Facts and summary
Romans is the sixth book of the Christian New Testament. The author is traditionally understood to be the Apostle Paul. Romans is 16 chapters in length and was written in the late 50's A.D. Paul wrote Romans from Corinth and the original recipients were the church at Rome. The purpose of Romans is to prepare the way for Paul's upcoming visit to Rome and to explain the relationship between Jew and Gentile in God's plan of salvation. Its teaching emphasis concerns the "righteousness from God," justification by faith, sin and guilt, Jew and Gentile, and moral exhortations.
Peter (2 Pet. 3:15,16) quotes Romans 2:4, calling it "Scripture." The epistles of Clement (Cor. 35) and Polycarp (ad Philippians 6) quote respectively Rom. 1:29-32 and Rom. 14:10-12. Irenaeus (iv. 27, section 2) quotes it as Paul's (Rom. 4:10,11). Melito's "Hearing of Faith" is entitled from Rom. 10 or Gal. 3:2,3. The Muratorian Canon, Syriac and Old Latin versions, have it.
Heretics admitted its canonicity; so the Ophites (Hippol. Haer. 99; Rom. 1:20-26); Basilides (238, Rom. 8:19-22; 5:13,14); Valentinus (195, Rom. 8:11); the Valentinians Heracleon and Ptolemaeus; Tatian (Orat. 4, Rom. 1:20), and Marcion's canon. The epistle of the churches of Vienne and Lyons (Eusebius, H. E. v. 1; Rom. 8:18); Athenagoras (13, Rom. 12:1; 37, Rom. 1:24); Theophilus of Antioch (Autol. 79, Rom. 2:6; 126, Rom. 13:7,8). Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria often quote it.
Date and place of writing
Paul wrote while at Corinth, for he commends to the Romans Phoebe, deaconess of Cenchreae, the port of Corinth (Rom. 16:1,2). He was lodging at Gaius' house (Rom. 16:23), a chief member of the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 1:14). Erastus, "treasurer" (chamberlain, KJV), belonged to Corinth (2 Tim. 4:20; Acts 19:22). The time was during his visit in the winter and spring following his long stay at Ephesus (Rom. 20:3); for he was just about to carry the contributions of Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-27; compare Acts 20:22), just after his stay at Corinth at this time (Acts 24:17; 1 Cor. 16:4; 2 Cor. 8:1,2; 9:1 ff).
His design of visiting Rome after Jerusalem (Rom. 15:23-25) at this particular time appears incidentally from Acts 19:21. Thus, Paul wrote it in his third missionary journey, at the second of the two visas to Corinth recorded in Acts. He remained then three months in Greece. He was on the point of sailing to Jerusalem when obliged to alter his purpose; the sea therefore was by this time navigable. It was not late in the spring, for, after passing through Macedon and visiting the coast of Asia Minor, he still expected to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost (Acts 20:16). He must therefore have written the epistle to the Romans early in spring, A.D. 58.
Thus, it is logically connected with the epistles to the Galatians and Corinthians. He wrote 1 Corinthians before leaving Ephesus; 2 Corinthians on his way to Corinth; and Galatians at Corinth, where also he wrote Romans. Hence, the resemblance of these two epistles in style and substance. The epistle to the Galatians and the two almost contemporaneous epistles to the Corinthians are the most intense in feeling and varied in expression of Paul's epistles.
Intending long to visit Rome and Spain (Rom. 1:9-13; 15:22-29), he was for the present unable, being bound for Jerusalem with the alms of the Gentile Christians. But, as Phoebe a deaconess of the neighbouring Cenchrea was starting for Rome (Rom. 16:1,2), he sends meantime this epistle by her. Tertius wrote it at his dictation (Rom. 16:22), the apostle with his own hand, as in other epistles, probably adding the benediction and abrupt doxology at the close.
Had Peter or any other apostle founded the church at Rome, some allusion to him would have occurred in this epistle or in Paul's epistles written at Rome. Moreover Paul's rule was not to build on another's foundation (Rom. 15:20). Also in dividing the field of labour between himself and Peter (Gal. 2:7-9), as apostle of the Gentiles he claims the Romans as his share (Rom. 1:13) and hopes to confer some spiritual gift (charism) on them to establish them; implying that heretofore no apostle had been with them to do so (Rom. 1:11; compare Acts 8:14-17).
The date of the introduction of Christianity at Rome must have been very early. Andronicus and Junia were "in Christ" even before Paul. Probably of the Roman strangers or pilgrim sojourners at Jerusalem (Acts 2:10) who heard Peter's sermon at Pentecost, some were among the converts, and brought back the gospel to the metropolis. (See RUFUS). In this sense Peter founded the church at Rome, though having never yet visited it.
The constant contact between Judaea and Rome through commerce, the passing of soldiers back and forward from Caesarea, and the repairing of Jewish settlers at Rome to Jerusalem for the three great feasts, ensured an early entrance of the gospel into Rome. Hence too the church there at first had that tinge of Judaism which this epistle corrects. Its members were in part Jews originally, in part Gentiles (compare as to the Jewish element Rom. 2; Rom. 3; Rom. 7; Rom. 9; 11:13).
A considerable number saluted in Rom. 16 were Jew-Christians: Mary, Aquila, Priscilla, Andronicus and Junia, Paul's kinsmen, Herodion, Apelles, Aristobulus (of the Herodian family). The Jews at Rome were so numerous that Augustus assigned them a separate quarter beyond the Tiber, and permitted them freely to exercise their religion (Philo, Leg. ad Caium, 568).
