The Letter of Paul to the Romans
Universally agreed upon by scholars to be a genuine Pauline Epistle, the letter to the Romans is dated to around 57 AD as Paul is leaving Asia Minor and Greece, and expressing hopes to continue his work in Spain. Like all Paul’s letters, Romans arose out of a specific situation, when the apostle wrote from Greece, likely Corinth, between A.D. 56 and 58 (cf. Acts 20:2–3).
The existence of a Christian community in Rome antedates Paul’s letter there. When it arose, likely within the sizable Jewish population at Rome, and how, we do not know. The Roman historian Suetonius mentions an edict of the Emperor Claudius about A.D. 49 ordering the expulsion of Jews from Rome in connection with a certain “Chrestus,” probably involving a dispute in the Jewish community over Jesus as the Messiah (“Christus”). According to Acts 18:2, Aquila and Priscilla (or Prisca, as in Rom 16:3) were among those driven out; from them, in Corinth, Paul may have learned about conditions in the church at Rome.
Excerpts from Romans:
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The Letter to the Romans:
God’s Power for Salvation.
Punishment of Idolaters.
* [1:1–7] In Paul’s letters the greeting or praescriptio follows a standard form, though with variations. It is based upon the common Greco-Roman epistolary practice, but with the addition of Semitic and specifically Christian elements. The three basic components are: name of sender; name of addressee; greeting. In identifying himself, Paul often adds phrases to describe his apostolic mission; this element is more developed in Romans than in any other letter. Elsewhere he associates co-workers with himself in the greeting: Sosthenes (1 Corinthians), Timothy (2 Corinthians; Philippians; Philemon) Silvanus (1 Thessalonians—2 Thessalonians). The standard secular greeting was the infinitive chairein, “greetings.” Paul uses instead the similar-sounding charis, “grace,” together with the Semitic greeting šālôm (Greek eirēnē), “peace.” These gifts, foreshadowed in God’s dealings with Israel (see Nm 6:24–26), have been poured out abundantly in Christ, and Paul wishes them to his readers. In Romans the Pauline praescriptio is expanded and expressed in a formal tone; it emphasizes Paul’s office as apostle to the Gentiles. Rom 1:3–4 stress the gospel or kerygma, Rom 1:2 the fulfillment of God’s promise, and Rom 1:1, 5 Paul’s office. On his call, see Gal 1:15–16; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:8–10; Acts 9:1–22; 22:3–16; 26:4–18.
* [1:1] Slave of Christ Jesus: Paul applies the term slave to himself in order to express his undivided allegiance to the Lord of the church, the Master of all, including slaves and masters. “No one can serve (i.e., be a slave to) two masters,” said Jesus (Mt 6:24). It is this aspect of the slave-master relationship rather than its degrading implications that Paul emphasizes when he discusses Christian commitment.
* [1:3–4] Paul here cites an early confession that proclaims Jesus’ sonship as messianic descendant of David (cf. Mt 22:42; 2 Tm 2:8; Rev 22:16) and as Son of God by the resurrection. As “life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45), Jesus Christ is able to communicate the Spirit to those who believe in him.
* [1:5] Paul recalls his apostolic office, implying that the Romans know something of his history. The obedience of faith: as Paul will show at length in chaps. 6–8 and 12–15, faith in God’s justifying action in Jesus Christ relates one to God’s gift of the new life that is made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the activity of the holy Spirit (see especially Rom 8:1–11).
* [1:7] Called to be holy: Paul often refers to Christians as “the holy ones” or “the saints.” The Israelite community was called a “holy assembly” because they had been separated for the worship and service of the Lord (see Lv 11:44; 23:1–44). The Christian community regarded its members as sanctified by baptism (Rom 6:22; 15:16; 1 Cor 6:11; Eph 5:26–27). Christians are called to holiness (1 Cor 1:2; 1 Thes 4:7), that is, they are called to make their lives conform to the gift they have already received.
* [1:8] In Greco-Roman letters, the greeting was customarily followed by a prayer. The Pauline letters usually include this element (except Galatians and 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy) expressed in Christian thanksgiving formulas and usually stating the principal theme of the letter. In 2 Corinthians the thanksgiving becomes a blessing, and in Ephesians it is preceded by a lengthy blessing. Sometimes the thanksgiving is blended into the body of the letter, especially in 1 Thessalonians. In Romans it is stated briefly.
* [1:10–12] Paul lays the groundwork for his more detailed statement in Rom 15:22–24 about his projected visit to Rome.
* [1:13] Brothers is idiomatic for all Paul’s “kin in Christ,” all those who believe in the gospel; it includes women as well as men (cf. Rom 4:3).
* [1:14] Greeks and non-Greeks: literally, “Greeks and barbarians.” As a result of Alexander’s conquests, Greek became the standard international language of the Mediterranean world. Greeks in Paul’s statement therefore means people who know Greek or who have been influenced by Greek culture. Non-Greeks were people whose cultures remained substantially unaffected by Greek influences. Greeks called such people “barbarians” (cf. Acts 28:2), meaning people whose speech was foreign. Roman citizens would scarcely classify themselves as such, and Nero, who was reigning when Paul wrote this letter, prided himself on his admiration for Greek culture. Under obligation: Paul will expand on the theme of obligation in Rom 13:8; 15:1, 27.
