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Human speech–a neglected element of Romans 10

In my book, I argue that the concept of human speech is a vitally important–though very frequently neglected–component of Paul’s argument in Romans chapter 10.

Paul and the Vocation of Israel: How Paul's Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans

There are two conspicuous features of Rom 10 which, although they are rarely emphasized, are fundamental for its interpretation. Firstly, Paul makes a great deal of the concept of human speech in Rom 10.
This is a strikingly new feature in his argument so far in Romans. Although Paul has discussed the theme of human “faith” in positive terms and at great length (Rom 1:1–17; 3:21–31; ch. 4; 5:1–2; 9:30 –33), his discussion of human speech has so far been limited to rhetorical devices, brief descriptions of his own ministry (Rom 1:8–9, 15; 9:3), negative portrayals of sinful speech (Rom 1:29–30; 2:1; 3:13–14), denunciations of misguided Jewish speech to synagogue adherents (Rom 2:19–22), and the resultant blasphemy of Gentiles (Rom 2:24). In fact, Paul has claimed that the purpose of the Law is to stop all human speech (lit. to “close every mouth”) and thus to hold the world accountable to God (Rom 3:19). Thereafter, human speech almost disappears. Romans 10, however, is replete with explicit portrayals of human speech. There are verbs describing testimony (μαρτυρεῖν, v. 2), preaching (κηρύσσειν, vv. 8, 14, 15), confession (ὁμολογεῖν, vv. 9, 10), “calling upon” God (ἐπικαλεῖν, vv. 12, 13, 14), and “evangelism” (εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, v. 15; cf. εὐαγγέλιον, v. 16). There is a “message” (ῥῆμα, vv. 8, 17, 18) spoken by believers and preachers, and the gospel is described as a “report” which is “heard” (ἀκοή / ἀκούειν vv. 14, 16, 17, 18). In Rom 10, Paul also makes much of the scriptural term “mouth” (στόμα) placing it in parallel with the “heart” as an instrument of salvation (vv. 8, 9, 10). Thus, while earlier in Romans, Paul states that sin has produced false speech (Rom 1:29–30; 2:1; 2:19–22; 3:13–14), and that the Law’s condemnation has silenced all speech (Rom 3:19–20), now in Rom 10, he claims that belief and salvation are intertwined with true speech.

There is a second conspicuous feature of Rom 10, which is related to the first: Paul makes a great deal of his own speech in this chapter. He does this through a series of significant first-person references and other carefully chosen terms. He uses the first-person singular indicative of μαρτυρεῖν to describe his own “testimony” concerning Israel (v. 2). Furthermore, he uses the first-person plural indicative of κηρύσσειν to describe his (and others’) apostolic preaching (v. 8), and
subsequently uses a number of further third-person plural verbs which recall his (and others’) apostolic speaking ministry: the third-person plural indicative of κηρύσσειν (v. 15; cf. the singular participle in v. 14), the third-person plural passive subjunctive of ἀποστέλλειν (v. 15), and a plural participle of εὐαγγελίζεσθαι (v. 15). Paul also refers to people believing “our report” (τῇ ἀκοῇ ἡμῶν, v. 16), which he identifies with his own apostolic message—the “message of Christ” (ῥήμα Χριστοῦ) that leads to “faith” (πίστις, v. 17; cf. v. 8).

These features of Rom 10 are important for understanding the meaning and purpose of the chapter. In fact, we shall argue that in Rom 10, Paul is presenting his own apostolic “speaking” ministry as an alternative fulfilment of Israel’s vocation. (pp. 210-211).

The full details of the argument and further references may be found in chapter 6 of the book (pp. 210-230). The chapter is available from the publisher in electronic format:

Windsor, Lionel J. Paul and the Vocation of Israel: How Paul’s Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans. BZNW 205. Berlin / Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2014.

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