The Glossary of Terms

Romans 1-15 & Romans 16

Romans chapter 16



Romans chapters 1-15



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

Letter of Paul to the Romans. The longest and generally regarded as the most important of Paul’s extant Letters.


The Original Letter: There is manuscript evidence for three versions of Paul’s Letter to the Romans: a long, a short, and a middle-sized version. Most scholars agree that an abbreviated edition (chaps. 1-14 plus the benediction, 16:25-27) was not the original letter. Those who argue that it is unlikely that our present, long version (chaps. 1-16) went to Rome usually cite the following four reasons: First, Paul probably did not know twenty-six believers in Rome whom he could greet by name (16:3-15). Second, Paul elsewhere greets no addressee by name in the letter closing. Third, since Paul had not yet been to Rome, the greetings presume that twenty-six of Paul’s co-workers and Christian friends recently with him in the east have migrated to Rome, and such a mass movement to Rome in that time seems improbable. Finally, the erroneous doctrine and false teachers Paul attacks in 16:17-19 sound more like those in the eastern churches (e.g., 2 Cor. 11:13; Phil. 3:18-19) than those mentioned in Romans; nowhere else in this Letter does Paul so rigorously attack his opponents. Thus, it is argued, the middle-sized version (chaps. 1-15 plus the benediction) remains as Paul’s most likely letter to Rome. On that basis, chap. 16 was an appendix to the original (perhaps originally intended for Ephesus) and tells us nothing about the situation in Rome. On the other hand, no ancient manuscript copy of Romans exists without chap. 16; hence its exclusion from Paul’s original letter to Rome remains speculation.

The Founding of the Roman Church: The founder of the Roman church is unknown. Gal. 2:7 appears to rule out Peter, and Paul had neither established nor visited the church, although when he wrote he hoped to visit it soon. While the precise date of the founding of the Roman church is also uncertain, a congregation apparently existed in Rome before a.d. 49 when the Emperor Claudius banned Jews, including Jewish Christians, from Rome for internal squabbling (see Acts 18:2).

Date: The presence of Jewish Christians in the Roman church (7:1) suggests that Paul wrote the Letter after 54 when Nero lifted Claudius’ ban. Paul’s prolonged exchange with the Corinthian church probably began in 51 when Gallio was proconsul (Acts 18:12), but when he wrote Romans he had left Corinth for the last time. In the intervening period came (according to Acts) an eighteen-month stay in Corinth and a prolonged period in Ephesus, from which Paul wrote four letters to Corinth and made two additional visits. The time required for this prolonged exchange suggests a date between 55 and 58 for the writing of Romans.

Purpose: Scholars disagree over why Paul wrote Romans. Did Paul, realizing he was near the end of his career, write Romans as a summary of his mature thought? With his mission in the east complete (15:19), did he write seeking support for his projected Spanish mission (15:24, 28)? Uncertain of his reception in Rome and still smarting from charges brought to Corinth and Galatia, did he write to defend himself and his gospel? With the lifting of the ban of Claudius and the return of Jewish Christians to Rome, had tensions arisen between Jewish and Gentile Christians requiring Paul’s mediation (14:1-15:13)? Each of these positions has its advocates. Paul probably wrote for many reasons, however. Although the controversies in Galatia and Corinth did influence Romans, this Letter is no systematic summary of Paul’s theology given elsewhere. Romans is clearly distinct from Paul’s other Letters: it has the structure of a letter, conveys the warmth of personal correspondence, addresses real concerns of the Roman church, and deals with uncertainties about the apostle’s imminent visit.

Content: Into the unusually short, stereotyped greeting (1:1-7), Paul crams the tradition undergirding his gospel and supporting his apostleship. Appealing to tradition, the apostle authenticates his apostleship and legitimates his gospel, thus countering the charge of being a dangerous innovator.

The thanksgiving (1:8-15) underscores the importance of Paul’s commission to Gentiles. He intends to visit the Roman church to reap some harvest there as among ‘the rest of the Gentiles’ (1:13). He announces his obligation to ‘Greeks and barbarians’ (1:14). The summary of his gospel (1:16-17) speaks of God’s power to ‘everyone,’ Jew and now Greek.

