Romans 1:26-27: A Clobber Passage That Should Lose Its Wallop

Whenever I’m debating with someone who authoritatively declares that the Bible condemns homosexuality, and who cites the infamous Romans 1:26-27 as proof, I almost always offer this rejoinder: “What do you make of the vocative at the beginning of Romans 2?”

The question is admittedly pretentious on my part but I’ve found it effective, because those often most eager to wield the Bible as an authoritative weapon are also often those who have read it only in translation, and not very closely at that.

But it’s not an idle question.

Anyone who has engaged the issue of sexuality and the Bible has at some point contended with Romans 1:26-27: “For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 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.” (NRSV)

Sounds pretty bad, and indeed, so does the entire last half of the first chapter of Romans. Who, broadly, is being described here? Most agree it’s the Gentiles, and most agree that what is being represented here is boilerplate, Hellenistic Jewish material that attacks the Gentiles. But the condemnatory nature of the verses from 1:18-32 also fits awkwardly, if at all, with the spirit of the rest of the epistle, which goes from talking about the “uprightness of God” in the early verses to suddenly referring to the “anger of God” here, an anger that God uses to “hand over” these people to all manner of horrible behaviors.

But then, they’re Gentiles. They’re rotten, horrible individuals. Did you hear the sorts of things they do? In fact, as pointed out by scholar Calvin Porter, “they” recurs in this section with striking concentration, with repetition of the third-person pronoun αὐτός thirteen times, the reflexive (“themselves”) once, and third-person plural verbs over and over: “No other section of Romans contains such a concentration,” he observes.

What’s even more striking, notes Porter, is what comes next: an abrupt change to the second person in Romans 2:1:

“Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”

Here, then, is the vocative in the Greek, “Oh man,” a grammatical case used for direct address: ὦ ἄνθρωπε. And this takes us to the question I have posed to those who repeat 1:26-27 in condemnation. Who’s the ἄνθρωπος that Paul’s addressing here?

It’s actually a very big question.

Scholarship has been preoccupied often with the content of verses 1:26-27 to the distraction of its context. Scholars such as James Miller and Mark D. Smith have gone back and forth as to whether the behavior described in those verses can be considered “homosexual” from our culture’s standpoint, or whether they refer to something else entirely. But an even more interesting angle surfaced in Roy Bowen Ward’s entry into the fray: “It is still open to question whether these two verses represent Paul’s voice or the voice of a rhetorical spokesperson in Rom 1:18-32, whom the apostle criticizes beginning in Rom 2:1.”

That’s right. Some scholarship of late, of which Porter’s article is the most thorough example, has noted that Romans 1:18-32 does not represent Paul’s view, but the prevailing view of Gentiles among many Jews at the time, which this apostle to the Gentiles feels compelled to refute. Building off of the scholarship of J.C. O’Neill (who calls it “a traditional tract which belongs essentially to the missionary literature of Hellenistic Judaism”) and E.P. Sanders (who explains that “Paul takes over to an unusual degree homiletical material from Diaspora Judaism”), Porter ultimately concludes that “in 2:1-16, as well as through Romans as a whole, Paul, as part of his Gentile mission, challenges, argues against, and refutes both the content of the discourse and the practice of using such discourses. If that is the case then the ideas in Rom. 1.18-32 are not Paul’s. They are ideas which obstruct Paul’s Gentile mission theology and practice.”

Other explanations of what ὦ ἄνθρωπε is doing here are less satisfactory. Some have suggested that Paul is sincerely making these condemnations, stressing here (but only here) God’s anger instead of his kindness (as in 2:4), and then he imagines some onlooker applauding what he’s saying and turns to address him, condemning him for judging but somehow still agreeing with the content of what was just said.

Porter’s argument (which he thoroughly supports with rhetorical models from antiquity) makes much more sense: that the arguments present in the last half of Romans 1 were typical of those made by Hellenistic Jews to distinguish themselves from the Gentiles (thus the repeated use of “they” as noted before), and Paul, as an apostle to the Gentiles, finds this condemnation problematic and thus seeks to refute it, leading up ultimately to his similar conclusion in Romans 14:13, using strikingly similar language to that in 2:1: “Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.”

Paul goes on to offer advice on healing the rifts between Jew and Gentile, so Porter’s reading is compelling, and certainly the best I’ve seen for answering the question of who’s being addressed in 2:1: “The shift to the direct address, the second person singular, along with the coordinating conjunction, διό, indicates that the reader who agrees with or is responsible for 1.18-32 is now the person addressed.”

Of course, there will be all sorts of arguments apologizing for the words of 2:1 so that one can keep the words of 1:26-27 as a straight-up, unambiguous condemnation, which one can then rely upon to rationalize all manner of discrimination against gays and lesbians. But the flurry of scholarship on this score, not to mention all of that preoccupied with the words of 1:26-27 themselves, should in the very least make it clear that it’s not all that clear.

It’s yet another example of how close study of the Bible – in this case, the function of a single word – raises far more questions than it does answers.

Photo: Papyrus codex of the Pauline Epistles, Chester Beatty Library


Don M. BurrowsAbout Don M. Burrows
Don M. Burrows is a former journalist and columnist who is now completing his Ph.D. in classical studies, with a graduate minor in religious studies focusing on early Christian literature. A former Christian fundamentalist, Don is now a member of the United Church of Christ and contends most firmly that the Bible cannot be read or explored without appreciating its ancient, historical context. Don lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two young children. Don blogs at Nota Bene and can also be found on Facebook.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    Wow! I never noticed this before in Romans!

  • Carl Badgley

    would you mind referencing Porter’s article for us. i’d love to see if i can get my hands on a copy of it.

    • Richard W. Fitch

      Cal Porter was my NT Greek professor back in the early 70′s. I should contact the library at Christian Theological Seminary and request a photocopy of the article.

      • Carl Badgley

        since the article is apparently not freely available a copy of it would be nice to get hold of if that is at all possible. thanks for the reply.

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage
      • Carl Badgley

        sadly, it is not free for those not subscribed to Cambridge Journals, but thank you for the link.

  • ScienceJoe

    So how is Paul not simply condemning the hypocrisy of someone (whoever you are) who condemns the actions in Romans 1:18-32 and then practicing them (and judging them) as stated in Romans 2:1?

  • Drea Walker-Skye

    I find myself wishing they’d used italics in ancient documents to indicate something quoted from someone else like you find today. Modern punctuation would clear up so many things! Sadly, we don’t have that, but this is a very compelling argument. Romans 2:1 fits with so much more of the treatise from Paul – how can you speak condemnation and then condemn being judgmental? Not logical and Paul is always logical.

  • AviJacobson

    The vocative particle in English is spelled “O,” not “Oh.” “ὦ ἄνθρωπε” is “O Man,” not “Oh, man.”

    • Eric Weiss

      I mentioned this to a sort-of-Greek scholar re: another passage he had translated and written about, and what ensued was an interesting look at “O” vs. “Oh” as the English vocative via various Internet articles – I had argued that it should be “O” – and if I recall correctly, it turned out that “Oh” isn’t necessarily as incorrect as I had thought.

