I. Introduction

The majority of biblical scholars have called St. Paul's letter to the Romans a tour de force. In his missive, the apostle answered the question: how could Gentiles be saved? He could have postulated a theory of implicit superiority for the Chosen people where non-Jewish believers had a relationship with YHWH through the Law. In this sense, the Messiah would have been true "Teacher of Righteousness" (to borrow a phrase from the Essenes), interpreting the Torah for all peoples but still giving place and privilege to the natural descendants of the patriarchs. Paul, however, chose a different path; he proposed the audacious and radical notion that salvation lie outside the Law in a faith allegiance with Christ. In his mind, Gentile and Jew alike were guilty before God (3:1-20); both found equal standing before (3:21-4:25) and reconciliation with God (5:1-8:39) in Christ. Indeed, he held Jew and Gentile depended upon each other to realize the universality of salvation despite opposition from non-believing Jews (9:1-11:36). For Paul, Jew and Gentiles were equal; former pagans were not second-class citizens in God's Kingdom.

Paul implicitly addressed two groups in Romans, 1) Jewish-Christian teachers who treated Gentiles as inferior (1:18-2:29) and 2) Gentile-Christians who lacked respect for their Jewish brethren with regard to eating meat offered to idols (14:1-23). In both cases, he reminded the faithful at Rome that their duty lie in living to the ideal, a community of believers that lived in harmony as equals and, thus, in peace with outsiders (12:14-13:14). They were to worship God together as the eschatological community (15:1-13).

II. Dating. Winter of 56-57 in "Greece" (most likely Corinth).

See the commentary in 15:22-29 for details.

III. Structure

Without the opening (1:1-17) and the miscellaneous details in the ending (15:14-16:27), the core outline of Romans formed a simple chiastic structure (ABCCBA). At the letter's height, Paul argued for the reconciliation of humanity with God and the interdependence of Jew and Gentile in the divine plan of salvation. Faith within a community of disciples made reconciliation and interdependence possible.

A. Greeting (1:1-7) and Thanksgiving (1:8-17)

B. Equality before God (1:18-15:13) (Structure ABCCBA)

1. Parallel 1a: Jews and Gentiles alike are guilty (1:18-3:20)

2. Chiasmus 2a: Faith made Jews and Gentiles equal (3:21-4:25)

3. Chiasmus 3a: In Christ, all are reconciled to God (5:1-8:39)

4. Chiasmus 3b: Israel and Gentiles are interdependent for salvation (9:1-11:36).

5. Chiasmus 2b: Living out faith in a Jewish-Gentile community (12:1-13:14)

6. Chiasmus a2: Jews and Gentiles, glorify God together, as brothers (14:1-15:13)

C. Paul's plans and request for prayer, benedictions, greetings (15:14-16:23)

D. Final doxology (16:24 or 16:25-27)

IV. Synopsis and Commentary

A. Greeting (1:1-7) and Thanksgiving (1:8-17)

Paul began his letter to the Romans with a chiastic structure:

A1: identifying himself as an apostle (Rom 1:1)

B: a summary of the gospel (Rom 1:2-4)

A2: affirming his apostleship and those fellow believers (Rom 1:5-6)

He directed his missive to the church in Rome with his standard phrase: "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Paul continued with a prayer of thanksgiving and his plans to visit the church in Rome based upon its good reputation. He wanted to help in the evangelizing efforts there and share spiritual strengthening that came through fellowship (Rom 1:8-15). He concluded with his thesis: the equality of Jew and Greek through the God-given gift of faith (Rom 1:16-17).

B. Equality before God (1:18-15:13) (Structure ABCCBA)

1. Parallel 1a: Jews and Gentiles alike are guilty (1:18-3:20)

a. A1: Jewish social critique of the Gentiles (1:18-32)

Paul began his thesis when he noted the unrighteousness of Jew and Gentile alike. He started with a popular view Jews had of the pagan morality. No non-Jew was right with God since they saw his handiwork in creation and still refused to give him honor or thanks. Instead, they attributed the works of the divine to forces of nature they worshiped in the form of idols. Even though they could clearly see signposts to the Creator in cosmos, they blinded themselves and their hearts became dark (Rom 1:18-23). When they praised the ways of nature, they attempted to imitate its processes through pagan fertility rites and even in perverse ways (Rom 1:24-25).

In Rom 1:26-27, Paul proceeded to describe the activities of pagan rites in terms of sexual orgies where people might feel free to experiment in parings that they might not engage in their daily lives.  He used these verses as a bridge to a larger set of immoral acts described in Rom 1:28-32.

In 1:18-32, Paul laid out a social critique many of his fellow Jews might have made against the pagans. Gentile idolatry led to sexually perverse acts (free-wheeling orgies that didn't discriminate between sexual parings) and to all other sorts of immoral acts rampant in society. Deep down, these critics held, pagans knew they stood condemned but they insisted upon partaking in anyway. In the face of this view, the apostle implicitly asked a question: was this critique fair?

b. B1: Judgment of God on those prejudiced against Gentiles (2:1-16)

In 2:1-5, Paul answered his question with a resounding "No." Those who judged partook in the very thing they condemned (Rom 2:1) simply because, through their focus on the immoral, they reveled in it. (Don't those who constantly dwell on perversion to condemn it in a sense promote it?) The apostle recognized the righteousness of God's judgment, but also equated the sinner and the human judge on the same plane; both stood under God's sentence. The human judges might intellectually presume God's mercy but would harden their heart through obsessive judgment; they would receive God's wrath along that of the unrepentant sinner (Rom 2:2-5).

Paul continued this theme when he restated the impartiality of God's judgment. The selfless would receive glory, Jew first then Greek; in the same way, the self-obsessed would receive condemnation (Rom 2:6-11). The Jews had the Law to measure their righteousness which required action, not mere presence at the synagogue when the Torah was read. The Gentiles might not have the Law but, if they followed a well formed conscience ("the work of the Law written on their hearts" Rom 2:15), they would do good deeds and, thus, receive God's favor. Or, as Rom 2:16 stated, "...on the day when God will judge the secrets of men (both Jew and Gentile) according to my gospel through Christ Jesus." (Rom 2:12-16).

Notice the shift to the second person singular ("you," highlighted with the vocative "O man" in Rom 2:1, 3) from the third person plural ("they") in Rom 1:18-32. In this section and the next, Paul made a pointed attack on those within the community who implicitly or explicitly maintained the superiority of the Jew over the Gentile, thus making the non-Jewish believer a second class Christian. With the shift in person, the apostle slammed the leadership in a personal and direct way.

c. A2: Paul's critique of Jewish-Christian teachers (2:17-29)

Paul turned his focus on Jewish scholars within the community, the learned who studied the Torah and who proudly acted as its teachers. He asked the same question he posed in Rom 2:1-5. Don't those who instruct others, casting a critical eye on the sinner, somehow take part in the sin? Do those who condemn the thief steal? Do those who chastise the adulterer cheat in marriage? Do those who reject idols plunder pagan temples, thus enjoying the fruits of idolatrous worship? In other words, the hyper-religious who judged sinners constantly and without mercy put the sin, not God, front and center; in doing so, they committed the idolatry they abhorred (Rom 2:17-23). Because of these leaders, the pagans blasphemed God (Isa 52:2; Rom 2:24).

