Paul’s teaching about divine benefactions in Rom 12:6–8 extends the theme of worship that he establishes in Rom 12:1–2. Together, these passages address a uniquely gentile dilemma that many in his audience faced as new Christ-followers, which was the challenge of finding acceptable replacements for former cultic activities that were woven through all of life’s stages, from birth to death. One of the chief shortcomings of the scholars that have written about Rom 12:6–8 is a failure to address what Paul's gentile audience might have brought to his teaching and how his alignment of gifts with ritual (Rom 12:1–2) mirrored their polytheistic background. By analyzing examples from ancient texts and artifacts, Teresa Lee McCaskill shows that all seven of the terms Paul uses in Rom 12:6–8 would have had recognizable cultic antecedents for first-century worshipers in Rome. McCaskill presents a theoretical model that discusses how Paul’s gentile audience might have viewed the charismata and considered them as examples of sanctioned practices to replace former rituals. She also weighs the effectiveness of these particular gifts for furthering Paul’s missional objectives.
Teresa Lee McCaskill (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh) is a New Testament scholar whose research focuses on how gifts in Pauline literature were received by their original audiences.
Chapter 1: An Introduction to the χαρίσματα of Rom 12:6–8
Chapter 2: Rom 12:6: From “Prophecy in Proportion to Faith” (NRSV) to “Prophecy in Accordance with What has been Entrusted” (προφητείαν κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεως)
Chapter 3: Rom 12:7: From “Ministry, in Ministering” (NRSV) to “A Mission, in Accordance with What it Requires” (διακονίαν ἐν τῇ διακονίᾳ)
Chapter 4: Rom 12:7: From “The Teacher, in the Teaching” (NRSV) to “The One who Teaches, in Accordance with What the Teaching Requires” (ὁ διδάσκων ἐν τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ)
Chapter 5: Rom 12:8: From “The Exhorter, in Exhortation” (NRSV) to “The One who Invokes and Invites, in Accordance with What the Opportunities Require” (ὁ παρακαλῶν ἐν τῇ παρακλήσει)
Chapter 6: Rom 12:8: From “The Giver, in Generosity” (NRSV) to “The One Who Shares with Generosity, Simplicity, or Sincerity, as Required” (ὁ μεταδιδοὺς ἐν ἁπλότητι)
Chapter 7: Rom 12:8: From “The Leader, in Diligence” (NRSV) to “The One Who Champions with Zeal as Required” (ὁ προϊστάμενος ἐν σπουδῇ)
Chapter 8: Rom 12:8: From “The Compassionate, with Cheerfulness” (NRSV) to “The One Who Shows Mercy, Cheerfulness as Required” (ὁ ἐλεῶν ἐν ἱλαρότητι)
Chapter 9: Why the Χαρίσματα of Rom 12:6–8 Matter
McCaskill offers a convincing new take on the gifts or charismata enumerated in Romans 12. Taking her lead from Paul’s remarks about sacrifice as the chapter opens, she situates gift language in a ritual setting, namely worship and the practice of reciprocity that defined divine-human relations in the ancient Mediterranean world. The mostly Gentile recipients of the letter would have understood gifts in that context, even as Paul redirected the language to articulate and advance the mission he advocated. Gifts, McCaskill demonstrates, have more to do with practices defining and propagating a new belief system than with community-structuring actions or offices.