I am summarizing and commenting on the articles in the book Beyond Old and New Perspectives on Paul, which discusses Douglas Campbell’s proposal for interpreting Paul’s Letter to the Romans.
Douglas Campbell’s claim that Paul placed a satiric, parodied version of an opponents argument in Romans 1-3 is unlikely because Paul would have given us written cues to his satire as other ancient writers do. This is the essence of Robin Griffith-Jones critique of Douglas Campbell in a chapter called “Beyond Reasonable Hope of Recognition.”
In response Campbell clarifies his position.
“My thesis, then, suitably clarified is that Romans 1:18-3:20 is best construed as a broadly Socratic argument that refutes an opponent in terms of his demonstrable self-contradictions. And it begins by presenting a particular position occupied by that person, which will be the basis for the contradictions demonstrated later on. . . .”
He admits that Griffith-Jones shows that many authors who used parody did give cues to it in their written work. Among the points Campbell makes is that these were in works meant for publication and Romans was not meant for publication. And he points out that logic does not require that because sometimes authors included formal written cues, such had to be the case all the time.
Campbell’s main argument is that the older ways of understanding Romans all have fatal flaws and that his theory is the best available way to give the Roman letter coherence. He challenges others to come up with a better reading.
In that regard Griffith-Jones points out something that will possibly help. He says that throughout Romans Paul defends himself against the charge that his gospel is libertine, that it dissolves moral boundaries. This is why Paul says he is not ashamed of his gospel (1:16) and says some slander him by saying that he is okay with doing harm (3:8), that there is no need for moral struggle (6:1) and even that God is unjust (9:14).
These slanders against his gospel must be very much a part of what Paul perceives as targets for his satire in Romans. So this may be a useful part of discerning the thrust of his argument.
Griffith-Jones says he develops this “therapeutic” theory of Romans in an article: “Keep Up Your Transformation”.
I am thinking about how this will work. I still have not got to what Campbell really thinks is the occasion for Paul’s letter.