1. Date and destination.-The Epistle is usually supposed to have been written to Rome (Romans 16:3-16
; Romans 1:15
) during the visit of Acts 20:2
f., i.e. towards the close of the third missionary journey. The year will depend upon the general scheme of chronology adopted for St. Paul’s life; c.
a.d. 58 is the usual date. The grounds on which this view is based are:
(1) The reference to the collection for the saints (Romans 15:23
ff.). This is prominent in 1 and 2 Cor. (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 Corinthians 8:3
), which belong to the same period of St. Paul’s life, and is mentioned incidentally in Acts 24:17
as forming part of the purpose of the final visit to Jerusalem. According to Romans 15 the collection is nearing completion, and St. Paul is about to start for Jerusalem; this points precisely to the circumstances of Acts 20.
(2) Acts 19:21
shows that the Apostle had in mind at this time a visit to Rome, which again corresponds exactly to the indications afforded by Romans 15:23
ff; cf. Romans 1:10
(3) Timothy and Sosipater (Romans 16:21
) were with St. Paul at this period (Acts 20:4
). The fact that the other travelling companions of Acts 20 do not happen to be mentioned creates no difficulty; they may have had no connexion with Rome, or they may not yet have joined St. Paul.
(4) Phoebe, a ‘deaconess’ of Cenchreae, the port of Corinth, is prominently mentioned (Romans 16:1
); possibly she is the bearer of the Epistle.
(5) Gains is the Apostle’s host (Romans 16:23
), and we hear also of a Gaius at Corinth, evidently in close personal relation to St. Paul, since he was one of the few baptized by him (1 Corinthians 1:14
(6) We hear of Erastus, chamberlain of the city (Romans 16:23
); in 2 Timothy 4:20
we read that an Erastus was left at Corinth, which may thus have been his home.
Some of these indications are slight; (3) cannot be pressed, and the force of the references to Gaius and Erastus is weakened by the frequency of the names. But the first two cross-correspondences are very strong, and the data fit in so exactly with what we knew of St. Paul’s movements at this period that the commonly accepted placing of the Epistle might be regarded as indisputable, if it were not that it rests upon an assumption which may be questioned, as taking for granted its integrity. The indications come from the last two chapters; did these form part of the original Epistle? In particular, even if ch. 15 is accepted, can we safely use ch. 16?
2. Integrity.-There are here two distinct, though possibly related, problems to be considered: (a) the original destination of ch. 16, (b) the existence of a short recension of the Epistle.
(a) Was ch. 16 originally addressed to Rome?-We are at once struck by the fact that though St. Paul has never visited Rome, and in the body of the Epistle betrays no detailed acquaintance with local conditions, yet according to Romans 1:7
he seems to have a large number of friends there. Indeed the list of persons greeted is longer than in any other Epistle, and personal details are mentioned freely in a way which suggests a considerable knowledge of the work of the church. It is therefore widely held that Romans 16:1-23
(the concluding doxology offers a separate problem which will be considered under (b)) would be more in place if addressed to some church where St. Paul had made a long stay. Ephesus best satisfies the conditions at this period, and indeed two features point to it directly.
(1) In. Romans 16:5
b we find a greeting to Epaenetus, who is called ‘the firstfruits of Asia.’
Of course he may have moved to Rome, and St. Paul may be commending him to his new home, but the words are more naturally explained as addressed to the church of which Epaenetus is the oldest member; and in ‘Asia’ St. Paul first preached at Ephesus.
(2) Of greater significance is the reference to Prisca and Aquila (‘Salute Prisca and Aquila … and the church in their house,’ Romans 16:3
f.). We learn from Acts that they had come from Rome to Corinth, where they had met St. Paul; thence they accompanied him to Ephesus (Acts 18) and remained there. In 1 Corinthians 16:19,
written from that city shortly before the date usually assigned to Romans, they are there still, and St. Paul sends a greeting from them and from the church in their house; similarly in 2 Timothy 4:19
he sends greetings to them, again at Ephesus. Hence Ephesus evidently became their home. It is of course possible that at the time when Romans was written they might have returned temporarily to Rome to settle their business affairs; their expulsion perhaps left them but little time to put them in order; but the strange thing is that when they were in Rome only for a short visit their house should there, as well as at Ephesus, be the meeting-place of the local church.
