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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Romans, Epistle to the.
This is naturally placed first among the epistles in the New Test., both on account of its comparative length and its importance. It claims our interest more than the other didactic epistles of Paul, because it is more systematic, and because it explains especially that truth which subsequently became the principle of the Reformation, viz. righteousness through faith. It has, however, been greatly misunderstood in modern times, as it seems to have been very early ( 2 Peter 3:15-16).
I. Authorship. — Internal evidence is so strongly in favor of the genuineness of the Epistle to the Romans that it has never been seriously questioned. Even the sweeping criticism of Baur did not go beyond condemning the last two chapters as spurious. But while the epistle bears in itself the strongest proofs of its Pauline authorship, the external testimony in its favor is not inconsiderable. The reference to Romans 2:4 in 2 Peter 3:15 is indeed more than doubtful. In the Epistle of James, again (James 2:14), there is an allusion to perversions of Paul's language and doctrine which has several points of contact with the Epistle to the Romans; but this may perhaps be explained by the oral rather than the written teaching of the apostle, as the dates seem to require. It is not the practice of the apostolic fathers to cite the New Test. writers by name, but marked passages from the Romans are found imbedded in the epistles of Clement and Polycarp (Romans 1:29-32 in Clem. Corinthians 35, and Romans 14:10; Romans 14:12, in Polyc. Phil. 6). It seems also to have been directly cited by the elder quoted in Irenaeus (4, 27, 2, "ideo Paulum dixisse;" comp. Romans 11:21; Romans 11:17), and is alluded to by the writer of the Epistle to Diognetus (c. 9; comp. Romans 3:21 fol.; 5:20), and by Justin Martyr (Dial. c. 23; comp. Romans 4:10-11, and in other passages). The title of Melito's treatise On the Hearing of Faith seems to be an allusion to this epistle (see, however, Galatians 3:2-3). It has a place, moreover, in the Muratorian Canon and in the Syriac and Old Latin versions. Nor have we the testimony of orthodox writers alone. The epistle was commonly quoted as an authority by the heretics of the subapostolic age: by the Ophites (Hippol. Adv. Hoer. p. 99; comp. Romans 1:20-26), by Basilides (ibid. p. 238; comp. Romans 8:19; Romans 8:22; Romans 5:13-14), by Valentinus (ibid. p. 195; comp. Romans 8:11), by the Valentinians Heracleon and Ptolemaeus (Westcott, On the Canon, p. 335, 340), and perhaps also by Tatian (Orat. c. 4; comp. Romans 1:20), besides being included in Marcion's Canon. In the latter part of the 2d century the evidence in its favor is still fuller. It is obviously alluded to in the letter of the churches of Vienne and Lyons (Euseb. H.E. 5, 1; comp. Romans 8:18), and by Athenagoras (p. 13; comp. Romans 12:1; p. 37; comp. Romans 1, 24) and Theophilus of Antioch (Ad Autol. p. 79; comp. Romans 2:6 fol.; p. 126; comp. Romans 13:7-8); and is quoted frequently and by name by Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria (see Kirchhofer, Quellen, p. 198, and especially Westcott, On the Canon, passim).
II. Integrity. — This has not been so unanimously admitted as the genuineness. With the exception of Marcion's authorities, indeed, who probably tampered with the manuscripts of the epistles as he did with those of the gospels, and who considered the last two chapters of this epistle spurious, all the manuscripts and versions contain the epistle as we have it: it is in modern times that doubts have been thrown upon the authenticity of the concluding portion. By Heumann the epistle was considered to have originally ended with ch. 11; ch. 12-15 being a distinct production, though likewise addressed to the Romans, and ch. 16 a sort of postscript to the two. Semler (1762) confined his doubts to ch. 15 and 16, the former of which he regarded as a private encyclical for the use of the brethren whom the bearers of the larger epistle should meet on their way to Rome, the latter as a catalogue of persons to be saluted on the same journey. Schulz (1829) supposed that ch. 16 was addressed to the Ephesians from Rome, and Schott that it is made up of fragments from a short epistle written by Paul when at Corinth to an Asiatic Church. Baur has more recently (1836) followed on the same side; but, as usual, on merely internal grounds, and in favor of his peculiar theory of the relation of the parties of Paul and Peter in the apostolic age. These various hypotheses have long passed into oblivion; and by all recent critics of note the last two chapters have been restored to their place as an integral part of the epistle.
With greater semblance of reason has the genuineness of the doxology at the end of the epistle been questioned. Schmidt and Reiche consider it not to be genuine. In this doxology the anacolouthical and unconnected style causes some surprise, and the whole has been deemed to be out of its place (Romans 16:26-27). The arguments against its genuineness on the ground of style, advanced by Reiche, are met and refuted by Fritzsche (Romans vol. 1, p. 35). Such defects of style may easily be explained from the circumstance that the apostle hastened to the conclusion, but would be quite inexplicable in additions of a copyist who had time for calm consideration. The same words occur in different passages of the epistle, and it must be granted that such a fluctuation sometimes indicates an interpolation. In the Codex I, in most of the Codices Minusculi, as well as in Chrysostom, the words occur at the conclusion of ch. 14. In the codices B, C, D, E, and in the Syrian translation, this doxology occurs at the conclusion of ch. 16. In Codex A it occurs in both places; while in Codex D** the words are wanting entirely, and they seem not to fit into either of the two places. If the doxology be put at the conclusion of ch. 14, Paul seems to promise to those Christians weak in faith, of whom he had spoken, a confirmation of their belief. But it seems unfit in this connection to call the Gospel an eternal mystery, and the doxology seems here to interrupt the connection between ch. 14 and 15; and at the conclusion of ch. 16 it seems to be superfluous, since the blessing had been pronounced already in Romans 16:24. We, however, say that this latter circumstance need not have prevented the apostle from allowing his animated feelings to burst forth in a doxology, especially at the conclusion of an epistle which treated amply on the mystery of redemption. We find an analogous instance in Eph. 23:27, where a doxology occurs after the mystery of salvation had been mentioned. We are therefore of opinion that the doxology is rightly placed at the conclusion of ch. 16, and that it was in some codices erroneously transposed to the conclusion of ch. 14, because the copyist considered the blessing in 16:24 to be the real conclusion of the epistle. In confirmation of this remark, we observe that the same codices in which the doxology occurs in ch. 16 either omit the blessing altogether or place it after the doxology. (See § 4:7 below.)
