Tuesday, November 23

Pauline Epistles: Romans 1 (chapter 1, essay 2

Well, last night I started blogging (slogging, "close reading") my way through St Paul's Epistles. Lacking a better way to do it, I'm going in the order given by the canon, hence Romans. And given what little I've learned about trying to read text carefully, I'm going extra slow at the start. Hopefully, things will pick up as we go.
I had been working my way through the first few verses. I wanted to try to figure out what to think about vs 14-15 and 16-18. Then I'll recap and gird my loins (so to speak) as the introduction is about to abruptly end at this point when we get on with the rest of the chapter.

I am a debtor to both the Greeks and the non-Greek (barbarois); both to the wise and the foolish. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

Now if Paul had just said the first, I would have just gone on blithely, as I would have understood it to refer to his education having Greek and Hebrew roots (perhaps). But pairing it in parallel with wise and foolish, makes me pause. Are the Greeks wise and non-Greek foolish? Was this a saying back then, sort of common wisdom, "learning from the wise and foolish?" One can indeed learn from the foolish as from the wise, in that fools can often provide excellent bad examples. I will leave off with one thought as to what is going on here. Mr Wright indicates in these passages, Paul often makes a subtle challenge or dig at pagan Rome. Perhaps the parallel structure is chiastic in structure, i.e., Greek (and by association Roman) is paired with the foolish (outer pair) and Hebrew (non-Greek) is paired with the Wise. This might be confirmed by the next verse, which indicates that is why he is eager to come to visit and teach in Roma.

The next verses continue:
  • For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ
  • it is the power of God for the salvation of every one that believes
  • to the Jew
  • to the Greek
  • Thus is the righteousness of God revealed ...
  • thus it is written
  • The just shall live by faith

For me, breaking that into stutter steps helped. The final two verses for tonight, almost make sense on a second reading. What I don't understand is the "not ashamed". Why shame, which possibly hearkens back to Genesis 2? But these verses (from what I saw from my skimming the text to come) will be echoed many times as we compare the role and message for the Gentile and the Jew.

Ok. So we've gotten 17 verses in. Let's recap. We are starting a long letter to the Romans, non-Hebrew (some Greek) citizens of Rome who are Christian. Paul is writing to them and is going to instruct them in the faith of Christ crucified and he is here telling us what he is writing about. I think those first 4 verses will come back to us a lot, as I had remarked on reading them the first time they summarize a lot of our faith in a few short phrases.