What does Romans Epistle To The mean in the Bible?

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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Romans, Epistle to the
ROMANS, EPISTLE TO THE
1. Time, occasion, and character . The letter to the Romans belongs to the central group which includes also Galatians, and the two letters to the Corinthians of St. Paul’s Epistles. Marcion’s order Gal., Cor., Rom. Is not unlikely to be the order of writing. A comparison of the data to be found in the letter, with statements in Acts, suggests that Rom. was written from Corinth at the close of the so-called third missionary journey ( i.e. the period of missionary activity described in Acts 18:23-28 ). After the riots in Ephesus ( Acts 19:23-40 ) St. Paul spent three months in Greece ( Acts 20:3 ), whither Timothy had preceded him. He was thus carrying out a previous plan somewhat sooner than he had originally intended. Acts 19:21-22 informs us that the Apostle wished to make a tour through Macedonia and Achaia, and afterwards, having first visited Jerusalem once more, to turn his steps towards Rome. From the letter itself we learn that he was staying with Gains ( Acts 16:23 ), who is probably to be identified with the Gains of 1 Corinthians 1:14 . At the time of writing, Paul and Timothy are together, for the latter’s name appears in the salutation ( 1 Corinthians 16:21 ). Sosipater, whose name also appears there, may he identified with the Sopater mentioned in Acts 20:4 . Phœbe, the bearer of the letter, belongs to Cenchreæ, one of the ports of Corinth. The allusions in the letter all point to the stay in Corinth implied in Acts 20:1-38 . Above all, the letter itself, apart from such important passages as Acts 1:10-11 and Acts 15:22 ; Acts 15:30 , is ample evidence of St. Paul’s plans to visit Rome, the plans mentioned in Acts 19:21-22 . It is then more than probable that the letter was written from Corinth during the three months’ stay in Greece recorded in Acts 20:3 .
A comparison of Romans 15:22 ; Romans 15:30 with Acts 19:21-22 brings out one of the most striking of Paley’s ‘undesigned coincidences.’ The parallel references to Jewish plots in Romans 15:31 and Acts 20:3 are also noteworthy. It should, however, be mentioned that if on critical grounds ch. 16 has to be detached from the original letter, and regarded as part of a lost letter to the Ephesians, much of the evidence for the place and date of Romans is destroyed, though the remaining indications suffice to establish the position laid down above.
The date to which the letter is to be assigned depends on the chronology of St. Paul’s life as a whole. Mr. Turner (Hastings’ DB [1] , s.v. ‘Chronology of NT’) suggests a.d. 55 56. But for further treatment of this subject, readers must consult the general articles on Chronology of NT and Paul.
The immediate occasion for the letter is clearly the prospective visit to Rome. St. Paul is preparing the way for his coming. This explains why he writes to the Romans at all; it does not explain why he writes the particular letter we now possess. A shorter letter would have been sufficient introduction to his future hosts. How are we to account for the lengthy discussion of the central theme of the gospel which forms the larger part of the letter? Some suspect a controversial purpose. The Church at Rome contained both Jews and Gentiles; through Priscilla and Aquila and others St. Paul must have known the situation in Rome; he could, and doubtless did, accommodate his message to the condition of the Church. The objections he discusses may be difficulties that have arisen in the minds of his readers. But the style of the letter is not controversial. St. Paul warns the Romans against false teachers, as against a possible rather than an actual danger ( Acts 16:17-20 ). Similarly, the discussion of the reciprocal duties of strong and weak (ch. 14) is marked by a calm conciliatory tone which suggests that the writer is dealing with problems which are probable rather than pressing. In fact, St. Paul seems to be giving his readers the result of his controversial experiences in Corinth and Galatia, not so much because the Church in Rome was placed in a similar situation, as because he wished to enable her members to profit from the mistakes of other Churches. If the letter is not controversial, it is not, on the other hand, a dogmatic treatise. Comprehensive as the letter is, it is incomplete as a compendium of theology. The theory that St. Paul is here putting his leading thoughts into systematic form ‘does not account for the omission of doctrines which we know Paul held and valued his eschatology and his Christology, for instance’ (Garvie). Romans is a true letter, and the selection of topics must have been influenced by the interest of the Church to which he was writing.