* [1:16–17] The principal theme of the letter is salvation through faith. I am not ashamed of the gospel: Paul is not ashamed to proclaim the gospel, despite the criticism that Jews and Gentiles leveled against the proclamation of the crucified savior; cf. 1 Cor 1:23–24. Paul affirms, however, that it is precisely through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus that God’s saving will and power become manifest. Jew first (cf. Rom 2:9–10) means that Jews especially, in view of the example of Abraham (Rom 4), ought to be the leaders in the response of faith.
* [1:17] In it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith: the gospel centers in Jesus Christ, in whom God’s saving presence and righteousness in history have been made known. Faith is affirmation of the basic purpose and meaning of the Old Testament as proclamation of divine promise (Rom 1:2; 4:13) and exposure of the inability of humanity to effect its salvation even through covenant law. Faith is the gift of the holy Spirit and denotes acceptance of salvation as God’s righteousness, that is, God’s gift of a renewed relationship in forgiveness and power for a new life. Faith is response to God’s total claim on people and their destiny. The one who is righteous by faith will live: see note on Heb 2:4.
* [1:18–3:20] Paul aims to show that all humanity is in a desperate plight and requires God’s special intervention if it is to be saved.
* [1:18–32] In this passage Paul uses themes and rhetoric common in Jewish-Hellenistic mission proclamation (cf. Wis 13:1–14:31) to indict especially the non-Jewish world. The close association of idolatry and immorality is basic, but the generalization needs in all fairness to be balanced against the fact that non-Jewish Christian society on many levels displayed moral attitudes and performance whose quality would challenge much of contemporary Christian culture. Romans themselves expressed abhorrence over devotion accorded to animals in Egypt. Paul’s main point is that the wrath of God does not await the end of the world but goes into action at each present moment in humanity’s history when misdirected piety serves as a facade for self-interest.
* [1:18] The wrath of God: God’s reaction to human sinfulness, an Old Testament phrase that expresses the irreconcilable opposition between God and evil (see Is 9:11, 16, 18, 20; 10:4; 30:27). It is not contrary to God’s universal love for his creatures, but condemns Israel’s turning aside from the covenant obligations. Hosea depicts Yahweh as suffering intensely at the thought of having to punish Israel (Hos 11:8–9). God’s wrath was to be poured forth especially on the “Day of Yahweh” and thus took on an eschatological connotation (see Zep 1:15).
* [1:24] In order to expose the depth of humanity’s rebellion against the Creator, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts. Instead of curbing people’s evil interests, God abandoned them to self-indulgence, thereby removing the facade of apparent conformity to the divine will. Subsequently Paul will show that the Mosaic law produces the same effect; cf. Rom 5:20; 7:13–24. The divine judgment expressed here is related to the theme of hardness of heart described in Rom 9:17–18.
God’s Just Judgment.
Judgment by the Interior Law.
Judgment by the Mosaic Law.
* [2:1–3:20] After his general indictment of the Gentile, Paul shows that in spite of special revelation Jews enjoy no advantage in moral status before God (Rom 3:1–8). With the entire human race now declared guilty before God (Rom 3:9–20), Paul will then be able to display the solution for the total problem: salvation through God’s redemptive work that is revealed in Christ Jesus for all who believe (Rom 3:21–31).
* [2:1–11] As a first step in his demonstration that Jews enjoy no real moral supremacy over Gentiles, Paul explains that the final judgment will be a review of performance, not of privilege. From this perspective Gentiles stand on an equal footing with Jews, and Jews cannot condemn the sins of Gentiles without condemning themselves.
* [2:6] Will repay everyone according to his works: Paul reproduces the Septuagint text of Ps 62:12 and Prv 24:12.
* [2:11] No partiality with God: this sentence is not at variance with the statements in Rom 2:9–10. Since Jews are the first to go under indictment, it is only fair that they be given first consideration in the distribution of blessings. Basic, of course, is the understanding that God accepts no bribes (Dt 10:17).
* [2:12–16] Jews cannot reasonably demand from Gentiles the standard of conduct inculcated in the Old Testament since God did not address its revelation to them. Rather, God made it possible for Gentiles to know instinctively the difference between right and wrong. But, as Paul explained in Rom 1:18–32, humanity misread the evidence of God’s existence, power, and divinity, and “while claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:22).
* [2:15] Paul expands on the thought of Jer 31:33; Wis 17:11.
* [2:17–29] Mere possession of laws is no evidence of virtue. By eliminating circumcision as an elitist moral sign, Paul clears away the last obstacle to his presentation of justification through faith without claims based on the receipt of circumcision and its attendant legal obligations.
* [2:24] According to Is 52:5 the suffering of Israel prompts her enemies to revile God. Paul uses the passage in support of his point that the present immorality of Israelites is the cause of such defamation.
Answers to Objections.
Universal Bondage to Sin.
Justification apart from the Law.
* [3:1–4] In keeping with the popular style of diatribe, Paul responds to the objection that his teaching on the sinfulness of all humanity detracts from the religious prerogatives of Israel. He stresses that Jews have remained the vehicle of God’s revelation despite their sins, though this depends on the fidelity of God.
* [3:4] Though every human being is a liar: these words reproduce the Greek text of Ps 116:11. The rest of the verse is from Ps 51:6.
