Folks, I think I was close to getting back on the biblioblogs page, but alas I must have no pull with Brandon Wason, nor with Jim West. I can't believe that my Sheffield connection didn't do anything for my chances. Why did I pay so much for an education if it doesn't even get me on to the biblioblogs site? I thought Sheffield was the mecca for Jim, I have heard stories of his regular pilgrimages and ritual sacrifices that he has offered to the the great paternoster in the north. The same paternoster that I myself made regular sacrifices to weekly as a student.
I do promise to stop the groveling ... soon.
Ok, now for the next topoi that Elliott brings to light in his reading of Romans is JUSTITIA. Now justice is by and far the biggest subject in Romans, however many people are not able to see this because they frame Paul's justice talk in individualistic pietistic ways like, "how can I be made right in the sight of god". The problem with such individualistic notions is that they are foreign to the NT and Paul. What Elliott wants us to understand is that the notion of morality is often given to, and an authority enjoyed by, those with the actual power to dominate others. This is pretty basic stuff, and even if you detest Foucault and his cronies this statement seems pretty uncontroversial, right. So in looking at Paul's justice talk in comparison to the Empire's we can see that what Paul is doing is contesting the morality of the Empire and confronting the imperial claims and propaganda.
A number of things that Elliott highlights in the text of Romans that Paul is confronting are (1) the notion that Caesar is the embodiment of divine Justice, (2) the proclamation of Caesar's triumph, and (3) the notion that Rome has brought peace to the world, to highlight just a few. Paul's point is to give his readers/hearers the ability to see that appearances are deceiving, and that reality should not be read from current events, but rather through an apocalyptic imagination.
Elliott does something really interesting in this chapter. Now I am not sure that I am entirely convinced, but I must say that Elliott is one of the most provacative and interesting interpretors of Paul that I have read, I put him with the likes of Nanos and Stowers as my favorite authors to read on Romans. Elliott takes the famous "chrestus" pronouncement as having a real effect on the Jewish community of Rome. I tend to see the "chrestus" evidence as overblown, and of little relevance for interpretations of Romans, but that is because most people use it as evidence of a Jewish Gentile split in Rome. Elliott sees it as having an effect on how the recently returned Jews would have been perceived socially and politically. In the case of the Roman imperial order they would have been deemed as the weak, poor because they would have had to start over whence returning to Rome, and the marginality of these returned Jews, would have called into the power of the Jewish god. Elliott surmises that the presence of a marginalized poor Jewish community would have been bad PR for the Jewish god, especially when compared to the imperial rhetoric of triumph. Paul is thus intent in his letter to the Romans to contrast his message with the political realism of the Empire.
It is definitely food for thought...