These facts, then, suggest that the verses are really a fragment of a letter addressed to Ephesus. It may be added that the sudden outburst in 2 Timothy 4:17
ff. is certainly surprising if meant for Rome; it is severe and emphatic in tone, and suggests that St. Paul is speaking of an existing danger, not of something which may happen, and yet the body of the Epistle gives no hint of the presence there of false teachers of this type (see 4).
On the other side the attempt is made to rebut these arguments by considerations derived from inscriptions and from archaeological evidence.
It is pointed out that most of the names in this chapter can be paralleled from inscriptions found in Rome; it is not suggested that these refer to the actual people mentioned by St. Paul, but that ‘such a combination of names-Greek, Jewish, and Latin-could as a matter of fact be found only in the mixed population which formed the lower and middle clasps of Rome’ (Sanday-Headlam, p. xciv). We have, however, to allow for the fact that the corpus of Roman inscriptions has been greater than those of other places. As inscriptions, e.g. from Asia Minor, are studied and catalogued, more and more of the names of this chapter are found in them too, so that the argument is somewhat precarious.
Again, much stress cannot be laid on the attempts to trace on antiquarian grounds evidence of an early connexion of Prisca and Aquila with Rome. It is possible that the households of Aristobulus and Narcissus (Romans 16:10-11
) may refer to the slaves of the Imperial household inherited from Aristobulus, the grandson of Herod the Great, and to those of the Narcissus who was executed by Agrippina, but again the names are common, and, as Lake points out, we should expect οἱ Ναρκισσιανοί instead of οἱ Ναρκίσσου, words ending in -ani being usually transliterated. The most that can be said is that while these expressions suit Rome, they do not positively demand it.
Our conclusion may be that, though it is not impossible that this section may be an integral part of the Epistle, it is more probable that it was addressed to a church St. Paul had visited, and that the indications point to Ephesus. No doubt this conclusion would be more readily accepted if it were possible to give a reasonable explanation of the way in which the chapter came to be attached to this particular Epistle; a suggestion will be made when we come to deal with the next problem. Meanwhile it need only be added that those who regard the verses as misplaced often see in them a letter,
or part of a letter, commending Phoebe (see Romans 16:1
). to Ephesus (Renan, etc.). Gifford
and others suggest that it may have been written to Rome after St. Paul’s first imprisonment there; this would explain the large circle of acquaintances (but not the references to Aquila and Prisca, or Epaenetus), and it might easily become attached to the earlier letter. It should be clearly understood that very few critics question the Pauline authorship of the chapter; the doubt is whether it is in its right place.
(b) The short recension.-This problem is not a little complicated, and its study requires some knowledge of the principles of NT criticism. It will be best to state the facts before proceeding to discuss the solutions which have been offered.
(1) Evidence that a recension of the Epistle existed which omitted chs. 15, 16.-It should be understood that no extantmanuscript omits these chs.; the evidence is indirect. (α) In the breves or chapter-headings
of the Codex Amiatinus of the Vulgate (a system found in many other Manuscripts ) the 50th ‘chapter’ clearly describes Romans 14:15-23,
and the 51st, and last, the doxology (Romans 16:25-27
), the remainder of 15 and 16 being omitted. In the same way the breves of Codex Fuldensis point to a similar text, without the doxology, while the concordance, or harmony, of the Pauline Epistles found in the Codex Morbacensis unmistakably implies the use of the Amiatine breves based on the short recension.
