Ben. Both Melanchthon and Calvin in their Romans commentaries rely on rhetorical analysis of the structure of the letter. How important do you think understanding their use of rhetoric is to understanding their theological observations on things like justification?
Stephen. There are some interesting differences between Melanchthon and Calvin in their rhetorical analysis, but there is no doubt that for each there is a relationship between it and their theological observations. Calvin’s analysis is simpler and has had the greater enduring influence. From 1:16 to the end of chapter 5 Paul is discussing justification, whereas chapters 6-8 discuss sanctification, before chapters 9-11 discuss Israel, election, and the covenant. With the exception that chapter 5 has often been regarded as a “bridge” passage between two major units, this rhetorical structure has been adopted by most historical-critical commentators on Romans. Where Calvin’s analysis has often been misunderstood by later scholarship is in the assumption that chapters 1-5 therefore represent a forensic track in Paul’s thought and chapters 6-8 a participatory track. Although Calvin does indeed teach that justification is forensic, he carefully positions justification so defined as one of the two principal dimensions, along with sanctification, of union with Christ, which he regards as Paul’s overarching soteriological theme. Calvin finds participatory themes not only in Paul’s discussion of sanctification but also in the apostle’s argument for forensic justification itself.