Scholars debate whether the reference to Satan in Rom 16:20a should be identified with God's supernatural adversary or with Paul's opponents described in 16:17–19. The latter position is preferred for two reasons. First, while most scholars agree that that there is some sort of allusion to Gen 3:15 in 16:20a, the entire pericope—16:17–20a—contains language that reflects Gen 3. Paul utilizes language and motifs from the Eden narrative in order to compare the tactics of his opposition to those of the serpent. When Paul says that “the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly,” this reference to Satan presupposes the allusion to Gen 3 in Rom 16:17–19 and indicates that Satan should be identified with the opponents. Second, Mary Douglas's anthropological model, grid and group theory, is applied to explore the social tensions between Paul and his opposition. Paul uses what Douglas calls a “witchcraft accusation” by demonizing the opposition with satanic labels. The application of this social science model reinforces the conclusion that Satan should be understood as human opponents rather than a supernatural enemy.

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