* [3:9–20] Well, then, are we better off?: this phrase can also be translated “Are we at a disadvantage?” but the latter version does not substantially change the overall meaning of the passage. Having explained that Israel’s privileged status is guaranteed by God’s fidelity, Paul now demonstrates the infidelity of the Jews by a catena of citations from scripture, possibly derived from an existing collection of testimonia. These texts show that all human beings share the common burden of sin. They are linked together by mention of organs of the body: throat, tongue, lips, mouth, feet, eyes.
* [3:19] The law: Paul here uses the term in its broadest sense to mean all of the scriptures; none of the preceding texts is from the Torah or Pentateuch.
* [3:20] No human being will be justified in his sight: these words are freely cited from Ps 143:2. In place of the psalmist’s “no living person,” Paul substitutes “no human being” (literally “no flesh,” a Hebraism), and he adds “by observing the law.”
* [3:21–31] These verses provide a clear statement of Paul’s “gospel,” i.e., the principle of justification by faith in Christ. God has found a means of rescuing humanity from its desperate plight: Paul’s general term for this divine initiative is the righteousness of God (Rom 3:21). Divine mercy declares the guilty innocent and makes them so. God does this not as a result of the law but apart from it (Rom 3:21), and not because of any merit in human beings but through forgiveness of their sins (Rom 3:24), in virtue of the redemption wrought in Christ Jesus for all who believe (Rom 3:22, 24–25). God has manifested his righteousness in the coming of Jesus Christ, whose saving activity inaugurates a new era in human history.
* [3:21] But now: Paul adopts a common phrase used by Greek authors to describe movement from disaster to prosperity. The expressions indicate that Rom 3:21–26 are the consolatory answer to Rom 3:9–20.
* [3:25] Expiation: this rendering is preferable to “propitiation,” which suggests hostility on the part of God toward sinners. As Paul will be at pains to point out (Rom 5:8–10), it is humanity that is hostile to God.
* [3:27–31] People cannot boast of their own holiness, since it is God’s free gift (Rom 3:27), both to the Jew who practices circumcision out of faith and to the Gentile who accepts faith without the Old Testament religious culture symbolized by circumcision (Rom 3:29–30).
* [3:27] Principle of faith: literally, “law of faith.” Paul is fond of wordplay involving the term “law”; cf. Rom 7:21, 23; 8:2. Since “law” in Greek may also connote “custom” or “principle,” his readers and hearers would have sensed no contradiction in the use of the term after the negative statement concerning law in Rom 3:20.
* [3:31] We are supporting the law: giving priority to God’s intentions. God is the ultimate source of law, and the essence of law is fairness. On the basis of the Mosaic covenant, God’s justice is in question if those who sinned against the law are permitted to go free (see Rom 3:23–26). In order to rescue all humanity rather than condemn it, God thinks of an alternative: the law or “principle” of faith (Rom 3:27). What can be more fair than to admit everyone into the divine presence on the basis of forgiveness grasped by faith? Indeed, this principle of faith antedates the Mosaic law, as Paul will demonstrate in Rom 4, and does not therefore mark a change in divine policy.
Abraham Justified by Faith.
Inheritance through Faith.
* [4:1–25] This is an expanded treatment of the significance of Abraham’s faith, which Paul discusses in Gal 3:6–18; see notes there.
* [4:2–5] Rom 4:2 corresponds to Rom 4:4, and Rom 4:3–5. The Greek term here rendered credited means “made an entry.” The context determines whether it is credit or debit. Rom 4:8 speaks of “recording sin” as a debit. Paul’s repeated use of accountants’ terminology in this and other passages can be traced both to the Old Testament texts he quotes and to his business activity as a tentmaker. The commercial term in Gn 15:6, “credited it to him,” reminds Paul in Rom 4:7–8 of Ps 32:2, in which the same term is used and applied to forgiveness of sins. Thus Paul is able to argue that Abraham’s faith involved receipt of forgiveness of sins and that all believers benefit as he did through faith.
* [4:3] Jas 2:24 appears to conflict with Paul’s statement. However, James combats the error of extremists who used the doctrine of justification through faith as a screen for moral self- determination. Paul discusses the subject of holiness in greater detail than does James and beginning with Rom 6 shows how justification through faith introduces one to the gift of a new life in Christ through the power of the holy Spirit.
* [4:9] Blessedness: evidence of divine favor.
* [4:15] Law has the negative function of bringing the deep-seated rebellion against God to the surface in specific sins; see note on Rom 1:18–32.
* [4:20] He did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief: any doubts Abraham might have had were resolved in commitment to God’s promise. Heb 11:8–12 emphasizes the faith of Abraham and Sarah.
Faith, Hope, and Love.
Humanity’s Sin through Adam.
Grace and Life through Christ.
* [5:1–11] Popular piety frequently construed reverses and troubles as punishment for sin; cf. Jn 9:2. Paul therefore assures believers that God’s justifying action in Jesus Christ is a declaration of peace. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ displays God’s initiative in certifying humanity for unimpeded access into the divine presence. Reconciliation is God’s gift of pardon to the entire human race. Through faith one benefits personally from this pardon or, in Paul’s term, is justified. The ultimate aim of God is to liberate believers from the pre-Christian self as described in Rom 1–3. Since this liberation will first find completion in the believer’s resurrection, salvation is described as future in Rom 5:10. Because this fullness of salvation belongs to the future it is called the Christian hope. Paul’s Greek term for hope does not, however, suggest a note of uncertainty, to the effect: “I wonder whether God really means it.” Rather, God’s promise in the gospel fills believers with expectation and anticipation for the climactic gift of unalloyed commitment in the holy Spirit to the performance of the will of God. The persecutions that attend Christian commitment are to teach believers patience and to strengthen this hope, which will not disappoint them because the holy Spirit dwells in their hearts and imbues them with God’s love (Rom 5:5).
