Lectionary Year A
September 1, 2002
Romans 12:9-21

Step V: Distillation

A. Summary of Salient Features

(JFC) The nearest thing to a "theological 'center of gravity' in this text" that jumps out at this stage of the study might be the positivism of such things as the good that can overcome evil, the loving with which the lection begins, the feeding of even enemies, the associating with the lowly, including rejoicing and weeping with those who do so, and the harmonious living, possibly in that order, if an order helps get some handles on this large statement. It still seems to be a tall order at least. Several commentaries identify the love (avga,ph) with which verse nine begins and the next verse repeats (filadelfi,a|, if with a different word!) as the pivotal point in these lines, and, possibly, it is. Then, others seem to prefer hope (evlpi,di) in the last verse of the preceding pericope as the major concern of all this chapter, where it appears again in 12:12, as well. So, might we say, all of the above is easily considered both major and theological in this context? If so, the minor concerns might include the more negative aspects to which the positive elements are contrasted. They are supremely important, simply not of major import.

B. Smoother Translation

(JFC) 9 Let love (be) genuine/sincere. Hate the evil/wicked/bad, hold on to/unite oneself with the good/useful/fitting for its/one's purpose, 10 (with) all brotherly love unto one another (be) loving/devoted, (with) honor/respect (for/to/with) one another out do/show respect/lead the way, 11 (with) all diligence/eagerness/zeal never (be) lazy/troublesome, in the Spirit have a heart full of devotion/be on fire with enthusiasm, serve the Lord, 12 rejoice/be glad in hope, in trouble/distress/suffering hold fast/endure/stand firm, in prayer keep close company with/devote oneself to/stay with, 13 to the needs of the saints/consecrated contribute/give a share, practice hospitality. 14 Bless those persecuting you, bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those rejoicing, weep with those weeping. 16 Together with one another live in harmony of mind/agree, not the arrogant have in mind to think highly of but associate with the poor/lowly/humble. Never become wise in and of/for yourselves. 17 Never return/render evil/bad/wrong for evil rather have in mind to do/try to do what seems good/right/proper/fitting before all men; 18 if possible with you [plural], with all men live/be at peace; 19 not for yourselves get justice/take revenge/avenge, beloved, but give place to God's wrath/anger, for it has been written, "I (am) rendering of justice, I will repay", says (the) Lord. 20 But if would be hungry the enemy of yours, feed him; if he should be thirsty, give water to him, for this does/make coals of fire to seem to heap on his head. 21 Never be overcome by the evil/bad/wrong but overcome the evil in/with the good.

C. Hermeneutical Bridge

(JFC) Of these verses, Goppelt (Theology of the New Testament, Volume 2, pages 59 and 141) says, "The God who made himself known through Jesus remained the Creator and Lord of history with the result, e.g., that coming on the heels of the proclamation of love in Rom. 12:9-21 could follow words of obligation toward political authority in Rom. 13:1-7. The character of his revelation as address through people stood in effective connection with the particular historical situation. Such revelation was made powerfully vivid through the Old Testament, understood in a fundamentally historical perspective, so that e.g., the revelation of the cross could not so easily be supplanted by a self-supporting system of speculative wisdom (I Cor. 1:19, 31; 2:16; 3:19f.). footnote: Bultmann, Theology I section 11,3b, noted correctly that through the adherence to the Old Testament since early Christianity the fundamental recognition was communicated that 'man becomes aware of God and of his own nature not by free-soaring thought but be historical encounter' (p. 117). End of footnote. By means of the selfsameness of God's activity the Christ event was ultimately verified internally for faith. According to the Abraham typology, e.g., justification by faith alone was not an arbitrary incident but the basic point of reference from God's activity of election (Rom. 4:23f). In the same sense the role of the Law became internally perceptible. . .
"Justification put man in the place of final solitude before God. It was something that happened to faith. No one could believe for another. But the believing one did not remain alone. Justification linked God and man together in a new way. Rom. 12-13 placed the one who believed into wide ranging social relationships; through justification this one became a member of the body of Christ (Rom. 12:4-8), participated in the relationship to neighbor within the community of faith (Rom. 12:9-21), and was incorporated into this world (Rom. 13:1-7)." Now we begin to get the bigger picture.

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