      • Don M. Burrows

        Yes, thank you both. Someone pointed this out to me as well when the post was first published. The O of both Latin and Greek is indeed traditionally translated as “O” in English, but who uses that anymore? So sometimes you’re seeing “Oh” now instead.

  • RevBeth127

    As I understand it, not speaking Greek, Greek had no punctuation, no paragraphing, none of the clarifications that would help us get the tone of the author. It makes a lot of sense to consider the turn in the comments beginning at chapter 2. WOW, and thanks.

  • Keith DeRose

    Calvin L. Porter, “Romans 1.18-32: Its Role in the Developing Argument,” NTS 40 (1994): pp. 210-228.

  • playforme

    Amen and amen

  • Matt Kuiper

    It is fairly clear in the text that Romans 1:18-3:20 covers the announcement of God’s wrath and the reality of the knowledge of God. Paul’s argument is that yes these are the known Gentile sins that cause them to be under the wrath of sin, but let me tell you something, you are not safe from God’s wrath, in fact you also are under God’s wrath. Also the vocative used in the beginning of the chapter looks like it is the beginning of diatribe. This style can also be seen in Romans 3:1-8. This is a literary device of setting up an imaginary dialogue with a student or an opponent. I would think a more accurate reading of this text would be that “because God’s wrath is revealed against all people, and because all people have been given knowledge of God, therefore even the person who judges is without excuse before God.”

  • William Colburn

    The context of these verses (1:18-2:1) is what is ‘natural’ vs ‘unnatural’ as evidenced in ‘nature’. From his cultural perspective, it was ‘natural’ for men and women to marry and have children. It was therefore ‘unnatural’ not to get married and to raise a family. When women preferred to remain single and men preferred to act out in ‘gangs of other males’ – all that was unnatural. This seems to have less to do with sex and more to do with ‘abandoning the natural course’ of mating. Additionally, within their worldview, Paul wrote that everyone had to know that God existed (1:19,20). Other options, as we have today, did not really exist. When folks when against their convictions, their minds became ‘depraved’ (1:28) which then led to wicked acts. Note, none of the acts of a depraved mind had to do with sex (1:28b-31). Finally Paul claims that those he was writing (those who know the Law) do practice the same things (2:1). Was he therefore suggesting that the Jews were all homosexuals and lesbians? Most likely not, which begs the question, were the ‘unnatural’ acts (1:26,27) referring to homosexuality or to the ‘unnatural’ choices to actually deny their sexuality and to hang out in same sex rebellious ‘gangs’ with murderous thoughts?

  • Carol A Ranney

    Why is this passage always quoted beginning with, “For this reason…” Back a few verses it seems to say that the people referred to knew about salvation through Christ but they instead chose pagan worship (images of men, birds, animals etc.) Then it says, “For THIS REASON…” How can any passage make sense if the prior verses aren’t taken into account when the passage refers to them?

  • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

    Makes sense that Paul is not condemning homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27. But that does not mean he approves it either. What he is condemning is a judgmental spirit–condemning the person rather than the sin–which is only God’s prerogative. Speaking of context, what Scripture as a whole, including especially the Old Testament (the most complete statement of God’s Law/Torah), e.g., Leviticus 18:22, states about homosexuality must be taken into account

    • ZaCloud

      Just as we must also take Leviticus 11:9-12 into account. And Leviticus 19:19. And 19:27 and 19:28. And 20:10 ;P

      Sorry, but that guy really can’t be taken seriously, otherwise we’re ALL going to Hell.

      • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

        “That guy” is our Creator who wants to be our Heavenly Father. And no one who understands His mercy and grace, who accepts His forgiveness, and who allows Him to change them into His likeness of goodness and love is going to Hell.

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          Paul is our creator? The writers of Leviticus are also our creators? You sure you want to run with that?

          • Don M. Burrows

            Unfortunately, many people privilege their doctrine of inspiration above any and all Biblical scholarship or external knowledge to the contrary. They claim they are privileging the Bible, but they’re not, merely the doctrine about how we’re supposed to treat the Bible. This doctrine has become their god.

          • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

            Don,
            You make this judgment of what my god is without even asking for evidence? What evidence do you have to support your doctrine that the Bible is not inspired? If you have none, then aren’t you guilty of what you are accusing me?

          • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

            Watchman, this seems similar to asking what evidence we have that Mere Christianity is not inspired, or that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not inspired.
            If a person thinks a document is inspired, it seems to me that it is up to them to provide evidence. At that point, others can consider the evidence and perhaps demonstrate that the evidence is valid or is not.
            What is your evidence that the Bible is inspired? I am happy to interact with your evidence.

          • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

            That is a fair question, Tim. But it is beyond the scope of this thread started by Don. If you really want a reply, please contact me through my website at http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com.

          • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

            I read your article (skimmed some of it). It sounds interesting, but it seems like a modified dispensationalism. I never did find out who Babylon is.

          • brmckay

            Inspiration to a crustacean, or to a humming bird?

            We go with what we know.

            There is only God.

          • Don M. Burrows

            jesuswithoutbaggage summed it up nicely below, re: “What evidence do you have to support your doctrine that the Bible is not inspired?” But I would just add this, building off of what I said above. That the Bible contains clear discrepancies depending on which book we are reading and what its author wished to convey is old news — more than a century old (actually, it goes back as far as at least Origen, further still in the Jewish tradition, but I’ll stick with the issue of higher criticism as it originated in the 19th century). At the heart of this is in many ways a disagreement about what the Bible is: one text or a library of texts? Most (non-fundamentalist) scholars would say the latter.
            These long-known discrepancies are usually explained away with tortured apologetics — like the kind that tries to make sense of the very different genealogies given by Matthew and Luke. Many Christians have had no problem reconciling a general doctrine of inspiration (the Bible is a received, sacred text nonetheless written by men who were subject to error) with the findings of higher criticism since the 1800s. These Christians embraced modernism 150 years ago and basically gave us mainline Protestantism today (generalizing, but the general outlines are correct). Another group set themselves up in direct opposition to higher criticism (fundamentalists) and still do today, because for them, inspiration means inerrancy — every word of every passage is not only “true” in the nebulous way “truth” works, but also “factual” in the scientific, rational sense of (in this case, pseudo) modernist thought. So of course for these folks any two passages must be read through a modernist, fact-based lens as “historical,” as opposed to a reading that might concede its lack of historicity but instead ferret out what the author is trying to convey, and hence if they appear to disagree, great lengths must be taken to explain some way in which the two can be reconciled. This doctrine of inspiration is intellectually bankrupt, and goes against all the tenets of my professional discipline (because classical and Biblical philology are sibling disciplines and follow much the same methodologies). So yes, I (and most other mainline Protestants, or at least the seminaries that inform their theologies) reject that view of inspiration.
            This might make a fun (new) post. Stay tuned.

          • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

            I see that you don’t believe that Paul and the writer(s?)of Leviticus were inspired by the Creator in what they wrote.

        • Michael

          This complete and utter devotion to a creator that exists only in a book that has been translated countless times throughout history is the reason that I run far, far away from Christian fundamentalists. @watchmanbob:disqus, I sincerely hope that when you leave this earth, you find the Heavenly fantasy that you believe exists. I hope that you don’t close your eyes and cease to exist, or worse, condemn yourself to an eternity of “Hell” for making moral judgements on those around you. You, sir, sicken me. Your self-righteous, bible-thumping arrogance makes me sick.

          The ant whose complete destiny lies in my hands, could equally view me as God. Was he a good ant? Did he “sin”? If he did, will I rule him to death and send him to an eternity of burning hell?

          Speaking of which, here is a bit from my under-educated mind regarding this topic: What a horrible God this must be. If I have been placed here for no other purpose than to exist out of fear, then what a dark, dismal hell-like quality this lifetime has. Ugh!

          • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

            Michael,

            We simply have different views of what the truth is.

            I believe in a loving, merciful, forgiving Creator who loves His creation so much that He allowed His only Son to come into this wretched, hostile, deteriorating world to redeem it by voluntarily suffering and sacrificing His life for it.

            I am sorry that you have such a misinformed concept of who Scripture states that Yahuah (“God”) is. In fact, it seems that you are confusing the attributes – sadistic, merciless death and destruction – of Satan with those of the one, true God. Whatever suffering in this life or after it we have to endure, we have brought on ourselves by rejecting the Lord and His sacrificial love for us and by giving ourselves over to the Evil One and our self-destructive impulses.

            By the way, the concept of an “eternal” hell is not Biblical. That’s a false construct that orginated with the Catholic Church (but, sadly, has been perpetuated by virtually all Christiandom). The purpose of Hell, as I understand it, is to purify those who have rejected the Lord’s grace and mercy in this life. But, in the ultimate end (true eternity), ALL of His creation (including Satan and the fallen angels) will be restored to its original perfect, glorious state. For a complete, detailed, Scriptural exegesis of the concept of “eternity” in the Bible, please visit this page: http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/forever.html.

            So again, we just have different concepts of reality. I am simply stating what my understanding is – not trying to force my views on anyone. Nor do I think that I am any more “righteous” than you or anyone else. I am basically a disgusting, rotten, reprehensible sinner who can do no good, apart from the saving mercy and grace of my Heavenly Father.

            Actually, it seems that you are the one making “self-righteous,” “moral judgments” here – imputing motives and concepts of “God” to me that are not true. May He open your eyes to the Truth, before it is too late.

          • brmckay

            Where does this shadow of Evil arise from?

            What sustains it?

            Is God All? or not?

            What parts of this millennia long Abrahamic melodrama are keeping us distracted from the singular truth, that “I and the Father are One.”?

            Not Two.

  • Becci Himes

    Mr Burrows, would you say that this can also be applied to Paul’s passage which have often been used to suppress women in the church?

    • Don M. Burrows

      Hi Becci, which passage? 1 Cor 11?

  • Susan

    Thank you, Don. My own study of Paul has led me to similar conclusions about other passages (such as the first half of 1 Corinthians 11). That study made me wonder just how much misunderstanding of the Bible can be traced simply to dividing the texts into pericopes of more-or-less uniform length for convenient public reading. Rhetorically, the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 11 is clearly a single pericope, with the real point coming in the second half. Here in Romans, we not only have a pericope division, but a chapter division as well. The rhetorical purpose of the “clobber passage” is easily lost by not seeing its relationship with what follows.

  • http://winging-it.me Carma

    I’ve been searching on this issue for a while. I’m willing to examine evidence with an open mind, but I need solid exegesis to consider. I do see your point that chapter 2, “Oh man” is beginning a new narrative and perspective; however I can’t see that it is therefore necessarily condoning those things in 1:18-31. Rather, it seems to be saying, “We Jews condemn people without the Law who do all these things, but we can’t pass judgement on them just because we have the Law and they don’t; we are condemned too for such things, even though we have the Law. Sin without the Law and perish, sin with the Law and perish.”

    Regardless, you can’t really pick homosexuality out of a line-up that names envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful and say that it’s the only one that’s not sinful. If one pays attention to context, as you say you are doing, the immediate context must be of even more interest than the extended context.

    However, though I don’t believe you’ve made a compelling case, I do not believe that these or any verses “rationalize all manner of discrimination against gays and lesbians” any more than they rationalize discrimination against gossips or other sinners.

    • Don M. Burrows

      It may not be condoning what’s happening in Romans 1:18-31. It does, however, color what those verses say quite a bit, don’t you think? If Paul were responding to a typical diatribe by saying “knock it off”? Seems like something our contemporary discourse should take into consideration.
      On comparing “homosexuality” with a list of other ills, several problems present themselves: 1) Antiquity’s definition of “homosexuality” was not precisely the same as ours; in fact, it was complicated in far different ways from our own. 2) When Paul chooses to refer to it, he uses a word he appears to have invented (in 1 Cor. 6:9) which raises the question of why he didn’t grapple with the terms already in place that refer to same-sex attraction and sex. Is he familiar with it, or not? If he is, why does he fail to use the available terminology? 3) all modern scientific, psychological, medical, and psychiatric professional associations agree that same-sex attraction and intercourse is a normative part of human sexuality, so you’re setting yourself up for boxing the Bible into a conflict with what not only modern science, but common sense and everyday experiences tell us. We didn’t do that with slavery, even though the Bible either outright condones it or (in a more charitable view) fails to condemn it. Why now? Why with this?

      • http://winging-it.me Carma

        (1) I have heard that the ancient definition is different than ours; if you could point me to something I can study on that matter I’d appreciate it. (2) I have not heard that Paul was coining a new word, can you also point me to that reference please? (3) While that is a consideration, even a powerful one, simply saying something is scientifically and psychologically normative is NOT the same as saying it is not sin. There are recent studies showing that the more “masculine” a man is (wider face, bigger muscles, higher testosterone), the more likely he is to be unfaithful in sexual relationships; therefore it is natural and psychologically normative for him to cheat on his wife … and yet it is still a sinful breaking of the marriage vow.

