the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
The Expositor's Greek Testament Expositor's Greek Testament
by William Robertson Nicoll
ST. PAUL’S EPISTLE
ORIGIN OF THE CHURCH AT ROME.
OF the beginnings of Christianity in Rome nothing whatever is known on direct evidence. The tradition which assigns the founding of the Church there to Peter cannot possibly be maintained. In one form it assumes that Peter, on the occasion referred to in Acts 12:17 , travelled to Rome, and there propagated the Church from the synagogue as a centre. As this departure of Peter from Jerusalem took place, on the usual reckoning, about 42 A.D., there would be time for his twenty-five years’ episcopate of Rome, which was once the accepted Romish idea, though now given up even by Romish scholars. But it is clear from the book of Acts (chap. 15) that Peter was in Jerusalem ten years after this, and it is equally clear from the Epistle to the Romans that he had not been in Rome when this letter was written, seven years later still. In face of a passage like chap. Romans 15:20 it is impossible to suppose that the Church of Rome had already been the scene of another Apostle’s labours. Three years later, when Paul at length arrived in Rome, it had still been unvisited by Peter, to judge from what we read in Acts 28:0 ; and even when he wrote the Epistle to the Philippians, towards the close of his first imprisonment, there is no indication that his brother Apostle had yet seen the capital. The earliest tradition represents Peter and Paul as in Rome together, and, indeed, as suffering together, in the Neronian persecution. All the evidence for this will be found in Euseb., Hist. Eccl. , II., xxv. What the worth of it is, it is not easy to say. It is not incredible that Peter may have been in Rome about the date in question, especially if Babylon in 1 Peter 5:13 means Rome, as it does in the Apocalypse. But in any case Peter can have had no direct part in founding the Church. In Iren., iii. 1, 2, Peter and Paul are spoken of as “preaching the Gospel in Rome, and founding the Church,” at the time that Matthew published his gospel. That Christianity was there long before this time is indubitable, but the Roman Christians, it has been suggested (see Harvey’s note on Iren. ad loc ), “appear neither to have had an ecclesiastical polity nor to have been under the regular regimen of the Church.… Several expressions in the epistle seem to indicate a crude, unsettled state of things there.… They are spoken of as depending rather upon mutual exhortation and instruction than upon any more authoritative communication of evangelical truth (Romans 15:14 ) … and the Apostle expresses his intention to visit them, according to a purpose entertained ἀπὸ πολλῶν ἐτῶν [ ἱκανῶν is the true reading] with the hope that he might come ἐν πληρώματι εὐλογίας ( τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ) τοῦ Χριστοῦ , i.e. , in the collation of spiritual gifts which as yet they had not, and in the establishment of that Apostolical order and government among them which should complete their incorporation with the Body Catholic of Christ’s Church.” It is quite true that the epistle reveals nothing of the organisation of the Church at Rome, but it reveals just as little of any intention on Paul’s part to bestow on the Church the supposed benefits of “Apostolical order and government”. The assumption underlying this expression is quite unhistorical. There was no uniform legal organisation of the Church in the apostolic age; and the Christians in Rome not only depended upon mutual exhortation and instruction, but, as Paul acknowledges, were well able to do so. They had χαρίσματα differing according to the grace given to them, and if they had no legal organisation, they had a vital and spiritual differentiation of organs and functions, for which the other is but a makeshift (chap. Romans 12:3-8 ). Sanday and Headlam think that though the Church did not, in the strict sense, owe its origin to Peter and Paul, it may well have owed to them its first existence as an organised whole (Commentary, p. xxxv.). This may be, for it was Paul’s habit to appoint elders in all the churches he planted (Acts 14:23 , Titus 1:5 ); but, as the gospel was known at Rome, and believers were baptised there, and no doubt observed the Lord’s Supper, it is clear that no particular organisation was wanted either to ensure or to perfect their standing as Christians.
