hmsx_400_s06_f3

hmsx_400_s06_f3 - OVE BETWEEN MEN Early Christian Responses...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–12. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 6
Background image of page 7

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 8
Background image of page 9

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 10
Background image of page 11

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 12
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: OVE BETWEEN MEN Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism era—Mesa? Bernadette I. Brooten Notice This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17 U.S Code) San Francisco State University THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS CHICAGO (7' LONDON $318534? Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Interpretive Frameworks and Female Homoeroticism aul explicitly addresses female homoeroticism only once, in his Let— ter to the Romans (1 :26f),l in which he speaks of women who give up natural intercourse for unnatural and of men who analogously reject natural intercourse with women and become enflamed with passion for other males. Even though Paul restricts his comments on homoeroticism to this and one other passage (1 Cor 6 :9f, which refers to sexual relations between males), his views have deeply impressed themselves on Western culture. The following American colonial statute from New Haven (and the many others that have placed the death penalty on male—male sexual relations throughout history) illustrates this legacy: “If any man lyeth with man- kinde, as a man lyeth with a woman, both of them have committed abomi— nation, they both shall surely be put to death. Levit. 20. 13. And if any woman change the naturall use, into that which is against nature, as Rom. 1. 26. she shall be liable to the same sentence, and punishment.”2 Paul’s influence, however, is by no means limited to the past. Christian opponents of lesbian and gay civil rights today—whether from within the Roman 1. For the text of Rom 1:18—32,see below, pp. 215f. 2. The original statute appeared in New Haven’: Settling in New England: And Some buyer for Government (London: printed by MS. for Livewell Chapman, 1656). The whole of New Haven’t Settling is reprinted in 1. Hammond Trumbull, ed., The True-Blue Law: ofCannecti- cut and New Haven and the False Blue-Law: (Hartford: American, 1876) 199; and quoted and discussed in Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lerbian Almanac: A New Documentary (New York: Harper and Row, 1983) 101f, 676f, n. 30. Katz notes that this law, dated to March 1, 1656, was one of the few that placed the death penalty on women’s “changing the ‘natural use.’ ” He states that the statute remained in effect for ten years, until Connecticut, whose sodomy statute applied only to men, annexed New Haven. 196 CHAPTER EIGHT Catholic hierarchy or from within fundamentalist or mainstream Protes— tantism—often cite Rom I :26f in support of their views. Because of its canonical status, Paul’s condemnation of female and male homoeroticism enjoys a privileged and authoritative position not only within the church, but also, through its long—lasting influence, on the laws and culture of the Western world. In countries with a majority-Christian culture, very few people can actually cite Rom I :26f, but most know that many Christians condemn lesbians and gay men as sinners. And, whereas Christian influence on questions of foreign or economic policy has waned to the point of negligibility, many politicians and private citizens alike con— tinue to grant considerable authority to church teachings on sexuality and family life. While church doctrine on homoeroticism has undergone some change over time, it ultimately derives from the Bible. Thus, whether or not Western people have ever heard of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, it af— fects their lives. The Letter to the Romans has enjoyed particular prominence among Protestant theologians ever since the Reformation initiated by Martin Lu« ther, owing to the reformers’ strong emphasis on doctrines that they found in Romans (such as justification3 by faith, rather than by works, or pre— destination). The rise of historical-critical biblical scholarship has also strengthened the impact of Romans, since virtually all scholars agree that Romans is one of the earliest writings within the New Testament and that Paul himself (rather than one of his students or later followers) composed the letter. The letter’s theological complexity has added to its fascination and attracted literally hundreds of scholarly interpreters. How does Paul’s condemnation of homoeroticism fit into the larger theological purposes of this influential early Christian document? Scholars have given very different answers to this question, depending on their in— terpretive approach to the Letter to the Romans as a whole. In this chapter I will show how a scholar’s interpretation of Paul’s view of homoeroticism differs according to that interpretive approach. To do this, I will examine and critique several different approaches to Romans. First, I will treat two literary approaches, and second, I will present and critique several inter- pretive frameworks for explaining the overall theological and conceptual themes of Romans. Because Paul’s Letter to the Romans contains a num- ber of apparent contradictions, we may need more than one model of in- terpretation in order to address the multilayered arguments found within it. In the following two chapters, I first present a verse-by-verse commen- 3. “Justification” (cg, Rom 3:20, 28) refers to human beings being made right with God, being cleared of blame by God, whereas “righteousness” (e.g., Rom 1:17) signifies God’s fair and just treatment of human beings. 197 PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS tary and then several reconstructions of how the earliest readers of Romans may have understood the letter. I shall draw upon each of the readings presented in this chapter as I offer my own historical and theological inter- pretation of Rom I :18—32. Rather than aiming to establish a single cor- rect interpretation or the original authorial intent—which would be im- possible goals———I put forth interpretations that are plausible within the letter’s earliest cultural and intellectual context. Literary Approaches to Roman: Some interpreters attempt to understand Paul’s Letter to the Romans through literary means, utilizing such methods as ancient rhetorical theory, epistolary theory, and genre criticism for analyzing Paul’s arguments.4 I find genre analysis to be the most fruitful of these methods for inter— preting Romans, specifically David Aune’s classification of Romans. He has defined it as a speech of exhortation (logo: protreptz'kox) cast into the frame of a letter.5 Aune argues that exhortation, or protreptic, is concerned with how to persuade (protrepfi) or to dissuade. Protreptic is also rooted in phi— losophy, where it can be paired with censure in order to bring people to the truth.