Sunday, November 11, 2007

Romans and Rhetoric again

Peter Kirk has posted an argument on the subject of same-sex relationships that I think is wrong. I tried to post a comment there but couldn't for some reason.

He wrote: Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27 should be understood as normative for Christians in all times and cultures.

My response: No - without question, this is a rhetorical error in the reading of Romans. The condemnation is meant to silence all judges who impose their normative prejudice on times and cultures. (see e.g. my brief comment here and related structural analysis.)

Such an argument cannot be put in a few words. It is contained in the lives of many over many years who are condemned out of hand by those who disallow a rereading of both Romans and Leviticus. In the case of Leviticus, a rereading is needed - as the Jews always reread and comment. In the case of Romans an accurate reading is required - one that does not confuse morality with salvation.

See also here - a note by PamBG who comments on Peter's post also.


James F. McGrath said...

I have been meaning to post something on the way versification screws up our understanding of Romans 1 in relation to the argument in Paul's letter for a while. Since you posted on the subject, I'll try to do it sooner. I think you're on the right track in pointing out that what is usually taken on its own as though it were a statement of Paul's view, is in fact (at least first and foremost, and perhaps only) a rhetorical device to get his Jewish readers to condemn others, so that he can then turn the tables on them (a la Samuel and Amos).

I have added your blog to my Google Reader and hope to visit more often!

Anonymous said...

Does a rhetorical device necessarily prove that homosexual activity is not a sin?

Bob MacDonald said...

James - I will look forward to your post. Mike - the statement x is a sin or x is not a sin is an assertion not a proof. Paul is asserting what he knows that many believe and so engaging their judgment on what they consider the worst possible behaviour. Then he reminds them that all have come short and what they condemn others for they do themselves. The topic of judgment is a major part of the shape of the letter - as I have shown in the linked structural map. The readable one is here