1 JETS 56/4 (2013) 765–79 PAUL WRITES TO THE GREEK AND ALSO TO THE FIRST JEW: THE MISSIOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF UNDERSTANDING PAUL’S PURPOSE IN ROMANS )* JACKSON WU ( ⏜匋 I. WHY PAUL WROTE ROMANS AND WHY IT MATTERS When Paul wrote that salvation is “first” for the Jew and also for the Greek (Rom 1:16), he wrote those words to the Greek and also to the Jew. To put it first more simply, mission drives the theological agenda of Romans. This essay seeks to demonstrate exegetically that Paul wrote Romans in order to motivate the Roman rians” in Spain. Paul purposely writes church to support his mission to the “barba to “Greeks,” not simply “Gen tiles.” The letter’s elaborate theology exists so that had not been known (cf. Rom 15:20). If Paul might preach the gospel where Christ this is the case, what are the implicati ons for our own missiological and pastoral practice? It matters how one begins and ends a le tter. In the case of Romans, the con- sequence of skipping Paul’s introduction ca n reduce his theology to abstraction. It is easy to forget that Paul did not begin his letter to Rome at Rom 1:16. In fact, this <J famous “thesis statement” to Paul’s letter begins with a “for” ( ), meaning it is simply supporting a previous idea. Prior to verse 16, one must go back to Rom 1:14 to find main verb in Paul’s extended thought: “I am a debtor ... ” ( ¿O>BDç[email protected] >Eé ). The whole verse reads, “I am under oblig ation both to Greeks and to barbarians, 1 both to the wise and to the foolish” (ESV). In Rom 1:1–4, Paul begins his letter by summarizing the gospel, the good 2 Jesus is David’s offspring, God’s son, news that Jesus is king. Specifically, the “Christ” who is “Lord.” Paul simply reit erates Nathanael who confessed, “Rabbi, of Israel!” (John 1:49). This gospel was you are the Son of God! You are the King s in the holy Scriptures” (Rom 1:2; “promised beforehand through his prophet cf. 1 Cor 15:3–4). Accordingly, one understa nds Paul’s remarks in Acts 13:32–33, in which he proclaims the gospel [ >Æ:<<>DB?E>A: ] by saying that that Christ fulfills the promises God gave Israel in the OT. In particular, Paul succinctly summarizes the gospel in Gal 3:8 in this way: “And the Sc ripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you * Jackson Wu ( ⏜匋 ) teaches theology and missiology in a Chinese seminary. 1 All Scripture citations come from the ESV unless otherwise stated. Romans 1:15 stems from verse 14, as indicated by the “thus” ( GįMRK ) and the infinitive “to preach the gospel” ( >Æ:<<>DéL:LA:B ), which explains Paul’s intention resultin g from his sense of obligation. 2 “Son of God,” as a royal title signifying Israel’s Davidic king, can be traced back to OT passages such as 2 Sam 7:14; 1 Chr 17:13; Pss 2:7; 89:20–27; et al. Also, see Gerald Cooke, “The Israelite King as Son of God,” ZAW 73 (2009) 202–25.
2 766 JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY king whom this gospel announces commis- shall all the nations be blessed.’” The sions Paul’s “apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all nations” (Rom 1:5). In shor t, Paul’s opening words highlight Paul’s understanding of the gospel. Paul’s dense and carefully crafted greeting sets a con- the Paul’s purpose in writing Romans. text that is critical for understanding Why did Paul write Romans? Scholars have attempted to discern some sort of unity within Paul’s le tter. This article does not attempt to give an extensive review of the arguments on the topic. Others like William Barclay have considered the 3 strengths and weaknesses of the major perspectives. One of most conventional suggestions is that Paul wanted to he lp unify the Roman church, which suffered from a Jew-Gentile division as evident in Romans 2–4, 11. Another view regards spel, around which the church should be Romans essentially as a summary of the go united in love and in their mission. A mino rity view suggested by some is that Ro- cally aimed at furthering the work of mans is fundamentally missiological, specifi 4 missions among the Gentiles. Most certainly, these options should not be too sharply separated. Nevert heless, it can be difficult to re late the bulk of Paul’s letter (Rom 1:16–11:36) with his comments in Ro m 1:1–15, 15:18–32, the latter in which Paul expresses his intention to preach th e gospel in Spain. Specifically, how does his dense theology and discus sion about Jews and Gentile re late to Paul’s plan to visit Rome on his way to evangelizin g the Gentiles who are in Spain? A single question can have multiple answ ers. One could easily fall into reduc- tionism. People should be cautious about pi tting Paul’s theological message against his pastoral or missionary concerns. Howeve r, amid Paul’s various themes, readers can seek to discern his major and minor objectives. Identifying such emphases can ssage, neither overstressing nor neglecting help the church to properly apply the me on will not only try to grasp particular points of discussi on. A faithful interpretati that which the author himself wanted to the meaning of a text but also to prioritize emphasize. This essay draws upon a nu mber of clues to pose a straightforward thesis: Paul seeks to overcome the Roman sense of cultural superiority that threatened to r his mission to the barbarians in Spain. undermine Paul’s effort to gain support fo entators to mention in passing that Paul’s readers It is not uncommon for comm may have had cultural pride; yet, only a fe w people have consider ed this idea as a 3 William B. Barclay, “Reading Ro mans Missiologically” (paper delivered at Evangelical Theological Seminary, November 1999). This paper was later published in Global Missiology 1/1 (2003), online at http://ojs.globalmissiology.or s/view?firstName=William%20B.&m g/index.php/english/search/author iddleName=&lastName=Barcley& affiliation=&country=. 4 Das compares various interpreters who see Romans as “preparation for the Spanish Mission” in A. Andrew Das, Solving the Romans Debate (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007) 32–34. Das cites Seifrid who rebuts this interpretation by claiming the mission to Spain is mentioned only once and therefore is un- likely to be Paul’s reason for writing the letter (Das, Solving the Romans Debate , 34). He cites Mark Seifrid, Justification by Faith: The Origin and Development of a Central Pauline Theme (NovTSup 68; Leiden: Brill, 1992) 194. Seifrid’s objection is too narro w because he ignores Paul’s repeated emphasis, as within the imme- diate context, that Paul is the apostle whose calling it is to evangelize the Gentiles (e.g. Rom 1:5, 13; 16:26).