‘5 The literary genre of the speech of exhortation likely draws upon these traditions of protreptic. No ancient theorist, however, describes the speech of exhortation, and only a few examples ofit are known.7 For Aune, Paul taught and argued with people in order to convert them 4. In addition to these approaches, the tools of modern rhetorical theory—with its em- phasis on persuasion and the relationship between the author and the audience—may also help us to understand Romans. Such theory could assist us because whether or not Paul stud- ied formal rhetoric, he clearly wanted to persuade his readers. Unfortunately, since no one has yet undertaken a thorough analysis ofthe entire Letter to the Romans on the basis ofcontem- porary rhetorical theory, I cannot employ it here. Rhetorical analysis needs to be based on the whole ofa work and not just on one part ofit. Antoinette Clark Wire describes one hindrance to applying contemporary rhetorical criti- cism to the Pauline letters, namely the dogmatic theological position ofmany contemporary interpreters that Paul is always right: “Because an argument Paul makes cannot be rejected as unconvincing, it also cannot convince. In this way the authority we [Christians in the twenti- eth century] attribute to Paul prevents him from persuading us. . . . Understanding Paul’s letters as argument may be possible in the church only when there is a shift in its view ofthe Bible’s authority. . . . Paul’s letters’ authority depends on free assent to Paul’s arguments be- cause they are convincing" (Antoinette Clark Wire, The Corinthian Women Prophets: A Recon- struction through Paul’s Rhetoric [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990] 10). I fully agree with Wire that we need to study how Paul tried to persuade his readers and to consider the possibility that he did not always convince them. 5. David E. Aune, “Romans as a Logo: Protreptikos,” in The Roman: Debate, ed. Karl P. Donfried (rev. and exp. ed. ofthe 1977 ed.; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991) 278—96. 6. Ibid.,279f. 7. E.g., Aristotle, Pratreptileos; Cicero, Hortemim; and Iamblichos, Protreptikos. 198 CHAPTER EIGHT and modeled himself upon philosophers who exhorted people to take up the philosophical way of life. He believes that Paul developed some por- tions of Romans orally in his public ministry, including that on homoeroti- cism, and later combined them into a written exhortation in order to per- suade people to believe his understanding of the gospel and to behave in accordance with it. Aune views Rom 1:16—4:25 as a textual unit that functions as a pro- treptic elenehas (“censure,” “argument of disproof” or “of refutation”), which contains elements of diatribe (a dialogical style of admonition), and may exemplify the way that Paul dealt with outsiders.8 Within this broad censure, Rom 1 : 16—32 is a narrative describing how God handed over to vice primitive people who knew God but became idolaters.9 In contrast, Aune sees Rom 5 : 1—8 :39 as a positive endeiktikos (“demonstration,” “ar— gument of proof”) focusing on insiders. Thus, in Aune’s view, Paul gives the Roman Christians concrete examples of the ways in which he preached the gospel to a variety of people in different settings, refuting the life prac- tices of outsiders and demonstrating the value to insiders of particular life choices.10 Epistolary theorist Stanley Stowers represents a variation of this view in that he sees Romans as a protreptic letter.11 (Thus, in contrast to Aune, Stowers views Romans as originally and intrinsically a letter, rather than as a speech or series of speeches cast into the framework of a letter.) He notes that the Stoic philosopher Epiktetos, a contemporary of Paul, describes the protreptic style as characterized by “[t]he ability to show to the individual, as well as to the crowd, the warring inconsistency in which they are floun- dering about, and how they are paying attention to anything rather than 8. Notice that Aune’s first textual unit (1:16—4:25) nearly overlaps with Iewett’s first proof(1: 18—4125). Karl Donfried finds significant common ground between the analyses of Iewett and Anne, especially with respect to structure (in The Roman: Debate, lvii-lxi). 9. Aune, “Romans,” 291. The other units are: Romans 9—11 (digression) and Rom 12: 1—15: 13 (paraenetic section). The epistolary frame is Rom 1:1—15 and 15 : 14— 16:27. 10. Anne, “Romans,” 296. 11. Stanley K. Stowers, Letter Writing in Greta-Roman Antiquity (Philadelphia:Westmin- stet, 1986) 112—14. Stowers succinctly defines Romans as “a protreptic letter that makes central use ofindirect admonition by means ofcensorious address to imaginary interlocutors in the sryle of the diatribe (2: 1—5, 17—29; 9:19-20; 11 : 13—25; 14:4, 10)” (Ibid., 128). An example of an ancient protreptic letter with parallels to Romans is the pseudonymous Cynic epistle ofAnacharsis to Croesus (Anne M. McGuire, trans., in The Cynic Epistles, ed. Abraham I. Malherbe [Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1977] 47—51; translation reprinted in Stowers, Letter Writing, 118—21). See also Stanley K. Stowers, A Rereading ufRomnnJ: justice, jewr, and Gentile: (New Ha- ven: Yale University Press, 1994), which appeared just as this manuscript was ready to go to press. 199 PAUL‘S LETTER TO THE ROMANS what they truly want. For they want the things that conduce to happiness, but they are looking for them in the wrong place.”12 While Paul and other Christians might argue that salvation, rather than happiness, is what people really want, Stowers suggests that the protreptic style, as defined by Epik— tetos, would clearly appeal to early Christians, who were strongly inter— ested in moral exhortation.” Paul’s assertion that these people claim to be wise, but are really fools (v. 22) 1“ could exemplify “the warring inconsis- tency in which they are floundering about.” And we could interpret the whole of Rom 1 :18—32 as describing confused people, who do not do what they really want, assuming that people truly want to be in right rela- tion to God. In this reading, falsely directed attention includes homoerOti— cism, an example of a distraction from what is central in life. ‘5 The classification of Romans as protreptic makes sense of certain ele- ments of Romans 1. Specifically, the category “censure” (elenthos) clarifies its individual polemical features, such as the condemnation of idolatry and of homoeroticism. Interpreted as part of a censorious exhortation, the ho- moeroticism of Romans 1 emerges clearly as a behavior absolutely opposed to Paul’s understanding of the gospel. 1" Thus, the protreptic category helps us to recognize the condemnation of homoeroticism as simultaneously theological and ethical, since within protreptic it makes no sense to distin— guish sharply between theology (teachings about God and about the hu— man relation to the divine) and ethics (teachings about moral behavior). As an element of a protreptic work, homoeroticism is a theological issue in that it results from human beings turning away from God, and an ethical one in that humans who have turned away from God falsely direct their erotic impulses. An alternate, but related, way to interpret Romans is to employ ancient rhetorical theory. Commentators who work with ancient rhetorical the- 12. Discourse: 3.23.34; W. A. Oldfather, ed. and trans., Epietetur.‘ The Discourse: ax Re- ported by Arrian, the Manual, and Fragment: (LCL; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928) 182f. 13. In addition to Romans, see such other early Christian examples ofprotreptic as Epixtle to Diognetu: and Clement of Alexandria, Protreptikas. 