Daniel 8 25 speaks about Paul

Romans

Overview: rough outline of Rom

Because of its content, the Romans are generally regarded as the most important epistle of Paul. It has also become of central importance through its history of impact. For example, Martin Luther learned from Rom. 1.16f. received very substantial theological impulses.

The drafting situation

The Romans occupy a certain special position among the Pauline letters, since they are addressed to a congregation that the apostle did not found himself. Paul is at a crucial turning point in his mission. He regards his activity in the east of the Roman Empire as ended. He still has the task of bringing to Jerusalem the collections that the congregations in Macedonia and Achaia have collected for "the poor among the saints in Jerusalem". He then plans to continue his mission in the west of the Roman Empire, in Spain. On the way there he wants to visit Rome and hopes for the support of the Roman community for his project (15: 22-29).

So the letter was written by Paul to introduce himself and his gospel to the unknown church. This concern explains the extreme restraint that Paul shows towards the addressees (cf. 1.12; 15.14f.) And the length of the argument. The apostle seems to reckon with the possibility that the Roman Christians already had some knowledge of his theology. He evidently fears that this could have led to misunderstandings. Under this prerequisite, the express discussion of Jewish (or Jewish-Christian) counter-arguments is understandable (cf. 3.1-8; 9-11, etc.). Paul wants any possible misunderstandings cleared up before he arrives in Rome.

The addressees

We know nothing for sure about the beginnings of the Christian community in Rome. Only later legends lead the foundation back to Peter. But that would be a circumstance that Paul would certainly have mentioned in a letter that arose in the situation just described. Christianity may have come to the capital of the Roman Empire via the usual trade routes. The Christian mission in Rome was able to use a large Jewish diaspora as a base. It is likely that it initially gained a foothold in several synagogue communities or their surroundings. It seems that there were disputes that Emperor Klaudius used at the end of the 1940s to take action against the Jews (Suetonius, Claudius 25.4; cf. Acts 18.2). These events led to the fact that the process of detachment of young Christianity from Judaism in Rome accelerated (The Neronian persecution of Christians in the year 64 presupposed that the authorities knew the Christian communities as independent entities.).

In Romans, Paul assumes that the majority of the church in Rome consists of Gentile Christians, because he can address them as such (1: 5, 13-15; 11: 13, 17-32). At the same time, however, a Jewish Christian minority must also be expected, since otherwise the conflict dealt with in 14.1-15.13 would hardly be understandable. Judging from the list of greetings in 16: 3-15, some Jewish Christians have headed house churches in Rome.

The greeting list just mentioned explicitly names 5 house churches in Rome (16.5.10.11.14.15). There were probably more than that. Women played an active role.

Completion time and place

Paul probably dictated the Romans in Corinth in the house of Gaius in the spring of 56. It was probably brought on by Phoeba, the deaconess of the church in Kenchreä (16: 1).

The structure of the Rom, later additions

Overview: rough breakdown of Rom

Apart from the letter frame, the Rom consists of two large parts. In the first part, Paul unfolds his theology of justification (1.18-8.39) with its consequences for the question of God's justice in relation to the chosen people of Israel (chap. 9-11). In the 2nd part, Paul first wrote to the Romans general rules for church life (chap. 12f.). Then he turns to a specific problem in the Roman church (14.1-15.13).

The oldest handwritten tradition of the Romans suggests that the original letter ending is no longer preserved.

The final hymn 16: 25-27 was certainly added later. His formulations assign him to the Pauline School. He has probably suppressed the final wish for a blessing that Paul had certainly placed at the end of the letter. Some of the manuscripts attempt to remedy this deficiency by adding 16.24.

Most researchers consider 7.25b to be a gloss that was added later, as the legal service was not mentioned before.

Polemics 16: 17-20 are also suspected of being added later. It does not fit in with the rest of the Roman style and partly speaks a non-Pauline language.

There was heated debate among exegetes as to whether 16: 1-16 was an original part of Romans. Some researchers said that Paul could hardly have greeted so many people in a church he did not know. They therefore suspected in this section the fragment of an originally independent letter to the Ephesians. However, since the section can be meaningfully understood in the context of Romans as a kind of confidence-building measure - Paul knows so many people in Rome who are important for the Christian communities - this assumption is not compelling.