        It’s an interesting and compelling discussion, and as I said I’m willing to examine the evidence with an open mind (despite my fundamental upbringing). :)

        • Richard W. Fitch

          You can find an extended discussion of Romans and sexuality at the GRB web site:

          http://goldenrulebible.com/

        • Don M. Burrows

          So again, you’re boxing God into declaring something a sin that is proven to be normative and healthy, in the same way people devoted to slavery boxed him into being OK with that by citing the verses that condone it. Comparing it to adultery is problematic, since there we have a third party acting in concert with a second party to harm the first. The analogy thus fails.
          Lots of resources on “homosexuality” in antiquity, though almost all of them will exercise caution when using that term, if they do at all. The oldest (and now much outdated) is Dover. Halperin has built from his work. On the other side of the issue (more essentialist), the work of Amy Richlin and Tom Hubbard to name just two. I’m sure I’m leaving people out, but those would at least point you in that direction.
          The word Paul uses is ἀρσενοκοίτης, which appears to be derived from the Greek translation of the Hebrew of Leviticus (so even originally, we’re dealing with translation issues!). This appears nowhere else in the vast Greek corpus before Paul. Again, the authors I cite above will explore the other categories and names used for same-sex acts and attraction in antiquity, but they vary and are complex. Hence any declaration that the Bible’s authors have in mind what we do when speaking of “homosexuality” — laden with the psychological and medical professional consensus and modern views of sexuality — is problematic. In some ways they were the same; in many, not.
          I explore the issue in more depth, with some helpful links, in this post: http://www.donmburrows.com/2013/05/anti-gay-scholar-shows-his-true-non.html

          • http://winging-it.me Carma

            Thanks for the links, I’m interested to look them over. But it’s interesting that you keep making out that I’m saying more than I actually said. I wasn’t comparing homosexuality to adultery per se, but rather merely using it illustratively to show that just because something is “normative” does not necessarily mean it’s okay. Especially considering that “normative” means nothing more than taking a reading of the society at large, so that it changes from one generation to the next, as with normative grammar. (Please note, I’m not comparing homosexuality to grammar in any other way by the use of this illustration.) So what is normative in one culture is not normative to the next, which means “normative” itself is pretty much useless in a discussion such as this one. I’m looking for truth, and I’m willing to search for it even if it means taking God out of a box, but “normative” (aka “fluctuating”) standards don’t count as truth.

          • Don M. Burrows

            I’m not talking about a poll of the population. I’m talking about what modern science, psychology, and a host of other scholarly disciplines have determined to be a normative part of the human condition based on years and decades of research into the matter. So again, you’re setting the Bible up in contradiction with the tenets of empirical research. And i (and many others) find that problematic. That’s why so many have simply jettisoned Christianity in general, though they need not. Modernist Christianity has made room for such scientific understandings for centuries now.

          • Anne

            Isn’t all human behaviour “normative”? This to me is why scripture appears problematic. Unless we have a “Job experience” (before I was only a hearer of the word, but now I see (God) face to face), we can only act out of our own human understanding, which to me cannot be judged by other human beings, whether they are citing scripture rightly, wrongly or anything in between.

        • AtalantaBethulia

          Re: “While that is a consideration, even a powerful one, simply saying something is scientifically and psychologically normative is NOT the same as saying it is not sin. There are recent studies showing that the more “masculine” a man is (wider face, bigger muscles, higher testosterone), the more likely he is to be unfaithful in sexual relationships; therefore it is natural and psychologically normative for him to cheat on his wife … and yet it is still a sinful breaking of the marriage vow.”

          This draws an incorrect conclusion from the given data: that it is normative for him to cheat on his wife.

          A logical conclusion would be that given X character traits a person may be more inclined to be tempted to cheat and or to cheat OR there is a correlation between cheaters and certain physical traits.

          That doesn’t make it “normative”: based on what is considered to be the usual or correct way of doing something.

          It might make it a common corollary, but that doesn’t indicate causation. One relates to objective data (trends): under this set of circumstances this is what tends to happen OR when X happens (cheating) this trend in physical/character traits tends to appear.

          The other (“normative”) puts a value judgement on it – something the field of science doesn’t do. Ethics does. But not science.

          Comparing the willful breaking of a marriage contract/ vow/trust/confidence/established relationship with its opposite: falling in love with another human being who is not otherwise committed to someone else, fulfilling a normative, inborn human need for companionship and love is, as John Shore says: Unfair and UnChristian.

          It’s never intellectually honest to compare chainsaws and apples.

      • billioscopy .

        Instead of trying to justify your own temptations you should be praying for strength to overcome them. I suppose the fire that came down from heaven upon Sodom (sodomy) and Gomorrah wasn’t enough of a hint what God thinks about this. I didn’t see the word “God” or “Jesus Christ” in anything you wrote…….intestering! What ever happened to simple spiritual insight. You can flip words around all day long but the truth is in the Spirit. You know you’re wrong. Why would you want to work for the enemy? What has he promissed you? A little fame and fortune?

        • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

          Instead of trying to justify your own temptations you should be praying for strength to overcome them.

          Typical blaming and shaming behavior. “You just haven’t prayed hard enough.” My response to that kind of garbage isn’t fit to be left in a comment here.

          • billioscopy .

            Acts 5:29

          • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

            Acts 5:27-32 (verse 29 is bolded):

            The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

            Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

            I’d like to suggest that if you respect the Bible as much as you claim to, you might want to demonstrate it by not ripping single verses completely out of context to score debate points.

        • lrfcowper

          If the threats made on the angels in the Sodom and Gomorrah story are even about sex (“know” used in a sexual context is not used to refer to coerced sex anywhere else in scripture), they are threatening RAPE, not a pleasant, consensual getting-to-know-you date with some hanky-panky after. People who confuse rape with consensual adult sex really shouldn’t be trusted to dictate morality.

          • Heroic Hal

            Indeed, lrfcowper. Even ignoring billioscopy’s reversal of the chronology (God had decided to destroy Sodom *before* the episode with the angels), to conclude from the episode with the angels that homosexuality was the source of God’s wrath is to presume that if the angels had taken the form of women and the locals had come by and demanded to have forcible sex with them, God would have been OK with that.

        • Heroic Hal

          Ezekiel 16:49: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Sorry, what was the relevance of this to the discussion?

  • S3r3nity

    “Scholarship has been preoccupied often with the content of verses 1:26-27 to the distraction of its context.” It’s relevant to remember that the big ol’ 2 at the end of these verses wasn’t added until the 13th Century and is therefore an editorial addition rather than being superintended. Unfortunately that big typographic insertion often triggers a page break as well as a paragraph break further disassociating these verses from their context.

  • Richard W. Fitch

    Michael Woods has done nearly a decade of study on the koine Greek papyri discovered in cave #4 at Qumran and has begun a new translation of the NT based on his analysis of the vocabulary found inn these scrolls. His major contention is that we have lost the everyday language of the NT after years of translations through multiple languages and thru the distorting lenses of various church doctrine, some of which are foreign and indeed antithetical to the original. With respect to Rom. 1, he emphases the that 1st century Jewish schools of interpretation divided Torah into two distinct sections: commandments between God and man, and commandments between man and his fellow man. [ I usually try to use gender neutral terms but in this incident will stay consistent with the original language used.] On this basis verse 1:26, 27 speak to the issues of ritual piety and religious purity. Verses 1:28-32 are addressed to the sins of man against his fellow man. Also in the first verses, he ends by saying that the ‘crime is its own punishment’, alluding to a Stoic tenet that excess passions cause confusion in the doer. Although most in conservative religious groups who wish to condemn homosexuality and/or homosexual behavior as ‘worthy of death’, it is only the second verses, 28-32, to which Paul attaches this condemnation.

