Romans Dialogue – 04 – Framing Romans (Rom 3-5)

Paul the apostleWelcome again to this series of posts on the dialogue in Romans. It gives a basic outline of the sequence from the initial creation of Romans, its transportation to the Roman Church, and the probable method it would have been received by the Roman Church.

Here is a link to the first post which has the contents of all.

Today we continue framing Romans and will look at Romans 3.27 onwards.

The aims of this series are;

  1. To apply speech act theory by considering the oral recital of Romans 1-4 to the original audience.
  2. To show an unassisted forward reading of the Romans 1-4 is potentially contradictory and confusing, and assuming Paul and Tertius were competent and intelligent enough to recognise this,
  3. To suggest instructions Paul gave the letter bearer to avoid confusing the audience, and then
  4. To frame the text of Romans in such a way as to make a forward reading of Romans 1-4 comprehensible to the original audience with these instructions built in.

As before I will continue using a certain method to achieve these aims. As we move through chapters 1-4 I will be attempting to answer the following questions;

  • Who is speaking? (Normally this is the author)
  • Who is being spoken to? (Normally this is the audience)
  • Who or What is being spoken about?

Rom 3.27-31

Who is speaking? There is another question asked like Rom 3.1 voicing Jewish concerns. IJ is probably asking the question. Paul briefly answers. Paul and IJ are interacting again through this section.

Rom 3.29 poses two questions which seem to promote Paul’s argument rather than resist it. Rather than assume all questions come from IJ’s viewpoint. It is more likely in some situations Paul is asking IJ rhetorical questions to promote his argument. This is one example. So both these questions and their answer come from Paul’s voice.

Who is being spoken to? Paul and IJ are interacting again.

Who is being spoken about? Jews (Rom 3.27,29-31) and Gentiles (Rom 3.29-30)

The dialogue looks like this;

109 A Rom 3.27-31

So the answers to our three questions are;

Passage Rom 3.27-31
Who is speaking? IJ and Paul
Who is being spoken to? Paul and IJ
Who is being spoken about? Jews and Gentiles

Rom 4.1-8

109 A Rom 4.1-8

Who is speaking? Rom 3.31 left off with Paul answering IJ. The text asks;

[4:1] What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? [2] For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (Rom 4:1-2)

and an answer follows;

but not before God. [3] For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Rom 4:2-3)

‘Our forefather’? The text makes a basic assumption that the person speaking and the person being spoken to have Abraham as their forefather. Again it seems to assume something was gained by Abraham ‘according to the flesh’. Rom 4.1-2a seems to be voiced from IJ’s viewpoint because again it presents resistance to Paul’s prior arguments. From Rom 4.1 IJ is speaking, then Paul gives an extended answer onwards from Rom 4.2b.

Who is being spoken to? From above. Paul and then IJ.

Who is being spoken about? Abraham, David, Jews and the ‘ungodly’.

Passage Rom 4.1-8
Who is speaking? IJ and Paul
Who is being spoken to? Paul and IJ
Who is being spoken about? Abraham, David, Jews and Gentiles

Rom 4.9-22

109 A Rom 4.9-22

Who is speaking? Rom 4.9-10 has another set of questions and answers.

Q;

[9] Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised?

A;

For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.

Q;

[10] How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised?

A;

It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

These questions promote Paul’s argument rather than deny it. For this reason I don’t think it likely IJ has voiced them. Rather Paul has voiced these as rhetorical questions at IJ to further his argument with IJ. Paul continues to speak in Rom 4.9-16.

Who is being spoken to? From above I judge IJ.

Who is being spoken about? Paul is speaking about the circumcised / adherents of the law (Jews), uncircumcised (Gentiles) and Abraham before he was circumcised.

Passage Rom 4.9-10
Who is speaking? IPaul
Who is being spoken to? IJ
Who is being spoken about? The circumcised, the uncircumcised and Abraham.