After his condemnation of Jewish-Christian teachers, Paul addressed the sign of their self-declared superiority: circumcision. Cutting the foreskin demarcated the line between the Jew and the Gentile, setting aside one as a member of the Chosen People. Yet, the apostle saw no advantage. The Jew who broke the Law had no better standing than the Gentile who wallowed in sin. The heathen who acted in ways that keep the Torah could judge the sinning Jew. So, Paul contended, circumcision was not confined to a physical sign. No, it was a matter of the heart by the power of the Spirit (Rom 2:25-29).

d. B2: Judgment of God on Jew and Gentile alike (3:1-20)

Now, Paul addressed the advantages of Judaism (Rom 3:1-4). The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob reveled himself to and cared for his people. He was faithful to his people, despite their disobedience. They carried the message of YHWH, despite perversions many Jews made of the Scriptures. God remained true to his word, despite their faithlessness (quoting Psa 54:4 in Rom 3:4).

However, did the immoral acts of God's people make YHWH culpable? No. Paul continued with a set of questions to separate the divine from human immorality. First, doesn't the problem of evil in the world, the "unrighteousness" of people, prove the duplicity of God in evil? No, if so, he could not stand above evil and judge the world as its master. Second, if good comes from evil, thus giving God glory, why were people being condemned? Implicitly, the apostle recognized the absurdity of the question; the good that came from evil only resulted from the beneficence of God; the good did not relieve the sinner of responsibility for their actions (Rom 3:5-9).

Finally, Paul stressed the equality of Jew and Gentile as guilty "under sin" (Rom 3:9), citing a long list of Scripture verses:

1) Everyone was a sinner (Rom 3:10-12 quoting Psa 14:1-3).

2) The cursing and bitterness of the sinner's speech poured out "poison and death" (Rom 3:13-14 quoting Psa 5:9, Psa 140:3 and Psa 10:7)

3) The vile acts of the sinner resulted in violence, not peace (Rom 3:15-17 quoting Isa 59:7-8)

4) The sinner had no regard for YHWH ("fear of God" in Rom 3:18 quoting Psa 36:1)

By quoting this list of verses, Paul mirrored the social critique Jews made against Gentiles in Rom 1:18-32. But, this time he charged everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, of immorality; all stood under the Law (Rom 3:19). "Hence, by the works of the Law all flesh will not be considered righteous before HIM, for through (the ) Law (is the) recognition of sin" (Rom 3:20).

2. Chiasmus 2a: Faith made Jews and Gentiles equal (3:21-4:25)

a. Step A1: Jews and Gentiles equal under Jesus' faithfulness (3:21-26)

Paul argued that 1) the Law only gave knowledge of immorality not righteousness, 2) both Jew and Gentile broke the Law ("fell short of the glory of God" in Rom 3:23), so 3) a right relationship came as a free gift from God through the death of Jesus Christ. One could only realize this offer through a faith allegiance with Christ. Paul emphasized that only God was "just and justifier"; salvation came about only through divine initiative (Rom 3:21-26).

The core of Paul's argument lie in Rom 3:24-25; these verses required some unpacking. In Rom 3:24, the apostle held justification of the sinner only came about through the gracious gift of redemption Jesus paid. In other words, when the sinner was baptized, they received the grace ("charis" in Greek) that wiped away any guilt for personal or corporate ("Original") sins; Christ paid the divine "ransom" for humanity on the cross.

"...God set forth the hilasterion through faith in his blood, in the declaration of his righteousness through the remission of sins having transpired." (3:25)

In Rom 3:25, Paul employed the term "hilasterion" either referring to a "place of satisfaction" where God's wrath was satiated (translated as "propitiation") or, more like, to the "mercy seat" or lid to the Ark of the Covenant, symbolizing the presence of YHWH (translated as "expiation"). In the later sense, the mercy seat recalled Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement" when Jews sought reconciliation with God. According to tradition, Jews believed YHWH wrote the deeds of all in the "Book of Life" for the coming year; Yom Kippur gave the faithful a last chance to seek divine forgiveness before the chapter of the past year was permanently closed. As part of the ceremony in the Second Temple period, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle bull's blood (for the sins of himself and his family, later with goat's blood (for the sins of the nation; Lev 16:14-16). In Rom 3:25, Paul used this sprinkling ceremony in an allegorical sense, prefiguring the blood Christ shed on the cross so that God would remit the past transgressions of humanity; the Christian realized the "mercy seat" through faith in the redemptive act of the Crucifixion. Hence, "the hilasterion through faith in his blood."

b. Step B1: God who justifies Jew and Gentile through faith (3:27-31)

Paul summarized his argument by emphasizing equality between Jew and Gentile; both were justified through faith, not by the Law. By focusing upon relationship over behavior, the apostle held the faithful upheld the Law; faith implicitly gave a reason to live a highly moral life, but took away a reason to boast about such a lifestyle (Rom 3:27-31).

c. Step A2: Jews and Gentiles equal under Abraham's faithfulness (4:1-25)

Like 3:10-38, Paul reinforced his thesis with an argument from Scripture, specifically in the person of the patriarch Abraham. He did this for two reasons. First, he strengthened his position against Jewish-Christian teachers in the Roman community who may have held a prejudice against Gentiles (notice how he quoted Scripture after stating his thesis to act against a possible counter charge). Second, he chose the father of Judaism, a figure who existed before the people received the Law on Mount Sinai. In other words, he argued that a faith relationship preceded the Law; hence, the Mosaic covenant was built upon faith, not visa versa. Just as Rom 4:3 quoted Gen 15:6, "Abraham believed in God and (it) was reckoned to him as righteousness."

The term "reckon" occurred 11 times in chapter 4; in commercial parlance, it referred to receiving credit on an account. The apostle argued that if the "works" of obeying the Law justified people, they could boast about their accomplishments (Rom 4:1-2); justification was their "due" (Rom 4:4). However, that understanding could not account for divine forgiveness that justified the sinner (Rom 4:5-8); by quoting Psa 32:1-2 (Rom 4:7-8), Paul saw the remittance of sin as blessing, in spite of circumcision. After all, Abraham's faith relationship preceded, hence, superseded his circumcision (Rom 4:9-10); indeed, the cutting of his foreskin "sealed" the faith he had in God. So, while the patriarch physically fathered the Jews, he "spiritually" fathered the Gentile believers, because he believed before he was circumcised (Rom 4:11-12).

Paul insisted a faith relationship, not "works" required by the Law, put one right with God. If the situation were reversed, the faith relationship between Abraham and God, along with the divine promises he received, would fall to dust. The only function the Law could then retain would involve divine judgment; without the Law, no judgment could be made (Rom 4:13-15).

