Epistle to the Romans
The Epistle to the Romans or Letter to the Romans, often shortened to Romans, is the sixth book in the New Testament. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by the Apostle Paul to explain that salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the longest of the Pauline epistles and is often considered his "most important theological legacy" and magnum opus.
General presentationIn the opinion of Jesuit scholar Joseph Fitzmyer, the book "overwhelms the reader by the density and sublimity of the topic with which it deals, the gospel of the justification and salvation of Jew and Greek alike by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, revealing the uprightness and love of God the Father."Fitzmyer, xiii N. T. Wright notes that Romans is Note the large number of names in of those then in Rome, and verses 5, 15 and 16 indicate there was more than one church assembly or company of believers in Rome. Verse 5 mentions a church that met in the house of Aquila and Priscilla. Verses 14 and 15 each mention groupings of believers and saints. Geneva Study Bible on Romans 16:5, regarding the "church" (translated as "company" or congregation in some 16th-century translations) says: (b) The company of the faithful, for in so great a city as that was, there were different companies.
- Vincent's Word Studies (1886) on Romans 16:5 says: The phrase church that is in their (or his) house occurs 1 Corinthians 16:19, of Aquila and Priscilla; Colossians 4:15, of Nymphas; Plm 1:2, of Philemon. A similar gathering may be implied in Romans 16:14, Romans 16:15. Bishop Lightfoot says there is no clear example of a separate building set apart for christian worship within the limits of the Roman Empire before the third century.
- People's New Testament (PNT 1891) on Romans 16:5 says: . As the early Christians had no houses of worship, they met in the homes of prominent brethren. In the large cities there would be several such groups. One of these in Rome met in the house of Priscilla and Aquila.
- and PNT on verse 16:15 says: And all the saints which are with them. Probably another household church, which met with those just named.
- Suetonius' Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Claudius XXV.4 "4 Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus,75 he expelled them from Rome."
- see also Tacitus, Annals — Book XV Chapters 44 concerning Christus
StyleScholars often have difficulty assessing whether Romans is a letter or an epistle, a relevant distinction in form-critical analysis: A letter is something non-literary, a means of communication between persons who are separated from each other. Confidential and personal in nature, it is intended only for the person or persons to whom it is addressed, and not at all for the public or any kind of publicity...An Epistle is an artistic literary form, just like the dialogue, the oration, or the drama. It has nothing in common with the letter except its form: apart from that one might venture the paradox that the epistle is the opposite of a real letter. The contents of the epistle are intended for publicity—they aim at interesting "the public." A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, 2nd ed (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1927), 218, 220 Joseph Fitzmyer argues, from evidence put forth by Stirewalt, that the style of Romans is an "essay-letter."Fitzmyer, p. 69 Philip Melanchthon, a writer during the Reformation, suggested that Romans was caput et summa universae doctrinae christianae ("a summary of all Christian doctrine").Fitzmyer, p. 74 While some scholars attempt to suggest, like Melanchthon, that it is a type of theological treatise, this view largely ignores chapters 14 and 15 of Romans. There are also many "noteworthy elements" missing from Romans that are included in other areas of the Pauline corpus.Fitzmyer, p. 74, who notes that the Ekklesia, Eucharist and eschatology (especially the parousia) are not present in Romans The breakdown of Romans as a treatise began with F.C. Baur in 1836 when he suggested "this letter had to be interpreted according to the historical circumstances in which Paul wrote it." Paul sometimes uses a style of writing common in his time called a "diatribe". He appears to be responding to a "heckler" (probably an imaginary one based on Paul's encounters with real objections in his previous preaching), and the letter is structured as a series of arguments. In the flow of the letter, Paul shifts his arguments, sometimes addressing the Jewish members of the church, sometimes the Gentile membership and sometimes the church as a whole.
Purposes of writingTo review the current scholarly viewpoints on the purpose of Romans, along with a bibliography, see Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.s.v. "Romans, Letter to the" For a 16th-century "Lollard" reformer view, see the work of William Tyndale. In his prologue to his translation of the book of Romans, which was largely taken from the prologue of German Reformer Martin Luther, Tyndale writes that: ... this epistle is the principal and most excellent part of the new testament, and most pure evangelion, that is to say glad tidings and what we call the gospel, and also a light and a way in unto the whole scripture ... The sum and whole cause of the writings of this epistle, is, to prove that a man is justified by faith only: which proposition whoso denieth, to him is not only this epistle and all that Paul writeth, but also the whole scripture, so locked up that he shall never understand it to his soul's health. And to bring a man to the understanding and feeling that faith only justifieth, Paul proveth that the whole nature of man is so poisoned and so corrupt, yea and so dead concerning godly living or godly thinking, that it is impossible for her to keep the law in the sight of God.Tyndale's New Testament, edited by David Daniel (Yale University Press, London and New Haven, 1989), 223
Contents]]This essay-letter composed by Paul was written to a specific audience at a specific time; to understand it, the situations of both Paul and the recipients must be understood.