III. Time and Place of Writing. — The date of this epistle is fixed with more absolute certainty and within narrower limits than that of any other of Paul's epistles. The following considerations determine the time of writing. First. Certain names in the salutations point to Corinth as the place from which the letter was sent.
(1.) Phoebe, a deaconess of Cenchreae, one of the port towns of Corinth, is commended to the Romans (Romans 16:1-2).
(2.) Gaius, in whose house Paul was lodged at the time (Romans 16:23), is probably the person mentioned as one of the chief members of the Corinthian Church in 1 Corinthians 1:14, though the name was very common.
(3.) Erastus, here designated "the treasurer of the city" (οἰκονόμος, 1 Corinthians 1:23, A.V. "chamberlain"), is elsewhere mentioned in connection with Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20; see also Acts 19:22).
Secondly. Having thus determined the place of writing to be Corinth, we have no hesitation in fixing upon the visit recorded in Acts 20:3, during the winter and spring following the apostle's long residence at Ephesus, as the occasion on which the epistle was written. For Paul, when he wrote the letter, was on the point of carrying the contributions of Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem (15:25-27), and a comparison with Acts 20:22; Acts 24:17; and also 1 Corinthians 16:4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:1 sq., shows that he was so engaged at this period of his life. (See Paley, Horoe Paulinoe, ch. 2, § 1.) Moreover, in this epistle he declares his intention of visiting the Romans after he has been at Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 15:23-25), and that such was his design at this particular time appears from a casual notice in Acts 19:21.
The epistle, then, was written from Corinth during Paul's third missionary journey, on the occasion of the second of the two visits recorded in the Acts. On this occasion he remained three months in Greece (Acts 20:3). When he left, the sea was already navigable, for he was on the point of sailing for Jerusalem when he was obliged to change his plans. On the other hand, it cannot have been late in the spring, because, after passing through Macedonia and visiting several places on the coast of Asia Minor, he still hoped to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost (Acts 20:16). It was therefore in the winter or early spring of the year that the Epistle to the Romans was written. According to the most probable system of chronology, this would be the winter of A.D. 54-55.
The Epistle to the Romans is thus placed in chronological connection with the epistles to the Galatians and Corinthians, which appear to have been written within the twelve months preceding. The First Epistle to the Corinthians was written before Paul left Ephesus, the Second from Macedonia when he was on his way to Corinth, and the Epistle to the Galatians most probably either in Macedonia or after his arrival at Corinth, i.e. after the epistles to the Corinthians, though the date of the Galatian epistle is not absolutely certain. (See GALATIANS, EPISTLE TO THE). We shall have to notice the relations existing between these contemporaneous epistles hereafter. At present it will be sufficient to say that they present a remarkable resemblance to each other in style and matter — a much greater resemblance than can be traced to any other of Paul's epistles. They are at once the most intense and most varied in feeling and expression — if we may so say, the most Pauline of all Paul's epistles. When Baur excepts these four epistles alone from his sweeping condemnation of the genuineness of all the letters bearing Paul's name (Paulus, der Apostel), this is a mere caricature of sober criticism; but underlying this erroneous exaggeration is the fact that the epistles of this period — Paul's third missionary journey — have a character and an intensity peculiarly their own, corresponding to the circumstances of the apostle's outward and inward life at the time when they were written. For the special characteristics of this group of epistles, see a paper on the Epistle to the Galatians in the Journal of Class. and Sacr. Phil. 3, 289.
IV. Occasion and Object of Writing. — These evidently grew out of the position and character of the persons addressed, and therefore involve a consideration of the Church at Rome and of the apostle's purposes with relation to it.
