Unger's Bible Dictionary: Romans



ROMANS, EPISTLE TO. The greatest of Paul's epistles and considered by many as the greatest book in the NT. Galatians has been called the "Magna Charta" of Christian liberty and the Roman epistle has been called the "constitution" of Christianity. Its subject material, its logical reasoning, its vigor of style, and its relevance to human need give it a foremost place in biblical revelation. It is a book, in one sense, simple and clear, but in another sense so magnificent that it baffles complete comprehension.


Occasion. The epistle appears to have been occasioned by the apostle's interest in the church at Rome. He tells us that he intended to pay a visit in the near future (Acts 19:21; Rom 1:13; 15:22-29). The fact that Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchraea, was going to Rome presented an opportunity to send the epistle to the Christians in that city (16:1-2). Paul was all the more compelled to write to this church since it had come into existence apparently without authoritative leadership and needed thorough instruction in the fundamentals of salvation.


Date. The letter was written in Corinth during Paul's three-month visit in Greece (Acts 20:2-3). This fact is made evident by reference to the apostle's journey to Jerusalem with a collection for the poor at the time of writing (Rom 15:25-27). Since this collection was emphasized in the earlier letters to Corinth (1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 8:1-9:15), it is quite evident that these letters were written about the same time. It clearly appears from these considerations that Romans is later than 2 Corinthians because the apostle is about to leave for Jerusalem (Rom 15:25). The second Corinthian epistle was written from Macedonia, and from Macedonia Paul went to Greece. Numerous instances in the Corinthian epistles point to the fact that the epistle to the Romans was written from Corinth not long after Paul penned 2 Corinthians, that is, A.D. 56.


Genuineness. The external evidence comes from quotations and reminiscences of this epistle in Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Hippolytus, Marcion, the Muratori Canon, and the Old Latin and Syriac versions. From the time of Irenaeus onward the epistle was universally recognized as Pauline and canonical. The internal evidence of genuineness is also strong. The writer claims to be Paul (Rom 1:1) and makes personal references that can only be identified with the great apostle (cf. 11:13; 15:15-20). Style, argument, theology, and many other factors point to Pauline authenticity. At the beginning of the modern critical period a few Dutch, Swiss, and English scholars contested the authenticity of the book on the ground that the apostle was acquainted with so many individuals by name in a city where he had never been (see chap. 16). But this argument has been repeatedly shown to be weak because travel was extensive in Paul's day, and he probably met these individuals elsewhere in the empire before they went to Rome to live.


Background. The origin of Christianity in Rome must be traced to converts scattered throughout the empire who came to visit or live in the imperial city. That Peter was the founder of the church is indefensible since it would be unthinkable that Paul would omit his name if he had been bishop in the city. It is possible that the sojourners at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10) may also have been instrumental in the founding of the Roman church. Some critics have denied the authenticity of chaps. 15 and 16, but there is no valid internal evidence supporting this, neither is there support for it in the ancient manuscripts. Moreover, his greeting of many persons by name was a studied effort to establish rapport with a church he had never met. Such greetings of individuals would have been unnecessary and unwise in writing Philippians, Corinthians, Ephesians, and others. Furthermore, any omission of members of the church would have incurred the risk of offending someone in the churches with which Paul was familiar. In this case, however, omissions would have hurt no one because he could not possibly have known all the members of the church.


Contents. After introductory matters, the apostle demonstrates the universal sinfulness of the human race and the need for divine righteousness (Rom 1:18-3:20). He then sets forth the justifying righteousness that God has provided for every believer through the redemptive work of Christ (3:21-5:11). He refutes three objections against God's way of salvation through the work of Christ on the basis of faith alone.


The First Objection. Men may be saved and yet continue in sin. This is shown to be untrue because of the believer's union with Christ into a new moral life (Rom 6:1-14).


The Second Objection. Deliverance from the law releases men from moral obligation. But this is impossible since the believer undertakes a new and higher obligation, devoting himself to the law of God (Rom 6:15-7:6).


The Third Objection. The law of God is made an evil thing by justifying grace. But this is not so because the law's inability to save is not that it is evil but that man is incapable of keeping it (Rom 7:7-25). In chap. 8 the apostle Paul deals with the triumphs of the redeemed life and the believer's assurance not only of justification but of glorification and full conformity to Christ. The believer is to rejoice in full security. Chapters 9-11 deal with the great truths of salvation in dispensational relation to the Jew: his past (chap. 9), his present (chap. 10), his future (chap. 11). The rest of the epistle consists of exhortations to Christian living (chap. 12), to the doing of civil and social duties (chap. 13), and living according to Christian love and unity (14:1-15:13), ending with personal salutations (15:14-16:27).


BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. J. Vaughan, St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (1873); W. Sanday and A. C. Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, International Critical Commentary (1895); C. H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, Moffat New Testament Commentary (1932); K. Barth, The Epistle to the Romans (1933); R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (1936); C. Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1950); C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Harper's New Testament Commentary (1957); R. Haldane, Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans (1959); J. Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols., New International New Testament Commentary (1959-65); M. Luther, Lectures on Romans, trans. W. Pauck (1961); F. F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (1963); M. Black, Romans, New Century Bible (1973); M. Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, trans. J. T. Mueller (1976); E. H. Gifford, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans (1977); F. L. Godet, Commentary on Romans (1977); H. P. Liddon, Explanatory Analysis of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (1977); H. C. G. Moule, Studies in Romans (1977); W. G. T. Shedd, A Critical Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans (1978); R. C. Stedman, From Guilt to Glory, 2 vols. (1978); E. Kasemann, Commentary on Romans (1980); H. C. G. Moule, The Epistle to the Romans (1982); H. Olshausen, Studies in the Epistle to the Romans (1983).

(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

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The New Testament Books and Their Authors

New Testament Books and Authors The Book of Matthew The Book of Mark The Book of Luke The Book of John The Book of Acts The Book of Romans The Book of 1 Corinthians The Book of 2 Corinthians The Book of Galatians The Book of Ephesians The Book of Philippians The Book of Colossians The Book of 1 Thessalonians The Book of 2 Thessalonians The Book of 1 Timothy The Book of 2 Timothy The Book of Titus The Book of Philemon The Book of Hebrews The Book of James The Book of 1 Peter The Book of 2 Peter The Book of 1 John The Book of 2 John The Book of 3 John The Book of Jude The Book of Revelation Books of the New Testament The New Testament

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. Heb. 8:6 (The Book of Hebrews)


image\bible_persp9.gif The New Testament is the most wonderful book. It reveals how God has kept every promise that He made to the nation Israel and ultimately fulfilled His covenant with them in One Man, Jesus Christ. It contains an accurate account of the gospel of Jesus Christ, His life, His history on earth, His Words, and His plan for all nations including Israel. It reveals how God used a single man, a Jew, who courageously went out to the farthest parts of the known world, to preach the gospel, and would eventually die for his faith in Jesus Christ. It reveals the end of the world, and how Jesus Christ would receive the kingdom that God had promised Him from the beginning.


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Matthew Mark Luke
John Acts Romans
1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians
Ephesians Philippians Colossians
1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon
Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 John
3 John Jude Revelation


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