Fundamentally the key for Elliott in unlocking Romans is a particular kind of political reading (I will offer a spoiler and say leftist). If Romans is about justice (which it is), and justice is something that takes place between human beings (and that is certainly part of it), then the letter to the Romans ought to be an interesting read for just about anyone. Elliott’s off to a good start here, if he can convince anyone of this. And here is Elliott’s problem, everybody already knows what Paul’s letter to the Romans is about, and while many may concede that it is about righteousness, or justification, their definition of those terms tend to be abstract and individualized (how god makes me right with him, and then me right with others). So it is Elliott’s task to offer a corrective.
Well we (the masses) need a couple of ground rules in order to understand what justice is all about. The first rule is to reject every approach that favors the rich to the detriment of the poor. The second rule is to read the NT texts so that they address the reality of empire as an omnipresent, inescapable, and overwhelming sociopolitical reality (Fernando Segovia, not the guitar player).
So begins Elliott’s quest of explaining the thesis of Paul’s letter to the Romans as a comparison between two rules. And a quest for Paul to explain which rule is truly righteous and which rule has the power to make the world truly peaceful.