1. The opinions concerning the general design of this letter differ according to the various suppositions of those who think that the object of the letter was supplied by the occasion, or the supposition that the apostle selected his subject only after an opportunity for writing was offered. In earlier times the latter opinion prevailed, as, for instance, in the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Luther, Melancthon, Calvin. In more recent times the other opinion has generally been advocated, as, for instance, by Hug, Eichhorn, and Flatt. Many writers suppose that the debates mentioned in ch. 14 and 15 called forth this epistle. Hug, therefore, is of opinion that the object of the whole epistle was to set forth the following proposition: Jews and Gentiles have equal claim to the kingdom of God. According to Eichhorn, the Roman Jews, being exasperated against the disciples of Paul, endeavored to demonstrate that Judaism was sufficient for the salvation of mankind; consequently Eichhorn supposes that the polemics of Paul were not directed against Judaizing converts to Christianity, as in the Epistle to the Galatians, but rather against Judaism itself. This opinion is also maintained by De Wette (Einleitung ins Neue Testament, 4th ed. § 138). According to Credner (Einleitung, § 141), the intention of the apostle was to render the Roman congregation favorably disposed before his arrival in the chief metropolis, and he therefore endeavored to show that the evil reports spread concerning himself by zealously Judaizing Christians were erroneous. This opinion is nearly related to that of Baur, who supposes that the real object of this letter is mentioned only in ch. 9-11. According to Baur, the Judaizing zealots were displeased that by the instrumentality of Paul such numbers of Gentiles entered the kingdom of God that the Jews ceased to appear as the Messianic people. Baur supposes that these Judaizers are more especially refuted in ch. 9-11, after it has been shown in the first eight chapters that it was in general incorrect to consider one people better than another, and that all had equal claims to be justified by faith. Against the opinion that the apostle, in writing the Epistle to the Romans, had this particular polemical aim, it has been justly observed by Ruckert (in the 2d ed. of his Commentar), Olshausen, and De Wette that the apostle himself states that his epistle had a general scope. Paul says in the introduction that he had long entertained the wish of visiting the metropolis, in order to confirm the faith of the Church, and to be himself comforted by that faith (Romans 1:12). He adds (Romans 1:16) that he was prevented from preaching in the chief city by external obstacles only. He says that he had written to the Roman Christians in fulfilment of his vocation as apostle to the Gentiles. The journey of Phoebe to Rome seems to have been the external occasion of the epistle. Paul made use of this opportunity by sending the sum and substance of the Christian doctrine in writing, having been prevented from preaching in Rome. Paul had many friends in Rome who communicated with him; consequently he was the more induced to address the Romans, although he manifested some hesitation in doing so (Romans 15:15). These circumstances exercised some influence as well on the form as on the contents of the letter; so that, for instance, its contents differ considerably from the Epistle to the Ephesians, although this also has a general scope.
2. The immediate circumstances under which the epistle was written were these. Paul had long purposed visiting Rome, and still retained this purpose, wishing also to extend his journey to Spain (Romans 1:9-13; Romans 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 Cenchrese, was on the point of starting for Rome (Romans 16:1-2), and probably conveyed the letter. The body of the epistle was written at the apostle's dictation by Tertius (Romans 16:22); but perhaps we may infer from the abruptness of the final doxology that it was added by the apostle himself, more especially as we gather from other epistles that it was his practice to conclude with a few striking words in his own handwriting, to vouch for the authorship of the letter, and frequently also to impress some important truth more strongly on his readers.
3. The Origin of the Roman Church is involved in obscurity (see Mangold, Die Anfange der romischen Gemeinde [Marb. 1866]). If it had been founded by Peter, according to a later tradition, the absence of any allusion to him both in this epistle and in the letters written by Paul from Rome would admit of no explanation. It is equally clear that no other apostle was the founder. In this very epistle, and in close connection with the mention of his proposed visit to Rome, the apostle declares that it was his rule not to build on another man's foundation (Romans 15:20), and we cannot suppose that he violated it in this instance. Again, he speaks of the Romans as especially falling to his share as the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 1:13), with an evident reference to the partition of the field of labor between himself and Peter, mentioned in Galatians 2:7-9. Moreover, when he declares his wish to impart some spiritual gift (χάρισμα ) to them, "that they might be established" (Romans 1:11), this implies that they had not yet been visited by an apostle, and that Paul contemplated supplying the defect, as was done by Peter and John in the analogous case of the churches founded by Philip in Samaria (Acts 8:14-17). (See PETER) (the Apostle).
The statement in the Clementines (Horn. 1, § 6) 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. Paul in this epistle salutes certain believers resident in Rome — Andronicus and Junia (or Junianus?) — adding that they were distinguished among the apostles, and that they were converted to Christ before himself (Romans 16:7), for such seems to be the meaning of the passage, rendered somewhat ambiguous by the position of the relative pronouns. It may be that some of those Romans, "both Jews and proselytes," present on the day of Pentecost (οἱ ἐπιδημοῦντες ῾Ρωμαῖοι, Ι᾿ουδαῖοί τε καὶ προσήλυτοι, 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; Acts 11:19). At all events, a close and constant communication was kept up between the Jewish residents in Rome and their fellow countrymen in Palestine by the exigencies of commerce, in which they became more and more engrossed as their national hopes declined, and by the custom of repairing regularly to their sacred festivals at Jerusalem. Again, the imperial edicts alternately banishing and recalling the Jews (comp. e.g. in the case of Claudius, Josephus, Ant. 19, 5, 3, with Suetonius, Claud. 25) must have kept up a constant ebb and flow of migration between Rome and the East, and the case of Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2; see Paley, Hor. Paul. c. 2, § 2) probably represents a numerous class through whose means the opinions and doctrines promulgated in Palestine might reach the metropolis. At first we may suppose that the Gospel was 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, till at length the appearance of the great apostle himself at Rome dispersed the mists of Judaism which still hung about the Roman Church. Long after Christianity had taken up a position of direct antagonism to Judaism in Rome, heathen statesmen and writers still persisted in confounding the one with the other (see Merivale, Hist. of Rome, 6, 278, etc.).
