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Reading Romans as a Diatribe


Changwon Song

This book illustrates how the macro-structure of the «body» of Romans essentially follows that of the diatribes in Epictetus’s Discourses. As in Discourses, the diatribe in Romans begins with the thesis (1.16-17), then follows an indictment (1.18-32) and dialogues with a fictitious second-person singular in chapter two. Arguments with the mē genoito formula dominate the middle part of the diatribe. In the middle of chapter eleven, the phase changes back to dialogues with the second-person singular. The ending of the diatribe Romans also, like Discourses, includes cynic and hyperbolic statements (14.21 and 14.23). Thus, the «body» of Romans should not be read as a real letter, but as a diatribe that was distributed in Paul’s schoolroom and later appropriated as a letter. This teaching was not directed to a specific group of people, viz., the Christians in Rome, but rather intrinsically universalized. Therefore, its message is intrinsically more powerful for us.