Romans 1:18 As Key To The Structure Of The Letter -- By: John M. Scoggins, Jr.
BSac 175:700 (October-December 2018) p. 411
Romans 1:18 As Key To The Structure Of The Letter
John M. Scoggins Jr. pastored churches in Texas, Washington, and California. He was senior pastor at Rosedale Bible Church in Bakersfield, California, for fourteen years until his retirement in 2015.
In his introduction to Romans, Paul moves topic by topic to a juncture at 1:18, where his argument reverses itself and revisits those same topics and eventually concludes with a doxology that contains significant lexical parallels to his beginning salutation. Arranged this way, Paul’s introduction in 1:1–18 mentions every topic he will discuss in reverse order in the remainder of the letter.
Whether they treat Romans as ancient epistolography,1 a repository of theology,2 discourse rhetoric,3 or ancient diatribe,4 commentaries on Romans follow a predictable paradigm. First, they develop Paul’s argument in a strictly linear and forward-looking manner.
BSac 175:700 (October-December 2018) p. 412
That is, they begin at 1:1 and end at 16:27, assuming that they do not rearrange the debated segments of the final chapters of the letter. Second, with few exceptions, they end Paul’s introduction to the letter at 1:17 and begin the main body at 1:18. This article will suggest that the grammar of 1:18 requires a paradigm shift in how verse 18, the introduction to Romans, and the structure of the entire letter are understood.
It will propose a chiasmlike,5 extended, inverted parallel structure for Romans. This structure answers why Paul wrote what he wrote where he wrote it, throughout the entirety of Romans, and does so in a way that strictly linear and forward-looking arrangements do not—or cannot—do.
Unlike strictly linear and forward-looking arrangements, an extended, inverted parallel structure explains why Paul placed debated passages where he did, including chapters 9–11, his plans to visit Rome and his Gentile missi...
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