "be in

the right" in the sense of having a just cause (e.g. Gen. 38:26); (iii) "be

justified," "be declared righteous" (e.g. Ps. 143:2; Isa. 43:26). In the

Hiph’il (and occasionally in the Pi’el), it means "justify," "declare

righteous," "acquit" (e.g. Exod. 23:7; Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15): there is

also one place (Dan. 12:3), where the Hiph’il seems to mean "make

righteous," "turn to righteousness.”17


13 Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings, 82-83.

14 Ibid. Cf. Cranfield, Romans, 1. 94.

15 Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings, 86-96. This data should be carefully

surveyed. For treatments of a popular nature, see: A. B. Davidson, The Theology of the

Old Testament, ed. by S. D. F. Salmond (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907)

264-82; R. B. Girdlestone, Synonymns of the Old Testament (reprinted; Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1973) 158ff.; L. J. Kuyper, "Righteousness and Salvation," SJT 30 (1977)


16 Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings, 86-92 and 93-96.

17 Cranfield, Romans, 1.94.

ZEMEK: HABAKKUK 2:4b                           47


The existence of an ethical sense in some occurrences of qyDica in

the Old Testament must not be disputed: "On many occasions. . . the

'righteous' are those who, in humility and faithfulness, trust in

Yahweh, despite persecution and oppression: those who seek to live

uprightly and without pride of heart, depending on Yahweh for

protection and vindication."18  However, the question remains whether

it is valid to categorize qyDica in Hab 2:4b as "just, righteous, in

conduct and character. . . towards God."19

2. hqAdAic;  in Genesis 15:6. As previously intimated, the judicial

implications concerning the nature of any man who is designated qyDica

are not always given due credence. To Habakkuk or any godly Jew, the

background of God's dealings with Abraham would be foundational:

"Then he [i.e., Abraham] believed [Nmix<h,v;] in the LORD; and He reck-

oned it to him as righteousness [hqAdAc; Ol. hAb,w;H;y.ava]" (Gen 15:6).20

Of particular significance to this study is the observation that the roots

of the two key words of Hab 2:4b (i.e., qyDica and it hnAUmx<) are associated

in this important verse from the Pentateuch. Also related to this

judicial phenomenon is the delocutive employment of the Hiphil of

qdc (i.e., qyDic;hi, to "pronounce in the right," "justify").21 These observations

are germane to a balanced understanding of qyDica  (and hnAUmx<) in Hab 2:4b.

Gowan believes that the term has a judicial nuance, based upon

the occurrence of qyDica in antithetical contexts: "The word. . . is used

in a situation of controversy and contrast, to denote those whom God

favors."22 This argument does favor a non-ethical employment of

qyDica in Hab 2:4b, but it presents a slightly different perspective, one

which cannot be ignored in the light of the larger context:


18 Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings, 94. Hill's discussion of the ethical usages

of qyDica  is excellent. He points out that such usages are inextricably related to

the attributes of the Lord associated with the qdc-group of words [cf. the same

phenomenon in reference to the Nmx-group] (ibid., 92). Furthermore, "the suggested

threefold development in the history of the qdc-words may be of guidance in the

understanding and interpretation of other religious and theological terms. This devel-

opment takes the word from an association with man and his life (in this case, the

‘righteousness’ of the king) to an association with Yahweh, and back again to man,

with a richer content and colour drawn from its relation to deity" (ibid., 97).

19 BDB 843. For an extended development of this ethical category, see: Dodd, The

Bible and the Greeks, 42ff.

20 For an important discussion of Hab 2:4 as it presupposes the foundational truths

of God's dealings with Abraham (e.g., Gen 15:6) along with Paul's "Christian

Midrash" see: E. E. Ellis, Paul's Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1957) 117, n. I; 119-20. Cf. W. B. Wallis, "The Translation of Romans 1:17-A Basic

Motif in Paulinism," JETS 16 (1973) 22.

21 R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax.. An Outline (2nd edition; Toronto and Buffalo:

University of Toronto, 1976) 28.

22 Gowan, The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk, 42. It is fair to assume, however, that

Gowan’s thesis and conclusion concerning qyDica  in Hab 2:4b have been affected to a

degree by his desire to demonstrate an antithetical substantive in hlAP;fu (2:4a). Ibid.

48                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


     The just (Hebrew, tsaddik), the righteous one, is the one who has

been vindicated, whom God has declared to be right. There is a legal

background to this word; it denotes the winner in a case at law in some

of its Old Testament uses. So it is not restricted in its reference to a

purely internal quality of goodness which one may possess. It is used in

situations of controversy to denote the side which is right. Its opposite

is wicked (Hebrew, rasha), and we saw the two words paired in 1:4 and

1:13 [italics added].23


3. The Greek renderings.24 An important generalization is noted

by Dodd:

Where the Hebrew conception of righteousness differs from the popu-

lar Greek conception we may put it thus, that whereas for the Greek

dikaiosu<nh is always being pulled over from the broad sense of

"righteousness" to the narrower sense of "justice," the pull in Hebrew

is in the opposite direction.25


In the light of this, it is obvious that the Septuagint's renderings of

the qdc-words modified the di<kaioj words. These changes primarily

reflect divine and covenantal influences found in the Hebrew word.

NT usages basically follow this pattern:

      That Paul's use of the words di<kaioj, dikaiosu<nh and dikaiou?n (and

also of dikai<wma and dikai<wsij) reflects his familiarity with, and is to

a very considerable extent molded by, the LXX use of them to render

words of the sdk ( group is clear, and is generally agreed. . . . But, in

spite of the general agreement on the importance of the LXX here,

there is far from being general agreement as to the precise significance

which these words have in Paul.26


Ironically, it would seem that these observations and clarifications

magnify the interpretive challenges relating to Hab 2:4b.


Semantic considerations pertaining to hy,Hyi

This kind of life must be understood within its biblical frame-


To live is not merely to exist, in Hebrew thought. One is not really

alive when sick, weak, in danger or with a damaged reputation. To be

alive is to have vigor, security and honor. So this verse does not merely

tell us how we can barely hang on to some feeble thread of existence in


23 Ibid., 41.

24 See: Hill, "di<kaioj and Related Words in Greek Usage," in Greek Words and

Hebrew Meanings, 98ff.

25 Dodd, The Bible and the Greeks, 45. For specific comparisons and contrasts, see:

Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings, 102-3.

26 Cranfield, Romans, 1.95. Concerning the verb (i.e., dikaiou?n), he especially notes

that "none of the occurrences. . . can be at all tolerably explained on the basis of the

word's use in secular Greek." Ibid.

49                    ZEMEK:  HABAKKUK 2:4b


times such as Habakkuk describes; no, it speaks of being richly and

fully alive. That interpretation is confirmed by 3:17-18.27


Hill corroborates this interpretation, but with an ethical emphasis:


      Man's life, however, is more than simply length of days and

abundance of possessions: it consists rather in what he is by virtue of

his goals and ideals. . . . The pessimistic outlook which characterizes

Ecclesiastes focuses attention on enjoyment, but in Proverbs the ideal is

the good life, the life of righteousness. “In the paths of righteousness is

life" (Prov. 12:28; cf. 11:19; 10:16); wisdom is the source and means of

life (3:2; 8:35), and the fear of the Lord leads to life (19:23). . . . We

recall the utterance of Deut. 8:3, “Man lives (hy,H;yi) by everything

which proceeds from the mouth of the Lord" Only by faithfulness,

that is, by loyalty to Yahweh and his covenant, will the righteous man

live (Hab. 2:4). In these instances the verb hyAHA connotes not only

physical survival in a time of disaster, but also living in right relation to



Ethical responsibilities, however, must not be used to distort the

ultimate, theocentric foundation of biblical life. The most significant

aspect of the Hebrew understanding of “life," is “its dependence on

God."29 Consequently, it is appropriate to classify the hy,H;yi of Hab

2:4b under the heading of the “pregnant sense of fulness of life in

divine favour."30


Semantic considerations pertaining to OtnAUmx<B,

The significance of hnAUmx< in Hab 2:4b and in its mediate

connection (i.e., through the Greek rendering pi<stij) to the NT

references supersedes all the other hermeneutical challenges of this


1. The usage of hnAUmx<.31 The feminine noun hnAUmx< in the OT

primarily connotes “firmness, steadfastness, fidelity."32 Of particular


27 Gowan, The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk, 42-43. Cf. H. S. Bryant, “The

Meaning of Habakkuk 2:4" (unpublished Bachelor of Divinity thesis, Grace Theologi-

cal Seminary, 1966) 27-29, 34-36. Against this reference being merely an eschatological

one, see: R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans

(Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1936) 87-88. Cranfield combines the abundant and eschato-

logical life perspectives: Cranfield, Romans, 1. 101.

