1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Romans, Epistle to the
ROMANS, EPISTLE TO THE. In this book of the New Testament, the apostle Paul begins, after a brief pregnant introduction (i. 1-7), by explaining that he had hitherto been prevented from carrying out his cherished project of visiting the church of Rome, whose faith was world-wide (i. 8 f.). Meanwhile, he outlines the gospel which he preached as an exhibition of God's righteousness, ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν. This forms the leading theme of the epistle.
Both Gentile (i. 18-32) and Jew (ii. 1, iii. 20) alike have missed this righteousness up till now, but the revelation of God in Jesus Christ (iii. 21-31) had brought the divine boon within reach of all. The condition of its reception was not nationality but faith. Hence, as Paul stops for a moment to argue (iv. 1-25), the Jew cannot claim any preference; Abraham himself, before circumcision and the law came into force, was a man of faith, and consequently all believers (not all legal Jews, iv. 16) are true descendants of Abraham. Returning to the blissful results of this δικαιοσύνη revealed in Jesus Christ (v. 1-11), Paul proceeds to contrast these with the sombre effects produced in humanity by the fall of Adam. Life had now triumphed over death, grace over sin (v. 12 f.). But the supersession of the law, which was bound up with the régime of sin and death, does not mean the relaxation of the moral bond. On the contrary (vi. 1 f.), the reception of God's grace and spirit implies the death of the believing man to sin. The struggle of the soul between the thwarting power of sin and the ethical demands of the law (vii. 1 f.) cannot be ended happily save by the interposition of Jesus Christ, whose Spirit guarantees a sound life in this world and life eternal in the world to come (viii. 12 f.).
The splendid and unfettered prospects of faith, which thus break on the apostle's vision, only serve to deepen his distress in one direction. As a theologian and as a patriot, he is confronted with the problem of Israel's collective repudiation of a boon to which their own history, as he read it, clearly pointed. Reverting to the thought of ii. 17 f. and iv. 1, Paul now essays, in ix.-xi., to show how this unbelief of Israel is to be reconciled with the justice and the promises of God. He begins by showing, as in Gal. iv. 7 f. (cf. Rom. ii. 28-29), that mere physical descent could not entitle a Jew to the promises. Besides (ix. 14-29), no Jew has the right to challenge God's sovereign freedom. If God determines to extend the promise of faith to the Gentiles, who shall accuse Him of injustice? The rejection of the Jews is their own fault, due to their, obstinacy and legalism (ix. 30-x. 21). Finally, Paul tries to see this fact of Israel's unbelief in the light of a wide religious philosophy of history; it (xi. 1-10) cannot be anything but a temporary and partial (xi. 11-24) phase; the future will clear up the present; the final result will be the inclusion of all Israel in the heritage of the messianic kingdom of Christ. The prospect of this consummation stirs him to an outburst of adoration, with which the whole section ends (xi. 33-36).
Applying the thought of God's mercy to the obligations of believing men (xii. 1-2), Paul proceeds now to sketch the ethical duties of Christians in the church (xii. 3-21), in society, and in the state (xiii. 1-7); love is the supreme law (xiii. 8-10), and the nearness of the end the supreme motive to morality (xiii. 11-14). These considerations are still before Paul's mind as he descends from general counsels to a special problem of practical ethics, raised by the varying attitude of Christians at Rome towards food offered to idols (xiv. 1 f.). After laying down the principle of individual responsibility, he appeals for charity and mutual consideration (xiv. 13-xv. 6), and for Christian forbearance. Finally, he exhorts all, Gentile and Jewish Christians alike (xv. 8-13), to unite in thanksgiving for God's mercy to them in Christ.
In a brief epilogue, the apostle justifies himself for having thus addressed the Roman Christians. He alleges (xv. 14 f.) his apostolic vocation and informs them of his future movements. With an appeal for their prayers and a brief benediction, the epistle then closes (xv. 30-33). It ends as it began (i. 8 f.) with the apostle's hope and plan of visiting Rome on a subsequent missionary tour.