Greeting ()The introduction provides some general notes about Paul. He introduces here and introductory notes about the gospel he wishes to preach to the church at Rome. Jesus' human line stems from David. Paul, however, does not limit his ministry to Jews. Paul's goal is that the Gentiles would also hear the gospel.
Prayer of Thanksgiving ()He commends the Romans for their faith. Paul also speaks of the past obstacles that have blocked his coming to Rome earlier.
Salvation in the Christ ( )
Righteousness of God ()Paul's announcement that he is not "ashamed" (epaiscúnomai) of his gospel because it holds power (dúnamis). These two verses form a backdrop for the rest of the book. First, we note that Paul is unashamed of his love for this gospel that he preaches about Jesus Christ. He also notes that he is speaking to the "Jew first." There is significance to this, but much of it is scholarly conjecture as the relationship of Paul the Apostle and Judaism is still debated. We are hard-pressed to find an answer to such a question without knowing more about the audience in question. Wayne Brindle argues, based on Paul's former writings against the Judaizers in Galatians and 2 Corinthians, that rumors had probably spread about Paul totally negating the Jewish existence in a Christian world (see also Antinomianism in the New Testament and Supersessionism). Paul may have used the "Jew first" approach to counter such a view.W.A. Brindle, "To The Jew First: Rhetoric, Strategy, History, or Theology?" Bibliotheca Sacra 159 (2002): 221
Condemnation: The Universal corruption of Gentiles and Jews ( )
= The judgment of God ()= Paul now begins into the main thrust of his letter. He begins by suggesting that humans have taken up ungodliness and wickedness for which there will be wrath from God. People have taken God's invisible image and made him into an idol. Paul draws heavily here from the Wisdom of Solomon.for all of these comparisons see Ben Witherington's commentary on Romans, p. 63 which is available on a limited preview basis from Google books. He condemns unnatural sexual behavior and warns that such behavior will result in a depraved body and mind and says that people who do such things (including murder and wickedness ) are worthy of death. Paul stands firmly against the idol worship system which was common in Rome. Several scholars believe the passage is a non-Pauline interpolation.Percy Neale Harrison, Paulines and Pastorals (London: Villiers Publications, 1964), 80–85; Robert Martyr Hawkins, The Recovery of the Historical Paul (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1943), 79–86; Alfred Firmin Loisy, The Origins of the New Testament (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1962), 250; ibid., The Birth of the Christian Religion (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1962), 363 n. 21; Winsome Munro, Authority in Paul and Peter: The Identification of a Pastoral Stratum in the Pauline Corpus and 1 Peter, SNTSMS 45 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 113; John C. O'Neill, Paul's Letter to the Romans (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975), 40–56; William O. Walker, Jr., "Romans 1.18–2.29: A Non-Pauline Interpolation?" New Testament Studies 45, no. 4 (1999): 533–52.
= Paul's warning of hypocrites ()= On the traditional Protestant interpretation, Paul here calls out Jews who are condemning others for not following the law when they themselves are also not following the law. Stanley Stowers, however, has argued on rhetorical grounds that Paul is in these verses not addressing a Jew at all but rather an easily recognizable caricature of the typical boastful person (ὁ ἀλαζων). Stowers writes, "There is absolutely no justification for reading as Paul's attack on 'the hypocrisy of the Jew.' No one in the first century would have identified ho alazon with Judaism. That popular interpretation depends upon anachronistically reading later Christian characterizations of Jews as 'hypocritical Pharisees'".Stowers, A Rereading of Romans. Yale Press, 1994, p. 101 See also Anti-Judaism.
