Acceptance Motif in Paul: Revisiting Romans 15:7–13

by Zakali Shohe (Author)
©2017 Thesis 252 Pages


This book investigates the «acceptance motif» by reading Romans 15:7–13 as directed to a specific situation. Having situated Romans 15:7–13 within its historical setting, the study also locates Romans 15:7–13 within the argument of the entire epistle. The author then examines the syntax and the semantics of Romans 15:7–9a and interprets it within the Christological setting, in an attempt to establish the acceptance motif. The book also shows that Paul further appeals to the Jewish Scriptures in 15:9b–12 and demonstrates that the Scripture bears witness to the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles. Such modus operandi allows a picture of Paul’s concept of acceptance in its distinctiveness.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Abstract
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Chapter One: Introduction
  • I. Method of Research
  • II. Review of Research
  • A. Research during the Pre-critical Period
  • B. The Scholarly Turn to Romans 12:1–15:13
  • C. Treatments of Romans 15:7–13
  • III. Concluding Remarks
  • Chapter Two: Romans and its Historical Context
  • I. Introduction
  • II. Roman Jews and Believers in Christ
  • A. Jewish Community in Rome
  • B. Origin of Christian Faith in Rome
  • III. The Texts of Claudius’ Roman Edict
  • A. The Acts of the Apostles 18:2
  • B. Suetonius in Claudius (Vita Divi Claudii) 25.4
  • C. Dio Cassius in Roman History (Historiae Romanae) 60.6.6
  • D. Paulus Orosius in History against the Pagans (Historiae Adversum Paganos) 7.6.15–16
  • E. Conclusions Drawn from the Reports
  • 1. Single Event or Different Events
  • 2. Conclusion on Date
  • IV. Suetonius Report
  • A. The Expulsion in Relation to Roman Policy
  • B. Identity of Chrestus
  • C. Scope of the Expulsion
  • D. The Effect of Expulsion on Jews and Gentile Sympathizers
  • E. Summary of the Analysis of the Report by Suetonius
  • V. Reading Romans within the Historical Context
  • A. The Impact of the Claudian Edict on the Development of the Believing Communities in Rome
  • B. Romans 14:1–15:6 within the Historical Context
  • VI. Summary
  • Chapter Three: Romans 15:7–13 in the Argument of the Epistle
  • I. Introduction
  • II. The “Weak” and the “Strong” in Romans 14–15
  • A. Characteristics of Identification in Romans 14
  • 1. Identity of the “Strong” (Romans 14)
  • 2. Identity of the “Weak” (Romans 14)
  • B. Categories of Identification in Modern Scholarship
  • III. The Immediate Context of Romans 15:7–13
  • A. The Preceding Context
  • B. The Subsequent Context
  • C. Context of the Call for Acceptance in Romans 14:1–15:13
  • 1. Evidence for Home Gatherings
  • 2. Worship and Meal Setting
  • IV. Romans 15:7–13 within the Argument of the Epistle
  • A. Romans 15:7–13 and the Argument of 14:1–15:6
  • B. Romans 15:7–13 and the Argument of 12:1–15:6
  • C. Romans 15:7–13 and the Argument of 1:1–15:6
  • D. Summary on the Three Hypotheses
  • V. Thematic Parallels between Romans 15:7–13 and Romans 1:1–15:6
  • A. God’s Faithfulness and Mercy
  • B. Praise of God
  • C. Jewish Priority
  • D. God’s Promises
  • E. The Envisioning of a Future Hope
  • F. The Empowering of the Spirit
  • VI. Summary
  • Chapter Four: Syntactical and Semantic Analysis of Romans 15:7–9a
  • I. Introduction
  • II. The Structure of Romans 15:7–13
  • A. προσλαμβάνεσθε ἀλλήλους (Rom. 15:7)
  • B. Use of καθώς (Rom. 15:7)
  • C. ὁ Χριστός (Rom. 15:7)
  • D. εἰς δόξαν τοῦ θεοῦ (Rom. 15:7)
  • E. Use of λέγω γάρ (Rom. 15:8)
  • F. Διάκονον (Rom. 15:8)
  • G. Χριστὸν διάκονον γεγενῆσθαι περιτομῆς (Rom. 15:8)
  • H. τὰς ἐπαγγελίας τῶν πατέρων (Rom. 15:8)
  • I. Language of Praise (Rom. 15:9–12)
  • III. The Syntactical Relation between Romans 15:8 and 9a: Solutions Proposed
  • A. Solution One: δοξάσαι as Aorist Optative
  • B. Solution Two: Infinitives as Governed by εἰς τό
  • C. Solution Three: Infinitives as Dependent on λέγω
  • D. Solution Four: Servant to the Jews-Servant to the Gentiles
  • E. Summary of the Solutions
  • IV. An Alternative Reading: Jewish Origin and the Two-fold Purpose of Christ
  • A. Syntactical Consideration
  • B. Contextual Consideration
  • C. Thematic Consideration
  • V. Translation of Romans 15:7–13
  • VI. Summary
  • Chapter Five: Scripture Bears Witness: A Universal Call to Praise in Romans 15:9b–12
  • I. Introduction
  • II. The Influence of Scripture on Paul’s Proclamation of the Gospel and his Mission
  • III. Catena of Citations in Romans 15:9b–12
  • A. The first Scriptural Proof: Psalm 17:49 LXX (18:50 MT)
  • 1. The Context of Psalm 17:49 (LXX)
  • 2. The Citation Formula
  • 3. The Identity of “I” in the Context of Romans
  • 4. Reception in Romans 15:9b in the Context of Glorifying God among the Nations
  • B. The Second Scriptural Proof: Deuteronomy 32:43
  • 1. The Context of Deuteronomy 32:43
  • 2. The Citation Formula
  • 3. Reception in Romans 15:10 in the Context of Gentiles Praising God with Jews
  • C. The Third Scriptural Proof: Psalms 116:1 LXX (117:1 MT)
  • 1. The Context of Psalms 116:1 LXX
  • 2. The Citation Formula
  • 3. Reception in Romans 15:11 in the Context of ἔθνη and οἱ λαοί Praising God
  • D. The Fourth Scriptural Proof: Isaiah 11:10
  • 1. The Context of Isaiah 11:10
  • 2. The Citation Formula
  • 3. Reception in Romans 15:12 in the Context of the Gentile’s Hope in the “Shoot” of Jesse
  • IV. The Citations: Structure and Progression
  • A. Introductory Formula
  • B. Logical Progression
  • C. Catena of Citations and its Connection to Romans 15:7–9a
  • V. Summary
  • Chapter Six: An Interpretive Framework of the Acceptance Motif in Romans 15:7–13
  • I. Introduction
  • II. Interpretive Framework
  • A. Acceptance and Obligation
  • 1. The Notion of Obligation in Romans
  • 2. Acceptance and Obligation in Romans 14:1–15:13
  • B. Acceptance and Redefining Relationship
  • 1. Redefining Boundaries
  • 2. Community-Oriented and Christian Faith
  • C. Acceptance and Relational Eschatology
  • 1. The Eschatological Language of Hope
  • 2. Present Worship Anticipates Eschaton
  • 3. Universal Worship
  • III. Summary
  • Chapter Seven: Conclusion
  • I. Our Findings from the Study
  • II. Research Results for the Churches in India
  • Bibliography
  • Series index