28 Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings, 165.

29 Ibid., 168.

30 BDB 311.

31 See esp.: “’Faith' and -Truth'--an Examination of some Linguistic Arguments,"

chap. 7 of: J. Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language (London: Oxford University,

1961) 161-205. Also: ibid., 161, n. 1; and A. Jepsen, "NmaxA,” TDOT 1. 292ff.

32 BDB 53. For a helpful survey in chart form listing every occurrence, the KJV

rendering, point of reference, and meaning, see: Bryant, -'The Meaning of Habakkuk

2:4," 20-24.

50                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


significance is the employment of the word in the sense of "faithful-

ness."33 When referring to God, this usage reflects a divine attribute

often paralleled with his ds,H, or his qd,c, (cf. Pss 88:12; 89:2, 3, 6, 9,

25; 96:13; 98:3; 119:90; 143:1; Isa 25:1; Hos 2:22 [all versifications

from Hebrew Bible]). The word has a passive meaning in the over-

whelming number of cases; note the following excerpts from Light-

foot's research:

It will thus be seen that hnvmx properly represents the passive sense of

pi<stij, as indeed the form of the word shows. . . . Thus in its biblical

usage the word hnvmx can scarcely be said ever to have the sense

"belief, trust," though sometimes approaching towards it. . . . Unlike

the Hebrew, the Greek word seems to have started from the active

meaning. . . . In the Old Testament, there being no Hebrew equivalent

to the active meaning, pi<stij has always the passive sense, "fidelity,"

"constancy," unless the passage in Habakkuk be regarded as an



Thus, there would be no debate regarding the significance of

hnAUmx< in Hab 2:4b if its usage was determined by statistical precedent.

For this reason, many would conclude that "emunah seems. . . to

emphasize one's own inner attitude and the conduct it produces"35

and that its significance is "constancy in executing and fulfilling the

commands of God through all uncertainty and conflict."36 Neverthe-

less, the usage of hnAUmx< in Hab 2:4b could be regarded as transitional

and consequently could be construed to bear a double sense (i.e.,

both active and passive ).37 In the light of this possibility, further

pursuits are necessary.

2. The theoretical root [NmaxA]. After a survey of the cognates of

Nmx (e.g., Arabic, Ethiopic, South Arabic, Syriac, etc.),38 one might

be led to conclude unreservedly that "the basic idea underlying the

root is that of firmness or fixity"39 and that:


33 Ibid.; cf. usage category 3. Also, see usage category 4 in: KB I. 60.

34 J. B. Lightfoot, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians (reprinted; Grand Rapids:

Zondervan, 1957) 155, 156. Lightfoot's whole excursus, "The words denoting 'Faith,'"

should be studied; it is a valuable synopsis (ibid., 154-58).

35 Jepsen, TDOT 1. 317.

36 G. Quell and G. Schrenk, "di<kh, di<kaioj, dikaiosu<nh," TDNT 2. 177. Cf.:

"The idea [in Hab 2:4b] is that of unwavering hold of the word of God against all

contrary appearances" (O. Michel, "pi<stij," NIDNTT 1. 597).

37 Lightfoot, Galatians, 155. The contention that the usage of  hnAUmx< in Hab 2:4b is

transitional and that it actually attains to an active meaning is actively supported and

delineated by Barr: Semantics, 201.

38 Cf. Barr, Semantics, 185-86.

39 Dodd, The Bible and the Greeks, 66. Dodd, along with others, would also argue

that "the Greek translators show themselves aware of this by occasionally translating

ZEMEK: HABAKKUK 2:4b                           51


When a Hebrew heard the various words derived from the root ‘mn,

the basic idea that came to his mind was apparently "constancy."

When they were used of things, they meant "continual"; and when they

were connected with persons, "reliability."40


Nevertheless, Jepsen interjects a crucial qualification: "However,

derivatives could have special meanings in any given context."41 This

qualification is the polemical standard of Barr:

Even assuming, therefore, that the "ultimate" etymology of words

of the root ‘-m-n is "firmness," we have here an illustration of the

harm of paying excessive attention to the most ultimate etymology and

failing to consider what forms were current at the relevant times and

what senses they bore in actual usage. Extant forms are not derived

directly from the ultimate etymology or from the "root meaning."

There is a detailed and often complicated history for each form; the

fact that for lack of knowledge we often cannot trace it does not mean

that we can suppose it does not exist.42


The significance of Barr's statement is more clearly seen if it is

remembered that the Qal perfect of Nmx is not attested in biblical


Built upon the above semantic hypothesis is Barr's suggestion that

historically there are really two spheres of the evolution of the usage of

hnAUmx<.43 The discussion of this debate will be restricted to the biblical

data. Dodd's introductory comments are germane:

In the vocabulary of religion and ethics the verb is chiefly used (i) in the

niphal participle, which bears the passive meaning "made firm," "con-

firmed," "established," and so "trustworthy," "faithful"; and (ii) in the

hiphil, which means "to be convinced," "to trust."44


On one side are those who would historically relate the usage of

hnAUmx< exclusively to the Niphal verbal. Many would argue that in the

absence of corresponding substantives for the Hiphil's active sense


the words from this root by such expressions as  sthri<zein, sth<rigma" (ibid.).

However, Barr registers some legitimate objections to such arguments. Cf. Barr,


40 Jepsen, TDOT 1. 322-23.

41 Ibid., 323.

42 Barr, Semantics, 187. For Barr's polemic against the "fundamental meaning"

syndrome which leads to the "root fallacy" complication in relation to  Nmx, see: ibid.,

161ff. He argues against "an illegitimate confusion of theological and linguistic

methods" (163). His argument is well taken; however, theological presuppositions are

never totally set aside, as illustrated sporadically within his own discussion.

43 See his argument: ibid., 186-87.

44 Dodd, The Bible and the Greeks, 66.

52                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


(cf. Aramaic xtAUnmAyhe, "faith")," "the substantives tm,x<, hnAUmx<,

represent the sense of the niphal, 'steadfastness,' 'trustworthiness,'

'faithfulness'"45 Therefore, hnAUmx< would be taken to denote "trust-

worthiness, the frame of mind which can be relied upon."46

On the other side are those who would emphasize an overriding

relationship of hnAUmx< to Nymix<h,. Barr argues that " . . . the whole

structure built upon the supposed 'fundamental meaning' of the root

collapses as soon as real attention is given to the verb he’emin

'believe"'47 This relationship (i.e., of hnAUmx< to Nymix<h,) is developed to

support an active sense for the substantive (i.e., hnAUmx< = "trustful-

ness, the frame of mind which relies on another"48). Vitally related to

this argument is the discussion of the function of the Hiphil of Nymix<h,.

