Andrew Rillera – Quotations, Atonement, and Wrath in Paul

Episode: Returning to the theme of interviewing young and upcoming scholars, the cutting edge of the cutting edge, in this episode Chris Tilling talks with Andrew Rillera, a PhD candidate in NT at Duke University. Chris talks with Andrew about his background as a Jehovah’s Witness and what got him into biblical studies, how to identify when Paul is quoting from someone else in his letters and some problems related to that in Romans (the topic of Andrew’s dissertation). They discuss Andrew’s forthcoming book contracted with Cascade on sacrifice and sacrificial imagery in the NT. They even throw in a little bit about how Paul speaks about divine judgment. This all made for a rich and fascinating discussion.

Guest: Andrew Rillera is currently a PhD candidate in New Testament at Duke University and serves as an adjunct professor at Eternity Bible College for their Distance Ed program. He is also a consultant and Research Editor for PAX Collective ( A non-profit, which seeks to promote the peace of Jesus in the 21st century through accessible Christian content specifically targeting Generation Z and Millennials. He is currently finishing up his dissertation on Romans and working on a book forthcoming with Cascade Books, Lamb of the Free: Recovering the Varied Sacrificial Understandings of Jesus’s Death. He wrote Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence (Cook, 2013) with Preston Sprinkle (now re-titled as Nonviolence: The Revolutionary Way of Jesus). His academic interests include the apostle Paul’s relation to Early Judaism, race and ethnicity in the Bible, theological ethics (war, violence, restorative justice, environment, economy), theological hermeneutics, sacrifice and sacrificial imagery, and Philo. Previously, he served as a Children’s Ministry and College Director while completing his MA in Theology and Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary. When Andrew isn’t hanging out with his family, reading, or grading, he is probably watching or playing hockey.

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6 Replies to “Andrew Rillera – Quotations, Atonement, and Wrath in Paul”

  1. Ron McKenzie

    Hi Andrew, I found your talk really helpful. Your approach to Romans makes sense.
    Can you give a three-sentence answer as to what difference it makes to the message of Romans, if the interlocuter is a gentile proselyte to Judaism rather than a Jewish legalist.

    • Matt

      (Three sentences is going to sound terse, and I don’t have time for much more atm, but here goes): My thesis is more about *which type of Judaism is this proselyte attracted to* than the mere notion of being a proselyte, but main difference this makes is a matter of history: This matters because I think getting as close to an accurate historical description has intrinsic value. Relatedly, this (hypo)thesis–of a Philonic proselyte–has broader explanatory power (and thus, adds to its credibility and probability) to explain Paul’s unique polemics against (a certain type of) circumcision in Romans, Galatians, and Philippians. This allows us to overcome problematic assumptions that Paul was simply “anti-Jewish” or “supersessionist” b/c we can now see that Paul didn’t have problems with circumcision (for Jews) per se (see Timothy); nor with Judaism per se; but rather was trying to persuade his gentile converts to not undergo a surgery they thought–mistakenly, to Paul’s mind–would help them curb their passions and desires, which thus far is only attested by one specific strand of 1st century Judaism: Philo’s writings.

      That’s technically three sentences! 🙂

      • John K

        Thank you, also, for this… it was a very stimulating discussion—I had to listen very closely to try and understand it all.

        So, just to see if I understand this, the “For” and “Therefore” serve as indicators that someone else’s argument is being stated in (some) of Paul’s writings (similar to what happens in 1 Cor 6)?

        If you have anything in writing someplace that a non-Greek speaking person can read, it’d be great to understand your argument better.

        • Matt

          From Andrew!

          Thanks for listening, John! I don’t have anything written on this yet for a non-academic audience. But hopefully this will help clarify the issues as briefly as I can at the moment—if I had more time I might be able to be more concise.

          The “for” and the “therefore” are two separate (though related) pieces of data/evidence.

          The “for” (gar in Greek) in Rom 1:18 doesn’t serve as positive evidence that someone else is speaking. It is what some critics think automatically disproves the speech-in-character thesis because they (wrongly) assume transitions to attributed speech cannot begin w/ the Greek word gar. Further, they also assume transitions to attributed speech need to be introduced overtly with a verb of saying (e.g., “someone might say/response/ask/etc.”). So what I’m trying to do is argue why these critiques are wrong. 1 Corinthians (not just ch. 6) features several verbless transitions to attributed speech (i.e., speech-in-character). Also, in my dissertation I offer several other examples from Teles, Epictetus, Philo, Josephus, and other parts of the NT where verbless transitions to speech-in-character occur along with several examples of gar being used to not only introduce a new speech, but also to introduce objections made with attributed speech (whether that change in speaker is marked by a verb of saying or not). So, although one might wish to critique Douglas Campbell for not supplying this evidence to better support his speech-in-character thesis in his The Deliverance of God, the point I was trying to make in the podcast was that these reasons for rejecting Campbell’s speech-in-character reading in Rom 1:18-32 are not cogent when dealing with the ancient core conventions of speech-in-character and the use of gar in other dialogical contexts.