However, faith realized the gracious gift God offered to the "sons of Abraham," those who shared in the faith of the patriarch, whether Jew or Gentile. In Gen 17:5, God called Abraham the "father of many nations." The patriarch put his trust in this deity who raised the dead and brought new things into being. (Rom 4:16-17). Despite his advanced age and the barren womb of his wife Sarah (both of which Paul called "dead" in Rom 4:19), he held onto hope that his God would fulfill the divine promises made to him; that hope strengthened his faith which glorified God (Rom 4:19-21).

"Therefore (Abraham's faith) was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Rom 4:22). From this point, Paul employed a pesher mode of interpretation, directly applying the meaning of Gen 17:5 to Christians; like the patriarch who believed God could bring forth life from the "dead" conditions of his age and his wife's barrenness, followers of Jesus could realize eternal life through the death and resurrection of the Christ (notice the parallel Paul made between death and risen life in Rom 4:23-24). "(Jesus) was given over for our sins and was raised up for our justification" (Rom 4:25).

3. Chiasmus 3a: In Christ, all are reconciled to God (5:1-8:39)

a. Step A1: Christ as God's instrument of reconciliation (5:1-11)

After arguing for the primacy of the faith relationship, Paul turn his focus upon the place of Christ in salvation. He was God instrument; through him, followers received grace, so they had hope. This hope sustained them through suffering, gave them endurance and toughened their character. Yet, they did not hope in vain, for God's love dwelt in them as a gift of the Spirit (Rom 5:1-5).

Now, Paul answered the question: what did Jesus do to reveal himself as a divine instrument? He died for sinners. This showed everyone the extent of God's love for humanity. Through his death ("by this blood" in Rom 5:9), believers would not suffer divine judgment ("saved from God's anger"); since they had a right relationship with God ("reconciled to God" in Rom 5:10), they would receive eternal life ("saved by his (risen) life"). Notice the parallel in Rom 5:9-10. In Rom 5:9, Jesus died to save others from eternal death of divine judgment; through his death, he reconciled others to God, thus giving them the hope of eternal life with God through his risen life (Rom 5:10). So Paul rejoiced because of God's reconciliation (Rom 5:6-11)

b. Step B1: The sin of Adam vs. the righteousness of Christ (5:12-21)

Paul expounded on Christ as the divine instrument by comparing him to the first man, Adam. The primal male gave into temptation, thus becoming the instrument of evil and death that spread to all humanity. Sin preceded the Law and, while sin was not defined before the revelation on Mount Sinai, its effects, especially death, afflicted humanity from Adam to Moses. Even the righteous who prefigured Christ suffered under sin (Rom 5:12-14)

Paul set his sites on Christ, whose death and Resurrection he called a "free gift" ("charisma" in Greek). Again notice the parallel the apostle employed. "But, not like the transgression (is) the charisma. For, if through the one transgression many died, how much more the charis ("grace") of God and the gift in charis of the one man, Jesus Christ, cause to abound for the many" (Rom 5:15). He continued, comparing sin to salvation. The transgression of on led to condemnation, but the charis of one justified many. Death ruled through Adam's sin, but charis overflowed in abundance and the right relationship was given as a gift through Christ. Through one sin, all were condemned; through one righteous act, righteous came to all. Through the disobedience of Adam, all became sinners; through the obedience of Christ, many became righteous (Rom 5:15-19). Paul capped off his argument when he returned to the function of the Law in 5:20. With the increasing moral awareness that Law brought, charis increased all the more. Sin and death could never outdo the charis of God (Rom 5:20-21).

c. Step C1: Baptism, the sacrament of death to self, life to God (6:1-14)

Paul concentrated on the gateway to the righteousness God offered: baptism. Christians could not increase charis through increasing immorality. Besides the absurdity of the mere thought, he drew a far more significant point. The faithful died to sin in the baptismal ritual. The apostle did not mean the language of Rom 6:2-4 as merely symbolic or metaphorical. Baptism actually grafted the believer into the death of Christ. Immersion into the waters of baptism really meant death to the old self; that immoral lifestyle was nailed to the cross. The neophyte rose up into the community with the hope they would share in the new, eternal life of the Risen One (Rom 6:1-4).

Paul expanded on the comparison of death and life for the Christian. United to Christ in death, the believer held certain hope in union with his resurrected life. The union of death meant freedom from sin and a shift in moral lifestyle. Christ died to sin forever more; risen up, he will never die again because sin has no hold on him. He lives for God. Like Christ, the believer should also consider themselves dead to sin and living for God in the Risen One (Rom 6:5-11).

Paul exhorted his readers to live a moral life of self control, turning away from enslaving addictions ("passions"), keeping various body parts in check. Instead, the focus of the believer should rest on God, presenting the self as one brought from death to life and one's body parts as instruments of right living. In other words, live as if God were always present. In this way, one could reject the domination of sin and "live under grace" (Rom 6:12-14).

Again, notice how Paul argued over the past several sections, in parallels and comparisons. This gave us a key to his style of debate and his ways of thinking.

d. Step C2: Conversion as freely chosen "slavery" (6:15-23)

Paul used the terminology of slavery to describe a faith relationship with God. While we moderns might find such language strange or even offense, he and his contemporaries felt comfortable with such words; after all, they lived in a world built upon class hierarchies defined by allegiances, not legal rights. The term "slave" also had a much greater flexibility in meaning than our current understanding, implicitly informed by American history. In Roman culture, a slave could be the worker in the salt mine or a trusted financial assistant, even a mentor to the children of aristocrats; a "slave" could represent the interests of the rich as an "ambassador."

Paul recognized the radical change baptism represented. Prior to the sacrament, Gentiles interested in the faith lived in a polytheistic culture with varying moral norms; after baptism, they joined a community that had a completely different view of God and expected a highly ethical lifestyle for its adherents. The apostle saw conversion as a choice of allegiance (obedience) between a pagan culture (sin) and Christianity (righteousness). The meaning "slave" primarily referred to a representative role; the question of ownership was secondary. So, potential believers faced a choice: which lifestyle would they align themselves with? Which side would they represent?

Paul set up this choice by returning to the rhetorical question of Rom 6:1; were Christians to continue in sin when they lived "under grace" (Rom 6:15)? Of course not. Then, he continued to describe the choice as freely adopted slavery; but with the choice, he included the destination of the lifestyle. Slavery to wickedness led to lawlessness and death; "slavery" to righteousness led to a growing relationship with God (sanctification) and eternal life (Rom 6:16-23).

e. Step B2: The personal battle between sin and righteousness (7:1-8:8)

Paul returned to place of the Law in the life of the Christian. The Law could bind a person until death; for example, laws on marriage placed limitations on spouses until one of them died; death freed one from marital vows (Rom 7:1-3). Using this as an analogy, he implicitly held that baptism (dying "to the Law through the Body of Christ") gave believers the freedom to partake in fellowship and in union with the Risen Christ, so they could live a moral life ("bear fruit for God" in Rom 7:4).

