Saturday, June 19, 2010

Brief note on Paul and para-physicality

After reading James DeYoung's article, "The Meaning of 'Nature' in Romans 1 and Its Implications for Biblical Proscriptions of Homosexual Behavior" (JETS 31 no. 4, 1988), and mindful of the rhetoric being thrown around in my own denomination about sexuality, I'm stuck using the phrase "missing the point" once again. It's becoming an unintentional trademark of mine.

DeYoung did his homework, and it's a decent article for either side trying to interpret Paul's comments about exchanging kata-physical usage for para-physical usage. Beyond the evident bias of the frame, in which he is trying to discredit the interpretation of this passage as allowing certain kinds of homosexuality (and therefore discredit ecclesial proponents of homosexuality), he hits physis in its lexical and contextual senses with what seems to me reasonable accuracy. He also hits the efforts to shade Paul's point pretty hard.

Now, I'm willing to do this last bit myself -- Paul meant what Paul meant, and co-authored a text to convey that to a solidly Roman audience. While it is self-evident that Paul didn't mean what we mean, that point doesn't automatically give us the wiggle room that has sometimes been claimed. If Paul is talking about some sort of homosexuality, or any sort of homosexual relationship, it doesn't follow necessarily from the context difference that our forms fall outside of first-century distaste and moral opprobrium. That has to be proved in its own very detailed fashion, and it's a very fuzzy argument because we must construct both our forms and their forms in profound detail. So I'll fall on DeYoung's side as far as shooting down ideas that this is a pederasty-only condemnation.

The further trouble with shaving down Paul's meaning to one particular point is that the wording in Romans 1 is incredibly broad! I part company with DeYoung on the point of shading ten physiken chresin and ten para physin and framing them to fit our forms at all. Paul's rhetoric is good preaching here: specific enough to get the point into the hearer's mind, and generic enough to make it appear however the hearer constructs it. Pejorative framing context, use of para physin as a broad but acknowledged topos covering deviant sexual behavior, and beyond that, characterization of it as misdirected excessive desire. Paul need say no more. No age terms, no status markers, no specification of the kind of people involved, just genders. Let 'em color in their own picture! And it works with us just as well as I'm sure it worked with the Roman churches. We point just as surely at "those sinners over there," whose image we have painted in our own minds. If Paul is condemning homosexuality here, he's doing it as broadly as possible. And as briefly -- you can't possibly tell me this is a theme of the letter.

Now: is he condemning homosexuals? Does the religious context, the idolatry point, help -- is he condemning faithful, baptized Christians with same-gender orientations? And what if he is, in this passage? What if these two verses really are as broad as the most exclusive normative moralist among us wants to draw them? How much does it matter? How much, when you read the whole argument? How much, if it's designed to set the audience up for a fall?

Would you take the opening line, especially if it were an exceptionally juicy rhetorical bit, out of a two-page newspaper article and cite it as the author's true and honest opinion? Would you call it eternal divine truth, when the author is really leaning on some other ethos? Is this "sound bite" what Paul is saying in Romans? Is it even what he's saying in Romans 1-4? Are you going to tell me that Kierkegaard believes as his own opinion any given line of Either/Or? Especially the strong opinions? Let alone that God does!

What really interests me is coming. Use according to nature and contrary to nature is only sexual here, but Paul uses it as a motif in the larger scheme. You cannot escape the sexuality reference as a component of the condemnation of "all of the impiety and injustice of those people who are covering over the truth with injustice" in chapter 1. (I've been trying!) But watch the rhetoric invert the audience's condemnation upon themselves. Watch this hypothetical story of unjust and idolatrous people bite them in the ass as they cheer for God's judgment ... upon themselves. And watch Paul point out what God has done rather than do what Luther called "his opus alienum." Good Greek is a brilliant tool for long, rhetorically moving argument -- so much more capable than English, but therefore so much less useful for a Strunk and White world.