But apart from the position of the Roman Christians, and apart from the wish of the Apostle to prepare the way for his visit to them, the form and character of the letter were probably determined by the place Rome held in the Apostle’s mind. St. Paul was proud of his Roman citizenship. He was the first to grasp the significance of the Empire for the growth of the Church. The missionary statesmanship which led him to seize on the great trade-centres like Ephesus and Corinth found its highest expression in his passionate desire to see Rome. Rome fascinated him; he was ambitious to proclaim his gospel there, departing even from his wonted resolve to avoid the scenes of other men’s labours.
It should be noted that the Church at Rome was not an Apostolic foundation. The Christian community came into existence there before either St. Paul or St. Peter visited the city.
He explains his gospel at some length, because it is all-important that the capital of the Empire should understand and appreciate its worth. He is anxious to impart some spiritual gift to the Roman Christians, just because they are in Rome, and therefore, lest Jewish plots thwart his plans, he unfolds to them the essentials of his message. Indeed, his Roman citizenship helped to make St. Paul a great catholic. The influence of the Eternal City may be traced in the doctrine of the Church developed in Ephesians, which was written during the Roman captivity. The very thought of Rome leads St. Paul to reflect on the universality of the gospel, and this is the theme of the letter. He is not ashamed of the gospel or afraid to proclaim it in Rome, because it is as world-wide as the Empire. It corresponds to a universal need: it is the only religion that can speak to the condition of the Roman people. It is true he is not writing for the people at large. His readers consist of a small band of Christians with strong Jewish sympathies, and perhaps even tending towards Jewish exclusiveness. His aim is to open their eyes to the dignity of the position, and to the world-wide significance of the gospel they profess.
Jülicher further points out that Rome was to be to St. Paul the starting-point for a missionary campaign in the West. Consequently the letter is intended to win the sympathy and support of the Roman Church for future work. It is to secure fellow-workers that the Apostle explains so fully the gospel which he is eager to proclaim in Spain and in neighbouring provinces.
2. Argument and content . Romans, like most of the Pauline letters, falls into two sections: doctrinal (chs. 1 11) and practical (chs. 12 16). In the doctrinal section, it is usual to distinguish three main topics: justification (chs. 1 4), sanctification (chs. 5 8), and the rejection of the Jews (chs. 9 11). It is not easy to draw any sharp line between the first two. The following is a brief analysis of the argument:
The salutation is unusually long, extending to seven verses, in which St. Paul emphasizes the fact that he has been set apart for the work of an Apostle to all the Gentiles. Then follows a brief introduction. The Apostle first thanks God for the faith of the Roman Christians, and then expresses his earnest desire to visit them and to preach the gospel in Rome. For he is confident and here he states is central theme that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all men, if they will only believe (Romans 1:1-17 ).
Salvation for all through the gospel that is the thought to be developed. And first it is necessary to show that such a saving power is a universal need. The evidence for this is only too abundant. Nowhere have men attained God’s righteousness: everywhere are the signs of God’s wrath. The wilful ignorance which denies the Creator has led to the awful punishment of moral decay with which St. Paul had grown sadly familiar in the great cities of the Empire. Indeed, so far has corruption advanced that the consciences of many have been defiled. They not only commit sin without shame; they openly applaud the sinner (Romans 1:18-32 ). Nor can any one who still perceives this failure hold himself excused. The very fact that he recognizes sin as such, condemns him in so far as he commits it. His keener conscience, if it leaves him unrepentant, will evoke the heavier penalty. God will judge all men according to their deeds. Both Jew and Gentile will be judged alike, the conscience in the Gentile corresponding to the Law in the case of the Jew ( Romans 2:1-16 ). This passage is usually referred to the Jews, whose habit of judging and condemning others is rebuked in Matthew 7:1 . It may have a wider application. The remainder of the chapter deals with the Jews. The principle of judgment according to deeds will be applied without distinction of persons. The privileges of the Jew will not excuse him in the eyes of God. Neither the Law nor circumcision will cover transgression. The true Jew must be a Jew inwardly: the actual Jews have by their crimes caused the name of God to be blasphemed. A Gentile who does not know the Law and yet obeys it is better than the Jew who knows and disobeys ( Romans 2:17-23 ). But is not this condemnation a denial of the Jews’ privileges? No, the privileges are real, though the Jews are unworthy of them; and the mercy of God is magnified by their ingratitude. Yet even so, if God’s mercy is brought to the light by their sin, why are they condemned? The full discussion of this difficulty is reserved to chs. 9 11. Here St. Paul only lays down the broad truth that God must judge the world in righteousness, and apparently he further replies to Jewish objectors by a tu quoque argument. Why do they condemn him if, as they say, his lie helps to make the truth clearer? ( Romans 3:1-8 ). St. Paul now returns to his main point, the universality of sin, which he re-states and re-enforces in the language of the OT. The whole world stands guilty in the sight of God, and the Law has but intensified the conviction of sin ( Romans 3:9-20 ).