Traditions used by Paul

Paul uses several (mostly Jewish-Christian) traditions in Rom. A confessional tradition can be found in 1,3b-4a, while baptismal traditions are taken up in 3,25,26a and 6,3f.

Literary character

In terms of form, the Roman can best be described as an instructive letter, which at the same time solicits approval for the teaching presented (protreptikos logos).

Beginning of letter

Overview: Rom 1,1-17

Paul adds a detailed description of the gospel to which he was chosen to preach. The gospel applies to all Gentiles, including the Roman Christians. Already in the thanksgiving, Paul emphasizes his long-cherished wish to visit the congregation. The self-recommendation by letter takes up this topic. Paul wanted "everything to preach the Gospel in Rome too" (1:15). At the end the apostle formulates the theme of Romans (1.16f.). The gospel is a power of God for everyone who believes, and in it the righteousness of God is manifested from faith to faith.

The universality of sin

Overview: Rom 1.18-3.20

People have turned away from their Creator. Therefore no one can judge the other, because God judges people according to their deeds. The righteous judgment of God affects everyone, first the Jews, but also the Greeks (1.18-2.11). The Gentiles do not have the law, but they can keep the law by nature. If they don't, they will be judged like those who have the law. The Jews have the law, but they don't (2: 12-29).

In 3: 1-8, Paul names possible objections to his conclusions and briefly rejects them. He takes up two objections again later: Does the unfaithfulness of the Jews nullify God's faithfulness to his chosen people? (Chapters 9-11) and: Shall we do evil so that God's righteousness may be all the greater? (Chapter 6-8). First, however, using an extensive mixed quotation, he emphatically states that all, Jews and Greeks, are under the rule of sin (3: 9-20). So no one becomes righteous before God by the works of the law (3:20).

The universality of salvation

Overview: Rom 3:21-5,21

God turned to people in Christ's death on the cross by grace. In this he has proven himself righteous and speaks righteously to people who live by faith in Jesus Christ. This means that man is justified by faith, not by works of the law (3,28).

Abraham as the progenitor of the Jews is the biblical example of justification by faith (4.1-25). He believed the God who justifies the wicked (4,5). The decisive reference point in Gen 15.6 is "credited" with Ps 32.1f. combined. Abraham received circumcision only to seal the righteousness of faith. He is thus the father of all believers, the circumcised and the uncircumcised (4.11f.). This is underlined by the reference to Gen 17: 5.

Through Christ, believers have peace with God (5: 1-11). Since in his death on the cross the love of God was shown to be beyond measure, they can live in God's judgment in the hope of salvation. You experience this love in the gift of the Holy Spirit (5.5).

The grace that God has shown people in the cross of Jesus Christ is for all people. Just as sin came into the world through Adam (as the progenitor of mankind), grace came to rule through Jesus Christ (5: 12-21).

The new existence of Christians

Overview: Rom 6,1-8,39

In 6.1, Paul resumes the objection to his theology, which he had only thrown off in 3.8: "Does that mean that we should hold on to sin so that grace may become more powerful?" First of all, he refers to baptism, which gives the baptized a share in the fate of Jesus Christ on the cross and resurrection. In baptism the bodily turning away from sin takes place, i.e. the old person dies. In this way the believer gains freedom from sin to a life for God in Jesus Christ. From 6.15 onwards, Paul describes the same radical upheaval in the life of Christians with the image of the change of rule. Christians are no longer under the rule of law but under grace. However, this does not mean freedom to sin, but rather the call to the service of righteousness (6: 1-23)!

The freedom from the law is underlined again in 7.1-6 with the help of an image from marriage law. But since sin and law seem to be on the negative side, there is a danger that the law of God will be viewed as sin. Paul, on the other hand, emphasizes that the law brings about knowledge of sin, but has been perverted by sin. Sin appears, as it were, as a demonic power that takes hold of the holy law (7: 7-13).

Under their rule, the "I" gets caught in a deadly cycle of guilt. Sin is always ahead of the realization of the will to good and brings the "I" to death by means of the Torah (7: 14-24). From this desperate contradiction, God saved through Jesus Christ. Christians are no longer ruled by sin (the "flesh") but by the Spirit. By being guided by the Spirit of God, they gain life. In this spirit they are children of God (8.1-17).