Rom. xvi. contains a separate note (1-23), together with a doxology (25-27). The former came from Paul's pen, but Critical problems. it did not belong originally to this epistle. In all likelihood it is a letter of commendation for Phoebe which includes vers. 1-23 (so, e.g. Weizsäcker, McGiffert and Jülicher), though most break it off at ver. 20 (so Eichhorn, Ewald, Schulz, Renan, Weiss, Lipsius, von Soden, &c.), while others do not begin it until ver. 3 (so e.g. Ewald, Schürer, Reuss and Mangold: Der Römerbrief, pp. 136 f.). Vers. 21-23 might indeed follow xv. 33, but it is not Paul's way to add salutations after a final Amen, and the passage connects as well with xvi. 20, though it may have lain originally (Jülicher) between 16 and 17. The main reasons for conjecturing that this section was addressed separately, not to Rome but to a city like Ephesus, lie in its contents. Paul was as yet a stranger to Rome, and it is extremely difficult to suppose that he already knew so many individuals there. The earlier tone of Romans shows that he was writing as a comparative stranger to strangers. Any touches of familiarity with the local circumstances (as in xiv.-xv.) are no more than might have percolated to him through hearing and report; they do not imply the presence of friends upon the spot who kept him supplied with information. On the other hand, the circle of people addressed in xvi. 1-23, with its wealth of individual colour and personal detail, presupposes a sphere where Paul had worked for long. He can appeal to these Christians. He can speak sharply with authority to them. Now, as he wrote from Corinth, the only other city which answers to this description is Ephesus, the centre of Paul's long Asiatic mission. With that city and district several of the names in xvi. 1-23 are more or less directly connected, e.g. Epaenetus (5), Aquila and Priscilla (3), who were at Ephesus immediately before Romans was written (Acts xviii. 18, 26; cf. 1 Cor. xvi. 19), and apparently were there (cf. 2 Tim. iv. 19) not long afterwards. These are the first people mentioned in the note, nor is there any likelihood that they or the rest of Paul's friends had made a sudden migration to the capital. Doubtless, there was fairly constant communication between Rome and the provinces, and in the course of time these friends may have gradually followed the apostle thither. Hence it is not remarkable that almost all the names mentioned in this note have been found by archaeologists (cf. Lightfoot's Philippians, pp. 171 f.) within the Roman Corpus Inscriptionum. Most of them, anyhow, are fairly common throughout the Roman world (cf. Lietzmann, p. 73), whilst half are to be found in the Greek Corpus Inscriptionum for Asia Minor (e.g. Epaenetus, Hermes, Hermas). Furthermore, the sharp warning against terrorists and heretics (xvi. 17-20) suits Rome at this period much less aptly than Ephesus (cf. 1 Cor. xvi. 8-9; Acts xx. 29 f.; Rev. ii. 2 f.), where trouble of this kind was in the air. Controversy against false teachers is conspicuously absent from Romans. Nor is it possible to regard (with Zahn) such counsels as merely prophylactic; they are too definite and pointed. They imply the existence of a community with which Paul was personally acquainted, and to which he felt himself bound and free to address keen, authoritative reproaches.
The textual phenomena of the doxology (xvi. 25-27), which occurs in some MSS. after xiv. 23, are sufficiently strange; they suggest that the epistle must have passed through a certain process of editing, during the 2nd century, previous to its final incorporation in the canon of the epistles. It may further be conjectured that the epistle does not lie before the modern reader in the precise shape in which it left Paul and his amanuensis at Corinth. Opinions, indeed, vary on the doxology. Either it is authentic but irrelevant, added by Paul as a postscript, or it is unauthentic, due to some copyist who added it as a suitable finale at the close. In the Pauline canon Romans originally occupied the last place. It would therefore be natural that a note like that of xvi. 1-23 should be put in here, especially if this canon was drawn up at Rome, whither Phoebe probably travelled eventually. The doxology would then be shifted from after xiv. 23 or inserted for the first time for ecclesiastical purposes. The material conditions of such a process are lucidly stated by Dr C. R. Gregory in his Canon and Text of the New Testament (1907), pp. 319 f.