3 TO THE GREEK FIRST 767 AND ALSO TO THE JEW writes his letter. Further, those who give a “missio- primary reason for which Paul ical details. Their logical” reading to Romans have overlook ed a number of crit arguments attempt to relate broad theological themes but can leave one to wonder short, a “missiolog ical” reading of Ro- if some connections are too speculative. In order to effectively explain and inte- mans still needs more exegetical support to grate the whole of Paul’s letter. This essay tries to address that need. II. ROMANS AS THEOLOGICAL MISSIOLOGY OR MISSIOLOGICAL THEOLOGY? inclusio Chapters 1 and 15 in effect form a thematic . Observing this is key to interpreting the body of the letter. Ro mans 1:5–15 follow naturally from Paul’s ghlights the fact that he has “received gospel declaration in Rom 1:1–4. Paul hi ience of faith for the sake of his name grace and apostleship to bring about the obed 26). Also, in Rom 1:14–16, he magnifies among all the nations” (Rom 1:5; cf. 16: the scope of Christ’s commission given to Paul: “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gos- pel, for it is the power of God for salvat ion to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Paul not only wants to explain the gospel; he in partic- ular wants the support of the Roman church. Why? The importance of Rom 15:20– 28 cannot be understated: I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will s ee, and those who have never heard will understand.” This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have en- joyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. Paul’s mission to the Gentiles in general and Spain in particular is not an incidental. He wants to the help of the Roman church, perhaps in the form of financial sup- port and coworkers. By reiter ating his mission, Paul unmist akably frames the rest of his letter. The first and last chapters of Romans act as bookends that clarify the aim of his theology, expounded mainly in th e first eleven chapters. If one removes Paul’s theology apart from this missiologic al context, the various issues discussed (e.g. justification, law, etc.) can quickly become abstractions. Being aware of the danger of decontextualizing Paul, we do well to reconsider his opening words, es- pecially Rom 1:14.
4 768 JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY t article to posit a “missiological” read- As has been stated, this is not the firs such interpretations will help to iden- ing of Romans. Reviewing a few examples of tify key issues and potential weaknesses of such a reading. After looking at three attention will turn to the various ways theologians have representative articles, our interpreted Rom 1:14, 16. It will become clea r that so many interpreters have simp- ly assumed the meaning or significance of key phrases like “Greek” and “barbari- an.” As a result, such speculation obscures Paul’s intent and makes it more difficult for us today likewise to develop both a th eological missiology and a missiological theology. Russell’s article offers more of a suggestion than a detailed exegetical argu- ment. He thinks that Western scholarship tends to emphasize Paul’s theology, spe- cifically justification by faith, at the expe nse of Paul’s explicit missionary ambitions. 5 To do so, however, may indicate “Western cultural biases.” Although one easily lem in Romans, few easily relate it to recognizes the centrality of Jew-Gentile prob atements about going to Spain. In Russell’s interpreta- Paul’s opening and closing st tion, Paul addresses the Jew-Gentile division in large part to perpetuate the work of evangelism among the Gentiles. Paul saw the disunity of the Roman church as crippling to its ability to unify together for the sake of the Gentile mission after 6 Paul’s death. The article raises the right question, namely, how Paul’s explicit mis- of Rom 1:16–11:36. Further, it is rea- siological aim relates to the dense theology sonable that Paul’s theology serves a missi ological function. Unfortunately, he gives ulation and instead shows the theological very little exegetical support to his spec coherence of his view with the rest of Romans. Might there be some other way to relate the Jew-Gentile relationshi p to Paul’s mission to Spain? 7 extensive than that of Russell. William Barclay’s treatment is more Barclay reviews the strengths and weaknesses of conventional interpretations of Romans (as related to Paul’s purpose in writing); however, he well defends the view that the letter has greater “coherence” when unders tood in relations to Paul’s missionary agenda. According to Barclay, Rome “occupied such a strategic place in terms of geography and prominence, must have an evangelistic zeal to take the gospel to the ends of the earth if Paul is unable to complete his journey.” The Roman Christians are not only to do what Israel failed to do (be a light to the Gentiles); also they should reach out to Jews and not “despise the thought of Jewish converts.” Enoch Wan says his “missio-relational reading of Romans” is a “complemen- 8 tary study to current approaches.” He affirms, “Paul wrote Romans in order to 5 Walter B. Russell, “An Alternative Su ggestion for the Purpose of Romans,” BSac 145 (1988): 179. 6 Ibid. 182. He cites Dean S. Gilliand, , (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983) Pauline Theology & Mission Practice Ethnic Issues in Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Changing Self-Definitions in 32. Similarly, see James C. Walters, Earliest Roman Christianity Press International, 1993). (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity 7 Barclay, “Reading Roma ns Missiologically.” 8 Enoch Wan, “A Missio-Relational Reading of Romans: A Complementary Study to Current Ap- proaches,” Evangelical Missiological Society Occasion Bulletin , Vol. 3/7 (2010) 1–8 (accessed January 8, 2012), online at http://www.enochwan.com /english/articles/index.html. The document included on the web- site is the author’s original Micr osoft Word document, containing 20 pages. All cited pages come from this latter document.