4. A question next arises as to the composition of the Roman Church at the time when Paul wrote. Did the apostle address a Jewish or a Gentile community, or, if the two elements were combined, was one or other predominant so as to give a character to the whole Church? Either extreme has been vigorously maintained, Baur, for instance, asserting that Paul was writing to Jewish Christians, Olshausen arguing that the Roman Church consisted almost solely of Gentiles. We are naturally led to seek the truth in some intermediate position. Jowett finds a solution of the difficulty in the supposition that the members of the Roman Church, though Gentiles, had passed through a phase of Jewish proselytism. This will explain some of the phenomena of the epistle, but not all. It is more probable that Paul addressed a mixed Church of Jews and Gentiles, the latter perhaps being the more numerous.
There are certainly passages which imply the presence of a large number of Jewish converts to Christianity. The use of the second person in addressing the Jews (ch. 2 and 3) is clearly not assumed merely for argumentative purposes, but applies to a portion at least of those into whose hands the letter would fall. The constant appeals to the authority of "the law" may in many cases be accounted for by the Jewish education of the Gentile believers (so Jowett, 2, 22), but sometimes they seem too direct and positive to admit of this explanation (Romans 3:19; Romans 7:1). In ch. 7 Paul appears to be addressing Jews, as those who, like himself, had once been under the dominion of the law, but had been delivered from it in Christ (see especially Romans 7:4; Romans 7:6). And when in Romans 11:13 he says, "I am speaking to you — the Gentiles," this very limiting expression "the Gentiles" implies that the letter was addressed to not a few to whom the term would not apply. Again, if we analyze the list of names in ch. 16, and assume that this list approximately represents the proportion of Jew and Gentile in the Roman Church (an assumption at least not improbable), we arrive at the same result. It is true that Mary, or rather Mariam (Romans 16:6), is the only strictly Jewish name. But this fact is not worth the stress apparently laid on it by Mr. Jowett (2:27); for Aquila and Priscilla (Romans 16:3) were Jews (Acts 18:2; Acts 18:26), and the Church which met in their house was probably of the same nation. Andronicus and Junia (or Junias? Acts 18:7) are called Paul's kinsmen. The same term is applied to Herodion (Acts 18:11). These persons, then, must have been Jews, whether "kinsmen" is taken in the wider or the more restricted sense. The name Apelles (Acts 18:10), though a heathen name also, was most commonly borne by Jews, as appears from Horace (Sat. 1, 5, 100). If the Aristobulus of Acts 18:10 was one of the princes of the Herodian house, as seems probable, we have also in "the household of Aristobulus" several Jewish converts. Altogether it appears that a very large fraction of the Christian believers mentioned in these salutations were Jews, even supposing that the others, bearing Greek and Latin names, of whom we know nothing, were heathens.
Nor does the existence of a large Jewish element in the Roman Church present any difficulty. The captives carried to Rome by Pompey formed the nucleus of the Jewish population in the metropolis. (See ROME). Since that time they had largely increased. During the reign of Augustus we hear of above 8000 resident Jews attaching themselves to a Jewish embassy which appealed to this emperor (Josephus, Ant. 17, 11, 1). The same emperor gave them a quarter beyond the Tiber, and allowed them the free exercise of their religion (Philo, Leg. ad Catium, p. 568 M.). About the time when Paul wrote, Seneca, speaking of the influence of Judaism, echoes the famous expression of Horace (Ep. 2, 1, 156) respecting the Greeks — "Victi victoribus leges dederunt" (Seneca, in Augustine, De Civ. Dei, 6, 11). The bitter satire of Juvenal and indignant complaints of Tacitus of the spread of the infection through Roman society are well known (Tacitus, Ann. 15, 44; Juvenal, Sat. 14, 96). These converts to Judaism were mostly women. Such proselytes formed at that period the point of coalescence for the conversion of the Gentiles.
Among the converts from Judaism to Christianity there existed in the days of Paul two parties. The congregated apostles had decreed, according to Acts 15 that the converts from paganism were not bound to keep the ritual laws of Moses. There were, however, many converts from Judaism who were disinclined to renounce the authority of the Mosaic law, and appealed erroneously to the authority of James (Galatians 2:9; comp. Acts 21:25); they claimed also the authority of Peter in their favor. Such converts from Judaism, mentioned in the other epistles, who continued to observe the ritual laws of Moses were not prevalent in Rome. Baur, however, supposes that this Ebionitic tendency prevailed at that time in all Christian congregations, Rome not excepted. He thinks that the converts from Judaism were then so numerous that all were compelled to submit to the Judaizing opinions of the majority (comp. Baur, Abhandlung uber Zweck und Veranlassung des Romerbriefs, in the Tubinger Zeitschrift, 1836). However, Neander has also shown that the Judaizing tendency did not prevail in the Roman Church (comp. Neander, Panzung der christlichen Kirche [3d ed.], p. 388). This opinion is confirmed by the circumstance that, according to ch. 16 Paul had many friends at Rome. Baur removes this objection only by declaring ch. 16 to be spurious. He appeals to ch. xiv in order to prove that there were Ebionitic Christians at Rome: it appears, however, that the persons mentioned in ch. 14 were by no means strictly Judaizing zealots, wishing to overrule the Church, but, on the contrary, some scrupulous converts from Judaism, upon whom the others looked down contemptuously. There were, indeed, some disagreements between the Christians in Rome. This is evident from Romans 15:6-9, and Romans 11:17-18, these debates, however, were not of so obstinate a kind as among the Galatians; otherwise the apostle could scarcely have praised the congregation at Rome as he does in ch. Romans 1:8; Romans 1:12, and Romans 15:14. From ch. Romans 16:17-20 we infer that the Judaizers had endeavored to find admittance, but with little success.