* [5:1] We have peace: a number of manuscripts, versions, and church Fathers read “Let us have peace”; cf. Rom 14:19.
* [5:7] In the world of Paul’s time the good person is especially one who is magnanimous to others.
* [5:12–21] Paul reflects on the sin of Adam (Gn 3:1–13) in the light of the redemptive mystery of Christ. Sin, as used in the singular by Paul, refers to the dreadful power that has gripped humanity, which is now in revolt against the Creator and engaged in the exaltation of its own desires and interests. But no one has a right to say, “Adam made me do it,” for all are culpable (Rom 5:12): Gentiles under the demands of the law written in their hearts (Rom 2:14–15), and Jews under the Mosaic covenant. Through the Old Testament law, the sinfulness of humanity that was operative from the beginning (Rom 5:13) found further stimulation, with the result that sins were generated in even greater abundance. According to Rom 5:15–21, God’s act in Christ is in total contrast to the disastrous effects of the virus of sin that invaded humanity through Adam’s crime.
* [5:12] Inasmuch as all sinned: others translate “because all sinned,” and understand v 13 as a parenthetical remark. Unlike Wis 2:24, Paul does not ascribe the entry of death to the devil.
* [5:20] The law entered in: sin had made its entrance (12); now the law comes in alongside sin. See notes on Rom 1:18–32; 5:12–21. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more: Paul declares that grace outmatches the productivity of sin.
Freedom from Sin; Life in God.
* [6:1–11] To defend the gospel against the charge that it promotes moral laxity (cf. Rom 3:5–8), Paul expresses himself in the typical style of spirited diatribe. God’s display of generosity or grace is not evoked by sin but, as stated in Rom 5:8 is the expression of God’s love, and this love pledges eternal life to all believers (Rom 5:21). Paul views the present conduct of the believers from the perspective of God’s completed salvation when the body is resurrected and directed totally by the holy Spirit. Through baptism believers share the death of Christ and thereby escape from the grip of sin. Through the resurrection of Christ the power to live anew becomes reality for them, but the fullness of participation in Christ’s resurrection still lies in the future. But life that is lived in dedication to God now is part and parcel of that future. Hence anyone who sincerely claims to be interested in that future will scarcely be able to say, “Let us sin so that grace may prosper” (cf. Rom 6:1).
* [6:12–19] Christians have been released from the grip of sin, but sin endeavors to reclaim its victims. The antidote is constant remembrance that divine grace has claimed them and identifies them as people who are alive only for God’s interests.
* [6:17] In contrast to humanity, which was handed over to self-indulgence (Rom 1:24–32), believers are entrusted (“handed over”) to God’s pattern of teaching, that is, the new life God aims to develop in Christians through the productivity of the holy Spirit. Throughout this passage Paul uses the slave-master model in order to emphasize the fact that one cannot give allegiance to both God and sin.
* [6:20] You were free from righteousness: expressed ironically, for such freedom is really tyranny. The commercial metaphors in Rom 6:21–23 add up only one way: sin is a bad bargain.
Freedom from the Law.
Acquaintance with Sin through the Law.
Sin and Death.
* [7:1–6] Paul reflects on the fact that Christians have a different understanding of the law because of their faith in Christ. Law binds the living, not the dead, as exemplified in marriage, which binds in life but is dissolved through death. Similarly, Christians who through baptism have died with Christ to sin (cf. Rom 6:2–4) are freed from the law that occasioned transgressions, which in turn were productive of death. Now that Christians are joined to Christ, the power of Christ’s resurrection makes it possible for them to bear the fruit of newness of life for God.
* [7:7–25] In this passage Paul uses the first person singular in the style of diatribe for the sake of argument. He aims to depict the disastrous consequences when a Christian reintroduces the law as a means to attain the objective of holiness pronounced in Rom 6:22.
* [7:7–12] The apostle defends himself against the charge of identifying the law with sin. Sin does not exist in law but in human beings, whose sinful inclinations are not overcome by the proclamation of law.
* [7:13–25] Far from improving the sinner, law encourages sin to expose itself in transgressions or violations of specific commandments (see Rom 1:24; 5:20). Thus persons who do not experience the justifying grace of God, and Christians who revert to dependence on law as the criterion for their relationship with God, will recognize a rift between their reasoned desire for the goodness of the law and their actual performance that is contrary to the law. Unable to free themselves from the slavery of sin and the power of death, they can only be rescued from defeat in the conflict by the power of God’s grace working through Jesus Christ.
* [7:23] As in Rom 3:27 Paul plays on the term law, which in Greek can connote custom, system, or principle.
The Flesh and the Spirit.
Children of God through Adoption.
Destiny of Glory.
God’s Indomitable Love in Christ.