All right, so I'm absolutely incapable of writing a 'brief note'.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The wrong Jesus analogy

Along with Romans, to aid myself in taking it apart and putting it back together, I'm reading textlinguistics, or discourse analysis, or New Rhetoric, or whatever you want to call it (a field in which you can't swing a dead cat without hitting Stanley Porter). And I've also been reading Roland Barthes for some time, so when I come across a chapter on la mort de l'Auteur, I'm understandably interested. The chapter that inspired what follows is Anna Mae Olbricht's "Constructing the Dead Author: Postmodernism's Rhetoric of Death," and it's a good piece. She uses the Jesus analogy in an interesting way to make the integration between PM lit-crit and Biblical Studies, and then deals ably with its problems. But she raises to the front of my mind several problems with the Jesus analogy in this particular bit of postmodern rhetoric.

It seems inevitable, in Biblical Studies, that we get the Jesus analogy when we talk about the death of the author, and it's just as easy to misuse as the same analogy with the death of God. Hell, I made the same error myself, several times, when studying Nietzsche. It's entirely understandable, even if it misses the point. We have a God who has died, and is risen (and will come again). And from the death of God to the death of the Author in the contemporary hermeneutical landscape isn't too far a stretch at all, because the assumption that God is the author remains live in the field (whatever it actually means in practice). It embraces this problem with a confounding assumption that when we say Jesus is Lord, and God, that we can destroy the hypostasis in favor of a functionally monadic deity. That God died and now lives, that the Author died and now lives, and that Meaning was never in question through the entire process. It's altogether too facile and unfaithful to use Jesus to save us from uncomfortable postmodern ambiguity and uncertainty, and I don't think Jesus is on board with the attempt.

The Jesus analogy really bothers me here. The death of the author is the birth of the reader, as Barthes said, which is profoundly important when we integrate his desire for writerly texts over readerly ones. There is play in the text which is frozen by elevating some particular view of the author, and further restricted by enforcing the passivity of the reader. We kill the author to define her our own way, and kill the reader to enforce that definition. We become the author, the authority, this way. A second death of the author is necessary, a death of our asserted, appropriated authority. This death is the birth of the reader and the rebirth of the writerly text. And shall we inscribe the passion play over this drama? And how shall we?

How shall we, especially when the first act is forgotten? Hamlet's father died before the curtain opened, and do we see his ghost, or do we allow the new king to be our sovereign? But the first act is not forgotten -- God remembers. The Hebrew scriptures record many, many deaths of God in order to assert human authorship. The Pharisees know all too well that God is not present, and desire that he should become so, that they should write his presence back into the life of the nation by their lives. We moderns who talk about creation as the definitive action of God, about God as the person of the Father alone, and about that God's action as utterly completed under the past perfect tense, know it too. But we have all made this dead God ourselves, and determined to call Him the Author. As Barthes knew, it is much easier to speak of an Author definitively when that Author is dead, finite, bounded and completely knowable. Likewise to speak of His Oeuvre, of "the sacred page," when it cannot be surpassed.

But we killed Jesus because he dared to show that the real author is alive and continues to work, that even the texts we canonize are writerly and open, and that the reader must be free within the joyous play of those texts. Jesus was not the author, but pointed to the one who is, and refused to accept the title himself. If we assert that same living God as author, whom Jesus called Father, we must assert that we do not know her. Hidden precisely in revelation. We hear the sound of it, but we do not know where it comes from or where it goes -- and how should we ever say that it stops?! It is this way with everyone who is of the Spirit. We must not permit ourselves to worship the creature, or the revelation, or what we might manufacture from them. We must not allow the simple, absolute, determined meaning to become our idol. The real author always escapes our grasp, because she stands over and outside of us, in the very same moment as he stands in our place, and lives in us.

