Paul’s “Indebtedness” to the Barbarian (Rom 1:14) in Latin West Perspective

in Novum Testamentum
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In moving the geographical focus of his mission from the Greek East to the Latin West (Rom 15:23-24, 28; cf. 1:9-10, 13), Paul states that he was indebted to “Greek and barbarian” (1:14). Paul’s language of “indebtedness” not only relativises the ethnic and linguistic divide of antiquity (v. 14 a), but also cultural and educational stereotypes, including the denigration of barbarians (v. 14 b). The apostle’s thought here should not be restricted to the evangelisation of the Latin West and the pastoral care of its churches, even though that is the focus of the pericope (vv. 8b-9a, 11-12a, 13b, 15-17). His language of “indebtedness” occurs in various contexts, several of them social (1:14a; 4:4; 13:8; 15:1, 27). It evokes the world of Roman political and social parlance, with its interplay of imperial patronage and the reciprocation of favour in the western provinces where many barbarian tribes resided. After examining renderings of barbarians in select Roman writers and the Augustan triumphal iconography, the article explores the notion of “obligation” in the Gallic and Spanish inscriptions.

The author proposes that Romans 1:14 articulates what “indebtedness” meant for the believer’s mission to the marginalised people groups outside of the body of Christ. This would enable Paul’s house-churches not only to embrace the peoples from barbarian tribes with whom the Romans had patronal relations, but also those tribes in the Latin West whom the Romans had punished for their non-compliance.

Paul’s “Indebtedness” to the Barbarian (Rom 1:14) in Latin West Perspective

in Novum Testamentum



  • 7)

    H. BaconBarbarians in Greek Tragedy (New Haven: Yale University Press1961); E. Hall Inventing the Barbarian: Greek Self-Definition through Tragedy (Oxford: Clarendon 1989); E. Papadodima “The Greek/Barbarian Interaction in Euripides’ Andromache Orestes Heracleidae: A Reassessment of Greek Attitudes to Foreigners” Digressus 10 (2010) 1-42; S. Goldhill “Battle Narrative and Politics in Aeschylus’ Persae” in T. Harrison (ed.) Greeks and Barbarians (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2011) 50-61; S. Saïd “Greeks and Barbarians in Euripides’ Tragedies: The End of Differences?” in Harrison Greeks and Barbarians 62-100.

  • 9)

    J.R. Harrison“ ‘More Than Conquerors’ (Rom 8:37): Paul’s Gospel and the Augustan Triumphal Arches of the Greek East and Latin West,” Buried History 47 (2011) 3-21. See also H.O. Maier “Barbarians Scythians and Imperial Iconography in the Epistle to the Colossians” in A. Weissenrieder (et al. ed.) Picturing the New Testament: Studies in Ancient Visual Images (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2005) 385.206.

  • 10)

    HoldsworthReading Romans in Rome23-26. On late republican writers who claimed that Latin had its linguistic roots in Greek see Gruen Culture and National Identity 227-234.

  • 11)

      HoldsworthReading Romans in Rome31-58.

  • 12)

    HoldsworthReading Romans in Rome30.

  • 16)

    L.E. LordCicero: The Speeches. In Catilinam I-IV Pro Murena Pro Sulla Pro Flacco (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press1959) 358. Lord (ibid.) expands: “Having denounced the Greeks as a nation incapable of giving honest testimony Cicero passes to the Jews who fare but little better at his hands.” On the Jews see Cicero Flac. 27.66-28.69. For a fine discussion of Pro Flacco see Woolf Becoming Roman 61-63.

  • 20)

    Bullock“Postcolonial Ambivalence” 11. On the republican image of the governor see D. Braund “Cohors: The Governor and His Entourage in the Image of the Roman Republic” in R. Laurence and J. Berry (eds.) Cultural Identity in the Roman Empire (London: Routledge 1998) 10-24.

  • 22)

    Bullock“Postcolonial Ambivalence” 23.

  • 25)

    WoolfBecoming Roman57.

  • 31)

      Pliny the ElderHN 3.39. For discussion see Woolf Becoming Roman 57; Fear “The Roman’s Burden” 24. On the Roman assimilation of the Carthaginians see Statius Silvae 4.5.45-48.

  • 32)

    CiceroQFr. 1.1.34; Caesar B.Gall 1.1.3; Vitruvius De Arch. 2. praef. 5; 9. praef. 2; Tacitus Agr. 2. For these references I am indebted to Woolf “Roman Peace” 179 nn. 1 2.

  • 34)

    On the medical writers see BaldryThe Unity of Mankind46-51.

