A Rereading of Romans, Part 2

Part 1 is here.

I found the biographical insight into Augustus on pages 54-55 fascinating and worth its own blog post, especially when compared with the video lesson
God Heard Their Cry by Ray Vander Laan. I bought this video on iTunes late last year but now they aren't available?!? DVDs are available here.

The information about Augustus is used by Stowers to further bolster his thesis that one of the least emphasized concepts in understanding Romans is the idea of self-mastery. But Stowers contradicts himself on this point. On the one hand, he says:

The works of Philo and Josephus and other Jewish writings from the period of the second temple, but especially the sources from the early empire, provide vital evidence for Jews who wanted to attract Gentiles into a sympathetic relation with Jewish communities by advertising Judaism as a superior school for self mastery. —pg. 65

On the other hand, he downplays the role of self-mastery in Romans:

Although certainly not the most important theme in Romans, self-mastery may be the theme most poorly understood and underemphasized in modern interpretation. ... Again, understanding the law as a means to self-mastery uncovers in the central piece of the puzzle that unites ethics, theology, and a historically plausible explanation of Jewish and Gentile motivations. —pg. 66.

Chapter 5 thus demphasizes the ethic of self-mastery and denies that any of the virtues can be had through the performing of works from the law. Paul does not deny a place to self-control, but he does not, as his competitors were likely to have, center his ethic on self-mastery. --pg 73.

Furthermore, the Greek word for "self-mastery" or "self-control" (from Galatians 5:22-23) is nowhere found in Romans.

So why the emphasis on "self-mastery"?

One clue is Stower's claim that Jews are not intended as the audience of Romans, even though Paul says the gospel is "to the Jew first". Another clue is on page 69, where Stowers says the following about Romans 6:14-15:

One could read this in a traditional way: The opponents have not accepted the idea that Christianity has replaced Judaism as the way to God. But concepts associated with self-mastery make better sense of the passage.

Yet another clue is on page 72:

Earlier, Paul had assured his readers: Christ did redeem them from the curse incumbent upon those who only partially observe the law, "So that the blessings of Abraham might come upon the gentiles in Christ…

I find the phrase "who only partially observe the law" curious, as one of Paul's main ideas is that no one, Jew or Gentile, fully keeps the law (except, of course, for Jesus).

These hints lead me to believe that Stowers wants to keep certain aspects of Judasism in the presence of Christ. But where he actually goes with this remains to be seen.



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