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FRIENDSHIP IN THE EXHORTATION OF ROMANS 15:14-33

Benjamin Flore. s..


Caniaiue College
Buffalo. New York

Paul's pastoral observations In Romans 12:1-15:13 are. In Ceorge Kennedy's


view, "unusually broad" and "are concerned with belief end atlude. not with
action." As result, they do not constitute a shift from the epldelctlc
node of the rest of he letter to the deliberative. Moreover. Kennedy goes
on to note that the epilogue ( . 1 5 3 3 -14" )resumes points made In the proem"
(: 8- ( but that here "Paul seems to be justifying his apostolic mission"
In a personal tone and with elements of narration now that the authority
assumed In the proem has been established by the "power of his thought through-
out the body of the letter." Robert Karris^ makes similar points about the
general character of the paraenesls In this section when he describes 1 as a
generalized and expanded adaptation of solutions to problems faced elsewhere
In hie missionary ). He allows for particularity when he notes that
the paraenesls Is molded In accordance with Paul's theological understanding.
1 would suggest that, despite the features of the paraenesls that mahe It
appear to be general. Paul's description of his projected mission to Spain
Includes specific request for the Romans to act his behalf by offering
him hospitality and directly financing the mlsslonaty venture. In addition,
the far-reaching missionary goal and request for assistance to realize It are
related, as a condition of their possibility, to the universal fellowship of
the Christian community and Its specific realization in Rome. In urging his
addressees to effectuate this fellowship. Paul employs language and rhetorical
devices are coamonly found In the Classical discussions .and exhortations
tq, friendship.
The petitionary character of the verses In question ( 1 5 3 3 -14 )
emerges
fairly clearly when they are read In light of the outline of the three typical
elements of a letter of petition{ I.e. the description of the background of
the request, the petition 1 an expression of appreciation for the
addressee's attention and beneficence. From verses 14-21 Paul elaborates
the background of his missionary activities to date. narration which, pace
Kennedy, has a forward looking purpose and la just retrospective justl-
flcatlon of his apostolic mission. 1 22: the request section begins with
the conjunction "therefore" (dlo) and reference to his long delayed but
now Imminent ( 1 5 2 4 -23 )
visit to the Roman community. An anticipated benefit

