Item description for Solving the Romans Debate by A. Andrew Das...
Overview Scholars have long debated the "double character" of Romans. Why did Paul address a long discussion of Jewish themes to a Gentile audience? Das provides a fresh understanding of the identity and attitudes of the Gentile Christians in Rome and of the expulsion of Jews from Rome under the emperor Claudius. His reading offers new insight into Paul's concern for the Jewish roots of the Christ movement.
Publishers Description Scholars have long debated the "double character" of Romans. Why did Paul address a long discussion of Jewish themes to a Gentile audience? Das provides a fresh understanding of the identity and attitudes of the Gentile Christians in Rome and of the expulsion of Jews from Rome under the emperor Claudius. His reading offers new insight into Paul's concern for the Jewish roots of the Christ movement.
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Studio: Fortress Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.98" Width: 6.42" Height: 0.79" Weight: 1.2 lbs.
Release Date Jan 1, 2007
Publisher AUGSBURG FORTRESS PUB. #99
ISBN 0800638603 ISBN13 9780800638603
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More About A. Andrew Das
A. Andrew Das is Niebuhr Distinguished Chair and professor of religious studies at Elmhurst College in Illinois. He is the author of several books, including Paul and the Jews.
A. Andrew Das currently resides in the state of Illinois.
A. Andrew Das has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Solving the Romans Debate?
Important and valuable work Nov 7, 2008
"Solving the Romans Debate" focuses on one main controversial issue in Romans scholarship: the composition of the audience who the letter was written to. Das' work is in many respects a sequel to Karl P. Donfried's acclaimed collection of essays "The Romans Debate" reissued several years ago. Almost 2000 years after Paul penned "Romans" scholars cannot reach a consensus as to the intended audience and composition of the Roman Church which Paul had not yet visited. Das argues for an exclusive gentile audience and therefore represents one end of a spectrum of opinions that range from a mixed Jewish and gentile audience to an audience of gentile God-fearers and gentile Christians. The difficulty arises because we have no first hand statistical and demographic data regarding the composition of the Church in Rome at the time of Paul's writing much less a direct statement from or about Paul as to his understanding of the composition of the Roman Church. In taking a position of gentile exclusivity, the burden of proof is high and rests on the author's shoulders.
Although I disagree with Das' conclusion, this volume is quite impressive and deserves to be studied and serve as a reference work for any and all interested in Romans. Das displays an impressive and broad knowledge of the period in question and approaches the problem by an exhaustive use of the techniques of historical, literary, form, social and linguistic criticism. Das also calls upon a vast array of extra Biblical sources to analyze the grammar, translation, common use of words and rhetorical styles of the period to aid in interpretation of the text. He discusses in detail the work of other major scholars in the field with similar and opposing views as well as analyzing early Church documents and later Greco-Roman historical works.
Das also deconstructs the text in light of the current state of critical thinking and brings forth chapter and verse exegetical arguments that support his thesis of Gentile exclusivity. He concludes that Romans should be read and interpreted in light of its audience similar to Paul's letters to Corinth. In short, Das is placing the "intended audience" as a main interpretive driving force for reading Romans, a position I must strongly oppose for unlike Corinth, Romans is not just a situational letter.
Although Das' work is brilliant, it ultimately rests upon the scholar making value judgments of data and exegetical and translational issues of the text and how much weight is placed thereon. Furthermore, because we have no real "first hand account" of the issue in question the scholar must link together pieces of information, theory and interpretation by connecting them with logical assumptions. This risks the error common to natural theology of building your theory upon sand (scattered bits of data, inferences, opinions and assumptions) the fall of any one of which can send the entire house of cards tumbling.
As an example, Das and his thesis must contend with the complicated diatribe section in which Paul uses a broad and extensive exegesis and eisegesis of OT scripture as the backbone of his argument. Understanding this difficult and very much "Jewish" technique requires an extensive understanding of OT scripture and the forms of "Rabbinic-style" argument. Das concludes that the gentile Christians were first Jewish "God-fearers" who worshiped and were taught in the synagogues and therefore (he assumes) were sufficiently educated to understand and follow Paul's diatribe (though this same diatribe has challenged the greatest minds in Church history to this day!). Later, after reviewing the likely effects of the expulsion under Claudius on Church composition, Das elsewhere argues that a large number of new gentile converts who were not initially part of a synagogue nor familiar with Jews and Jewish traditions and teachings entered the separate house Churches of Rome.
Here we see an obvious contradiction. If the diatribe section of Romans has puzzled the great minds of the Church who have made a lifetime of study of this work and the texts in question, how much more these new gentile converts! Given that most of these Churches were composed of poorer, working people who likely had limited access to Jewish scripture and teachers, it seems unreasonable to assume that these people would understand what it took Paul almost a lifetime steeped in Jewish learning to understand. The Roman Church at the time of Paul's writing was not composed of people who were the equivalent of Yeshiva graduates. We are left with the impression that the author has missed the forest for the trees.
Is it important or even critical to know who Paul's intended audience was (or who Paul thought his intended audience was)? I believe that this is not a critical issue for if solving the Romans debate takes thousands of pages and hundreds of scholars to determine to whom a letter was written then it may just well be that there is no solution much less reason to see this issue as a major driving force in understanding and interpreting the epistle.
Perhaps Paul used the occasion of writing a letter of self introduction and good tidings to a Church he planned to visit to memorialize in a diatribe his understanding of salvation history. Herein we see the diatribe as an interweaving of salvation history at several levels: 1) global history of man's fall and God's plan of redemption, 2) the history of corporate "peoples" interpreted in light of this history and 3) how individuals are intimately affected and stand in this history. Deconstructing the diatribe critically unnaturally separates these three elements that were weaved seamlessly into a whole.
In conclusion we must remember with Paul that all scripture is "God breathed" and is witness to God's revelation in Christ. As such, scripture points us to the revelation which is immutable and eternal and cannot be changed by the use of the critical techniques found in natural theology. The text must speak to us in faith and as God's living Logos. Although the work of scholars such as Das are of great value, the truth lies not in the intellect of men but in the revelation of God in Christ given to us freely, in love and grace, and accepted in faith. Therefore FIDES QUAERENS INTELLECTUM can never be abandoned for even if Romans began with "To: Whom it may concern:" the diatribe would stand monumentally as God's revealed salvation history at the global, national and individual level for all people forever.
Who did Paul intend Romans for? Paul wrote Romans for all who seek God's revelation and truth.