On the other hand, situated in the metropolis of the great empire of heathendom, the Roman Church must necessarily have been in great measure a Gentile Church; and the language of the epistle bears out this supposition. It is professedly as the apostle of the Gentiles that Paul writes to the Romans (Romans 1:5). He hopes to have some fruit among them, as he had among the other Gentiles (Romans 1:13). Later on in the epistle he speaks of the Jews in the third person, as if addressing Gentiles: "I could wish that myself were accursed for my brethren, my kinsmen after the flesh, who are Israelites, "etc. (Romans 9:3-4). Again: "my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they might be saved" (Romans 10:1; the right reading is ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν, not ὑπὲρ τοῦ Ι᾿σραήλ, as in the Received Text). Comp. also Romans 11:23; Romans 11:25, and especially Romans 11:30, "For as ye in times past did not believe God,... so did these also (i.e. the Jews) now not believe," etc. In all these passages Paul clearly addresses himself to Gentile readers.
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. It is clearly established that the early Latin versions of the New Test. were made not for the use of Rome, but for the provinces, especially Africa (Westcott, Canon, p. 269). All the literature of the early Roman Church was written in the Greek tongue. The names of the bishops of Rome during the first two centuries are, with but few exceptions, Greek (see Milman, Latin Christianity, 1, 27). In accordance with these facts, we find that a very large proportion of the names in the salutations of this epistle are Greek names; while of the exceptions, Priscilla, Aquila, and Junia (or Junias), were certainly Jews; and the same is true of Rufus, if, as is not improbable, he is the same mentioned in Mark 15:21. Julia was probably a dependent of the imperial household, and derived her name accordingly. The only Roman names remaining are Amplias (i.e. Ampliatus) and Urbanus, of whom nothing is known, but their names are of late growth, and certainly do not point to an old Roman stock. It was therefore from the Greek population of Rome, pure or mixed, that the Gentile portion of the Church was almost entirely drawn. The Greeks formed a very considerable fraction of the whole people of Rome. They were the most busy and adventurous, and also the most intelligent of the middle and lower classes of society. The influence which they were acquiring by their numbers and versatility is a constant theme of reproach in the Roman philosopher and satirist (Juvenal, 3, 60-80; 6, 184; Tacitus, De Orat. 29). They complain that the national character is undermined, that the whole city has become Greek, Speaking the language of international intercourse, and brought by their restless habits into contact with foreign religions, the Greeks had larger opportunities than others of acquainting themselves with the truths of the Gospel; while, at the same time, holding more loosely to traditional beliefs, and with minds naturally more inquiring, they would be more ready to welcome these truths when they came in their way. At all events, for whatever reason, the Gentile converts at Rome were Greeks, not Romans; and it was an unfortunate conjecture on the part of the transcriber of the Syriac Peshito that this letter was written "in the Latin tongue" (רומאית ). Every line in the epistle bespeaks an original.
When we inquire into the probable rank and station of the Roman believers, an analysis of the names in the list of salutations again gives an approximate answer. These names belong for the most part to the middle and lower grades of society. Many of them are found in the columbaria of the freedmen and slaves of the early Roman emperors (see Journal of Class. and Sacr. Phil. 4, 57). It would be too much to assume that they were the same persons; but, at all events, the identity of names points to the same social rank. Among the less wealthy merchants and tradesmen, among the petty officers of the army, among the slaves and freedmen of the imperial palace, whether Jews or Greeks, the Gospel would first find a firm footing. To this last class allusion is made in Philippians 4:22, "they that are of Caesar's household." From these it would gradually work upwards and downwards; but we may be sure that in respect of rank the Church of Rome was no exception to the general rule, that "not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble," were called (1 Corinthians 1:26).
It seems probable, from what has been said above, that the Roman Church at this time was composed of Jews and Gentiles in nearly equal portions. This fact finds expression in the account, whether true or false, which represents Peter and Paul as presiding at the same time over the Church at Rome (Dionys. Cor. ap. Euseb. H.E. 2, 25; Irenaeus, 3, 3). Possibly, also, the discrepancies in the lists of the early bishops of Rome may find a solution (Pearson, Minor Theol. Works, 2, 449; Bunsen, Hippolytus, 1, 44) in the joint episcopate of Linus and Cletus — the one ruling over the Jewish, the other over the Gentile, congregation of the metropolis. If this conjecture be accepted, it is an important testimony to the view here maintained, though we cannot suppose that in Paul's time the two elements of the Roman Church had distinct organizations.
5. 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. The Gospel had here to contend not specially with Judaism, nor specially with heathenism, but with both together. 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 Paul does in the Epistle to the Romans, and what, from the circumstances of the case, he was well enabled to do. He was addressing a large and varied community which had not been founded by himself, and with which he had had no direct intercourse. Again, it does not appear that the letter was specially written to answer any doubts, or settle any controversies, then rife in the Roman Church. There were therefore no disturbing influences, such as arise out of personal relations, or peculiar circumstances, to derange a general and systematic exposition of the nature and working of the Gospel. At the same time, the vast importance of the metropolitan Church, which could not have been overlooked even by an uninspired teacher, naturally pointed it out to the apostle as the fittest body to whom to address such an exposition. Thus the Epistle to the Romans is more of a treatise than of a letter. If we remove the personal allusions in the opening verses, and the salutations at the close, it seems not more particularly addressed to the Church of Rome than to any other Church of Christendom. In this respect it differs widely from the Epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians, with which, as being written about the same time, it may most fairly be compared, and which are full of personal and direct allusions. In one instance alone we seem to trace a special reference to the Church of the metropolis. The injunction of obedience to temporal rulers (Romans 13:1) would most fitly be addressed to a congregation brought face to face with the imperial government, and the more so as Rome had recently been the scene of frequent disturbances, on the part of either Jews or Christians, arising out of a feverish and restless anticipation of the Messiah's coming (Sueton. Claud. 25). Other apparent exceptions admit of a different explanation.
