Ruminating Romans: Was Paul a Diatribalist?

In his important, and massive, book The Deliverance of God, Douglas A. Campbell advances a controversial hypothesis about the Epistle to the Romans that has Pauline scholars all astir. As far as I can tell, few have embraced the hypothesis, yet neither can they dismiss it as without merit. Campbell’s proposal is this: Romans 1:18-3:20 is written as a diatribe. By this term Campbell does not mean a bitter and violent verbal attack. He refers, rather, to a Greco-Roman rhetorical device by which the speaker engages in a dialogue with imaginary interlocutors or opponents. This device was popular among Cynic and Stoic rhetoricians and philosophers.

Ancient diatribe is essentially a distinctive mode of discourse built largely with apostrophe and speech-in-character. A constructed character is generally addressed by the discourse’s central protagonist—who is a broadly Socratic figure—by means of the literary technique of apostrophe, so much of the discourse unfolds through the use of second person singular grammar. And that interlocutor then responds, whether in brief or at length, through the literary technique of speech-in-character, so here the author puts words in this character’s mouth. The result is a dramatic discourse mimicking the to and fro of debate and conversation, although slipping where necessary into more extended speeches by one or the other party. (p. 535)

Scholars have long recognized the presence of diatribal material in Paul’s letters (e.g., Rom 3:1-9); but as we shall see, Campbell believes that the diatribal device is used far more extensively in Romans than heretofore believed. For example, he believes that Rom 1:18-32 in fact is spoken by the opponent whom Paul is seeking to refute. Go pick up your Bible and quickly read through this passage. You will probably have the same initial reaction that I did: there are no clues whatsoever that Paul has shifted into a diatribal mode. But, Campbell responds, that is because we are reading the text in an English translation. In the original Greek, however, one can discern a definite change in literary style; in fact, the stylistic differences have led some scholars to speculate that this long passage was interpolated into Paul’s letter. Campbell, along with most scholars, rejects the suggestion of interpolation; but that still leaves us with the question, why the change? The unusual style, he argues, signals “a change in authorial voice” (p. 534).  The original readers of the letter would have recognized the shift.  The change in authorial voice doesn’t automatically announce “here comes a diatribe!” but it does tell the reader that something different may be going on here.

Campbell then goes on to remind us of something that we all already know but probably have never thought much about—namely, Paul composed his letters with the expectation that they would be read aloud to the recipients. Think auditors, not readers. Consider this for a second. If Romans was originally composed to be spoken, and if he composed part of it as diatribe, then he probably would have given the bearer of the letter (Phoebe? [Rom 16:1-2]) sufficient instruction on how it was to be read:

Modern readers tend to norm the process of reading in terms of a silent, rather isolated engagement by a literate individual with a written text. But this is a relatively recent historical trajectory, brought about by the Reformation and subsequent Protestant emphases on Scripture, individualism, and even interiority, and in part by the advent of widespread literacy and the equally widespread availability of texts in an industrial age. For most people in the ancient world, reading was an aural and usually corporate experience. The people themselves were largely illiterate; their “reading” was an experience of hearing the text. Indeed, even private reading was usually done aloud. This fundamentally oral/aural world was the setting in which Paul’s letters were composed and read—a setting that we must recover, as best we can, if we are to hear them as Paul’s Roman Christian auditors probably did.

Paul’s letters were read out loud by someone—presumably the letter bearer—to an audience. They were performed. In this sense, each letter exists for us rather like the script of an old play—but a script that often preserves only one actor’s lines (although an important one). All the explicit stage directions, instructions from the playwright and director, not to mention the original coached performances, have been lost. And there would have been multiple performances. Romans, for example, probably involved repeated presentations to the small cells of Christians scattered through the suburbs of that large ancient city. A complete description of the preserved script’s possible meanings, then, should take into account the broader range of effects that its full-blooded performance would have entailed within a communal setting. It was an unfolding play busy with drama, insinuation, color, plot, and movement. And like most plays, it probably had protagonists in some sort of conflict, whether in jest or in a more serious vein. In short, interpretation is best understood as the recovery of a set of performances by a letter bearer to an audience of listening Christians. (p. 531)

I have never looked at the New Testament epistles in this light, and yet it’s obvious. If I have written a letter with the intention that it is to be read out loud to a group of people, I will be sure that the letter-reader understands what I have written, and I will instruct him how to perform it properly.  And if I have employed the rhetorical device of diatribe in the letter, I will probably instruct him, for example, to alter the intonation and quality of his voice when he speaks “in character,” just so the audience cannot miss the dialogue between “persons.” And if I am parodying my opponent’s position, then the change in voice actually becomes crucial.  This is not something new for first century audiences–they have heard this kind of discourse many times before.