(β) Neither Cyprian, Tertullian, nor Irenaeus quotes from the last two chs.;
‘the argument from silence,’ often so dangerous, is here significant. (i.) We should expect Cyprian in his Testimonia to use Romans 16:17
under the headings which refer to the duty of avoiding heretics; (ii.) Tertullian (adv. Marc. Romans 16:14
) quotes Romans 14:10
as occurring in clausula, i.e. in the closing section, of the Epistle, while he does not use against Marcion any of the obvious passages from 15-16, or accuse him of having cut them out of the Epistle.
(γ) Origen does in fact say that Marcion ‘removed’ (abstulit) the final doxology and ‘cut away’ (dissecuit)
the last two chapters. This agrees with the evidence from Tertullian just quoted, though, as we have said, he does not accuse Marcion of tampering with the text; their copies apparently agreed.
(δ) In the group of Manuscripts DEFG, which seem to come from a common ancestor, it is argued that the text of the last two chs. is so different from that of the rest of the Epistle that somewhere in the line of transmission there must have come amanuscript containing only 1-14, which was supplemented from some other source for chs. 15-16. It is probable that this archetype also omitted the doxology.
(2) The position of the final doxology.-It should be carefully noted that there is no break in thought between chs. 14 and 15 (our present chapter divisions are late and do not always correspond to breaks in the sense), and the chs. as they stand offer a reasonably connected sequence of thought, except for the fact that there seem to be several distinct endings- Romans 15:33, Romans 16:20
; Romans 16:25-27
. But when we come to examine the textual phenomena the case is even more complicated. In some Manuscripts and Fathers (Chrysostom, Theodoret, etc.), representing the Antiochene text, the last three verses, which it will be convenient to refer to as ‘the doxology,’ are found at the close of ch. 14; Origen also knew of codices in which this was the case. A few authorities, including A, have it both there and at the end. FGg and a few other authorities omit the doxology altogether, as we know was the case with Marcion. The variation in the position of ‘the Grace’ (Romans 16:20
), which is inserted in some Manuscripts after Romans 16:23
and in Textus Receptus by a natural conflation in both places, is additional evidence of the existence of copies which did not end with the doxology.
It will be understood that the evidence for the doxology after Romans 14:23
is also evidence for the existence of a short recension, since the doxology cannot have stood originally between Romans 14:23
and Romans 15:1
making a complete break in the sense. Its position there can only imply that the Epistle ended, or was supposed to end, at that point.
(3) Omission of the address to Rome.-There is evidence that the text used by Origen and Ambrosiaster omitted ἐν Ῥώμῃ (‘in Rome’) in Romans 1:7
; Romans 1:15,
and rend ἐν ἀγάπῃ (‘in love’), which is actually the reading of G.
3 It should be remarked that these authorities coincide with part of the evidence for the short recension, a point which may or may not be significant.
We have, then, these three textual phenomena-the existence of a short recension of the Epistle; the displacement, or omission, of the doxology; and the omission of the words ‘in Rome’-together with the doubt attaching to the original destination of Romans 16:23,
though it is not yet clear how far they are all connected. The primary problem is to explain the short recension and the displacement of the doxology, which do undoubtedly stand in close relation to one another. Any solution must account for the fact, to which attention has already been called, of the close connexion of thought between Romans 14:23
and Romans 15:1
. How then did the Epistle come to be truncated at this point, and the doxology to be inserted there? This consideration seems fatal to views such as those which regard chs. 15-16 as altogether unauthentic (Baur), or as belonging to a different recension of the Epistle made by St. Paul himself (Renan, Lightfoot, Lake). It is very difficult to believe that it ever ended with Romans 14:23,
with or without the doxology.
The most popular explanation, therefore, is that adopted tentatively by Sanday-Headlam, following Gifford. They suppose the short recension, with the consequent confusion of text, to be due to Marcion. They point out truly enough that the opening verses of ch. 15 contradict his teaching entirely, and that he could not possibly have admitted them. He therefore cut them out, as Origen apparently says, and it is supposed that this influenced later orthodox practice. ‘When in adapting the text for the purposes of church use it was thought advisable to omit the last portions as too personal and not sufficiently edifying, it was natural to make the division at a place where in a current edition the break had already been made.’