  • Adam Wilson

    ZaCloud said, “Sorry, but that guy really can’t be taken seriously, otherwise we’re ALL going to Hell.”

    If by this you mean “If all the passages mentioned are true and apply to our lives, we’re ALL going to Hell,” then you have hit the nail on the head.

    This is the heartbeat of Scripture. We are broken, evil, depraved creatures that cannot live up to the Glory and Holiness of God. We are dead men. But as the Apostle John says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

    IF we ignore the gravity of sin, proclaiming it to be natural or a normal and proper part of human life, as our culture is now doing, then we undermine the very need for grace and the Sacrifice that God has made on our behalf. Without sin, without brokenness, there is no Gospel.

    This is Satan’s oldest trick. “Surely God will not condemn you for satisfying your natural desires; surely you will not die.” And we so eagerly believe him, we convince ourselves that God didn’t really mean what he said, seeing that the fruit is good for food and a delight to the eyes. And in partaking, we die.

    But (thanks be to God!), it says in the same passage:

    “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-26

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      No one is going to burn in hell. The Bible doesn’t teach it and it is against the character of the Father.

      • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

        Scripture? Or are you just blowing smoke about what you have no understanding?

        • Don M. Burrows

          Interestingly condescending reply. What you are practicing is not in fact Biblical criticism but theology or apologetics. So demanding “Scripture” while accusing someone else of not knowing what they’re talking about is the height of irony.

          • Christian Vagabond

            Any argument a person makes about interpreting scripture is rooted in theology. Complaining about theology or apologetics in a discussion about scriptural interpretation is like saying that equations are off limits when discussing calculus.

            I disagree with Adam and Watchman Bob’s take on homosexuality, but their theological argument about sin and Hell are rock solid.

          • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

            CV,
            I’m thankful for your help here. I don’t claim to be a scholar or expert on the distinctions between Biblical criticism, theology, apologetics, exegesis, and so forth … nor am I interested in getting into that hair-splitting, academic discussion. I just want to share the life-changing, life-saving Truth the best I can with whomever will respond in the same spirit.

          • Don M. Burrows

            “Any argument a person makes about interpreting scripture is rooted in theology.” Not necessarily true. There is such a discipline as Biblical Studies, which is (usually and supposedly) secular and peer-reviewed. Some people are more open than others to having their Christianity informed by such scholarship; others set their Christianity in diametric opposition to such scholarship in general (for example, referring to it as “hair-splitting,” because they deny the complexity that Biblical criticism often exposes). So while I agree that any time Christians argue about God we’re talking about theology, some are more open to secular, peer-reviewed information (what this post attempts to make use of) than are others — so when the latter group decides to engage in a conversation about real, actual, Biblical scholarship, even though they reject the very foundations of it (again, the notion that Biblical criticism should be a “thing” to begin with) while simultaneously demanding “scripture” — this is the height of irony. Why demand “Scripture” if you are in essence not willing to have the conversation about the Bible to begin with? What will “Scripture” solve if you think any academic analysis of it is hair-splitting? Not to mention dismissing someone as not knowing what they’re talking about is just rude. Make sense now?

          • Theodore A. Jones

            “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 Which law?

          • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

            Don,
            Maybe we need to back up to your first reply to me, which, the same as this one, was based on the false accusation that I accused Tim of not knowing what he was talking about.
            I admit that I phrased my question to him bluntly, but that was not inappropriate (certainly not “rude” and “condescending”), because his statement that there is no hell was a likewise blunt statement that appeared to blatantly contradict Scripture. But it was a question–I was not accusing him of anything. I really did want to know why, based on Scripture, he thinks there is no hell.
            I have since read Tim’s essay about hell, as he (more graciously than you) suggested. And I can see that he has put a lot of thought and study into his view. I disagree with some of his conclusions (e.g., that hell is just the grave and is not the place of punishment of the wicked), but I respect the manner in which he arrived at his conclusions. And I have invited him to correspond with me further on the subject.
            Also, I don’t think that my reply about not wanting to be dragged into a “hair-splitting” academic discussion when I was simply asking Tim for Scriptural support for his view of hell was inappropriate. It seems to me that it is your jumping in there and beating me over the head with your “higher criticism” stick, rather than waiting for my dialogue with Tim to run its course, that is inappropriate and, in fact, condescending. Don’t you agree?

          • Don M. Burrows

            No, obviously, I don’t agree. You implied he was “blowing smoke” about something which he didn’t understand. Putting a question mark on it doesn’t absolve you of that implication. I’m glad you’re walking it back now, however, and that your discussion with him has proven fruitful.
            I’m sorry if I come across as condescending. Do you, in fact, accept the precepts of higher criticism? If not, then we’re having two different and irreconcilable conversations, and wasting each other’s time. That’s what I’m trying to get across.

          • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

            No, Don, you are still reading into my reply what was not there. I was accusing, either directly or by implication, Tim of nothing. The question mark means exactly what it was – a question. What “blowing smoke” implied was that it seemed to me that he was blowing smoke, not that I was accusing him of that without considering his Scriptural support for his view, if he had any.
            As to “the precepts of higher criticism,” I neither accept nor reject them, because I am not familiar with them. The “two different and irreconcilable conversations” to which you refer do not exist, because, again, I was simply asking Tim a question and was responding to his suggestion that I check out his blog on hell when you condescendingly and rudely, with false accusations, tried to impose an irrelevant conversation about higher criticism versus theology and apologetics on the dialogue.

          • Don M. Burrows

            This is getting absurd (no, wait — it passed that already). It seemed to you he was “blowing smoke,” so you asked him that, and you “just asked” if he had no understanding of the matter. Sure. I’ll let everyone else decide if what you wrote was condescending or not.
            As to higher criticism, this isn’t the only comment of yours I’ve responded to. Below you also appear to chastise people for assuming a human authorship of the Bible. So again, you appear to be operating under a version of inspiration that many people here simply don’t share. You then appear to be affronted when people talk about the Bible outside of those assumptions, and have responded thus accordingly. I’m simply pointing out that there’s that fundamental disconnect, making conversation on the matters we’re discussing somewhat futile.

          • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

            For once, we agree, Don. This is getting absurd. I’ll go where I can get a straight answer (without attacking my motives or trying to drag me into an irrelevant conversation) to a simple request for Scriptural support. I’ll leave the apparently spiritually unenlightened morass of “higher criticism” up to you.

          • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

            Watchman Bob, you said: “As to ‘the precepts of higher criticism,’ I neither accept nor reject them, because I am not familiar with them.”
            I haven’t read enough of your writing to determine your framework of belief, but I assume, for the moment, that it includes a conservative view of the Bible.
            If you are not familiar with higher criticism, you might benefit from doing a little reading on it in order to factor it into the background of discussion. I think an hour or two of Google searching could help a lot.
            I would suggest searches for ‘biblical criticism’ and ‘literary criticism’ for starters. Keep in mind that biblical criticism does not mean criticizing the Bible. Instead it considers the background of the Bible, how it was written, the time and situation in which it was written and understood, and similar issues.
            If, indeed, this is something you are not familiar with, I think you will enjoy the research.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            And the life-changing, life-saving Truth in your opinion is?

          • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

            What I have been sharing. Please see my other responses.

        • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

          Hi Watchman Bob,

          If you are interested in scripture, I devoted a few blog posts on the subject of hell in the Bible. They link together and begin with:

          http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/what-about-hell/

      • Theodore A. Jones

        Well. Hold your breath and put your idea to the test.

        • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

          Theo, what do you mean by ‘hold my breath’? Anxiety? Or fear? I do not have anxieties over superstitions, and belief in an eternal burning hell is a superstition.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            “No one is going to burn in hell”? Yeah right! Hold your breath and put your fallacious conjecture to the test. What have you got to loose? Clear?

    • http://www.revelationunderstoodcommentary.com/ Watchman Bob

      Excellent reply, Adam. I said the same more succinctly in my reply to ZaCloud.

    • Theodore A. Jones

      RE “apart from the law” law is referencing the OT written code. However, “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13, the word law is not referencing the written code.

  • Tim Bicklesby

    Read in context, it seems like Romans 2 says that Jews will face God’s wrath for committing the sins in Romans 1 just as surely as Gentiles. Put another way, Jews cannot judge Gentiles if Jews are going to commit the same sins. The two chapters amount to a clear condemnation of all of those “sins”, including — especially even! — homosexual acts, and a condemnation of Jews who believe that they can sin and yet judge Gentiles as beneath them.

    That, to my mind is the clearest reading of those passages. But, just to bolster my position, I looked online and found Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, which contains four interpretations of the passage that reach much the same conclusion. So, this straightforward reading could be the prevailing reading. What’s worse, is that you haven’t referred to or cited this obvious reading, which is bad scholarship on your part.

    Today there is a new revisionist Christian scholarship that seeks to reinterpret the Bible consistent with modern acceptance of gay people. It is well meaning, in that it seeks to ground acceptance of gay people in the words of the Bible; but it is ultimately misguided and destructive.

    Your interpretation amounts to a denial of the historical persecution of gay people. This denial is a sin. Gay people in western society (and other societies) have long been oppressed, including in Biblical times. It is best to accept that the Bible is historical evidence of the oppression of gay people, and to simply conclude that those teachings are out of date.

    Further, your line of argument is bound to fail because there is plenty of authoritative scholarship for the interpretation for the Romans passages as a condemnation of homosexuality. Therefore, people who use the Bible as a basis for their prejudices can point to legitimate scholarship on the Bible to bolster their position. In other words, you open the door for legitimate disagreement in a debate that is ultimately about whether homosexuality is valid. This is a huge mistake.

    It is best to direct your intellectual energies to a theory that says that the Bible allows for views to change and for people to become more tolerant and accepting.

    In fact, what’s even worse, is that whatever view you take, Romans portrays the Jews as a haughty, superior people, who believe that their mere status as Jews exempts them from standards of decency, which is clearly consistent with modern anti-semitism. Unfortunately, the Bible provides a basis for a lot of hate — hatred which is entirely consistent with its meaning. Best to accept that the Bible was written by imperfect people with political biases, prejudices, and outdated views.

    • Don M. Burrows

      I can sympathize with a lot of what you say here, and generally it has been my take as well. In response to “What’s worse, is that you haven’t referred to or cited this obvious reading, which is bad scholarship on your part.” I would simply point out that the reading of Romans 1 as a straightforward condemnation of homosexuality really needs no repeating.

      You are correct that a lot of apologetics on this score “amounts to a denial of the historical persecution of gay people.” You will note that I never suggest that this might not ultimately be the case; what I have said here is that this passage is complicated; that the rhetorical aspects of it have been parsed and teased and debated, and that it remains an open question who is speaking in Romans 1. You may be right at the end of the day that Paul was anti-gay (though I would caution against using “gay” or “homosexual” within ancient contexts, because the fact remains that their sexual paradigms and sexual categories were different from ours). What you have said about scholarship of the Bible seeking to absolve its authors of homophobia has also been said of some scholarship of antiquity (see Richlin’s review of Halperin’s book: http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/1991/02.01.08.html: “The only reason that I can see for this strained reading of the cinaedus is a desire to see in Greece and Rome a better time, when there was no homophobia.”). You may also see on this thread, or on the UC facebook post of this article, where I correct people who suggest that the Greeks and Romans “had no problem with homosexuality.” This is also false, as many of the terms within that semantic range (nothing lines up perfectly) are pejorative (see Richlin’s comments on cinaedus). I agree that it is important not to whitewash the prejudices of antiquity.
      Generally, my take (and you can see this elsewhere on this thread) has been that the Bible is an ancient document that reveals ancient prejudices, such that even if one accepts that it condemns same-sex relationships, that condemnation is not necessarily reflective of the modern world, any more so than its approval of slavery was. Paul was OK with that, to the extent that he returned a runaway slave to its owner, so it would not bother me if at the end of the day he was homophobic. But to cite this passage with all its complexity as an unambiguous proof text of one’s own, modern homophobia is problematic at best.

  • Martin

    As has been mentioned before, to use the words of bedouin wanderers as the complete basis for society as an end all and complete by law is sort of shall we say Archaic. These societal strictures were put in place when life was very different and harder than anyone excepting those starving on the plains of Africa can even imagine. If we take the Bible itself as a reference and example we can grow as a society. The Bible changed…No? Well, let’s put aside the facts of the various colleges through history that have decided for reasons of their own to change it. It has changed from the Old Testament to the New. From an earlier version of the truth of Our GOD(s) to the newer version. So, can we now go from Middle as it has come to us from old to a modern version more up to date with the societal norms of today? Or do we still need to cling to the past and not find grace in that which our world is today? IN the Parable of the GOOD Samaritan and others…?

    • Christian Vagabond

      If one accepts the premise that God has the capacity to communicate directly with people, then squabbling over which culture he chose to communicate with is pointless. He can choose any individual or any culture he wants to. If you accept the idea that God is all-knowing, then human history is just a blink of an eye to him. Comparing the intellectual awareness of ancient Hebrews to modern society would be like splitting hairs compared to God’s knowledge.

      Even if you believe Bible should only be used as a reference, repeatedly modernizing it to fit with the norms of a given century will eventually cause the original meaning to be lost. Even the Good Samaritan parable would end up meaning something radically different to future readers.

      The original post is rooted in the argument that the intended meaning of Romans 1 has been lost, and we should embrace its original meaning. Your argument that we should adapt scriptural interpretation without regard to past understanding is an argument in favor of the modern belief that Romans 1 is an anti-gay clobber passage. If we take your approach, then we lose any grounds to reject any interpretation of scripture.

      • Theodore A. Jones

        You’re right about that.