5 TO THE GREEK FIRST 769 AND ALSO TO THE JEW erns within the Christian community in Rome, and to address certain internal conc 9 Moreo- introduce himself to them in anticipa tion of a later mission trip to Spain.” believers in every dds, “to prepare ‘these ver, he follows Dean Gilliand when he a to rise to the challenge and become a way possible, especially in the right belief, 10 missionary center (Rom 15:24, 28).’” His article is a general survey of the missiol- ogy of Romans. It lays particular empha sis on the “missional sequence of the gos- 11 pel” being “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Without elaboration, Wan 12 especially notes Rom 10:12 and claims, “This consiste nt mission strategy and per- 13 A significant diffi- sonal policy is expounded in great detail in Romans 9 to 11.” is a densely theological section primarily culty of this reading is that Romans 9–11 hip to God, then with the Gentile’s inclu- concerned with Israel’s historical relations n may function more like a theodicy than sion in God’s people. Overall, the sectio that of missiological strategy (cf. Rom 9:6, 14). Referring to the time sequence by which God revealed himself to the world (i.e. “first to the Jews”) does not neces- gy. Wan seems to see sarily imply Paul is talking about his ow n missiological strate general who have not heard the gospel; Rom 1:14 as a reference to Gentiles in 14 likewise, “Greek” in 1:16 is a narro wer way of talking about Gentiles. III. ARE THE “GREEKS” REALLY GENTILES? COMMON ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT GREEKS AND BARBARIANS Inasmuch as Paul’s letter has any missiological agenda, a few early phrases are significant. We should especially note th e reference to “Greeks” and “barbarians” in Rom 1:14 as well as Paul’s repeated phrase “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (1:16; 2:9–10; 3:9; 10:12). How ha ve people interpreted these key phrases? Romans 1:14 affects Ben With erington’s reading of Romans very little; he asserts 15 that is general reference to “non-Greeks.” He passes quickly over Rom 1:16, even 16 paraphrasing it with “the Jew first as well as the Gentile .” Likewise, Calvin says of 17 Rom 1:16, “the two clauses comprehend all mankind.” While Calvin also thinks “Greeks” and “barbarians” are explained by the phrases “wise” and “foolish,” N. T. Wright sees Rom 1:14 as su mmarily pointing to “all categories of non-Jewish hu- 9 Ibid. 1. 10 Ibid. 10–11. 11 Ibid. 2. 12 On p. 5, he actually writes Rom 9:11, but the accompanying quotation shows he means Rom 10:12. 13 Ibid. 5–6. 14 Cf. Wan’s interchange of verbiage in ibid. 2 (n. 6), 4, 6. 15 Ben Witherington and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Ee rdmans, 2004) 44. 16 Ibid. 46 (emphasis added). With erington changes the wording to “Gentile” rather than “Greek.” Likewise, Mounce’s commentary translates (normally rendered “Greek”) as “Gentile” without [email protected] discussion. See Robert H. Mounce, Romans (NAC 27; Nashville: B&H, 1995) 70–71. 17 John Calvin, Commentary on Romans (Enhanced Version 1.1.; Wheaton: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2009).
6 770 JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY 18 He follows Cranfield when commenti eek’ here is a manity.” ng on Rom 1:16, “‘Gr 19 Craig Keener says “barbarian” means “non-Greek” such way of saying ‘Gentile.’” 20 Others divide Greeks that 1:14 refers to “Gentiles” or more basically “everyone.” 21 or their ability to speak the Greek and barbarians according to where they live 22 , he interprets Gospel and Mission in the Writings of Paul language. In P. T. O’Brien’s 23 Rom 1:14 simply as indicating, “[Paul’s] mission knew no limits.” At least two commentators suggest, “the mention of barb arians is certainly an allusion to Spain 24 and the missionary plans of the apostle.” Some commentators attempt to defend (rather than assume) the idea that Rom 1:14, 16 refers to either all Gentiles or all humanity respectively. For example, regarding Rom 1:14, a few people cite Rom 1:13 as support that Paul basically 25 means all “Gentiles.” However, this is far from be ing an adequate explanation. two contrasting groups (Greek/barbarian, Paul twice repeats himself in the form of in verbiage (in Rom 1:13–14) is more wise/foolish); thus, it appears the difference jects the idea that “barbarian” refers to significant than some suggest. Cranfield re those in Spain because some Spaniards we re Romanized and calling them “foolish” 26 would be too “sweeping.” However, his conjecture denies the possibility a priori that Paul would use stereotyping langua ge according to conventional Roman think- early willing to speak in that way. Concern- ing; yet, Titus 1:12 shows that Paul is cl 18 The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, N. T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” in The Epistle to the Romans 2002) 422. Also, cf. Douglas J. Moo, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) 62. 19 Wright, “Letter to the Romans” 424. A Critical and Exegetical Commen- He cites C. E. B. Cranfield, tary on the Epistle of Romans (ICC; 2 vols.; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1975) 1.90–91. Craig S. Keener agrees Romans: A New Covenant Commentary in (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2009) 26. In agreement is Ambrosiaster as noted in Gerald Lewis Bray, ed., Romans (ACCS; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1998) 29. 20 Keener, Romans 24. In agreement is Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapid: Eerd- mans, 1988) 63–64; James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1–8 Romans 69. (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1988) 33; Mounce, 21 While Dean Flemming’s emphasis is on culture and language, he twice repeats the point that Greeks would have lived in “urban” areas. See Dean Flemming, Contextualization in the New Testament: Patterns for Theology and Mission (Downers Grove: Inte rVarsity, 2005) 128–29. 22 Robert H. Gundry, Commentary on Romans (Kindle Edition; Grand Rapids; Baker, 2011) 260–68. of this book. Everett Harrison and Dona ld Hagner say essentially the same There is no paper edition thing in Expositor’s Bible Commentary Romans–Galatians (rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010) , vol. 11: Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012) 65–66, follow- 648. See also Colin G. Kruse, Romans (New York: Geoffrey Chapman, 1993) 250–51. ing Joseph A. Fitzmyer, 23 Peter T. O’Brien, Gospel and Mission in the Writings of Paul: An Exegetical and Theological Analysis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995) 66; cf. Thomas Schreiner, Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998) 55–56. 24 Franz J. Leenhardt, (London: Lutterworth, 1961) 45. The Epistle to the Romans: A Commentary Romans Romans 56 notes that Leenhardt’s comment is highlighted by Morris, 64. Similarly Schreiner, mission. See S. Mason, “‘For I Am Not Ashamed of Mason too thinks vv. 13–15 refer to Paul’s Spanish Gospel in Paul: Studies on Corin- the Gospel’ (Rom 1.16): The Gospel and the first Readers of Romans,” in thians, Galatians, and Romans for Richard N. Longenecker (ed. L. A. Jervis and P. Richardson; JSNTSup 108; Sheffield: JSOT, 1994) 270–73. 25 Harrison and Hagner, Romans–Galatians 40; Gundry says, “He owes both them [barbarians] and ‘Greeks’ a proclamation of the gosp philosophy, which means ‘the love el. Since Greeks were known for of wisdom,’ ‘to ... wise people’ pr obably means the same as ‘to ... Gr eeks.’ Correspondin gly, ‘mindless people’ would refer to ‘b arbarians.’” See Gundry, Romans 262–70. 26 C. E. B Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (6th ed.; ICC; Ed- inburgh: T&T Clark, 1975) 84.