The problems presented by the structure of these chapters cannot be solved adequately by the mere hypothesis, worked out variously by critics like Paulus, Griesbach (Curarum in historiam textus Graeci epistolarum Pauli spec. i. pp. 45 f.), Eichhorn and Flatt, that they are a series of postscripts or afterthoughts, much less by the conjecture that, in whole or in part, they are unauthentic (Baur, Volkmar, &c.). The only tenable line of argument, in the present state of criticism, is to regard their phenomena as due to compilation, at the time when the canon (perhaps of Paul's epistles) was first formed. If the hypothesis already outlined is set aside, it is open to the critic to regard large portions of the canonical Romans as having originally occupied a separate setting, or to ascribe the textual variations to the exigencies of church reading after the formation of the canon (which might explain the absence of ἐν Ῥώμῃ in i. 7, 15, and the duplicate position of the doxology).
The uncertainty as to the literary structure of the epistle naturally renders it hazardous to infer the character of the Christians who are addressed, but it may be said that the results of the long debate on this point are converging upon the belief that the predominant class in the local church or churches were Gentile Christians, while proselytes must have swelled the ranks to no inconsiderable degree. Since Weizsäcker wrote, the older view of Baur (cf. his Paul, Eng. tr. i. pp. 321 f.) has steadily lost ground. Zahn is now its main supporter, and his contentions are not convincing. Even were ix.-xi. taken as the kernel of the epistle, its obvious motive is to be found in the need of explaining to Gentile Christians the reasons for Israel's apparent rejection, and passages like i. 5 f., 13, xi. 13, xv. 15 f., are, if not decisive, at any rate superior to any references which can be urged fairly on the opposite side. To a church of this kind, in the capital of the Empire, Paul writes out his gospel more fully than in any other of his extant epistles. It is the essence of the gospel that he treats, and that is the revelation of God's righteousness to man by faith in Jesus Christ. Neither sacraments nor organization come within his purview. Even eschatology lies quite in the background. Paul writes of the heart of the gospel with all his heart, and while a certain controversial element inevitably enters into his exposition—since he is writing with his eye on the Roman Church—any such considerations are quite subordinate to his dominating aim.
The epistle dates itself. Paul is on his way to Jerusalem with the moneys collected from the Macedonian and Achaian churches (xv. 19–32), and, after his visit to the Jewish capital, he proposes to visit the church of Rome en route for a mission in Spain. The situation corresponds to that outlined in Acts xx. 2–3. Paul probably despatched the epistle from Corinth. This conclusion would be put almost beyond doubt were Rom. xvi. regarded as an integral part of the original epistle, since in that case Timothy and Sosipater (xvi. 21) would be with Paul as in Acts xx. 4, like Gaius (xvi. 23) and Erastus, both of whom were Corinthians (1 Cor. i. 14; 2 Tim. iv. 20). Phoebe of Cenchreae, the seaport of Corinth, would also be the bearer of the epistle (xvi. 1). But even apart from the evidence of ch. xvi., the tone of the epistle (especially of xv. 19 f.) indicates that Paul regards his work in the eastern provinces as done, and now turns to the West. It is just possible, of course, that the epistle was written from some other town, perhaps in Illyricum (so H. E. G. Paulus), but the facilities of communication point to Corinth.