Paul also argued one could not equate the Law with immorality. Instead it defined morality (Rom 7:7) but, in a perverse way, by stating what was sinful made breaking it more appealing to the immoral (Rom 7:5, Rom 7:8-11). Continuing his analogy of death, the apostle insisted that freedom from that which defined sin, despite its inherent goodness (Rom 7:12) allowed the faithful liberation from sin and its effects (Rom 7:5-6). In a sense, he implicitly argued for a return to the Garden of Eden, where man and woman lived in ignorance of evil and, so, ignorance of its effects, sin and death.

Paul continued with a corollary to his view on the goodness of the Law. While the Law defined sin, even heightening a desire to sin in the immoral, it also clarified the good (Rom 7:13-14). And that knowledge of the good made one more aware of the interior battle between what one does (vice) and what one desired to do (virtue; Rom 7:15-20). The apostle experienced the fight between human weakness and the moral ideal, almost to the point of despair (Rom 7:21-24) but took solace in his faith (Rom 7:25).

Despite the battle between good and evil highlighted by the Law, Paul held for freedom from condemnation in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1-2). God gave the Law but he also sent his Son into the world ("in the likeness of sinful flesh") to damn evil ("condemned sin in the flesh") and free believers ("righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled") who "walked in the Spirit" (Rom 8:3-4). In other words, the Law was God's initiative, but so was salvation in Christ. The Christian who underwent the radical shift in outlook and lifestyle did not "set their minds on things of the flesh" (before conversion) but on "things of the Spirit" (after conversion; Rom 8:5). The apostle opposed the "before" and "after" with their results (death vs. life and peace; Rom 8:6); the former could not please God, since it, according to Paul, stood hostile to the divine (Rom 8:7-8).

f. Step A2: Unity in the Divine Plan (8:9-39)

Paul continued to oppose the pagan life with the Christian life; the former led to death, the later to life in the Spirit which made the believer a "son of God" (Rom 8:12-13). Here, the apostle shifted the analogy to the status of a family member. He compared the pagan to a slave, living in fear, but he noted the believer received the place of the adopted son who could address God as "Abba, Father" (Rom 8:14-15). How did believers intuit this? Through the Spirit. And in the power of God, followers realized they would receive the same inheritance as the Son, even though they might suffer like the Christ (Rom 8:16-17).

In spite of his sufferings, Paul widened his vision of salvation. Not only humanity but all of nature yearned for the moment when God would reveal his children (Rom 8:18-19). In the hierarchy of creation, God placed humanity at the peak of the cosmos, so when the divine liberated people, others down the chain of that order would find fulfillment (Rom 8:20-21). Here Paul treated nature as sentient being; until that moment of completion, it "has been groaning in the pains of childbirth" (Rom 8:22). And, he went on, the believers also "groaned" to see the end time, the moment of revelation as adopted children and the event of bodily redemption (Rom 8:23). While the faithful have not seen the day yet, they live in patient hope for its arrival (Rom 8:24-25).

While the Spirit gave Christians hope for the end time, it also interceded in their prayer life. Believers might find stresses in their lives confuse, even mute, their intercessions; the Spirit would pray to God inside them with "groanings too deep for words" (a parallel with cosmic "groanings" in Rom 8:23; Rom 8:26). The power of God interceded "for the saint according to the will of God" for the Father himself searched their hearts (Rom 8:27).

Employing this image of the indwelling Spirit, Paul presented a series of cascading images to explain salvation history in the lives of believers. Since the Spirit already motivated the faithful ("called to his purpose"), it guided all life experiences, despite tough times, towards the good (Rom 8:28). Spirit-driven Christians would suffer and even die ("predestined to conform to the image of his Son") in the hope they would be raised ("firstborn among many"; Rom 8:29). God chose the faithful by calling them through the Spirit; he justified those who received the Spirit, in the hope of eternal life ("glory"; Rom 8:30).

Notice the use of repeated verbs in Rom 8:28-30. Beginning with "foreknew" and ending with "glorified," Paul employed "predestined...predestined, called...called, Justified...justified." The last two verb pairings sat close together while the first ("predestined...predestined") bookended the phrase "conformed to the image of his SON, so that HE would be the firstborn among many brothers." This first set of verbs heightened the place of Christians in the divine plan; their suffering would lead to their eternal glory.

Note several details about the way Paul used the term "predestine" (sometimes called "election," in Greek "proginosko"). First, in the context of Rom 8:22 where all creation yearned to see the day of redemption, God wanted all to be saved, since he created humanity along with nature. Second, in the context of Rom 6:15-23, the offer of salvation depended upon the choice of the individual, picking either slavery to sin or slavery to the Spirit. Finally, Rom 8:28-30 referred to the faithful in the plural; many have argued that the term "predestined" must be applied to the Church, not to its individual members. This paralleled the "election" of Israel as a nation (Deu 7:6) not its individual members, many of who fell away (Deu 28:20, Deu 29:25, Jer 9:13). In other words, God offered salvation to all but allowed each individual the freedom to accept or reject the offer; he "predestined" the community itself to "conform to image of his SON."

With a set of rhetorical questions, Paul drew parallel corollaries about the divine plan.

8:31b "If God is for us who can be against us?"

Parallel 1a Rom 8:32 God gave the community his gracious gifts because he did not spare his Son.

Parallel 2a Rom 8:33-34 Since God is the judge, no one can bring the faithful to court and expect a favorable ruling; a priori, the accused will find acquittal.

8:35a "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?"

Parallel 1b Rom 8:35-37 Quoting Psa 44:22, Paul implied Christians would face pressures beyond their control, but these would not change the outcome of God's victory.

Parallel 2b Rom 8:38-39 Paul finished his argument by denying any spiritual power in the universe (even death itself) could separate the faithful from the love of God.

Again, notice the parallels. God gave the Church his grace (Rom 8:32), insuring victory over troubles (Rom 8:35-37). God judged the faithful innocent despite charges made against them (Rom 8:33-34); hence, no power in the cosmos could separate the faithful from God's love (Rom 8:38-39). In this light, Paul proclaimed predestination as divine intimacy.

4. Chiasmus 3b: Israel and Gentiles are interdependent for salvation (9:1-11:36).

a. Step A1: Paul's anguish and doxology over the glory of Israel (9:1-5)

Paul saw his Christian witness to his fellow Jews fell on deaf ears; he anguished over their lack of faith. He even wished excommunication for their sake (in a sense, he was sarcastic since many Jewish opponents had already rejected him). After all, they enjoyed all the advantages of a relationship with the true God, divine adoption, the covenants, the Torah, Temple worship and divine promises. They claimed the patriarchs and, through bloodlines, could claim the Christ (Rom 9:1-5).

These few verses stated the problem Paul would address in 9-11: how did the increasing numbers of Gentile converts and the lack of Jewish believers fit into God grand plan for the end times?

b. Step B1: The Elect built upon divine promises (9:6-29)

In Rom 9:6, Paul sharply declared God's word did not fail. An opponent could argue the situation of growing Gentile adherents vs. Jewish intransigence meant either YHWH did not keep his promises (not likely) or Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ according to the Law and the Prophets; the phenomena of the Church had irreligious or even demonic roots. So, the apostle had to defend the integrity of God's word to advance his thesis that the Gentile attraction vs. Jewish repulsion to the faith could be explained even from Scripture.

