The Book of Romans Part 8 (3:1-9) Crime and Poetry

This portion in Paul's argument is coming to its pinnacle. Paul has
deftly drawn the reader into the court-room where God is the wronged
party and His defense is being offered. Paul started the argument by
highlighting the point that God is righteous in that He judges.

Not missing the beat, Paul quickly illustrated how
God judges the guilty heathen?no mention of hidden counsels or any such
thing of the sort, but guilty men willfully against God, suppressing
His words and finally embracing their sin, exhorting those who do the
same.

Lest the moralist listener "tut-tut's" these wicked heathens, taking a stand
on the side of God by judging those horrid sinners, Paul makes sure to
point out that they are just as guilty. That by standing on God's side
and judging the sin about them (and not the sin in their own hearts),
they effectively store up wrath for themselves for a future day. These
moralists can be found in the Jews who were given the Law but by their
repeated sin, the Gentiles blaspheme the very name of God.

Paul now does concede a point, as mentioned in our last
(and so very long ago at that) session. It's not that to be Jewish is
worthless, not at all. It would almost seem that Paul has proved his
point too well by leaving off in the middle of this thought-flow with
such an idea that Circumcision is actually of the heart (if we read it
as such, although we've already discussed what Paul was referring to).


The Jews have many advantages (3:1-2) and benefits in being circumcised?although Paul doesn't list what they all are.

 

He offers a great advantage and one which he will reiterate in the
so controversial Chapter 9. To the Jews were entrusted the very oracles
of the Living God(3:2)! If you will, the very utterances of God found
throughout the Old Testament. Jews had a tremendous historical role
with those utterances of God and Paul makes sure that the reader does
not forget it.

What then if the Jews do not believe? Will God have to throw away
his faithfulness because His unfaithful people refuse to believe? Will
God stop being God because the people He chose to hold His divine
utterances severely fell? (3:3)

Paul's response is emphatic (3:4). God will be found true though
every man be found a liar?and not in this sense that we're all wrong
merely because we're not God. No, Paul has already illustrated the
sinfulness of both the heathen and the moralist and he goes on to quote
this poetic genre passage from Psalms 51:4 which we may go into further
detail on a later date.

Paul then offers a question which he offers in the regular people
dealings, knowing full well that it is not fit for this great
discussion on God's righteousness (3:5). Nevertheless he offers the
question which pits the darkness of man's sin as a foil to the
brightness of God's righteousness. As an illustration, if our darkness
makes God's judging of that darkness a bright point, does that then
make God not that shining bright merely brighter than us?

Paul's response is once again emphatic (3:6) saying that God can
only judge the world because he is in actuality righteous, not merely
as a foil. Then Paul offers the next logical question that if this is
the case and that He is glorified by the fact that men's sins (my sins)
are judged, how could it be possible that men (or I) am still judged as
a sinner. God is being glorified by men's wickedness and perhaps why
not "do evil that the good of God may come"? (3:7)

Paul doesn't even bother to answer the claim with an emphatic (3:8).
He almost seems to hiss out the words that the persons saying these
words and ascribing them to believers are condemned and their
condemnation before God is just. Instead he gets back to the point of
this part of the discussion?if the Jews have an advantage are the Jews
then better than they (the Gentiles)?

The Jew may very well take the fact that he has an advantage to mean
that he is better than the Gentile or has a higher standing, but Paul
squelches that with a "not at all" and points how we've covered the
ground that all are under sin. (3:9)

Paul then puts together several quotes from the Old Testament to
paint a graphic picture, once again using poetic genre language.

Why my constant repetition of "poetic genre" or "poetic language"?
Well, there are some who take poetic passages and read them as doctrine
or history, completely ignoring the structure of poetry. Someone may
jump into a Psalm and take the words the psalmist writes out and apply
them as promises to the self (another error completely there but that's
for another time) simply because a poetic passage illustrated a point.
For example:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I don't have a rhyme
Perhaps you do

So, if we read this with our Bible-Reading Hats on, we'll say "Yes all roses are red."

Really? Are all roses red? Or are there white and pink and yellow roses as well?

"Violets are all blue, then."

Is that a fact? I thought they were closer to violet myself.

"In the last section the writer is confessing how he doesn't have a rhyme and perhaps the reader can develop one."

That's superbly interesting…for it seems to rhyme. Is the passage a
lie or does then the writer have a secondary point in the setting up of
the poetry in such a manner?

Jewish poetry may not necessarily rhyme (especially when translated
into English) and that may be part of our anglicized problem with
reading those long poetic passages. Jewish poetry does have a structure
though and it would help us to understand those passages if we saw them
in light of their poetic structure instead of twisting them in the same way I twisted my little rhyme.

-r-

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