95
96

in friendly letters,* the projected visit Intends make resl


author's
presence l'or which the letter is only a surrogate. With no specific problem
to deal with (especially if one agrees with Kennedy and Karris on this point)
Paul does not use the visit as a threat which he does in 1 Corinthians 19 -
21 but rather looks forward to the joy of a face-to-face encounter and the
expected hospitality of the Roaians. This expectation forras the substance of
the request (! trust that you vili send me on my journey only after I have
had the joy of being with you for a little while"), and it is reiterated at
2"( so that. Cod willing, 1 may come to you with joy and be refreshed in
spirit by your company") where it is preceded by a secondary request for
prayers ( : description of his current trip to Jerusalem ( 2
(. -
28) constitutes an oblique argument in favor of their compliance. Paul gives
expression to the third element of a petition at 15:29 in his confident
expectation of full blessing on his eventual trip to Rome ("I am certain that
when 1 do visit you, 1 shall come with Christ's full blessing"). The triple
reference to his planned visit to Rome and expected refreshment there, and the
two references to his Spanish mission plans raise these statements above the
level of general summary of missionary activity and rationale to that of a
specific plan in which the Romans are ejected to cooperate.
Paul pursues a two-fold strategy in his exhortation. To encourage
cooperation in his mission Paul appeals explicitly to fundamental Christian
motives like Cod's grace (v.15). Cod's assignment of hlm to the ministry of
^ and the gospel (v.16), the power of Jesus (v.18) and of Cod's Spirit
(v.19) working in him, the love of the Spirit (v.30), and the will of Cod
(v.32). He also undergirds his paraenesis with Implicit appeals to ideals and
expectations which echo those of the Classical relationship of friendship.
Some of the echoes of friendship are obvious. Paul's principal expecta-
tlon, that the Romans will show him hospitality, directly reflects the travel
arrangements in antiquity among friends who relied on che^r associates for
lodging rather than on the disreputable and unsatisfactory public inns. The
early Christians took over this practice and, indeed, made it the practical
centerpiece for their mobile missionary efforts. Christian hospitality not
only Involved the hosts' providing lodging for the traveling missionaries,
but also support for the next leg of the journey. Thus Paul trusts that the
Romans will "send me on my Journey" Cv.25). Paul's promise to visit the
Romans, which is the counterpart to this expectation, is another feature of
the friendship relation expressed in epistolary form. The name for the
collection (kolnnla* V.26) the rationale of . sharing
(ekolnnsan)
and obligation (ophellousin) behind the gift (2?) recall the common expression
of friendship koina ta ton phllon,^ well as the presumption that friends
can count on their friends' help when in need and that the help would be
freely given them. Paul accomplishes three things by referring to this gift
and its delivery. Pirst, tle trip to derusalero accounts for his delay in
visiting Pome. Second* his own claims to ministry of the gospel and service
of the churc) are given practical proof. Third, the example of the
Macedonians and Achaeans sets up a model of obligation/generosity to spur on
the Romans to help Paul's Gentile mission in $pain.
The paraenetic effort of the passage mirrors other, less obvious elements
of Che friendship topos. Paul's praise of the Romans' goodness and knowledge
at the start of the passage (v.14), which he contrasts with his bold reminders
elsewhere in the letter (v.15), reflects the blend of praise and blame by
which a friend generates kindly feeling and consequent acceptance of correct-
ion. In fact, the Romans would be even more likely to accept Paul's correct-
ion (nouthesia) because he specifically praises them for their ability to
correct each other themselves (v.14). Thus nudged to see in themselves an
ideal example of what he is urging, * they are more iikely to accept his
corrective exhortation. The bold correction itself is a duty of a friend and
distinguishes a friend from a flatterer, The fact that the correction is
rendered more effective when backed up by the exampie of the one doing
correcting^ might account for Paul's references to his own ministrations
throughout the passage. His 1 to them to struggle along with hlm against
the hostility to him in Jerusalem 30 , at ieast in prayer for the sue-
cess of the Jerusalem trip, points the aim of his exampie in this direction.
As a counter example stand the unbeiievers in Jerusaiem who threaten an
inhospitable reception which Paui hopes to escape ( Finally, the ex-
pectatlon of a joyful meeting (w.24, 2 )reflects common emotion between
friends. ^ The expression of conviction about the Romans' goodness, know-
ledge (v.14) and generosity (w.24, 32) is a rhetorical strategea, as noted
above, bu also reflects the mutual confidence and fidelity which friends
share.
concluding exhortation with its request for hospitality and support
for the mission at : - does not burst in on the progression of thought
but enjoys a steady build-up from 121 ^raenesis in these chapters,
while general, reflects ?aul's concern for unity among the diverse ("weak"
and "strong") members concern for toleration

light of
differences In theology of universal salvation in Christ.
As structural "
to the section on the "and
" the "strong
Karris tentatively suggests Philippines . agree and would he less 1
tentative than Karris since the call In Phlllpplans to self*effaclng love
and care for each other's needs rather than their I hsve argued
elsewhere. Is also redolent of } the Classical
.friendship topos

In elaborating Che practical principles or norne1* which stem fro
understanding of the Christian coamunlty aa"one body with any sabers
12:4)
- "
Paul calls for "sincere love12) 95"
) .wellsprlng
agape anypohrltos
.(
with benevolence, of Classical together Although *correct

basic distinction between the Classical virtue seen as a
ly Identified
result of huaan Initiative and Christian gift of love fro Cod one notes
here that Paul urges decision and action, not passivity, and that to further
hia exhortation he mentions gifts In tenas of the actions to they lead
)26~ Insist the keep from evil
In this vein Paul goes on (.
and cling the good (12:9). In this he resembles the proponents of
Classical friendship who virtue the basis for friendly mutuality.
The Is tn>e of his Insistence the united In affection
(.
each other
12)
10 Sharing the needs of the saints showing
)2 11) are requirements of friendship.
hospitality ..
noted above
lead up (
the request In 15:24. as ^ backed up by example
of the generosity of the Achaeans and Macedonians toward saints In
Jerusalem (15:25*27. 31). This fellowship In need goes sharing
of * embrace sympathy with each other's joys and sorrows
12:15)
(
and an Inner relationship of impartiality toward each )2 : to auto