If there must be an hypothesis of God's authorship of scripture, it must be useless to us for the determination of texts in advance of our need of them. If we trust too much in them, we will find that all texts are sinking sand, not solid rock. And perhaps there must be such an hypothesis, if only to hasten the second death of the human author and the destruction of the rigorously constructed meanings that replaced him. But it is not the job of God to point us to the text, but of the text to point us to God.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

An die Roemer, part 6: 1:26-32

1:26-32: Consequences of idolatry, or what God allowed under the punishment
διὰ τοῦτο παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς εἰς πάθη ἀτιμίας·
αἵ τε γὰρ θήλειαι αὐτῶν μετήλλαξαν τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν εἰς τὴν παρὰ φύσιν, ὁμοίως τε καὶ οἱ ἄρρενες ἀφέντες τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν τῆς θηλείας ἐξεκαύθησαν ἐν τῇ ὀρέξει αὐτῶν εἰς ἀλλήλους, ἄρρενες ἐν ἄρρεσιν τὴν ἀσχημοσύνην κατεργαζόμενοι καὶ τὴν ἀντιμισθίαν ἣν ἔδει τῆς πλάνης αὐτῶν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ἀπολαμβάνοντες.

καὶ καθὼς οὐκ ἐδοκίμασαν τὸν θεὸν ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει, παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς εἰς ἀδόκιμον νοῦν, ποιεῖν τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα, πεπληρωμένους πάσῃ ἀδικίᾳ πονηρίᾳ κακίᾳ πλεονεξίᾳ, μεστοὺς φθόνου φόνου ἔριδος δόλου κακοηθείας, ψιθυριστάς, καταλάλους, θεοστυγεῖς, ὑβριστάς, ὑπερηφάνους, ἀλαζόνας, ἐφευρετὰς κακῶν, γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς, ἀσυνέτους, ἀσυνθέτους, ἀστόργους, ἀνελεήμονας· οἵτινες τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπιγνόντες, ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες ἄξιοι θανάτου εἰσίν, οὐ μόνον αὐτὰ ποιοῦσιν ἀλλὰ καὶ συνευδοκοῦσιν τοῖς πράσσουσιν.
Because of this, God gave them over to dishonorable passions; the females among them exchanged the natural 1:[function] for one contrary to nature, and likewise also the males, having abandoned the natural function of the females, were inflamed in their 2:[desires] toward one another, males doing shameful things with males, and receiving among themselves the recompense merited by their straying.

And just as they did not see fit to recognize God, God gave them over to an unfit mind, to do what is not fitting, having been filled with all unrighteousness, malice, evil, and greed; full of jealousy, murder, strife, trickery, and bad character; whisperers, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, braggarts, uncoverers of evil, disobedient to parents, unwise, unfaithful, uncaring, and merciless; who, recognizing God's just declaration, which is that those who do those things deserve death, not only do them themselves, but also are pleased with those who do them.
1: χρῆσις - use, and in the Greek (as also the Latin usus), this is both the utility/function of a thing, and a sexual metaphor for human intimacy. The combination of chresis and physis is interesting, because they aren't always aligned. Material is regularly used in ways that are not its nature. A tree is not naturally a boat, but its material, its ὕλη, may find usefulness in that form. But we're talking ritual impurity and the dishonor of created bodies, which is Levitical (and Pharisaical), not Hellenistic, morality. Perhaps an analogy to Mies is helpful to the phrase, Mies who found it repugnant that a material should be used in design to take the natural function of some other material, rather than respecting its own natural use. Steel is not wood, nor is concrete stone.
2: ὄρεξις - desire for/yearning after a thing, from ὀρέγω, to reach or grasp, to aspire or strive for something. Bauer-Danker says the noun only appears pejoratively in "our literature," in Democritus as well as the Judeo-Christian writers. Unseemly excess.
Ah, the vice list. Horrible vile things "they" do. And what is the sin? Failing to recognize God, or knowing God, to approve of God as God. Idolatry as the natural consequence. And as punishment for willful idolatry, for worship of bodies instead of God, a very particular kind of sexual excess to dishonor the body, "forsaking its natural use," subject to your own personal brand of evil -- and we go through all the kinds Paul and his team can conjure up. A list guaranteed to merit all of the disapproval the audience has to give. This is the crowning repugnance of the juridical parable. If they don't stand up as one body and volubly condemn such vile, impious unrighteousness and its obviously immoral consequences, they're deaf! Which means that Paul has them right in the palm of his hand, perfectly unprepared for the punchline.

