Saturday, January 16, 2010

Moo Commentary on Romans (pp. 33-43)

We're going through Moo's 1996 commentary on Romans at about 18 pp. per week, for the year. Finally we are at the place where we're reading the first verse of Romans.

In talking about how Romans came to the Romans, Moo is good at getting us to think of what it might have been like to get such a letter from him if we were there ourselves in Rome. He reminds us that Paul was kind of introducing himself, hence the longer form than normally what a letter starts with.

The Roman Empire had slaves. "Bond-servant," which Moo translates "slave" (p. 39), is something that he elaborates in its Old Testament usages (p. 41 n.7). However, that's not its context here. It's the second word of the letter! Slaves wrote letters on behalf of their owners then, especially the important owners! It is this image, not the Old Testament examples like Jeremiah and the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, that would be invoked in the second word of a letter. The Romans are getting a letter from a slave ... of the Messiah!

And when Moo elaborates on this as if Paul is proclaiming that "his life is totally dedicated" (p. 43), he's reading into the text here. Slaves don't usually lecture on their dedication, number one, they don't have time, and here, Paul goes on to his calling, not dwelling on himself, however devoted.

So slaves are called to be things; some slaves are called by their masters to be teachers of their children. Some slaves, as Paul here, are called to be sent by their masters on errands to do for them. Errands, together with an explanation of where the errands originate from, go hand in hand. Perhaps "apostle" gets a good image in our culture if we say "courier," someone who is sent. That takes away the weight of thousands of years of it being a "religious word."

Moo's translation says "called to be an apostle" (p. 39), but his commentary ignores this, thinking of it as "a called apostle," which is what he sees in the Greek -- klehtos apostolos." The English "called to be an apostle" is forward-looking, whereas the calling is at the beginning of Paul's ministry -- he already had got the call! (cf. Ac 9:15). So Paul is a "called apostle."

So the first "surprise" of the letter, or the second, after the surprise that Paul is a slave of the Messiah! Jesus, is that this slave Paul is a courier set apart for the good news of God. Great work....

And there you have the whole thing in a nutshell, according to Paul. Once he gets there, he's off on talking about that, which takes over from him referring to himself. Lots of the rest of the greeting is about the good news! "I'm a courier, I've got this good news, AND I MUST SAY IT RIGHT NOW! And he immediately launches into the fact of the good news and it being about the Messiah, and recent events surrounding Him. Moo wryly comments about how in the world the Romans could have handled all this early theology: they must have read Romans with "considerable perplexity" because of its "theological complexity." (p. 40) !! That's how commentators talk.

To associate "apostle" with "courier" is not to deny Moo's point that Paul is saying something with authority. It is a derived authority, as Moo himself points out in elaborating on it from Galatians 1, that Paul is sent from very high up (p. 42). Indeed, the higher up the Sender, the higher up the courier.

1 comment:

Larry said...

commenting on pp. 39-45 (Moo text):

1. [p. 39] In saying that Strong's 2098 or 2097 occurs 8 of 11 times in his introductory and concluding brackets in Romans, Moo must have counted the Rm 10:15,16 uses as one use, and not counted 10:15 as a usage by Paul, since he's quoting. The actual twelve occurences are Rm 1:1,9,15,16; 2:16; 10:15,16; 11:28; 15:16,19,20,25, so the non-bracket-uses are 2:16, 10:15,16, and 11:28.

2. [p. 41] The NASB of 1:1, using "bond-slave," is an alternative to Moo's picture of Paul proclaiming his total devotion. Calling oneself a bond-slave is speaking of it being a chosen slavery, without self-proclaiming its excellence.


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