Literature.—The ablest recent editions of the Greek text have been those of B. Weiss (in Meyer’s commentary, 9th ed. 1899, thorough and all-round), R. A. Lipsius (Hand-Commentar, 2nd ed. 1892), H. Oltramare (Paris, 1881–82), Sanday and Headlam (Internat. Crit. Comm. 5th ed. 1905, strong in philology and external criticism), and Denney (Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1901, a masterpiece of theological exposition), to which the Roman Catholic commentaries of A. Schäfer (Münster, 1891) and Cornely (Paris, 1896) may be added. The patristic and medieval literature is summarized by Sanday and Headlam (op. cit. pp. xcviii. f.), and a conspectus of the vast later work may be found in W. P. Dickson’s translation of Meyer (Edinburgh, 1873–74). The editions of Tholuck (1842), Moses Stuart (3rd ed. 1876), Godet (1879–80, Eng. trans. 1888), E. H. Gifford (Speaker’s Commentary, 1881) and Philippi (4th ed. Frankfort, 1896) are of special theological value, Godet’s for its delicate exegesis and Gifford’s for its adequacy of treatment; so, from its own point of view, is F. Delitzsch’s Brief an die Römer aus dem griech. Urtext in das Hebräische übersetzt, und aus Talmud and Midrasch erläutert (1870); with which may be classed the earlier works of Reiche (Versuch einer ausfürl. Erklärung, &c., 1833–34) and C. F. A. Fritzsche (1836–43). Since Dean Alford (1852), the freshest English editors have been Dr David Brown (Glasgow, 1860), Moule (Cambridge Bible, 1879), C. J. Vaughan (7th ed. 1890), B. Jowett (3rd ed. 1894), J. Agar Beet (9th ed. 1901) and Garvie (Century Bible, 1901). Jülicher’s notes in Die Schriften des N. T. (1907), though written from a different standpoint, resemble Denney’s in their conciseness and penetration. Lietzmann’s edition, again, is slight and philological (Handbuch zum Neuen Testament, 1907). Lightfoot’s posthumous fragment (Notes on Epistles of St Paul, 1895, pp. 237–305) unfortunately breaks off at vii. 25. In addition to the special monographs already noted in the course of this article, the essays of H. E. G. Paulus (De originibus Pauli epist. ad Rom., Jena, 1801), Lorenz (Der Römerbrief, 1884), Grafe (Über Veranlassung and Zweck des R., 1881), G. B. Stevens (The Pauline Theology, 1894), Feine (Der Römerbrief, 1903) and A. Robertson (Hastings' Dict. of Bible, iv. 295–306) may be specially mentioned out of a large crowd, together with G. Semeria’s monograph, Il pensiero di S. Paolo nella lettera ai Romani (Rome, 1903). Holsten’s position is stated in a series of articles in the Jahrbuch für protest. Theologie (1879), pp. 95 f., 314 f., 680 f., Pfleiderer’s in Das Urchristentum (2nd ed. i. 149 f., Eng. tr. Primitive Christianity, i. pp. 211 f.) and Hilgenfeld’s in his own Zeitschrzft für die wissensch. Theologie (1892), pp. 296–347. The recent literary and historical discussions are chronicled in C. Clemen's Paulus, i. 85 f., ii. 238 f., with which the English reader may compare R. J. Knowling’s The Testimony of St Paul to Christ (1905), pp. 60 f., 311 f., 465 f. On Marcion’s text of the epistle cf. Zahn’s Geschichte des N. T. Kanons, ii. pp. 515-521; on the early reception of the epistle in the church, Gregory’s Canon and Text of the N. T. (1907), pp. 192 f., and Leipoldt’s Geschichte des neut. Kanons (1907), i. pp. 77 f., 188 f., 192 f., 209 f. (J. Mt.)
- On iii. cf. G. W. Matthias's Exegetischer Versuch (Cassel, 1857).
- “Paul here unconsciously changes the conception of law. By introducing the example of Abraham he shows that the book of the law contains the doctrine of justification by faith, and through the latter, therefore, is not made of none effect. This proof rests, objectively regarded, on a fallacy; for the law, of which the validity is threatened by the doctrine of justification, is that part of the book of the law which demands the observance of all commands, not that which relates anything about Abraham. But this error of thought would be easily concealed from a mind with the rabbinical training of Paul's” (Schmiedel, in Hibbert Journal, 1902, pp. 548-549).
- Cf. Engel's exhaustive monograph, Der Kampf um Römer vii. (1902), and, for the ideas of i.-viii., Du Bose's The Gospel according to St Paul (1907), and Titius, Der Paulinismus (1900), pp. 159 ff.