els allilous phronountes( of equal J2116bc). ore retirements for)
the establishment of relations of friendship In the Classical 1
Paul then Introduces two specific situations but frlendshlp*llke
features continue run through paraenesls as an Implicit Ideal which
.provides a rationale for the advice. First he treats the Issue of authority
After his exhortation of 1 stretches
authority (13:1*7(.
) of obligation fro paying taxes respecting officials Include
)3 :
the obligation of loving one another The command
(. love one's
neighbor Is seen encompassing all law and love fulfill* all 13)
law
:
99

8b-10). Paul thus presents love of neighbor ratlonsl; for obeying the
la. This fundamental gospel 0 of Jesus2* finds resonance In the
friendship requirements of reciprocity,22 of seeing the friend au"alter
ego,"2* and consequently of loving ( friend one's self.
$ecnd, he addresses the Issue of lntracoamunlty unity, particularly in
terns of conflict betveen the " and Che "strong" (4 :- : . Paul
urges that Judge or belittle his brother (14:3-9), and he bases this
exhortation on the presunptlon of the 1 acceptability of everyone In chat
God has welcomed all, that all are servants of the Lord and honor the Lord by
their serolce (w.3b-9), that God alone has the prerogative of judging every-
one, He ultlnately 111 (v.10), that $ declared all foods clean (v.14),
and that Christ died for all (v.16). Crltlclsn and Judgment among friends Is
also decried with enphasls laid on the Intlal and fundamental determination
of the friend's worth. While the motivation Is decidedly different, the
action required In Paul's ) and among friends Is the same and It Is
an Inner conuunlty peace and mutual edification which both aim for, albeit
that the Christians hope thereby to please God and to attract the esteem of
people (v.18).
Paul urges that the "strong" bear the weaknesses the "weak" (13:1)
and not please themselves (13:1) In this he finds an obligation In practice
for the equal esteem called for at 12:16. The equality of friends, who see
their Image when looking at a friend, leads to the end when, Cicero
notes,2" those who are abeent are actually present,^ the needy are ,
the are strong,2 the dead live." The exhortation to please their
neighbors and not themselves (15:1-2) la demonstrated by the example of Christ,
bore others* reproaches (15:3), who becsae servant of
circumcised
8 and who died for 11 (14:13) by the example of Paul, Is the
servant of the saints (13:23); and by the example of the Greeks, who felt the
obligation to contribute to the poor In 15:27) ) . Offering unlmpeach-
able examples Is a paraenetlc Strategen ) * to premote (

benevolence > is the requisite practical outcome of friendship, as
opposed to seeking self-interest and advantage.2* In urging with the
"weak" and doing them good, Paul does not envisage standoff on theone hand
and handout on the other. Rather he expects doing good to Include building
up the spirit of the recipient (15:2), nuch as the friend's benevolence
Involves the friend's edification and progress In virtue.*
Paul variation of the Impartiality urged at 1216 a (to auto
1