To meet this utter failure of men, God has revealed in Christ Jesus a new way of righteousness, all-embracing as the need. Here too is no distinction of persons; all have sinned, and salvation for all stands in the free mercy of God, sealed to men in the propitiatory sacrifice of His Son, whereby we know that our past sins are forgiven, and we enter the new life, justified in the sight of God. The righteousness of God is thus assured to men who will receive it in faith. Faith is not defined, but it seems to mean a humble trust in the loving God revealed in Jesus. There can no longer be any question of establishing a claim on God by merit, or of superiority over our fellows. All need grace, and none can be saved except by faith. Jew and Gentile here stand on the same level (Romans 3:21-30 ).
Does not this righteousness through faith make void the Law? St. Paul scarcely answers the general question, but at once goes on to prove that the father of the race, Abraham, was justified by faith, i.e. by humble trust in God, in whose sight he could claim no merit. His trust in God was reckoned unto him for righteousness. His blessedness was the blessedness of the man whose sins are hidden, St. Paul here introducing the only beatitude found in his letters. This blessing came to Abraham before circumcision, on which clearly it did not depend. Similarly, the promise of inheriting the earth was given to him apart from the Law, and the seed to whom the promise descends are the faithful who follow their spiritual ancestor in believing God even against nature, as Abraham and Sarah believed Him. Surely it was for our sakes that the phrase ‘was reckoned unto him for righteousness’ was used in the story of Abraham. It enables us to believe in salvation through our faith in Him who raised Jesus from the dead ( Romans 3:31 to Romans 4:25 ).
At this point opens the second main stage in the doctrinal section of the letter. The fact of justification by faith has been established. It remains to say something of the life which must be built on this foundation. Jesus has brought us into touch with the grace of God. His death is the unfailing proof of God’s love to us sinful men. What can lie before us save progress to perfection? Reconciled to God while yet enemies, for what can we not hope, now that we are His friends? Christ is indeed a second Adam, the creator of a new humanity. His power to save cannot be less than Adam’s power to destroy. Cannot be less? Nay, it must be greater, and in what Jülicher rightly calls a hymn, St. Paul strives to draw out the comparison and the contrast between the first Adam and the Second. Grace must reign till the kingdom of death has become the kingdom of an undying righteousness (Romans 5:1-21 ).