This is adequately attended by Barr, who opts for an "internal-

transitive" function as opposed to a "declarative-estimative" function.49

Up to this point, the examination of this semantic debate has not

been complicated by mediating positions; however, there are many

who rightly contend that construing hnAUmx< as exclusively passive or

as exclusively active upsets a fine biblical balance. For this reason, a

mediating position is undoubtedly the preferable way of striving for

theological harmony of all the scriptural data. Unfortunately, there

are varieties of mediating positions which multiply the complexity of

this pursuit for balance. At least two major varieties are worthy of

mention. For convenience, they might be labeled lexical (i.e., the word

hnAUmx< as it relates to both its active and passive historical spheres)

and contextual (i.e., the context of hnAUmx< in Hab 2:4b, especially the

relationship of qyDica in its largest context). Presuppositions are also

obvious in these mediating positions; however, as previously inti-

mated, this is unavoidable. Consequently, a continuous evaluation of

one's presuppositions is mandatory in order to determine whether

they are valid or invalid as measured by the theological totality of


Eadie's generalization concerning the hnAUmx< of man serves as a

fitting introduction to a mediating position: "The idea of steadfast-

ness expressed by the Hebrew noun implies faith."50 An essentially


45 Ibid., 68. cr. ibid. 59ff.; Lightfoot, Galatians, 155; and, Barr, Semantics, 173,

198, 201-5.

46 Lightfoot's delineation of the passive sense: Galatians, 154.

47 Barr, Semantics, 164. For some pertinent observations on pisteu<ein with the

dative paralleling –Bi Nymix<h,, see: Dodd, The Bible and the Greeks, 66-68.

48 Lightfoot, Galatians, 154.

49 Barr, Semantics, 176ff. His argument corroborates his earlier assertion that "the

subject of the verb he’emin is frequently or normally a man" (ibid., 164).

50 Eadie, Galatians, 244.

ZEMEK: HABAKKUK 2:4b                           53


credible argument for a balanced conception of hnAUmx<  may be noted

in Keil's presentation:


hnAUmx< does not denote "an honourable character, or fidelity to convic-

tion" (Hitzig), but. . . firmness (Ex. xvii. 12); then, as an attribute of

God, trustworthiness, unchangeable fidelity in the fulfillment of His

promises (Deut. xxxii 4; Ps. xxxiii. 4, lxxxix. 34); and, as a personal

attribute of man, fidelity in word and deed (Jer. vii. 28, ix. 2; Ps. xxxvii.

3); and, in his relation to God, firm attachment to God, an undisturbed

confidence in the divine promises of grace, firma fiducia and fides, so

that in ‘emunah the primary meanings of ne’eman and he’emin are

combined. This is also apparent from the fact that Abraham is called

ne’eman in Neh. ix. 8, with reference 10 the fact that it is affirmed of

him in Gen. xv. 6 that hOAhyBa Nymix<h,, "he trusted, or believed, the

Lord;" and still more indisputably from the passage before us, since it

is impossible to mistake the reference in hy,H;yi OtnAUmx<B, qyDica to Gen.

xv. 6, "he believed (he’emin) in Jehovah, and He reckoned it to him



It is obvious that a balanced conception of hnAUmx< in Hab 2:4b

will avoid the error of taking the words to mean that one is justified

by character. It will also avoid synergistic conceptions of the non-

biblical variety.52 At the same time, hnAUmx<  may be conceived of as a

"fruit of faith": "faithful faith" or "steadfast trust."53 Bryant, after

discussing the active and passive options for hnAUmx<  and leaning

towards an emphasis upon the former, concludes:

It must be carefully maintained that neither the Old nor the New

Testament separate faith from its fruits of faithfulness. The distinction

between faith and faithfulness is somewhat artificial, for. . . in the long


51 Keil, Minor Prophets, 2. 73. "And in addition to this, ‘emunah is opposed to the

pride of the Chaldaean, to his exaltation of himself above God; and for that very

reason it cannot denote integrity in itself, but simply some quality which has for its

leading feature humble submission to God, that is to say, faith, or firm reliance upon

God” (ibid., 74). For more discussion on the theocentric footing of an anthropological

manifestation of fidelity, see: C. von Orelli, The Old Testament Prophecy of the

Consummation of God's Kingdom, trans. by J. S. Banks (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,

1885) 325-27; Delitzsch, Hebrews, 2. 200; and J. B. Payne, The Theology of the Older

Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962) 314. For corroborations of a mediating

position in general, see: Ellis, Paul's Use of the Old Testament, 119-20; Johnson, "The

Gospel that Paul Preached," 340, n. 31; Lightfoot, Galatians, 154ff.

52 A good illustration would be the DSS pesher of Hab 2:4b. For discussion, see:

Bertram, "sunergo<j, sunerge<w," TDNT 7. 873.

53 Bryant, "The Meaning of Habakkuk 2:4," 32, 41, 62. Cf. von Orelli's "believing

fidelity (i.e., a trusting faithfulness based upon God's fidelity; C. von Orelli, The

Twelve Minor Prophets, trans. by J. S. Banks [reprinted; Minneapolis: Klock & Klock,

1977] 248).

54                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


run they are the same thing. The Bible knows nothing of a true faith

which does not hold fast its confidence to the end.54


Syntactical considerations

The preposition b attached to hnAUmx<  is obyiously instrumental.

Von Orelli suggests that the "b introduces the efficient medium of the

preservation of life, as in Ezek. xviii. 22."55 Also, the whole phrase

(i.e., OtnAUmx<B,) should be taken with hy,Hiyi, not with qyDicav;.56



The larger context

The book. An awareness of the destructive attempts to transpose

major sections of chaps. I and 2 of Habakkuk enables the interpreter

to identify eccentric contextual associations relating to Hab 2:4b.57

The traditional order of the text of the first two chapters constitutes

the larger context:


The text, as it now stands, permits a perfectly natural development of

the prophet's thought; in reality, the development becomes more vivid,

for instead of one problem that perplexes the prophet we have two, and

instead of one divine reply we have two. Surely there is nothing

impossible or improbable in this. . . . On the whole, the. . . interpreta-

tion, which requires no omissions or transpositions, seems to satisfy

most completely the facts in the case.58


54 Ibid., 49; cf. 44-49. Michel concurs: "To sum up, it may be said that he’emin and

emunah describe a living act of trust in the OT, and also the dimension of human

existence in a historical situation" (Michel, "pi<stij," 597). Cf. W. Eichrodt, Theology

of the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967), 2. 285. Herein it would be

profitable to compare the evidence from Gen 15:6/Rom 4:3 and Gen 22:1-19/Jas 2:14:-

24; etc.

55 Von Orelli, The Old Testament Prophecy of the Consummation of God's Kingdom,

325, n. 2.

56 Cf. Keil, Minor Prophets, 2. 73; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's

Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, and to the Philippians (Minneapolis: Augs-

burg, 1937) 143-44; and the forthcoming discussion of e]k pi<stewj; in Rom 1:17.

57 For discussions of the major critical conjectures, see: A. Jeffers, "A Commentary

on the Book of Habakkuk" (unpublished Master of Theology thesis, Grace Theologi-

cal Seminary, 1960) 14-17; C. L. Taylor, Jr., "Introduction and Exegesis of the Book of

Habakkuk," in The Interpreter's Bible, ed. by G. A Buttrick, et al. (New York:

Abingdon, 1956), 6. 975-77; G. A. Smith, The Book of the Twelve Prophets (London:

Hodder and Stoughton, 1906), 2. 115ff.; F. T. Kelly, "The Strophic Structure of

Habakkuk," AJSL 18 (1901-2) 94ff.; R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969) 932-37.

58 F. C. Eiselen, The Minor Prophets (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1907) 467-68.

Refutations of transpositions based upon elaborate chiastic fabrications are neither

ZEMEK: HABAKKUK 2:4b                           55


The "placarded revelation"59

In Hab 2:2-3, the prophet is given instructions which clearly

suggest the priority of this  NOzHA" (v 2). These verses "form the

introduction to the Word of God, which the prophet receives in reply

to his cry of lamentation addressed to the Lord in ch. i.12-17."60

Though Keil would include v 1 of chap 2 in this introduction, it is

better to regard Hab 2:1 as transitional. It is the climactic summons

of the prophet's second lament (i.e., 1:12-2:1).