6. This explanation is, in fact, to be sought in its relation to the contemporaneous epistles. The letter to the Romans closes the group of epistles written during the second missionary journey. This group contains, besides, as already mentioned, the letters to the Corinthians and Galatians, written probably within the few months preceding. At Corinth, the capital of Achaia and the stronghold of heathendom, the Gospel would encounter its severest struggle with Gentile vices and prejudices. In Galatia, which, either from natural sympathy or from close contact, seems to have been more exposed to Jewish influence than any other Church within Paul's sphere of labor, it had a sharp contest with Judaism. In the epistles to these two churches we study the attitude of the Gospel towards the Gentile and Jewish world respectively. These letters are direct and special. They are evoked by present emergencies, are directed against actual evils, are full of personal applications. The Epistle to the Romans is the summary of what he had written before, the result of his dealing with the two antagonistic forms of error, the gathering together of the fragmentary teaching in the Corinthian and Galatian letters. What is there immediate, irregular, and of partial application is here arranged and completed and thrown into a general form. Thus, on the one hand, his treatment of the Mosaic law points to the difficulties he encountered in dealing with the Galatian Church; while, on the other, his cautions against antinomian excesses (Romans 6:15, etc.), and his precepts against giving offense in the matter of meats and the observance of days (ch. 14), remind us of the errors which he had to correct in his Corinthian converts (comp. 1 Corinthians 6:12 sq.; 1 Corinthians 8:1 sq.). Those injunctions, then, which seem at first sight special, appear not to be directed against any actual known failings in the Roman Church, but to be suggested by the possibility of those irregularities occurring in Rome which he had already encountered elsewhere.
7. Viewing this epistle, then, rather in the light of a treatise than of a letter, we are enabled to explain certain phenomena in the text above alluded to (§ 2). In the received text a doxology stands at the close of the epistle (Romans 16:25-27). The preponderance of evidence is in favor of this position, but there is respectable authority for placing it at the end of ch. 14. In some texts, again, it is found in both places, while others omit it entirely. The phenomena of the MSS. seem best explained by supposing that the letter was circulated at an early date (whether during the apostle's lifetime or not it is idle to inquire) in two forms, both with and without the two last chapters. In the shorter form it was divested, as far as possible, of its epistolary character by abstracting the personal matter addressed especially to the Romans, the doxology being retained at the close. A still further attempt to strip this epistle of any special references is found in MS. G, which omits ἐν ῾Ρώμῃ (Romans 1:7) and τοῖς ἐν ῾Ρώμῃ (Romans 16:15) for it is to be observed, at the same time, that this MS. omits the doxology entirely, and leaves a space after ch. 14. This view is somewhat confirmed by the parallel case of the opening of the Ephesian epistle, in which there is very high authority for omitting the words ἐν Ε᾿φέσῳ, and which bears strong marks of having been intended for a circular letter.
V. Scope, Contents, and Characteristics. — The elaborate argument and logical order observed in this epistle give it a very systematic character. Nevertheless, the bearing of many of its parts has often been greatly obscured or imperfectly understood, especially under the influence of polemical bias. On this account, as well as because of the great interest always attached to the fundamental doctrines so formally treated in it, we give an unusually full outline of its contents, even at the risk of some repetition.
1. In describing the general purport of this epistle we may start from Paul's own words, which, standing at the beginning of the doctrinal portion, may be taken as giving a summary of the contents: "The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek; for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith" (Romans 1:16-17). Accordingly the epistle has been described as comprising "the religious philosophy of the world's history." The world in its religious aspect is divided into Jew and Gentile. The different positions of the two, as regards their past and present relation to God and their future prospects, are explained. The atonement of Christ is the center of religious history. The doctrine of justification by faith is the key which unlocks the hidden mysteries of the divine dispensation.