- The word all, as Matthew Arnold observes (St Paul and Protestantism, ch. i.), is “in some sense the governing word of the Epistle to the Romans.”
- As arranged in the canonical edition, ix.-xi. are closely interwoven with i.-viii., and xi. 32-36 concludes not simply ix.-xi. but i.-xi. (cf. Bühl in Studien und Kritiken, 1887, 295-320). Certainly what Paul has in mind throughout the epistle is not a Judaizing tendency among the Jewish Christians at Rome, but the general and perplexing question of Judaism in relation to the new faith. Cf. Hoennicke's Das Judenchristentum (1908), pp. 160 f.
- In this passage Paul has generally been held to have erred botanically in his allegory. For a defence of his accuracy, see W. M. Ramsay's Pauline and other Studies (1907), 219 f.
- On the method of dialectic in this section, see Bishop Gore's paper in Studia Biblica (vol. iii.). The literature up to 1907 is summarized in H. J. Holtzmann's Neutest. Theologie, ii. pp. 171 f., one of the most significant essays being that of Beyschlag on Die paulin. Theodicee (1868). Wernle (Beginnings of Christianity, i. pp. 315 f.) sums up his discussion by pointing out that “the Jesus of history is simply non-existent for St Paul when he treats apologetic problems of this nature. No mention whatever is made of him in the three chapters of Romans which treat of Israel's fate. The literal text of the Septuagint seems to be the only decisive authority, and that is so sacred and almighty, that, whenever it comes into collision with the human conscience, the latter is silenced when the voice of revelation speaks.”
- The weaker minority probably were a Jewish-Christian circle (cf. Riggenbach in Studien und Kritiken, 1893, pp. 649-678). For the religious aspect of vegetarianism in these and other circles, see von Dobschütz's Christian Life in the Primitive Church (1904), pp. 125 f., 396 f.
- “It was a sufficient reason for writing to the Romans that Paul was expecting to visit them, but was obliged once more to postpone an event to which he had long looked forward. There was nothing in the circumstances of the church that required his intervention, and, as he was therefore free to choose his subject, he wrote out of the fullness of his heart that grand defence of the gospel which, though shaped by the conditions of the times, is animated by the timeless Spirit, and has proved to be a possession for ever” (Drummond, p. 246).
- For the literature, cf. the present writer's Historical New Testament (1901), pp. 209-213. The hypothesis has won very wide acceptance, but several editors and critics (including Harnack, Zahn and Clemen) remain unconvinced. Cf. also Wabnitz in Revue de théologie et des quest. religieuses (1900), 461-469.
- On her functions, see Zscharnack's der Dienst der Frau in den ersten Jahrhunderten der christlichen Kirche (1902), pp. 45 f.
- Cf. Lucht (Über die beiden letzten Kapitel des Römerbriefes, 1871. pp. 126 f.), with Weizsäcker's brilliant pages in his Apostolic Age, i. pp. 379 f.).
- Erbes (Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, 1901, 224-231) makes xvi. 1-16a a note forwarded by Paul to Rome during his last voyage thither, in order to advise some of the local Christians of his arrival (Acts xxviii. 15), but this theory is no improvement upon that of Semler, who regarded xvi. 3-16 as designed for Paul's friends outside Rome, to introduce the bearers of the larger epistle. The point of such hypotheses is to explain how the note came to be attached to Romans, but this can be shown otherwise (cf. Deissmann's Licht vom Osten, 1908, pp. 164, 201). Eichhorn (Einleit. in das N.T. iii. 243 f.) regarded xvi. 1-20 as addressed to Corinth, while Schenkel viewed it as designed for all the churches which Phoebe was to visit.
- In the Ephesian Acta Johannis (c. A.D. 160) the house of Andronicus (Rom. xvi. 7?) is one centre of Christian activity. E. H. Gifford (pp. 27-30) evades the difficulty by taking xvi. 3-20 as part of a second letter written by Paul after, not before, his release from imprisonment.
