Paul on the human vocation : a new explanation of Paul’s use of reason language in Rom 12.1 in the light of ancient philosophical tradition

  • Simon Walter Durr

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


We propose a new explanation of Paul’s use of reason language in Romans 12.1 (λογικός) based on a fresh reading of philosophical traditions about the role of human beings in the cosmos. We argue that Rom 12.1 appeals to the idea of a human vocation such as it is most clearly articulated in Epictetus, Diss. 1.16. Paul thereby claims that Christ-followers are now able to fulfil their human vocation by living in such a way that their lives produce signs of the new creation inaugurated in Christ. In chapters 1–2, we show the problems with previous explanations, which contextualise too narrowly, and approach Paul’s statement with a corpus-based discourse analysis of the phrase ζῷον λογικόν, showing how it functions in the wider ancient discourse on what it means to be human. Having thus made a first step towards a broader contextualisation, we then survey key texts from this discourse in chapter 3, where we show the central role of reason in ancient accounts of genuine humanness and for the idea of a human vocation. In chapter 4 we offer a fresh reading of Epictetus, Diss. 1.16 and other texts, as part of that wider discourse, which shows that λογικός refers to the distinct capacity on which a human vocation is based. In chapter 5, we show the relevance of these traditions to Paul’s argument in Rom 1–8. In chapter 6, we defend our reading of Rom 12.1–2 in exegetical detail, which requires a novel grammatical solution and a close demonstration of how Epictetus, Diss. 1.16.20–21 functions as a parallel. In chapter 7 we show the implications of our new explanation for how Rom 12.1–2 frames Rom 12–15 and indicate how the idea of a human vocation might contribute to the integration of “theology” and “ethics” within an ancient context. Paul envisions a united community in which Jewish and Gentile Jesus-followers worship together as fulfilling their genuinely human vocation.
Date of Award30 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorN. T. Wright (Supervisor)


  • Paul
  • Romans
  • λογικός (logikos)
  • Reason language
  • Ancient philosophy
  • Human vocation
  • Sign production
  • Epictetus
  • Ancient anthropological discourse
  • Rom 12.1
  • Rom 1
  • Rom 12
  • Rom 6
  • Rom 12-15
  • Ethics
  • Theology
  • Justification

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 20th June 2025

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