How did God choose his people? To answer that question, Paul distinguished between birthright and divine election. Salvation could not depend upon bloodlines; such a belief would violate divine freedom. The apostle argued for God's prerogative through the narrative of the patriarchs. Despite his old age, Abraham realized the promises of YHWH in the miraculous birth of his son, Isaac (Rom 9:7, quoting Gen 21:12). Paul emphasized election through promise over birthright (Rom 9:8) by showing that the later depended upon the former. The promise of Isaac preceded his birth (Rom 9:9, quoting Gen 18:10, Gen 18:14); in turn, the choice of Jacob over Esau existed even before their conception (Rom 9:10-13, quoting Gen 25:23 and Mal 1:2-3).

Doesn't Paul's argument support the charge of divine capaciousness? Not at all, the apostle insisted (Rom 9:14). Instead, he made two counter arguments. First, divine freedom allowed for divine mercy which implicitly led to salvation (Rom 9:15, quoting Exo 33:19); humans could not save themselves (Rom 9:16), only God could grant or withhold mercy (Rom 9:17-18, quoting Exo 9:16). Second, divine freedom did not make God morally culpable (Rom 9:19). Employing the Scriptural image of the potter (God) and the clay pot (humans), he insisted that people had no right to question the prerogative of YHWH (Rom 9:20, quoting Isa 29:26 and Isa 45:9). Divine providence meant only God had the power to choose the station of people in life and their possibilities, seemingly showing favor to one over another, even Gentiles over Jews (Rom 9:21-24). The apostle reinforced his point about God's unlimited freedom to choose his people with quotes from the prophets Hosea (Rom 9:25-26, quoting Hos 2:23 and Hos 1:10) and Isaiah (Rom 9:27-28, quoting Isa 10:22-23 LXX; Rom 9:29, quoting Isa 1:9).

Notice in 9:6b-29, Paul used Scripture verses as the first and last elements ("A" steps) in a series of small chiastic structures. The middle elements ("B" step) made his points: divine election trumped birthright (Rom 9:6-13), humans could not justify themselves (Rom 9:15-18) and divine freedom could even favor Gentile over Jew (Rom 9:19-29). So, the apostle argued against the common logic that divine favor ranked the Jew over the Gentile.

c. Step C1: Faith as trust in the heart and a baptismal declaration (9:30-10:21)

In this section, Paul employed another chiastic structure to explain why the Gentiles found salvation in Christ while non-Christian Jews did not.

1) Chiasmus a1 (9:30-10:4)

Paul stated his thesis plainly. Gentiles found a right relationship with God through faith, while Jews did not find it simply because they based their spirituality upon mere observance of the Law (Rom 9:30-32). Obsession on obedience was their "stumbling stone" (Rom 9:33, quoting Isa 28:16 and Isa 8:14). While Paul empathized with his fellow Jews, he argued that they sought a path to God based upon their own efforts (Rom 10:1-3). They did not see that, with the appearance of the Christ, the Law came to an end. Implicitly, the Jewish Messiah became the Anointed for all people; to have a right relationship with God meant faith in his Christ (Rom 10:4).

2) Chiasmus b (10:5-13)

Here, Paul addressed the ultimate question for the mixed Jewish-Gentile community: how could God save those outside the Law? While he recognized a righteousness under the Law (Rom 10:5, quoting Lev 18:5), the apostle touted the superiority of righteousness by faith; he applied Scripture to the "descent" of Christ from heaven (his appearance on earth; Rom 10:6, quoting Deu 9:4 and Deu 30:12), to the "ascent" of the Messiah from the dead (Rom 10:7, quoting Deu 30:13) and to the apostolic preaching about Jesus (Rom 10:8, quoting Deu 30:14). Here, Paul summed up his point, penning his famous description of salvation through faith:

"...if ever you should confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and should believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For, with the heart one has believed (leading) to righteousness and with the mouth one confessed (leading) to salvation." (Rom 10:9-10)

Notice in 10:9-10 Paul described a right relationship with God as the faith choice and the moment of salvation as a public confession made within the community at baptism. He backed up his point with a Scripture quote on belief (Rom 10:11, quoting Isa 28:16) and on public declaration of faith (Rom 10:13, quoting Joel 2:32); in between, he sandwiched his conviction that God did not distinguish between Jew or Gentile believers, blessing both abundantly (Rom 10:12).

3) Chiasmus a2 (10:14-21)

Now, Paul faced the practical question: how can one come to faith in Christ? The Good News about Jesus must be preached to them. Through a series of rhetorical questions, the apostle moved backwards from public declaration at baptism (call) to belief in the heart to hearing about Christ to preaching to the sending of missionaries; he capped this progression off with a beatitude about timely news given by messengers (Rom 10:14-15, quoting Isa 52:7 and Nah 1:15). But, many who heard the Good News did not accept it (Rom 10:16, quoting Isa 53:1) so they had no excuse. They definitely did hear it preached (made emphatic with the use of a double negative in Rom 10:18, quoting Psa 19:4). And they really understood its implications (again made emphatic with the use of a double negative in Rom 10:19, quoting Deu 32:21; Rom 10:20, quoting Isa 65:1). Despite God's patience with his stubborn people (Rom 10:21, quoting Isa 65:2), the only way to find faith came through hearing the word of Christ preached (Rom 10:17).

So, Paul argued for the superiority of faith over the mere slavish obedience to the Law ("works") and chided those who heard and understood the Good News but rejected it (the "A" steps in the chiasmus). The faith and its rejection heightened the components of faith: trust in the heart and a baptismal declaration before the community (the "B" step).

d. Step C2: A Jewish-Christian remnant saved by faith (11:1-10)

Paul turned to address the salvation of Israel in the face of Gentile election. He insisted God did not reject his people; after all, the apostle was living proof that even hard-hearted Jews could find redemption (Rom 11:1) as a part of a divinely ordained remnant (Rom 11:2-4, quoting 1 Kgs 19:10, 1 Kgs 19:14, 1 Kgs 19:18). Instead, he stated the remnant was saved by grace, a God-given gift (Rom 11:5) not through the efforts of mere obedience to the Law ("works"; Rom 11:5-6). For some to find faith, others must reject it, including those to whom God meant the message (Rom 11:7-9, quoting Deu 29:4 and Isa 29:10).

e. Step B2: Part of Israel is hardened so both Gentiles and Israel may be saved (11:11-32)

Paul touted the superiority of faith in the heart and a baptismal profession over obedience to the Law. As he insisted, faith opened salvation to Gentiles, thus leading many Jews to reject the Good News. How could this be? In 9:6-29, he argued for 1) divine election over birthright, 2) the inability for humans to justify themselves before God and 3) divine freedom allowed God to favor Gentile over Jew. Now, he presented his case in reverse order.