Does this trust in the grace of God mean that we are to continue in sin? Far from it. The very baptismal immersion in which we make profession of our faith symbolizes our dying to sin and our rising with Christ into newness of life. If we have become vitally one with Him, we must share His life of obedience to God. The fact that we are under grace means that sin’s dominion is ended. If we do not strive to live up to this we fail to understand what is involved in the kind of teaching we have accepted. If we are justified by faith, we have been set free from sin that we may serve God, that we may win the fruit of our faith in sanctification, and enjoy the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:1-23 ). The new life likewise brings with it freedom from the Law; it is as complete a break with the past as that which comes to a wife when her husband dies. So we are redeemed from the Law which did but strengthen our passions ( Romans 7:1-6 ). Not that the Law was sin; but as a matter of experience it is through the commandment that sin deceives and destroys men ( Romans 7:7-12 ). Is, then, the holy Law the cause of death? No, but the exceeding sinfulness of sin lies in its bringing men to destruction through the use of that which is good. And then in a passage of intense earnestness and noble self-revelation St. Paul describes his pre-Christian experience. He recalls the torturing consciousness of the hopeless conflict between spirit and flesh, a consciousness which the Law only deepened and could not heal. The weakness of the flesh, sold under sin, brought death to the higher life. But from this law too, the law of sin and of death, Christ has set him free ( Romans 7:13-25 ). For the Christian is not condemned to endure this hopeless struggle. God, in sending His Son, has condemned sin in the flesh. The alien power, sin, is no longer to rule. The reality and the strength of the Spirit of God have come into our lives with Jesus, so that the body is dead, to be revived only at the bidding of the indwelling Spirit ( Romans 8:1-12 ). We are no longer bound to sin. God has put it into our hearts to call Him ‘Abba, Father.’ We are His little ones already. How glorious and how certain is our inheritance! That redemption for which creation groans most surely awaits us, far more than recompensing our present woes; and patience becomes us who have already received the first-fruits of the Spirit. The Spirit of God prays for us in our weakness, and we know that we stand in God’s foreknowledge and calling. All must be well ( Romans 8:12-31 ). And then in a final triumph-song St. Paul asks, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ The victory of the Christian life requires a new word: we are more than conquerors. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord ( Romans 8:31-37 ).
Almost abruptly St. Paul turns to his third main question. The rejection of the Jews, by which the grace of God has come to the Gentile, grieves him to the heart. How is God’s treatment of the Jews to be justified? There was from the first an element of selectiveness in God’s dealings with the race of Abraham. The promise was not the necessary privilege of natural descent. It was to Isaac and not to Ishmael, to Jacob and not to Esau (Romans 9:1-13 ). God’s mercy is inscrutable and arbitrary but it must be just. Whom He wills, He pities: whom He wills, He hardens. If it be said, ‘Then God cannot justly blame men; how can the clay resist the potter?’, St. Paul does not really solve the problem, but he asserts most emphatically that God’s right to choose individuals for salvation cannot be limited by human thought ( Romans 9:14-21 ). The justice of God’s rejection of the Jews cannot be questioned a priori . But what are the facts? The Jews, in seeking to establish their own righteousness, have failed to find the righteousness of God. They have failed, because the coming of Christ puts an end to legal righteousness, a fact to which Moses himself bears testimony. They ought to have realized this, and they cannot be excused on the ground that they have had no preachers. They are responsible for their own rejection: they have heard and known and disobeyed ( Romans 9:30 to Romans 10:21 ). But though God has the right to reject His people, and though the Jews are themselves responsible for, their refusal to accept the gospel, yet St. Paul cannot believe that it is final. Even now a remnant has been saved by grace; and the present rejection of Israel must have been inteoded to save the Gentiles. What larger blessing will not God bestow when He restores His people? The Gentiles must see in the fall of Israel the goodness of God towards themselves, and the possibilities of mercy for the Jews. This is enforced by the illustration of the wild olive and the natural branches ( Romans 11:17-24 ). The Jews are enemies now, in order that God may bless the Gentiles. But they are still beloved, for the sake of the fathers. No, God has not deserted His people. If they are at present under a cloud, it is God’s mercy and not His anger that has willed it so. And the same unsearchable mercy will one day restore them to His favour ( Romans 11:25-36 ).
With the thought of the infinite mercies of God so strikingly evidenced, St. Paul begins his practical exhortation. Self-surrender to God is demanded as man’s service. ‘Thou must love Him who has loved thee so.’ A great humility becomes us, a full recognition of the differing gifts which God bestows on us. A willingness to bear wrong will mark the Christian. He must he merciful, since his confidence is in the mercy of God. The conclusion of ch. 11 underlies the whole of ch. 12. St. Paul goes on to urge his readers to obey the governing powers; to pay to all the debt of love, which alone fulfils the Law; to put off all sloth and vice, since the day is at hand (ch. 13). The duties of strong and weak towards each other will call for brotherly love. We must not surrender the principle of individual responsibility. Each standeth and falleth to the Lord. We have no right to judge, and we must not force our practices on our fellows. On the other hand, we must not push our individual liberty so far as to offend our brothers. Let us give up things we feel to be right, if we cause strife and doubt by asserting our liberty. The strong must bear the infirmities of the weak. Even Christ pleased not Himself. May we find our joy and peace in following Him! (Romans 14:1 to Romans 15:12 ).
