Original Research

Deviance or acceptable difference: Observance of the Law in Romans 14–15 and Dialogue with Trypho 47

Ronald D. Roberts
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 68, No 1 | a1015 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v68i1.1015 | © 2012 Ronald D. Roberts | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 January 2011 | Published: 10 February 2012

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Ronald D. Roberts, Brite Divinity School, United States

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Utilising the symbolic interactionist study of deviance, this article compares the treatment of Law-observant Christ-followers in Romans 14–15 and Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho 47, in order to understand better the declining status of Law-observant Christ-followers in the early Christ-movement. The ‘strong’ in Romans 14:1–15:13 are likely Christ-followers who do not observe the Law, whilst the ‘weak’ are likely Christ-followers who do. Although Paul accepts Law-observant Christ-followers, his preference for non-observance decreases the status of those who observe the Law, thereby undermining Paul’s vision of a unified, ethnically mixed Church. In Dialogue 47, Justin intensifies the marginalisation of Law-observant Christfollowers by placing them at the very limits of orthodoxy. Dialogue 47 suggests that the campaign for the legitimacy of Law-observant Christ-following was already failing by the middle of the 2nd century, largely because of Paul’s own preference for non-observant Christfollowing.


deviance; identity; Jewish–Christian relations; Justin Martyr; strong and weak


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