Lectionary Year A
August 25, 2002
Romans 12:1-8

Step IV: Context

A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) The giving of oneself as a sacrifice is most demonstrably accomplished for all Christians, past, present and future, surely, in Jesus' self-sacrifice. Galatians 1:4 might say it most like what Paul is meaning in this week's text. I Peter 2:5, also calls for the same sort of self-sacrificing that pleases God. The renewed mind makes "right choices" according to Philippians 1:10. The picture of Christ's Body's being made up of many members made one in Christ is found in I Corinthians 12:12 and 25ff, too, which also enumerates different gifts and different service functions. Specifically, in Romans 12:7, "in serving", th/| diakoni,a|, occurs also in I Corinthians 12:5. Ephesians 4:25 is similar. These latter differences are mentioned in I Peter 4:10f, as well.

B. Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) Sacrifices were commonplace in the Old Testament, so this image would paint a clear picture for the people receiving this Epistle, probably. See a concordance to be reminded where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Psalm 51:17, etc., for such examples and stipulations. Some sacrifices might be unapproved by God, as Psalm 51:16f, even in the Old Testament. Minds get renewed in the Old Testament, too, like in Exodus 36:2, Nehemiah 4:6, Psalms 26:2 and 64:6. Prophecy, teaching, preaching, giving, serving the Lord, etc., are all disciplines the Old Testament values highly, of course. Being patient in the Old Testament is highly regarded, as well; see Ecclesiastes 7:8, and Psalms 37:7 and 40:1. Prayer, too, is an integral part of Old Testament life and faith, to be sure, like I Samuel 7:5, Psalms 39:12, 65:2, 72:15 and 122:6 and Jonah 2:1.

"The ritual of sacrifice was in Judaism, as in all ancient religions, the central act of worship, by which the holiness of God was acknowledged, and in some sense conveyed to the worshippers," says C. H. Dodd. Then in the second century of the Common Era, Sibylline Oracles (8:4087f) quote God asking to "Accept the afflicted and stand by the suffering ad provide for me, the living one, a living sacrifice." The ever-present God in early Judaism, according to Charlesworth, crowns Solomon, in his 17th Ode of the late first to the early second centuries CE, upon which he (Solomon) declares his salvation. Then, like Romans 12:4f, in 17:16, Christ, evidently speaking as and/or through Solomon, again according to Charlesworth, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, claims he saves all bound and they come to him and "they become my members, . . ." That chapter concludes with a doxology, "Glory to you, our Head, O Lord Messiah. Hallelujah." Of Romans 12:8's "o` evlew/n" we read, "'Let any man or woman who performs deeds of mercy in the church, do so brightly and cheerfully.' The value of brightness in performing acts of kindness has become proverbial, Ecclus. xxxii (xxxv.)", according to ICC.

C. Hellenistic World

(JFC) Well, the Hellenists could hear right clearly the "Therefore" with which this lection begins. They could be ready by the twelfth chapter for a, "So, now, what is it ethically expected for us/you to do?" The Good News in Romans 1-11 precipitates the responses of the following verses, at least. The self-sacrifice model can tend to rid these theoreticians of their disdain for the physical and lead them to their more gratifying "spiritual worship", "praying unceasingly", etc. And, these mindful philosophers would certainly get into "mind renewal", that's for sure. Or, would they recognize that their "mindsets", especially, were in need of being renewed? Nevertheless, the caution against thinking more highly than one ought might give them cause to be a little cautious, re; their self-absorption, intellectually, at least. The many members image could appeal to their optimism for the inclusion of all people in the betterment of the world they favored. Hating evil and holding on to what is good speaks their language, too. And, Dodd notes, "it would not be unfamiliar to any Roman readers who had a smattering of popular Stoic teaching. 'What is the profession of a citizen?' said Epictetus (Diss. II. x. 4-5). 'To have no private interest of his own, and to view nothing as a detached individual.; just as the hand or the foot , if it had reason and followed its natural bent, would have no impulse or desire-except as tending to the whole . . . The whole is more important than the part; the city than the citizen.'."

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