Justification: The Gift of Grace and Forgiveness through Faith ( )Paul says that a righteousness from God has made itself known apart from the law, to which the law and prophets testify, and this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus to all who believe. He describes justification – legally clearing the believer of the guilt and penalty of sin – as a gift of God, and not the work of man (lest he might boast), but by faith. assured of their hope in salvation, having been freed from the bondage of sin. Paul teaches that through faith, the faithful have been joined with Jesus and freed from sin. Believers should celebrate in the assurance of salvation. This promise is open to everyone since everyone has sinned, save the one who paid for all of them. In Paul addresses the faithfulness of God to the Israelites, where he says that God has been faithful to His promise. Paul hopes that all Israelites will come to realize the truth since he himself was also an Israelite, and had in the past been a persecutor of Early Christians. In Paul talks about how the nation of Israel has been cast away, and the conditions under which Israel will be God's chosen nation again: when Israel returns to its faith, sets aside its unbelief. In , Paul says that humans are under the law while we live: "Know ye not...that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?" However, Jesus' death on the cross makes believers dead to the law (, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye are also become dead to the law by the body of Christ"), according to an antinomistic interpretation.
Transformation of believers ( 12 )From chapter 12 through the first part of chapter 15, Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers and the behaviour that results from such a transformation. This transformation is described as a "renewing of your mind" (12:2), a transformation that Douglas J. Moo characterizes as “the heart of the matter.”Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Eerdmans, 1996), 748. It is a transformation so radical that it amounts to a “a transfiguration of your brain,” a " metanoia", a “mental revolution.”Edward J Anton, Repentance: A Cosmic Shift of Mind and Heart (Discipleship Publications, 2005) 30. Paul goes on to describe how believers should live. Christians are no longer under the law, that is, no longer bound by the law of Moses, Douglas J. Moo, Romans: The NIV Application Commentary: From Biblical Text to Contemporary Life (Zondervan, 2000), 399. but under the grace of God, see Law and grace. We do not need to live under the law because to the extent our minds have been renewed, we will know "almost instinctively" what God wants of us. The law then provides an "objective standard" for judging progress in the "lifelong process" of our mind's renewal.Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Eerdmans, 1996), 756–758. To the extent they have been set free from sin by renewed minds (Romans 6:18), believers are no longer bound to sin. Believers are free to live in obedience to God and love everybody. As Paul says in Romans 13:10, "love (ἀγάπη) worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of law".
Obedience to earthly powers (13:1–7)The fragment in Romans 13:1–7 dealing with obedience to earthly powers is considered by some, for example James Kallas, The Sword and the Ploughshare Romans 13:1–7 an Interpolation? to be an interpolation. Review of the book Paul and Empire – Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society (Edited by Richard A. Horsley) (See also the Great Commandment and Christianity and politics). Paul Tillich accepts the historical authenticity of Romans 13:1–7, but claims it has been misinterpreted by churches with an anti-revolutionary bias: One of the many politico-theological abuses of biblical statements is the understanding of Paul’s words 13:1–7 as justifying the anti-revolutionary bias of some churches, particularly the Lutheran. But neither these words nor any other New Testament statement deals with the methods of gaining political power. In Romans, Paul is addressing eschatological enthusiasts, not a revolutionary political movement. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, volume 3 ( University of Chicago Press: 1963), p. 389.
Epilogue ( )
- Admonition ()
- Summary of the Epistle ()
Paul's ministry and travel plans ()The concluding verses contain a description of his travel plans, personal greetings and salutations. One-third of the twenty-one Christians identified in the greetings are women, some of whom played an important role in the early church at Rome. Additionally, none of these Christians answer to the name Peter, although according to the Catholic storyline, he had been ruling as Pope in Rome for about 25 years. Possibly related was the Incident at Antioch between Paul and Cephas.
Catholic interpretationCatholics accept the necessity of faith for salvation but point to for the necessity of living a virtuous life as well:For an authoritative discussion of the Catholic viewpoint, see Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Epistle to the Romans" But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. Throughout his writings, St. Augustine strongly affirms the Catholic understanding of this and other such Scriptural admonitions. In his sermons to his Catholic congregations, he is especially careful to warn them against an inordinate desire for a complete assurance of salvation. In his Exposition of Psalm 147 for example, he states:Works, Expositions of the Psalms (121–150), 2004, New City Press, , Part 3, volume, 20, p. 446. link The gospel warned us, "Be on the watch for the last day, the day when the Son of Man will come," because it will spell disaster for those it finds secure as they are now – secure for the wrong reasons, I mean, secure in the pleasures of this world, when they ought to be secure only when they have dominated this world's lusts. The apostle certainly prepares us for that future life in words of which I also reminded you on that occasion. Again, in his Exposition of Psalm 85, Augustine is perhaps even more specific:Works, Expositions of the Psalms (73–98), 2002 John E. Rotelle, ed., , , part 3, vol. 18, p. 236. link Let us not expect security while we are on pilgrimage. When we do find ourselves wanting it, what we are looking for is bodily sluggishness rather than personal security.
