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Durham e-Theses
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Reading Romans in Rome:
A Reception of Romans in the Roman Context of
Ethnicity and Faith

HOLDSWORTH, BENJAMIN,EVANS (2009) Reading Romans in Rome:
A Reception of Romans in the Roman Context of
Ethnicity and Faith.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.




This thesis primarily addresses one question: “To what extent can Romans be heard and understood by a readership in Rome within its religio-economic, socio-political, and ethnic context, especially by non-Judeans?”

To address this question, certain presuppositions regarding the audience are re-examined. This first is how the epistle’s audience, as residents of Rome, may have understood their ethnic identity, and how they constructed and negotiated that identity as Greeks, Romans, and Judeans. Chapter 1 focuses on this question for Greek and Roman identity formation and negotiation, since both groups are integral to reading Romans in Rome. The chapter concludes that Hellenization and Romanization were simultaneously shaping life in Rome prior to and during the time the initial hearers interacted with the Roman epistle.

The second chapter concurrently tests two presuppositions. The first is whether Judean treatment in Rome was any different from the experience of any other ethnic minority – whether Rome was anti-Semitic. This is tested by developing a comparative review of Judean life in relation to contemporaneous Egyptian treatment in Rome, in conjunction with Appendices 2 and 3. The second presupposition tested in this chapter is a tangent of the first – that is whether Wiefel’s hypothesis is a valid foundation for assumptions regarding the audience experience in Rome, prior to and at the time of the epistle’s reception. The chapter concludes that Judean and Egyptian ethnicities were in competition in Rome, and based upon ongoing change in circumstances experienced a range of acceptance and rejection. It also concludes that Wiefel’s hypothesis – the eviction in 49 CE of all Judeans and Judean Christ-followers from Rome – does not reflect the reality of the Judean situation.

Chapter 3 tests the presupposition, that the epistle received in Rome was interpreted by listeners primarily through an oft-assumed Judean lens – that of Judean tradition and the LXX. The chapter reexamines a sample of key ethnic semantics of the epistle – the interaction of honor, faith, piety, and righteousness in Rome’s way of life. It concludes that honor was a key driver in the Roman socio-cultural experience. Faith-making and faith-keeping were integral frameworks for human and divine relationships, and piety and righteousness were enmeshed in faith and faithfulness in the Roman way of life as the foundation of right relationship between humanity and deity.

Chapter 4 integrates these ideas in reinterpretation of Romans as an audience recipient, by “sitting in the audience,” primarily as a non-Judean listener. It follows the flow of the discourse, noting the ethnic interplay, and the use of honor, faith, and righteousness as key Roman language to engage in ethnic reconstruction. This re-hearing of the sampled terms in Romans 1:1-17 is only an example of future work to examine extended readings of Romans in Rome, re-viewing the text through a Romanized lens.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Epistle of Romans; Jewish Identity; Faith; Romans; New Testament; Pauline; Paul; Ethnic Rivalry; Isis; First Century Christianity
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:22 Apr 2010 16:21

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