7 TO THE GREEK FIRST 771 AND ALSO TO THE JEW says Paul has to use the singular “Greek” since the ing Rom 1:16, Robert Gundry 27 By why could he not say matching “Gentile” (singula r) is almost never used. “Jews” (cf. 3:29; 9:24)? Also, why does he suddenly drop the “Jew/Greek” distinc- instead of simply contrasting Jew , to tion in Rom 2:8–9, 3:9 and 10:12, and Gentile match their surrounding context? More pe rtinent is Rom 3:9, where the plural “Greeks” is used, not the singular, with a plural “Jews.” This plural could just as Furthermore, Gundry himself points out well have been used back in Rom 1:16. he uses the singular “Gentile” in Rom that Paul allows exceptions, such as when 28 10:19. Whatever the scope of Paul’s language, there is agreement that “Greek” and “barbarian,” respectively, carried positive and negative connotations to Paul’s Ro- “Greek” is an “honorific term” (cf. the man readers. Seifrid claims the word for 29 contrast in Rom 1:14). Robert Jewett, citing various scholars, suggests that ;J;:JGK (i.e. barbarian) “is the ‘N-word’ in Greco-Romans culture. When paired with its ideological opposite, ‘Greeks,’ it denotes the vi olent, perverse, corrupt, 30 uncivilized realm beyond.” Philip Esler thinks the Greeks/barbarian language 31 In Rom points to those “who were highly educated and people who were not.” at “Greek” simply implies “Gentiles,” 1:16, Jewett rejects the common notion th ssentially equivalent to “second class non- which he says was a “pejorative term” e 32 Jews.” Esler observes that Paul defines identi ty in terms of faith over against the “‘us’ and ‘them’” mentality typical in society; thus, Paul is calling on his readers to 33 reexamine their loyalties. IV. EXEGETING PAUL’S ETHNIC LANGUAGE AND UNDERSTANDING HIS THEOLOGICAL MISSIOLOGY em to indicate that Paul’s choice of A number of clues within Romans itself se words were intentional, inde ed integral to his agenda. One could continue to list with little argument that Greeks and bar- interpreters who would basically assume barians refers to all “Gentiles,” whereas the Jew and Greek of Rom 1:16 points to theological and missiological orientation, all humanity. Given the letter’s explicit 27 Romans Gundry, Romans 68. In disagreement with Gundry and Moo is Mark 283–87; also Moo, Seifrid, “Unrighteousness by Faith: Aposto lic Proclamation in Romans 1:18–3:20,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism (ed. D. A. Carson, Mark A. Seifrid, and Peter T. O’Brien; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004) 115, n. 27. 28 Although citing the OT, Paul s hows himself very willing to adjust the wording of the LXX, even in critical places, as he did in Rom 3:10 and 4:11. Gu ndry notes that Paul does use the singular “Gentile” in Rom 10:19. 29 Seifrid, “Unrighteousness” 115, n. 27. 30 the Argument of Romans,” in Putting Body and Soul Together: Robert Jewett, “Honor and Shame in (ed. Virginia Wiles, Alexandra R. Essays in Honor of Robin Scroggs Brown, and Graydon F. Snyder; Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997) 264. Likewise, Dunn, Romans 1–8 32–33. 31 Philip Francis Esler, Conflict and Identity in Romans (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003) 138. Cf. Schreiner, Romans 56. 32 Robert Jewett, Romans: A Commentary (ed. Eldon Jay Epp; Minneap olis: Fortress, 2006) 140. 33 Esler, Conflict and Identity in Romans 140.
