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Abraham’s Gentile Offspring: Contratextuality and Conviction in Romans 4

Logical difficulties in the argument of Romans 4 have been observedat least since the time of Juelicher, who felt that by appealing toAbraham in support of a system of righteousness established only withChrist, Paul inadvertently punctured the hull of his theological vessel.Advances in understanding have been made possible in recent times by therecognition that jumps and discontinuities on the surface of Paul’srhetorical logic are to be seen as indicators of the deeper interplay ofhis fundamental convictions. One such logical discontinuity is hisattempt to argue on the basis of Gen 15 and 17 that believing butuncircumcised Gentiles are to be considered as ’Abraham’s offspring’ --despite the categorical exclusion of such a possibility in Gen 17, wherecircumcision is the sine qua non of membership among Abraham’sdescendants. This argumentative strategy ’against the text’ is even morestriking in view of references to the ’nations’ in the Abraham story (Gen12:3; 17:5) that could have provided Paul with scriptural justificationfor a ’softer’ or ’righteous Gentile’ way of including the Gentiles insalvation. My purpose in this paper is to press beneath the troubledrhetorical surface of the argument here in order to discern the nature ofPaul’s underlying convictions about the Gentiles.

Author(s):  Donaldson, Terence L
Format:  Article
Date:  1992
Source:  Ioudaios Articles