Protestant interpretationIn the Protestant interpretation, the New Testament epistles (including Romans), describes salvation as coming from faith and not from righteous actions. For example, Romans (underlining added): 2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted unto him for righteousness. They also point out that in Romans , Paul says that God will reward those who follow the law and then goes on to say that no one follows the law perfectly (see also ) Romans : 21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? 24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. 25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Martin Luther described Paul's letter to the Romans as "the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul". Martin Luther's Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans cf. Luther's comments in his treatise on The Adoration of the Sacrament (1523) in which he refers to the words of institution of the Eucharist as being "the sum and substance of the whole gospel". Luther's Works, American Edition, St. Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia Publishing House and Fortress (Muhlenberg) Press, vol. 36 (Word and Sacrament II (1959)), link, p. 277. Luther controversially added the word "alone" (allein in German) to Romans so that it read: "thus, we hold, then, that man is justified without doing the works of the law, alone through faith".The 1522 "Testament" reads at Romans 3:28: "So halten wyrs nu, das der mensch gerechtfertiget werde, on zu thun der werck des gesetzs, alleyn durch den glawben" (emphasis added to the German word for "alone"). link The word "alone" does not appear in the original Greek text,The Greek text reads: λογιζόμεθα γάρ δικαιоῦσθαι πίστει ἄνθρωπον χωρὶς ἔργων νόμου ("for we reckon a man to be justified by faith without deeds of law") link but Luther defended his translation by maintaining that the adverb "alone" was required both by idiomatic German and Paul's intended meaning. This is a "literalist view" rather than an literal view of the Bible.Martin Luther, On Translating: An Open Letter (1530), Luther's Works, 55 vols., (St. Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia Publishing House and Fortress Press), 35:187–189, 195; cf. also Heinz Bluhm, Martin Luther Creative Translator, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1965), 125–137. Apologist James Swan lists numerous Catholic sources that also translated with the word "alone," or testified to others doing so before Luther. A Bible commentary published in 1864 reports that: The Romans Road refers to a set of scriptures from Romans that Christian evangelists use to present a clear and simple case for personal salvation to each person. They are: Romans , , , , , , and . The Roman Way, by Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Romans has been at the forefront of several major movements in Protestantism. Martin Luther's lectures on Romans in 1515–1516 probably coincided with the development of his criticism of Roman Catholicism which led to the 95 Theses of 1517. In 1738, while hearing Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans read at St. Botolph Church on Aldersgate Street in London, John Wesley famously felt his heart "strangely warmed", a conversion experience which is often seen as the beginning of Methodism. In 1919 Karl Barth's commentary on Romans, The Epistle to the Romans, was the publication which is widely seen as the beginning of neo-orthodoxy.
- The Epistle to the Romans (Barth)
- Loci Communes
- New Perspective on Paul
- Paul the Apostle and Judaism
- Rudyard Kipling 1919 poem The Gods of the Copybook Headings "The Wages of Sin is Death." Romans 6:23
- The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners, sermon on Romans 3:19
- Textual variants in the Epistle to the Romans
- Rutherford, Graeme (1993). The Heart of Christianity: Romans chapters 1 to 8. Second ed. Oxford, Eng.: Bible Reading Fellowship. 248 p.
- "Bible Gateway 35 languages/50 versions"
- "Epistle to the Romans" – Early Christian Writings
- "Online Bible" – gospelhall.org
- "Romans, Online Bible" – ChristNotes.org
- "Unbound Bible 100 + languages/versions" – Biola University
- Epistle to the Romans
- Various versions
- A Brief Introduction to Romans
- Understanding Romans 7 – www.christians.eu
- A Wesleyan Interpretation of Romans 5–8 – Jerry McCant
- Epistle to the Romans – Catholic Encyclopedia
- John Calvin on Romans
- Easton's Bible Dictionary on Romans, Epistle to the on BibleStudyTools.com
- Matthew Henry on Romans
- Romans Overview, by Mark Dever
- Reading Through Romans, by Michael Morrison
- Romans the Greatest Letter Ever Written: John Piper
- Book by Book: Romans, by WELS-WhatAboutJesus.com