Paul's Rhetoric in Its Contexts: The Argument of Romans

Article excerpt

Paul's Rhetoric in Its Contexts: the Argument of Romans. By Thomas H. Tobin, S.J. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004. xxii + 469 pp. $24.95 (paper).

In the quest to shed greater light into Romans. Thomas Tobin provides academic and lay readers alike with an insightful, compelling, and comprehensible analysis of Paul's application of diatribe. Tobin distinguishes his study from others by proposing diatribe as the means tor understanding both the structure and argument of this epistle. His study is devoid of typical theologically problematic issues that characterize commentaries. Instead, Tobin delivers an objective evaluation of Romans focused upon Paul's purpose to persuade Roman Christians of the verity of his interpretation of the gospel of Christ, which controversies in both Corinth and Galatia had marred.

In the first part of his study, Tobin explores the multi-faceted context that explains Paul's use of diatribe in Romans. First, using an array of available primary sources. Tobin argues that both continuity and discontinuity characterized the Roman Christian community's relationship to Judaism. As a predominately Gentile community that had begun to define itself distinctly from its Jewish parent, the church in Home still remained faithful to many beliefs and practices in Jewish life. Second, Tobin considers the evolutionary nature of Paul's thinking between the years of his Galatian correspondence and his letter to the Roman Christians. The ethical crises and problems over division that had arisen in Corinth, Tobin argues, were, in the minds of Roman Christians, predictable results (p. 7) of Paul's devaluation of the Mosaic Law and his emphasis of the role of the Spirit in Galatians 5-6. However, given Paul's aim to take his version of the gospel to Spain ( 15:23-24, 32). he required the financial and spiritual support of Roman Christians. Thus, Paul implores the Roman Christians that his interpretation of the gospel is in agreement with their own. He needs to do this in a non-confrontational manner, a goal that diatribe was best suited to accomplish. …