The doxology was afterwards replaced at the end of ch. 14, while Marcion is also supposed to be responsible for the omission of the words ‘in Rome,’ which he struck out as an unimportant local allusion.
The theory has, however, been criticized by Lake.
3 It implies that Marcion had a greater influence than is altogether probable on the formation of the canon of the Pauline Epistles and on the text of the NT; von Soden’s estimate of the extent of this influence has not been generally accepted. Further, Tertullian seems to have used the short recension, and his corpus was independent of Marcion’s; this fact and the widespread nature of the evidence for the omission of the last two chs. suggest that catholic collections of the Epistles, containing only the short recension, existed before Marcion. The charge that he cut the chs. out may only mean that they did not in fact stand in the copies he used.
As to his supposed responsibility for the omission of the reference to Rome, Lake points out that it is clear from the recently discovered Marcionite prologues that he did in fact describe the Epistle as ‘to the Romans’ in the usual way.
To these criticisms we may add others which are no less damaging. What evidence is there of any serious manipulation of the Epistles in order to fit them for ecclesiastical use? There is, e.g., no trace of the omission of 1 Corinthians 16, which is equally local and personal. And if this was done in the case of Romans, how came the doxology to be re-inserted? It cam have come only from amanuscript which had the complete ending, and in that case surely Romans 15:1-13,
which is in every way suited for public reading, would have been restored at the same time.
Lake himself has a fresh theory. He suggests that the original Epistle consisted of chs. 1-14, with or without the doxology, and without the mention of Rome; this was sent as a circular letter, dealing with the Judaistic propaganda, to churches St. Paul had never visited, and belongs to the same period as Galatians. The latter Lake regards as the earliest of the Pauline Epistles, written before the Council of Acts 15. Later on St. Paul sent a copy of the letter to Rome, adding ch. 15, and ch. 16, if it really belongs to the Epistle. It is obvious to compare the relation of Ephesians, also regarded as a circular letter, to Colossians, written at the same time and closely resembling it. The theory has the advantage of accounting for the partial identity of the witnesses for the omission of the last two chs. and of the reference to Rome, and it is also attractive to those who, like the present writer, agree that Galatians is the earliest Pauline Epistle, since it accounts for the similarity of style and language between it and Romans, but it still seems to fail at the crucial point. It does not explain the break after Romans 14:23,
since it is very difficult to believe that the Epistle ever ended there, whether with or without the doxology, which Lake indeed is inclined to regard as unauthentic. The close is too abrupt, and Romans 15:1-13
does not read as an afterthought. Further, ch. 1, even without the reference to Rome, gives the impression of being addressed to a particular church; it is more definite in tone than Ephesians.
The present writer is inclined to suggest a fresh theory, based on a hint given by Lake himself. He calls attention to the fact that in the Muratorian Canon Romans stood last of the Epistles to the Churches, and that it was also last in Tertullian’s, Cyprian’s, and Origen’s collections. We may remark that, being the longest and most important of the Epistles, it might equally well stand first, as in our own canon, or last, as in these, there being no attempt at chronological order in either. There is also good ground for regarding the doxology as not genuine. Its length and its position at the close of the Epistle are without parallel in the letters of St. Paul, and the language is to some extent un-Pauline (see Moffatt, p. 135). No doubt this would not be sufficient to justify our rejecting it if there were no other grounds for suspicion. But the fact of a passage being found in different places in our Manuscripts always suggests the possibility that it is a later addition (cf. the ‘Pericope’ in John 7:53
ff.), so the internal and the external lines of evidence here confirm one another. As Lake points out, it is a habit of scribes to add doxologies at the close of books or collections of books (cf. the doxology at the end of each book of the Pss.); this doxology may therefore have been inserted to mark the close of the Pauline corpus. We may, however, go further, and find here the key to the whole problem. (1) The Epistle may have originally ended with Romans 15:33
; the short prayer is quite in keeping with St. Paul’s practice. (2) The last page of themanuscript or roll was lost, leaving only chs. 1-14 (cf. the lost ending of Mk.). (3) To this, standing at the end of a collection of Pauline letters, the doxology was added. (4) The lost conclusion was then, copied in from some other source, and ch. 16, a genuine fragment, of the Pauline correspondence, was also added as a sort of postscript to the corpus. (5) It was realized that the doxology was out of place, and it was transferred to the end, whether regarded by now as an integral part of the Epistle or not. If the process seems complicated, it will be seen that each step, with the exception of (1) and the first part of (4), is in fact represented by some part of our evidence; the variations are themselves so many that any theory which is to account for them must be somewhat complex. It may be added that the theory can in fact be presented in a simpler form if we regard ch. 16 as an integral part of the Epistle. We need only suppose, then, that the last two chs. were lost, the doxology added after ch. 14, and then transferred to the end of ch. 16 when the missing chs. had been replaced.