It belongs to the characteristic type of Paul's teaching to exhibit the Gospel in its historical relation to the human race. In the Epistle to the Romans, also, we find that peculiar character of Paul's teaching which induced Schelling to call Paul's doctrine a philosophy of the history of man. The real purpose of the human race is in a sublime manner stated by Paul in his speech in Acts 17:26-27; and he shows at the same time how God had, by various historical means, promoted the attainment of his purpose. Paul exhibits the Old Test. dispensation under the form of an institution for the education of the whole human race, which should enable men to terminate their spiritual minority and become truly of age (Galatians 3:24; Galatians 4:1-4). In the Epistle to the Romans, also, the apostle commences by describing the two great divisions of the human race, viz. those who underwent the preparatory spiritual education of the Jews. and those who did not undergo such a preparatory education. We find a similar division indicated by Christ himself (John 10:16), where he speaks of one flock separated by hurdles. The chief aim of all nations, according to Paul, should be the righteousness before the face of God, or absolute realization of the moral law. According to Paul the heathen also have their νόμος, law, as well religious as moral internal revelation (Romans 1:19; Romans 1:32; Romans 2:15). The heathen have, however, not fulfilled that law which they knew, and are in this respect like the Jews, who also disregarded their own law (ch. 2). Both Jews and Gentiles are transgressors, or, by the law, separated from the grace and sonship of God (Romans 2:12; Romans 3:20); consequently, if blessedness could only be obtained by fulfilling the demands of God, no man could be blessed. God, however, has gratuitously given righteousness and blessedness to all who believe in Christ (Romans 2:21-29). The Old Test. also recognizes the value of religious faith (ch. 4). Thus we freely attain to peace and sonship of God presently, and have before us still greater things, viz. the future development of the kingdom of God (Romans 5:1-11). The human race has gained in Christ much more than it lost in Adam (Romans 5:12; Romans 5:21). This doctrine by no means encourages sin (ch. 6); on the contrary, men who are conscious of divine grace fulfill the law much more energetically than they were able to do before having attained to this knowledge, because the law alone is even apt to sharpen the appetite for sin and leads finally to despair (ch. 7); but now we fulfill the law by means of that new spirit which is given unto us, and the full development of our salvation is still before us (Romans 8:1-27). The sufferings of the present time cannot prevent this development, and must rather work for good to those whom God from eternity has viewed as faithful believers; and nothing can separate such believers from the eternal love of God (Romans 8:28-39). It causes pain to behold the Israelites themselves shut out from salvation; but they themselves are the cause of this seclusion, because they wished to attain salvation by their own resources and exertions, by their descent from Abraham, and by their fulfilment of the law. Thus, however, the Jews have not obtained that salvation which God has freely offered under the sole condition of faith in Christ (ch. 9); the Jews have not entered upon the way of faith, therefore the Gentiles were preferred, which was predicted by the prophets. However, the Jewish race, as such, has not been rejected; some of them obtain salvation by a selection made not according to their works, but according to the grace of God. If some of the Jews are left to their own obduracy, even their temporary fall serves the plans of God, viz. the vocation of the Gentiles. After the mass of the Gentiles shall have entered in, the people of Israel, also, in their collective capacity, shall be received into the Church (ch. 11).
2. The following is a more detailed analysis of the epistle:
SALUTATION (Romans 1:1-7). The apostle at the outset strikes the keynote of the epistle in the expressions "called as an apostle, ""called as saints." Divine grace is everything, human merit nothing.
I. PERSONAL explanations. Purposed visit to Rome (Romans 1:5-15).
II. DOCTRINAT, discussion (Romans 1:16; Romans 11:36).
The general proposition. The Gospel is the salvation of Jew and Gentile alike. This salvation comes by faith (Romans 1:16-17).
The rest of this section is taken up in establishing this thesis, and drawing deductions from it, or correcting misapprehensions.
(a.) All alike were under condemnation before the Gospel: The heathen (Romans 1:18-32). The Jew (Romans 2:1-29). Objections to this statement answered (Romans 3:1-8). The position itself established from Scripture (Romans 3:9-20).
(b.) A righteousness (justification) is revealed under the Gospel, which being of faith, not of law, is also universal (Romans 3:21-26).
Boasting is thereby excluded (Romans 3:27-31). Of this justification by faith Abraham is an example (Romans 4:1-25). Thus, then, we are justified in Christ, in whom alone we glory (Romans 5:1-11). This acceptance in Christ is as universal as was the condemnation in Adam (Romans 5:12-19).
(c.) The moral consequences of our deliverance.
The law was given to multiply sin (Romans 5:20-21). When we died to the law, we died to sin (Romans 6:1-14). The abolition of the law, however, is not a signal for moral license (Romans 6:15-23). On the contrary, as the law has passed away, so must sin, for sin and the law are correlative; at the same time, this is no disparagement of the law, but rather a proof of human weakness (Romans 7:1-25). So henceforth in Christ we are free from sin, we have the Spirit, and look forward in hope, triumphing over our present afflictions (Romans 8:1-39).
(d.) The rejection of the Jews is a matter of deep sorrow (Romans 9:1-5).
Yet we must remember
(1.) That the promise was not to the whole people, but only to a select seed (Romans 9:6-13). And the absolute purpose of God in so ordaining is not to be canvassed by man (Romans 9:14-19).
(2.) That the Jews did not seek justification aright, and so missed it. This justification was promised by faith, and is offered to all alike, the preaching to the Gentiles being implied therein. The character and results of the Gospel dispensation are foreshadowed in Scripture (Romans 10:1-21).
(3.) That the rejection of the Jews is not final. This rejection has been the means of gathering in the Gentiles, and through the Gentiles they themselves will ultimately be brought to Christ (Romans 11:1-36).
III. PRACTICAL exhortations (Romans 12:1; Romans 15:13).
(a.) To holiness of life and to charity in general, the duty of obedience to rulers being inculcated by the way (Romans 12:1; Romans 13:14).
(b.) More particularly against giving offense to weaker brethren (Romans 14:1; Romans 15:13).
IV. PERSONAL matters.
(a.) The apostle's motive in writing the letter, and his intention of visiting the Romans (Romans 15:14-33).
(b.) Greetings (Romans 16:1-23).
Conclusion. The letter ends with a benediction and doxology (Romans 16:24-27).
3. 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 countrymen the Jews. (See PAUL).