- The most recent and radical analyses are those of Spitta (Urchristentum, iii. 1902) and Völter (Paulus u. seine Briefe, 1905). The former detects a short letter written (xii.-xv. 7, xvi. 1-20) after Acts xxviii. 30, during a tour of the Gentile churches (A.D. 63-64), and another (i.-xi. 10, xv. 14-33) written to believing Jews in order to justify the Gentile mission and afterwards edited for Gentile readers with the addition of xi. 11 f., xv. 8-13, &c., Völter (pp. 135 f.) distinguishes an original letter (in i. 1, 5b-7, 8-17, v. 1-12, 15-19, 21, vi. 1-13, 16-23, xii.-xv. 6, xv. 14-16, 23b-33, xvi. 21-24) from editorial additions, and also from still later accretions in ii. 14-15, iii. 23-26, vii. 25b, xi. 11 f., xv. 7-13, 17-23a, xvi. 17 f., 25 f. Spitta's views are properly set aside by Feine and Bahnsen (Protest. Manatshefte, 1902, 331 f.) amongst others.
- It suggests a stereotyped form (cf. Mangold, Der Römerbrief, 44-81, and Holtzmann, Ephes. Col. Brief, 307-310). “In spite of the vindication of the style word by word, the impression it bears upon the mind is hardly Pauline. It seems artificial rather than inspired” (Denney, p. 582). Proofs of its Pauline authorship are led fully by Zahn (Einleitung in das N.T. § 21 f.) and Jacquier (Histoire des livres du N.T., 1903, pp. 271 f.); cf. also Bacon in Journal of Biblical Literature (1899), pp. 184 f. The entire data of xv.-xvi. are discussed fully by Lightfoot and Hort, in the former's Biblical Essays (pp. 287 f.) and in the latter's admirable volume (Romans and Ephesians), as well as in Sanday and Headlam's edition (pp. lxxxv. f.).
- Ryder (Journal of Biblical Literature, 1898, pp. 184 f.) suggests that xv.-xvi. 24 form a letter or part of a letter written not by Paul but by his amanuensis, Tertius, to his friends at Rome, c. A.D. 64, previous to the Neronic persecution.
- So J. Weiss (in Theologische Studien, 1897, p. 182 f.), as well as those who, like Renan (S. Paul, lxiii-lxxv), find different editions in the canonical epistle, one meant for Thessalonica (i.-xiv. 33, xvi. 25-27), one for Ephesus (i.-xiv., xvi. 1-20) and one for Rome (i.-xi., xv.), or who, like Lightfoot (Biblical Essays), see a double recension, the original draft having been meant for Rome (i.-xvi. 23), the later being, like Ephesians, a circular epistle.
- The epistle was so systematic in treatment and wide in scope that it lent itself readily to this “catholicizing” manipulation; thus the fact that xv.-xvi. are very rarely quoted in primitive tradition may be due to their fullness of local detail, which would have less interest for the later church. But the question of course arises, May not the epistle, in whole or in part, have originally been more of a treatise in epistolary form than at first sight appears? For various suggestions as to the problem of i. 7 see Harnack in Zeitschrift für die neutest. Wissenschaft (1902), 83-86; R. Steinmetz (ibid., 1908, 177 f.); and Schmiedel in Hibbert Journal (1903), pp. 537 f.
- Not, however, in the sections bearing on the Law. “It has been customary to explain this feature of the epistle by the fact of its having been written to a church with which Paul had no personal relations, and this may count for something. But there is a deeper and a worthier reason for the contrast in tone between this epistle and those written to the Galatian and Corinthian churches. The whole situation is changed. Then Paul was fighting for existence with his back to the wall; now he writes as one conscious that the cause of Gentile Christianity is safe.” (A. B. Bruce, St Paul’s Conception of Christianity, 1894, p. 96).
- This is carefully worked out by Paley in his Horae Paulinae (ed. Birks, 1825), pp. 8 f.