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Romans 1-15 & Romans 16
|Romans chapter 16|
Harper’s Bible Dictionary
edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)
You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition, edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms, http://www.borders.com, or http://www.christianbook.com.
Letter of Paul to the Romans. The longest and generally regarded as the most important of Paul’s extant Letters.
OUTLINE OF CONTENTS
I. Introduction (1:1-17)
A. Salutation (1:1-7)
B. Thanksgiving (1:8-15)
C. Summary of Paul’s gospel (1:16-17)
II. Wrath now revealed on all (1:18-3:20)
A. Gentiles under the power of sin (1:18-32)
B. Jews under the power of sin (2:1-29)
C. Objection (3:1-8)
D. Judgment on both Jews and Greeks (3:9-20)
III. Righteousness now revealed to all (3:21-4:25)
A. Righteousness by faith to all, Jews and Gentiles (3:21-31)
B. Scripture proof: Abraham made righteous by faith (4:1-25)
IV. The life of righteousness by faith (5:1-8:39)
A. God’s righteousness through Jesus Christ (5:1-11)
B. The way Jesus mediates God’s righteousness (5:12-21)
1. Sin and death through first Adam (5:12-14)
2. Acquittal, life, and grace through Christ (5:15-21)
C. Replies to objections that grace fosters immorality (6:1-8:39)
1. If grace overcomes sin, why not sin more to receive more grace? (6:1-7:6)
a. Response: can the baptized behave in the ways of the old life? (6:1-14)
b. Response: can a freed slave still serve an old master? (6:15-23)
c. Response: can a widow who remarries return to her deceased husband? (7:1-6)
2. Objection: if a believer is liberated from the law, is the law therefore sinful? (7:7) Response: a heart corrupted by sin, not the law, is sinful (7:7-25)
3. The believer is not lawless but walks by the Spirit in love (8:1-39)
V. Objection: why be a Jew? and Paul’s answer (9:1-11:36)
A. To Israel belong special privileges (9:1-5)
B. Israel’s rejection, even if final, is not a failure on God’s part (9:6-13)
C. God’s selection of Gentiles, even if arbitrary, is not unjust (9:14-29)
D. God’s selection is not arbitrary: everyone, Jew or Gentile, who turns to God will be saved (9:30-10:21)
E. The Jewish rejection is not final (11:1-32)
1. A remnant has accepted the gospel (11:1-6)
2. God uses the rejection of Jews (11:7-24)
3. All Israel will be saved (11:25-32)
F. Doxology of praise to God (11:33-36)
VI. God’s righteousness in the daily life of the believer (12:1-15:13)
A. Introduction (12:1-2)
B. Response to insiders (12:3-13)
C. Response to outsiders (12:14-13:17)
1. Persecutors (12:14-21)
2. Governing authorities and state (13:1-7)
D. Response to all: love (13:8-10)
E. Urgency imposed by the approaching end (13:11-14)
F. Weak and strong in Rome (14:1-15:13)
VII. Paul’s travel plans (15:14-29)
VIII. Conclusion (15:30-33)
IX. Appendix: recommendation, greetings, warning against false teachers (16:1-23) X. Letter closing (16:25-27)
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.
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 :
...I'll say a few things about the Epistle to the Romans. First of all, I think there are two letters. Romans 16 was not sent to Rome. Romans 16 has a long list of several dozen names of people that Paul knows. He didn't know several dozen people in Rome. Moreover we know that these people are connected with Ephesus.
Prisca and Aquila were in Corinth, and they came over to Ephesus when Paul started his mission there as his assistants. That Prisca and Aquila had meanwhile moved to Rome is not quite believable, because they were apparently still in Ephesus a few months earlier, when Paul left there. So were many others…
Romans 16 is a letter of recommendation, the earliest letter of recommendation for a Christian minister, and it's written for a woman, Phoebe, who is, in the beginning of the chapter, said to have been a deacon, not a deaconess -- but a deacon in the sense of a preacher, a minister, because Paul uses the same word for himself. He calls himself, in a number of instances, a deacon of the new covenant in 2 Corinthians.
It's the male form not even the female form that is used in Greek here. The other word that is used for Phoebe is a Greek word "prostatis." Now if you go into the general dictionary of Greek, it will say "prostatis" has two meanings: "1. president, and 2. patron." Now an Old and New Testament dictionary which is no longer in print said "prostatis" means "1. president, 2. patron, 3. helper," in parenthesis, "(only in Romans 16:1)." And that's the translation that has existed for a long time. I think it has now disappeared from The New Revised Standard Version.