Rom 4.23-5.11

4.23-25 seems a good stopping point. Lets consider the transition into chapter 5 and start with out set of assumptions from just before and ask the three questions.

Passage Rom 4.16-22 Rom 4.23-25 Rom 5.1-11
Who is speaking? Paul (assumed from Rom 4.2) Paul (assumed from Rom 4.2) Paul (assumed from Rom 4.2)
Who is being spoken to? IJ (assumed from Rom 4.2) IJ (assumed from Rom 4.2) IJ (assumed from Rom 4.2)
Who is being spoken about? Abraham Jews and Gentiles believers

Rom 4.23-25; Who is speaking? Paul. Assumed from Rom 4.2.

Rom 4.23-25; Who is being spoken to? Paul says in Rom 4.23-24;

[23] But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, [24] but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,

I contend when Paul mentions the pronouns ‘ours’ and ‘us’ who believe in him. He has switched audience. Because they a share mutual belief ‘in the God who raises the dead’. Paul has switched who he is speaking to and resumed speaking to the Roman believers.

Rom 4.23-25; Who is being spoken about? Paul and the Roman believers.

109 A Rom 4.23-25

Rom 5.1-11; Who is speaking? Paul. Assumed from Rom 4.2.

Rom 5.1-11; Who is being spoken to? I’ve carried forward the assumption Paul continues to speak to the Roman believers. In 5.1 Paul speaks to his audience using another personal pronoun saying ‘therefore since we have been justified by faith’. Sometimes pronouns can be ambiguous. ‘We’ could mean Paul and other believers, but not who he is speaking to, or it could mean Paul and who he is speaking to, now assuming they are all believers.

I assume the later. The text doesn’t give a strong indication IJ has converted to the Christian faith. So far 1.16-4.25 addresses issues about Jew-Gentiles throughout (1.16; 1.18-32; 2.9-10,14-16,17-29; 3.1-9,27-31; 4.1-2,9-12,16) and this changes from chapter 5 onwards. From 5.1 onwards and through chapters 5-8, the text stops referring to ‘Jew only’ and ‘Gentile also’ issues which are a prominent theme of Romans 1-4.

109 A Rom 5.1-12

The verses of 5.1,5,6,8,10 suggest from 5.1 onwards that Paul is speaking to believers. Since IJ has been identified as a unbelieving Jew (Rom 2.17; a Jew, Rom 3.7; a sinner under judgement), Paul has most likely shifted from his dialogue with unbelieving IJ (1.16-4.22) and has resumed speaking to the believers in Rome (5.1f). Again without giving explicit notice.

Stopping at 4.25 is Douglas Campbell’s position and part of his argument is that there is a shift in soteriologies between 1.16-4.25 and 5.1-8.39. I’ve drawn a couple pictures below to explain. Recall my section on the Christian framework describing how the apostles relate to their church audiences.

109 Romans Eschatology IJ

The diagram above represents the way Paul is interacting with IJ in his letter.

Because of the statements Paul makes towards IJ and IJ’s statements about himself, I have located IJ at the C1 Sinner location in the framework from Paul’s point of view. Paul’s arguments about IJ come from this viewpoint because IJ is not a Christian, does not believe the gospel and has not been saved. The assumptions and statements Paul makes to IJ reflect a forward looking perspective to various events I have described in my framework. Consider the following;

[3] Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? [4] Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? [5] But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Rom 2:3-5)

In Rom 2.1-5, Paul condemns IJ as a unrepentant hypocritical judge and storing up future wrath of God. He is looking forward from C1 to C4 and C5.

[21] you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? [22] You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? [23] You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. [24] For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Rom 2:21-24)

In Rom 2.21-24; Paul describes IJ in the same way he describes the ‘unrighteous’ in 1 Cor 6.9-10 who will not inherit the kingdom of God. The ‘unrighteous’ are C1 Sinners, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. This suggests again, by IJ’s behaviour that he is a C1 Sinner.