els a lllous phronountes) when he pra^s that the Rouans live In harmony and
unanimity with eaeh other at 15:5 (to uto phroneln en alivile). Whether
a Rift of God, as Paul sues It, or a matter of human arrangement, as It Is
in the friendship topos, harmonious and unanimous assoelatlon Is the spring*
board for growth in friendship and virtue, The resulting union of spirit
: 6 homothymadon) Is as prized by the advoeates of friendship as it Is
here by Paul. Although this harmonious assoelatlon Is a gift of God, the
community can accommodate It by mutual acceptance, and Paul urges this
next (15:7, g ^ a m)anesthe all^lous). offers the divine example of
Christ's acceptance of them (: 7( and has already mentioned the example of
God's acceptance of the "weak" members' seCTlce at 14:3b. The welcome of
others into association Is another way for the community to accommodate the
gift of unity, an accommodation expected in the friendship relationship.^
If the mode, content, and aim of argumentation In the paraenetlc
section of Romans have been correctly related to the friendship topos,
then something more Is known about the paraenesls and its intent. In agree*
ment with Karris, the paraenesls does not necessarily have to address a
specific problem in the community and much less does it necessitate a con-
fllct between two antagonistic communities distinguished as "weak" and
"strong." Moreover, Paul does bring the paraenesis into the orbit of his
theology and he fashions it in te^as of solutions to problems already faced
elsewhere. There is, however, some specificity in his request for hospitali-
ty and mission assistance. Furthermore, this request is articulated after
three and a half chapters which weave together exhortations to actions,
attitudes and ideals which echo those common to the Classical friendship
topos. The obligations of lav and the nagging divisions within the Christian
communities thus find a common solution in the mutual love among the
Christian brothers, neighbors and friends. The Christian virtue of '
gift from God, finds human face in the nurture and expression of the
conmunlty of friends. What's more, if his paraenesls 18 successful, Paul then
can enjoy a reasonable assurance that his expectations of friendly and
hospitable welcome will not be disappointed and that his mission plans will
receive acceptance and support.

ENDNOTES

The basic research for this study was made possible by an NEH summer
research grant in 1983.
C. A. Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism
(Chapel 1 London: . North Carolina, 1984) 154.

2R. Karris, "Romans 14:1-15:13 and the Occasion of Romans," CBQ 35(19?3)
189, 177.

. L. White, Light from Ancient Letters (Philadelphia, Fortress, 1988) 193.

*White, ^02. See R. w. Fun on ,,The Apostolic Parousia: Form and Signif-
icance," in Christian History and Interpretation: Studies Presented to John
Knox, ed. by w. R. Farmer, C. F. D. Houle R. R. Niebuhr (Cambridge:
University Press, 1987) 259-288.

A. j. Malherbe describes the hospitality convention in Classical society


and details Its application in Christian paraenesls In his Social Aspects of
Early Christianity (second ed., Philadelphia: Fortress, 19839 -94 V. Note
Paul's recommendation of Phoebe and his request that hospitality be sho*m her
(16:1-2). See also PsDlogenes 37 . in Malherbe's collection of Cynic
Epistles (Missoula: Scholars, 1977) and Ep. 77 in kite's papyri collection.

^fhite, 202; Seneca Epistulae morales 6.6.

^See Plutarch "How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend" 65A, "On Having
Many Friends" 94c, 96D Seneca Ep. 3, 6.3; Maxltus of Tyre "How to Tell a
Flatterer from a Friend" 70b; L. Dugas, L'Amiti antique (second rev. ed.;
Paris: Librairie Felix Alcan, 1914) 12, 16-17, 261 j. c. Fraisse,'Philia":
La Notion d'amiti dans la philosophie antique. Essai sur un problme perdu
et retrouve (Paris: Librairie j. Vrin, 1974) 350; Bohnenbl^st, Beitrge
/ 3(
zum Topos "Peri philias" (Berlin: Custav Schade Otto Franck41
F. Hauck, Die Freundschaft bei den Griechen und im Neuen Testament (Leipzig:
Deichert /D. Werner Scholl/, 1928) 213 j. M. Rist "Epicurus on Friendship,"
Classical Philology 75 (1980) 121-129.

Cicero, De amicltia 8.26 Seneca Ep. 6.6, 9.9; Plutarch "Many Friends"
94B; Maximus "Flatterer 71a; Fraisse 308; Bohnenblust 42; Rist 25

9Plutarch "Flatterer 50B, 72C-D, 73C-D.

*^Plutarch "Flatterer" 72C-D, 73C-D. In his arguments in favor of the


general nature of the paraenesis. Karris does not refer to V. 15 which implies
a more pointed lesson given earlier in the letter. This will be treated at
some length below.

**Plutarch "Flatterer" 50B, 51c, 55A-B, 59A-B, 65F-66B, 66E-74D; "How to


Profit by One's Enemies" 89B; Cicero De am 24.89, 25.91 Bohnenblust 25.