Step 3: Divine freedom (Rom 11:11-15). The failure of the Chosen People to believe allowed the Good News to be preached to the Gentiles, thus God willed salvation for the pagan. If Israel's rejection led non-Jews to reconcile with God, then their acceptance would mean life in the Spirit out of a dead existence; Paul meant this last remark both as metaphorical (a revived spirituality) and as eschatological (a sign for the end times; Rom 11:15). Paul's success among the Gentiles might lead to jealousy and opposition from the Jews, but it also might spur them to conversion (Rom 11:11, 14).

Step 2: Against human effort (Rom 11:16-24). Here, Paul shifted metaphors from the dough (the first fruit in Rom 11:16) that would form the baked bread offered at the Temple to the image of the olive tree as Israel. The rest of this section acted as a commentary on Jer 11:16-19 in which God willed a lush olive tree (the people of Israel) to endure fire (as a punishment for their idolatry to Baal). Yet, in spite of its disobedience, the trunk of the tree (the holy remnant mentioned in Rom 11:1-10) would remain alive, able to bear the fruit from grafted branches (Gentile believers). With this last remark, the apostle chided arrogant Gentiles who might rejoice in their new found status and gloat over the obeisance of non-believing Jews; their salvation depended not on their own efforts in faith, but upon Judaism itself (Rom 11:18-19). Gentile Christians should remain humble for two reasons. First, God could judge the Gentile believer as harshly as the non-Christian Jew (Rom 11:20-22). Second, even the obstinate Jew could repent and return to the fold as a "grafted branch" (11:23-24). In other words, God made his offer of salvation to all, only if they would receive it in faith.

Step 1: Divine election (Rom 11:25-32). Paul presented the opposition of non-Christian Jews as integral to God's mysterious plan. Their hard-hearted rejection meant salvation for the Gentiles but, at certain point, the influx of pagans would be complete; at this point, God's entire people ("Israel") would be saved (Rom 11:26-27, quoting Isa 27:9, Jer 31:33-34). Despite their opposition, their election based upon God's promises remained firm (Rom 11:28-29). From God's standpoint, their rejection meant mercy upon the former pagans; in turn, their repentance from their intransigence would lead to God's forbearance (Rom 11:30-31). In this way, God did not show favoritism; he allowed all to disobey, so he could grant mercy on all (Rom 11:32). Notice Paul equated divine mercy with divine election.

f. Step A2: Paul's doxology for God's mysterious plan (11:33-36)

Did Paul's vision for God's plan make sense? From a human standpoint, not really. But that was his insight; he defended divine freedom and praised God for it (Rom 11:33-36). With a quote that combined Isa 40:13 and Job 41:11 (Rom 11:34-35), he ended his argument the same way he started it in Rom 9:5, with a doxology (Rom 11:36)

5. Chiasmus 2b: Living out faith in a Jewish-Gentile community (12:1-13:14)

In 3:21-4:25, Paul argued for faith as the primary test for divine justification, not mere obedience to the Law. In this parallel chiastic structure, he exhorted his Roman audience to live out faith in very practical terms.

a. Step A1: True spirituality (12:1-2)

How should a Christian live (offer "spiritual worship" to God)? Since Paul took away obedience to the Law as the basis for a relationship with the divine, he shifted spirituality to the awareness prayer brought; offer one's self to God. Instead of returning to one's former life outside the Church, one should discern God's will by measuring life's experiences with "the good, the well-pleasing and the complete" (Rom 12:1-2). In other words, live up to a higher moral and spiritual standard.

b. Step B1: Spiritual gifts and their use (12:3-13)

In an appeal to the higher standard, Paul exhorted his audience not to use their new found status as a measuring stick to judge others with (Rom 12:3). Instead, he echoed his theme of the Church as a body with many members (Rom 12:4-5 in reference to 1 Cor 12:12). He followed with a list of spiritual gifts that, in some cases paralleled the gifts in 1 Cor 12:8-10 (prophecy, teaching) but, in other cases, changed their labels (wisdom and knowledge for leading, healing and miracle making for acts of mercy). Some of the gifts listed in 1 Cor 12:10 he left out entirely (the gift and interpretation of tongues, discernment of spirits). The gifts listed in First Corinthians tilted more towards official functions of office (elder, teacher, healer, prophet, etc.) while those listed in Romans rose up organically within the community based upon God-given grace (Rom 12:6-8).

Paul inferred the proper use of spiritual gifts brought about harmony within the community. He exhorted the faithful in Rome to seek the good, build up others and fervently serve the Lord through prayer, cheerfulness and patience in the face of opposition. He did not forget to mention the social virtues of hospitality and charity towards others in the Church (Rom 12:9-13).

c. Step C1: Interaction with outsiders (12:14-21)

Now, Paul turned his attention to the image Christians should project to non-believing neighbors. He exhorted blessing upon enemies, empathy with neighbors, acts of humility that discouraged arrogance, a consideration of honor before all over vengeance and the desire to live in peace with all (Rom 12:14-18). He preferred charity over seeking some sense of justice as a means to overcome any ill-will they experienced from outsiders (Rom 12:19-21, quoting Deu 32:35 and Prov 25:21-22).

d. Step C2: Interactions with civic officials (13:1-7)

After addressing common interaction with pagans and non-believing Jews, Paul addressed the tense relations the Christian community had with civic and imperial officials. The retrospective report of the late first century writer, Suetonius, detailed the banishment of Christians and Jews by the emperor Claudius in 49 CE over disturbances concerning the identity of the Messiah. Based upon the historian's statement, we can assume Christians in Rome lived under the suspicious eye of the government. The question remained: how could the faithful live with these conditions?

Paul urged respect towards the government and a highly moral life; both of these would promote a good reputation for the Church. In Rom 13:1-2, he implied the hierarchical structure of the government had God's approval. If the faithful acted in good conscience, they had nothing to fear (Rom 13:3); only the evil had reason to cower from divinely appointed officials (Rom 13:3-4). So Christians should live as loyal citizens by paying taxes and giving officials the respect they were due (Rom 13:5-7).

e. Step B2: Love your neighbor (13:8-10)

In echoing the proper use of spiritual gifts from Rom 12:3-13, Paul summarized the proper attitude of Christians within the community and towards outsiders with one word, love. Love fulfilled the Law (Rom 13:8-10, quoting Exo 20:13-15, Deu 5:17-21 and Lev 19:18).

f. Step A2: Living a true spirituality (13:11-14)

Paul returned to an exhortation of true spirituality, now in light of the immanent Second Coming (Rom 13:11). He compared the former existence outside the community with life inside the Church as the classic face-off between light and dark, day and night ; but this time, he added a moral twist. Believers should not revel in sexual improprieties, drunkenness or back-biting; instead, they should "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 13:12-14).

