They did not understand the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8)

“None of the rulers

Of this age

Understood this.

If they had known this,

They would not have crucified

The Lord of glory.”

ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἔγνωκεν· εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν, οὐκ ἂν τὸν Κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν·

Paul said that none (ἣν οὐδεὶς) of the rulers of this age (τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου) understood (ἔγνωκεν) this.  If they had known this (εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν), they would not have (οὐκ ἂν) crucified (ἐσταύρωσαν) the Lord of glory (τὸν Κύριον τῆς δόξης).  Paul indicated that the contemporary rulers at that time did not understand the role of God or Jesus in salvation history.  Otherwise, they would not have crucified Jesus, the Lord of glory.  Paul put the blame on both the Jewish leaders and the Roman officials for the crucifixion that took place some twenty years prior.  Do you understand the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ?

Not human wisdom (1 Cor. 2:5)

“Thus,

Your faith

Does not rest

On human wisdom,

But on the power of God.”

ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν μὴ ᾖ ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει Θεοῦ.

Paul thus said that their faith (ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν) does not (μὴ ᾖ) rest on human wisdom (ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων), but on the power of God (ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει Θεοῦ).  Paul made it clear that their faith was not based on his weak ineffective human words.  The power of God is what made their faith strong, not his words.  Do you recognize the power of God in your life?

The value of Romans

For the German reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546), this Epistle to the Romans was the principal and most excellent part of the New Testament, the pure gospel.  Is this a summary to prove that a man is justified by faith only?  Paul also set forth the whole nature of man as poisoned and corrupt.  For others, it is a valuable attempt to understand the role of justification, salvation, and redemption.  Is justification by faith only valid so long as it is combined with obedient cooperation with the Holy Spirit?  Is this about personal salvation?  Above all, it is an important letter of the apostle Paul to the Christian community of believers in the great empire city of Rome in the mid-first century, some twenty-five years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Jewish-gentile conflict

Jews were expelled from Rome because of disturbances around 49 CE by the edict of Claudius.  Claudius died around the year 54 CE.  His successor, Emperor Nero, allowed the Jews back into Rome, but then, after the Great Fire of Rome of 64 CE, Christians were persecuted.  With the return of the Jews to Rome in 54 CE, new conflicts arose between the gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians who had formerly been expelled. Gentile Christians may have developed a dislike of or looked down on Jews for the death of Jesus, because they theologically rationalized that Jews were no longer God’s people.  Paul had learned about all the circumstances of the Christians at Rome.  There were the heathen pagans who had converted to Christianity and the Jews who had followed Christ.  Thus, many contentions arose from the claims of the gentiles to equal privileges with the Jews, and from the absolute refusal of the Jews to admit these claims, unless the gentile converts became circumcised.  Paul wrote this epistle to adjust and settle these differences.  In the flow of this letter, Paul shifted his arguments, sometimes addressing the Jewish members of the church, sometimes the gentile membership and sometimes the church as a whole.  What do you think the relationship between Jewish and Christian people should be?

The Roman audience

For ten years before writing this letter, 47-57 CE, Paul had traveled around the territories bordering the Aegean Sea evangelizing Christian communities.  Paul helped to establish churches or Christian communities in the Roman provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia.  Paul, considering his task complete, so that he wanted to preach the gospel in Spain.  This would allow him to visit Rome on the way there, a long-time ambition of his.  The letter to the Romans, in part, prepares them and gives reasons for his visit.  The most probable ancient account of the beginning of Christianity in Rome was the fact that there were some Jewish people living in Rome at the time of the apostles.  Some of those Jews who had believed in Christ passed on to the Romans the tradition that they ought to profess Christ but keep the Jewish Torah law.  One ought not to condemn the Romans, but to praise their faith, because without seeing any signs or miracles and without seeing any of the apostles, they nevertheless accepted faith in Christ.  At this time, there were a substantial number of Jews in Rome, with their synagogues frequented by many, so that non-Jewish gentiles became acquainted with the story of Jesus of Nazareth.  Consequently, churches composed of both Jews and gentiles were formed at Rome.  Little is known of the circumstances of the Christians at Rome, but it was not founded by Paul.  Many of the Christians in Rome went out to meet Paul on his approach to Rome in Acts, chapter 28. There is evidence that there were a considerable number of Christians in Rome, probably with more than one place of meeting before Paul arrived.  The large number of names in Romans 16:3–15, indicates there was more than one church assembly or company of believers in Rome.  Some may have met in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, while there were other groups of Christian believers.  What do you know about the early Roman Christians?