14. Cf. 1 Cor 1:26-31,in which Paul expresses his deep suspicion ofworldly wisdom. 15. Stowers argues that the protreptic elements ofRomans include Paul’s introducing the Roman congregation to his understanding of the gospel, presenting himself to them as a teacher, and censuring them for attitudes that prevent them from accepting his gospel (Letter Writing, 114; on elements ofadmonition see also 128; and Stanley Kent Stowers, The Diatribe and Paul’s Letter to the Roman: [SBLDS 57; Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1981]). 16. The advantages of Aune’s interpretation apply also to that ofStowers, and the differ- ences between a protreptic letter and a protreptic speech in an epistolary framework are irrele- vant for Romans 1. 200 CHAPTER EIGHT ory ask whether Paul studied formal rhetoric and used it in his Letter to the Romans. Some interpreters say that he did, especially since educated people in the Roman world often used formal rhetoric to persuade others. A lawyer defending or accusing a person in a law court used forensic (judi- cial) rhetoric to persuade a judge concerning the justice or injustice of the person’s past acnons. A politician employed deliberative (advising) rhetoric to persuade an assembly to take or not to take a future action, such as going to war. And when people wanted to praise what was honorable or to lay blame for what was shameful in the present, they crafted their speech using epiaez'ktic (demonstrative or panegyric) rhetoric. Such ancient rhetorical theoreticians as Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian defined these three spe» cies or genres of formal rhetoric and gave instructions on how to construct the subunits necessary for each genre, while noting that the genres often overlapped.l7 An ancient author, such as Paul, could implement these three modes of persuasion in a variety of oral and written genres.1E Some problems do, however, inhere in applying ancient rhetorical theory to the New Testament. First, ancient rhetoricians discuss only some types of persuasive speaking and writing. Beyond the three main species, they pay only peripheral attention to other types, such as exhortation. If Paul had a purpose other than those of the three rhetorical genres, then formal rhetoric would not have suited his purposes in Romans. Further, scholars have difficulty classifying ancient literature according to the three main species, since rhetorically trained authors sometimes combined ele- ments of each, and ancient theorists in fact recognized that these rhetorical genres are constructs and can overlap. Finally, we are not even certain whether Paul was particularly well trained in formal rhetoric beyond the elementary techniques of rhetoric that children learned in school. On the other hand, even with these problems, ancient rhetorical theory could nevertheless help to illuminate Romans. Robert Iewett builds the case for applying ancient rhetorical criticism to Pauline studies by draw» ing upon ancient school exercise handbooks, rather than just on Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian; Paul probably used such handbooks in his own early elementary education, but may never have studied the more learned representatives of formal rhetoric. Iewett holds that Romans contains epideiktic rhetoric (giving praise or blame), used to reinforce values held by the community to which Paul was 17. Quintilian, Inrtitutia Oratoria 3.4.16. 18. For suggestions as to how the early church developed its own forms ofrhetoric beyond th05e outlined by the Classical rhetoricians, see, e.g., Burton Mack, Rhetaric and the New Ter~ tament (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990) 94—97. 201 PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS writing.19 According to his reading, Paul was trying to foster support among the Roman Christians for his goal of “world unification through the gospel,”20 and was seeking the Roman Christians’ cooperation in his future missionary activities. For Iewett, Romans consists of an introduction (exerdmm: 1 : 1—12), a narration of some background information (nar- ratzo: 1:13—15), a thesis statement (propositio: 1 :16f),“ a series of four different proofs of the thesis (probatio: 1 : 18—15: 13), and a conclusion (peroram: 15:14—16:27). Rom 1:18—32 begins the first proof (1 : 18— 4 :25). In this first proof, which is a confirmation (confirmatiu) of the let— ter’s main thesis that the gospel embodies God’s righteousness, Paul shows that God impartially grants righteOusness to both Jews and gentiles by faith. Paul’s overall focus is on gentile believers who praise the God of Israel by coming to the gospel (Rom 1527—13), rather than, for example on God’s righteousness being disclosed apart from the Iewish law (Roth 3' 21), as earlier generations ofcommentators have argued. For Iewett rhe-i torical analysis shows that Paul’s theological vision was to unify God’s world on the basis of the gospel, transcending Jewish and other cultural barriers. Further, according to Iewett, rhetorical criticism demonstrates the coherence of Paul’s theological argument, which culminates in the last chapters (sometimes called ethical or practical), rather than in earlier ones (sometimes called doctrinal or theological). Thus, rhetorical criticism by provrding an outline for Rom I : 18—15 : 13 as a series of four proofs of’the thesis in Rom 1 : 16f, enables us to see the inextricable link in Romans be- tween theology and ethics and between faith and tolerance.22 -In this interpretation, homoeroticism is an elaboration on the “human distortion” that shows the presence of God’s wrath.23 The mention of ho— 19. Robert Iewett, “Following the Argument of Romans," in The Roman: Debate ed Karl P. Donfried (rev. and exp. ed. ofthe 1977 ed.; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson 1991) 2‘65; 77. Other scholars also classify Romans as epideiktic rhetoric: Marty Y. Reid ‘:A Rhetorical Analysis of Romans 111*5 '. 21 with Attention Given to the Rhetorical Function ofS'1—21 ” Perrpeetiver in Religioar Studier 19 (1992) 255—72; Wilhelm Wuellner, “Paul’s Rhetoric bf Argumentation in Romans: An Alternative to the Donfried-Karris Debate over Romans ” in The Raman: Debate, ed. Donfried, 12841-6; and George A. Kennedy, New Termment Ihter- yretation through Rhetorical Critieirm (Cha el Hill: Un‘v 't f 7 i 1984) 152—56. p l ersi y 0 North Carolina Press, 20. Iewett, “Following the Argument,” 276. 21 . Rom 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyGone1 who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (17) For in it the righteous» ness of on is revealed through faith for faith: as it is written ‘Th h ‘ ' ' “vc by faith, [Rab 224].” , e one w 015 righteous W111 22. Icwett, “Following the Argument,” 2761". 23. 1bid.,273. 202 . CHAPTER EIGHT moeroticism helps to prove the thesis of Rom 1 : 16f, namely that the gos- pel embodies God’s righteousness, by confirming that God impartially judges all people, in this case, those who suppress the truth about God. Not all interpreters who employ rhetorical criticism classify Romans as epideiktic. For example, Francois Vouga defines Romans as an apology (forensic rhetoric), that is, a judicial defense speech.