The Gospel is not shameful: The argumentative structure of Romans in the light of classical rhetoric

Steven Eugene Enderlein, Marquette University


Most attempts to outline the structure of Romans have employed theological themes as headings, creating the mistaken impression that Romans is a comprehensive expression of Paul's theology. This approach not only creates anachronistic results, but has facilitated reading one's presuppositions into the text. The application of epistolary criticism to Romans has been an important step in recovering Paul's own structure, since it utilizes conventions from his own time period. However, it includes an inherent drawback. Although sufficiently delineating the letter's opening and closing, it is not equipped to discern the structure of the letter body, especially of a longer letter like Romans. Rhetorical criticism, since it is faithful to the conventions of Paul's day and is equipped to analyze the argumentative structure of the letter body itself, succeeds where epistolary criticism falls short. This dissertation utilizes rhetorical criticism to analyze Romans, arguing that Romans accords with the suggested arrangement of a speech as delineated in the contemporary rhetorical handbooks, more closely than previous rhetorical-critical assessments have indicated. It finds that Romans begins with an exordium (Rom 1:1-12) and a narratio (1:13-15), leading up to the partitio (1:16-17). This partitio, the key to understanding the remainder of the letter, announces in advance the tripartite form of the confirmatio (3:21-11:36), the proof section. The argument of Romans is then comprised of the refutatio (1:18-3:20), the refutation of an opposing viewpoint, along with the confirmatio. Together they establish Paul's thesis that 'the gospel is not shameful.' Paul extends this thesis in the protrepsis (12:1-15:13) to elucidate for the Romans their obligation to God to live in a way that does not bring shame upon the gospel. He concludes by making a specific application of his thesis, calling on them to engage in intercessory prayer on his behalf and to prepare to support the gospel's dissemination to Spain. Finally, it concludes that since Paul calls the Romans to a specific future course of action Romans must be classified as deliberative rhetoric, not epideictic.

Recommended Citation

Enderlein, Steven Eugene, "The Gospel is not shameful: The argumentative structure of Romans in the light of classical rhetoric" (1998). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9901724.