restricted access Early Patristic Readings of mans (review)
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Reviewed by
Kathy L. Gaca and L. L. Welborn, editors Early Patristic Readings of RomansRomans through History and CulturesNew York and London: T & T Clark International, 2005 Pp. vi + 237. $39.95.

The papers comprised in this excellent volume were delivered to the SBL seminar on "Romans through History and Cultures" during its 2000–2002 sessions. The title of the introduction by the two editors frames the focus more sharply: "Romans in Light of Early Patristic Receptions" ("receptions" being defined as "hermeneutic endeavors to impart didactic teachings on the basis of Romans").

In the opening essay ("Paul's Uncommon Declaration in Romans 1.18–32"), Gaca contends that Paul abandons the traditional Hellenistic Jewish explanation of polytheism as the result of ignorance and instead argues that it is due to willful suppression of truth about God knowable from nature. Gaca finds this a "problematic legacy," especially in the hands of fourth-century writers seeking to suppress dissent in the interest of creating a Christian culture. Moxnes's comment on Gaca's reading of Paul affirms her interpretation but points out that Paul may not have been as innovative as she suggests in that both the "ignorance" and "suppression" motifs have roots in the LXX. [End Page 120]

Michael Brown ("Jewish Salvation in Romans according to Clement of Alexandria") offers what the editors believe is "the most charitable case possible" for the view that Clement, although not unambiguously clear on the matter, did not hold a supersessionist view of Judaism but instead believed that the Jews, or at least a part of them, would be saved. Gaca in her response is justly skeptical of this reading.

L. L. Welborn ("The Soteriology of Romans in Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 2: Faith, Fear, and Assimilation to God") argues persuasively that Romans was the "pattern" (a word Welborn uses in at least three senses, observes Gaca in her response) for Book 2 of the Stromateis, a protreptic work shaped by Middle Platonism that "transforms a message that was based upon apocalyptic premises into a timeless quest for 'assimilation to God.'"

Irenaeus is the focus of two contributions. First, Susan Graham ("Irenaeus as Reader of Romans 9–11: Olive Branches") argues that Irenaeus in his Epideixis, no less than in his Adversus haereses (as Richard Norris demonstrated), uses Romans not as a mere source of proof texts, but, in fact, substantially depends on the structure and content of Paul's argument and ideas. Jeffrey Bingham ("Irenaeus Reads Romans 8: Resurrection and Renovation") examines Irenaeus's use of Romans 8 in Adversus haereses in light of his anti-Gnostic polemical view. Whereas the controversy over Gnosticism swirled around the interpretation of 1 Cor 15.50, it was the anthropology and cosmology underlying Romans 8 that was Irenaeus's real concern and focus as he developed an "interpretive network" that enabled him to rescue Paul's writings from heretical misuse. In her essay-length response, Jouette Bassler observes that even as these essays demonstrate the authority of Romans in Irenaeus's work, the authority of Scripture was for him "always subordinated to the higher authority of the rule of faith."

Competing readings of Origen are offered by Ruth Clements and Sze-Kar Wan. Clements argues that in Peri Archon Origen, working with his typical "bi-level Christian Platonist hermeneutic" that saw in Scripture both a literal and a spiritual/allegorical level, consistently associated Judaism with a deficient literalistic view of Scripture that resulted in a failure to grasp the prophetic and Christian character of it. Moreover, the rhetorical context of Peri Archon is important. Origen apparently developed his views not in conversation with "real Jews" but with other Christians, primarily Marcionite and Valentinian Christians. Sze-Kar Wan, on the other hand, argues on the basis of Origen's Commentary on Romans (written after Origen's move from Alexandria to Caesarea) the more traditional view that Origen maintained an abiding esteem and sensitivity for both Jews and Judaism, a perspective arising at least in part because in Caesarea he "was engaged in a lively dialogue with his contemporary Jewish exegetes." Responses to Clements by Peter Gorday, to Clements and Wan by Charles Cosgrove, and...