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The Valentinian Claim To Esoteric Exegesis of Romans as Basis for Anthropological Theory

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Investigation of Valentinian exegesis of Romans indicates that certain gnostic theologians claim to have developed their anthropological theory from an esoteric exegesis of Romans. While most Christians read the epistle "literally", as Paul's discussion of the contrast between the revelation to Israel and the revelation in Christ, these exegetes read it allegorically. Accordingly, they claim, what Paul describes as the situation of "the Jews" who stand "in the law" (cf. Rm. 2.12; 3.19), subject to "sin" and "death" (8.2 f.) allegorically describes the situation of psychic Christians. They, as "Jews", worship the "God of the Jews" (3.29), the demiurge, whose law requires them to earn their salvation "from works" (4.2). Conversely, Paul's discussion of the "Gentiles", who, "outside the law", have in their hearts the "law by nature" (2.12-15) describes the situation of the pneumatics. These receive redemption entirely "apart from the law" (3.21), "without works" (3.28). They are the elect foreordained by the Father (8.29f.), redeemed "through faith", "according to grace" (3.21-30). This analysis suggests that the traditional framework for interpreting gnostic anthropology - either in terms of "determinism" (Bultmann, 1941) or of "free will" (L. Schottroff, 1969) - proves inadequate. Such anthropological terms as the "natures" (φστδ) or their designation as "hylic/psychic/pneumatic" instead are intended to present a modified theory of election, allegedly Pauline. They are intended to differentiate between the psychics' salvation, effected by choice "through works", on the one hand, and the pneumatics' redemption through divine election on the other — an election received "through faith", and "by grace".

Affiliations: 1: Columbia University, New York 10027, Barnard College


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