“ Currently, however, more interpreters favor the epideiktic classification for Romans. Contem- porary interpreters also dispute how to classify Rom 1 : 18—32, whether as part of a proof or as a statement of the facts of the case. From the standpoint of Romans 1, classifying Romans as protreptic is more convincing than classifying it as epideiktic, since the category “cen- sure” (elenchos) better explains the polemical tone of Romans 1 than does the category “proof” (eonfirmatio).25 Since, however, Paul had probably not advanced beyond the intermediate level in either rhetorical theory or in philosophy, he may have combined techniques and genres from both 24. Francois Vouga, “Romer 1,18—3,20 als narratio,” Theologie and Glaalze 77 (1987) 225-36. Vouga does not explicitly classify Romans as forensic rhetoric, but rather disputes Kennedy’s claim that it is epideiktic (George A. Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984] 152— 56) and states that Romans is an apology (Vouga, “Romer 1,18—3,20," 225). Since Vouga aims to define the rhetorical elements of Rom 1:18—3:20, I am assuming that he means “apology "in the sense used by the rhetoricians, Le, a defense speech in the forensic rhetorical modc, rather than in the sense used within genre criticism. (An example of the genre “apol- ogy” would be Josephus, Against Apion, which is a defense of Iudaism against a detractor, Apion. Ancient apologies, in the sense in which genre critics employ the term, do not neces— sarily employ the techniques of forensic rhetoric.) Vouga would strengthen his argument ifhe defined what he means by “apology,” why he applies it to Romans, and ifhe gave reasons for Romans being forensic rather than epideiktic rhetoric (if he indeed views it as forensic). He uses “rhetoric” almost in a generic sense, ignoring the distinctive ancient categories. In Vouga’s view, Rom 1:18—3:20 is the narratio (statement of the facts of the case), namely that all people have sinned. Homoeroticism, then, is one of the facts demonstrating human sinfulness and disobedience. Since a forensic narratio had a different function from an epideiktic one (see Jewett, who defines Rom I: 13—15 as the narratio of an epideiktic com- position [“FolIowing the Argument," 272]), and since the narratio occurred only rarely in deliberative rhetoric, we need a reasoned classification of the rhetorical genre of Romans in order to assess Vouga‘s divisions. Because ancient rhetoric taught people to compose for spe— cific purposes and settings, defining a pericope as a narratio requires naming its purpose and setting. See also Jean-Noel Aletti, who defines Rom 1 :18 as the proporitio (thesis), 1 :18—32 as the narratio, 2:1—3:19 as the probatio (proof), and 3:20 as the peroratio (conclusion) (“Rm 1,18—3,20: Incohe’rence ou cohe’rence de l‘argumentation paulinienne?” Biblica 69 [1988] 47—62). Aletti is equally vague about the specific type of rhetoric Paul uses in Romans, but seems to classify it as forensic. 25. Robert Iewett classifies Rom 1:18—4:25 as confirmatio (“Following the Argument," 273). By classifying Romans as epideiktic, however, Iewett does recognize the blaming aspects ofthe letter, although he does not emphasize these. 203 PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS rhetoric and philosophy, not using either in a sufficiently technical fashion to lead to a consensus in current scholarship.“ In what follows, I interpret Romans 1 as censure aimed to exhort people to the life suited to belief in Christ.27 Interpretive Framework: for Romans 1 :18—32 Romans is a complex theological document that lends itself to multiple interpretations, and Rom 1 : 18—32 contains some specific exegetical prob lems that contribute to this lack of consensus. At first glance the passage seems to be about sinful gentiles who, although capable of perceiving the true God in nature, instead turned away and worshiped idols.28 But, sur— prisingly, Paul does not use the words “sin,” “gentile,” “nature,”29 or “idol” in 1 518—32. The word “idol” does not present a major problem, since the text explicitly describes the images that the people worshiped. But what of the other terms? Is the passage about nature? 3" Is it about gentiles? Is it even about sin? Further, does Paul, for whom the gospel of Jesus Christ is so central, really believe that gentiles can know the true God in- dependently of the gospel? 3‘ These latter three questions have particularly occupied scholars. Interpreters often debate the main point of the beginning chapters of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. A traditional view is that Romans 1 focuses on the sins of the gentiles, while Romans 2 discusses the sins of the Jews, leading up to the claims in Rom 3 :9 and 3 :23 that all human beings are under the power ofsin and have sinned. In this schema, homoeroticism in 26. The problems of strict classification also lie in the ancient sources. E.g., Quintilian refers to the view of the rhetorician Anaximenes that oratory is divided into two (rather than three) genres, forensic and public, ofwhich there are seven species, including exhortation. For his part, Quintilian claSSifies Anaximenes’s species ofexhortation as deliberative rhetoric (Ins- titutio Oratoria 3.4.9). Since scholars classify Romans either as epideiktic or forensic, but not as deliberative, viewing the hortatory aspects of Romans in the light of deliberative rhetoric (in line with Quintilian) does not seem to be a plausible alternative to classifying Romans as protreptic. 27. 1 also recognize, along with Iewett and others, the centrality ofGod’s righteousnessin Romans 1—4. 28. This common—sense reading may, in part, be conditioned by traditional interpre- tations. 29. Paul uses war/mara, rather than dn'la'ts‘, to designate what God has created (Rom 1 : 20). He, of course, does use impd ¢>1’/a'w and tin/true?) Xp-Fja-Lq in vv. 26f. 30, On viii/ms see Helmut Koester, “Phyrir,” TWNT9 (1973) 246—71; or TDNT9 (1974) 251 —77. The interpreters whom 1 discuss immediately below do not consider the absence of¢>i1mq in Rom 1 : 18—23. 31. I mean “gospel” in the Pauline sense ofChrist’s death for the sins ofhumanity and his resurrection (1 Cor 15:1—11). 