← 12 | 13 →


This is a courageous work, which examines all the pertinent evidence relating to Paul’s concluding paraenesis in Romans 15.7–13, and challenges some prominent scholarly theories associated with its interpretation. While Dr. Shohe’s judicious and enlightening treatment of this passage is reason enough to read the book, the unique bonus comes in her application of the passage to her context in India. Here we see arduous scholarship coming alive to provide us with wisdom on how we may live together in community.

I have the enviable privilege of seeing the progress of this wonderful and significant work from its conception to birth, and it gives me great pleasure to commend it now to a larger audience.

K. H. Tan
Chen Su Lan Professor of New Testament
Trinity Theological College, Singapore ← 13 | 14 →

← 14 | 15 →


This study is an attempt to highlight the acceptance motif by reading Romans 15:7–13 as being directed to a specific situation. In order to achieve this end, this study integrates insights from historical, social, linguistic and inter-textual approaches. I hope such an amalgamated approach can bring about a deeper understanding of a multilayered text like Romans 15:7–13.

The introductory chapter surveys the interpretation of the pericope in scholarly discussions. In the history of research, we find two opposing viewpoints that have a direct impact on this study: the position that Romans is a general epistle and the position that Romans is directed to a specific situation in Rome. This study takes the latter view and regards Paul’s call for acceptance as being directed to the Jewish and the Gentile believers in Christ.

Chapter two employs the historical approach to investigate Romans within its historical context. It argues that Suetonius’ fragmentary report on the edict of expulsion provides critical information on the policy of the Roman authorities pertaining to the Jews during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. This particular fragment is also an important source for our understanding of the believers in Christ in first century Rome. It also examines the relationship between the Jewish community and the believers in Christ, as it is generally accepted that the earliest believers in Rome were members of the synagogue. This connection between the synagogue and the earliest believers in Christ is important for understanding the impact of the imperial edict of Claudius in the context of a community comprising both of the non-believing Jews and the believers in Christ. It is in this historical context that the study situates Romans 15:7–13.