8 772 JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY given to more clearly defining these one can only guess why so little attention is divine partiality into the terms. Perhaps for fear of injecting ethnic superiority or the text alto- out of text, it may be that theologians have actually forced ethnicity gether. One must be careful not to “settle” for the truth (e.g. the category “Gen- 34 tile” consists of Greeks and barbarians). In so doing, we may compromise the gospel and undermine Paul’s missiology. e. Throughout Romans, he consistently At first glace, Paul’s words are strang contrasts Jews and Gentiles, but Rom 1:14 compares Greeks and barbarians, the wise and the foolish. Why does he randomly (or so it appears) interject these two Paul’s grouping of terms gives the im- types of people? As others observed above, are foolish, at least from the perspec- pression that Greeks are wise and barbarians tial readers. In addition, note Rom 1:16, where he says tive of some of Paul’s poten “salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew that God through the gospel brings first and also to the Greek. ” At this point, Paul speaks of the Greek but begins by fact, he says “first” ( mentioning the Jew. In ) the Jew; thus, implicitly the IJÏMGF Greek is somehow second. Historically, th e Jews were the first people chosen by God to receive his revealed word or law (cf. Rom 3:2; 9:4); yet, God in no way shows partiality. We must k eep in mind Paul’s repetition and clarification in Rom 2:9–11. First, he says , “There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also th e Greek, but glory and honor and peace for also the Greek” (2:9–10). He then adds everyone who does good, the Jew first and We must not confuse Paul’s point. The in verse 11, “For God shows no partiality.” entire letter of Romans makes clear Paul’s meaning: God loves the world, not just Jews. Paul’s prioritizing the Jew over the Greek is merely with reference to history. The question must still be pressed: Why does Paul continue to distinguish y (i.e. Greek/barbarian, Jew/Greek and two groups while alternating terminolog me to generalize the meaning of these Jew/Gentile)? Since scholars typically assu groups, theological and missiological literat ure lacks a satisfactory answer to the question. After all, after Ro m 1:16, 2:9–10, Paul almost entirely drops the “Greek” language, speaking instead of “Gentiles.” The exceptions are Rom 3:9, 10:12, which will be examined later. In those two inst ances, one should not miss how seemingly out of place it is for Paul to suddenly return to this Jew-Greek comparison. In the referring to non-Je ws is as “uncir- surrounding contexts, his predominant way of cumcised” or “Gentiles.” From a Jewish perspective, the term “Gentile” was inclu- sive of all non-Jews, including Greeks, yet was more vague and carried negative connotations. By contrast, Paul’s Roman readers woul d consider it a greater honor to be called “Greek.” The Roman Empire had tremendous respect for Greek culture since it represented wisdom and was the ep itome of civilized culture. Therefore, the Roman Empire even utilized Greek language and would call themselves “Greek.” This self-designation highlighted their sense of identity. Given the focus 34 Strictly speaking, in light of Rom 1:14, the Jew-Greek distinction would not encompass all hu- manity, since it would exclude barbar ians, whom Paul just mentioned.
9 TO THE GREEK FIRST 773 AND ALSO TO THE JEW nthians 1–2, reckoning oneself “Greek” on boasting, Greeks, and wisdom in 1 Cori . Recall Rom 1:14, where the may imply something else––a sense of cultural superiority with the wise. How did Greeks typically barbarian is likened to a fool but the Greek respond to the gospel? Paul in 1 Cor 1:22– 24 explains, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Fi ttingly, Paul undermines Greek boasting by continuing to say, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weak- n” (1 Cor 1:25; cf. vv. 26–31). ness of God is stronger than me gy in Romans. Paul wants the Roman Paul uses a similar rhetorical strate anish “barbarians.” One must keep in “Greeks” to support his mission to the Sp ing in Rome, the capital of the Roman mind the pride that would come with liv the rule, the Spanish would be reckoned Empire. Even if there were exceptions to foolish or backwards. To be fair, the Ro man Christians themselves may not have against harbored hatred or disdain those in Spain; yet, they may well have been in- different towards such non-Greeks. Paul knows well that people having even a latent sense of superiority w ill foster apathy such that their prejudice would weaken their enthusiasm and love for others and the gospel. Because of this, Paul in his own round about way confronts the sense of superiority within the Roman church. How does Paul specifically use this approach in Romans? Paul recounts the gospel in order to overcome Roman cultural pride. In essence, Paul compares the with the relationship between Jews and relationship between Greeks and barbarians Gentiles. In other words, Paul’s extensive theological treatment of Jews and Gen- tiles serves a missiological purpose––spurring Roman Greeks to embrace Paul’s mission to Spanish barbarians. Notice how Paul step-by-step shifts his terms. First, he mentions Greeks and barb arians (1:14). Then he imme diately but subtly changes the comparison. Though keeping the word “Greek” in 1:16, he adds the Jew and swaps the order of precedence. Now, the Greek is in the second place (which was previously occupied by the “foolish ba rbarian”). After Ro m 2:10, Paul drops “Greek” and simply uses “Gentile” to contrast the Jews. No doubt, this alteration would grab readers’ attention. In the first century, it would not have been uncom- mon for people to harbor some degree of anti-Jewish sentiment. In Rome itself, Barclay mentions, “We know historically, bo th from Acts (18:2) but also from Sue- tonius ( 25.2), that the emperor Claudius issued an edict that expelled Life of Claudius 35 Jews from Rome.” Scholars may disagree on the extent or practical effect of the edict; nevertheless, the very fact that the Jews were expelled is instructive of the context into which Paul speaks. His c hoice of address is provocative. Paul is provocative in at least two ot her ways. First, when Paul calls the Greeks “Gentiles,” his address is less than flattering. This is a specifically Jewish way of talking about non-Jews and would in large measure carry derogatory over- tones. As far as Jews were concerned, Gentiles were “outsiders.” Some even re- garded “Gentiles” as enemies. To all concerned, whether Greek or Jew, “Gentile” 35 Barclay, “Reading Roma ns Missiologically” 3.
