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Introduction to Romans

Romans – Intro, Righteousness and Justification

My new year’s resolution is to get back to posting on here. The folder of things I would like to put on BibleNest is getting pretty thick, but my time is getting thin. I’ve decided to start with posting my notes from the college class on Romans. These were requested about two months ago, but I am just now carving out time to get this done.

Authenticity:

“The genuineness of the Epistle has never been seriously questioned by competent critics familiar with the first century history.”
–Zondervan’s Pictorial Bible Dictionary

Romans is heavily quoted in the earliest works of Christian writers. The earliest full copy of the “Epistles of Paul” is P46, which is 104 pages, of which 86 pages are extant with thirty at the University of Michigan and 56 in Ireland. CSNTM has a very nice history of this document and a quick summary of the date assessment. It is most likely late 2nd or early 3rd century and is the earliest witness of such length.

Image of a page of P46, an early manuscript of the Pauline Epistles.

 

The Author

The author is, of course, the Holy Spirit, through Paul. I would like to take a moment to talk about the dichotomy of Paul and how he was uniquely suited to the task of writing Romans.

Paul’s Jewishness

“No nation was ever more bitterly hated than the Jews…No nation ever hated other nations as the Jews did.” -William Barclay

Christianity was for all mankind, yet, to the outside world it was considered a Jewish invention. In the eyes of the Jews it was perverted Judaism. Paul occupied a unique position in the fact that he was a devout Jew.

From 2 Corinthians 11:22 we see that Paul was not a Jew of the Dispersion, who had forgotten their native tongue, but instead still was able to speak and write in Hebrew.

From the same passage we see that he was an Israelite, that is he was stating his racial purity in the seed of Abraham. More than that, hew as a Benjamite, like King Saul (2 Samuel 9:1) and therefore was part of one of the two tribes who had stayed true to Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:21), the only patriarch who had been born in the land of promise, and the one who held the post of honor in battle (Judges 5:12; Hosea 5:8) “After thee, O Benjamin…” In Paul we find one true to his heritage, and still charging first into battle.

Further, he was of the sect of the Pharisees or “separated ones,” who were the strict followers of the Law.

In zeal, Paul persecuted the early church. We find him looking on in approval at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1).

Paul loved his fellow Jews so much that he wished he could sacrifice himself if they might be saved (Romans 9:3).

No one could claim that Paul had abandoned Judaism because he did not understand what it stood for. Paul was the ideal candidate to understand Christianity in light of its Jewish background.

Paul’s Gentileness

At the same time, we see another side of Paul, and one that many Jews would not have liked to embrace. He also has a very Greek or Gentile side. He was the apostle chosen to go before the Gentiles (Acts 13:47; Acts 18:6; Acts 22:21; Acts 26:17, 23; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 3:1, 8).

He fights Peter on Jewish racism. (Galatians 2:11-14)

He was a Roman citizen of Tarsus (“no mean city”) Acts 21:39; 22:3.

This was a very cosmopolitan city. Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, and Mark Antony all spent time there. It was a center of trade by both land and sea. It was especially famous for tent making of goats’ hair felt.

Coin of Tarsus

It was also a university town, famous for philosophers. In fact, they did not have to import scholars, but instead men went from Tarsus to fill positions at other towns.

Under Rome, it was considered “civitas libera” a free, self-governing city.

Paul’s Roman citizenship was unique among Jews. (Acts 16:37-39; 22:24-30; 25:9-12), and he was a free born citizen of the Roman Empire. Unlike many other Jews, Paul pointed out the need to respect the authority, including the Roman authority to the church in Rome (Romans 13:1-7).

Place and Date

Paul writes from Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem, while he waits for the weather to clear (or season to change in Acts 20:3).

Some have put this date as early as 56 or 57, however I believe the stronger case is for 58 AD. (Dec . 57 – Feb 58).
Take a look at my Harmony of the Life of Paul for more details of how this fits in with Paul’s life.

It is his 6th epistle, but the last of the second grouping of his epistles, but placed first in the NT of his epistles. This seems to be because of the importance of the letter, and of the church in Rome which was the capital city of the world at that time, and due to its length.

We find that the Roman church is a good church (Romans 1:8) but one not founded by Paul. It was likely founded by Jewish Christians and former proselytes who had been in Jerusalem in Acts 2:10.

Purpose

Paul longed to visit them (1:11; 15:23) and wants help from them to go from Rome into Spain. He must go to Jerusalem first. He knows this will delay his coming to Rome, and he does not know, at this point, if he will survive the visit to Jerusalem. He therefore wants to leave a written record to them of what he gladly would have delivered in person.

So we see a man balanced between the world of the Gentiles and the world of the Jews who is about to travel back to Jerusalem  while at the same time longing to drive into additional territory for Christ.

Paul had a self-sacrificing devotion to righteousness that led him to do what was right regardless of the cost in labor or suffering.

Paul was a remarkable man. Peter calls Paul’s writings scripture, and gives a warning that “in which are some things hard to be understood.” The warning that Peter gives, which can be said of many scriptures is that “they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” 2 Peter 3:16

The great theme of the book of Romans can be summed up in the word RIGHTEOUSNESS.