Verse 2 is particularly significant: "Then the LORD answered me

and said, 'Write down [bOtK;] the vision and make it plain upon the

tablets [tOHl.uha-lfa] in order that one who reads it may run.'"

Interestingly, Holt paraphrases the last part of v 2: "'so he who reads

it may live obediently.'"61 He, of course, is taking CUr metaphorically

(cf. metaphorical j`lahA; cf. also CUr  in Ps 119:32, and the running

metaphors of the NT, e.g., I Cor 9:24-27, Phil 3:l3-14, etc.). This

view is at least worthy of some consideration in the light of the

ethically climactic context. tOHlu.ha generates most of the discussion

which ultimately pertains to Hab 2:4b. It has been suggested that the

article implies particular tablets which were displayed publicly;62

however, this is an unnecessary conjecture.63 "The article. . . may

only designate the tablets which were to be employed for the purpose.

It may merely indicate these as definite in the mind of the speaker."64

The plural termination has been employed to substantiate a

larger scope (cf. below) for this "placarded revelation."65 But, the


desirable nor credible. Cf. H. H. Walker and N. W. Lund, "The Literary Structure of

the Book of Habakkuk," JBL 53 (1934) 360. For outlines and discussions of the

traditional order, see: Eiselen, The Minor Prophets, 464-65; von Orelli, The Old

Testament Prophecy of God's Kingdom, 323-24; and Hendriksen's contextual para-

phrase: Hendriksen, Exposition of Galatians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968) 127-28.

59 I.e., Brownlee's appropriate terminology pertaining to this contextual challenge:

Brownlee, "The Placarded Revelation of Habakkuk," 319.

60 Keil, Minor Prophets, 2. 67-68.

61 J. M. Holt, "So He May Run Who Reads It," JBL 83 (1964) 301. For a

presentation of the traditional interpretations of the words involving facility in the

communication and/or dissemination of this vision, see: Henderson, The Twelve Minor

Prophets, 301.

62 E.g., T. Laetsch, Bible Commentary: The Minor Prophets (St. Louis: Concordia,

1956) 330; cf. Ewald's view as delineated in Henderson, The Twelve Minor Prophets,


63 Cf. P. Kleinert, "Habakkuk" in Minor Prophets, trans. by C. Elliott, in Commen-

tary on the Holy Scriptures, ed. by J. P. Lange (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, n.d.) 22.

64 Henderson, The Twelve Minor Prophets, 301.

65 Kleinert so argues: "The reason that several tablets are mentioned here, and not

one, as in Isaiah [8: 1], is found in the rich and various contents of the five-fold woe"

(Kleinert, "Habakkuk," 22).

56                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


plural could also be explained in the following manner: "The 'tablets'

or 'plaques' represent multiple copies, each of which is to be set up in

a prominent place."66 It is no wonder that Laetsch admits that "just

how long the inscription to be written by Habakkuk was is hard to

tell."67 Nevertheless, a survey of the pertinent syntactical data and the

major positions is required.

1. Its scope. Five separate viewpoints concerning the length of

the inscription can be distinguished; two view it as short, and three as

long. The two "short" views are summarized adequately by Brownlee:

Scholars who look for a brief text as the placarded revelation of

Habakkuk usually restrict it to 2:4, interpreting 2:5-6a as an introduc-

tion to a taunt song over the fall of Babylon. However, J .M.P. Smith in

An American Translation links vss. 4-5 together in a separate para-

graph, and the RSV has followed suit. The argument for including

these two verses is that the particles we’af ki at the beginning of vs. 5

are conjunctive.68


The –yKi Jxav; is syntactically important. This fact must be recog-

nized regardless of the problem involved. It is suggested that the

either/or option might be sensibly replaced by a both/and perspective

in reference to the development of the argument. It seems best to take

the binder as "and furthermore,"69 or "moreover, in addition."70

Emerton's suggestion will be accepted: "The words we’ap ki, with

which verse 5 begins, link it to verse 4 and suggest that it is part of

God's answer to the prophet . . . ."71 Consequently, v 4 can be

understood as the crucial lesson of God's disclosure which was to be

recorded (i.e., the unrighteous one's essence is perverted), and vv 5ff.


66 Brownlee, "The Placarded Revelation of Habakkuk," 321. On the parenthetical

data of v 3, see: W. H. Brownlee, "The Composition of Habakkuk," in Hommages a

Andre Dupont-Sommer (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1971) 264. For eschatological remarks

which should be reviewed guardedly, see: F. Delitzsch, Hebrews, 2. 198-99. For a

profitable discussion of the exegetical data of v 3, see: Henderson, The Twelve Minor

Prophets, 301-2.

67 Laetsch, Minor Prophets, 330. Cf. Brownlee, "The Placarded Revelation of

Habakkuk," 319.

68 Brownlee, "The Placarded Revelation of Habakkuk," 321 (Brownlee offers a

commendable survey of the data and issues: ibid., 119-25). Cf. Lehrman's option for vv

4-5: Lehrman, "Habakkuk," 219. Also, von Orelli (for v 4): von Orelli, The Old

Testament Prophecy of the Consummation of God's Kingdom, 323-24, 327.

69 BDB 65.

70 Laetsch, Minor Prophets, 332. Cf. his discussion: ibid., 331-32. For an expanded

treatment of the syntactical possibilities (including a potential correlation with the hn.ehi

of v 4), see: Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problem of Habakkuk 11.4-5," 1-2,

4-5. Cf. Brownlee, "The Composition of Habakkuk," 265, n. 2.

71 Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk

ZEMEK:  HABAKKUK 2:4b                          57


could be conceived of as the consequent lesson (i.e., the unrighteous

one's actions are perverted).

Only one of the three major suggestions for a longer scope is

worthy of development. The other two, the "vision" to be recorded

refers to the revelation of 1:5-11, and the NOzHA should be taken

literally as a reference to the theophany of chap. 3, are surveyed by

Brownlee. They are not viable options.72 The viable suggestion per-

tains to the rw,xE clause commencing at v 2:5b. This binder suggests

that the divine disclosure to be recorded is not to be restricted

exclusively to the contents of Hab 2:4-5a. Keil notes that "the

allusion to the Chaldaean is evident from the relative clause which

follows, and which Delitzsch very properly calls an individualizing

exegesis to dyhy rbg."73

Prior to a contextual summary, it must be noted that there is also

a piece of logical syntax which continues this interwoven disclosure;

the obvious antecedent of Ml.Aku hl.,xe (v 6) is Mym.ifahA-lKA, who are the

objects of the oppressor's tyranny.74 Based upon the above observa-

tions, it is most likely that the "placarded revelation" extends beyond

the disclosure of v 4. It is suggested, therefore, that v 4 be considered

the primary "general principle to be applied in a particular case as

here with the ungodly Chaldeans."75 (The revelation of Hab 2:5a

could be viewed as a secondary or supplemental maxim.)


The immediate context

"The immediate context of vs. 4b (i.e., vss. 4a and 5a)," Gowan

concedes, "is about as difficult as any part of the Old Testament to

understand."76 Three major problems are usually cited. First, it is

often assumed that there is a "lost subject"77 in Hab 2:4a. As an

example, Taylor argues that "a noun form is expected as a counter-

part to righteous, which occurs in the second half of the verse; 'the

wicked' would be normal and is found in the Aramaic paraphrase


72 See: Brownlee, "The Placarded Revelation of Habakkuk," 319-21.

73 Keil, Minor Prophets, 2. 75; cf. 2. 71. Cf.: Brownlee, "The Placarded Revelation

of Habakkuk," 321 (however, see: Brownlee, "The Composition of Habakkuk," 265).