* [8:1–13] After his warning in Rom 7 against the wrong route to fulfillment of the objective of holiness expressed in Rom 6:22, Paul points his addressees to the correct way. Through the redemptive work of Christ, Christians have been liberated from the terrible forces of sin and death. Holiness was impossible so long as the flesh (or our “old self”), that is, self-interested hostility toward God (Rom 8:7), frustrated the divine objectives expressed in the law. What is worse, sin used the law to break forth into all manner of lawlessness (Rom 8:8). All this is now changed. At the cross God broke the power of sin and pronounced sentence on it (Rom 8:3). Christians still retain the flesh, but it is alien to their new being, which is life in the spirit, namely the new self, governed by the holy Spirit. Under the direction of the holy Spirit Christians are able to fulfill the divine will that formerly found expression in the law (Rom 8:4). The same Spirit who enlivens Christians for holiness will also resurrect their bodies at the last day (Rom 8:11). Christian life is therefore the experience of a constant challenge to put to death the evil deeds of the body through life of the spirit (Rom 8:13).
* [8:14–17] Christians, by reason of the Spirit’s presence within them, enjoy not only new life but also a new relationship to God, that of adopted children and heirs through Christ, whose sufferings and glory they share.
* [8:15] Abba: see note on Mk 14:36.
* [8:18–27] The glory that believers are destined to share with Christ far exceeds the sufferings of the present life. Paul considers the destiny of the created world to be linked with the future that belongs to the believers. As it shares in the penalty of corruption brought about by sin, so also will it share in the benefits of redemption and future glory that comprise the ultimate liberation of God’s people (Rom 8:19–22). After patient endurance in steadfast expectation, the full harvest of the Spirit’s presence will be realized. On earth believers enjoy the firstfruits, i.e., the Spirit, as a guarantee of the total liberation of their bodies from the influence of the rebellious old self (Rom 8:23).
* [8:28–30] These verses outline the Christian vocation as it was designed by God: to be conformed to the image of his Son, who is to be the firstborn among many brothers (Rom 8:29). God’s redemptive action on behalf of the believers has been in process before the beginning of the world. Those whom God chooses are those he foreknew (Rom 8:29) or elected. Those who are called (Rom 8:30) are predestined or predetermined. These expressions do not mean that God is arbitrary. Rather, Paul uses them to emphasize the thought and care that God has taken for the Christian’s salvation.
* [8:28] We know that all things work for good for those who love God: a few ancient authorities have God as the subject of the verb, and some translators render: “We know that God makes everything work for good for those who love God….”
* [8:29] Image: while man and woman were originally created in God’s image (Gn 1:26–27), it is through baptism into Christ, the image of God (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15), that we are renewed according to the image of the Creator (Col 3:10).
* [8:31–39] The all-conquering power of God’s love has overcome every obstacle to Christians’ salvation and every threat to separate them from God. That power manifested itself fully when God’s own Son was delivered up to death for their salvation. Through him Christians can overcome all their afflictions and trials.
* [8:38] Present things and future things may refer to astrological data. Paul appears to be saying that the gospel liberates believers from dependence on astrologers.
* [8:39] Height, depth may refer to positions in the zodiac, positions of heavenly bodies relative to the horizon. In astrological documents the term for “height” means “exaltation” or the position of greatest influence exerted by a planet. Since hostile spirits were associated with the planets and stars, Paul includes powers (Rom 8:38) in his list of malevolent forces.
Paul’s Love for Israel.
God’s Free Choice.
Witness of the Prophets.
Righteousness Based on Faith.
* [9:1–11:36] Israel’s unbelief and its rejection of Jesus as savior astonished and puzzled Christians. It constituted a serious problem for them in view of God’s specific preparation of Israel for the advent of the Messiah. Paul addresses himself here to the essential question of how the divine plan could be frustrated by Israel’s unbelief. At the same time, he discourages both complacency and anxiety on the part of Gentiles. To those who might boast of their superior advantage over Jews, he warns that their enjoyment of the blessings assigned to Israel can be terminated. To those who might anxiously ask, “How can we be sure that Israel’s fate will not be ours?” he replies that only unbelief can deprive one of salvation.
* [9:1–5] The apostle speaks in strong terms of the depth of his grief over the unbelief of his own people. He would willingly undergo a curse himself for the sake of their coming to the knowledge of Christ (Rom 9:3; cf. Lv 27:28–29). His love for them derives from God’s continuing choice of them and from the spiritual benefits that God bestows on them and through them on all of humanity (Rom 9:4–5).
* [9:5] Some editors punctuate this verse differently and prefer the translation, “Of whom is Christ according to the flesh, who is God over all.” However, Paul’s point is that God who is over all aimed to use Israel, which had been entrusted with every privilege, in outreach to the entire world through the Messiah.
* [9:10] Children by one husband, our father Isaac: Abraham had two children, Ishmael and Isaac, by two wives, Hagar and Sarah, respectively. In that instance Isaac, although born later than Ishmael, became the bearer of the messianic promise. In the case of twins born to Rebecca, God’s elective procedure is seen even more dramatically, and again the younger, contrary to Semitic custom, is given the preference.
* [9:13] The literal rendering, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated,” suggests an attitude of divine hostility that is not implied in Paul’s statement. In Semitic usage “hate” means to love less; cf. Lk 14:26 with Mt 10:37. Israel’s unbelief reflects the mystery of the divine election that is always operative within it. Mere natural descent from Abraham does not ensure the full possession of the divine gifts; it is God’s sovereign prerogative to bestow this fullness upon, or to withhold it from, whomsoever he wishes; cf. Mt 3:9; Jn 8:39. The choice of Jacob over Esau is a case in point.