An die Roemer, part 5: 1:24-25

1:24-25: The punishment
διὸ παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις τῶν καρδιῶν αὐτῶν εἰς ἀκαθαρσίαν τοῦ ἀτιμάζεσθαι τὰ σώματα αὐτῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς, οἵτινες μετήλλαξαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ ψεύδει, καὶ ἐσεβάσθησαν καὶ ἐλάτρευσαν τῇ κτίσει παρὰ τὸν κτίσαντα, ὅς ἐστιν εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας· ἀμήν.
Therefore, 1:[because of] the desires of their hearts, God 2:[gave them over] into ritual impurity so that their bodies would be 3:[dishonored] among them, those who exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and venerated and served the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed into eternity, Amen.
1: en+D - we have a proper sequence with παρέδωκεν, which is in note 2, and this isn't part of that action. We really could say "in" here, and just leave it, but the plethora of meanings makes me want to get more specific. It denotes the state of the people so punished, but it might also denote the thing used for the punishment, "by the desires of their hearts" -- if you want it badly enough, you might get it as a way of teaching you why it's wrong. Since we already have the proper "eis" construction with paredoken, God didn't give them up "to/into the desires of their hearts." And otherwise we have causal implications, that the desires of their hearts are the reason for God's punishment in this way.
2: παρέδωκεν - paradidomi + eis + infinitive, "handed over to/into ________ for the purpose of ___________." God gives over his people regularly as punishment for unrighteousness and idolatry in the Bible. There is definite Semitic logic behind this, and one might assume in his audience as well to simply accept this recounting of history.
3: ἀτιμάζω - dishonor as the negation of τιμή: value, worth, dignity, honor, reverence, respect. Shameful treatment.
And the punishment fits the crime. God releases worshipers of bodies into ritual impurity, into unclean-ness and the void of holiness as a mark of the people of God, in order that the bodies they revere and honor and respect might quite naturally lose that value. Why? Because knowing God, they didn't want God as God. This happens a lot in the history of the people of God! But the only honor that creation has is in the holiness of her God. The glory of the creature is in its creator, which is the proper direction for pious veneration and worshipful service. And all the people say: Amen! And Paul goes on.

Knowledge of God, and missing the point

It is very much as Barth say it is, as Calvin frames it -- natural knowledge of God is subordinate to revealed knowledge of God. It only exists in the retrospective view of faith. To try and make a way from nature to God primary is to confuse apologesis with catechesis. Rom 1:19-20 can be read as though natural knowledge of God made the unbeliever inexcusable, but it shouldn't be. God is not revealed in creation -- God is hidden by it! Were creation our epistemological ground, we would be unjustified in knowing anything about a God who acts utterly unconstrained by it. Such a God is ridiculous, once we get past the point where a God of the gaps in our knowledge is tenable. A world of completely explicable nature (even if we haven't quite nailed down the last few high-level explanations, and are debating bigger explanations of smaller things than anyone is truly worried about on a daily basis) is a world quickly running out of room for an aetiological deity, and running out of freedom for a sovereign deity. Or at least, for one bound involuntarily within a place in the system of things. Science is opposed to religion here -- and it should be, when such a religion is trying to share the same phenomenological explanatory niche.

Which is as it should be! Christianity is not such a religion, nor is Judaism, nor for that matter Islam, though Paul had no concern for it at the time. "The eternal power and divinity of God" has been undetectable since the creation of the cosmos. "And their eyes shall not perceive Him." But God acts! God reveals, this hidden God who is no less present and active and sovereign, not subordinate to the world, but free over and within it. (Note, not sovereign as in ruling in power, but as autonomous in capacity -- I like to stick with the Greek, and remember that dynamis is not for thumping.) The existence of things that are obscures our perception of things that are not, as well as the God who is superior to all of them. But God has made Godself clear to the understanding that trusts.

