Lectionary Year A
September 8, 2002
Romans 13:8-14

Step IV: Context

A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) We can imagine how these earliest believers in Christ would have questions, re: how does Christianity relate to and utilize our Jewish background, especially the Ten Commandments? Paul's declaration in the opening lines of this passage seems right definitive. Wonder just how convinced were the first century Romans? In addition to those passages mentioned in Part II, section A, above, we find Jesus using some of the Ten Commandments as text/contrasts for His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Verse 9's commandment to love neighbors as selves is found on Jesus' lips in Matthew 19:19b, 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27 and in Paul's Galatians 5:14b and in James 2:8b. Verse 12's metaphor of dressing in Christ, as in instruments of righteousness, occurs also in Romans 6:13, II Corinthians 6:7, I Thessalonians 5:8 and Ephesians 6:13f. Galatians 3:27 explains that by baptism we dress in Christ. And, Galatians 5:16 prohibits gratifying the things of the flesh and I Thessalonians 4:12 picks up on proper behavior, too.

B Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) As noted above (in Step I, part B, re: verse 9), the Decalogue is in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Neighbor loving seems to have been generated in Leviticus 19:18. In the Old Testament, the word, bxa, referred to God's love for humankind and vice versa, like in Deuteronomy 23:5, 30:6 and maybe even in Hosea 3:1. Then, for the better manners in the second part of our text at hand, we have a requirement for "moderation in eating, drinking and story telling, concluding with, "Moderation is the best of all, excesses are grievous", in the poetic Pseudo-Phocylides, from "the period between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200 . . . the most probable date would be somewhere between 30 B.C. and A.D. 40," according to P. W. Van Der Horst in The OT Pseudepigrapha, volume 2, edited by James H. Charlesworth.

B. Hellenistic World

(JFC) The first element in this week's Epistle text that would arrest the attention of these philosophers is the distinctively different treatment of the flesh and the closeness of Christ lived out. Then, of course, they would resonate with the images of hospitality, while the idea that love suffices for fulfilling the Torah/Law might offend them, that is, if they thought of love as a mostly emotional phenomenon. Then, too, these Greeks taught well-mannered behavior, temperance orderliness and decency, among their high virtues.

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