10 774 JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY sily be taken as an insult. Many Greeks was to some degree a term that could ea looked down on Jews, who themselves scor ned “Gentiles” as “dogs” (cf. Mark a Chinese context, on could be made to 7:26–28). In a modern setting, a comparis referred to as “foreign devils” ( 㲳櫤⫸ ). where foreigners have previously been What is Paul’s intended effect? His subtle adjustment in word choice aims to hum- ble his Roman readers. Referring to Romans as “Gentiles” is pr ovocative for a second reason. Paul is essentially implying that culturally proud Greeks must submit to and depend on the God of the Jews , the very people expelled by th e Caesar! Famously, Roman and al pride was tied to one’s local deities Greek culture had a pantheon of gods. Cultur monotheism would be incomprehensible if not incendi- (cf. Acts 19:26–28). Jewish cultural pride when he reckons the Ro- ary to many. In short, Paul tramples upon hoots” (Rom 11:17) who share in the Jews’ spir- man Gentiles as mere “wild olive s itual blessings (Rom 15:27). Two observations within Romans confir m the present interpretation. First, one should notice the two instances after Rom 2:9–10 where Paul returns to Jew- be instructive. Romans 3:9 begins Greek language. These two exceptions may Paul’s extensive indictment of sinners, sa ying, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks , are under sin.” In Rom 10:12, Paul summarizes the point that salvation is available to all who believe, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek ; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his rich es on all who call on him.” Noteworthy about each of these passages is that they highlight the same essential point––there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, whether with respect to sin or salvation. In- ical to one’s identity before God, not place of birth, fami- stead, it is faith that is crit ly background, or cultural citizenship. Paul’s repeti tion of Jew/Greek language makes complete sense in light of the interp retation being offered in this essay. Paul Roman readers, who exalt themselves over is applying his theology directly to his both are just Gentiles in the scope of salvation history. barbarians, even though they Paul’s placement of “Greek” language is qu ite strategic and convicting as it recalls Rom 1:14 and the “social distinction which was fundamental to the world of his 36 day,” that is, Greek and barbarian. Elsewhere, Paul compares Jews and Greeks in a similar fashion to that seen in Romans. For example, Gal 3:28 states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek , there is nei- ther slave nor free, there is no male and fe male, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 3:10–11 echoes Gen 1:26–27 to undermine all preconceived notions of social rank, claiming that those in Christ “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew , circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Sc ythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” In 1 Cor 12:13, Paul’s lang uage seeks to instill unity among Greeks and Jews: “For in one Spirit we we re all baptized into one body–– Jews or Greeks , slaves 36 Seifrid, “Unrighteousness” 115.
11 TO THE GREEK FIRST 775 AND ALSO TO THE JEW Spirit.” Finally, in 1 Cor 1:22–24, cited or free––and all were made to drink of one 37 earlier, Paul’s Jew/Greek comparison ac ts as a foil to undercut all boasting. vation within Romans confirms the intentionality Additionally, a second obser of Paul’s “Greek” language. As has been stated, Greeks boasted in wisdom. 1 Co- 38 rinthians contains the most instances where Paul uses “wisdom” language. Ro- ences, including Rom 1:14, 22; 11:25, 33; mans holds second place with seven occurr .g. 1:22; 11:25; 12:16; 16:19), Paul chal- 12:16; 16:19, 27. When applied to people (e lenges human pride, as in Rom 12:16, where he warns, “Never be wise in your own sight.” Paul appeals to the Greek value of wisdom in order to humble his readers. On the other hand, Paul magnifies the wi sdom of God. Accordingly, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his om 11:33). Finally, the letter closes by judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (R glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! giving praise “to the only wise God be Amen.” In short, Paul ironically employs this central Greek-value to turn the tables on his readers. He simultaneously exalts God and humbles people. Finally, the interpretation put forth in this article is consistent with recent in- sights and emphases within biblical scholar ship. For a few decades, biblical scholars 39 have debated the “New Perspective of Paul” (NPP). One of the issues discussed ion primarily combats legalism (i.e. works- is whether Paul’s doctrine of justificat righteousness) or ethnocentrism (i.e. one mu st become Jewish to be accepted as God’s people). Framed another way, scholars try to locate where Paul’s emphasis 40 lay on a spectrum between so teriology and ecclesiology. Even if some reject the NPP emphasis on ethnicity, one can acknowle dge that a key contribution of the NPP debate has been to highlight afresh the importance of ethnicity in Paul’s thinking, especially in Romans and Galatians. In view of such insights, the interpre- tation of Paul’s “Greek” language become s more critical. One might suppose that salvation; however, it may be that how a the main idea of Romans is to explain person gets saved is simply an important implication of Paul’s more central point. missiologi- Perhaps, Paul’s comments on salvation and the church serve a more basic cal oup-centrism; that is, just as some Jews purpose in Romans. Paul challenges all gr were wrong to boast over Gentiles, the Ro mans likewise have no ground to exalt themselves over the so-called “barbarians.” 37 Interestingly, the lone mention of “Gentiles” in 1 Corinthians is found in 1:23, sandwiched be- tween two verses that compare Jews and Greeks. Paul says the Gentiles consider the cross “folly” ( ERJé:F ). 38 Specifically, LGOK is used 28 times. Also, OJFBEGK is used twice (4:10; 10:15). 39 The details of this debate cannot be reviewed ries, see Magnus Zetter- here. For helpful summa Approaches to Paul: A Student’s Guide to Recent Scholarship (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009); Kent L. holm, The New Perspective on Paul (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2010). For a scholarly proposal that nicely Yinger, mediates the various perspectives, see Michael Bird, The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justifica- tion and the New Perspective (New York: Wipf & Stock, 2007). 40 For further study, also see Michael Bird, “What Is There Between Minneapolis and St. Andrews? A Third Way in the Piper-Wright Debate,” JETS 54 (June 2011) 299–310; N. T. Wright, “Justification: Yesterday, Today, and Forever,” JETS 54 (June 2011) 49–64; Thomas Sc hreiner, “Justification: The Saving Righteousness of God in Christ,” JETS 54 (June 2011) 19–34.
