An Introduction To The Book Of Romans

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The book of Romans is attributed to Paul directly based on Romans 1:1, but can also be attributed to Paul through his scribe: Tertius who wrote what Paul would relay to him based on Romans 16:22[1]. In either case, the author is Paul and therefore reflects his personal thought and theology aimed towards the Roman church.

However, this is not accepted by all readers and historians. Romans 16 presents a glaring issue for Paul being the author: how would Paul know all the people he addressed when he had never been to the city?[2]  Elmer Towns is quick to defend Pauline authorship when he makes the case that Paul had met many from Rome during his ministry and they would have traveled with him and were likely converted by him[3]. Paul had also worked with Aquila and Priscilla after they had left Rome[4] and this means he could have gotten his information through these various ways. Towns makes one last defense of Pauline authorship when he states: “An imposter would not likely have mentioned so many people who could have exposed him if he were not Paul.”[5]

Romans was written while Paul was in Corinth between 55-57 AD and preparing for one final journey to Jerusalem[6]. According to Romans 15, Paul’s initial intent was to stop in Jerusalem and proceed to Spain while arriving in Rome on the way[7]. It would be important for the reader to recall Acts 21-28 and recognize that when Paul arrived in Jerusalem, he was taken as a prisoner to Caesarea and would arrive in Rome as a prisoner after an appeal to Caesar[8]. Oddly enough, Paul did reach Jerusalem and also arrived in Rome, this speaks to a sense of foreknowledge that perhaps the Holy Spirit had revealed to Paul.

While it is unknown who founded the church in Rome, there is a line of thought that has developed to explain how the church not only came to exist, but became overwhelmingly Gentile as well.  Acts 2:10 states that there were Jews present from Rome on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit outpoured on those present and Douglas Moo contends that some of these were among the three thousand converted (according to Acts 2:41) and took their new found faith in Christ home to Rome with them[9]. During this time, synagogues were present in Rome and therefore, the origin of the church was likely in a synagogue and changed from Jewish to Gentile one Emperor Claudius banned Jews from Rome leaving Christian-Jews to take over the church[10]. When Paul writes Romans, it is clear the Jews are allowed to return to Rome and Romans 7 makes reference to the church’s former focus on Jewish law[11] which confirms this theory as accurate. The division between Jew and Gentile is a common theme following Pentecost and Paul’s own work to bring Gentiles to the church shows that Paul sees Christ as the Savior for all (see Romans 1-5).

Though it is unknown why Paul actually wrote Romans, one theory is that it was a declaration of his intended itinerary as discussed above[12]. Another theory comes from Romans 14:1-15:13 and puts across the idea that he sought to show the Romans that the Christians and the Jews of the church both needed Christ and neither were greater than the other[13]. Moo disagrees with both theories and puts forth the idea that Romans was a sort of rehearsal of Paul’s theology for the upcoming missionary work he intended to do[14].

Yet it is clear that Paul wrote Romans to untie the Jews and Gentiles as one under Christ. At the same time, Romans contains ample scripture which rings in the heart of every Christian.


[1] Douglas Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000: p. 16.

[2] Elmer L. Towns,  A Journey Through the New Testament, Orlando, FL: Harcourt and Brace, 2002: p. 287.

[3] Elmer L. Towns,  A Journey Through the New Testament: p. 287.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Elmer L. Towns,  A Journey Through the New Testament: pp. 287-288.

[6] Calvin L. Porter, “Paul As Theologian: Romans”, Encounter 65, no. 2 (Spring, 2004): pp. 113-114. Online: http://search.proquest.com/docview/216766323?accountid=12085.

[7] Calvin L. Porter, “Paul As Theologian: Romans”: pp. 113-114.

[8] Calvin L. Porter, “Paul As Theologian: Romans”: p. 114.

[9] Douglas Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000: p. 17.

[10] Douglas Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans: p. 18.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Douglas Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans: p. 22.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Douglas Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans: p. 23.

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charlestinsley

My name is Charlie Tinsley and I blog about The Bible. In particular, I post my thoughts, commentaries, and Bible Study teachings I have done. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude with a Biblical Studies Minor. I am currently studying for a Masters In Divinity at Eastern Mennonite Seminary with PhD ambitions in the study of Theology. I am married and have been for several years and I currently reside in Virginia.

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