Reading Romans Backwards: A Gospel of Peace in the Midst of Empire

Baylor Univ. Jul. 2019. 236p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781481308779. $29.95. REL
Romans is often read as if chapters 1–11 were an abstract theological treatise with 12–16 tacked on as miscellaneous applications. McKnight (New Testament, Northern Seminary; The Apostle Paul and the Christian Life) makes the case for an integrated reading where the end is the point of the epistle. McKnight argues that Paul was dealing with particular issues involving two factions. One insisted that to be fully part of the community required observance of the Mosaic Law. The other took pride in their standing in Roman society and looked askance at the Observant. This dynamic can be clearly seen in those latter chapters and so must be used to frame the arguments in earlier ones. Consequently, the earlier chapters are not about humanity in general or even Jews and gentiles, but particular parties within that early Christian community. Paul’s aim then was to have the community conform itself to the example set forth by Jesus.
VERDICT Because McKnight’s intent is presenting rather than defending a thesis, those familiar with Romans will have unanswered questions. Even so, those interested in Paul’s theology will find this treatment provides greater affinity between Romans and the rest of the undisputed Pauline corpus.

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