This possibility does not, of course, prove that Paul composed Rom 1:18-32 as a speech spoken by the opponent whose views he is seeking to refute; but we at least have to entertain the possibility and determine whether Campbell’s proposal offers a superior reading of the letter.

Campbell has not yet convinced me, but I am intrigued.  If it’s true, this will solve many problems that have befuddled exegetes and theologians in their reading of Romans 1-4.

If Rom 1:18-3:20 in fact is a conversation between Paul and the Teacher, what would it look like? Fortunately, someone else on the net has done the hard work for us:

Paul’s Introduction of Theme

(1) 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15 — hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 The deliverance of God is revealed through the gospel by means of faithfulness for faithfulness; as it is written, “The Righteous One, by means of faithfulness, will live.”

The Opposing Teacher’s Introduction of Theme

18″For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die — yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.”

Paul’s First Rebuttal: The Teacher’s ‘Wrath of God’ Seen Instead as the Human Wrath of Judging

(2) 1 Therefore you have no excuse, Every Person, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, ‘we know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ 3 How do you think about it when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself: that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you disregard the riches of God’s kindness and forbearance and patience — unaware that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 So by 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.

The Opposing Teacher’s Restatement of the Standard View of God’s Judgment

6 … Who will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God does not respect mere appearance. 12 All who have sinned lawlessly will also perish lawlessly, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who will be righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

Paul’s Next Rebuttal: Gentiles Who Live by the Law Vs. Jews Who Don’t

14 But when Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves; 15 they show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when God will judge the secret thoughts of all, according to my gospel, through Jesus Christ.

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18 and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19 and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21 you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart — it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.

First Dialogue of Paul and the Teacher — Paul as Questioner

(3) Paul: 1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?

Teacher: 2 Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.

Paul: 3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?

Teacher: 4 By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written, “So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.”

Paul: 5 But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)

Teacher: 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world?

Paul: 7 But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”?

Teacher: Their condemnation is deserved!

Paul Marshals Scripture Citations Before Climaxing His Argument

Paul: 9 What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written:

“There is no one who is righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.”

13 “Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.”

“The venom of vipers is under their lips.”

14″Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery are in their paths, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.”

18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

(Source: “A New Way to Read Romans“)

Try reading the above “script” out loud, changing your voice for Paul and the Teacher. Does it make sense as a dialogue? And remember: according to Campbell, the Teacher is a Jewish-Christian who is urging Gentile Christians to submit fully to Torah (in other words, to become Jews) so that they may partake in the fullness of salvation (see “Why Did St Paul Write his Epistle?“; also listen to this audio interview with Campbell). Through the diatribal debate St Paul hopes to pull the rug out from under the Teacher by demonstrating that his teaching on law and final judgment can be easily turned back upon him.

(Go to “What Did the Teacher Teach?”)

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4 Responses to Ruminating Romans: Was Paul a Diatribalist?

  1. bekkos says:

    I have not read Campbell’s book, so my assessment of what he is saying is based solely on your presentation of his ideas above. But, that being said, I do not find Campbell’s interpretation persuasive — for a number of reasons.

    1) The Church has read the Epistle to the Romans for nearly 2000 years now. Nowhere do we find those commentators who lived near St. Paul’s own time and spoke St. Paul’s own language reading the text of Romans ch. 1 as though two different speakers were implied in it, as though, when the text speaks of “the wrath of God” being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, it is not St. Paul himself who is asserting this, but “a Jewish-Christian who is urging Gentile Christians to submit fully to Torah.” That text, in fact, says nothing about a necessity of submitting to Torah; rather, the text asserts that there is a knowledge of good and evil that is naturally implanted in all men; all of us, whether dimly or keenly, are aware of God, and aware of his judgment. If pagans have tried to deny that knowledge and deaden their awareness of divine judgment by idolatry on the one hand and by immoral sexual practices on the other, nevertheless we cannot, as God’s rational creatures, escape being answerable to our Maker.