Where tradition fails, we can only fall back on conjecture conjecture to be verified by its coherence with what the epistle itself reveals. In this connection it has long been customary to refer to Acts 2:10 ( οἱ ἐπιδημοῦντες Ῥωμαῖοι ). There were Roman Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and even if they were domiciled there and did not return to Rome, there must have been many visitors who did. The Jews in Rome were numbered by thousands; they occupied a large ward of the city, beyond the Tiber, by themselves, and they had ceaseless communications with Jerusalem. Hence many have supposed that Christianity came to Rome by some such channel as this. If it did, we should expect it to have originated in the synagogues, the existence of nine of which is definitely attested (Sanday and Headlam, p. xxiv.). The epistle itself gives no direct evidence of any such connection if the Church originated in the synagogue at Rome, the connection had been completely severed by the time Paul wrote. It has been supposed that the well-known sentence in Suetonius, Claud. , 25 (“Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes Roma expulit”: see also Acts 18:2 ) refers to conflicts which arose in the synagogues over the alleged Messiahship of Jesus, and that the separation of the Church and the synagogue, and even a change in the prevailing complexion of the Church, which from Jewish-Christian became mainly Gentile-Christian, date from this event; but no stress can be laid on this. It is clear from Acts 28:17-22 that when Paul came to Rome the leaders of the synagogue either knew nothing or affected to know nothing about the new sect which was growing up beside them. This makes it at least improbable, whatever its actual origin, that the Christian Church at Rome can have had strongly Jewish sympathies. Besides, even if the Church had originated in the synagogue, it is practically certain, from the analogy of other places whose history is known, that the mass of the members would not be Jews by birth, but of the class of proselytes ( εὐσεβεῖς , φοβούμενοι τὸν θεόν ), whose attachment to Judaism was less rigid, and whose spiritual receptivity was as a rule greater.
Many scholars, impressed by these considerations, have sought rather a Gentile-Christian origin for the Church. Communication, they point out, was constant, not only between Rome and Jerusalem, but between Rome and all the East, and especially all the great towns. There was constant coming and going between Rome and such cities as Antioch, Corinth and Ephesus, not to mention others which had been the scene of Paul’s labours. Early Christianity, too, was largely self-propagating. “They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4 ). Hort ( Romans and Ephesians , p. 9) speaks of “a process of quiet and as it were fortuitous filtration”; and it was probably by such a process, initiated, suspended, and renewed on different occasions, that the new religion was introduced to Rome. To conceive the matter in this way is no doubt to conceive it very indefinitely, but it is hardly possible to go further. Attempts have been made to do so. Assuming, for instance, that chap. 16 is in its right place, and really formed part of the Epistle to the Romans, it has been argued that the large number of friends and acquaintances Paul had in the Church, and especially the conspicuous place given to his old associates Prisca and Aquila, prove that the Christianity of the Romans was essentially of the Pauline type, and that the Church therefore owed its origin and its character, indirectly no doubt, to him. The epistle certainly does not bear this on its face; Paul never says a word which implies that the Romans owed anything, even remotely, to him; there is rather an impression of regret that they did not. Besides, it is a mistake to assume that all Paul’s friends were necessarily “Paulinists” an expression which neither he nor they could have understood. Among those at Rome, and among the most important, as we should judge by the honourable terms in which they are mentioned (Romans 16:7 ), were some who had been Christians longer than he; and “the quiet and as it were fortuitous filtration” was that of Christianity, undoubtedly of some universal type, but not distinctively of Paulinism.