204 CHAPTER EIGHT Rom 1 :26fcounts as quintessential gentile degeneracy. More recent inter— preters in this vein generally modify this schema by noting that Romans 1 does not specifically use the term “gentile”; they see Romans 1 as speaking generally about God’s wrath. In this model, homoerotic behavior is a hu— man failing, rather than a specifically gentile one, although Paul echoes typical Jewish antipagan polemics in selecting same—sex love as an example. According to a second view, divine impartiality (Rom 2: 11) is the central theological point of these chapters and same—sex sexual expression is divine punishment for the primal sin of exchanging “the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1 :25). In a third interpretation, honor and shame are central for Paul’s culture and to his Letter to the Romans. Homoeroticism in this - schema poses a threat to the clearly defined sex roles characteristic of honor-and-shame cultures. It is thus principally a societal, rather than an individual, problem. By avoiding homoeroticism, the early Christians could define themselves over and against the outside society. Each of these interpretations has a valid textual base and good support ing evidence. In what follows I will summarize one example of each in greater detail, noting its strengths and weaknesses. Since more than one textual interpretation can be valid (which is not to say that all readings are tenable), I will draw upon this plurality of interpretations in my commen- tary in the next chapter, which is in line with my goal of establishing plau— sible readings of Romans 1 that explain its coherence within Romans and its relationship to its culture. The nineteenth—century commentators William Sanday and Arthur Headlam, who exemplify the traditional interpretation, argue that Rom 1 : 18—3z20 is a unit on the human inability to become righteous in God’s sight. For them, Paul first describes the moral failure of the heathen in Rom 1: 18—32, makes a transition to the Jews in 2: 1—16, and then de- scribes the moral failure of the Jews in 2:17—29.32 In Rom 3: 1—8 Paul responds to casuistical objections, while in Rom 3:9—20 he closes the whole argument by asserting a “Universal Failure to Attain Righteous— ness.”33 This unit is framed both by Rom 1 : 16f, which states the thesis that humans can attain righteousness not through their own work, but rather through faith; and by Rom 3 : 21—26, which shows how God’s righ- teousness manifests itself. For Sanday and Headlam, Rom 1 :26f describes the moral corruption that God hands down as punishment for idolatry. They argue that heathen 32. William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Roman: (International Critical Commentary; 5th ed.; Edinburgh: Clark, 1902) 39-68. 33. Ibid.,68—81. 205 PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS deities allowed their followers “to follow their own unbridled passions.” 34 Of 1 :26 they write, “God gave them up to the vilest passions. Women behaved like monsters who had forgotten their sex.”35 Thus, Sanday and Headlam understood same—sex sexual expression to be behavior typical for idol-worshipers and therefore Rom 1 :26f to epitomize gentile sinfulness. Pagan deities, however, were actually not as tolerant of sexual love be— tween women as Sanday and Headlam would have us believe. As we saw above, even Aphrodite was displeased with Bitto and Nannion,36 and Isis remedied the situation of the “monstrous” love which Iphis bore for Ianthe by changing Iphis into a male.37 Further, the image of monstrous women who had forgotten their feminine sex also correlates closely with what pagans were writing about women who had sexual relations with other women. Thus, while Sanday and Headlam may be correct in arguing that same—sex love epitomizes gentile sinfulness for Paul, their sharp dis- tinction between pagan and Pauline views on female homoeroticism is his- torically inaccurate. Like other contemporary interpreters of Romans, 1 am hesitant to follow Sanday and Headlam’s view that Rom 1 : 18— 32 is about the “failure of the gentiles,” since the text does not speak of “gentiles,” but rather of “hu— mans” (v. 18; NRSV: “those”). The parallel treatments of idolatry in the Wisdom of Solomon and Romans 1 have led both ancient and modern readers to see Paul as focusing in Romans 1 on gentile failure to attain righteousness.38 However, I believe that Paul consciously avoids the term “gentile,” while at the same time speaking about these people in a way reminiscent of the ways in which his Jewish contemporaries spoke about gentiles. This rhetorical strategy allows Paul to establish consensus with Jewish-Christian readers, as well as with the former pagans of the Roman Christian congregation—in short, with everyone. Recognizing this as Paul’s strategy, Ulrich Wilckens has modified the traditional approach by arguing that Rom 1 : 18—32 describes the situation of gentiles and Jews, but his interpretation does not represent a departure from the traditionalapproach. He takes Rom 1 : 18 (the revelation of God’s wrath) as the antithesis to Rom 1 : 16f (salvation to those who have faith). All are under the wrath of God, because all, without exception, have sinned. Wilckens sees Rom 1 : 18 and 3 :9—20 (that Jews as well as gentiles 34. Ibid., 50. 35. Ibid.,40. 36. Asklepiades in Anthologiu Gruem 5.207 (206). 37. Ovid, Metamorpbarer9.666—797. 38. Sanday and Headlam‘s extensive chart of the precise Greek parallels between Wis- dom and Romans supports their “gentile” interpretation (Sanday and Headlam, Commen- tary, 51f). 206 CHAPTER EIGHT are guilty before God) as framing Rom 1 : 18—3 :20, which is about Jews and gentiles being under God’s wrath. He believes that in Rom 1 119—32 Paul condemns gentile ungodliness in a very Jewish fashion, which leads the Jewish reader to agree with him and to think that Paul is speaking about gentiles. Paul’s word choice of “humans” rather than “gentiles” in Ro- mans 1 is actually a skillful rhetorical device, because when discussing Jew— ish sinfulness in Romans 2, Paul retroactively shows that the condemnation of Romans 1 includes the Jewish reader. In Rom 3 : 1-8 Paul responds to hypothetical Jewish objections and in 3 29—20 aflfirms that Jews and gen- tiles are guilty before God. Thus, for Wilckens, Rom 1 :18—32 is the first stage of the argument for the central theme of the justification of the un- godly (both Jews and gentiles), which Rom 3 : 21 —5 :21 addresses. Wilckens describes the homosexuality of W. 26f as “unsatisfied empti- ness, which sexual egoism, bestial lust, leaves behind”39 and as a prime example of the misery of ungodliness. In Wilckens’s understanding, Paul draws upon Jewish tradition in his use of homosexuality as epitomiZing gentile degeneracy. Wilckens cites examples of Jewish authors condemning sexual relations between males,40 but does not discuss female homoeroti— cism at all. Wilckens’s interpretation is generally judicious, especially in his close at— tention to the actual wording of the text. Thus, he entitles Rom 1 : 18—32 “The Revelation of the Wrath of God,” which approximates Paul’s open- ing statement in 1:18, rather than, for example, “Gentile Sinfulness.” He recognizes the verbal and substantive overlap between Rom 1 :18—32 and both Jewish Wisdom literature (polemic against idol worshipers) and Jewish apocalyptic thinking (image of God’s wrath as a judgment). Never- theless, Wilckens’s exegesis of Rom 1 :26fsulfers from two shortcomings. First, he apparently assumes that Jews viewed‘ homoeroticism as epitomiz- ing gentile degeneracy. In fact, Jewish sources show this to be true only for male homoeroticism. The few extant Jewish sources on female homoeroti— cism generally discuss it as a Jewish rather than gentile problem. 41 Sec« ondly, Wilckens does not delve into the question of the meaning of “natu— ral” and “unnatural.” Jouette Bassler has pioneered the second major interpretation by argu— 39. “[I]n der unbefriedigten Leere, die der sexuelle Egoismus, die tierische 5pe§Ls . . . hinterlafit” (Ulrich Wilckens, Der Briefun die Rimer, vol. 1 [Evangelisch-KatholischerKom» mentar zum Neuen Testament 6; Zurich; Benziger, 1978; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1978] 110). 40. Ibid., 1091'. In contrast to what he writes in the text, Wilckens argues in a footnote that modern medical and psychoanalytic research on the origins ofhomosexuality mean that one should no longer simply morally condemn it (n. 205). 