12Plutarch "Flatterer" 55A-B, 71E-F; Seneca 6.5 . .

*^Plutarch "Man^ Friends" 96A-B notes how friends get entangled in the
enmities harbored against their friend.

**Cicero De am. 27.102 Seneca 109.5 . ; Plutarch "Many Friends" 94B, 95A;
Fraisse 435 Hauck 212 Dugas 142.
02

Seneca"
Maximus
3.2
Ep^ ?! Bohnenblust
.

6* 7 - 2?
7
73 79no
.

18
paper he 1984 ECLfiS meeting entitled' Epistolary Exhortation
$
in and ?aal: Friendship as ". ontext and Aim

an?
8Cicero20.75
De
4.16
76- ,*. to the
) friend's
praecepta. In the sense of norms or advice,

De am
6.20
5.20 ,. any Friends" 96D restricts"!
Plutarch
8.28
friendship only to hose can preserve the coamonallty I.e. love and
share alike,

Plutarch "Flatterer
any Friends"!
94853D-E
" 3.19
.
Seneca Ej>. 1D9.11 . Steinberger Begriff und Wesen der Freundschaft bei
Aristoteles und Cicero (Erlangen: lnaug.121
1955
dlss
. ( .

5 aus**
Plutarch "Flatterer
Cicero 5.19
De " .65A; Seneca . 0 .5
Plutarch "Many Friend." 96D;Cicero
Maximus
6.22
De
5.19am**
.
Flatterer"
Krantr;
Hauck
18
213
71a
'* Stelfld>erger
159-160
261
130
. ,

**
See Perkins Love Comanda In the Mew Testament (Mew York: Paulist
1982) for discussion of pertinent New Testament texts and also of
background material although she does not delve Into the Greco-Roman
.friendship topos

Cicero De an. 16.56-60; but contrast Aristotle^* described by Krantx

26Cicero
Fralsse
Hauck
21.80
214
303
7.22
D e.an,.

Rlst
123
129
Dugas**
119-
114
.103

Bohnenblust
Fralsse
8Seneca
Dugas
33
427
233
.3.2

Ep*
.

8Cicero De* . 7.22-23.

8Compare the letter as surrogate presence of the friend In White*


19019
-
218-220
191
.

Paulalso expects
Rich because their needs are met by their friends**

and demonstrates. rich Creeks help the poor among the saints In 3erusalem
)5:2(

**toleration but also edification of the neighbor In Paul asks not 3


the next verse 15:2. See slso Cicero13.47
De am
..

) transcend even death recalls treatment of


The power of friendship**
death by Paul in the first chapter of the letter to the Phlllpplans.
103

PlutarcU "Flacterer" 72D. Maximus Prepare Oneself


One Oight
with Respect to people imitate Zeus by imitating
Friend" 16a declares
"his divine nature. I.e. his benevolence and friendship. Plutarch "Flatterer
50c sees friendship , aang other things, .service or dlakonla

Plutarch "Flatterer" 67; Stelnberger


Cicero 7.22
De
6.22
6.20
axa
,**
,.
Fralsse
396-
395
134
73 )36.

,

6Cicero
22.92
16.59
.5.19
De
Maximus
,
am*
,. "Flatterer" 70b

Seneca** . Fralsse 407. Cicer De am. 19.67-70 sees109.15


the6.4
6
,
friend coamunlcatlng good to friends of the lovest rank and Increasing
22.93 notes that their
progress
dignity
in virtue uhich friend
and position
facilitates in friend is unattainable by the friend workingonalone
the
.contrary, 7.22 finds that discord brings dvn a home or country

6On the importance of active and* association see Seneca Ep.


Fraisse 303, 406. On Steinberger
unanimity 145Dugas
32-
29
19-
6.5
.
18,
consensio) Many
see Cicero
Friends
Plutarch
6.20
De
"4.14,(-.
am
Stelnberger
Bohnenblust
Fralsse
199-200
391
294
.137-
136
,,27

.
Cicero* Bohnenbluat
;
115
,.
Hauck Dugas
21.91
21-
213
19

6**Seneca Ep. 109.15 Stelnberger 99.


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