St. Paul then concludes by explaining why he was so bold as to write to them at all, and by unfolding his plans and hopes for the future (Romans 15:13-33 ). The last chapter contains a recommendation of Phœbe who brings the letter, and a number of detailed salutations to individual members of the Church, and to some house-churches. A brief warning against teachers who cause division, greetings from St, Paul’s companions, and an elaborate doxology bring the letter to a close (ch. 16).
The theology and leading ideas of the letter cannot be treated here. In a sense, however, the importance of Romans lies rather in its religious power than in its theological ideas. The letter is bound together by St. Paul’s central experience of the mercy of God. In God’s grace he has found the strength which can arrest the decay of a sinful, careless world. In God’s grace he has found also the secret of overcoming for the man who is conscious of the awfulness of sin, and of his own inability to save his life from destruction. The problem of the rejection of the Jews is really raised, not so much by their previous privileges as by God’s present mercy. St. Paul cannot be satisfied till he has grasped the love of God, which he feels must he at the heart of the mystery. The reality and nearness of God’s mercy determine the Christian character and render it possible. It is noteworthy that, though St. Paul seldom refers to the sayings of Jesus, he arrives at the mind of Christ through the gospel of the grace of God. A comparison of the Sermon on the Mount with Romans 12:1-21 ; Romans 13:1-14 ; Romans 14:1-23 makes the antithesis, ‘Jesus or Paul,’ appear ridiculous. Above all, the glowing earnestness with which in chs. 4 8 he seeks to share with the Roman Christians (note the use of ‘we’ throughout that section) the highest and holiest inspirations he has learnt from Christ, reveals a heart in which the love of God is shed abroad. As Deissmann suggests, we do not recognize the special characteristic of St. Paul if we regard him as first and foremost the theologian of primitive Christianity. Romans is the passionate outpouring of one who has come into living touch with his heavenly Father.
3. Some textual points: integrity and genuineness . The omission in manuscript G of the words en Rômç in Romans 1:7 ; Romans 1:15 is an interesting indication of the probability that a shortened edition of Romans, with the local references suppressed, may have been circulated in quite early times. The letter to the Ephesians seems to have been treated in the same way. This shorter edition may have concluded at Romans 14:23 , where the final doxology ( Romans 16:25-27 ) is placed in several MSS (ALP, etc.). But the shifting position of this doxology in our authorities perhaps indicates that it is not part of the original letter at all (see Denney, in the EGT [2] ). But there is further evidence to show that some early editions of the letter omitted chs. 15 and 16. Marcion apparently omitted these chapters. Tertullian, Irenæus, and Cyprian do not quote them. There is also some internal evidence for thinking that ch. 16 at least may be part of a letter to Ephesus. The reference to Epænetus in Romans 16:5 would be more natural in a letter to Ephesus than in a letter to Rome. In view of Acts 18:2 it is difficult to suppose that Aquila and Priscilla had returned from Ephesus to Rome. Moreover, it is not likely that St. Paul would have so many acquaintances in a church he had not visited. On the other hand, none of these considerations affects or explains ch. 15, and the two chapters cannot be separated very easily. Further, Sanday and Headlam have collected an imposing array of evidence to prove the presence at Rome of persons with such names as are mentioned in ch. 16 (‘Romans’ in ICC [3] xxxiv f.). The question must still be regarded as open.