On the discussion of rw,xE introducing an independent relative clause, see: GKC


74 Cf. Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 3.      

75 Bryant, "The Meaning of Habakkuk 2:4," 59-60. Cf. von Orelli's "mashal-like

principle" (The Old Testament Prophecy of the Consummation of God's Kingdom, 327)

and Brownlee's "aphorism" ("The Composition of Habakkuk," 265). For further

discussion on these general principles and their application to the nearest historical

reference point (i.e., Babylon), see: Kleinert, "Habakkuk," 22, 24.

76 Gowan, The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk, 44.

77 Brownlee, "The Composition of Habakkuk," 265.

58                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


(Targ.)."78 Second, it is also argued that a leading verb in the same

line is missing (i.e., one parallel to the hy,H;yi of 2:4b).79 Finally, it is

alleged that the reference to "wine" in Hab 2:5a is incongruous;

Gowan facetiously brings this out when he comments:

In the RSV, "but the righteous shall live by his faith," is followed by,

"Moreover, wine is treacherous," and somehow that doesn't seem the

place for a temperance lesson. This is a really frustrating passage for an

exegete, for it seems that now we have come to the pivotal point of the

book, and we're not sure what verse 5a means! 80


Habakkuk 2:4a. Southwell looks for the "'missing subject'" in

hn.ehi; he conjectures that it should be revocalized hne.ha from the root

h.Un, rendering it "the eminent man."81 However, it is best to under-

stand hn.ehi in its normal sense as an interjection: "behold!"82 It is

usually an "interrupting call for attention."83

hlAP;fu presents a seemingly impossible challenge of decipherment.

A broad perspective on the problems involved is gained by Keil's

general comment: "The early translators and commentators have

taken this hemistich differently. They divide it into protasis and

apodosis, and take hlAP;fu either as the predicate or as the subject."84

Emerton's synopsis of the factors contributing to the complication is


The difficulty is to determine the meaning of the obscure word

uppelah, and to find the right way of construing it with the other

words in this part of the verse. The word appears to be the third person

feminine singular perfect pu’al of ‘pl. B.D.B. distinguishes between two

different roots ‘pl. To root I belong the noun ‘apalim, "hemorrhoids,”

and also the place Ophel, to which B.D.B. ascribes the meaning

"mound, hill." The Arabic noun ‘afalun, "tumour," is compared, and

it is suggested that the meaning of the Hebrew verb is "swell." The


78 Taylor, "Introduction and Exegesis of the Book of Habakkuk," 988-89. How-

ever, some would argue that such a subject (viz., the Chaldean) is "inferred." Cf. Keil,

Minor Prophets, 2. 72.

79 For conjectures which are tailored to fit this assumption, see Emerton's survey:

Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 15-16.

80 Gowan, The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk, 44.

81 Southwell, "A Note on Habakkuk ii.4," 616-17. He deletes hrAw;yA-xlo on

metrical grounds. For an outline of his position with challenges of its weaknesses, see:

Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 13-14.

82 Cf. the Ugaritic hn II (UT 391) and the Akkadian annuma, "now" (KB 238).

83 KB 238-39; BOB 243-44. Cf. Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of

Habakkuk 11.4-5," 11. The possibility of a syntactical correlation with the yKi Jxav; of

v 5 has previously been mentioned as a possible option; however, more evidence is

desirable. Cf. Brownlee, "The Composition of Habakkuk," 265.

84 Keil, Minor Prophets, 2. 72.

ZEMEK:  HABAKKUK 2:4b                          59


only place where the verb occurs in the Hebrew Bible is Hab. ii. 4, and

B.D.B. expresses doubt about the correctness of the text. Root II

occurs in Num. xiv.44 . . . . B.D.B. thinks that the verb there perhaps

means "be heedless," and compares Arabic gafala, "be heedless,

neglectful, inadvertent," It may be noted that none of the ancient

versions of Hab. ii.4 supports either of the two meanings of the root

given by B.D.B. The LXX has [e]a>n] u[postei<lhtai ("If he should draw

back"), Aquila  nwxeleuome<nou ("the slothful"), the Vulgate "qui

incredulus est," the Peshitta wab'awwala the [sic] ("and in the wicked

man") or wab'awla ("and in iniquity"), and the Targum rassiayya

("the wicked”).85


To this needs to be added a significant observation by Brownlee:

"hlpvf at vii.14 confirms both text and vocalization of Mt 2:4


In spite of the significance of the last piece of evidence, there still

remain "theories that find in ‘uppelah a word for blameworthy

person" and "theories that find in ‘uppelah a word denoting the

downfall of the wicked."87 Most advocates of the former theory offer

their suggestions based upon the assumption that hlAP;fu is "strictly

antithetical to qyDoca."88 Supporters of the latter theory consider hlAP;fu

to be antithetical to hy,Hyi. Emerton adds a conjecture of his own. It


85 Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II,4-5," 11. A

suggested rendering of the LXX would be, "If he draw back, my soul is not well

pleased with him." And, for Aquila, "Behold, the lazy, my soul is not straight with

him" Cf. Taylor, "Introduction and Exegesis of the Book of Habakkuk," 988. On

u[poste<llw, see: LSJ 1895-96; TDNT, 7. 597-99. For more commentary on the Greek

see: B. F, Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

337-38; and Bruce, Hebrews, 272, n. 195. Cf. Drive’s undesirable conjecture

upon Aquila (cf.  lpf II in KB 723): G. R. Driver, "Linguistic and Textual

Minor Prophets III," JTS 39 (1938) 395. For undesirable conjectures based

upon the Syriac, see: Kelly, "The Strophic Structure of Habakkuk," 103, n. 15.

Henderson well notes that "the Syr. . . . wickedness, is founded upon a mistake of

hlAP;fu for hlAv;fa.” Henderson, The Twelve Minor Prophets, 303. Brownlee's synopsis of

the data is pertinent: "The versions seem to have read quite differently. G's rendering

u[postei<lhtai, Aq's nwxekeuome<nou, and the Palestinian recension's. . .[s] kotia all

seem to be based upon Jlf, which in the Pu'al means "be covered, obscure, swoon."

T is too paraphrastic to be of assistance here, nor can one be sure of the Vorlage of the

Latin; but in both is the thought of unbelief read into the verb, an interpretation which

could rest upon Jlf taken to refer to a giving-up in despair through insufficient

faith in the promises of God. . . .G. R. Driver. ..suggests that the Vorlage of Aq. and

V was lpfh, which after the Arabic . . . he interprets to mean 'the heedless man'"

(Brownlee, The Text of Habakkuk in the Ancient Commentary from Qumran, 43-44).

86 Brownlee, The Text of Habakkuk in the Ancient Commentary from Qumran, 43.

87 Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 14, 15.

88 Henderson, The Twelve Minor Prophets, 303. He suggests that hlAP;fu be con-

strued as "an abstract noun, used elliptically for hlAP;fu, a man of arrogance or

presumption, and so to be rendered adjectively, the proud, presumptuous, &c." (ibid.).

60                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


would fall into the latter category "denoting the downfall of the

wicked." Its advantage is that it does not change the consonantal text

but only divides hlpf into hlo JfA. He construes the following

portion of the line as a relative clause (as do others), and renders the

line: "Behold, he whose personality within him is not upright will fly

away (i.e., pass away, perish [i.e., antithetical to hy,H;yi in 2:4b])."89

Though there are advantages to his conjecture, its. "weakness is its


Lexically, an association with lpf I is preferable.90 In view of

the likely parallelism with hrAw;yA-xlo,91 a metaphorical extension of

hlAP;fu is the best interpretation:

His soul is puffed up. hlAP;fu, perf. pual of lpafA of which the hiphil only

occurs in Num. xiv.44, and that as synonymous with dyzihe in Deut. i.43.

