Appreciation and Understanding the Message of Romans

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To appreciate and understand the message of Romans in greater depth, my aim is to give a synopsis of who the author is, where and when it was written, to whom it was written, its purpose as well as a brief outline of the book.


Most scholars agree that Paul is the author. To confirm this, it is advisable to first review the internal Scriptural dialogue like Witmer (1983:435) and Mounce (1995:22) does. Consequently, convincing evidence in Acts and Romans supports Paul's authorship, such as greetings sent by Paul to Priscilla and Aquila, whom he had met previously in Corinth (Rom. 16:3; Acts 18:2-3) and the repetition of Paul's intense desire to visit Rome (Rom. 1:10-13,15; 15:22-32; Acts 19:21). Similarly, Paul introduces himself as the author with the words "I, Paul…." (Rom. 1:1). In addition, Romans 15:25-27 mentions the author's impending journey to Jerusalem with love gifts from churches in Macedonia and Achaia, and the Book of Acts confirm that it indeed was Paul that had made this journey (Acts 20:1-5, 21:15, 17-19).

Those like Moffat (Guthrie, 1990:419) and Talbert (Guthrie, 1990:426), whose theories disagree that Paul is the author, claim Romans 15:25-26 and Romans 3:25-26 as inappropriate passages and not consistent with Paul's liturgical style of writing. However, these verses do not go against Paul's theology , and none of these theories have been unequivocally proven.

Finally, the role of Tertius who was hired to write from dictation is debated (Rom. 16:22). To resolve this, the extent of Tertius' involvement plays a key role: Could he have included his own interpretation, or did he accurately write down Paul's flow of ideas? Most scholars agree that Tertius was not the author, because Paul would have maintained a tight control on what was finally put down on paper to ensure the message was communicated in exactly the way he had intended. Thus, Paul's authorship remains uncontested .


It is important to know to whom Paul was writing to understand the letter's historical background and context. Although there is evidence of shorter manuscripts , our Western Bibles leaves specific clues that strongly support Rome as its intended destination . Firstly, Paul states that he is writing to Christians in Rome (Rom. 1: 7, 15). Secondly, Paul's missionary journeys were directed to strategic locations and thus Rome seemed a logical choice. Thirdly, Paul was called to minister in new territories, predominantly to Gentiles, and Rome fits into this category (Rom. 15:20). Meanwhile, note that Paul did not write to a specific church, but simply wanted to communicate to all the "saints" in Rome (Rom. 1:7). He did however, sent greetings to a particular church at the home of Priscilla and Aquilla (Rom. 16:5).

On the contrary, evidence of earlier manuscripts as mentioned earlier, without the words "in Rome" and either chapter 15 or 16, or both, cannot be discarded . Due to this, theories in favor of an Ephesus destination do exist, but have failed to emphatically disprove Rome. Based on the Scriptural evidence, I have to agree with Mounce (1995:22) that perhaps the most convincing alternate destination theory is that, after the original was sent to Rome, a shortened version was sent to churches that Paul had not yet visited. This would clarify the existence of a shortened letter without specific reference to Rome .

I also have to point out that there is no reference in the New Testament that Paul had founded any church in Rome, although he did consider them to be part of his sphere of influence. Similarly, due to their affiliation to Paul, these believers could have started churches as a result of his ministry, perhaps even after some were converted on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10, 41). Unlike scholars like Sanday and Headlam (Guthrie,1990:404) who refute this by claiming a lack of apostolic leadership as reason, Guthrie (1990:404) justifiably states...
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