Lectionary Year A
September 15, 2002
Romans 14:1-12

Step IV: Context

A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) Perhaps these earliest Christians thought of those nonbelievers as "weak in the faith" (avsqenou/nta th/| pi,stei), as seems, according to Bauer's Arndt and Gingrich, to designate, "fig., of relig. and moral weakness Ro 14:2; I Cor 8:11f; 2 Cl 17:2 . . . av) th/| pi,stei be weak in faith 4:19; 14:1 (i.e., over-scrupulous). Gener. of faint-heartedness and fearful 2 Cor 11:29." Also, the Nestle-Aland's margin notes I Corinthians 8:9 and 9:22 and I Thessalonians 5:14. ICC adds I Cor. 8:7, 9f. Other conditions are delineated in I Corinthians 10:25-27 where the determining factor seems to be hospitably respectful of guests who are unbelievers unless they serve meat that has been offered as a sacrifice. Colossians 2:16f tries to put such celebrations as festivals in proper perspective, as well. Also in Matthew 7:1, similar to our text's 4th verse, Jesus cautions against making judgments, stating that the one judging will be judged similarly. Paul, again in Galatians 4:10f, says that "observing special days" is counterproductive if overdone, as Romans 14:6 suggests. Then as verse 6b qualifies, so does I Corinthians 10:30, permit eating anything or not with thanks to God. And, II Corinthians 5:15, like verse 9 of this week's Epistle Lesson, declares that Christ died for all so that all might live in Him rather than to our/themselves, this doctrine is furthermore expanded in Galatians 2:20. Additionally, it is extended another step or so in I Thessalonians 4:14 and 5:10. In Jesus' discussion with the Sadducees in Luke 20, especially verse 38, He proclaims that all live in God who is the God of both the living and the dead, as does the 9th verse of our text at hand. Jesus describes God's judgment seat as a "throne of glory", as mentioned at the end of Romans 14:10, in Matthew 25:31, and as surrounded by angels. In Acts17:31, Paul tells the Athenians that God's raising Jesus from the dead gives assurance to all repenting that they/we will have life everlasting. The knees' bowing and tongues' confessing (verse 11) are quoted in Philippians 2:10.

B. Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) Many of the Old Testament's people/nations/religions regulated diets and some calendar's values of days. They also put a high importance on welcoming travelers, maybe strangers, even, in those days before hotels/motels/beds and breakfasts, etc. In our passage for this week, verse 1's proslamba,nesqe( God's receiving or helping anyone whose parents might forsake them is alluded to in Psalm 27:10. The quote comprising most of the 11th verse of our text comes from Isaiah 45:23, 49:18 and/or Jeremiah 22:23. And, from the first century of the Common Era, IV Maccabees 7:18f reads, "Only those who with all their heart make piety their first concern are able to conquer the passions of their flesh, believing that to God they do not die, as our patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died not but live to God. Footnote: The notion of 'living to God' is common to the NT, e.g., Rom 6:10, 14:8; Gal 2:19. In Mk 12:26, the 'I am' of God's declaration to Moses at the bush - 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob' - is used, rather surprisingly, as proof of the resurrection of the dead."

C. Hellenistic World

(JFC) These philosophical ethicists often disciplined themselves to avoid consuming certain foods and drinks, sometimes for penitential rituals, cf., "Testament of Reuben" 1.8-10 (2-1 cent. BCE). They also emphasized hospitality as has been often noticed in these studies. Also, they would likely have resonated with verse 5c's emphasis on one's own discernment/mind's (noi>) being the determining factor in deciding what actions to take and/or abstain from taking. Now, the abstaining from judging others different from their beliefs and the rituals therein, they talked and wrote of such admirable practices, but, did they practice what they wrote/discussed, in as much as they were rather wealthy by comparable standards in their days and times? And, the conquering the passions of the flesh, mentioned above (in Part B of this Step) would get their attention for debate.

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