* [9:14–18] The principle of divine election does not invite Christians to theoretical inquiry concerning the nonelected, nor does this principle mean that God is unfair in his dealings with humanity. The instruction concerning divine election is a part of the gospel and reveals that the gift of faith is the enactment of God’s mercy (Rom 9:16). God raised up Moses to display that mercy, and Pharaoh to display divine severity in punishing those who obstinately oppose their Creator.
* [9:18] The basic biblical principle is: those who will not see or hear shall not see or hear. On the other hand, the same God who thus makes stubborn or hardens the heart can reconstruct it through the work of the holy Spirit.
* [9:19–29] The apostle responds to the objection that if God rules over faith through the principle of divine election, God cannot then accuse unbelievers of sin (Rom 9:19). For Paul, this objection is in the last analysis a manifestation of human insolence, and his “answer” is less an explanation of God’s ways than the rejection of an argument that places humanity on a level with God. At the same time, Paul shows that God is far less arbitrary than appearances suggest, for God endures with much patience (Rom 9:22) a person like the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
* [9:25] Beloved: in Semitic discourse means “preferred” or “favorite” (cf. Rom 9:13). See Hos 2:1.
* [9:30–33] In the conversion of the Gentiles and, by contrast, of relatively few Jews, the Old Testament prophecies are seen to be fulfilled; cf. Rom 9:25–29. Israel feared that the doctrine of justification through faith would jeopardize the validity of the Mosaic law, and so they never reached their goal of righteousness that they had sought to attain through meticulous observance of the law (Rom 9:31). Since Gentiles, including especially Greeks and Romans, had a great regard for righteousness, Paul’s statement concerning Gentiles in Rom 9:30 is to be understood from a Jewish perspective: quite evidently they had not been interested in “God’s” righteousness, for it had not been revealed to them; but now in response to the proclamation of the gospel they respond in faith.
* [9:32] Paul discusses Israel as a whole from the perspective of contemporary Jewish rejection of Jesus as Messiah. The Old Testament and much of Jewish noncanonical literature in fact reflect a fervent faith in divine mercy.
* [10:1–13] Despite Israel’s lack of faith in God’s act in Christ, Paul does not abandon hope for her salvation (Rom 10:1). However, Israel must recognize that the Messiah’s arrival in the person of Jesus Christ means the termination of the Mosaic law as the criterion for understanding oneself in a valid relationship to God. Faith in God’s saving action in Jesus Christ takes precedence over any such legal claim (Rom 10:6).
* [10:4] The Mosaic legislation has been superseded by God’s action in Jesus Christ. Others understand end here in the sense that Christ is the goal of the law, i.e., the true meaning of the Mosaic law, which cannot be correctly understood apart from him. Still others believe that both meanings are intended.
* [10:5–6] The subject of the verb says (Rom 10:6) is righteousness personified. Both of the statements in Rom 10:5, 6 derive from Moses, but Paul wishes to contrast the language of law and the language of faith.
* [10:7] Here Paul blends Dt 30:13 and Ps 107:26.
* [10:9–11] To confess Jesus as Lord was frequently quite hazardous in the first century (cf. Mt 10:18; 1 Thes 2:2; 1 Pt 2:18–21; 3:14). For a Jew it could mean disruption of normal familial and other social relationships, including great economic sacrifice. In the face of penalties imposed by the secular world, Christians are assured that no one who believes in Jesus will be put to shame (Rom 10:11).
* [10:14–21] The gospel has been sufficiently proclaimed to Israel, and Israel has adequately understood God’s plan for the messianic age, which would see the gospel brought to the uttermost parts of the earth. As often in the past, Israel has not accepted the prophetic message; cf. Acts 7:51–53.
* [10:15] How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news: in Semitic fashion, the parts of the body that bring the messenger with welcome news are praised; cf. Lk 11:27.
The Remnant of Israel.
The Gentiles’ Salvation.
God’s Irrevocable Call.
Triumph of God’s Mercy.
* [11:1–10] Although Israel has been unfaithful to the prophetic message of the gospel (Rom 10:14–21), God remains faithful to Israel. Proof of the divine fidelity lies in the existence of Jewish Christians like Paul himself. The unbelieving Jews, says Paul, have been blinded by the Christian teaching concerning the Messiah.
* [11:11–15] The unbelief of the Jews has paved the way for the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles and for their easier acceptance of it outside the context of Jewish culture. Through his mission to the Gentiles Paul also hopes to fill his fellow Jews with jealousy. Hence he hastens to fill the entire Mediterranean world with the gospel. Once all the Gentile nations have heard the gospel, Israel as a whole is expected to embrace it. This will be tantamount to resurrection of the dead, that is, the reappearance of Jesus Christ with all the believers at the end of time.
* [11:16–24] Israel remains holy in the eyes of God and stands as a witness to the faith described in the Old Testament because of the firstfruits (or the first piece baked) (Rom 11:16), that is, the converted remnant, and the root that is holy, that is, the patriarchs (Rom 11:16). The Jews’ failure to believe in Christ is a warning to Gentile Christians to be on guard against any semblance of anti-Jewish arrogance, that is, failure to recognize their total dependence on divine grace.
* [11:25–29] In God’s design, Israel’s unbelief is being used to grant the light of faith to the Gentiles. Meanwhile, Israel remains dear to God (cf. Rom 9:13), still the object of special providence, the mystery of which will one day be revealed.