From 1:18 forward, Paul explains his Gentile gospel and defends it against challengers. He argues that Jews and Gentiles have historically failed to honor the Creator or do his will and thus need God’s grace (3:23). Nevertheless, Paul’s gospel of grace appears to some as a pernicious provocation. If it erases every distinction between Jews and Gentiles, why be a Jew (3:1)? If human sin elicits divine favor, why not sin with abandon to multiply God’s grace (3:8)? Before dealing with these objections (6:1-11:36), Paul treats related concerns. Recalling how God counted Abraham righteous on account of his faith (Gen. 15:6) rather than by circumcision (Gen. 17:10), Paul argues that Gentiles may now become children of Abraham by faith. Through faith in Christ they are counted righteous (chap. 4) and receive access to and reconciliation with God (5:1-11).

For those who question how Jesus’ act of obedience can benefit others, Paul recalls a familiar example (5:12-19). Because of his disobedience, Adam was exiled from Eden to a life marked by toil and want, fratricide and fear, pain and death. Ever since, through repeated acts of disobedience (not by biological inheritance!), humankind has shared in Adam’s frustration and futility. The first Adam and the last (i.e., Jesus) correspond in the way the action of each influences the destiny of all. They differ in the result they effect. Through the first Adam, ‘many were made sinners’ (5:19); through the last Adam came ‘acquittal’ for all. Paul contends that those understanding humankind’s solidarity with the first Adam should comprehend how Christ can unite all peoples.

In 6:1-7:6, Paul answers the charges (see 3:8) that his gospel of grace encourages sinning. The behavior of believers in Corinth, where some took salvation to mean all things were lawful (1 Cor. 10:23; see Rom. 14:14), gave the charge substance. Drawing on three examples (baptism, slavery, and marriage), Paul refutes the charge. In baptism, the believer symbolically dies to sin and becomes alive to God. How, Paul wonders, can one making this transition continue living in sin’s bondage (6:1-14)? In 6:15-23, Paul asks how those redeemed from slavery to sin for service in Christ can still behave like slaves of the old master. In 7:1-6, he notes how the death of a husband frees his wife to remarry. Similarly, believers who have died to the law belong to Christ. How, therefore, can they act as if they were still in the prior marriage? Through these examples, Paul means to correct the mistaken impression that his gospel encourages libertinism.

While Paul’s last example solved one problem, it raised another. Any pious Jew would bristle at Paul’s suggestion that the law, God’s gift to Israel, inflicted bondage. If the law is evil, then questions arise: is God so sinister as to give malevolent gifts? Is the law indeed evil? Paul immediately retorts, ‘Absolutely not!’ (7:7, author’s translation). Later, Paul adds, ‘The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good’ (7:12). The defect is not in the law but in the human heart. Corrupted by sin, the heart twists the law, a good thing, into an ugly distortion. While the law forbids one to ‘covet’ (7:7), all persons crave most what is explicitly forbidden. The flaw is not in the law or its Giver but in the person. (Note: Sin, not flesh is the offender. When Paul says, ‘nothing good dwells…in my flesh,’ 7:18, he does not mean that flesh as such is evil, but flesh taken over by sin. Flesh can be corrupted by sin, but it is not itself inherently corrupting.)

Paul’s ‘I’ language in 7:7-25 is autobiographical only in a general sense. Paul speaks here not as a guilt-ridden Pharisee, anxious over his failure to keep the law. Instead, he tells the universal story of the corruption of the good law by the power of sin.

In chap. 8, the new age breaks into view. The law of the Spirit, Paul affirms, sets believers free from ‘the principle [law] of sin and death’ (8:2, author’s translation). Paul knows God’s words to Jeremiah, ‘I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts’ (Jer. 31:33). Through Christ, the law of the Spirit has been inscribed on the heart, eliminating resistance to God. Thus, Paul argues, the charge that his gospel repudiates the law is false. In the light of God’s final Day, Paul does not reject the law but revalues it.

