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Introduction — Romans 1:1 (Part 1)

by Stephen Hebert on Friday - 13 April 2007

in Biblical Studies, New Testament


An Italian philosopher named Giorgio Agamben wrote an interesting book called The Time That Remains. In this particular work, Agamben focuses on each word in Romans 1:1, believing that it holds the key to the interpretation of Romans.

After reading the works of Barth and Stowers and many others on this particular epistle, I am very skeptical that anyone “holds the key” to its interpretation. Romans is vast and varied, full of nuance. There are beautiful passages and difficult passages. There are passages that seem straightforward, but their interpretation is twisted or shone to be more difficult than originally thought.

In this latter category, I think specifically of Krister Stendahl’s 1963 article “Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West” (HTR 56 [1963] 199–215). Stendahl takes a seemingly straightforward interpretation of Romans 7 (“I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want to do is what I do…” etc.) and turns it on its head by positing that our interpretation of this passage is affected largely by a post-Augustinian conscience—an introspective conscience—that could not have existed within Paul’s 1st century worldview.

So, while Agamben’s exercise is interesting, it is only an exercise. However, it is one which I have embarked on, to a certain extent, with a group of college (or college-aged) students at my church. Over the last few weeks we’ve discussed key terms in Romans 1:1. In the following days, and in the following posts, I will piggy-back off of Agamben, and post some of the thoughts that we’ve had on this particular verse. No doubt, they will be quite different from Agamben, due in large part to my own “evangelical-ness.” But, I hope it’s interesting nonetheless.

Stay tuned…

Article Series - Romans 1:1

  1. Introduction — Romans 1:1 (Part 1)
  2. Romans 1:1 (Part 2)
  3. Romans 1:1 (Part 3)
  4. ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ ΙΗΣΟΥ — Romans 1:1 (Part 4)

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