It is true that this hypothesis offers no explanation of the omission of the words ‘in Rome.’ But, as we have seen, the attempts of Sanday-Headlam and Lake to bring them into connexion with the short recension are not very successful; it only remains, therefore, to regard this as a primitive textual error, or perhaps as a deliberate omission made in order to ‘catholicize’ the Epistle.
Since the discussion of these textual phenomena has been of necessity somewhat long, it may be well to point out their bearing on the general view of the date and destination of the Epistle. Roughly speaking, they leave it unchanged on any theory which regards ch. 15 as genuine, whether belonging to a first or to a second edition. Rome remains as the destination, and the closing period of the third missionary journey as the date. The rejection of ch. 16 only removes the reference to Corinth as the place of writing. It must, however, be remembered that if Lake’s view that the Epistle was not originally intended for Rome be accepted, the reference of the details of the Epistle to the circumstances of the Roman Church will fall to the ground.
3. Authenticity.-The Pauline authorship of the Epistle is practically undisputed, except by the Dutch School. But since their views have found no foothold even among the most advanced critics, it does not seem necessary to discuss them here. The curious English reader may find them stated by W. C. von Manen in Encyclopaedia Biblica , s.v. ‘Romans (Epistle),’ with a refutation in the same Encyclopaedia by P. W. Schmiedel, s.v. ‘Galatians’; see also R. J. Knowling, Witness of the Epistles, London, 1892, p. 133 ff., Testimony of St. Paul to Christ, do., 1905, p. 34 ff., and Lake, Earlier Epistles of St. Paul, p. 421 ff. The external evidence for Romans is in fact peculiarly strong. It begins with 1 Peter, and perhaps with Hebrews and James (see 9), and clear traces, though without definite quotation, are found in Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr (see full quotations and references in Sanday-Headlam, p. lxxix ff.; Moffatt, p. 148). Marcion (circa, about a.d. 140) is the first to mention the Epistle by name; from the time of Irenaeus onwards we have numerous direct quotations. In the Muratorian Canon it stands the last of the seven Epistles to the Churches.
4. Purpose of the Epistle.-It seems obvious at first sight to look for the object of the Epistle in circumstances connected with the Roman Church. Most of St. Paul’s letters are in fact pieces d’occasion, called forth by special difficulties or dangers arising in churches in which he is interested; the Epistles to Galatia and Corinth are the outstanding examples. Accordingly, attempts have been made (Baur, etc.) to reconstruct from hints afforded by the Epistle the conditions of the Christian community in Rome, and the relations existing between its Jewish and Gentile elements; the ‘strong’ and the ‘weak’ of chs. 14, 15 are identified with parties supposed to have arisen there; and from these features so discovered the main purpose of the Epistle is deduced. It will not be denied that this method is justifiable in certain cases, but it is questionable whether it gives us the right point of view from which to approach this particular Epistle. For Romans is distinguished from the other Epistles just named by two important feature