Monday, January 04, 2010

Moo Commentary on Romans (pp. 9-13)

What is Rome like, that is, the Rome that Paul wrote Romans to?

Amazing how much presuppositional material can be shoved into a discussion like that! By presuppositional material, I mean an a priori judgment some of the evidence has great weight, and some of the evidence has lesser weight -- because the judgment says so!

We shouldn't be too hard on Moo for this kind of a priori here, where he is tentative. But not too tentative! He says that the idea that the Romans were mostly Gentiles, with Jewish Christians in a minority, "is generally satisfactory." And since his conclusion is that the "audience" is mixed in this sense, at this point in the text, we only get a couple hints on what might ride on the issue one way or another.

So let's pull the presupposition out into the open and look at it. What would be the case, if the Roman recipients of Paul's letter were exclusively Gentile? We should beware of kinds of arguments that go from an "is" to an "ought," based on that presupposition. If we go directly from that presupposition to an "ought," we get a situation of racial exclusivity as a possibility, that Christianity somehow started as a rejection of a previous race and system. If we go directly from the presupposition of an exclusively Jewish or mainly Jewish "audience," and go from that "is" to its "ought," based on that presupposition, we get a situation of exclusivity based on something like circumcision or adoption of a system as a controlling factor in the religion. So, we should watch for hidden arguments going from "is" to "ought."

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