  • Seraphim Hamilton

    I’m highly critical of the view that Romans 1:18-32 is basically a quotation of Jewish diatribes against Gentiles. It is undoubtedly true that the form of 1:18-32 is similar to that of Jewish arguments against Gentiles, especially as found in the Wisdom of Solomon, but Paul modifies it at key points. Furthermore, there is no indication that Paul disagreed with the fundamental contention of Judaism at that time: the Gentiles worshiped idols. Paul’s vocation as an Israelite whose mission it was to bring about the “obedience of faith” among the Gentile world, in fact required Gentile idolatry for consistency. Even if Paul were quoting and critiquing a Jewish diatribe, his critique would not be that he disagreed with their moral teaching, but rather that he found the Jewish person to be hypocritical in making these arguments.

    But more importantly, there are two phrases in Romans 1 which mitigate against this view. First, Paul says that the Greeks “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…” This is an allusion to a passage in the Psalms where the Israelites exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the golden calf. Second, Paul describes God “giving them over” which is also a passage from the Psalms criticizing Israel. In Romans 3, likewise, Paul takes Psalms criticizing Gentiles and applies them to Israel. This pattern on Paul’s part is intended to establish a very important point: Israel and the Nations have the same problem. They both are in Adam. That Paul reconfigures the texts in similar ways indicates that 1:18-32 are his thoughts.

    Furthermore, Romans 1 is not a criticism of Gentiles in general. It is more specifically a criticism of Greeks. Though this is often missed, Paul does not use the terms interchangeably. 1:13-14 describes two categories of Gentiles: Greeks and barbarians. The Greeks were the highly cultured ones. Romans 1 criticizes their claim to wisdom. The Greeks claim to have true wisdom, but they do not, says the apostle.

    Then, beginning in 2:16, Paul addresses the Jew. The Jew says “indeed, the Greeks do not have true wisdom, for wisdom is embodied in Torah. Our role is to be the light of the world, and we will heal the Greeks through Torah.” But, Paul says, Israel’s exile has definitively refuted this. Israel as a whole has disobeyed the Torah, and instead of serving as the light of the world, “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 3 then goes on to establish that God’s through-Israel-for-the-world plan goes forward through Israel-in-person, Jesus the Messiah, who, being the eternal wisdom of God, is the way in which we genuinely do the Torah.

    So, I see Romans 1-3 as an argument about who has true wisdom. The Greeks claim wisdom, but they don’t have it. The Jews might have wisdom in Torah, but they don’t do it. Jesus is the true disclosure of the wisdom of God, and when we are “in Christ”, only then do we receive wisdom.

    • Theodore A. Jones

      To understand the soteriological argument of Romans, Rom. 2:9-16 is the key. “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 Is he referencing Torah? Not hardly. The law was changed by and after Jesus’ crucifixion. One’s been added and this one must be obeyed to escape from serving the penalty of eternal death. Now about this issue of sexual perversion. There is the good tree whose seed is that law and the bad tree whose seed is the lie of “Jesus died in your place”. All contemporary churches that are built upon this lie have the display of homosexuals, lesbians, pedophiles and every other kind of sexual deviate in the make up of their hierarchies. There is no contemporary church Jesus Christ is head of. The good tree cannot bear bad fruit.

      • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

        Most churches that proclaim substitutionary atonement believe homosexuality is a sin and most liberal/progressive churches don’t believe in substitutionary atonement.

        • Theodore A. Jones

          There is no contemporary church that is not built upon the doctrine of substitutionary atonement or a variant of this concept. But the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the sin of murder therefore cannot be a direct benefit to anyone.
          Besides there are only a very few that ever figure what the small narrow gate into God’s kingdom actually is and this truth is not understated.

          • Seraphim Hamilton

            Theodore, as you should have seen by my thumbnail, I am Orthodox, therefore I’m not going to affirm the forensic gloss on substitution which you have elaborated. The death of Jesus is of benefit for man because it constitutes God’s free participation in death. Because God is the source of life, His participation in death undoes death through the resurrection. This is why the embodiment of the cross of Jesus means the reception of His risen life.

            (2 Corinthians 4:7-12) But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

            Concerning Romans 2:9-16, St. Paul actually is referring to the “Torah” because Torah is not abolished in the Messiah, but fulfilled and brought to deeper meaning. The argument in Romans 2 is against the Jew who invokes Israel’s status as “light of the world” (2:19.) The Jew agrees with Paul that the Greeks do not possess wisdom, but the Jew argues that Israel is the solution to this problem, being the light of the world through strict obedience to the Torah.

            For Paul, however, Israel’s national disobedience has led to exile, which has caused the name of God to be blasphemed among the nations (2:24.) 2:13-14 points to the reality of Gentiles who actually “do the Torah” because it is “written on their heart.” This refers to Gentile Christians, given the allusion to the new covenant prophecy in Jeremiah 31:33. This argument is expounded more fully in 2:25-29, where it is explained that the uncircumcised Gentile with a circumcised heart (see Deuteronomy 30:1-6 for background) is more truly an Israelite than a circumcised Jew with an uncircumcised heart.

            The question of Torah is answered in 3:27- the Torah that the Gentile Christians “do” is not the written Torah, rather, it is the “Torah of Pistis”, that is, the Torah defined by the “faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah” (3:25-26, I’m using the subjective genitive translation based on the work of Richard Hays, N.T. Wright, and Michael Gorman), which means His faithfulness in going to death leading to resurrection. To “do the Torah” means to embody the crucified and risen Messiah. Hence, the “circumcision of the heart” means that the shape of the cross is cut into the heart through suffering. This is why Paul, in Galatians 6:16-17 identifies the Church as the Israel of God and notes that he bears the “marks of Jesus” (as opposed to the mark of circumcision) on his body.

            The reason that “embodying the life of Jesus” constitutes “doing the Torah” is because the Torah was seen as the imprint of Divine Wisdom. For Paul, Jesus is the personal incarnation of divine wisdom (see 1 Cor. 1:30), so that to be “in the Messiah” means “doing the Torah.” Paul’s theology is incomprehensibly rich.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            Orthodox or polkadox is irrelevant and immaterial and is no defense.
            “For it is not those who (just) hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 The man is NOT referencing Torah. You cannot get into God’s kingdom without obeying what this law requires. There are no exceptions buddy and there are only a few that ever find the gate. Comprenda?

          • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

            One’s broader theological framework is extraordinarily important and highly relevant when discussing specific interpretive issues. To simply dismiss all of Orthodox theology by saying “Orthodox or polkadox is irrelevant and immaterial and is no defense,” is arrogant and disrespectful and makes it quite clear that you’re not interested in irenic and productive discussion. If that is indeed the case, then I suggest you move along and don’t waste any more of our time.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            Friend, there is no contemporary church that Jesus Christ is head of. As for moving along practice what you preach.

          • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

            Continuing to make intentionally opaque, divisive, off-topic and repetitive remarks is a sure-fire way for me to remove you from the conversation.

          • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

            Theo, I think Dan’s threat to delete your comments was based more on your attitude and improper argumentation than whether you disagree.

          • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

            Exactly. Which is why Mr. Jones won’t be joining us here any longer.

          • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

            G’bye Theo. I hardly knew ye!

          • Seraphim Hamilton

            Actually, it is, given that your criticism was against a particular view on substitution that Orthodox Christians do not hold to.

            Re-asserting your contention about Romans 2:13 is irrelevant. Of course it’s talking about the Torah. The statement that there are Gentiles who “do the law” because it is written on their heart is an allusion to Jeremiah 31:33, which says, literally “I will write my Torah on their hearts.” Of course, Paul is not imagining Gentiles abstaining from pork and wearing fringes. What he is doing is piqueing our interest as he paints a fuller picture of his teaching through the rest of the letter. 2:25-29 starts that process: there are uncircumcised Gentiles who are circumcised in the heart. This means that the “Torah” does not necessarily include circumcision. 3:25-27 makes it clear: these Gentiles do the Torah of Pistis that is, they embody the faithfulness of the Messiah, who is the incarnation of divine wisdom and therefore the true definition of the “Torah.”

  • Seraphim Hamilton

    Concerning the vocative in 2:1, it is addressed to the Greek who claims true wisdom through his identity as a cultured Hellenist. Most people, including scholars, often fail to realize that Paul was in very conscious dialogue with claims to Greek privilege in addition to claims to Jewish privilege. He was well versed in the philosophers and his mode of speech reflects formal training in rhetoric. His aim was to establish unity between Jews, Greeks, and barbarians in the one God disclosed in Jesus Christ.

  • Heroic Hal

    It seems to me that Romans 1:26-27 is explaining that homosexuality isn’t even the sin that angered God to begin with, but that God forced heterosexuals to engage in behavior that disgusted them, themselves, even while they were doing it as punishment for the sins they *had* been committing.

    • Amy

      Interesting thought…

  • John Gray

    Very nicely done! I also highly recommend “The New Testament and Homosexuality” by Robin Scroggs

  • Michael Zimmerman

    Reason #214,745 Why It’s Great To Be Catholic and Reason #274,094 Why Sola Scriptura Fails Miserably

    • Oswald Carnes

      Wow. You’ll admit to being catholic in public? Have you no sense of shame?

      • Michael Zimmerman

        Excuse me? I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. If you wish to spit upon me for my faith, I welcome it. They spat on Jesus too. And while I’m a far cry from reaching His level of holiness, it still means I get to look a little bit more like Him :)

        • Dempeoples

          I think that was sarcasm and you took it seriously.

  • Eric

    Ha! That highly difficult to distinguish case, the Vocative, strikes again! Eph 5′s vocative for “wives” and “husbands” also makes a huge difference; namely, that one cannot use what’s addressed to the addressee against them (which, of course, a lot of men/husbands do to women/wives). Leaving room not only for the conviction and enabling of the Spirit, but also – and, arguably more important – for the freedom of the person addressed to see themselves in the totality that God sees them – warts and radiance – and act in their freedom to love, show mercy and walk humbly with their God….

  • EMatthaei

    Let’s assume that Porter is right about the last half of Romans 1 being a representation or quotation of Hellenistic Jewish opinion. What difference does it make? If Paul is turning from a quotation to directly address his own audience in Romans 2:1, pay attention to what he says. He does not say, “This is vile and dishonest hate speech, because God approves sodomy.” No. Paul condemns the Jewish audience for judging the Gentiles as if they themselves were pure. Paul says, “The judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things…” and Jews are just as guilty of them as Gentiles.

    Porter may want his students to believe that Romans does not condemn homosexual conduct, but his argument (as presented here) does not take us to that conclusion. It only says that the real condemnation is found in Romans 2 instead of Romans 1.

    • Charles Gill Sfo

      Romans 1 is not about whether or not the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable. It is a rhetorical device to set up for Romans 2. The whole book of Romans springs, in a sense, from Romans 2.

  • Steve Russell

    I’ve heard other thoughts on this scripture too. Don’t you just wish we could just call up Paul and ask what he really, really meant?

  • Charles Gill Sfo

    Somebody else gets it. St. Paul plays the role of the fundamentalist, revivalist minister in Romans 1, hipping up his audience, then when he gets them hipped up, he gets to his main point in Romans 2. The revivalists have St. Paul down, and don’t realize the consequences. This is what happens when you quote any part or Torah, Prophets, Writings, Gospels, or Epistles as Law and not as the manifold literary styles in which they are. St. Paul engages in a revivalist literary style here, and therefore one cannot quote it out of context, or one gets it all wrong.

  • JenellYB

    It presents an interesting possibility in what is actually being conveyed there. As I began some years ago to first, simply actually READ the bible, each ‘book’ as it is presented, considering it as a whole, discreet piece of literature, within the context of time and place and setting, instead of as it had always been presented in religious teaching settings, preaching, teaching, with snippet from here and there plucked out and strung together, virtually everything I’d ever been taught in my religious past about ‘what the bible says’ fell apart. Delving further into common literary devices within those cultures and languages, careful attention to detail, such as here, just who is saying what about whom to whom, recognizing how much text has been actually completely different texts spliced together, in what is sometimes a senseless willy-nilly patchwork, had the effect of both further eroding many previous beliefs, and drawing out new understandings as well. To not even start on getting into trying to actually look at what original languages might have meant. There were points at which I really became quite excited at things I discovered, which seemed to answer great questions and grant wisdom others seemed to have missed, but that was quickly shot down. Worse than no one really cares, far worse, there is such hostility against trying to draw out such truths and wisdom as might be mined from within scripture, that I learned any hint of such question of how it has been commonly used, worked into familiar doctrines and beliefs, pretty much insured will get one hit by any number of handy “clobber verses,” for any number of “cloberrable offenses” that basically means you are dismissed, discredited, and condemned as heretic, and they don’t WANT to hear it any different than they already find handy to keep it as it is.

  • http://www.europeanamericansunited.org/ Johnny Empire

    Looking forward to a similar analysis of the Quran, the organized followers of whom are far more dangerous to civilization than a scattered handful of fundie Christians. Tripe such as this neo-esoteric article is meaningless

  • BT

    Thank you. It’s similar to 1st Cor 14:33-35 where Paul is quoting others who want to silence women, but then follows with “What??? Was the word of God delivered only to you?” It reads much more smoothly if the injunction on women being silent is an external quote that he is disagreeing with.

    There is precedent for what you’re saying here.

    • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

      BT, some scholars understand 1 Cor 14:33-35 as a later, non-Pauline addition to the text. It reads much more smoothly if those verses aren’t there at all! See, for example: http://coolingtwilight.com/putting-words-in-pauls-mouth-women-shut-up/

      • BT

        I agree with that. Both are possible explanations, and both result in a reading that makes FAR more sense.

  • Bill Ball

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