That Gentiles, however, composed the bulk of the Roman church appears from Rom. 1:5,13; 9:3,4; 10:1, "my prayer to God for them" (the Jews, as distinguished from the Gentiles whom he here more directly addresses; so Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus manuscripts read for "Israel"), Rom. 11:23,25,30. But the Gentiles of this church were not Latin, but Greek. The literature of the early Roman church was written in Greek; the names of its bishops are almost all Greek. The early Latin versions of the New Testament were made for the provinces, especially Africa, nor Rome. The names in the salutations (Rom. 16) are generally Greek; and the Latin names, Aquila, Priscilla, Junia, Rufus, were Jews.
Julia (of the imperial household), Amplias, and Urbanus, are the few exceptions. The Greeks were the most enterprising and intelligent of the middle and lower classes at Rome. Juvenal alludes satirically to their numbers and versatility (iii. 60-80; vi. 184); their intellectual restlessness made them sit loosely to traditional superstitions, and to be more open than others to inquire into the claims of Christianity. Many of the names (Rom. 16) are found in the lists of freedmen and slaves of the early Roman emperors, "they of Caesar's household" (Phil. 4:22).
From the lower and middle classes, petty tradesmen, merchants, and army officers, the gospel gradually worked upward; still "not many wise ... mighty ... noble were called" (1 Cor. 1:26). The legend of Peter and Paul presiding together over the church at Rome probably represents the combination of Jews and Gentiles in it. The joint episcopate of Linus and Cletus subsequently may be explained by supposing one ruled over the Jewish, the other over the Gentile congregation; this gives point to the general argument of Rom. 1--3 and Rom. 10:12, that there is no respect of nationality with God.
Accordingly, the epistle has the character of a general treatise. The metropolitan church was the fittest one to whom to address such a general exposition of doctrine, at the same time the injunction of obedience to temporal rulers was appropriate at the head quarters of the imperial government (Rom. 13:1). The epistles to Corinthians and Galatians, immediately preceding chronologically, are full of personal references.
The epistle to the Romans summarizes what he had just written; namely, epistle to Corinthians representing the attitude of the gospel to the Gentile world, the epistle to Galatians its relation to Judaism. What was in these two epistles immediately drawn out by special Judaizing errors of the Galatians, and Gentile licence of the Corinthians, is in Romans methodically combined together add arranged for general application. The doctrine of justification by faith only on the one hand is stated (Rom. 1--5) as in Galatians; on the other antinomianism is condemned (Rom. 6); and the avoidance of giving offence as to meats (Rom. 14) answers to 1 Cor. 6:12, etc., 1 Cor. 8:1, etc.
The Alexandrinus manuscript transposes the doxology Rom. 16:25-27 (which Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts keep as KJV) to the close of Rom. 14. Probably the epistle was circulated in two forms, both with and without the two last chapters. The form without them removed the personal allusions which manuscript G still more divested it of by omitting "that be in Rome" (Rom. 1:7), "that are at Rome" (Rom. 1:15). The two chapters being omitted, the doxology would stand at the close of Rom. 14 in the shorter form.
The theme is stated Rom. 1:16,17, "the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek; for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith." The divisions are: (I) Personal statements (Rom. 1:1-15). (II) Doctrinal (Rom. 1:16--11:36). The pagan and Jew alike under condemnation (Rom. 1; 2). Objections answered (Rom. 3:1-8); the truth vindicated by Scripture (Rom. 3:9-20). The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel, being of faith, not of the law, unto all who believe (Rom. 3:21-26). Boasting is excluded (Rom. 3:27-31).
Abraham an example, David's testimony (Rom. 4). Justification by faith gives peace with God through Jesus, access into the standing of grace, and joy in hope of the glory of God, joy in tribulations, joy in God through Jesus by whom we have received the atonement (Rom. 5:1-11). Christ the head of redeemed manhood, as Adam of fallen manhood (Rom. 5:12-19); as sin came by Adam to man, so grace by Christ. The law came in parenthetically (pareiselthen) and incidentally to reveal the malignity of the evil introduced by Adam, and the need of the remedy by Christ (Rom. 5:20,21).
The superseding of the law by Christ its fulfillment, so far from licensing sin, makes the believer dead to sin and the law with the crucified Christ, that henceforth he may walk in newness of life, by the power of the Spirit, with the risen Saviour who was raised by the same Spirit, the earnest of our coming glorification with Him (Rom. 6--8). The casting away of the Jew, though most sad, is neither universal now (for there is a remnant according to the election of grace, and God's foreordaining is to be accepted not criticized by finite man), nor final, for "all Israel shall be saved" in the coming age, and their being received will be as life from the dead to the Gentile world (Rom. 9; Rom. 11).
Their exclusion from justification now is because they seek it by the law, whereas God's way is by faith, open to Jew and Gentile alike; therefore preaching to the Gentiles is not, as the Jews imagined, unlawful, but foretold by Isaiah and required by the necessities of the case (Rom. 10). (III) Practical exhortations: to holiness, charity, obedience to legal authorities, avoiding to give offense to weak brethren (Rom. 7--15:13). (IV) Personal explanations: his motive in writing, intention to visit them (Rom. 15:14-33). Salutations, benediction, doxology (Rom. 16).