  • 35)

    See LopezApostle to the Conquered101-103.

  • 36)

    For full discussion see Fear“The Roman’s Burden” 26-27.

  • 37)

    Woolf“Roman Peace” 178.

  • 38)

    Fear“The Roman’s Burden” 30.

  • 42)

    KonstanRoman Comedy23.

  • 44)

    See K. GalinskyAugustan Culture: An Interpretive Introduction (Princeton: Princeton University Press1996) 383-385.

  • 47)

    PlautusMil. Glor. 41-47 52-58.

  • 48)

    HarrisonPaul and the Imperial Authorities223-225. In a letter of Publius Vatinius to Cicero (Fam. 5.10b [December 5 45 BC]) Vatinius outlines his (largely successful) Dalmatian campaign in a mnemonic diagram similar to the honorific inscriptions and Scipionic epitaphs: “six towns I stormed by force and captured . . . This single town the largest of them all I have now taken four times; for I took four towers and four walls and their whole citadel as well whence I was forcibly dislodged by snow cold and rain.”

  • 49)

    E.H. WarmingtonRemains of Old Latin: Archaic Inscriptions (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press1953) “Epitaphs” §§1-2: “a valiant gentleman and wise (fortis vir sapiensque) whose fine form matched his bravery well (quoius forma virtutei parisuma fuit) was aedile consul and censor among you; he took Taurasia and Cisuana in fact Samnium; he overcame all the Lucanian land and brought hostages there-from.” See M. McDonnell Roman Manliness: “Virtus” and the Roman Republic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2006) 35-36.

  • 50)

    E. SegalRoman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus (2nd ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press1987) 263-264 n. 53.

  • 51)

      McDonnellRoman Manliness36. See n. 39 above. On boasting in Augustus’ Res Gestae and Paul’s epistle to the Romans see J.R. Harrison “Augustan Rome and the Body of Christ: A Comparison of the Social Vision of the Res Gestae and Paul’s Letter to the Romans” HTR 106/1 (2013) 10-15 21-24.

  • 52)

    R.G.M. Nisbet“The Dating of Seneca’s Tragedies, with Special Reference to Thyestes,” Papers of the Leeds International Latin Seminar 6 (1990) 95-114; P.J. Davis Seneca: Thyestes (London: Duckworth 2003) 16.

  • 55)

    V. RudichPolitical Dissidence under Nero: The Price of Dissimulation (New York: Routledge1993) 9-10.

  • 56)

    HarrisonPaul and the Imperial Authorities78-84.

  • 57)

    HarrisonPaul and the Imperial Authorities125-127.

  • 60)

    Harrison“ ‘More than conquerors’ ” 7-9.

  • 61)

      Harrison“ ‘More than conquerors’ ” 9.

  • 62)

    Harrison“ ‘More than conquerors’ ” 9-11.

  • 63)

    Harrison“ ‘More than conquerors’ ” 11.

  • 64)

    Harrison“ ‘More than conquerors’ ” 8.

  • 66)

    Harrison“ ‘More than conquerors’ ” 12-13.

  • 71)

    M.G.L. Cooley (ed.)The Age of Augustus: Lactor 17 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2003) §M27. The Latin text is found in A. Alföldy “Das neue Edikt des Augustus aus El Bierzo in Hispanien” ZPE 131 (2000) 171-205. The literary evidence also confirms the cost of the indebtedness to Augustus envisaged by his Spanish military clients. The dedication of clients to Augustus “in the fashion of the Spaniards” (Dio 53.20) meant in the case of the Spaniards “to vow one’s life for the leader and not to survive him if he perished in battle” (Galinsky Augustan Culture 328). Galinsky (ibid. n. 115 p. 426) cites several sources as proof: Valerius Maximus 2.6.11; Caesar BG 3.22. Also as a cultic expression of indebtedness Dio (55.10a.2) mentions that in 2 BC Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus erected an altar of Augustus on the banks of the Elbe upon “establishing a friendly alliance with the barbarians.” More generally in terms of Roman client-patron relationships with the Spaniards CIL II 609 refers to Drusus the son of Germanicus as the patron of Medellinum in Spain.

