This is the running, preliminary commentary on Romans two that is part of my commentary on the book of Romans as a whole. This first draft is based on a close reading of the text and will later be fleshed out with reference to the scholarly literature. Romans two
At the heart of my concern here is considering how Paul links together two kinds of idolatry – the idolatry of the Roman Empire and the idolatry of the law. The “idolators” and the “judgers” both worship the creation rather than the creator with the consequence of ultimately serving violence and injustice rather than love and restorative justice.
I am working on a non-technical commentary on Romans that emphasizes theology and ethics. The first step is simply to read through the book, closely, writing down thoughts as I go along. Then I will add insights drawn from commentaries (the commentaries I have read so far include, among others, those by Robert Jewett, James Dunn, and N. T. Wright). The third step will be to add reflections that apply the main ideas of Romans to our day.
Here is what I came up with on my first reading of chapter one.
We face a series of interpretive choices right from the start. What do we understand Paul to have in mind with his key terms “obedience,” “faith/faithfulness,” and “righteousness/justice”? What is the key problem Paul identifies in chapter one? I suggest that it is idolatry leading to injustice – and that he is especially concerned with challenging his readers (Gentile Christians living in Rome) to (1) remain free of empire-idolatry and (2) model for the watching world social reconciliation between Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus (a new model for political existence).