The following essay is an experiment in exegetical method accenting the utility of theological interpretation in resolving historic tensions between theological and exegetical convictions. It introduces a new theological category (onto-ethical rhetoric) as a means of addressing some longstanding exegetical difficulties in Rom 2:6–11. After canvassing those difficulties along with the history of previous approaches, the contours of onto-ethical discourse will be charted through examples from early Christian and ancient Jewish literature. We will see that onto-ethical discourse marries a reference to an ontological entity or quality with its corresponding moral significance, and assumes both are communicated in the ontological reference. It will be suggested that the onto-theological presuppositions typical of western consciousness have historically blinded us to the dynamics of onto-ethical rhetoric. After describing this rhetoric, with a special emphasis on the semantic domain of "immortality," we will return to Rom 2:6–11 and see how sensitivity to Paul's onto-ethical understanding of immortality can solve many of the difficulties surrounding this text and yield some important theological insights into Paul's understanding of the proper place for works and rewards in the proclamation of the gospel.

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