If we have knowledge of God which is not revealed by the things made, though it may retrospectively be seen in them by knowing God and looking at things, it is not therefore contrary to the ability of science or philosophy to explore those things. We must agree with the phenomena, as they appear, because we, too, cannot get ourselves past the phenomena. Only faith pursuing understanding comes to further explanations. To the extent that they contradict the phenomena, where we know that God has acted and does act and is concerned, we must still say that the phenomena are not wrong, just incompletely representative of the reality of the situation. Even the hard scientists know that what appears to be the case is not always the best functional explanation of what is actually the case.

Not, of course, that this is the point! Theologically-minded explanations of the world are not my job, whether they amplify or antagonize science. The point is quite other. The job we are failing to do is to value and praise this particular saving God as God. And where do we get the knowledge to do that? It is revealed by God in faith, and subsequently by our faith and to our faith. The natural, to whom God has not revealed Godself by any other means, is excused for not seeing this very particular God in the visible, created universe. Which has never been the point, considering that it involves us turning judgment outward upon others. Paul will turn this juridical parable against precisely that sort of behavior on our part! In the end, even if there is a point here about natural knowledge of God, it is an utterly subsidiary point in Paul's argument to and about the faithful and their faithlessness.

An die Roemer, part 4: 1:18-23

1:18-23: Knowledge of God
Ἀποκαλύπτεται γὰρ ὀργὴ θεοῦ ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ ἐπὶ πᾶσαν ἀσέβειαν καὶ ἀδικίαν ἀνθρώπων τῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐν ἀδικίᾳ κατεχόντων, διότι τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ φανερόν ἐστιν ἐν αὐτοῖς· ὁ θεὸς γὰρ αὐτοῖς ἐφανέρωσεν. τὰ γὰρ ἀόρατα* αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου τοῖς ποιήμασιν νοούμενα* καθορᾶται, ἥ τε ἀΐδιος αὐτοῦ δύναμις καὶ θειότης, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἀναπολογήτους, διότι γνόντες τὸν θεὸν οὐχ ὡς θεὸν ἐδόξασαν ἢ ηὐχαρίστησαν, ἀλλ’ ἐματαιώθησαν ἐν τοῖς διαλογισμοῖς αὐτῶν καὶ ἐσκοτίσθη ἡ ἀσύνετος αὐτῶν καρδία. φάσκοντες εἶναι σοφοὶ ἐμωράνθησαν, καὶ ἤλλαξαν τὴν δόξαν τοῦ ἀφθάρτου θεοῦ ἐν ὁμοιώματι εἰκόνος φθαρτοῦ ἀνθρώπου καὶ πετεινῶν καὶ τετραπόδων καὶ ἑρπετῶν.
Indeed, the wrath of God is uncovered from heaven upon all of the impiety and unrighteousness of those people who in unrighteousness 1:[are withholding] the truth, inasmuch as that which is clearly known of God is 2:[clearly known by] them; for God made it clear to them. For that which from the creation of the world is unseen of God -- both the eternal power and divinity of God -- while being understood is clearly seen in God's 3:[deeds], so that that they are without excuse, inasmuch as having known God they neither valued nor praised him as God, but rather they were thoughtless in their accounting and their witless hearts were 4:[darkened]. They became foolish while presuming to be wise, and 5:[traded/mistook] the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the likeness of a corruptible human, avian, quadruped, or serpent.
1: κατεχόντων - holding, as in they have possession of it, is a necessary assumption of the word. What is implied is propriety of a selfish sort, of holding for oneself, of controlling, of withholding or keeping something back. There are analogies to covering, to either veiling the face or covering over the grave.
2: iterating the complex forward - it "is in them," which may or may not make sense; it "is clearly known in them" makes more sense while only reusing what has been just given in such a way as to align with the following verb, and then we may say "clearly knowm by them" by analogy to the plain dative uses of en+D. This also involves taking the complex "τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ φανερόν" in two pieces: a masculine genitive, "of God," embedded in a neuter nominative, "the clearly known thing." Paul (or more likely his amanuensis with the Roman birth-order name) is using better Greek than usual!
