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Romans 14 – What Does It Really Mean?

A passage that is often debated related to this issue of worship, and especially music, is Romans 14ff. Opinions abound as to what it really means and what kinds of applications can legitimately be drawn from it.

I offer here two papers that might help to shed some light on the matter for those interested:

Mark Snoeberger –  Weakness or Wisdom? Fundamentalism and Romans 14:1-15:1

Scott Aniol – Comparison of “Doubtful Things” in Romans and I Corinthians

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

4 Responses to Romans 14 – What Does It Really Mean?

  1. With respect to Romans 14, I have a hard time seeing this as an ethnic issue between Jews and Gentiles. When compared to Col 2.16, there is nothing distinctively Jewish about the dietary scruples or esteeming of days in Rm 14. The only argument in favour of a Jewish/Gentile context in Rm 14 is Rm 15.8-9, but I think it could be argued that Paul concludes his discussion of matters of scruples in 15.7 and moves on to a summary/concluding statements for the whole book in 15.8ff.

    The Jewish dietary laws were not strictly vegetarian, as the scruples in Rm 14 suggest. I would like to see evidence of vegetarian positions in the OT or other Jewish writings before ascribing this passage to Jewishness. Also, the Gentiles had many holy days as well, so it isn't necessarily Jewish that someone has scruples about days.

    Nevertheless, this point doesn't necessarily invalidate all of your or Mark's conclusions/applications.


    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. Sorry, I have to press my point a bit more, even before you respond!

    If the scruples of the weak were Jewish scruples, don't you think Paul would have gone after them hammer and tong? Think Galatians. Think Judaizers. This was no little issue to Paul. Instead, the whole argument in Romans is for the acceptance of the weak and a prohibition of violating their consciences.

    So… I just think everyone is missing the boat by seeing Jewish practices in these scruples.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  3. Well, if you read Mark's full paper, I'm not sure there's anything else I can do to convince you! :) The most convincing point for me was what Shriner notes about how the dietary restrictions are described using terms unique to the Jewish "clean" and "unclean" laws:

    "What is most instructive is that the "weak's" refusal to eat certain foods stems from OT prohibitions. This is clarified by the use of the words koinon (koinon, common) in verse 14 and kaqara (kathara, clean) in verse 20, for . . . these terms stem from Judaism, where the observance of food laws was crucial."

  4. Hi Scott

    Well, I don't want to belabour this too much…

    I will concede that the use of these two words in 14.14 and 14.20 do relate to the Jewish conception, especially in the case of koinos in 14.14. kathairos, on the other hand has religious connotations in Greek usage, so it is not strictly a Jewish concept.

    Nevertheless, I stand by my arguments from 14.2 where the distinction is not between meats (Jewish Law) but between meat and no-meat — this practice is clearly beyond the OT concept. And I think my argument regarding the Judaizers as stated above is significant. If the issue in Rome were one where some were insisting on the Jewish law, I think Paul would have been all over it. It seems to me the clinching argument here.

    Ok, now I've stated my arguments twice… no need to keep repeating ourselves, eh?

    I guess the only other thing to add is that I think there is application for our current age. It seemed that one of the concluding statements in the papers (yours or Mark's) was that the passage has no direct parallel today. On the contrary, having had vegetarians in our church, I think it has immediate application.

    But the main teaching of tolerating differing scruples is the overall teaching of the passage and I think we would be in agreement there.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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