VI. The Commentaries on this epistle are very numerous, as might be expected from its importance. For convenience, we divide them chronologically into two classes.
1. Of the many patristic expositions, but few are now extant. The work of Origen is preserved entire only in a loose Latin translation of Rufinus (Orig. [ed. De la Rue] 4, 458); but some fragments of the original are found in the Philocalia, and more in Cramer's Catena. The commentary on Paul's epistles printed among the works of Ambrose (ed. Ben. 2, App. p. 21), and hence bearing the name Ambrosiaster. is probably to be attributed to Hilary the deacon. Chrysostom is the most important among the fathers who attempted to interpret this epistle. He enters deeply and with psychological acumen into the thoughts of the apostle, and expounds them with sublime animation (ed. Montf. 9, 425, edited separately by Field, and transl. in the Library of the Fathers [Oxf. 1841], vol. 7). Besides these are the expositions of Paul's epistles by Pelagius (printed among Jerome's works [ed. Vallarsi], vol. 11, pt. 3, p. 135), by Primasius (Magn. Bibl. Vet. Patr. vol. 6, pt. 2, p. 30), and by Theodoret (ed. Schulze, 3, 1). Augustine commenced a work, but broke off at 1, 4. It bears the name Inchoata Expositio Epistoloe ad Rom. (ed. Ben. 3, 925). Later he wrote Expositio quarundam Propositionum Epistoloe ad Rom., also extant (ed. Ben. 3, 903). To these should be added the later Catena of Ecumenius (10th century), and the notes of Theophylact (11th century), the former containing valuable extracts from Photius. Portions of a commentary of Cyril of Alexandria were published by Mai (Nov. Patr. Bibl. 3, 1). The Catena edited by Cramer (1844) comprises two collections of Variorum notes, the one extending from 1, 1 to 9, 1, the other from 7, 7 to the end. Besides passages from extant commentaries, they contain important extracts from Apollinarius, Theodorus of Mopsuestia, Severianus, Gennadius, Photius, and others. There are also the Greek Scholia, edited by Matthai, in his large Greek Test. (Riga, 1782), from Moscow MSS. The commentary of Euthymius Zigabenus (Tholuck, Einl. § 6) exists in MS., but has never been printed. Abelard wrote annotations on this epistle (in Opp. p. 489), likewise Hugo Victor (in Opp. 1), and Aquinas (in Opp. 6). (See COMMENTARY).
2. Modern exegetical helps (from the Reformation to the present time) on the entire epistle separately are the following, of which we designate the most important by an asterisk prefixed: Titelmann, Collectiones (Antw. 1520, 8vo); Melancthon, Adnotationes (Vitemb. 1522, and often, 4to); Bugenhagen, Interpretatio (Hag. 1523, 1527, 8vo); OEcolampadius, Adnotationes (Basil. 1526, 8vo); Sadoleto [Rom. Cath.], Commentarii (Lugd. 1535, fol.); Haresche [Rom. Cath.], Commentarii (Par. 1536, 8vo); *Calvin, Commentarius (in Opp.; in English by Sihon, Lond. 1834, 8vo; by Rodsell and Beveridge, Edinb. 1844, 8vo; by Owen, ibid. 1849, 8vo; in German, Frankf. 1836-38, 2 vols. 8vo); Sarcer, Scholia (Francf. 1541, 8vo); Grandis [Rom. Cath.], Commentarius (Par. 1546, 8vo); Soto [Rom. Cath.], Commentarius (Antw. 1550; Salm. 1551, fol.); Hales, Disputationes (Vitemb. 1553, 8vo); Musculus, Commentarius (Basil. 1555, 1572, fol.); Valdes [Socinian], Commentaria (Ven. 1556, 8vo); Naclanti [Rom. Cath.], Enarrationes (ibid. 1557, 4to); Martyr, Commentarius (Basil. 1558, fol., and later; in English, Lond. 1568, fol.); Viguer [Rom. Cath.], Commentaria (Par. 1558, fol., and later); Ferus [Rom. Cath.], Exegesis (ibid. 1559, 8vo, and later); Bucer, Metaphrasis (Basil. 1562, fol.); Malthisius [Rom. Cath. ], Commentarius (Colon. 1562, fol.); Cruciger, Commentarius (Vitemb. 1567, 8vo); Brent, Commentarius (Tub. 1571, 8vo); Hesch, Commentarius (Jen. 1572, 8vo; also [with other epistles] Lips. 1605, fol.); Hemming, Commentarius (ibid. 1572, 8vo); Olevian, Notoe (Genev. 1579, 8vo); Wigand, Adnotationes (Francf. 1580, 8vo); Comer, Commentarius (Heidelb. 1583, 8vo); De la Cerda [Rom. Cath.], Commentarius (Mussi 1583. fol.); Mussi [Rom. Cath.], Commentarius (Ven. 1588, 4to); Pollock, Analysis (Edinb. 1594; Genev. 1596, 1608, 8vo); Pantusa [Rom. Cath.], Commentarius (Ven. 1596, 8vo); Hunn, Expositio (Marp. 1587; Francf. 1596; Vitemb. 1607, 8vo); Pasqual (R.) [Rom. Cath.], Commentaria (Barc. 1597, fol.); Chytraeus, Explicatio (s. l. 1599, 8vo); Feuardent [Rom. Cath.], Commentarius
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Romans, Epistle to the.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/r/romans-epistle-to-the.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the First Week of Advent