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Blog // Thoughts
June 14, 2007

Romans: Paul And Culture

The Amazon fairies delivered a sweet prize this morning – a new copy of Robert Jewett’s monumental commentary on Romans (part of the Hermeneia series). Be warned, 1140 pages and in Hermenia’s oversize format, this book is heavy enough to be potentially harmful to small children and household pets. So, why invest in such weighty […]

The Amazon fairies delivered a sweet prize this morning – a new copy of Robert Jewett’s monumental commentary on Romans (part of the Hermeneia series). Be warned, 1140 pages and in Hermenia’s oversize format, this book is heavy enough to be potentially harmful to small children and household pets.

So, why invest in such weighty texts? A few months back I started an extended personal writing project on, well, on stuff related to Romans (and that’s all I’m saying for now). You can see some of the books I’m reading and re-reading here. I’m not setting any tight plan or output goals for this (trying to break the habit of making a rod for my own back). I’ll just be reading and writing a couple of days a week till the end of the year, maybe blogging once some ideas take shape (or not). My hope is this will put me in a better position to tackle an old, stalled larger project (we’ll see if that happens or not).

For now, I’ll leave it at this quote, from the introduction of Jewett’s commentary on Romans,

“That Romans was a missionary document aimed at overcoming the premises of imperial honor was first suggested by a missionary to Africa in 1863… … he [Bishop John William Colenso] did not not employ the categories of honor and shame as shaped by modern social theory, and despite his outdated grasp of the historical situation of the Roman audience, he was the first to suggest that Paul aimed to overcome prejudice against allegedly inferior peoples. By placing the argument of Romans in opposition to imperial claims of European colonists in South Africa, he showed that Paul defended the status of ancient inferiors comparable to the “Zulus and Kafirs” of nineteenth-century Africa and thus that the righteousness of God was impartial.

Although unaware of Colenso’ work until late in my twenty-six years’ work on this commentary, I have followed in his footsteps by understanding Romans as intended to elicit support for a mission to the “barbarians” in Spain, which would only be credible if the churches in Rome ceased their imperialistic competition with one another under the remise that the gospel of impartial grace shatters all claims of superior status or theology…

Although I remain faithful to the Hermeneia format by leaving the contemporary application up to my readers, I hope that the extraordinary relevance of Romans to the situation of cultural, religious and imperial conflicts is easily discernible.”

[tags] Romans, Robert Jewett [/tags]

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