From this, as well as from the noun lpefo, a hill or swelling we get the

meaning, to be swollen up, puffed up, proud; and in the hiphil, to act

haughtily or presumptuously.92

An apparently similar lexical survey undergirds von Orelli's conclu-

sion: "Such hollow self-exaltation has been from the time of Gen. iii.

a mark of a world estranged from God, and has its root in ethical


Syntactically, there still remains the problem of rendering this

verb in the light of the remainder of the line. Considering the force of

hn.ehi and the concord of gender, it seems best to render it indefinitely

as a maxim and appositionally with the climactic addition of the

assertion which follows it: "Behold, it [i.e. his internal self, cf.

OBowp;na] is swollen, his soul within him is not level; but a righteous

one should live by his faithfulness."

The rwAyA in hrAw;yA-xlo most likely possesses a metaphorically

extended sense (i.e., ethical).94 Brownlee suggests the rendering


One will observe... that the translation "humble" for yasherah is

according to the context. The root idea in this figurative word is


89 Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 16-17.

90 Cf. KB 723.

91 Cf. Henderson, The Twelve Minor Prophets, 302.

92 Keil, Minor Prophets, 2. 72.

93 Von Orelli, The Old Testament Prophecy of the Consummation of God's Kingdom,


94 Cf. Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 11;

Dodd, The Bible and the Greeks, 42ff. On the full writing in the Qumran text, see:

Brownlee, The Text of Habakkuk in the Ancient Commentary from Qumran, 44. For

general data with the important cognates, see: KB 413-14.

ZEMEK: HABAKKUK 2:4b                           61


"level," not "vertical"--although the well-nigh universal English trans-

lation "upright" would seem to suggest the latter. The verb is used for

the leveling of hills and valleys in Isa. 40:3. In Hab. 2:4, where levelness

is antithetical to "puffed up," it is clear that the word means humility.

The essence of sin according to all the Hebrew prophets is pride and

rebellion. . . .95


wp,n, (in OB Owp;na), of  course, has a wide range of usage.


In this context, the word nepes seems to denote something like 'per-

sonality,' and the clause in which it appears should probably be

translated 'his personality within him is not upright.' . .  . If so, it says

that the person to whom it refers has a bad character.96


Habakkuk2:5a. Lehrman notes that Hab 2:5a is "a very difficult

verse which has been variously explained by the older commentators

and given up as unintelligible by the moderns."97 The variants

represented by the versions here present the greatest challenge.98

Nyiy.aha is the leading challenge. An excerpt from the text found in

the Qumran commentary reads dvgby Nvh (i.e. "Wealth is [or will be]

treacherous"99). Emerton argues for this variant and bolsters his

contention with evidence which would support the fact that "a saying

about the treacherous nature of wealth would be in keeping with

what is said about it in wisdom literature. . . ."100 Certainly, this

reading is worthy of consideration.101

Nevertheless, the Hebrew text as it stands is not unintelligible.

Textually, it should be noted that "the paraphrastic renderings of T

and V suggest a Vorlage in appropriate agreement with MT."102 Nyiy.aha

also has proverbial connections (cf. Prov 20:1; Hos 4:11; Isa 5:11; Jer

23:9; Eccl 10:19).103 Historically, a maxim concerning "wine" would


95 Brownlee, "The Placarded Revelation of Habakkuk," 324-25. The objective

negation (xlo) of the text should be noted.

96 Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 11.

97 Lehrman, "Habakkuk," 219.

98 Cf. Brownlee's detailed outline of the textual data: Brownlee, The Text of

Habakkuk in the Ancient Commentary from Qumran, 45-50.

99 Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 8.

l00 Ibid., 8. Cf. his evidence, 8-9.

101 Emendations based upon the Greek renderings are totally unacceptable. For an

example, see: Brownlee, "The Placarded Revelation of Habakkuk," 324. For argu-

ments against conjectures based upon the Greek readings, see: Emerton, "The Textual

and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 1-2, 9.

102 Brownlee, The Text of Habakkuk in the Ancient Commentary from Qumran, 46.

dvgby Nvh (or dygby Nvh) at vii.3 is a radical departure from Mt 2:5  dgb Nyyh"

(ibid. 45).

103 Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 7.

62                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


be particularly appropriate as its truth could be related to and

illustrated by the Chaldeans (cf. Daniel 5).104

Keil's summary of the second portion of the line is helpful:


The following words ryhiyA rb,G, are not the object to dgeOB, but form a

fresh sentence, parallel to the preceding one: a boasting man, he

continueth not, xlov; introduces the apodosis to ryhy rbg, which is

written absolutely ryhiyA only occurs again in Prov. xxi. 24, and is used

there as a parallel to dze: a]lazw<n (LXX), swaggering, boasting.105


hv,n;yi is apparently a denominative hapax legomenon: "move, walk to a

place (nomads to pasture)."106 From this, it is possible (based upon an

Arabic parallel) that the intent of  hv,n;yi would be "reach one's aim."107

A suggested rendering for Hab 2:5a would be: "Wine is treacherous,

a proud man, and he will not be successful." An advantage of this

rendering is that it is somewhat analogous to the divergent metrical

pattern already recognized and accepted in 2:4a. This rendering is one

rejected by Emerton (on the basis of its personification) after com-

parison to two other renderings:

(b) Wine deals treacherously with the proud man, and he will not be

successful. (c) Wine is treacherous, and the proud man will not be

successful. Translation (b), which understands the verb bgd to take a

direct object as in Ps. lxxiii. 15, should probably be rejected, because

the natural division into lines of poetry is against it. In translation (c),

the first two words of the second line are understood to be in casus



Logical parallels. In the light of the multiplicity of challenges

relating to Hab 2:4a and 2:5a, it might seem that the immediate

context is basically unintelligible. However, it should be obvious

already that the basic argument of the passage is not obscured.

Logical parallels compensate for particular points of uncertainty.

Gowan's reconstructions, although they do not harmonize totally

with previously chosen options, do lead to a proper understanding of

the crucial issue:


104 Cf. Lehrman, "Habakkuk," 219; Henderson, The Twelve Minor Prophets, 304.

See, also: Laetsch, Minor Prophets, 332-33.

105 Keil, Minor Prophets, 2. 75. Concerning  ryhiyA, see: Emerton, "The Textual and

Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II. 4-5," 5.

106 KB 601. Cf. BDB 627.

107 KB 601 (note their uncertainty). On both the significance of the Arabic parallel

and challenges concerning the pointing of the verb as a Qal, see: Driver, "Linguistic

and Textual Problems: Minor Prophets III," 395; and Emerton, "The Textual and

Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 5.

108 Emerton, "The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5," 6.

ZEMEK: HABAKKUK 2:4b                                       63


If we find that we cannot have any real confidence (at present) in

any of these suggestions, then clearly the crucial question for us is

whether there is still a possibility of understanding vs. 4b in terms of its

larger context, and I believe that there is. A contrast certainly is being

presented between two ways: the way of vs. 4b and that of vs. 4a and

possibly also 5a. So "life" in4b is contrasted with the distortion of the

person in 4a, and possibly also with the lack of endurance in 5a.

"Righteousness" in 4b is contrasted with that negative quality of which

we are uncertain in 4a and perhaps also with treachery and arrogance

in 5a. What makes the difference between the two ways is faithfulness,

and so we must try to see how that speaks to all that has gone before in





Three times in the NT Hab 2:4b is employed in crucial lines of

argumentation. There are contextual affinities between Paul's lines of

argument in Rom 1:17 and Gal 3:11; however, these contexts are

essentially different from the contextual thrust of Hab 2:4b.110 The

employment of Habakkuk's text in Heb 10:38 (cf. vv 37-38), however,

does reflect a degree of affinity in reference to OT and NT contexts.