6. Chiasmus a2: Jews and Gentiles, glorify God together, as brothers (14:1-15:13)

a. Step A1: Welcome all to worship the God of all (14:1-13)

In this section, Paul briefly addressed the problem of diet that he argued in some detail with the Corinthian community (1 Cor 8); could a believer knowingly eat meat that had been offered to idols? In first century pagan society, the poor ate a vegetarian diet with occasional meals of meat from animals sacrificed at religious festivals; such communal meals not only represented civic spirit (a local community gathered together for a local holiday), it also symbolized communion with the gods. Hence, eating meat for some Christians (the "weak") represented participation in idolatry; these believers abstained from consuming meat of any kind. In Rom 14:1-3, the apostle did not address whether the faithful could eat meat in good conscience. Instead, he tackled the effects of the controversy; the vegetarians faced off against the meat eaters, judging each other harshly and tearing the community apart.

This section formed a chaistic structure in the following way:

Step A1: The vegetarian and the meat eater should not judge each other (Rom 14:3)

Step B: Do all things for the Lord (Rom 14:4-9).

Step A2: People on either side of the controversy ultimately stand before God who judges all things (Rom 14:10)

Notice Paul set up the "B" step within the hierarchy of the "master-servant.' One servant had no right to criticize another, since both only had worth before their own masters (Rom 14:4). The apostle expanded the principle of non-judgment not only to diet but to civic holidays themselves (Rom 14:5-6). He placed both holidays and their diet under the greater umbrella of life itself; in life or in death, the believer belonged to his Master, the Lord (Rom 14:7-9).

Paul underscored a greater principle that argued against internal strife. The Christian God was the God of all; his community was the universal gathering. So, the apostle insisted, the community should welcome everyone regardless of conscience (Rom 14:1). Any disagreement over lifestyle should not result in schism; instead, the community should be grateful for diversity (Rom 14:6). In the end, no matter what believers held on the questions of diet and holidays, they would stand before the "judgment throne of God" and worship him (Rom 14:10-11, quoting Isa 45:23). So, all will be responsible to God himself and should not cause others controversy (Rom 14:12-13).

b. Step B1: Responsibility for the "weak" (14:13-23)

Above, Paul urged peace in the community; now, he explained how to avoid internal strife. In relation to the scrupulous (the "weak"), he recognized that kosher laws no longer applied to Christians (especially Gentile believers), but "to (those) considering something to be unclean, that (thing is) unclean" (Rom 14:14). However, he and those who recognized that "nothing was unclean" had a responsibility to the "weak" to avoid scandal, otherwise they bore the sin of the scandal (Rom 14:15-16). Those who saw the bigger picture were responsible for implementing the vision. The peace and the Spirit defined the eschatological community, not its diet (Rom 14:17); its reputation depended upon its internal cohesion and its spirituality (Rom 14:18). So, Paul promoted the principles of peace and community building, while condemning judgment (Rom 14:19-20). In this sense, he shifted the notion of kosher away from food towards faith; he defined that which strengthens the community as "clean" (even to the beatitude of non-judgment in Rom 14:22) and implied that which caused scandal as "unclean," hence, sinful (Rom 14:21-23).

c. Step B2: Build up the weak (15:1-6)

In Rom 14:13-23, Paul held those who realized nothing in creation was unclean should defer to those who found scandal in celebrating civic holidays and eating meat offered to idols (the "weak"). In this section, he shifted from the "what" of the controversy to "how" such deference could be achieved. The apostle taught those with knowledge to turn their focus from themselves and place their focus on others, just as Christ did (Rom 15:1-2). In quoting Psa 69:9 (Rom 15:3), he invoked his sense of salvation history. What authors wrote in Scripture centuries ago was meant directly for the community's edification (Rom 15:4). Within a petition to God, he pointed to the message of divine endurance and comfort; the Lord wanted the community to find unity so, that with one voice, the faithful could offer praise to the Father (Rom 15:5-6). In other words, common worship, not apologetics, was the "end game" for the church at Rome.

d. Step A2: Welcome each other, Jew ans Gentile, as Christ welcomed you (15:7-13)

Paul closed out his argument for equality between Jew and Gentile with an imperative: admit each other into fellowship as Christ did for the believers in the community, all for the glory of God (Rom 15:7). Christ served his fellow Israelites to fulfill God's promises in Scripture; as a result, the Gentiles also glorified the Lord implicitly because Paul and others like him preached the Good News (Rom 15:8-12, quoting Psa 18:49, Deu 32:43, Psa 117:1, Isa 11:10; notice the string of Scripture references supported Paul's contention that a mixed Jewish-Christian community of believers had the primary function of worship mentioned in Rom 15:7). He concluded with another prayer petition that paralleled Rom 15:5-6; this time he asked God to bless the faithful with joy and peace so they could have hope in the Spirit (Rom 15:13).

C. Paul's plans and request for prayer, benedictions, greetings (15:14-16:23)

1. Paul's apologia, his future plans and requests for prayers (15:14-32)

While he recognized the ability and temperament of the Christians in Rome to build up their community (Rom 15:14), Paul defended his letter with an appeal to his status as an apostle. He received the gift ("grace") from God to serve the Gentiles like a temple minister who formed these former pagans into an acceptable offering to God by the power of the Spirit (Rom 15:15-16). In this ministry, he boasted of Christ and his efforts to bring the Gentiles to the Lord "by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit of God" (Rom 15:17-19). He preached far and wide, even hoping to evangelize in "virgin" territories (Rom 15:19-21, quoting Isa 52:15, implying that if he preached where others went before him, his efforts might be in vain).

Along the way to these new lands (specifically Spain), Paul wanted to visit the community in Rome for fellowship and possible material support (Rom 15:22-24). But first, he had a responsibility to deliver monetary contributions from the communities in Macedonia and Achaia to the mother church in Jerusalem; he stated his obligation as a material repayment from these communities for the spiritual gifts that had its origin in Jerusalem (Rom 15:25-27). Only when he fulfilled his responsibility could he find the freedom to travel westward "in the fullness of Christ's blessing" (Rom 15:28-29).

15:22-29 gave us an approximate time frame for the authorship of Romans. It matched the events described in Acts 20:1-3 where Paul left Macedonia on his third missionary journey and spent three months "in Greece" (most likely Corinth) on route to Jerusalem. If the apostle penned the letter in the area, then he composed in the winter of 56-57 CE.

After he laid out his plans, Paul asked for prayers that his efforts might find success and speed his journey to the church in Rome (Rom 15:30-32).

2. Minor Chiasmus A1: Peace benediction (15:33)

3. Minor Chiasmus B: Miscellaneous greetings (16:1-19)

a. Pheobe, a deacon (16:1-2)

In Rom 16:1-2, Paul commended Phoebe to the faithful in the Eternal City. He described her as a "deacon" ("diakonos" in Greek) at the community of Cenchreae. Scholars dispute whether the apostle employed the term "deacon" in an official sense (referring to an ordained office) or a generic sense (equating the term with "servant," its common meaning). But did these scholars superimpose a later development of the term on to this passage? In Acts 6:1-6, the apostles simply laid hands on seven men to distribute food to the poor; only later did this title develop into an ordained office with a liturgical function. Strip away that development and what remains? Could Paul have used the term to describe a rich woman who found a place in the community as a patron and helper (with or without the leaders laying hands on her)?