Christian existence is an existence based on hope (8: 18-39). All creation is subject to impermanence and hopes with Christians for the revelation of future glory. For Christians, the Spirit intercedes as an intercessor. God gave his own Son for all - that is the basis of the hope and confidence of believers (8:32). Therefore, at the end of the day, Paul can express his confidence in almost hymnic words.

Righteousness of God and Israel

Overview: Rom 9: 1-11, 36

From 9.1 onwards Paul takes up the second major objection to his theology: What about God's promises to Israel if the Jews have no advantage over the Gentiles in terms of salvation?

The introduction 9: 1-5 shows that Paul is intensely driven by this question. In the following argument, he often works with quotations from scripts. First of all, Paul vigorously refuses to accept the idea that God's word could have become obsolete. The promise remains, of course, but does not apply to all of Abraham's descendants, because God, as Creator, is free to choose. Moreover, it is already evident from the Scriptures that only a remnant of Israel will be saved (9: 6-29).

Israel strived for the law of righteousness, but failed the law because it sought righteousness on the basis of works (9: 32f.). But Christ is the end of the law (10,4), so there is righteousness only from belief in him. That goes for Jews as well as Greeks. But "not all" Jews obeyed the gospel (9.30-10.21).

This necessarily leads to the question of whether God has cast out his people (11: 1). Paul also vigorously rejects this thought. Now he uses the talk of the rest of Israel positively. The Jewish Christians are proof that God did not reject his people. But the others are hardened so that they may be made jealous by the faith of the Gentiles (11: 11f.). The Gentile Christians were grafted onto the olive tree of the chosen people. Therefore, they have no reason to be arrogant. God could break out of the Gentile Christians at any time. He can also lead Israel to believe. So at the end of the train of thought stands the realization that the way in which God will fulfill his promises against Israel is in his hands alone (11: 1-36).

Reminders about community life

Overview: Rom 12.1-15.13

12.1f. leads, within the Pauline argumentation, from the more doctrinal first part of the letter to general parenesis (12.1-13.14).

With the image of the body and the members, Paul exhorts the various gifts of grace to be shared equally. Church members should live love both among themselves and externally. Paul extends the last aspect to a consideration of the relationship to the Roman authorities - Christians should not provoke conflicts. The basic commandment is the commandment to love one's neighbor. Whoever fulfills this also fulfills the law. An apocalyptic warning closes the general part.

Paul then turns to a specific problem in the Roman church (14.1-15.13). The "weak" do without meat (14.2), wine (14.21) and pay attention to certain days (14.5). The "strong", however, consider these rules superfluous.

Paul sees the nature of the Christian community affected by this conflict. Although he takes a clear position of his own in the dispute over the food commandments (14.14), he sees the real danger in the internal division of the community through mutual judgments and despises. This ultimately calls into question God's work of salvation in Jesus Christ. That is why the center of the last line of argument is the famous sentence: "Therefore accept one another, as Christ also accepted us, for the glory of God." (15.7)

Closing letter

Overview: Rom 15,14-16,27

After the admonitions, Paul first explains why he mixed himself so relatively specifically into the community life of the Romans (15: 14-16). Then he briefly looks back at his previous missionary work and names his further plans (15: 17-29). The intercession of the Roman community is requested because Paul fears his opponents in Judea and is not entirely sure how the collection will be received in Jerusalem (15: 30-33).

In the postscript he recommends Phoebe, the deaconess of the parish of Kenchreä. A long list of greetings, in which Paul often expressly mentions the merits of the individual greeted for the congregations or the mission and his person, follows (16: 3-16). The sudden harsh polemic against false teachers (16: 17-20) seems out of place here (see above). This is followed by the greetings of the collaborators of Paul and the letter writer.

A hymn to God and the gospel now concludes the letter.

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Electronic Bible Studies

The texts on this page are taken from:

New Testament

Bull, Klaus-Michael: Bible study of the New Testament. The Canonical Scriptures and the Apostolic Fathers. Overviews - topic chapters - glossary, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 8th edition. 2018.