12 776 JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY arification is needed regarding the re- In order to avoid misunderstanding, a cl lationship between missions and the gospel. Missions is the necessary corollary of the gospel because the task of missions is to announce the kingship of Christ over all nations. Missionaries call upon all nations to give their allegiance to the King of kings. From another perspective, missions is the means by which God fulfills his promise to bless all nations, which Paul exp licitly calls the “gospel” in Gal 3:8. To is to minimize the gospel itself. Thus, minimize the church’s mission to the nations one need not suppose Romans is either about missions or the gospel since they are is to give manifest testimony to the mutually explanatory. To engage in missions 41 gospel. As seen in the survey above, traditiona rally assume that l interpretations gene when Paul says “Greeks and barbarians” (Rom 1:14), he means all Gentiles. Simi- larly, “Jew and Greek” (Rom 1:16; 2:9–10) refers to all people, whether Jew or Gen- tile . As a result, conventional readings overlo ok the possible import of Paul’s subtle- ty and word choice. In short, of Paul’s letter may be the missiological significance lost due to a solitary focus on hi s theology of Jew and Gentile. By way of summary, we should notice that the present interpretation has a few advantages over standard views. Firs t, this reading accounts for the use and placement of the “Greek” language throug hout Romans. Second, it makes sense of Paul’s frequent appeal and application to “wisdom.” Third, the present view inte- grates Paul’s theology and mission within Romans in a way that is supported by l ideas together. Finally, this interpreta- exegesis. It does not piecemeal theologica city within Romans, yet without obli- tion coheres well with the emphasis on ethni gating us to any extreme within the NPP debate. V. PREACHING THE GOSPEL TODAY AMONG FOOLS AND ALSO BARBARIANS People have a propensity to boast in thei r group identity, whether it is their , school, or team. Our vernacular may differ but the ethnicity, nationality, family in nationalism, patriotism, family pride, same basic sense of collective identity exists school spirit, and the like. Competition between various camps or schools of thought can divide churches, mission agencies, companies, and families. Mutual love and respect is lost when people confuse their social group identi- ty with their most fundamental identity in relation to God in Christ. Perhaps Paul’s readers saw themselves as Christian Romans yet he wants them to be Roman Chris- 41 It seems to me that this is essentially the point of N. T. Wright’s interpretation of 2 Cor 5:21. He says, “What the whole passage involves, then, is the idea of the covenant ambassador, who represents the one for whom he speaks in such a full and thorough way that he actually becomes the living embodi- ment of his sovereign—or perhaps, in the light of 4:7–18 and 6:1–10, we should equally say the dying embodiment”; concerning Paul’s “sel f-understanding” (emphasis original); Wright adds that the phrases “minister of the new covenant,” and the one who ha s ‘become the righteousness of God” are “mutually interpretive ways of saying substantially the same thing.” See N. T. Wright, “On Becoming the Right- eousness of God,” in Pauline Theology (Vol. 2; ed. D. M. Hay; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1993) 200–208.
13 TO THE GREEK FIRST 777 AND ALSO TO THE JEW ngs to God’s people who are not defined tians. The Christian fundamentally belo ch things like country and family may foremost by citizenship, cult ure, or family. Su condary. Only Christ de- nevertheless, they are still se be good in many respects; serves our supreme loyalty. Having a sense of superiority not only undermines support for missions, it al- me as it is in the so conflicts with the gospel. This was as tr ue for first-century Ro present day. How do cultural pride and nationalism contradict the gospel? Jesus is icular group (e.g. na tion, church, denomi- not merely the King and Lord of our part nation, etc.). The gospel is for the whole world because Jesus is the king over the 19:16), governors, presidents, chairmen, whole world. He is King of kings (Rev prime ministers, and CEOs. To be mistaken about our fundamental id entity essentially privatizes Jesus’ when he writes, “For kingship. Is this not exactly Paul’s point we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentile s also, since God is one” (Rom 3:28–30). overcome the Jewish ethnocentrism that Paul appeals to monotheism in order to convert to Judaism via works of the law like circumcision. In pressured Gentiles to effect, justification by works undermines th e gospel because it restricts the sphere of God’s reign and affection. Christ is king over all nations, not just Jews. When we privilege our own faction against others, we may subtly deny the point that “God shows no partiality” (Rom 2:11). The danger of individualism cannot be understated here. The gospel does not merely concern individuals; it saves all na tions (cf. Gal 3:8). When we think about tize and why? How do we partition our the church’s ministry, whom do we priori questions. Anecdotally , I know a pastor world, city, and church? These are gospel who said in a staff meeting, in effect, th at his church was not going to worry about the nations until their own neighborhood had been reached. Jesus says to the apos- m and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the tles, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusale end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Sadly, one could mistakenly read the verse as if it were to be geographically and sequentially applied to our own neighborhood. What would have happened if the a postles had strictly applied Jesus’ words as a prescrip- tion (like the pastor I mentioned above)? In short, the gospel never would have left 42 Jerusalem! Christians should never say in good conscience that they will not go to other nations simply because “there are so many people already here in this country ppose that God is just like us. God is that do not know Jesus.” We must not su neither patriotic, nor nationa listic, nor does he have “t eam spirit,” even in the World Series. What if Paul had written his letter to readers in China? How might he have rephrased Rom 1:14? Perhaps, “I am unde r obligation both to Chinese and to for- eigners, the civilized and the uncivilized.” One may well expect Paul to say, “I am 42 Some have argued that Acts 1:8 has ethnic and not simply geographic significance. For example, see the discussion in Thomas S. Moore, “‘To the End of the Earth’: The Geographical and Ethnic Uni- versalism of Acts 1:8 in Light of Isaianic Influence on Luke,” JETS 40 (1997) 389–99.