But while there is some probability that ch. 16 is part of a distinct letter, the theories of dismemberment, or rather the proofs of the composite character of Romans advanced by some Dutch scholars, cannot be considered convincing. The views of the late Prof. W. C. van Manen have received perhaps undue attention, owing to the fact that the art. on ‘Romans’ in the EBi [4] is from his pen. His criticism was certainly arbitrary, and his premises frequently inaccurate. Thus he quotes with approval Evanson’s statement that there is no reference in Acts to any project of St. Paul’s to visit Rome a statement made in direct contradiction of Acts 19:21 ( EBi [4] , vol. iv. col. 4137). The year a.d. 120 is regarded as the probable date of Romans, in face of the external evidence of 1 Clement ( ib. col. 4143). The general argument against the genuineness of Romans, which weighs most with van Manen, lies in the fact that ‘it has learned to break with Judaism, and to regard the standpoint of the law as once for all past and done with.’ This is ‘a remarkable forward step, a rich and farreaching reform of the most ancient type of Christianity; now, a man does not become at one and the same moment the adherent of a new religion and its great reformer’ ( ib. col. 4138). Of this disproof of Pauline authorship it is quite sufficient to say with Prof. Schmiedel, ‘Perhaps St. Paul was not an ordinary man.’ Indeed, Prof. Schmiedel’s article on ‘Galatians’ ( ib. vol. ii. col. 1620f.) is a final refutation of the Dutch school represented by van Manen. They have advanced as yet no solid reason for doubting the genuineness of Romans.
H. G. Wood.
Easton's Bible Dictionary - Romans, Epistle to the
This epistle was probably written at Corinth. Phoebe (Romans 16:1 ) of Cenchrea conveyed it to Rome, and Gaius of Corinth entertained the apostle at the time of his writing it (16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14 ), and Erastus was chamberlain of the city, i.e., of Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20 ). The precise time at which it was written is not mentioned in the epistle, but it was obviously written when the apostle was about to "go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints", i.e., at the close of his second visit to Greece, during the winter preceding his last visit to that city (Romans 15:25 ; Compare Acts 19:21 ; 20:2,3,16 ; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 ), early in A.D. 58.
It is highly probable that Christianity was planted in Rome by some of those who had been at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10 ). At this time the Jews were very numerous in Rome, and their synagogues were probably resorted to by Romans also, who in this way became acquainted with the great facts regarding Jesus as these were reported among the Jews. Thus a church composed of both Jews and Gentiles was formed at Rome. Many of the brethren went out to meet Paul on his approach to Rome. There are evidences that Christians were then in Rome in considerable numbers, and had probably more than one place of meeting (Romans 16:14,15 ).
The object of the apostle in writing to this church was to explain to them the great doctrines of the gospel. His epistle was a "word in season." Himself deeply impressed with a sense of the value of the doctrines of salvation, he opens up in a clear and connected form the whole system of the gospel in its relation both to Jew and Gentile. This epistle is peculiar in this, that it is a systematic exposition of the gospel of universal application. The subject is here treated argumentatively, and is a plea for Gentiles addressed to Jews. In the Epistle to the Galatians, the same subject is discussed, but there the apostle pleads his own authority, because the church in Galatia had been founded by him.
After the introduction (1:1-15), the apostle presents in it divers aspects and relations the doctrine of justification by faith ((1:16-11:36)) on the ground of the imputed righteousness of Christ. He shows that salvation is all of grace, and only of grace. This main section of his letter is followed by various practical exhortations ((12:1-15:13),), which are followed by a conclusion containing personal explanations and salutations, which contain the names of twenty-four Christians at Rome, a benediction, and a doxology (Rom (Romans 16 ).
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Romans Epistle to the
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. [1] 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.’ [2] 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. [3] 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. [4] 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, [5] or part of a letter, commending Phoebe (see Romans 16:1). to Ephesus (Renan, etc.). Gifford [6] 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 [7] 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.; [8] ‘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) [9] 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. [10]
(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. [9]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.’ [12] 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. [9]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
Smith's Bible Dictionary - Romans, Epistle to the
The date of this epistle is fixed at the time of the visit recorded in Acts 20:3 during the winter and spring following the apostle's long residence at Ephesus A.D. 58. On this visit he remained in Greece three months.
The place of writing was Corinth.
