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A Real “Clobber Passage” (a translation of Romans 2:1-4)

January 3, 2013

It’s always been a fascination to me that, whoever Paul of the New Testament was, he chose to use Greek (and not Latin) to write his letter sent to readers in Rome.  His readers may have been, like him, real Roman citizens.  That Paul used Greek as the language of his communication to Rome may speak some to the fact that the government there could not easily govern by this official language alone (and even the Emperors would slip back from time to time into the rhetoric and poetry of educated and even common Hellene).  What’s more fascinating is how Paul addresses his readers in Rome as Jews first and also as Greeks (and he seems to hint that those in Rome otherwise were mere barbarians).  The context of Rome and of its citizens is just fascinating in Paul’s time.  And this may help contextualize better for us Greek readers today one of the so-called “clobber passages” of the New Testament.

“Clobber passage” refers to a decontextualized passage that is used to clobber someone whose sexual practices is other than ones own.  For a couple of years now, I’ve seen a number of bloggers using the phrase related to Christian readings of scripture and of Paul’s writings in some cases.  At Huffington Post last year, John Shore looked at a number of “clobber passages,” including one from the initial sentences of Paul’s letter to Rome (i.e., Romans 1:26-27).  Shore, fortunately, not only provides this passage but he also gives some of the Rome context in which Paul writes.  He says,

In the times during which the New Testament was written, the Roman conquerors of the region frequently and openly engaged in homosexual acts between older men and boys, and between men and their male slaves. These acts of non-consensual sex were considered normal and socially acceptable. They were, however, morally repulsive to Paul, as today they would be to everyone, gay and straight.

What got me looking at this again is the fact that one of my own children is leaving for Rome and Athens this week for a college course on the history and religion of the ancients. In preparation, she’s been reading one of Mary Renault’s books which imaginatively recalls the same-sex practices of the ancient Greeks, practices which Paul seems to address in his letter to readers of Greek in Rome.  There’s allusion to Socrates.

And when I re-read Romans 1 and 2 in Paul’s Greek this morning, I saw a possible allusion to The Apology.  It comes as a turn, as an anti-strophe (from Romans 1 to Romans 2).  I apologize in advance if not everyone would agree that Paul’s first readers might have seen this.  Nonetheless, it seems, to me anyway, that Paul was being poetic, being rhetorical with his Greek.  He is being persuasive.  He is writing a real clobber passage.  The rhetoric of Romans 2:1-4 sure seems to clobber anyone and everyone who might use Romans 1:26-27 as their clobber passage.  This is brilliant ancient deconstructionism, well before modernism or postmodernism.

Well, without further ado, here’s that Greek and below that a translation:

διὸ ἀν απολόγητος εἶ,
ὧ ἄνθρωπε πᾶς
ὁ κρίνων• ἐν
ᾧ γὰρ κρίνεις
τὸν ἕτερον, σεαυτὸν κατα κρίνεις,
τὰ γὰρ αὐτὰ πράσσεις
ὁ κρίνων.

οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι τὸ κρίμα
τοῦ θεοῦ
ἐστιν κατὰ ἀ λήθειαν
ἐπὶ τοὺς τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντας.

λογίζῃ δὲ τοῦτο,
ὦ ἄνθρωπε
ὁ κρίνων
τοὺς τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντας
καὶ ποιῶν αὐτά,
ὅτι σὺ ἐκ φεύξῃ τὸ κρίμα
τοῦ θεοῦ;

τοῦ πλούτου
τῆς χρηστότητος
τῆς ἀν οχῆς
τῆς μακρο θυμίας
κατα φρονεῖς,

ἀ γνοῶν
ὅτι τὸ χρηστὸν
τοῦ θεοῦ
εἰς μετά νοιαν
σε ἄγει;

So “The Apology” is a no,
O Everyman,
O Judge.
Oh, that judgment
Of the Other, is that judgment, Of Yourself,
Practically the Same-Shame Practices,
O Judge.

As we all know “The Judgment”
Of God
is no Cover-up
Of those of these Practices.

Oh say can you,
O Human,
O Judge
Of those of these Practices,
Poetically the Same-Shame,
Oh can you flee from “The Judgment”
Of God?

Or might your judgment
Of this wealth
Of that kindness
Of his
Of this “No Fury”
Of that “Far-off Rage”
Be slighted by your opinions?

Oh? You have no understanding
Just how that kindness
Of God
Might be Open Mindedness
Delivered to you?

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 9, 2013 2:32 pm

    Hi Kurk – it struck me that the form for Paul’s organization of chapters 1 and 2 is essentially the same as Psalm 49. Verses 8-15 are for the obedient and 16-22 for the wicked – but the wicked are those who recount my statutes and … bear my covenant in your mouth – how strange this reversal of roles. The gospel is fully in the TNK and fully in the Psalms. It is is plain and simple – judgment with equity. Our oligarchic banking and political systems fail – not through lack of charity but through grinding down those who work for a living.

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