The ending chapters of this letter

There is strong indirect evidence that a copy of Romans that lacked chapters 15 and 16 was widely used in the western half of the Roman Empire until the mid-4th century.  This conclusion is partially based on the fact that a variety of Church Fathers, such as Origen and Tertullian, refer to a fourteen-chapter edition of Romans, either directly or indirectly.  The fact that Paul’s doxology is placed in different places in various manuscripts of Romans only strengthens the case for an early fourteen-chapter copy.  While there is some uncertainty, the canonical sixteen-chapter recension is likely the earlier version of the text.  It is quite possible that a fifteen-chapter form of Romans, omitting chapter 16, may have existed at an early date.  Some have argued that chapter 16 represents a separate letter of Paul, maybe addressed to Ephesus, that was later appended to Romans.  There are a few different arguments for this conclusion. First of all, there is a concluding peace benediction at 15:33, which reads like the other Pauline benedictions that conclude their respective letters. Secondly, Paul greets a large number of people and families in chapter 16, in a way that suggests he was already familiar with them.  On the other hand, the material of chapters 1-15 presupposes that Paul had never met anyone from the Roman church.  How do you end your letters?

Date in the late 50s CE

The precise time when this letter was written is not mentioned in the epistle, but it was obviously written when the collection for Jerusalem had been assembled and Paul was about to go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints there.  This would have been at the close of his second visit to Greece, during the winter.  The majority of scholars writing on Romans propose that this letter was written in late 55 CE, 56 CE, or early 57 CE. Thus, the date range was between years 55 CE and 58 CE, about twenty-five years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Can you remember what happened a little over twenty-five years ago?

Written in Corinth

This letter to the Romans was probably written while Paul was in Corinth, staying in the house of Gaius, chapter 16:23, and transcribed by Tertius, his scribe, chapter 16:22, as indicated in the letter itself.  Paul was about to travel to Jerusalem after writing this letter, which matches Acts, chapter 20:3, where it was reported that Paul stayed for three months in Greece.  This probably implies Corinth, since this was the location of Paul’s greatest missionary success in Greece.  Additionally, Phoebe, mentioned in the letter, chapter 16:1-2, was a deacon of the church in Cenchreae, a port to the east of Corinth.  She would have been able to convey the letter to Rome after passing through Corinth and taking a ship from Corinth’s west port.  Erastus, mentioned in 16:23, also lived in Corinth, being the city’s commissioner for public works and city treasurer at various times.  All these indications point to this letter being written in Corinth.  Have you ever been to Greece?

Literary style

Scholars often have difficulty assessing whether Romans is a letter or an epistle.  A letter is something non-literary, a means of communication between persons who are separated from each other.  Confidential and personal in nature, it is intended only for the person or persons to whom it is addressed, and not at all for the public or any kind of publicity.  An epistle is an artistic literary form, just like the dialogue, the oration, or the drama.  The contents of the epistle are intended for publicity.  Perhaps this was an essay-letter.  Was this a summary of all Christian doctrine?  Paul sometimes used a style of writing common in his time called a “diatribe”.  He appears to be responding to an imaginary heckler.  He asks ironic questions.  Certainly, this was a public letter or epistle. What kind of letters do you write?