So, Paul writes this as a recommendation for Phoebe who is probably the president of the Christian community in Cenchreae and a deacon that is a preacher -- not a helper and a deaconess. (That's the old translation.)
And this letter has one other very interesting information about women, namely it contains greetings to Junia and Andronicus, who both have been "well-respected apostles before me." Now Junia is a woman. I showed you the inscription for Junia for the woman.1 And there's an old debate that this should read, "Junias," which is a male name, with an "s" at the end, and that's because it was unthinkable that a woman was an apostle.
Now early in this century a very famous German scholar, Hans Lietzmann, who was a superb philologian, made an investigation into all surviving names of antiquity and came to the conclusion that the name Junias did not exist -- that the name Junianus existed and that the name Junias is possible as a short form for the name Junianus, but there was no evidence that it was ever used. So he says philologically you cannot bring evidence that this was a man Junias rather than a woman Junia, but he says that since it's not thinkable that a woman was an apostle, we have to read the male name Junias. And later commentaries say we have to read the male name Junias, because Hans Lietzmann has brought the philological evidence. Well,... he has done the evidence. He has done the opposite! So, no question -- scholars agree today that indeed Romans 16 contains reference to a female apostle named Junia, whom Paul recognized as an apostle before him.
The other two dozen names are not girlfriends and boyfriends of Paul, but they are, of course, collaborators, and Paul writes this letter to Ephesus as a sort of final greeting to the Ephesian community, with also greetings among others from Erastus, the city treasurer, of which I showed you the slide of the pavement that he made.  That is Romans 16. Romans 1 through 15 is also a letter of recommendation, but a letter of recommendation for himself, because he now goes to the community that does not know him…
 The above quote includes excerpts from Dr. Helmut Koester's September 13, 1997 address entitled, "St. Paul: His Mission to the Greek Cities & His Competitors," which he delivered at The Foundation for Biblical Research, Charlestown, NH, USA. This excerpt was transcribed by Robert Nguyen Cramer from an audio recording and used here by permission of The Foundation for Biblical Research, by whom all rights and copyrights are reserved. For the complete excerpt, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/women01.htm.)
 Erastus, the city treasurer, is one of the very few Christians mentioned in the New Testament of whom there is verifiable archeological evidence of their place and time. Dr. Koester showed a slide of a Erastus' pavement, which described him as the city treasurer. At that time and place, engraved pavements were used for the same purpose that signs on the window, the door, the awning, or elsewhere on the front of today's stores and buisinesses. This is literally concrete proof that Romans 16 was written to the Christians in Ephesus.
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:
There is some textual evidence that Rom. circulated in two shorter recensions than that which we know... The existence of a recension which omitted ch. 16 points in the same direction. Whether the greetings of ch. 16 were sent to Rome or Ephesus, they would have been sent originally to one church only. In either case the words 'All the churches of Christ greet you' (16:16) would be especially appropriate at the time when Paul was about to sail for Judaea, and had been joined by the delegates who were to carry their churches' gifts to Jerusalem.
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:
The view has often been maintained (on grounds partly textual) that xvi. 1-23 was not addressed to the church of Rome. It is said (a) that Paul is unlikely to have known so many members of the Roman church, which he had never visited; and (b) that some of the names mentioned point rather to Ephesus (which Paul knew well) than to Rome. Neither these nor the textual arguments are convincing. (a) In writing to a strange church Paul might very naturally include as many personal greetings as he could in order to establish as close contact as possible. (b) The possibility of movement on the part of members of the Pauline churches must be reckoned with. See below on Prisca and Aquilla; for the migration from Asia Monor to Tusculum of a household of 500 persons (including slaves), who form a 'house-church' of initiates of Dionsus, see Lietzmann pp. 120 f. (c) Arguments based upon names are worth little in view of the fact that men of all races met in Rome. Literary and other evidence for the occurence of the names in this chapter will be found in LIetzmann and Michel....
[Prisca and Acquilla] had been expelled from Rome..., made their way to Corinth, and thence to Ephesus. There is no reason why they should not have returned to Rome, especially if Romans was written after the death of Claudius (13 October 54). That 'all the churches' had reason to be grateful to them confirms that they had numerous contacts over a wide area. How, or on what occasion, they risked their lives on Paul's account, is completely unknown to us.]
Robert Nguyen Cramer comment: Barrett's commentary regarding Romans 16 was written prior to the discovery in Ephesus of ancient pavement that describes Erastus as the city treasurer, just as Paul had noted in his letter (Romans 16:23). Helmut Koester references that discovery in his comments above.
Edited for BibleTexts.com by Robert Nguyen Cramer