3: ποίημα - a thing done or made, from ποιέω, to do or make. Which is strictly an English distinction! In Ecclesiastes, we translate this word about half "deeds" and about half "things made." (All of which are, of course, futile in the end.) Now, in this passage we have already a reference to the construction of the world, which clearly colors existing translations toward the revelation being in creation, "in the things made." And if you ask a modern what God has done, creation will be right up there at the top of the list. But if you ask a first-century Jew or a first-century Christian convert what God has done, is that the answer you'll get? Why should these attributes, which have been hidden since creation, be revealed in creation? Why should they not instead be revealed in the actions by which God's people very specifically know this one to be God? Ascribing creation to God is always posterior to the actions by which we have come to know God as God.
4: ἐσκοτίσθη - "darkened," but skotos implies night-darkness, blindness, uncertainty. Not coloring, but absence of lighting. The organs of thought were cast into darkness such that they could not see to operate properly.
5: ἤλλαξαν - not "changed," as the incorruptible God and his glory cannot be changed, but rather referring to a mental action on the part of the people involved. The question of whether we say traded/exchanged, as a more clearly primary agentic act, or mistook/confused, as more clearly consequent to the sinful state, is a matter of taste, also secondary to the bare fact of idolatry in the face of knoweldge of God.
Idolatry. Giving to something else the value (glory) and praise that belongs to God. In this case, almost stereotypically, we're talking about graven images. And the wrath of God is revealed upon this because they know better! These people for whom God has acted as God -- and Paul is being awfully generic -- know the truth about God, and cover it over with the images of subordinate things. And Paul's generality covers his audience -- the Judeans will recognize a tale of Judean history, and the converts will recognize their own histories with idols. All of them, as church, know that God has acted to save them in clear and profound ways. All of them have come in these ways to know the eternal power and divinity of God, and to praise and (value) glorify that one as God. This is the joy of a juridical parable -- the audience agrees with you right up to the punchline! "This idolatry truly is impious and unrighteous, when we all know who God is and what God has done!" It plays on their wisdom, and their gnosis, with language that is so clearly biased to deprecate "those people," inexcusably thoughtless and witless, foolish without realizing it. (Not like us.)

An die Roemer, part 3: 1:16-17

1:16-17: Explaining the gospel/introducing the teaching
οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι. δικαιοσύνη γὰρ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν, καθὼς γέγραπται, ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται.
1:[For] I am not ashamed of the proclamation, because it is the power of God toward salvation for every believer, first the Judean and also the Hellene. For in it, the righteousness of God is uncovered to faith by faith, just as it was written, "but the righteous will live by faith."
1: "For" as a continuation, or "Indeed" as an introduction? Does this belong to the prior or following section? The parallel ἀποκαλύπτεται makes the connection, but the proclamation and the wrath of God are dialectically opposed. The logic of γὰρ connects as explanation of Paul's eagerness, but it could just as easily be introducing and explaining the gospel as a start to the discussion of law below. In any case, it appears to be rhetorical 'connective tissue'.
Paul, who proclaimed up until now to the provincial population, might be expected to change his tune in the seat of wisdom. He might be expected to be ashamed of what played well in Macedonia and Achaia. But Paul is not a man with an act. He has, as we have heard, one gospel. Even the angels don't proclaim another one. His proclamation is the power of God, the revelation of God. πίστις is the only qualification for it, and life is its result. That little dig, as we often read it, "to the Jew first and then the Greek," shows a priority that I expect to conflict with his audience just a bit. God, and not Rome, sets the agenda here. Paul used the language of Hellenes and barbarians not a moment ago, but he has another global us/them paradigm in mind. God's wisdom came first to the Judeans, and not the Gentiles -- to barbarians, and not Hellenes.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An die Roemer, part 2: 1:8-15

1:8-15: Prologue
Πρῶτον μὲν εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῶ μου διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ περὶ πάντων ὑμῶν, ὅτι ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν καταγγέλλεται ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ.

