Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Romans In 2 Days

Last Saturday evening, Kenneth, Edward, Huai Tze, Vitali, Dave Chong, and myself gathered at Edward's place for a gathering. Rather than a mere dinner fellowship, somehow I get the feeling that it was a cultic gathering as religious issues were the only languages that our lips sang.

Among many other things, we chated about St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. I didn't have much to say as I have always been hesitate to involve in the so-called "Romans Debate".

That conversation inspired me to find out more about it. So, I decided to learn the epistle but I didn't know where or how to start. I can't start by reading the epistle itself as I've done so many years ago to no real grasp of it except piecemeal understanding on homosexuality, heavily Lutheran-tinted version of "justification by faith alone", submission to governing authorities, and etc. Not very satisfying. Somehow I felt that there are so much more in the letter than these fragmented understanding.

So strangely (probably guided by the Holy Spirit) I got this idea, "Why not listen to N.T Wright's 2003 lectures titled 'Romans in a day'?" So I uploaded these 3 lectures into my phone and listened to them yesterday. And I managed to finished the last one at about 11pm during my journey back home. Didn't refer to the epistle itself at all, just spent the whole day contemplating the lectures.

Then this morning, during my journey to TTC for my Greek class, I re-listened the last lecture, which is on Romans 9-16. After seated in the class, I realized that Tony Siew was giving a test!

Anyway, my mind just can't get over Romans. So after the class, I flipped open my NRSV-Greek Interlinear NT and read it. It was my first time going through Romans at one seating. Completely poured myself into it. The sky opened. Cherubims sang. I was undone.

I fail to grasp most of Wright's lecture, but one thing that I managed to learn from him is the stubborness to insist on the continuity between Romans 1-8 with 9-16. And that alone has helped me tremendously to understand the letter.

Bearing in mind that St Paul was addressing the issue of the relation between the salvation of Israel and Gentiles is not only a fresh but also a deeper understanding of the epistle. And Romans 9-11 is not first and foremost the similar concern as that of typical Protestantism's understanding.

Finally I see and appreciate the problem described in chapter 1-4, the invocation of the OT narratives in 5-8, the election issue in 9-11, the purpose of all the exhortations in chapter 12-15, the 'law-grace-faith relation'. And surprisingly I discovered an inclusio at Romans 1 and 16 ("the obedience of faith").

Surprising not because Tony Siew or Richard Bauckham hadn't show me about it before but because it's my first time finding this in the text without expecting it. Last time it was like I've been alerted to this inclusio, and I just flipped to Romans 1 and then straight to Romans 16 just to see them. Just now, I was reading the whole epistle without expecting it and, in this sense, discovered it.


Steven Sim said...

What's the exact link of Wright's Romans in a Day? I have never seen or heard this...or send the file to me. Tq

Steven Sim

Tony Siew said...

Dear Joshua, I am glad to read that you are getting excited about Paul's letter to the Romans. The Greek test must have been anti-climatic! I feel humbled that you put me next to Richard Bauckham, one of my favourite scholars.

Sze Zeng said...

Dear Tony,

I'm myself excited over the book. I wish I have more time to dwell in it.

The Greek test is not anti-climatic. I'd expected it since you've told us before the semester break. I really look forward to when I'm able to read the letter to the Romans in Greek!

So far I only read two of his popular works. One is his small book on Jesus, the other one is his Jesus and Eyewitnesses.

Heard that TTC is trying to invite Richard Bauckham for a visit or something like that. If he managed to come over, when you're having tea with him, remember to invite me ya... hehehe