My copy of Fr Paul Nadim Tarazi’s “Chrysostom Bible Commentary” on Romans arrived yesterday, and so I thought I would read his analysis of chapter one. I was immediately struck by the following two theses:
1) At the time that Paul wrote his letter, the majority of Christians in Rome belonged to the patrician class (p. 23).
I don’t remember the other commentators I have read mentioning this. Does anyone know what evidence, external or internal, might exist for this claim?
2) Paul consciously wrote his various letters with the intent that they would function as, or be, “scripture” within the Church:
In writing his letters to the churches of the Easter, Paul tried to steer them away from his opponents’ teaching and keep them faithful to the true gospel he was preaching. In so doing he was scripturalizing his teaching (Gal 1:6-9; 5:2; 6:11) so that the future as well as the contemporary generations of all churches, and not only the expressed addressees (Col 4:16), would hear it time and again until the Lord returns: “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed among you!” (Gal 4:19). The reason behind Paul’s decision to write was to have his epistles read together with the Old Testament scripture at church gatherings. In this manner, after his death, his followers would be protected from his opponents’ pressures. As 2 Peter clearly states, Paul’s epistles are put on the same level as the Old Testament books [2 Peter 3:15-16]. … The corollary to this policy is the irrelevance of the perennial question, “How could Paul write to the churches he did not found, such as those in Colossae and Rome?” (pp. 23-24)
Paul writes to Rome, not to respond to any particular crisis or problem, but to introduce himself to the Roman Christians as the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul directs his epistle to the believers in the imperial capital “intending that it be read in all the churches. … The letter being addressed to Rome and thus to the entire empire, according to the Roman tradition of the senatorial or imperial urbi et orbi (to the city [of Rome] and to the entire orb), explains why it incorporates most of the points he had made in his other letters addressed to the capitals of provinces, why it sounds as a magisterial treatise addressed to ‘all the nations among whom are the citizens of Rome’ (Rom 1:5-6), and why it was put in the place of honor at the head of [the] Pauline corpus” (pp. 24-25).
None of the other commentators I have read or glanced at have taken such a position. I am dubious.
I purchased this book because I thought I should at least consult one Orthodox commentary, along with the Catholic and Protestant commentaries I am reading. I have quickly skimmed through the book. I have to say that Tarazi’s viewpoint is … different. I will occasionally cite his positions in my future ruminations, just so everyone can hear his distinct voice, but I am not impressed with the commentary so far. The bibliography at the end of the book indicates that he is acquainted with Pauline scholarship; yet he appears to be ignorant of new perspective contributions–at least I do not see any evidence of it in his analysis. Tarazi seems to fall into Douglas Campbell’s justification by faith model, with a couple of his own tweaks.