By considering the social forces that were at work in Romans, chapter three locates Romans 15:7–13 within the argument of the entire epistle. The study argues that Romans 15:7–13 is brought out within the ecclesial context of the Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ. Furthermore, it argues that this pericope is not only connected to the immediate context of Romans 14–15, or to the issues discussed in 12:1–15:6, but that it is deeply interwoven with the entire epistle, for it incorporates themes from the entire epistle. The study shows that the key themes relating especially to the Jew-Gentile relationship and the inclusion of the Gentiles in the salvific plan of God are recapitulated in Romans 15:7–13. Thus, Paul widens the scope of the pericope to incorporate some of the prominent themes that contribute to the acceptance motif. ← 15 | 16 →

Chapter four of this study is devoted to the syntax and the semantics of Romans 15:7–9a and interprets them within the Christological setting. Christ is presented as coming from the Jewish people and his service is both to the Jews as well as the Gentiles. God in Christ remains faithful to his promises to the fathers for which the Jews give glory to God, and the covenantal promises of God are fulfilled in the inclusion of the Gentiles who glorify God because of His mercy.

Chapter five employs an inter-textual approach by examining the scriptural citations in Romans 15:9b–12 from the Law, the Prophets and the Writings in order to demonstrate that Scripture bears witness to the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles, especially in their common praise of God. Paul does not intend to unite the Jews and the Gentiles from a sociological perspective alone, but it is also the goal of his mission to bring the Jews and the Gentiles to a common worship and praise. It is an eschatological unity of all people, both Jews and Gentiles, and this theme is already established in Scripture.

Drawing upon the results of the previous chapters, chapter six offers three interpretive frameworks for the acceptance motif. First, acceptance of each other is an obligation. As the believers experience the saving act of God in Christ, they are obligated to God to bear witness to it in their relationship with one another. Second, it redefines the believer’s relationship with one another, where there is an openness to accept one another in the context of a faith community. Third, it actualizes an implicit relational eschatology, for this relationship does not end with the initial experience. The believers in their coming together as a worshipping community contribute to building and strengthening this relationship with a hope for future glorification.

The concluding chapter briefly highlights the challenges for the churches in India.

← 16 | 17 →

List of Abbreviations

← 18 | 19 →

Chapter One: Introduction

An important contribution in the history of research to the understanding of Romans appeared in 1971 with the publication of The Obedience of Faith by Paul Minear. The work of Minear awakened modern scholarship to the importance of Romans 14–15, especially in relation to the context of the whole epistle. As William S. Campbell has rightly observed, with Minear’s book, “a full-blown situational approach to the interpretation of the letter emerged.”1 However, most studies since then were confined to a discussion of the internal division within the Roman Christ believing communities in Romans 14:1–15:6, and not many have attempted to investigate in detail Paul’s exhortation in Romans 15:7–13.

The issue of the “weak” and the “strong” in Romans 14:1–15:13 or the issue of the identity of Roman believers in 12:1–15:132 has rightly been given importance in Pauline scholarship. Yet, Romans 15:7–13, which may be considered the climactic part, is often neglected. As Robert Jewett remarks,

While sifting through the studies on Romans I discovered a remarkable gap in interpreting the twofold admonition to “welcome” one another in Romans 14:1 and 15:7 and in understanding the twenty-one repetitions of the formula “greet so and so” in chapter 16. In the vast scholarly literature on Romans, there is not a single article devoted to either of these terms. ← 19 | 20 → 3

Usually, Romans 15:7–13 is simply viewed as a summary of Paul’s exhortation in Romans 14:1–15:6 or 12:1–15:6. Few scholars did attempt to focus on Romans 15:7–13, but none has treated this section as an object of inquiry at great length, or considered the “acceptance motif.” Hence, this study hopes to liquidate this shortcoming and is thus devoted to carefully examining Romans 15:7–13. It will not simply rehash the views of interpreters in the past. These will indeed be examined, but with a view to offering some fresh interpretations. Consequently, the study intends to examine the language, concepts and citations in the text. I will look at how these aspects illuminate Paul’s thinking, especially on the key motif, which is about acceptance.