          Now, the “therefore” (dio in Greek) in Rom 2:1 is positive evidence that someone else was just speaking in 1:18-32. I’ll just highlight three reasons here. First, the flow of the text itself w/ this use of dio (“therefore”) in 2:1 suggests that the one being addressed in 2:1, 3 is the one who was just speaking 1:18-32. The dio, taken at face value, makes it logically unlikely—near inconceivable—that a person speaking 1:18–32 would flow into speaking 2:1. This is because the “therefore” (dio) in 2:1 means that if Paul is the one who has been speaking 1:18–32, then he is likewise necessarily “applauding” his own speech. And therefore, Paul is then necessarily and ironically condemning himself while he is trying to construct his own ironic trap against the one judging others and who thereby condemns themselves! I realize that sentence is confusing, but that is part of the point. It shows how there is incoherence and inconsistency in the text itself if there is only one speaker (Paul) from 1:18-32 to 2:1. This might be better presented as a polysyllogism:

          (a) It is necessarily the case that speaker of the speech about the impious in 1:18–32 agrees with (and thus “applauds” and/or “endorses”) their own beliefs that they set forth in their speech.

          (b) In 2:1 Paul accosts anyone who applauds/endorses what was said about the impious in 1:18–32 as condemning themselves.

          (c) Paul is the speaker of the speech about the impious in 1:18–32.

          (d) Therefore, Paul accosts and condemns himself.

          This is the logical conclusion and it is also rather incredulous. In fact, several scholars who are close readers of the text (e.g., Ernst Käsemann’s commentary) realize this and offer two (problematic) solutions to solve the problem of this inevitable conclusion of Paul condemning himself. They either argue that this is the only example in all of Greek literature of dio being a meaningless transition particle or they argue despite there being no manuscript evidence whatsoever that some portion or all of 2:1 was a later interpolation added by a scribe. I think these scholars are to be praised for their careful analysis as they pay close attention to the logic of the text as it stands and thus notice the fundamental incompatibility of 1:18–32 with 2:1. For them, either the dio must be meaningless or interpolated; or the phrases about judging or even the whole verse must be taken to be interpolated. Otherwise, they rightly realize that 2:1 as it stands renders the entire section 1:18–32 and its flow into 2:1 incoherent if Paul is supposed to be saying both things one after the other.

          But, this incoherence is actually a rhetorical marker called diaphonia and it is a major clue that a change is speaker is occurring. Paul tells his actual audience hearing his letter that he is arguing with this judging “character” he addresses in 2:1. Ancient readers were taught to account for diaphonia by realizing they are listening to two sides of a debate; not an irreducibly incoherent speaker. In other words, when you are in an obvious dialogical context, you make sense out of ostensible incoherence by realizing that the apostrophe is a capping formula marking the end of a speech-in-character and everything falls into place after that (this is similar Lucy Peppiatt’s arguments for speech-in-character in 1 Cor 11 and 14).

          Second, because it was considered to be a mark of “sublime” writing to transition to speech-in-character w/o resorting to verbs of speech (Pseudo-Longinus talks about this)—I think that bit may have been cut from the interview in the editing process—ancient authors would use what we might call “capping formulas” to signal the end rather than the beginning of a speech (however long or brief this quoted speech was). Direct address to one’s interlocutor is called an “apostrophe” and apostrophes were one way to “cap” or mark the end of the speech. So the apostrophe in 2:1 functions as an overt signal marking the end of the previous speech.

          Third, Apostrophes were also used to characterize one’s interlocutor and it is the characterization of the interlocutor as a judger “of those who practice such things” (ta toiauta prassontes) (2:3; cf. ta… auta prasseis in 2:1 and ta toiauta prassontas in 2:2) that is the criterion by which the audience is supposed to determine who is speaking when according to the conventions of attributed speech (the “criterion of appropriateness” I mention in the interview). This characterization in Paul’s apostrophe thus serves as a rhetorical capping signal that marks this as the end of the speech and explicitly signals that Paul is now addressing the person who just finished speaking the preceding speech of 1:18–32 that judged as “without excuse [anapologētos]…those who practice such things [ta toiauta prassontes]” (1:20, cf. ta toiauta prassontes again in 32, which immediately precedes ta… auta prasseis [“you practice the same things”] in 2:1).

          Paul is saying “If this judging speech is what you proclaim, then it “therefore” (dio) follows that this kind of belief would ironically serve to condemn yourself as “w/o excuse” anapologētos (cf. anapologētos in 1:20) as well. Now I will start unpacking how this is the case.” Rom 2 is then a Socratic take down of how this judging interlocutor’s message and agenda to get gentiles circumcised is ultimately self-refuting. But that’s basically the meat of my dissertation after all this ground cleaning so I can’t spoil that here : ) (and this has been way too long!).

          • John K

            Thank you Andrew (and Matt), for the response and explanation. Having it in writing is really helpful to me. I can’t wait for the book version of your dissertation to be published. It seems to me that it should raise a lot of interest (and discussion) among Pauline scholars. : )

            Blessings to you!

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