    2) That answerableness to our Maker is not against the theme of grace with which the epistle as a whole is concerned: the theme of grace presupposes this answerableness, our being subject to divine judgment. It is not as though one person (a Jewish Christian) says that we are subject to divine judgment, and another person (Paul, defending grace) says, no, we’re not. Grace means nothing if divine judgment is not real.

    3) I have read diatribes and other works where more than one voice is implied. Take, for instance, the Song of Songs. There is clearly a change of voice between one who says “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” and one who answers, saying, “If thou know not, O thou fairest among women….” That is to say, it is a love song; there is a man and a woman speaking (and, perhaps, a chorus, the daughters of Jerusalem). No one who reads the work with any attentiveness can fail to notice this. But as for a diatribe: I know that you’ve been reading St. Gregory the Theologian’s Theological Orations lately. Take the Third Theological Oration, for example. Here is a passage:

    When did these come into being? They are above all “When.” But, if I am to speak with something more of boldness, — when the Father did. And when did the Father come into being? There never was a time when He was not. And the same thing is true of the Son and the Holy Ghost. Ask me again, and again I will answer you, When was the Son begotten? When the Father was not begotten. And when did the Holy Ghost proceed? When the Son was, not proceeding but, begotten — beyond the sphere of time, and above the grasp of reason…. (Or. 29.3.)

    Is there any ambiguity here about who is doing the objecting and who is doing the answering, about which voice represents Gregory’s own and which represents that of his Arian opponents? If the voices of a diatribe are not clearly differentiated, there is no diatribe. And, no, I don’t think one gets around this problem by supposing that Phoebe or some other reader of the letter was given “stage directions” on how to read it. Can one find other classical diatribes where such “stage directions” are necessary for the diatribe, as diatribe, to be intelligible?

    Now, it is true that, in ch. 2 of Romans, St. Paul addresses an (imaginary) interlocutor; he starts off the chapter by addressing, in the second person, ὦ ἄνθρωπε πᾶς ὁ κρίνων, “every man that judgest,” a phrase which is repeated nearly verbatim in v. 3; the interlocutor is later identified more specifically as a Jew, someone who rests his hope in the law, v. 17. Yet, in reading that chapter, I do not get the impression that St. Paul is bouncing back and forth between his own voice and that of a hypothetical interlocutor, a “Teacher.” Look, for example, at how your internet interpreter, who has divided up this supposed exchange, assigns, in Romans 3:3-4, the question to Paul (“What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?”) and the answer to “the Teacher” (“By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true…”); then, a little further down, in Romans 3:9, the question is assigned to Paul (“What then? Are we any better off?”) and the answer is assigned to Paul, too (“No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin”). The two passages are, structurally, entirely parallel, a rhetorical question followed by an immediate denial; yet the Campbell thesis supposes that one must assign the first denial to “the Teacher,” and the second denial to Paul himself. Such a way of dividing up the text seems to me completely arbitrary.

    4) Also, if ch. 1, v. 18 began “The Opposing Teacher’s Introduction of Theme,” it would not begin with the connecting, inferential particle γάρ (“for”), but with some adversative particle like ἀλλά (“but”). The word γάρ implies that what is said follows naturally and logically upon what was said before; no one would use that word if he meant to deny the immediately preceding affirmation, or present an opposing thesis.

    5) The circumstance that, in Campbell’s reading, those parts of Romans chs. 1-3 that get assigned to a legalist interlocutor are those very parts that are most unpopular and contrary to current cultural presuppositions — e.g., the idea that homosexual practices are against nature — leaves me, I confess, with a nagging suspicion that a desire to discredit these teachings has partly motivated Campbell’s interpretation. Yet it is not only in Romans that St. Paul says things of this kind (compare 1 Cor 11:14 f.). Attempts to evacuate the theme of natural law from Pauline teaching strike me as essentially Gnostic. And an interpretation that would assign some things in Romans chs. 1-3 to a legalist “Teacher” and other things to “Paul” strikes me as worthy of Marcion, who applied his scissors to the biblical text back in the second century.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Peter, I am delighted you have chosen to comment. I was hoping that Campbell’s provocative theses might encourage discussion. As I note in the article, I am not yet convinced, but I am trying to give them a hearing and to test their plausibility. Nor am I a scholar. Given that it is probably unlikely I can persuade Dr Campbell to enter into the discussion here (though it would be wonderful if he did), I’ll attempt a response to your comments and at least push the discussion along.

