Paul’s Philonic Opponent: Unveiling the One Who Calls Himself a Jew in Romans 2:17
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This dissertation offers a solution to several interpretive problems arising at the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Romans, particularly from Rom 1:18–3:20. Why do these chapters evince a distinct account of the knowledge of God, of the natural law, of sin and human capacity, and of salvation by works of Law. And why do they define a “true” Jew differently from what is found in the rest of the letter? Building on the earlier work of scholars who recognize key dialogical features in Romans that signal the presence of an authorially constructed interlocutor, I analyze these problems in light of the ancient rhetorical conventions for speech-in-character. I argue that the conceptual tensions generated by this text over against what Paul says elsewhere—extending at times to the level of contradictions—were categorized by ancient readers as διαφωνία prompting them to seek a “solution from the character” (λύσις ἐκ τοῦ προσώπου). The reader resolves the tensions, that is, by determining which material was appropriate for each character in a dialogue. This analysis results in (1) a coherent dialogical script for 1:18–3:20 that conforms to the criteria and conventions of ancient dialogues and that resolves the besetting tensions scholars have long wrestled with in this text; and (2) a more reliable body of evidence for the identification of Paul’s interlocutor, the one who “calls [him]self a Jew” (2:17), as a distinctively Philonic Jewish teacher who may also be a proselyte. Numerous Philonic details are recognizable within the argument, and these function in support of the dialogical script proposed.
Philo of Alexandria
Second Temple Judaism
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