14 778 JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY under obligation both to Chinese and to the Japanese, the Han people and the mi- nority groups, the socialist and the capita list.” Those living in China perceive the between Chinese and foreigner is funda- tension in these words. The distinction 43 mental. Patriotism for many pe ople entails hatred for Japan. Depending on one’s location, the number of examples could go on. In America, for example, might Paul say, “Democrats and also Republican s”? What would he say to our particular setting? What social grouping would raise eyebrows among his readers? Answering this question requires honest reflection. subcultures within Paul’s words concern our identification with the various broader culture. Membership in a subcultu re may be evidenced by one’s clothing, car, music, or occupation. One may not necessarily “hate” those people who be- long to other groups. However, we may si mply be indifferent or apathetic. Conse- mply are not a priority to us. Certainly, quently, their needs either go unnoticed or si we may wish them well, but personal in volvement seems like a big commitment essing issues of ou r own group. Before because we are so busy with the more pr trying to justify ourselves, we do well to consider who our neighbor is so that we might love our neighbor as ou rselves (cf. Luke 10:27–37). r Ring” illustrate the tendency against C. S. Lewis’s comments in “The Inne 44 which Paul speaks in Romans. Andrew Cameron summarizes Lewis’s idea, saying [s] to our passion to belong to some ‘in- the desire to be in the “Inner Ring” “refer temptingly beyond our reac h. When gripped by this ner circle’ of people who hover passion, to be excluded from these circles drives us slightly mad, and to enter them 45 leaves us smugly exultant.” We see the similarity of this idea to that of Paul when we read what Lewis says is the consequence of this desi re to belong: “[Y]our genu- ine Inner Ring exists for exclusion. Ther e would be no fun if there were no outsid- ers. The invisible line would have no meaning unless most people were on the 46 accident: it is the essence.” wrong side of it. Exclusion is no her ministries) is not only prejudice One hindrance to missions (as with ot against others but also fixation on oneself and group. In the subtle competition to et the needs of those far from us. In the win the approval of those near us, we forg zeal to be like others whom we admire, we remain ignorant of those different than us. The desire to be included in the “i nner ring” becomes idolatrous. Our inner circle of like-minded friend s and family quickly becomes a rival empire. Like Gol- 43 Among relevant articles, see T. P., “Of Useful Idiots and True Believers,” The Economist (Septem- ber 18, 2012), online at http: //www.economist.com/blogs/analects/ 2012/09/protests-r eal-and-fake (accessed October 29, 2012); Che-po Chan and Brian Bridges, “China, Japan, and the Clash of National- isms,” Asian Perspective 30/1 (2006) 127–56; Sunny Lee, “Beijing Suspicious of Japan’s War Crime Apol- The National (Beijing, April 13, 2010) sec. Asia Pacific, http://www.thenational.ae/ ogy,” news/world/asia-pacific/ pans-war-crime-apology. beijing-suspicious-of-ja 44 For a summary and application of Lewis’s “Inner Circle” idea, see Andrew Cameron, “C. S. Lewis: Inner Circles and Tr ue Inclusion,” in The Trials of Theology: Becoming a “Proven Worker” in a Dangerous Busi- ness ; Scotland: Christian Focus, 2009) 75–93. (ed. Andrew Cameron and Brian S. Rosner 45 Ibid. 76. 46 Ibid. 80, citing C. S. Le wis, “The Inner Ring,” in Essay Collection (ed. Lesley Walmsley; London: Harper Collins, 2000) 319–20.
15 TO THE GREEK FIRST 779 AND ALSO TO THE JEW is so precious that we cannot think of lum, we isolate ourselves because our “ring” sharing it with others or going to faraway lands. How do these insights help us to asse ss the health of our churches and mis- sion groups? First of all, when looking fo r a local church to join, perhaps people should consider how much attention the ch urch gives to cross-cultural ministry, whether internationally or locally. If a central aspect of the gospel and the church’s mission concerns ethnic/group distinctiv es, then people should consider the church’s location and social diversity, to include economic s, education, as well as ons” on the altar of being “missional.” ethnicity. Second, we cannot forsake “missi That is, it is not enough to be concerne d with local needs. The gospel necessarily all nations commissions people to cross cultures so that God would bless (cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:8). In part, this means that Ch ristians must extend their attention to unreached and unengaged people groups. Fu rthermore, if all those who are in is not thicker than the baptismal wa- Christ are Abraham’s offspring, then blood doing a good deed for “those people over ters. The work of missions is more than there.” Instead, the labor of missions is a part of our family obligation. Those of other social groups (ethnic, national, educ ation, economic, etc.) are family. We dare not divide the human family. Reconciling “Greek” and “barbarian” silences the 47 babble of a cynical world. must account for the ways in Third, missionary training evangelistic preaching and church plant- which local and ethnic loyalties will hinder ing. It is not enough simply to communi cate to individuals and appeal to con- science, even if they are Christians. Paul was not apathetic to Roman indifference. Churches must intentionally reckon with the fact that Christ is not co ntent to be king merely over our small spheres of influence. The c ontemporary church is obligated to preach the gospel to its own “barbarians.” This is because, as Kuyper famously puts it, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is 48 Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” 47 As various scholars have noted, ;J;:JGK (barbarian) is essentiall y an onomatopoeia meaning “blah blah” conveying a sense of “babbling.” Cf. H. Windisch, “ ;J;:JGK ,” TDNT 1:546. Fittingly, going to those who “babble” brings reconciliation to the nations w ho have been divided since Babel (Genesis 11). 48 Abraham Kuyper, A Centennial Reader (ed. James D. Bratt; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 488.