41. See above for my discussion of these Jewish sources. 207 PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS ing that the central theological point of Rom 1 : 16—2 : 29 is divine impar- tiality. She uses literary criteria to make the case that Rom 2: 11 (“For God shows no partiality”) summarizes Rom 1:16—2:11 and introduces Rom 2: 12—29.42 She outlines the inelusz’o or ring structure ofRom 1:16— 2 : 1 1, which has as its theme corresponding or exact retribution.“ In con- trast to the traditional view, Bassler further argues that a word chain"4 run- ning from Rom 1:32 to 2:3 smoothly joins chapters 1 and 2. (A clear break at the end of chapter 1 would support the view that Romans 1 deals with the sins of the gentiles, while Romans 2 focuses on the sins of the Jews.) In addition, she identifies a second word chain,“ which sets 01f Rom 2:12—29 as a separate unit built upon Paul’s affirmation of divine impartiality in Rom 2: 11. In Bassler’s view, Rom 3:9 (“all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin”) does not function as a summary of the beginning chapters of Romans (as in the universal human sinfulne5s model). Rom 3:9 cannot express the main point of Romans 1—2, since Rom 1 : 18—2 :9 allows for the possibility that gentiles will keep the law (and are therefore not under sin), while Rom 3 :9—18 holds that all, with- we exception, stand condemned as sinners. In Bassler’s framework, Ro— mans 1—2 presents God as an impartial judge of human beings on the basis oftheir works, Whereas Rom 3 :2 1 4 31 describes God as impartial in grant- 42. Jouette M. Bassler, “Divine Impartiality in Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” NovT 26 (1984) 43—58; and Bassler, Divine Impurtiulity: Paul and a Theological Axiom (SBLDS 59' Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1982) esp. 121 #70. In what follows, I refer to Bassler‘s article, i.e.: the more recent statement of her thesis. See Divine I mpartiality for more extensive discussion ofseveral ofher points. 43. Bassler, “Divine Impartiality,” 45—49 (chart on p. 47). Bassler is building upon E. Klostermann, “Die ad'aquate Vergeltung in Rom 1,22'31,” ZNW 32 (1933) 1-6. Klos- termann argues that Rom 1:22~31 is based upon the ancient legal concept of im talioni: (corresponding or exact retribution: “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”). Thus, Klos- termann sees the structure to be: w. 22f(“exchanged glory [56§aJ”—sin) v. 24 (“degrading [ciniuig’eo-Bm]”—~retribution) v. 25 (“exchanged [helm/111055012] . . . truth . . . for a lie"—sin) w, 26f (“exchanged [uETfiAAafiaI/J . . . natural intercourse for unnatural”—retribution) v. 23 (“they did not see fit [oiIK E’Soxiieaaavj”—sin) v.28 (“God gave them up to things that should not be done [ciaémiwu uofiu]”~— retribution). Klostermann’s principal argument for this structure consists ofhellenistic Jewish examples ofthe m; 2121mm! principle expressed with the techniques ofGreek rhetoric. Klostermann’s parallels are suggestive, but not conclusive. Philologically, his f0cus on the above-mentioned Greek terms as the key structural elements are less convincing than the (MT)&/l/ld0'0'w/1Tapd6£6mflt pairs ofvv. 23f, 25f, 26, 28. 44. “Practicing—doing" (vrpéaaew—vrmeiy). 45. "Apart-from—the-law—law—circumcision—uncircumcision”(ziuéiuue—véjuos—WE- pLToiL'Ij—dxpofluafia 208 CHAPTER EIGHT ing salvation on the basis offaith. She believes that Paul’s goal in using the concept of divine impartiality toward Jews and gentiles is the elimination ofsocial distinctions between Jews and gentiles in the community. The strengths of Bassler’s argument are that she can clearly document the ring structure and the word chains that she uses in support of seeing Rom 2:11 as central; that she is able to explain why Paul presupposes a judgment according to works for believers (which those who focus on jus- tification by faith have difliculty explaining); and that she is able to account for the centrality ofthe Jew—gentile theme throughout Romans. The weak- nesses ofher argument are that the conflict between Rom 1 : 18-2 :29 and 3 :9 (whether gentiles can keep the law or whether they have failed and are' under sin) remains in any case; that a Jewish-Christian from this time pe« riod could have read Rom 1:18—32 in the light ofWisdom as referring to the sins of gentiles, which she does not refute; and that the reader could deduce from the abrupt change of style at 22146 that another group of persons is now being addressed, which the word chain of 1 : 32—2 : 3 does not alter. Further, the ring structure does not include Rom 1 221—32 (these verses fall within the hole at the center of the ring), yet they are the prime candidates for being summed up in 3 :9, since they enumerate actual sins.47 In other words, although Bassler clearly demonstrates the centrality of divine impartiality in Romans 1—3, she fails to counter the view that universal human sinfulness is also central and that the echoes of the Wis— dom of Solomon validate reading Rom 1:18—32 as referring to gentile sin (as does the discussion of idolatry within Rom 1:18—23 itself). In line with her emphasis on divine impartiality rather than human sinfulness, Bassler devotes virtually no attention to homoeroticism. Halvor Moxnes offers a third interpretation by arguing that honor and shame are central categories of Paul’s society and of his Letter to the Ro- mans.+8 For Moxnes, the people of Romans 1 did not grant to God the honor required by God’s power and divinity, but rather claimed for them- selves the honor of being wise. In resPonse to this insubordination, God put humanity to shame.” Moxnes interprets Rom 1 :26fin light of Paul’s honor-and—shame culture: 4-6. Rom 1:18—32 is in the third person and a narrative style, whereas at Rom 2:1 Paul changes to the second person and a dialogical style. 47. Bassler herself calls them sins (“Divine Impartiality,” 48), which is the term used in Rom 3 :9, 48. Halvor Moxnes, “Honor, Shame, and the Outside World in Paul’s Letter to the R0- mans," in The Social World of Formative Christianity andjudaism: Essay: in Tribute to Howard Clark K25, ed. Iacob Neusner ct al. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988) 207—18. 49. V. 24: dTLyégeafiaL; v. 27:t3:cr/\/17;Loa'13V77. 209 PAUL‘S LETTER TO THE ROMANS Paul does not here discuss homosexuality as an ethical issue in our sense ofthe term when we discuss same—sex relationships. To Paul the issue was much more basic: it was one ofsex roles and borders be— tween genders. In most honor-and-shame cultures there is a strong emphasis upon clearly defined sex roles. A blurring ofsuch roles is perceived as a threat.