Ellis' generalizations concerning these phenomena are helpful as a

footing upon which to build an investigation:


Hab. 2.4 is cited by Paul (Rom. 1.17; Gal. 3.11) to show that

righteousness is not achieved through obedience to the law but through

faith; the author of Hebrews uses the same passage to describe the

proper attitude of the Christian toward the trials of life. In each case

the life of the true believer rests on faith, but the application of the

passage varies.111


It is difficult to discern how many and how valid are Ellis' presup-

positions in reference to the last sentence in this quote. It is appro-

priate to reiterate a major reason for the multiplicity of hermeneutical

challenges relating to Hab 2:4b and its employment in the NT. Many

interpreters have approached the problem in reverse by noting Paul's


109 Gowan, The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk, 45.

110 Attempts to harmonize plenarily the OT and NT contexts, aside from some

peripheral benefits, have not convincingly proved their case. Cf. M. H. Franzmann,

Concordia Commentary: Romans (St. Louis and London: Concordia, 1968) 34-38.

Regarding the employment of Hab 2:4 in the NT, see Bryant, "The Meaning of

Habakkuk 2:4," 36-42. For general principles pertaining to NT quotations from the

LXX (including divergencies), see: E. J. Young, Thy Word Is Truth (Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1957) 149-50.

111 Ellis, Paul's Use of the Old Testament, 93. Carefully compare his related

argument: ibid., 117-21.

64                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


citations in their context first; then, standing upon this presupposi-

tional base, they work back to the original passage in order to

interpret it. There is a need for an ultimate perspective which is

systematic in scope; however, the aforementioned procedure must not

be the means to that end.

Prior to a cursory examination of the NT passages, the major

problem concerning the usage of pi<stij needs to be remembered: "It

is to be observed that the Greek word pi<stij; is ambiguous. It means

both 'faithfulness,' and 'belief' or 'trust.'”112


In Paul

In spite of the fact that Paul's usages contextually suggest a

different thrust of argument (or at least a different emphasis) from

the original context, some would still insist that he is employing

pi<stij in a manner similar to the original hnAUmx<. These arguments

follow various paths, but one of the most common suggestions is that

all the contexts are emphasizing the faithfulness of God.113

Romans 1:17. Most of the phenomena of the Greek rendering

(e.g. Rom 1:17b) have been previously discussed in conjunction with

the Septuagint's renderings of the Hebrew text of Hab 2:4b (cf.

above),114 but a consideration of related factors in the immediate

context of Rom 1:17b is necessary.115

It was noted that the dikaiosu<nh qeou? in Rom 1:17a has been

construed in various ways.116 The major problem here is ". . . whether

dikaiosu<nh refers to an activity of God or to a status of man


112 Dodd, The Bible and the Greeks, 69. Cf. W. Sanday and A. C. Headlam, A

Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (ICC; New York:

Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915) 31-34. See also the previous discussion on hnAUmX<. Cf.:

"When hnAUmx< as pi<stij is given a more general sense in R. 1:17; Gl. 3:11 . . . this is not

wrong but it is certainly a development of the original meaning" (Quell and Schrenk,

TDNT 2. 177, n. 12).

113 E.g., T. F. Torrance, "One Aspect of the Biblical Conception of Faith," ExpTim

68 (1957) 111-14. Cf.R. N. Longenecker, Paul Apostle of Liberty (New York, Evanston,

and London: Harper & Row, 1964) 149ff.

114 0n e]k pi<stewj, cf. H. A. Kent, Jr., The Freedom of God's Sons: Studies in

Galatians (Winona Lake: BMH, 1976) 88; on the importance of the object of faith, see:

Lenski, Romans, 83; on the mou of the LXX, review: Johnson, "The Gospel That Paul

Preached," 339-40, n. 31; on the construing of  e]k pi<stewj; with zh<setai, review:

Lenski, Romans, 87; Wallis, --The Translation of Romans 1:17 -A Basic Motif in

Paulinism," 17-22; J. Denney, "St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans," in The Expositor's

Greek Testament (reprinted; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 2. 591; cf. Eadie,

Galatians, 245-46; and for a summary, see: Lightfoot, Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul,


115 Cf. Johnson, "The Gospel That Paul Preached," 329ff.

116 Cf. n. 5. On di<kaioj, also review: Sanday and Headlam, Romans, 30-31; and n.

17, above.

ZEMEK: HABAKKUK 2:4b                           65


resulting from God's action, righteousness as a gift from God."117 To

this must be added the related matter of the nature of the genitive

qeou?.118 Without denying the essential truths pertaining to the former

position, Paul's total argument would seem to confirm the intent of

the latter--the word refers to man's status.


Another point of contention in this debate is the compound

prepositional phrase e]k pi<stewj ei]j pi<stin. Harris' survey merely

scratches the surface:


A myriad of proposals have been made in regard to the meaning of the

phrase ek pisteos eis pistin, such as: from the faith of the preacher to

the faith of the hearer; from God's faithfulness to man's faith; from

smaller to greater degree of faith (cf. apo doxes eis doxan, 2 Cor. 3:18);

from faith as a starting-point to faith as a permanent condition. But

it seems more natural to construe ek as indicating not the source or

starting-point ("from faith") but the basis or means ("by faith;" as in

Hab. 2:4), with the eis pistin either intensifying the effect of ek pisteos

(thus, "by faith from first to last," New International Version), or

denoting the goal of God's impartation to men of a righteous status

("leading to faith"). On either of these latter views, faith is portrayed

as the vital and perpetual characteristic of Christian experience.119


Harris’ last suggestion, in the light of a broad theological scope, is

worthy of particular consideration; it might be roughly construed as

folows:  the first pi<stij emphasizes an active nuance, and the second

pi<stij , being goal oriented (i.e., ei]j), emphasizes a passive nuance.

The second view (i.e., “from God’s faithfulness to man’s faith”) has

been employed in an attempt to bolster the contention that God’s

fidelity is the major argument that permeates both the contexts of

Rom 1:17b and of Hab 2:4b.  Murray recognizes the important

contribution of such arguments, but he exposes their essential flaw:


It is fully admitted that wherever there is faith there is always the

faithfulness of God and of Christ to which that faith is directed and

from which it takes its origin. In other words, faith always involves this

polarized situation. . . . It is one thing to say that our faith always

involves a polarized situation; it is another thing altogether to say that

faith is a polarized expression.12O


                117 Cranfield, Romans, 1. 96

            118 Cf. ibid., 96-98; Lightfoot, Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul, 250; Johnson,

“The Gospel That Paul Preached,  333-35. 

            119 M. J. Harris, “Appendix:  Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testa-

ment,” NIDNTT 3. 1189. Cf.: “Appendix B: From Faith to Faith”: J. Murray, The

Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 1. 363-74; Johnson, “The

Gospel That Paul Preached,  336-37; Cranfield, Romans, 1. 99-100.

            120 Murray, Romans, 1. 373.

66                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


In the light of all the data undergirding these synopses, Meyer's

general conclusion concerning Rom 1:17 is accepted: "Finally, . . . to

understand  pi<stij ei]j pi<stin in the sense of faith in the faithfulness of

God. . . , is to introduce what is neither in the words nor yet sug-

gested by the context."121

Galatians 3:11. A similar tension arises when the context of Gal

3:11b is compared with that of Hab 2:4b.122 Ramsay's contextual

survey pays particular attention not only to the utilization of Hab

2:4b in Gal 3:11 but also to Gen 15:6 in Gal 3:6:


The phrase e]k pi<stewj is used only once in the Septuagint,

Habakkuk II 4 --"The just shall live by his faith." Paul took this

saying, connected it with Genesis XV 6--"Abraham believed in the

Lord, and he counted to him for righteousness"--and found in the

two the proof of his doctrine of the righteousness that is of faith --

dikaiosu<nh th>n e]k pi<stewj.123


This interpretation of the data is certainly more credible than that

proposed by Longenecker: "The context of Gal. 3:11 indicates that

Paul interpreted Hab. 2:4 [italics added] as human trust and reliance,

not as human faithfulness or even the divine faithfulness of the LXX

rendering ek pisteos mou.”124 A more careful approach would be

"that Paul has used the Habakkuk passage analogically. The principle

of justification by faith in the promises of God and not in human

endeavor, initially set forth so clearly in the story of Abraham, is found

also in Habakkuk" [italics added].125 Burton's careful summary of the

tension demonstrates a greater degree of hermeneutical insight, as

seen in the following excerpts:

The particular sense which the words bore for Paul and which he

intended them to convey to his readers is undoubtedly to be deter-

mined rather by Pauline usage in general, and by the part which the

sentence plays in the apostle's argument, than by the meaning which

the original Heb. had for the prophet. By these considerations. . .

pi<stewj bears its usual active sense, required by the context, "faith."