[25] For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. [26] So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? [27] Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. (Rom 2:25-27)

In Rom 2.25-27; Paul suggests IJ who breaks the law (another suggestion he is a C1 Sinner) will be condemned the future by obedient Gentiles. Paul is looking forward from C1 to C4.

IJ;

[5] But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)

Paul;

[6] By no means! For then how could God judge the world?

IJ;

[7] But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? (Rom 3:5-7)

In Rom 3.5-7; IJ identifies himself as a ‘Sinner’ under judgement who will endure God’s wrath. IJ identifies himself as a C1 Sinner and the statements look forward from this position to the events of C4 and C5.

Overall, Romans 2-3 locates IJ in the C1 Sinner location according to the framework and before the C2 event of salvation described in the earlier section. Romans 2-3 continually looks forward to the future events of judgement (C4) and wrath of God (C5) from the C1 Sinner location and the outcome is clearly undesirable.

In Rom 3.22-25 Paul presents God’s solution to sinful humanities plight and describes the initial event of salvation.

[22b] For there is no distinction: [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Rom 3:22-25)

It is important to realise the C2 event of salvation here is viewed from the C1 Sinner location because Paul is speaking to IJ a C1 Sinner.

In Romans 5 however, Paul resumes speaking to the Roman believers.

109 Romans Eschatology Believers

Hence I’ve located them at the C3 location and Paul’s perspective now looks back to initial justification and reconciliation with God Paul knows the Roman believers have already experienced and forward expecting deliverance from God’s wrath. For example consider;

[5.1] Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5.1-2)

[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  (Rom 5:8-11)

Hopefully you can see in Rom 3.24-25 and Rom 5.8-9 Paul is looking at the same C2 event of justification from different viewpoints. When speaking to IJ, Paul looks forward from C1 to C2, because IJ is an unbelieving Jew, a C1 Sinner. When speaking to the Roman believers, Paul looks backward from C3 to C2, because they are believers, we know they have been saved and have all the benefits of believing the gospel.

From Romans 5 onwards Paul also looks forward to the return of Christ, end time judgement (C4) and resurrection (C5). He does this in an entirely different and positive light to that in Rom 1.18-3.20. As I have shown previously this forward and backward looking from the C3 location is the dominant perspective adopted by the apostles when ministering to their believing audiences.

Douglas Campbell highlights the significant shift in assumptions which arise from whom Paul is speaking to. Unfortunately, many interpreters commonly miss this shift (Campbell 2009, 62-89,406-409). The shift takes place because Paul has changed who he is speaking too. That is, he has switched from his dialogue with IJ in Rom 1.16-4.25 and resuming to address the Roman believers from Rom 5.1 onwards.

I slightly modify Campbell’s position though. I think the transition between whom Paul is speaking to makes more sense from if we start from Rom 4.23-25 because Paul’s intent seems to assure his audience who already believe when he says;

[23] But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, [24] but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, [25] who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Rom 4.23-25)

Paul’s reference, ‘but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe’ (Rom 4.24) is a definite possibility that a change in audience has occurred. Here, Paul could be making a segway to the Roman believers, reaffirming the gospel, its benefits and assuring them with these statements.

Rom 5.1-11; Who is being spoken about? The Roman believers. Assumed from Rom 5.1 and above.

Passage Rom 4.16-22 Passage Rom 4.23-25 Passage Rom 5.1-11
Who is speaking? Paul (assumed from Rom 4.2) Who is speaking? Paul (assumed from Rom 4.2) Who is speaking? Paul (assumed from Rom 4.2)
Who is being spoken to? IJ (assumed from Rom 4.2) Who is being spoken to? Roman believers (‘us’ and Rom 5.1) Who is being spoken to? Roman believers
Who is being spoken about? Abraham Who is being spoken about? Roman believers Who is being spoken about? believers

This ends today’s post. Tomorrow I will begin moving backwards through the text.


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