Thursday, July 19, 2007

Romans at BBB

David Lang posted answering a question with a question at Better Bibles Blog. The questions from 8:31-34 begin the 8th of an 11 part structure beginning in chapter 3 and ending in chapter 11 and each section beginning with variations on 'what then'. I once mapped Romans' sequence of 55 questions in 10 sections; as if they could be framed by the phrase 'by no means!' or 'God forbid' as the KJV has it. These exclamations are also confined to chapters 3-11. But they are not as balanced a set of dividers as the phrase 'what then' in the sequence of the argument which focuses several major questions - perhaps revealing the agony in Paul over divisions between Jew and Gentile. I have mapped these with thick red borders and white background so they stand out in this thumbnail image. You can see that they map successfully to the larger chunks of the argument that I outlined some time ago here and briefly imaged here.

8:31-35 are part of the question I numbered 16: If God is for us, who is against us? the next 6 questions, 16a-f, are all variations on this one. One question in 7 parts with an answer of course in that great proclamation of security that follows. The inclusivity that Paul demonstrates in this letter - in the study of pronouns alone - is very beautiful. For a quick summary of the other 'pronoun' sections, see here. If you just scan the boldface - it is really quite remarkable how he peppers every section with single grammatical forms! They show up well even in translation: They/them, you, all, sin, we, I spirit, etc - as in this little section under study of first person plurals which begins in 8:2.

31: What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us?[16]
32: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?[16a]
33: Who shall bring any charge against God's elect?[16b]
It is God who justifies; 34: who is to condemn?[16c]
Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead,
who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?[16d]
35: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?[16e]
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?[16f]
36: As it is written,
"For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
37: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38: For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39: nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But even though we have an answer, his argument does not stop here. The unity implied with Paul's own siblings of the flesh is then dealt with - it is the most critical aspect for him of his argument. Nanos (Mystery of Romans) maintains that Paul's purpose was to promote and maintain unity among all God's beloved in Rome - Christ believer or not.

Here is another summary. And here are the 11 questions of the what then sequence:
- Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?
- What then? Do we excel? [a one word sentence but one of the major questions - related ultimately to the last questions on the justice of God towards Israel.]
- Then what becomes of our claim to honour?
- What then shall we say? Have we found Abraham our forefather according to the flesh?
- What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
- What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?
- What then shall we say? That the law is sin?
- What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us?
- What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part?
- What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but that Israel who pursued the righteousness which is based on law did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why?
- I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! and seven verses later the 'What Then'

The sequence is - the special advantage of the Jew (3 steps),
Abraham and the mark in the flesh,
sin & grace,
grace & law,
law & sin,
injustice in God,
paradox of acceptance (2 steps).

What was his hope?

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