      1) I do not know how to weigh the fact that the early commentators did not recognize the presence of diatribal material in chaps 1-2. Campbell would probably respond that the “stage directions” got lost fairly early on. Of course, this possibility can be neither proven nor disproven.

      I am not well acquainted with the patristic commentary tradition on Romans, though I am reading Chrysostom right along with my other commentaries. Do the Fathers all agree? Do you think they had a good grasp of the key issues that Paul addressed in his letter? How do we settle disputes between contemporary exegetes and patristic exegetes? Rightly or wrongly, when I want to understand one of Paul’s letters, I will always turn to my modern commentaries (Catholic and Protestant) before I look at pre-20th century commentators. Perhaps that is a weakness on my part.

      You write “that the text says nothing about a necessity of submitting to Torah.” Are you referring to the letter as a whole, 1:18-3:20, or 1:18-32? You are right that 1:18-32 does not say anything about submitting to Torah, but I never said that it did. Campbell’s belief that Paul is addressing, at least in some parts of the letter, some of the same issues that he addressed in Galatians is grounded on Campbell’s reading of the letter as a whole and its strong similarities to Galatians.

      A huge problem that we have is that we are only able to listen in to one side of the conversation. We have no clue what was going on in Rome at the time. We have no clue why Paul wrote his letter and what he hoped to gain by it. Exegetes posit various hypotheses, and each hypothesis affects the interpretation of the letter. As the saying goes, You pays your money and takes your chances. 🙂

      2) Did I say that Campbell says that Paul says that we are not answerable to God? I don’t think I did, but I will be touching on this in my next article, where I will explore further what Campbell believes the Teacher was teaching.

      It’s also important to note that Campbell is not saying that Paul disagrees with everything that the Teacher says. What he might ask us to do, though, is to confirm our judgments about what Paul teaches on ____ from material elsewhere in the letter or in the Pauline corpus, lest we end up confusing Paul’s views with the views of his opponents.

      3) This, I think, is your strongest objection, and I find it to be a weighty one. Campbell’s case would be strengthened immeasurably if he could produce one or more ancient texts where the diatriable conversation is not clearly marked in some way. If he can’t, then his argument probably will not convince many people. The way Campbell divides up the diatribal conversation does have the feel of arbitrariness (at least it does to someone like me, who is totally dependent on English translations).

      But having said this, the fact also remains that we are still left with a number of exegetical problems regarding Romans 1-4. Campbell solves these interpretive problems by in essence removing them. 1:18-3:20 become virtually irrelevant for the interpretation of the letter as a whole. This may be be too much of a nifty trick.

      Campbell identifies the interpretive problems in his book, but let me just mention a couple that I saw when I re-read Romans this summer. (a) Who is Paul talking to or about in 2:1ff? Why does he suddenly shift from his indictment of pagan sin in 1:18-32 and then start talking about judgmentalism? Precisely who is he accusing of being guilty of all the sins he has just mentioned? Jews? All Jews? Just non-Christian Jews? If “all Jews,” is he not guilty of a terrible caricature and misrepresentation? (b) How do we reconcile Paul’s claim in 2:4-11 that God will “repay everyone according to their works” with his later claim about justification by faith? A lot of commentators have struggled with that one. (c ) Who is Paul talking about in 2:12-13? Non-Christian Gentiles? Christian Gentiles? If the former, how do we reconcile this with his clear teaching in chaps 5-8 that the unregenerate are enslaved by the powers of sin and death and need to be liberated and reborn in the Spirit. Is it not the Spirit who circumsizes the heart, yet Paul seems to be saying that Torah is already written on the hearts of (some) Gentiles. For this reason some commentators suggest that Paul is talking about Christian Gentiles here, but the text does not say that, does it? And the list goes on.

      So even if we ultimately find Campbell’s thesis implausible, we are still stuck with the challenge of finding the best reading of chaps. 1-4.

