Posted by: religionthink | May 4, 2011

Hellenistic Paul: Letter To The Romans- Chapter Two

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Hellenistic Paul: Letter to The Romans Chapter Two

What the Greeks and Romans heard. A translation  with editing based on The Letter to the Romans from Paul while comparing ideas from Greek thought and philosophy in order to highlight the hellenstic ideas in the writings of Paul. Below is Chapter 2 of Romans. This is  a  fictional text. The references in the “Notes” section are theological and philosophical ideas that would apply to the context.

Those people are on a dark spiral downward towards Hades. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But Zeus isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done. You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract Zeus from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice deity, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. Zeus is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change. You’re not getting by with anything. Every refusal and avoidance of virtue adds fuel to the fire. The day is coming when it’s going to blaze hot and high, Zeus’s fiery thunderbolt and righteous judgment. Make no mistake: In the end you get what’s coming to you– Real Life for those who work on Zeus’s side, but to those who insist on getting their own way and take the path of least resistance and Vice, Thunderbolt!

If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way of Virtue, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Greek won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. Zeus pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind. If you commit vice and injustice without knowing what you’re doing, Virtue takes that into account. But if you commit vice and injustice knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing Virtue’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what she commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with Virtue. When outsiders who have never heard of Virtue’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that Virtue’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes Virtue’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to Virtue’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day Virtue makes the final decision about every man and woman. The Message ringing in my ears that I proclaim through Virtue takes into account all these differences.

If you’re brought up Greek, don’t assume that you can lean back in the arms of your religion and take it easy, feeling smug because you’re an insider to Virtue’s revelation, a connoisseur of the best things of philosophy, informed on the latest doctrines! I have a special word of caution for you who are sure that you have it all together yourselves and, because you know Virtue’s revealed Word inside and out, feel qualified to guide others through their blind alleys and dark nights and confused emotions to virtue. While you are guiding others, who is going to guide you? I’m quite serious. While preaching “Don’t commit injustice!” are you going to accuse unjustly? Who would suspect you? The same with pride. The same with cowardice. You can get by with almost anything if you front it with rhetoric about virtue and her law. The line from Plato, ” The reality and not the appearance of virtue is to be followed above all things, as well in public as in private life.” shows it’s an old problem that isn’t going to go away. Virtue and Justice marks you as a Greek, is great if you live in accord with Virtue’s law. But if you don’t, it’s worse than not being Virtuous. The reverse is also true: The Virtuous who keep Virtue’s ways are as good as the gods in fact, better. Better to keep Virtue’s law and be a sufferer of vice than break it and become a doer of vice. Don’t you see: It’s not the appearance of virtue that makes a good Greek. You become a good Greek by who you are. It’s the mark of Virtue on your heart, not of outward appearance of virtue, that makes a good Greek. And recognition comes from Virtue herself, not rhetorical critics. (Rom 2:1-29)- The Message Bible Translation where not edited.

Notes:

Now all morning long, as the sacred daylight Grew brighter, the missiles of both sides struck home, and the warriors Fell. But when the Sun-god bestrode mid-heaven, The Father lifted his golden scales and in them Placed two lots of grievous and leveling death, One for the horse-taming Trojans, for the bronze-clad Achaeans The other. Then he took hold of the middle and lifted The scales, and the fatal day for Achaeans sank down And their fates rested on all-feeding earth, while those Of the Trojans were raised toward heaven’s expanse. And now Zeus uttered a great crash of thunder and hurled a huge bolt Of lightning down into the host of Achaeans. At this They were stricken with awe, and olive-pale panic gripped all of them Hard. -Iliad Of Homer, Book 8. English translation by W. Leaf

Perhaps this may appear to you to be only an old wife’s tale,which you will contemn. And there might be reason in your contemning such tales, if by searching we could find out anything better or truer: but now you see that you and Polus and Gorgias, who are the three wisest of the Greeks of our day, are not able to show that we ought to live any life which does not profit in another world as well as in this. And of all that has been said, nothing remains unshaken but the saying, that to do injustice is more to be avoided than to suffer injustice, and that the reality and not the appearance of virtue is to be followed above all things, as well in public as in private life; and that when any one has been wrong in anything, he is to be chastised, and that the next best thing to a man being just is that he should become just, and be chastised and punished; also that he should avoid all flattery of himself as well as of others, of the few or of the many: and rhetoric and any other art should be used by him, and all his actions should be done always, with a view to justice.– Gorgias by Plato, Translated by Benjamin Jowett

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Responses

  1. Right on!


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