Paul recognized Phoebe as a personal patron, indicating she was a woman of means who could afford to care for others and to travel. He urged the believers in Rome to receive her with all due respect and hospitality. Many scholars noted her connection with Cenchreae, a community in the vicinity of Corinth; they hold this strengthened the theory that Paul wrote Romans at Corinth and that Phoebe herself delivered the letter. Paul could have met her when he ritually cut his hair in Cenchreae (Acts 18:18).

b. Priscilla and Aquila (16:3-4)

In Rom 16:3-16, Paul listed 26 different people in his greetings section. Two pairs of names stood out for modern scholars. First, he mentioned the prominent married couple: Prisca (the wife also know as Priscilla) and Aquila (the husband; Rom 16:3). Acts 18:2-3 noted Aquila from Pontus was a Jewish-Christian tent-maker like Paul; Claudius had exiled him along with other Christians from Rome. As a result, he and his wife, Priscilla, resided in Corinth when the apostle encountered them (see 1 Cor 16:19). In Acts 18:18, they traveled with Paul to Ephesus, thus they joined the apostle's entourage for a while. In Acts 18:26, the couple mentored Apollos who gained fame as a Christian missionary. Priscilla and Aquila lived like Paul; they traveled to spread the Good News with some insight and charismatic authority. By the time Paul had written Romans, they had returned to the Empire's capital.

c. Junia, an apostle? (16:7)

Paul listed another pair: Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7). Some controversy has arisen about Junia's gender, function and relationship. First, Junia was a common feminine name in Latin but rare in Greek, leading some to dispute gender (was Junia a nickname for the male form "Junias?"). However, most scholars assume Junia was a woman since they could safely assume the church at Rome would have contained people with Latin names.

Next, was Junia an apostle? This question turned on the Greek preposition "en" (which one could translate as "among" or "to") in connection with the Greek adjective "episanmos" (meaning "eminent" or "well-known"). So, one could translate Rom 16:7 as "eminent among the apostles" or " well-known to the apostles." However, this gave rise to a second question. If she had the status of the former ("eminent among the apostles"), how did she receive the title "apostle" ("one being sent" in Greek) from the Lord? Did she know Jesus when he was alive? Or did she receive a commission in a vision of the risen Lord? Or was she commissioned via a prophetic utterance ("thus says the Lord, 'I sent you...'")? Paul himself mentioned Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Silas and Timothy (1 Thes 1:1; 1 Thes 2:6) and finally Apollos as "apostles. How did they receive the title? Then, a third question arose. Like the question about Phoebe's status as a "diakonos," did Junia function as an "apostle" in formal (official) or informal way (as a helper to her partner Andronicus)?

Finally, the question of her place with Andronicus brought forth the question of relationship, not only with her partner but with Paul. Were Andronicus and Junia married like Priscilla and Aquila? Paul mentioned they lived in confinement, most likely under house arrest that limited their movement since Roman jails only housed those charged with capital crimes. In other words, authorities held them for the charge of public nuisance, not for impiety or, worse, treason for not burning incense before the bust of the emperor (the later were offenses punishable by death). This assumed imperial officials still considered the Christian movement as part of Judaism even into the 50's CE; a decade later they would recognize the Church as a separate entity with the local persecution of the faithful under Nero as reported by Tacitus (56-120 CE) in his Annals. The public nuisance charge matched the report of Suetonius about Claudius' ejection of Jews and the followers of "Chrestus" from Rome; it also dovetailed with Acts 18:3. Since Paul inferred officials jailed them together, they must have had some relationship, either married or familial (brother and sister).

No doubt Paul felt Andronicus and Junia were kindred spirits for two reasons. They believed ("in Christ") before he did and they were countrymen ("suggene" Greek for "fellow citizen"). In other words, they were Jewish Christians since the 30's CE; they could have even lived in Judea during that decade.

The identity of Junia left too many possibilities. We do know she was a Jewish-Christian since the earliest days of the movement. She was most likely married to Andronicus and Roman officials held them under house arrest, possibly from charges concerning the riots in Rome during the reign of Claudius (49 CE). Paul held them in high esteem, either as apostles or among the apostles (or both). Beyond this, we can only speculate.

d. Warning against dissenting teachers (16:17-20)

Against the backdrop of the greetings, Paul warned the community about those who taught a different theology than Paul (Rom 16:17-18). Implicitly, he inferred the 26 people listed in his greeting were reliable witnesses to the faith. Others, like the Jewish-Christian teachers who insisted upon the inferior position of the Gentiles (Rom 2:1-16) or those who vocally responded to the meat controversy with horror (Rom 14:1-13) caused riffs in the community with faulty logic. The apostle even took a swipe against traveling "missionaries" who presented a smooth exterior only to grift. Paul reassured his audience of their faithfulness, but still wished them to exercise wisdom so that they could recognize evil (Rom 16:19-20).

4. Minor Chiasmus A2: Grace Benediction (Rom 16:20)

5. Greetings from those with Paul (16:21-23)

Paul finished this section with greetings from 1) Timothy, his coworker and from 2) Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, fellow Jewish-Christians (Rom 16:21), along with important Christians at his location of authorship: Gaius, host of the house church and Erastus, the city treasurer (even a "brother" Quartus; Rom 16:23). Paul's secretary, Terius, also added his personal greetings (Rom 16:22).

D. Final doxology (16:24 or 16:25-27)

Scholars have fought over these concluding verses. Some surviving manuscripts contained another grace benediction in Rom 16:24: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen." Did a scribe repeat Rom 16:20? Or did this verse end the letter? If so, why did most manuscripts end with Rom 16:25-27?

Most scholars saw Rom 16:25-27 as a scribal addition to the letter that attempted to add flourish by piling on platitudes. It went on too long, compared to the shorter endings in other authentic Pauline letters. While thematically consistent with this and other epistles, these verses extended the doxology without any structure; it had a style that more closely matched that of the disputed letters of Paul (Colassians, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). For example, the "revelation of the mystery" (Rom 16:25) reflected such disclosure as immediate and universal (Rom 16:26, see Eph 3;3-6, Eph 3;9; Col 1:26-27, Col 2:2) instead of particular to the future of Israel (1 Cor 2:7, 1 Cor 15:51). It required God-given strength (Rom 16:25; Eph 3:14-21), a subject lacking in the more authentic missives. So, thematic considerations argue for Rom 16:24 as Paul's original ending and Rom 16:25-27 as a paragraph added by a scribe.

V. Conclusion.

In Romans, St. Paul addressed the problems many Christian communities faced in the mid 50's CE. How should Jewish and Gentile believers live together? What was the status of each in the Church? As time went on, Jewish leaders died and Gentiles rose to prominence. But the thought of the apostle undergird further theological development; the Church gathered together those saved in a faith relationship with Christ. The apostle, then, not only defined the notion of salvation for Christians, he helped form the very notion of Church.


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