  • 72)

    D.C. BraundAugustus to Nero: A Sourcebook on Roman History 31 BC-AD 68 (Totowa: Barnes and Noble1985) §44 [= DocsAug §42]). Many additional examples of Spanish fidelity to the imperial benefactors can be cited. See the bill (rogatio) honouring Drusus (?) stepson of Augustus from the Spanish town Illici (Braund ibid. §116 = DocsAug §94b [AD 23-24]). For numismatic evidence pointing to the probability of Spanish cities such as Italica seeking imperial favour by the addition of “with the permission of Augustus” to the legend on their coinage see Cooley The Age of Augustus §M28. The Cadurici honour a Gallic priest of Augustus Marcus Lucterius Leo—one of whose ancestors had fought against Julius Caesar—“on account of his services” (DocsAug §94b = ILS 7041) at the Three Gauls sanctuary situated at the junction of the Rhône and Saône rivers. As Cooley (The Age of Augustus 285) observes this priest “is a good illustration of how emperor-worship helped assimilate members of the locate élite into Roman power structures.” For a “flamen of divine Augusta” honouring “divine Augustus” at Augusta Emerita in the Spanish province of Lusitania see Braund Augustus to Nero §154 (= DocsAug §112). In AD 6 the Spanish Martienses who would adopt the Roman-style name of Ugienses “made guest-friendship with the (Roman) colonists of Colonia Augusta Emerita” (Braund ibid. §670 [= DocsAug §356a]). On Roman provincial administration of Spain see Strabo Geography 3.4.20.

  • 73)

    See J.R. HarrisonPaul’s Language of Grace in Its Graeco-Roman Context (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck2003) 226-234.

  • 74)

    See HoldsworthReading Romans in Rome236.

  • 76)

    HengelJews Greeks and Barbarians65.

  • 77)

    T.R. SchreinerRomans (Grand Rapids: Baker1998) 56; Jewett Romans 131-132. For other commentators supporting the same identification or the same identification from a slightly different perspective see C.E.B. Cranfield (Vol. 1 Edinburgh: T & T Clark 1975) 83; J.D.G. Dunn (Dallas: Word 1988) 33; D. Moo (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1996) 62; B. Byrne (Collegeville: Michael Glazier 1996) 56; G.R. Osborne (Downers Grover: IVP 2004) 39. J. Ziesler (Paul’s Letter to the Romans [London: SCM 1989) 66) supports the identification thus: “it is doubtful whether the ordinary person in the Graeco-Roman world would have considered that barbarians could be educated!”

  • 78)

    J.A. FitzmyerRomans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday1993) 251; P.F. Esler Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul’s Letter (Minneapolis: Fortress 2003) 139. L. Morris (The Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1988] 65) argues against the identification thus: “This second division is not identical with the first. There could be foolish Greeks and there could be wise barbarians!”

  • 82)

    See the discussion of JewettRomans159-160.

  • 84)

    See J. BasslerDivine Impartiality: Paul and a Theological Axiom (Chico: Scholars Press1982).

  • 86)

    See HarrisonPaul and the Imperial Authorities201-269.

  • 87)

    See HoldsworthReading Romans in Rome32-62.

  • 88)

    See also JewettRomans317-318.

  • 89)

    See HarrisonPaul’s Language of Grace97-166; J.R. Harrison “Paul Theologian of Electing Grace” in S.E. Porter (ed.) Paul the Theologian: Pauline Studies Volume III (Leiden: Brill 2006) 77-108.

  • 92)

    See J.R. Harrison“Paul and the Cultic Associations,” RTR 58/1 (1999) 31-47; R.S. Ascough Paul’s Macedonian Associations: The Social Context of Philippians and 1 Thessalonians (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2003).

  • 93)

    See J.R. HarrisonPaul’s Language of Grace294-332.

  • 95)

    JewettRomans801-803. Cicero discussing the public services of the state through individuals in the body politic (Off. 2.72-75) emphasises the importance of their results being “productive of gratitude” (2.72). Note Cicero’s imperative of requital for kindnesses already received: “But if there shall be obligations already incurred so that kindness is not to begin with us but to be requited still greater diligence it seems is called for; for no duty is more imperative than of proving one’s gratitude.” However it is probably wise as L.E. Keck suggests (Romans [Nashville: Abingdon 2005] 319) to view the two social obligations in Romans 13:7 (φοβός τιµή) while contextually referring to the Roman ruler and his officials as including a more general reference to those individuals of status outside of the Christian community who could legitimately expect respect and honour.

  • 96)

    See the ancient sources cited by JewettRomans805.

  • 99)

    C.H. DoddAccording to the Scriptures (London: Collins1952) 20. G.J. Wenham (The Book of Leviticus [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1979] 274) writes: “In its original context Lev 19:18 epitomises and expresses the principles governing all the laws that surround it. Love for one’s neighbour comes out in not stealing from him or lying to him or cheating him in business.”

  • 101)


  • 105)

    See HarrisonPaul’s Language of Grace70-72.

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