I.   Method of Research

The aim of this study is to take a closer look at Romans 15:7–13 within its historical and ecclesial context. Furthermore, it argues that the syntax, themes and the citations bring to the forefront the acceptance motif. To achieve this aim, this study employs a number of approaches and draws insights from them: historical, ecclesial, linguistic and intertextual. I hope by utilizing such an integrated approach that I will be able to draw out insights from the text, contributing to a deeper understanding of the acceptance motif.

This study attempts to look at the epistle of Romans within its historical context and so to achieve this aim it employs a historical approach. By a historical approach I mean the interpretation of the text in the light of its specific historical context.

Along with the historical approach, this study also takes into consideration the sociological approach in situating Romans 15:7–13. The use of sociology and anthropology diverts our attention to the different realities of the social groups in the synagogues or within the church rather than to only look at the theological assessment of the controversies within the Pauline churches. The study regards Romans 15:7–13 as directed to a situation where there are differences among the believers, i.e., the Jewish and the Gentile believers in Christ. It attempts to discover and explain the intent of a text as a response to its ecclesial situation, and the way it stimulates response on the part of the recipients. Furthermore, it aims to situate the text within the setting of the entire epistle.

Having said that, it is also important to look at the language Paul uses. As Joseph Maleparampil also argues, the syntactical analysis (and semantics, i.e., the linguistic analysis) is also “a classic approach in the field of biblical exegesis.” ← 20 | 21 → 4 Hence, a linguistic analysis (syntax and semantics) of the text unit will be undertaken. The syntactical components and the semantics are considered with the aim of underscoring a theme, i.e., the acceptance motif.

This study also employs an intertextual reading, especially since the passage is replete with Old Testament citations and themes. It will look at the citations in their literary setting and then attempt to see how Paul uses the citations, and the changes the text had undergone.

In their extreme form, the approaches mentioned are limited, but when used together they complement one another. Such an amalgamated approach is important for reading this particular text, because I hope such an approach can bring out a fuller understanding to a rich text like Romans 15:7–13. Furthermore, such an integrated approach would help towards a well-balanced investigation, especially in drawing out the acceptance motif.

II.   Review of Research

The concern in this section is to give a brief general survey of scholarships surrounding the theme of the study. The survey will basically concentrate on the scholarships in the English-speaking world. In the history of scholarship, different solutions have been propounded on the setting of Romans. This survey will take into consideration a few writings during the pre-critical period, and it will then examine the history of the critical interpretation of Romans 12:1–15:13 in general, and the treatment of Romans 15:7–13 in particular.

A.   Research during the Pre-critical Period

The interpreters during the pre-critical period define the “weak” and the “strong” in Romans 14–15 as Jewish and Gentile Christians5 respectively, divided over ← 21 | 22 → practices related to the Mosaic Law. For Origen, for example, the “weak” are the Jewish believers who emphasize the food laws and the observance of special days. While, the “strong” are the Gentiles who are free in their observances of the Jewish practices.6 Origen also regards Romans 14–15 as being addressed to Gentile believers, who believe nothing is unclean. Thus, Paul warns them not to insult those who observe the food laws.7

John Chrysostom interprets the text in the same manner as Origen. He postulates that it is the Jewish practices that forms a basis for the “weak” believers’ abstinence from certain foods and their observance of special days.8 However, unlike Origen, Chrysostom argues that Paul in Romans 14:1–15:6 is also persuading the “weak” to change their ways.9 Along the topic of love and friendship, Chrysostom makes an interesting comment with regard to the Jew-Gentile relationship, which is later emphasized by a few modern scholars. He states that the Gentiles are debtors of a larger amount to God, so they ought to bear with the “weak”: the Jews had “the good things” given to them because of the “promise made to the fathers,” while the “Gentiles had them out of pity and love toward man only.” Hence, for Chrysostom, Paul is exhorting the Gentiles to glorify God for his mercy, and mentions the promises in order that the “strong” may not rise against the “weak” but be united and praise God with one mind.10 By this, Chrysostom means that the Gentiles have a responsibility toward the Jews by being tolerant of them and by extending love and friendship to them.11 Thus, Chrysostom concludes that Paul exhorts both Gentiles and Jews in different ways, but with the goal of unity in mind. This is one aspect that some of the future scholars will elucidate in their discussions on the pericope. ← 22 | 23 →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (May)
Pauline New perspective Jew-Gentile issue
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 252 pp.

Biographical notes

Zakali Shohe (Author)

Zakali Shohe is Associate Professor of New Testament and the Academic Dean at Trinity Theological College, affiliated to the Senate of Serampore College (University), Dimapur, Nagaland.


Title: Acceptance Motif in Paul: Revisiting Romans 15:7–13
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254 pages