“ The interpretive framework of honor—and-shame theory gives Moxnes a way of explaining the prominent location of homoeroticism within Ro- mans 1, where Paul singles it out from among the transgressions for spe— cial mention. Honor and shame, while linked with right and wrong, are not inherently ethical categories. Rather, honor and shame are linked to society, since societal evaluation helps to determine a person’s honor and shame. Moxnes’s view, based on anthropological theory, that sex roles51 and gender boundaries are the root issue of Rom 1 :26f, coincides with my Own research in this book. Concerning female homoeroticism, Moxnes writes, “In a significant departure from the almost complete silence on female homosexuality in antiquity, Paul also speaks of women breaking with sex roles (1 :26).”52 Moxnes, like others, is apparently unaware ofthe ancient sources on female homoeroticism,53 but his interpretation of Romans 1 is nevertheless quite compatible with these ancient sources. In Moxnes’s view, Paul himself underSCores the importance of honor and shame by opening his argument with the words, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Rom 1:16) and by using various terms for honor and shame throughout Romans.54 In this interpretation, honor and shame are central to Romans 1, and Romans 1 is central to Paul’s Letter to the R0— mans as a whole. Drawing upon anthropological research on honor and 50, Moxnes, “Honor,” 213. 51. Moxnes uses the term “sex roles.” I prefer the term “gender roles," which designates socially constructed male and female roles. I use “sex” in the sense of physical difference. Thus, “sex dilferences” are physical, while “gender dilferences" are cultural, and “gender roles” are based upon culturally constructed gender differences. 52. Moxnes, “Honor,” 213. 53. My 1985 article, “Paul’s Views on the Nature of Women and Female Homoeroti— cism,” in Immaculate and vaerful, ed. Clarissa W. Atkinson, Constance H, Buchanan, and Margarer R. Miles (Boston: Beacon, 1985) 61—87 (abstracted in NTA), which refers to many Ofthese sources, would have been available to Moxnes when he was writing his article. 54-. Moxnes includes the terms 741.77 (“honor”), 5660 (“glory,” “honor”), 50§d§w (“to praise,“ “to honor"), gammy (“praise”), émuvéw (“to praise”), K0513on (“boast”), Kati/v-qa'ic (“boasting”), Kav/vdoum (“to boast”), L’raxnyotrflm (“shameless deed”), éTLflilI (“dishonor,” “‘slaaine”), [Nu/.6140 (“to dishonor,” “to treat shamefully"), éwaia'xfluo/Lm (“to be ashamed of”), and Karma/v1)th (“to put to shame”) (“Honor,” 217, n. 15). 210 CHAPTER EIGHT shame,SS Moxnes believes these categories “represent the value of a person in her or his own eyes but also in the eyes of his or her society.”5" His analysis builds upon the work of Unni Wikan, who has argued that shame is more central than honor in contemporary Mediterranean and Middle Eastern culture. Moxnes adapts this insight to Romans by claiming that, for Paul, honor and shame pertain to dilferent spheres: honor to the public sphere over which the Christians have no control, and shame to the private sphere of gender roles and sexual behavior, which they can regulate. In Paul’s social context, the highly stratified Roman world, honor was linked to the ability to wield power. Moxnes interprets Rom 13 : 1-7 (on being subject to the governing authorities and paying taxes) as a call to Christians to accept the given order in the public sphere and to grant honor to the powerful. In contrast, shame pertains to the private sphere of gender roles and sexual behavior (as in Rom 1:24—27 or Rom 6: 19—23, on the Christians’ former life of impurity, of which they are now ashamed). I be- lieve, however, that we should be cautious of assigning gender and sexual relations to the private sphere in the ancient world.57 Moxnes argues that Paul is thus encouraging the Christian community to integrate itself into Roman society by accepting its system of honoring the powerful (whose honor depends on society’s granting it). In turn, the Christian community will receive praise from the powerful (Rom 13:1 —7). On the other hand, Paul exhorts the community to distinguish itself from the world around it by avoiding acts that Paul deems shameful, such as homosexuality. Moxnes sees these societal categories of honor and shame embedded within a theological context. For him, Paul’s main theme in Romans is the power of God (and not righteousness or justification, as some claim). In the divine sphere, as in the human one, power is linked to honor. Thus, ultimately, all honor comes from God. Paul can live free of shame in the gospel (Rom 1:16), because Paul believes that God is powerful. Moxnes interprets Paul to mean that God grants people honor, which means that they do not need to be ashamed of the gospel, even though society may see the gospel as shameful.58 55, See esp. Unni Wikan, “Shame and Honour: A Contestable Pair,” Man 19 (1984) 635—52; I. G. Peristiany, ed., Hanaur and Shame: The Value: ofMedirermnmn Susier (Lon- don: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965); and I. A. Pitt-Rivers, The Peaple of the Sierra (New York: Criterion, 1954). 56. Moxnes, “Honor,” 208. 57. See, e.g., Diodoros ofSicily, who depicts gender as something that is recognized pub. licly, in this case, in court (32.10.2—10). The astrologer Ptolemy of Alexandria describes a type of sexual behavior as public ('I’et‘mbibla: 4.5; §187). 58. Moxnes does not stick closely to his own distinction between shame as private and honor as public. (The gospel is presumably public.) 211 PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS Moxnes’s anthropological approach helps him to explain why idolatry and .homoeroticism are the first sins that Paul mentions in Romans to rec- ognize the centrality of gender in homoeroticism, and to relate Roinans to the cultural values of Paul’s world. On the other hand, when Moxnes draws upon Unni Wikan, he misinterprets her at several points. For example when Wikan says that shame and honor are not a binary pair she means that shame is far more central than honor in the Mediterranean world and the Middle East, because people use “shame” far more frequently in daily speech.” Shame thus better conveys the native’s perspective while honor is more of an anthropologist’s analytical construct. Moxnes, misleadingly appeals to Wikan’s insight when he argues that Paul places honor in the public sphere (e.g., Romans 13) and shame in the private sphere (e.g., Ro- mans 1 and 6); for Wikan, honor and shame do not correspond to these separate spheres. Further, Wikan strongly challenges the current definition of honor (value in one’s own and in others’ eyes) by pointing out that we have to establish precisely who the relevant “others” are, which Moxnes neglects to do. The women of a woman’s world may assess value in a dilferent wa and on dilferent grounds than the men of a man’s world."0 Wikan also] questions the relationship between value in one’s own eyes and value in the eyes of one’s society. She argues that a person’s own self—assessment may outwcigh society’s evaluation of her or him. In contrast, Moxnes unques- tioningly accepts the traditional anthropological definition of honor. Moxnes may exaggerate the centrality of “honor” and “shame” in R0- mans by including Greek terms in his list that may not be relevant at all How do we know, for instance, that such terms as “to boast” and “boast: ing” would have been terms involving honor and shame in the ancient world? Unni Wikan, in contrast, defines the precise meaning of dilferent Arabic terms for “shame” and “honor” used today in the Middle East which is linguistically more responsible."l , Finally, if shame and honor are not a binary pair, then I question the 59. Wikan, “Shame and Honour," 635—52,esp. 637f. 60. E.g., in her research in Sohar, Oman, Wikan found that while female sexual purity may be