The occasion which prompted it,,and the circumstances attending its writing, were as follows:--St. Paul had long purposed visiting Rome, and still retained this purpose, wishing also to extend his journey to Spain. Etom. 1:9-13; 15:22-29. For the time, however, he was prevented from carrying out his design, as he was bound for Jerusalem with the alms of the Gentile Christians, and meanwhile he addressed this letter to the Romans, to supply the lack of his personal teaching. Phoebe, a deaconess of the neighboring church of Cenchreae, was on the point of starting for Rome, ch. ( Romans 16:1,2 ) and probably conveyed the letter. The body of the epistle was written at the apostle's dictation by Tertius, ch. (Romans 16:22 ) but perhaps we may infer, from the abruptness of the final doxology, that it was added by the apostle himself.
The origin of the Roman church is involved in obscurity. If it had been founded by St. Peter according to a later tradition, the absence of any allusion to him both in this epistle and in the letters written by St. Paul from Rome would admit of no explanation. It is equally clear that no other apostle was like founder. The statement in the Clementines --that the first tidings of the gospel reached Rome during the lifetime of our Lord is evidently a fiction for the purposes of the romance. On the other hand, it is clear that the foundation of this church dates very far back. It may be that some of these Romans, "both Jews and proselytes," present. On the day of Pentecost ( Acts 2:10 ) carried back the earliest tidings of the new doctrine; or the gospel may have first reached the imperial city through those who were scattered abroad to escape the persecution which followed on the death of Stephen. (Acts 8:4 ; 11:10 ) At first we may suppose that the gospel had preached there in a confused and imperfect form, scarcely more than a phase of Judaism, as in the case of Apollos at Corinth, (Acts 18:25 ) or the disciples at Ephesus. (Acts 19:1-3 ) As time advanced and better-instructed teachers arrived the clouds would gradually clear away, fill at length the presence of the great apostle himself at Rome dispersed the mists of Judaism which still hung about the Roman church.
A question next arises as to the composition of the Roman church at the time when St. Paul wrote. It is more probable that St. Paul addressed a mixed church of Jews and Gentiles, the latter perhaps being the more numerous. These Gentile converts, however, were not for the most part native Romans. Strange as the: paradox appears, nothing is more certain than that the church of Rome was at this time a Greek and not a Latin church. All the literature of the early Roman church was written in the Greek tongue.
The heterogeneous composition of this church explains the general character of the Epistle to the Romans. In an assemblage so various we should expect to find, not the exclusive predominance of a single form of error, but the coincidence of different and opposing forms. It was: therefore the business of the Christian teacher to reconcile the opposing difficulties and to hold out a meeting-point in the gospel. This is exactly what St. Paul does in the Epistle to the Romans.
In describing the purport of this epistle we may start from St. Paul's own words, which, standing at the beginning of the doctrinal portion, may be taken as giving a summary of the contents. ch. ( Romans 1:16,17 ) Accordingly the epistle has been described as comprising "the religious philosophy of the world's history "The atonement of Christ is the centre of religious history. The epistle, from its general character, lends itself more readily to an analysis than is often the case with St. Paul's epistles. While this epistle contains the fullest and most systematic exposition of the apostle's teaching , it is at the same time a very striking expression of his character . Nowhere do his earnest and affectionate nature and his tact and delicacy in handling unwelcome topics appear more strongly than when he is dealing with the rejection of his fellow country men the Jews. Internal evidence is so strongly in favor of the genuineness of the Epistle to the Romans that it has never been seriously questioned.
1910 New Catholic Dictionary - Romans, Epistle to the
Paul wrote this Epistle at Corinth, c.58,before leaving for Jerusalem with the collections he had made for the relief of Christians there. He wished to prepare the way for a visit to the members of the Church in Rome, whom he longed to meet, because they were for the most part Gentiles and he was the Apostle of the Gentiles. Besides, he appreciated the mission of Rome as a center for the propagation of the faith everywhere. In the Epistle he dwells on the justification of mankind through faith in Christ, the sinfulness of the world, the meaning and fruits of justification, why Israel failed to come unto the law of justice, what faith is, and why it is essential, and its fruits, viz:, humility, obedience, unity, and charity. Chapters 12-16 are the most fervent and impressive. It is read in the Divine Office immediately after the Epiphany.

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