The Letter of Paul to the Romans is perhaps the most famous and significant of all New Testament texts. It was the primer for Augustineís, Lutherís and Barthís theological revolutions. It has been a source of comfort, encouragement, and exhortation for countless Christian persons. And it remains one of the best loved of the Biblical books.
Why was this letter written? When? Where? By who? We will start with the last question first because it is the easiest to answer. This letter was written by the Apostle Paul, while he was in Corinth, in or around the year 57 CE. The hardest question to answer is the "why" of the letter. It seems that Paul had never been to Rome, but was planning to visit there on an upcoming journey (right after he took the funds he had raised for the Jerusalem Church to Jerusalem). Paul did indeed visit the city, but not as a free man, rather as a prisoner of the emperor. So, while Paul was in Corinth, on his way to Jerusalem, he wrote Romans as an introduction of himself and his theology to the Christians at Rome so that they would know what he taught and believed before he arrived in the city.
Though this is the first letter of Paul in the collection of New Testament writings, it is not Paulís earliest letter. That is 1 Thessalonians -- which we will examine in due course.
The letter seems to have been composed on two occasions. That is, chapters 1-15 seem to be a unity whereas chapter 16 seems to be an independent writing. Perhaps chapter 16 was send as a P.S. after the main letter had been composed. There are no manuscripts which lack chapter 16, however.
An outline of the letter will clearly demonstrate that the purpose of the letter is to act as a digest of Paulís theology.
1- Introduction (1:1-7)
2- Thanksgiving (1:8-10)
3- Purpose (1:11-15)
4- Paulís Doctrine (1:16-11:36)
a- God is Just (1:16-4:25)
b- God Punishes Sin (1:18-3:20)
c- Godís Solution to the Sin Problem (3:21-8:39)
d- But What About Israel? (9:1-11:36)
5- Paul Exhorts the Romans (12:1-15:13)
6- Paulís Intended Itinerary (15:14-33)
7- The Postscript to the Letter (16:1-27)
If one examines the structure of this epistle, on sees right away that it serves to delineate and explicate Paulís thought, and it does so quite well.
ASSIGNMENT: Read I Corinthians, Introduction, chapter 22.
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