Romans 3:1-20

Sep 8, 2008


Paul uses this pericope to close his first argument regarding the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.  Overall, he has argued that Jews will be judged as justly as Gentiles and so wrath will come upon all men who have sinned.  Because Paul began this thought at the center of his abbreviated outline (1:18/19) it thereby functions as the first, and so the foundational argument for what is to come.  In this pericope, Paul makes rhetorical use of dialogue (five times).  Each dialogue is composed of two questions and all (except dialogue 4) are followed by two answers.  The first of these answers is always just briefly expressed to allow further explanation in the following answer.  Dialogue 4 ends in the middle of the text and at a transition to the last major term of the structure.  The lack of a second answer in the fourth dialogue naturally signals the end of one term while the discourse marker “oun” signals the beginning of another.  It is interesting that dialogue 5 (A’) takes up roughly half of the text.  This is understandable in that its counterpart term (A) is quite short (v.1-2) and so it basically balances out all the B/B’ material.  Note that dialogues two, three, and four are all connected by various transitional elements, each of which arises from the previous dialogue.  The first link (between v. 2 & 3) is based on the “believe/trust” semantic domain.  The link between v. 4 & 5 is based on the “justified/righteous” references and the link between v. 6 & 7 is based on the verb for “judgment.”  These three dialogues (the B/B’ material) are all a defense of God in his righteous judgment.  The outline draws attention to the two parallel sub-structures that comprise the B, B’ material.  In those cases, there is an outmost x/y (“truth/lies”) set of parallels and also a set of Ps 52:4 based parallels (where two key concepts in each line of the psalm are the basis for the opposing parallel a/b terms).  It is interesting that all the initial parallel elements are packed into v. 4, the second answer section of dialogue 2 (in term B).  The bulk of dialogue 5 is the string of OT Scripture quotations Paul uses to show that all (including Jews) are guilty and then lets the OT speak to the particulars of how they are guilty, both in word, and actions.  The “charge” that Paul refers to is probably contained in 2:9-10, which is the second half of the very center of his entire judgment argument.  There, he specified (as here) that God will not be impartial in his great judgment of the nations.  Neither Jews nor (afterward, in order of judgment) Greek gentiles, will be exempt from accountability. The outline above highlights the inclusio in the Ps 14 quotation and the fact that, excluding that device, Paul uses four terms in each of his three sets of quotations.  The pericope ends in way that brings home the overall point - the whole world is guilty and so liable under God’s judgment for sin. The news is all negative.  There is no positive spin and certainly no Jew will be declared righteous by the works of the law.  The OT (Law) quotations only make Jews aware of their sin by specifying and defining it (as he has just done). Note that Paul used the same discourse marker (dioti) to close his main argument as he used to begin (1:19).