a central male value, hospitality is central for women. Further, the women’s world consists of small groups of neighbors and kinswomen who know each other well while the men’s world is one large group ofa few friends and many strangers. Thus, the wbmen ofa neigh- borhood. may re5pect a woman in spite of her adultery, because they know her and value her hospitality. In contrast, men who are relative strangers may have to base their assessment of a person on the one or two things they know about him or her (“Shame and Honour ” 639—49). , 61. Moxnes also assumes a common Mediterranean culture, whereas Wikan is less global and more differentiated. She notes, for example, differences between Cairo and Oman in the way in which people talk about each other. Instead of speaking of an “honor-and-shame 212 CHAPTER EIGHT category “honor—and—shame” society. But let us grant for a moment Moxnes’s view of Roman society as an honor-and—shame society, which, as such, rejected homosexuality as a blurring of gender boundaries."2 If so, then how could the early Christians distinguish themselves from the sur- rounding world by avoiding homosexuality? The ancient sources show us that people in the Roman world did condemn female homoeroticism as a blurring of gender boundaries, and that this prevailing ideology cut across religious lines—pagan, Jewish, and Christian. Therefore, these sources re- quire the opposite conclusion, namely, that Christians shared with many of their neighbors an assessment of homoeroticism as shameful. These different models of interpretation correlate with differences in the interpreters’ theological emphases. First, those focusing on human sinful- ness in Romans 1—3 usually see it as the basis of Paul’s doctrine of justi— fication by faith and not works (Rom 3:21—26). Martin Luther found Paul’s teaching on justification by faith (i.e., that human beings can be jus— tified or brought into right relation with God by beliefin Christ) to be a powerful antidote to a Roman Catholic emphasis on individual merit and on remission of the punishment due to sin by means ofindulgences. If sin and justification are central, then homoeroticism, in this context, stands as a primary example of sin—specifically, ofwhat it means not to be in right relation to God. Secondly and in contrast, seeing divine impartiality as central to Romans 1—2 represents a larger shift in Pauline studies away from a focus on human responses toward God or Christ. Current Pauline scholars tend, rather, to emphasize God’s righteousness and Christ’s faithfulness toward humanity. In this perspective, homoeroticism exemplifies God’s justice and fairness as fitting punishment for the crime of turning away from the true God toward images. i The third interpretation represents an attempt to depart from an indi— vidualistic theological focus on faith and justification and to move toward an understanding of Romans based on the values that Paul shared with his society. In this interpretation, Paul is urging the early Christians, as a group, to set a boundary between themselves and the world around them. For Paul, homosexuality epitomizes the shameful moral corruption of the godless. When people do not give honor to God, God hands them over to this shameful act. culture,” she tries to discern the complex ways in which various peoples ofthe Mediterranean world and the Middle East describe and respond to shame and express respect (Ibid., 6470. 62. Roman society could have rejected same‘sex sexual expression as a blurring ofgender boundaries even ifit were not to have been an honor-and-shame society. My point here is to test the logic ofMoxnes’s position. 213 PAUL‘S LETTER TO THE ROMANS Thus, these interpretations each emphasize a different central theologi- cal aspect of Rom 1:18-32: the sinfulness of the gentiles (Sanday and Headlam), the sinfulness ofall human beings (Wilckens), the wrath ofGod (Wilckens), divine impartiality (Bassler), and the social constructs ofhonor and shame (Moxnes). Yet each interpreter leaves significant exegetical problems unsolved: the lack of the term “gentile” in Romans 1 (Sanday and Headlam); the precise determination ofnon-Christian views on female homoeroticism (Sanday and Headlam, Wilckens, Bassler, Moxnes); the apparent contradiction between Rom 2: 14, which assumes that some gen— tiles follow the law, and Rom 3 :9, 23, according to which everyone is un- der sin (Bassler); the relationship to Jewish discussions ofidolatry (Bassler); and which Greek terms within the text designate the values that signify an honor-and-shame society (and whether, independently ofRomans, we can so designate the Mediterranean world) (Moxnes). No one interpretation solves all the problems. Further, these New Testament interpreters do not treat the question of nature as an exegetical problem in Romans 1, which I consider to be crucial to the interpretation of the passage. Even today, theologians, ethicists, and the public at large continue to debate what is natural and unnatural sexual behavior, often with appeal to Romans 1. In order to comprehend why Paul condemns sexual relations between women, the questions of natural theology and natural law, as well as the range ofmeaning of “unnatural” and “natural” (Rom I :26f), need to be addressed. In the following chapter, I will treat the above-mentioned exegetical problems as necessary to elucidate Rom 1:26. I am not adopting a single model ofinterpretation. Rather, my research questions require the multiple perspectives of the literary and interpretive approaches ofprior exegetes. Since Paul sought to persuade his readers by means of the rhetorical and literary conventions of his time, I analyze Rom 1:18—32 in light of these conventions, more specifically in light of Romans as protreptic. Because I take universal human sinfulness, the wrath of God and divine impartiality as central theological themes of Romans 1—3, I examine how, for Paul, female homoeroticism exemplifies human sinfulness, how it has resulted from the wrath of God against human beings who have turned away from God, and how God, as an impartial judge, can decree death for a woman who engages in sexual relations with another woman. I also utilize anthro— pological insights to understand why Paul classifies homoeroticism as “im- purity.” Like Moxnes (although for different reasons), I conclude that for Paul and his earliest readers, homoeroticism constituted a blurring ofgcn- der boundaries. Thus, I build upon prior genre criticism, theological exegesis, analysis of literary structures, and anthropological interpretation. Using the methods 214 CHAPTER EIGHT of philology and comparative textual analysis, I will fill in gaps left by prior researchers, most prominently the meanings of “nature” and of “unnatu- ral” and how the understandings of female homoeroticism in the Roman world shaped Paul’s understanding of it. Finally, I demonstrate how nature and gender are deeply theological concepts in Romans. ...
View Full Document

This note was uploaded on 10/16/2011 for the course SOC 400 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '11 term at S.F. State.

Page1 / 12

hmsx_400_s06_f3 - OVE BETWEEN MEN Early Christian Responses...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 12. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online