* [11:30–32] Israel, together with the Gentiles who have been handed over to all manner of vices (Rom 1), has been delivered…to disobedience. The conclusion of Rom 11:32 repeats the thought of Rom 5:20, “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.”
* [11:33–36] This final reflection celebrates the wisdom of God’s plan of salvation. As Paul has indicated throughout these chapters, both Jew and Gentile, despite the religious recalcitrance of each, have received the gift of faith. The methods used by God in making this outreach to the world stagger human comprehension but are at the same time a dazzling invitation to abiding faith.
* [11:34] The citation is from the Greek text of Is 40:13. Paul does not explicitly mention Isaiah in this verse, nor Job in 11:35.
* [11:35] Paul quotes from an old Greek version of Jb 41:3a, which differs from the Hebrew text (Jb 41:11a).
Sacrifice of Body and Mind.
Many Parts in One Body.
* [12:1–13:14] Since Christ marks the termination of the Mosaic law as the primary source of guidance for God’s people (Rom 10:4), the apostle explains how Christians can function, in the light of the gift of justification through faith, in their relation to one another and the state.
* [12:1–8] The Mosaic code included elaborate directions on sacrifices and other cultic observances. The gospel, however, invites believers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1). Instead of being limited by specific legal maxims, Christians are liberated for the exercise of good judgment as they are confronted with the many and varied decisions required in the course of daily life. To assist them, God distributes a variety of gifts to the fellowship of believers, including those of prophecy, teaching, and exhortation (Rom 12:6–8). Prophets assist the community to understand the will of God as it applies to the present situation (Rom 12:6). Teachers help people to understand themselves and their responsibilities in relation to others (Rom 12:7). One who exhorts offers encouragement to the community to exercise their faith in the performance of all that is pleasing to God (Rom 12:8). Indeed, this very section, beginning with Rom 12:1, is a specimen of Paul’s own style of exhortation.
* [12:5] One body in Christ: on the church as the body of Christ, see 1 Cor 12:12–27.
* [12:6] Everyone has some gift that can be used for the benefit of the community. When the instruction on justification through faith is correctly grasped, the possessor of a gift will understand that it is not an instrument of self-aggrandizement. Possession of a gift is not an index to quality of faith. Rather, the gift is a challenge to faithful use.
* [12:8] Over others: usually taken to mean “rule over” but possibly “serve as a patron.” Wealthier members in Greco-Roman communities were frequently asked to assist in public service projects. In view of the references to contributing in generosity and to acts of mercy, Paul may have in mind people like Phoebe (Rom 16:1–2), who is called a benefactor (or “patron”) because of the services she rendered to many Christians, including Paul.
* [12:14–21] Since God has justified the believers, it is not necessary for them to take justice into their own hands by taking vengeance. God will ultimately deal justly with all, including those who inflict injury on the believers. This question of personal rights as a matter of justice prepares the way for more detailed consideration of the state as adjudicator.
Obedience in Authority.
Love Fulfills the Law.
Awareness of the End of Time.
* [13:1–7] Paul must come to grips with the problem raised by a message that declares people free from the law. How are they to relate to Roman authority? The problem was exacerbated by the fact that imperial protocol was interwoven with devotion to various deities. Paul builds on the traditional instruction exhibited in Wis 6:1–3, according to which kings and magistrates rule by consent of God. From this perspective, then, believers who render obedience to the governing authorities are obeying the one who is highest in command. At the same time, it is recognized that Caesar has the responsibility to make just ordinances and to commend uprightness; cf. Wis 6:4–21. That Caesar is not entitled to obedience when such obedience would nullify God’s prior claim to the believers’ moral decision becomes clear in the light of the following verses.
* [13:8–10] When love directs the Christian’s moral decisions, the interest of law in basic concerns, such as familial relationships, sanctity of life, and security of property, is safeguarded (Rom 13:9). Indeed, says Paul, the same applies to any other commandment (Rom 13:9), whether one in the Mosaic code or one drawn up by local magistrates under imperial authority. Love anticipates the purpose of public legislation, namely, to secure the best interests of the citizenry. Since Caesar’s obligation is to punish the wrongdoer (Rom 13:4), the Christian who acts in love is free from all legitimate indictment.
* [13:11–14] These verses provide the motivation for the love that is encouraged in Rom 13:8–10.
* [13:13] Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day: the behavior described in Rom 1:29–30 is now to be reversed. Secular moralists were fond of making references to people who could not wait for nightfall to do their carousing. Paul says that Christians claim to be people of the new day that will dawn with the return of Christ. Instead of planning for nighttime behavior they should be concentrating on conduct that is consonant with avowed interest in the Lord’s return.
To Live and Die for Christ.
Consideration for the Weak Conscience.
* [14:1–15:6] Since Christ spells termination of the law, which included observance of specific days and festivals as well as dietary instruction, the jettisoning of long-practiced customs was traumatic for many Christians brought up under the Mosaic code. Although Paul acknowledges that in principle no food is a source of moral contamination (Rom 14:14), he recommends that the consciences of Christians who are scrupulous in this regard be respected by other Christians (Rom 14:21). On the other hand, those who have scruples are not to sit in judgment on those who know that the gospel has liberated them from such ordinances (Rom 14:10). See 1 Cor 8; 10.
