The Unique Ways τὲ καί Clarifies Paul’s Audience in Romans

Readers of Romans often suppose the letter is addressed to a group of Jesus followers that contains both Jews and gentiles.1 But in recent years, several scholars have questioned this assumption’s soundness. Instead, they point to evidence that suggests the audience as Paul envisions it in the letter (the “implied audience”) is composed of gentiles only.2

What about the Jews?

There were, of course, were Jewish Jesus followers in and around Rome at the time Paul wrote. Prime examples appear among the individuals whom Paul asks his audience to greet (e.g., Rom 16:3, 7, 11; cf. Acts 18:2).3 But as the gentile-only proponents point out, simply because these individuals were around doesn’t necessarily mean Paul was intending to address Romans to them.

Each side of the debate emphasizes the evidence it finds most weighty. But is there anything that might help break the gridlock? Perhaps so, and here enters the little phrase τὲ καί.

The Phrase τὲ καί and Romans’s Implied Audience

In the end, τὲ καί can’t by itself indicate who Paul was writing to in Romans. But Paul’s choice to use the phrase as he does in Rom 1:13–14 and elsewhere puts on the table several important pieces to the puzzle. And when assembled with others, those pieces yield a strongly gentile portrait.

For more details, see the podcast below that I was delighted to have the opportunity to do for Glossa House. Be sure also to check out the rest of Glossa House’s podcast episodes and their extensive and growing list of resources.

For a still fuller version of this discussion of τὲ καί, Rom 1:13–14, and the implications for the letter’s audience, download this complimentary resource pack.4

The pack includes the full, published article whose contents I summarize in the podcast, as well as several further resources to aid your reading of the Greek NT in general and several other Pauline texts in particular.


  1. Header image provided by Alex Suprun

  2. E.g., A. Andrew Das, Paul and the Jews, Library of Pauline Studies (affiliate disclosure; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003); A. Andrew Das, Solving the Romans Debate (affiliate disclosure; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2007); Rafael Rodríguez, If You Call Yourself a Jew: Reappraising Paul’s Letter to the Romans (affiliate disclosure; Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014); Stanley K. Stowers, A Rereading of Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles (affiliate disclosure; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994); Runar M. Thorsteinsson, “Paul’s Missionary Duty towards Gentiles in Rome: A Note on the Punctuation and Syntax of Rom 1.13–15,” NTS 48 (2002): 531–47; Runar M. Thorsteinsson, Paul’s Interlocutor in Romans 2: Function and Identity in the Context of Ancient Epistolography, ConBNT 40 (affiliate disclosure; Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2003; repr., Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2015). 

  3. E.g., see Robert Jewett, Romans: A Commentary, ed. Eldon Jay Epp, Hermeneia (affiliate disclosure; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2007), 953; Eckhard J. Schnabel, Der Brief des Paulus an die Römer, vol. 1, HTA (affiliate disclosure; Witten: Brockhaus, 2015), 124. 

  4. Similarly, see too this podcast on the audience and predestination in Romans. 

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2 responses to “The Unique Ways τὲ καί Clarifies Paul’s Audience in Romans”

  1. Alistair McPherson Avatar
    Alistair McPherson

    Dear David,
    In the midst of emails, grading, and dissertation first chapter writing, I took a slight detour (out of interest on the two little words “te kai” in the Greek text. I did a quick search in the Greek text (Tyndale House Greek NT in Accordance) to see where else this construction is presented, and read along. A very nice discussion that “te kai” speaks to addressing a Gentile audience (the fruit of his labors). I will of course have to do more reading.


    1. J. David Stark Avatar

      Thanks so much, Alistair. Yes, a good chunk of the full article deals with all of the other τὲ καί phrases in Paul, as well as the one where τέ and καί merely appear beside each other but are pretty clearly doing something a bit different than the full phrase τὲ καί. It’s very interesting to see the different contexts in which the phrase comes up with the same function.

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