Lectionary Year B
December 22, 2002
Step III: Composition
A. Immediate Context
(JFC) The earlier parts of Romans 16 find Paul introducing to the church(es) in Rome
some of his co-workers from some of his travels. He commends them to their care. Then he urges them to keep an eye on and avoid any who cause dissensions and offences in opposition to their learnings because they tend to serve their own appetites rather than the Lord Christ. Others still with him send their greetings, too.
B. Organization of Compositional Whole
(JFC) As these pages have stated before, many commentators find the overall subject
of Romans to be stated in 1:16f. Yet, Paul Achtemeier's Interpretation Commentary says these verses' emphasis on righteousness by faith seems to him to be secondarily important to the main theme which is, for him, God's plan to extend divine Lordship to all people by the grace demonstrated in Jesus Christ. And, Franz J. Leenhardt's The Epistle to the Romans has divisions quite neatly named, if over simplified, beginning with 1:1-17's "theme; the gospel of justification preached by the apostle as far as Spain; its theological aspect (1:18-5:11); its anthropological aspect (5:12-8:39); its historical aspect (9:1-11:36); its ethical aspect (12:1-15:33). To this are added the greetings and exordium of the beginning and finally the final salutations of ch. 16." So, then, we might divide the whole of this Epistle, by themes, into four parts: chapters 1-4 are about God's saving righteousness and/or justification by faith as shown through the Old Testament, especially; chapters 5-8 express the significance of living life in Christ; chapters 9-11 present Paul's attempt to deal with the large matter of salvation for the Jews; chapters 12-16 convey Paul's ethics and personal closing remarks. And, Karl Barth's Shorter Commentary on Romans, says of this Epistle, "It has often been compared to a catechism, or even to a handbook of dogmatics, and for that reason the first systematic theologian of the Evangelical Church, Melanchthon, did in fact use it as a pattern for a work of this kind."
C. Issues of Authorship
(JFC) As previously noted in these studies, virtually every commentary consulted
says the Apostle Paul wrote Romans and that he did so between 54 and 60 or so. Some say it was written from Corinth when Paul visited there in 57 or 58. He went to Jerusalem in 57 or 58 and from there planned (Romans 15:22-32, Acts 19:21 and 20:3 and I Corinthians 16:3-6) to go, for his first time, to Rome on his intended way to Spain (15:24). Barth and Dodd (The Moffett NT Commentary) both recognize Paul's apprehension at going to Rome where he expected some hostility among the residents there, Barth identifying them as "disobedient Jews", disobedient of the covenant(s) God had made with their forefathers. Dodd calls them "Jewish-Christian opponents".
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