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interactions between Thomas and Platonism. My sole intention is to map out the research situation
and to point out where in the scholarly tradition I place my current project.
4.1. Rom 7:7–25
In her doctoral dissertation completed in 2005 and published as a monograph in 2008, Emma
Wasserman made a convincing case that “Rom 7 can be better understood by appreciating its
appropriation of Platonic language and assumptions.”168 The arguments Wasserman offers in her
monograph are numerous and complex; in what follows, I will be able to discuss only the most
important of them.
In her work, Wasserman relies upon the insights expressed by Stanley K. Stowers. In his
seminal commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans, Stowers demonstrated that the monologue in
Rom 7 is an adaptation of the Hellenistic moral discourse. He took as a point of departure verses 7:15
and 7:19, the two of which reveal the core message of the whole chapter. According to Stowers, these
verses contain “a ubiquitous Greek saying that is central to the Greco-Roman ethic of selfmastery”:169
For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (οὐ γὰρ ὃ θέλω τοῦτο πράσσω, ἀλλ᾽ ὃ
μισῶ τοῦτο ποιῶ) (Rom 7:15; NRSV).
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do (οὐ γὰρ ὃ θέλω ποιῶ
ἀγαθόν, ἀλλὰ ὃ οὐ θέλω κακὸν τοῦτο πράσσω) (Rom 7:19; NRSV).
In these two verses, the speaker of the monologue admits that he is unable to exercise control over
his own actions. The dilemma expressed here is pronouncedly Greek; it is exemplified by the figure
of Medea who, before murdering her children, utters, “I know that what I am about to do is evil, but
anger is stronger than my deliberations” (καὶ μανθάνω μὲν οἷα δρᾶν μέλλω κακά, θυμὸς δὲ κρείσσων
τῶν ἐμῶν βουλευμάτων) (Euripides, Med. 1078–9). Medea’s words became the classic expression of
the gap between knowing the good and doing it and thus, as Stowers points out, “played a central role
in the Greek moral tradition.”170
Since the words of Medea and those of the speaker of Rom 7:15 and 7:19 are mere variants of
the same maxim, it comes as no surprise that, as Stowers puts it, “Most aspects of Paul’s discussion
in 7:7–25 can be paralleled with language from this tradition.”171 What is even more important for
the present discussion is that Stowers goes beyond this claim and does not merely say that, in Rom 7,
Paul uses Greek philosophy, but argues that, “in crucial respects,” he sides with the Platonists against
the Stoics.172 In other words, whereas the problem Paul discusses in Rom 7 is common to all the
philosophical school of the Greco-Roman world, the solution he offers is specifically Platonist.
It is this claim that found most detailed support in Wasserman’s monograph. As she points out,
both Stoics and the Platonists used their respective theories of mind to interpret Medea’s deliberation.
Wasserman 2008, 5.
Stowers 1994, 260.
Stowers 1994, 263.
Stowers 1994, 264.
Stowers 1994, 279.