Chaps. 9-11 answer urgent questions raised by Jewish objections to Paul’s Gentile mission: God promised to be Israel’s God and to make Israel his people. In offering the gospel to the Gentiles, has God rescinded this promise? Paul’s reply—that God has always chosen to bless some over others (e.g., Jacob over Esau) and is, therefore, free to turn away from Israel to the Gentiles—raises another objection: is God fair to choose the rejected (Gentiles) and reject the chosen (Jews; 9:14)? If God chooses Gentiles, how can Jews be condemned for rejecting the gospel (9:19)? If Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness now achieve it by faith, and Jews who did seek righteousness are denied salvation, can God be just? Paul’s reply is that God is free to turn to Gentiles but has not forsaken Israel. In the future, God will join Jews with Gentiles in one community (11:25-32). Fearing Gentile arrogance over their salvation, Paul warns, ‘if God did not spare the natural branches [Jews], neither will he spare you [Gentiles]’ (11:21; cf. 11:13-24).

Sensitive to the charge that his gospel encourages immorality, Paul earlier argued that moral license and Christian freedom are incompatible (6:1-7:6). Chaps. 12-15 give instances of the work of the gospel in everyday life. First, concerning insiders, Paul exhorts all with charismatic gifts—prophecy, teaching, administration, and benevolence—to use the charisms for the church’s nurture (12:3-13). Toward outsiders, Paul encourages love: bless the persecutors, care for the lowly, eschew revenge, and feed the hungry (12:14-21). Christian love also dictates respect for ‘governing authorities’ and payment of Roman taxes (13:1-7). The state serves God, Paul argues, when it preserves order (13:3-4) and provides an arena for witness until the end (13:12). Moreover, God’s care for and claim on the world allow no Christian to abandon it. While Paul offers no advice for occasions when loyalty to God conflicts with loyalty to the state, it is nevertheless mistaken to base a blind allegiance to the state on Romans 13. Paul’s opening argument against idolatry (1:21-22) would preclude such deification of the state.

In 14:1-15:13, Paul encourages church factions to ‘welcome one another…as Christ has welcomed you’ (15:7). The identity of the quarreling weak and strong is disputed. Yet in view of the return of Jewish Christians to Rome in a.d. 54, the reference to Jewish and Gentile Christians in 15:8-9, to purity laws in 14:14, 20, and to both Jewish and Gentile Christians elsewhere in the Letter, the bickering may have been between conscientious Jewish Christians and ‘liberated’ Gentile believers. Yet there were no Jewish regulations that forbade all meat (14:2) or the consumption of wine (14:21). Whatever the issue in dispute may have been, however, Paul gently pushes both factions toward reconciliation.

In the Letter closing, Paul shares his travel plans. His eastern mission complete (15:19, 23), he intends to deliver the offering to Jerusalem (15:25-28), then travel via Rome to Spain. Questions flood his mind: will the Roman church endorse his gospel? Will it support his mission to Spain as did the Macedonian church his work in Greece (2 Cor. 11:9)? Will the ‘unbelievers in Judea’ frustrate his plans (15:31)? Will his offering ‘be acceptable to the saints’ (15:31)? The Acts of the Apostles (21:17-28:31) gives substance to Paul’s premonition of failure. While Paul tells us nothing more, Acts reports that once in Jerusalem, Paul was arrested and charged with speaking against the Temple, the law, and Judaism. His appeal to Caesar eventually took him to Rome, and there, tradition holds, he died a martyr’s death.

Romans chapter 16


Was Romans 16 written to the Romans or

to the Ephesians, as a letter of recommendation for Phoebe?

Helmut Koester's view: The entire 16th chapter of Romans is very possibly a letter that Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus and is not part of his letter to the church in Rome. According to some scholars, Paul's letter to the Romans is contained in its entirety in what is now Romans chapter 1 through chapter 15. Dr. Helmut Koester said [1]:

T.W. Manson's view: In Peake's Commentary on the Bible (edited by Matthew Black and H.H. Rowley, New York: Nelson, 1962, page 952), T.W. Manson titled chapter 16 of Romans simply as "The Note to Ephesus." Manson went on to say, "This chapter was added by Paul to a copy of Rom. which he sent to Ephesus."

F.F Bruce's view: Elsewhere in Peake's Commentary, even the usually very conservative biblical scholar F.F. Bruce comments:

C.K Barrett's's view: A contrary view was articulated by C.K. Barrett (The Epistle to the Romans, New York: Harper & Row, 1957, pages 281-283). Barrett wrote:


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