. . . The use of the passage with the active sense of pi<stij involves no


121 H. A. W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Hand-Book to the Epistle to the Romans

(New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1889) 52-53.

122 Cf. R. A. Cole, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians (TNTC; Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1965) 96-98; Lightfoot, Galatians, 138-39; and P. R. Jones, "Exegesis of

Galatians 3 and 4," RevExp 69 (1972) 477-78; Hendriksen, Galatians, 128.

123 W. M. Ramsay, A Historical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians

(reprinted; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1965) 344.

124 Longenecker, Paul: Apostle of Liberty, 123, n. 62.

125 Johnson, "The Gospel That Paul Preached," 338-39.

ZEMEK: HABAKKUK 2:4b                           67


radical perversion of its meaning, since faith in this sense might easily

be conceived to be an ingredient or basis of faithfulness.126


In Hebrews127

A contextual affinity between Heb 10:38 and our passage is

demonstrable. Dods' extremely brief summary brings out the most

significant data concerning Heb 10:37-38:


In Habakkuk the conditions are similar. God's people are crushed

under overwhelming odds. And the question with which Habakkuk

opens his prophecy is e!wj ti<noj kekra<comai kai> ou] mh>  ei]sakou<seij

The Lord assures him that deliverance will come and will not delay. By

inserting the article, the writer of Hebrews identifies the deliverer as the

Messiah, "the coming One." Cf. Mat. xi.3; Luke vii.19; Jo. vi.14. o[ de>

di<kaioj. . . . "And the just shall live by faith," i.e. shall survive these

troublous times by believing that the Lord is at hand!128


The de< introducing Heb 10:38 functions disjunctively:


The position of the last two clauses of the citation is reversed to avoid

connecting u[postei<lhtai with o[ e]rxo<menoj . . . If the author of Heb-

rews had retained the original sequence, this clause would have referred

to Christ himself, since the author had already made "the coming one"

definitely refer to Christ. In the new position this clause is connected

with di<kaio<j mou, which is now the subject of the last part of the

quotation. The inversion places of; at the beginning of the verse, which

now indicates the change of subject, the new subject now being the

Christian (cf. x. 39).129


Robertson notes that Heb 10:38b (cf. Hab 2:4a, LXX) is a "condition

of third class with ean and the first aorist middle subjunctive of


126 E. D. Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the

Galatians (ICC; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1920) 166-67.

127 0n OT quotes in Hebrews, see: G. Howard, "Hebrews and the Old Testament

Quotations," NovT 10 (1968) 208ff. Howard challenges Westcott's universal recogni-

tion of the LXX in Hebrews; however, when he comes to Heb 10:37-38, he labels it

"LXX Influence" (ibid., 210).

128 M. Dods, "The Epistle to the Hebrews," in The Expositor's Greek Testament

(reprinted; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 4. 351. Concerning the transposition of

lines in Heb 10:38 from Hab 2:4 (LXX), see: ibid.; Westcott, Hebrews, 337. Cf.

Delitzsch, Hebrews, 2. 199,201; T. W. Lewis, "'. . . And If He Shrinks Back' (Heb. X.

38b)," NTS 22 (1976) 90 (cf. n. 3); "Additional Note on X. 37f. On the quotation from

Hab. ii. 3f.": Westcott, Hebrews, 347-48. On the alleged reference to Isa 26:20 in v 37,

see: H. A. Kent, Jr., The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972) 213,

contra R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to: the Hebrews and the Epistle

of James (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966) 369. On the eschatological impact of v 37, see:

K. J. Thomas, "The Old Testament Citations in Hebrews," NTS 11 (1965) 316.

129 Thomas, "The Old Testament Citations in Hebrews," 316.

68                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


hupostello, old verb to draw oneself under or back, to withdraw, as

already in Acts 20:20,27; Gal. 2:12."130 Consequently, and also in the

light of the larger context of Hebrews 11, Hoyt interprets the major

thrust of the message of Heb 10:38-39 (cf. Hab 2:4) as follows:


Those who are truly Christian will continue in persistence to the

very end (38, 39). The just shall live by faith daily. Those who draw

back have never come within divine pleasure.131


                                    THEOLOGICAL CONCLUSIONS

Biblical theology

Reflecting on the important precedent set by usage, it must be

stated that the "Heb. ‘emunah, translated 'faith' in Habakkuk ii.4

(LXX pistis) means 'steadfastness' or 'fidelity.'”132 Therefore, the

emphasis in Habakkuk is on sanctification.133

It should be observed, however, that an "emphasis" does not

abrogate secondary factors reflected in the immediate and larger

contexts. The two spheres of development pertaining to the verbals

from the Nmx-complex must at least be recognized in reference to the

hnAUmx< of Hab 2:4b. More importantly, the background and judicial

implications of qyDica must be noted. This is corroborated by the

association of the roots Nmx and qdc in this single short line.

These factors enlarge the scope of study, because they imply a

background which ultimately finds its antecedent in Abraham. Con-

textual associations with the foundational truth of Gen 15:6 are not

only likely in Hab 2:4 but also in the larger contexts of the Pauline

citations (cf. Rom 4:3, 9, 22; Gal 3:6). Abraham was justified by faith

(compare Gen 15:6 with Romans 4), but biblical faith manifests itself

in fidelity. Within this sphere, it is legitimate to render Hab 2:4b as

follows: "'Through his fidelity of faith he shall live!'”134 Ethical

implications are preserved but not at the expense of an intricate

biblical balance. This is important, because "faith and faithfulness . . .

cannot be separated. . . . Both are present in his [i.e., Habakkuk's]

book, even though his emphasis is on faithfulness."135


130 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman,


131 H. Hoyt, Christ-God's Final Word to Man: An Exposition of the Epistle to the

Hebrews (Winona Lake: BMH, n.d.) 52.

132 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (TNTC; Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1963) 80.

133 Wallis "The Translation of Romans 1:17--A Basic Motif in Paulinism," 21.

134 Von Orelli, The Old Testament Prophecy of the Consummation of Gods

Kingdom, 324.

135 Gowan, The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk, 43, 44. Cf. Gowan's whole discus-

sion, 43ff.

ZEMEK: HABAKKUK 2:4b                           69


Systematic theology

Paul's use of Hab 2:4b in Rom 1:17 and Gal 3:11 appears to be

at first glance a radical departure from the thrust of the context of the

OT passage. "But that does not mean that Paul was wrong in taking

Hab 2:4 as the great theme verse for his teaching about justification

by faith."136 It must be remembered that:


Paul does not teach justification by faith in a vacuum. Faith does

make one righteous both forensically and, increasingly, in actuality,

because faith issues in the e]n Xrist&? relationship.137


Once again, a full circle has been drawn. From this perspective, it is

best to conclude with Westcott that "'faith' (in the Pauline sense) and

faithfulness to God' (which is what the Prophet had in mind), in the

long run, are the same thing."138



136 Ibid., 43.

137 Ellis, Paul's Use of the Old Testament, 119.

138 F. B. Westcott, St. Paul and Justification (London: Macmillan, 1913) 52.





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