μάρτυς γάρ μού ἐστιν ὁ θεός, ᾧ λατρεύω ἐν τῷ πνεύματί μου ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὡς ἀδιαλείπτως μνείαν ὑμῶν ποιοῦμαι πάντοτε ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου, δεόμενος εἴπως ἤδη ποτὲ εὐοδωθήσομαι ἐν τῷ θελήματι τοῦ θεοῦ ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς.

ἐπιποθῶ γὰρ ἰδεῖν ὑμᾶς, ἵνα τι μεταδῶ χάρισμα ὑμῖν πνευματικὸν εἰς τὸ στηριχθῆναι ὑμᾶς, τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν συνπαρακληθῆναι ἐν ὑμῖν διὰ τῆς ἐν ἀλλήλοις πίστεως ὑμῶν τε καὶ ἐμοῦ.

οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι πολλάκις προεθέμην ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, καὶ ἐκωλύθην ἄχρι τοῦ δεῦρο, ἵνα τινὰ καρπὸν σχῶ καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν καθὼς καὶ ἐν τοῖς λοιποῖς ἔθνεσιν.

Ἕλλησίν τε καὶ βαρβάροις, σοφοῖς τε καὶ ἀνοήτοις ὀφειλέτης εἰμί· οὕτως τὸ κατ’ ἐμὲ πρόθυμον καὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς ἐν Ῥώμῃ εὐαγγελίσασθαι.
First, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ concerning all of you, because your faith is 1:[proclaimed] in/throughout/by the entire world. Indeed, God -- whom I serve in my spirit by the proclamation of his son -- God is my witness, how ceaselessly I always make mention of you in my prayers, asking whether by some means I will, at some time in the near future, succeed by the will of God in coming to you. For I yearn to see you, in order that I may share a spiritual gift with you toward your strengthening/confirmation, even, that is, to be comforted together with you through our common faith, yours as well as mine. I do not wish you to be ignorant, siblings, of how often I set out to come to you (and have been prevented so far), in order that I might have some fruit among you just as among the other nations. I am indebted to Hellenes as well as foreigners, to the wise as well as the foolish; hence my eagerness to proclaim also to you who are in Rome.
1: καταγγέλλομαι - this is a bit backhanded, isn't it? The same word may be denounced as well as announced, but given the sentiment of Rome toward the Chrestoi at the time, that may be intentional. The proclamation of the faith by believers and the declamation of the faith by non-believers both ring as news of the continued faithful existence of the churches in Rome in the apostle's ears.
This is one bookend of a matching set. It speaks to the audience directly to introduce the reason for this letter, and to flesh out Paul. It sets Paul in his place: Paul wishes to let them know how he is subordinate to God's wishes in all things. This is a man pulled in different directions: pulled to Rome by his yearning, his desires, his comfort (and not without benefit to them!); but pulled also by God's service in other directions. The Roman churches don't need Paul, and the job he does in that service; they are established. Only to the extent that the job Paul does will be advanced by going to Rome does it become God's will that he succeed. They might be confirmed, strengthened in their standing, by the gifts Paul has in the Spirit. There might yet be some fruit for Paul to pick from among their gardens -- which he did not plant, but may nurture for a short time on his way to Spain. Ah, but that nurture, that desired gain, that gift -- it is all wrapped up, as are all of Paul's desires, in what? The proclamation. The act of proclaiming. Paul is a messenger, a proclaimer sent with a proclamation to announce. A gospel, as we say it, the news of the coming of the lord. To proclaim this, he may chide the Galatians for their superstition, the Corinthians for their foolish weakness, and still tune those notes to sound to God's praise. That plays in the provinces -- but not in the seat of Empire. Not in Rome, with its Hellenistic pretensions and its philo-sophia. No; but he is indebted to them as well, and what follows is the same proclamation tuned for the ears of the wise and cultured.

