Wednesday, July 13, 2005
The Romans Road
Thought perhaps I might share some nuggets from what I'm learning in my Romans class this week...

  • I'm no good with lectures. The longer, the worse. I'm a shameless product of Generation X, so give me my visual bells and whistles every 30 seconds. Otherwise my mind is off wondering how it is I left my cup of coffee up in my room and it will be cold by the time break comes and I wish that person sitting next to me would quit shifting in his seat every 2 minutes and maybe I won't apply for that UPS job right away and maybe I'll check my email for the fifteenth time today.

  • Shall we start with some semantics. Romans is not a book. It is a letter. And we can go one step further and say that Paul brilliantly utilizes the strategy of deliberative rhetoric. This is a speech, and Romans was meant to be read aloud in the public gathering. Paul is a master of rhetoric. Romans is unique among Paul's letters in the New Testament. It's the only letter written to a faith community that Paul did not start. Paul, at this point, has not been to Rome. So how do you talk to people you know and know you by reputation only?

  • In Greco-Roman culture, how you died was the great revelation of your character. Thus, the idea of a crucified messiah (much less submitting one's life to one) is not only ridiculous, but downright offensive.

  • The biggest issue that Paul is addressing to the Romans is race relations. Roman imperialsim and anti-Semitism reign in the capital city. In AD 49, Emperor Claudius had gotten so fed up with the feuding factions between the Jewish and Gentile Christians, he kicked them all out of the city. Paul writes them a couple of years later after the death of Claudius and the Christians have returned, much to the social disadvantage of the Jewish Christians. Supercession theology--that God has forsaken the Jews and replaced them with the Gentiles as his favored children--permeates the church. Sounds not unlike some current Protestant theology. When Paul says, "Salvation is for the Jew first," this is a big deal, and chapters 9-11 are central to Paul's argument.

  • The existence of house churches with no central authority structure, reinforced a tendency to fragmentation and dissension. In the same chapter which mentions different house churches, we find an exhortation against divisions and dissensions (16:17-19). Paul is not a fan of having no central authority in the church. The Roman churches had no megachurch mentality. They were practical. However many people could fit in the house, that's how many could come to the meeting.

  • Dr. Ben has been interjecting his lectures with scenes from the 1981 TV miniseries "Peter and Paul." While the production values leave much to be desired, I'm fascinated with seeing the stories of the infant church dramatized. It has a notable cast with Sir Anthony Hopkins as Paul ("I once knew a Pharisee, I ate a pig in front of him with some milk and a nice hassidic red wine - ss ss ss ssttttt" Alan quips to me via IM), and Gimli the dwarf as Silas. One scene in particular stands out to me--the first Jerusalem Council. At stake here is whether the Gentiles must first become Jews, that is, be circumcised and submit to the Mosaic Law, before they can be Christians. We can thank Paul's bull-headedness at this assembly that we don't have to memorize the book of Leviticus word for word today. Paul addresses the church leaders, "You want to keep this for yourselves. Jesus told us to give it away freely."

  • That's plenty to muse on for one day. Perhaps some more nuggets tomorrow.

    posted by Peter at 11:12 PM
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