* [14:5] Since the problem to be overcome was humanity’s perverted mind or judgment (Rom 1:28), Paul indicates that the mind of the Christian is now able to function with appropriate discrimination (cf. Rom 12:2).
* [14:8] The Lord: Jesus, our Master. The same Greek word, kyrios, was applied to both rulers and holders of slaves. Throughout the Letter to the Romans Paul emphasizes God’s total claim on the believer; see note on Rom 1:1.
* [14:19] some manuscripts, versions, and church Fathers read, “We then pursue…”; cf. Rom 5:1.
* [14:23] Whatever is not from faith is sin: Paul does not mean that all the actions of unbelievers are sinful. He addresses himself to the question of intracommunity living. Sin in the singular is the dreadful power described in Rom 5:12–14.
Patience and Self-Denial.
God’s Fidelity and Mercy.
Apostle to the Gentiles.
Paul’s Plans; Need for Prayers.
* [15:3] Liberation from the law of Moses does not make the scriptures of the old covenant irrelevant. Much consolation and motivation for Christian living can be derived from the Old Testament, as in the citation from Ps 69:10. Because this psalm is quoted several times in the New Testament, it has been called indirectly messianic.
* [15:5] Think in harmony: a Greco-Roman ideal. Not rigid uniformity of thought and expression but thoughtful consideration of other people’s views finds expression here.
* [15:7–13] True oneness of mind is found in pondering the ultimate mission of the church: to bring it about that God’s name be glorified throughout the world and that Jesus Christ be universally recognized as God’s gift to all humanity. Paul here prepares his addressees for the climactic appeal he is about to make.
* [15:10] Paul’s citation of Dt 32:43 follows the Greek version.
* [15:14–33] Paul sees himself as apostle and benefactor in the priestly service of the gospel and so sketches plans for a mission in Spain, supported by those in Rome.
* [15:14] Full of goodness: the opposite of what humanity was filled with according to Rom 1:29–30.
* [15:19] Illyricum: Roman province northwest of Greece on the eastern shore of the Adriatic.
* [15:20] I aspire: Paul uses terminology customarily applied to philanthropists. Unlike some philanthropists of his time, Paul does not engage in cheap competition for public acclaim. This explanation of his missionary policy is to assure the Christians in Rome that he is also not planning to remain in that city and build on other people’s foundations (cf. 2 Cor 10:12–18). However, he does solicit their help in sending him on his way to Spain, which was considered the limit of the western world. Thus Paul’s addressees realize that evangelization may be understood in the broader sense of mission or, as in Rom 1:15, of instruction within the Christian community that derives from the gospel.
* [15:21] The citation from Is 52:15 concerns the Servant of the Lord. According to Isaiah, the Servant is first of all Israel, which was to bring the knowledge of Yahweh to the nations. In Rom 9–11 Paul showed how Israel failed in this mission. Therefore, he himself undertakes almost singlehandedly Israel’s responsibility as the Servant and moves as quickly as possible with the gospel through the Roman empire.
* [15:25–27] Paul may have viewed the contribution he was gathering from Gentile Christians for the poor in Jerusalem (cf. 2 Cor 8–9) as a fulfillment of the vision of Is 60:5–6. In confidence that the messianic fulfillment was taking place, Paul stresses in Rom 14–16 the importance of harmonious relationships between Jews and Gentiles.
Greetings from Corinth.
* [16:1–23] Some authorities regard these verses as a later addition to the letter, but in general the evidence favors the view that they were included in the original. Paul endeavors through the long list of greetings (Rom 16:3–16, 21–23) to establish strong personal contact with congregations that he has not personally encountered before. The combination of Jewish and Gentile names dramatically attests the unity in the gospel that transcends previous barriers of nationality, religious ceremony, or racial status.
* [16:1] Minister: in Greek, diakonos; see note on Phil 1:1.
* [16:3] Prisca and Aquila: presumably the couple mentioned at Acts 18:2; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tm 4:19.
* [16:5] The church at their house: i.e., that meets there. Such local assemblies (cf. 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Phlm 2) might consist of only one or two dozen Christians each. It is understandable, therefore, that such smaller groups might experience difficulty in relating to one another on certain issues. Firstfruits: cf. Rom 8:23; 11:16; 1 Cor 16:15.
* [16:7] The name Junia is a woman’s name. One ancient Greek manuscript and a number of ancient versions read the name “Julia.” Most editors have interpreted it as a man’s name, Junias.
* [16:13] This Rufus cannot be identified to any degree of certainty with the Rufus of Mk 15:21.
* [16:17–18] Paul displays genuine concern for the congregations in Rome by warning them against self-seeking teachers. It would be a great loss, he intimates, if their obedience, which is known to all (cf. Rom 1:8), would be diluted.
* [16:20] This verse contains the only mention of Satan in Romans.
* [16:23] This Erastus is not necessarily to be identified with the Erastus of Acts 19:22 or of 2 Tm 4:20.
* [16:24] Some manuscripts add, similarly to Rom 16:20, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
* [16:25–27] This doxology is assigned variously to the end of Rom 14; 15; 16 in the manuscript tradition. Some manuscripts omit it entirely. Whether written by Paul or not, it forms an admirable conclusion to the letter at this point.
* [16:25] Paul’s gospel reveals the mystery kept secret for long ages: justification and salvation through faith, with all the implications for Jews and Gentiles that Paul has developed in the letter.