An die Roemer, part 1 - 1:1-7

[I'm starting a little running commentary on Romans as I translate it -- comments, suggestions, corrections, discussion, &c are welcome! The Greek text is Tischendorf's 8th, version 2.5, done up by Ulrik Sandborn-Petersen (available from, and checked against NA27. I've segmented the text into reasonably logical units, and will be going at them straight through. Each segment has four parts: the text, my translation, my notes, and my commentary on the passage. The text is unstructured here, since I haven't figured out how to translate my sub-colon analysis into blog form.]

1:1-7: Introduction

Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ, ὃ προεπηγγείλατο διὰ τῶν προφητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν, δι’ οὗ ἐλάβομεν χάριν καὶ ἀποστολὴν εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ, ἐν οἷς ἐστε καὶ ὑμεῖς κλητοὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ῥώμῃ ἀγαπητοῖς θεοῦ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, a called messenger set apart for the proclamation of God -- which proclamation God promised in advance through his prophets in holy scripture -- concerning his son, the one born of the seed of David according to the flesh, the one declared son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness 1:[by the resurrection of the dead], Jesus Christ our lord, through whom we received grace and sending into the obedience of faith among all of the nations for the sake of his name, 2:[in which] you also are those called Jesus Christ;

To all the beloved of God who are in Rome, those called saints:

Grace to you, and peace from God our father and the lord Jesus Christ.
1: "ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν" - How do we mean ek+G here: from? after? by means of? And "the resurrection of the dead": "ἀναστάσις νεκρῶν" is the traditional referent for the resurrection of the dead, what the Synoptics suggest that the Sadducees deny. It is a seme; these words are syntagmatically connected through long usage. So, what resurrection is Paul talking about? The resurrection of Jesus? The general resurrection as an eschatological belief? Metaphorically, the salvation of Israel? I think that will tell us what we need as the translation of ek+G here. Of course, I also think all three of those options are tightly linked, so maybe we'd best not get too set on defining it here. This is the introduction of a topos within its context. And for Paul, that topos is inextricable from the gospel of Christ's death and resurrection. If we simply say "by the resurrection of the dead," which Paul believes to be an event brought about in Christ, which will be brought about eschatologically, and which in Christ is the salvific act of God, I think we've hit it square enough.

2: "ἐν οἷς" - Do we reference the last appropriate noun (in which name), or mirror the last en+D construction (among which nations)? The latter is true, but says less as an invocation of the Romans' standing. I think the former works better in context, since the name is that which they are also called (presumably as fictive kinship through the baptismal ritual). In this case the genitive is instructive because it is used of familial names, as "child of ...". Cf. Galatians 3:29, "εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς Χριστοῦ," where the genitive is also reasonably so interpreted.
Who is Paul? A messenger of Christ, subaltern to Christ. He has been set apart, segregated out, that action God does with chosen people, and assigned. If we understand it in that same light, Paul is not separated to be separate, but moved in order to move others likewise. God routinely uses one to get all. So Paul, a Judean, has been detailed to another branch of God's people: the Gentiles. God has detailed Paul a specific duty in that service: God's proclamation, advanced first in God's prophets, who wrote it down. Paul proclaims Jesus, this Christ about whom they wrote, son of David by flesh and son of God by spirit and power, to be lord. And this is the very first thing that connects Paul and the Romans: common lordship, common service. The saints in Rome, who are also called by Christ's name, have not met Paul. Nor has Paul met them, except perhaps as those sent out from Rome have crossed his path, voluntarily or involuntarily away from their home city because of their faith. And yet because of their common service, Paul is bold to speak of things held in common. We received grace, we received a mission, and we are children of God in Christ's name, who sends grace and peace. These who have not met are already one in what truly matters.