      4) Given my Greek incompetence, I cannot offer an opinion about gar. But here’s what Campbell says:

      1:18 is linked to the preceding verse and claims by gar, a word that often carries causal force. Translated “because,” this signifier could suggest that 1:18-3:20 is the rational explanation or cause of the claims in v. 17. The gospel is preached in vv. 16-17 “because” the problem has first been established, although its explication takes place beginning in v. 18. And certainly this is one possible reading of gar in 1:18, and a small but valid potential signal for the conventional reading’s identification of Paul’s argumentative strategy from here forward. However, it is only fair to note that gar can take much looser meanings than this, sometimes connecting statements in a weaker sense better denoted by the English “for.” It can also merely clarify—”you see” or denote inference—”so” or “then.” I can even function pleonasitically on occasion (i.e., as little more than a clearing of the throat, the equivalent of the English “um” or “ah”). And Paul clearly uses it in these alternative, perhaps blander senses fairly frequently in the surrounding argumentation. Indeed, on several occasion it is even nonsensical to supply a strong causal meaning to the marker in context, even in declarative sentences. Hence, we need clear information from the surrounding text to help us to determine in what sense Paul is using gar in 1:18. (p. 340)

      I checked my commentaries. Dunn writes: “gar, ‘for,’ can express simply connection or continuation of thought without specifying what precisely the connection is. That a connection of thought is certainly intended is clear from the parallel structuring of vv 17 and 18.” He then goes on to suggest that the connection “is as much of contrast as of cause.” Fitzmyer takes a similar view. Byrne, on the other hand, suggests a causal reading. Wright is silent about gar. I note that virtually all the English translations use the word “for.” I’m going to have to let you NT Greek readers argue out this question. 🙂

      5) I think it is always possible, indeed likely, that the personal views of the interpreter will often inform the interpreter’s interpretations. Regarding natural law, Campbell appears to be following in the footsteps of Barth and Kasemann, whose opposition to natural law was not a result of disagreement with any of Paul’s ethical positions but based on other considerations. I can see why supporters of homosexual unions, e.g., would like Campbell’s proposal; but I would hope that the traditional Christian understanding of sexuality is not dependent on a few verses in Romans. If it is, we are all in trouble.

      But Campbell is upfront on his opposition to the “justification by faith” model, which has dominated Protestant exegesis since the Reformation. Campbell may be guilty of bending over backwards to read Paul in a way that opens up other interpretive possibilities. Specifically, he wants us to read Romans 1-4 in light of 5-8, rather than vice-versa. And on this point I agree with him 99%.

      I look forward to any further reflections you might have, Peter. And thanks again for your comment.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      For a sympathetic but critical review of Campbell’s proposal, see Michael Gorman, “Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God, Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters 1.1 (Spring 2011): 99-107.

      Gorman is not persuaded by Campbell’s arguments that Rom 1:18-3:20 is an extended diatribe, but he does seem to agree with Campbell that Rom 5-8 is the heart of the epistle. He concludes:

      Campbell is quite certain, and quite dismayed, that the early chapters of Romans, especially 1:18–32, contain a prospective soteriology of desert. But I would contend that this analysis is misguided. The early part of Romans contains not a soteriology of desert based on divine retributive justice but rather a theology (properly speaking) of impartiality and an anthropology of commonality—specifically, of common requirement and common inability due, ultimately, to a common enslavement. Indeed, there is really no soteriology in these chapters at all. The texts that might be read as presenting a soteriology of desert function rhetorically and theologically for Paul, not to portray the means to salvation but rather to indicate the need for such a means outside of the self, precisely because of the explicit and implicit anthropological affirmations (what Campbell calls “ontology”) found throughout Rom 1–3. Indeed, I would argue—have argued—that a full understanding of Paul’s gospel of transformation, both linguistically and theologically, is possible only when connected to the portrayal of the human condition in 1:18–3:20. (p. 106)

      Campbell wrote a response to Gorman in the same issue, but I do not presently have access to that article.


  2. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Brethren, this morning I stumbled upon the Fenton translation of the New Testament (early 20th century). Check out how he marks Rom 3-4 as a conversation between Paul and an imaginary Jewish opponent. Fenton’s translation does not support Campbell’s thesis about Rom 1-2, but it does alert us to the possible presence of diatribe in Romans.


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