If You Call Yourself a Jew: Reappraising Paul’s Letter to the Romans

By Rafael Rodríguez

A study of the Epistle to the Romans, suggesting that outstanding problems of interpretation are solved if Paul’s interlocutor is a gentile covert to Judaism.

ISBN: 9780227175019


If You Call Yourself a Jew reads Paul’s Letter to the Romans as a dialogue between Paul and a gentile proselyte to Judaism. This fresh reading brings Romans into focus as Paul’s exposition of the revelation of God’s righteousness – his faithfulness to his covenant promises to Abraham, which is brought to climax in the announcement that “in you all the tribes of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Paul insists that the righteousness of God is revealed, “for the Jew first as well as for the Greek” not through the Torah but through the faith(fullness) of Jesus. He concedes that the Torah and the prophets provide corroborating witness for God’s righteousness, but suggests that gentiles who bend their necks to the Torah’s yoke miss the actual mechanism for finding peace with God. Paul found in the story of Jesus the image of complete faith in and faithfulness to God. In Jesus’ resurrection, he found the image of God’s complete faithfulness, “for the Jew first as well as for the Greek”. Whereas the Torah resulted in curse and death, it also anticipated the unconditional faithfulness of God for both Jew and gentile. For Paul, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the account of the outworking of God’s faithfulness: the end of the Torah’s curses and the fulfilment of its blessings.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Rafael Rodríguez is Professor of New Testament at Johnson University, Knoxville, Tennessee. He is the author of Structuring Early Christian Memory (2010) and Oral Tradition and the New Testament (2014).



1. Introduction: Paul the Apostle, to the Beloved Gentiles in Rome
2. The Gospel, the Power of God: Paul Begins to Write
3. The Wrath and Impartial Judgment of God: Gentiles in Pauline Perspective
4. Introducing the Gentile Proselyte: a Gentile who Calls Himself a Jew
5. The Righteousness of God apart from Torah: or, Not a Law-Free Gospel
6. Christ, the New Adam: Undoing the Curse of Death
7. Baptized, Buried, Raised: Freed from Sin, Enslaved to Righteousness
8. Nomos, Flesh, Spirit: The War Waging Within
9. Creation Renewed by the Spirit: Security in the Presence of God
10. Israel and Christ: Paul’s Pathos for the People of God
11. Israel and Christ, Pt. II: Torah’s Telos
12. [Re-]Grafted Olive Branches: The Persistence of Hope
13. Living Sacrifices: One Body, Many Members
14. The Offering of the Weak: Paul and the Particular Assemblies in Rome
15. In Sum …: The End of Paul’s Rhetoric and of His Letter

Index of Names
Index of Ancient Documents


Endorsements and Reviews

Rodríguez joins those Pauline interpreters who have taken seriously Paul’s assertion that he writes specifically to gentiles. He provides a careful analysis of the diatribe style questions that feature in significant sections of the letter. His radical thesis that the interlocutor is of gentile ethnicity but views himself as a Jew and teaches gentiles is provocative and challenging, but illustrated with sustained argument. If You Call Yourself a Jew is a fine volume to spark interest in Paul’s skilful rhetoric.
William S. Campbell, University of Wales Trinity St David, Lampeter, Wales

Rodríguez presents a fresh challenge to many stale assumptions about reading Romans. He provides a cogent case that Paul is writing to gentile Christians, and what is more, that Paul’s imaginary opponent who appears throughout the letter is not a Jew, but is in fact a gentile convert to Judaism. It makes for a stimulating volume on Paul’s most famous letter.
Michael F. Bird, Ridley Melbourne Mission and Ministry College, Melbourne, Australia

The book is a fine read , clearly set out and engagingly written. There are some sections where Rodríguez’s reading works particularly well – for example, the section on Rom 7. I also found his take on Rom 11 well argued and helpful.
Gary W. Burnett, in Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Vol 38, No 5