CHARACTER OF THE CHURCH AT ROME
HARDLY any question in New Testament criticism has been more elaborately discussed than this. The traditional opinion was that the Church consisted of Gentile Christians. The idea that it consisted of Jewish Christians, first broached apparently by Koppe in 1824, gained currency through Baur, and for a generation after his essay (1836) commanded wide assent among critics. A strong protest in favour of the old opinion was kept up all the time, but it was not till 1876 that Weizsäcker produced a decisive reaction in its favour. The great mass of the Church, he argued, must have been Gentile-Christian, though there was no doubt a Jewish-Christian minority. An attempt to construct a theory answering more closely to the facts presented by the epistle is that of Beyschlag. He supposes that the Church consisted mainly of proselytes that is, of persons who were Gentiles by birth, but had passed through the Jews’ religion. This would explain the great difficulty of the epistle, that Paul addresses his readers as if they were Gentiles, but argues with them as if they were Jews. Schürer, again, conceives of the Church as non-Jewish, and at the same time non-Pauline; the Hellenistic Jews of the diaspora would make Christians comparatively free in their relations to the ceremonial law, but with no adequate comprehension of the Pauline freedom, in principle, from law in every sense; it is an audience like this Paul is trying to elevate to his own standpoint. That such an audience could be found is not to be denied; whether it is to be found here we can only ascertain by comparing this theory with the facts of the epistle. Finally, Holtzmann gives up the attempt to realise the character of the Church. St. Paul had never been in Rome, did not really know the situation there, and has no distinct idea of his audience. When he finds it necessary to explain why he writes to them at all he thinks of them as Gentiles; when their previous culture and spiritual history, their sympathies, antipathies, and mode of reacting toward the Gospel generally, are in question, they are Jews. All this shows that the problem is a complex one; and there is no means of doing anything to solve it but to examine the facts once more. They are all contained in the epistle itself, and it will be convenient to adduce the evidence (1) for the Gentile-Christian character of the readers; (2) for the Jewish-Christian character; and then to ask what conception covers and combines all the facts.
1. Evidence for the Gentile-Christian character of the Church.
( a ) Chap. Romans 1:5 f. Paul writes: “We received grace and Apostleship, with a view to obedience of faith ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν … ἐν οἷς ἐστε καὶ ὑμεῖς ”. Paul’s conception of himself as Apostle of the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8 ), and his appeal to this vocation in the salutation of his letter, put it beyond doubt that ἔθνη here means Gentiles, as opposed to Israel, and not nations generally. He is exercising his calling as Apostle to the Gentiles in writing to the Romans; for they, too, are in that class. Those who take the Jewish-Christian view argue that Paul would have had no need to tell a Church consisting of Romans by birth that they were included within the scope of his calling as Apostle to the Gentiles. But surely the Apostle’s expression is perfectly natural; whereas if ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν means “among all the nations,” it becomes perfectly meaningless.
( b ) Chap. Romans 1:13 . “I purposed often to come to you, … ἵνα τινὰ καρπὸν σχῶ καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν καθὼς καὶ ἐν τοῖς λοιποῖς ἔθνεσιν .” This case is quite unambiguous. The Roman Christians are put on a level with the rest of the ἔθνη , and it agrees with this that the distinction of classes in ver. 14 (Greek and barbarian, wise and unintelligent) belongs to the pagan world.
Of course it is not meant here that Paul was Apostle of the Gentiles in such a sense that he would not have preached the Gospel to the Jews; but as far as he has a special vocation and it is on a special vocation, and not on the duty of preaching the Gospel to every creature, that he bases his right to address the Romans it is to the Gentile world. The Roman Church, therefore, belonged to that world.
( c ) Chap. Romans 11:13 . ὑμῖν δὲ λέγω τοῖς ἔθνεσιν . Here the whole Church is addressed in its character as Gentile. To this it has been replied that the whole Church is not addressed here; with ὑμῖν δὲ Paul expressly turns aside to address only a part of the Church. If the words stood alone, this might be maintained, but the context is decisive in favour of the former meaning. In the continuation of the passage (see especially Romans 11:25-28 ) the Church as a whole is warned against contempt for the Jews; it is addressed in the second person (Romans 11:25 ; Romans 11:28 ; Romans 11:30 f.), without any suggestion of distinctions in it, whereas the Jews are spoken of throughout in the third. Further, when Paul speaks of the Jews in chaps. 9 11, it is as “ my brethren,” “ my kinsmen according to the flesh,” not ours nor yours , as would have been the case had the bulk of the Church been of Jewish origin.
( d ) Chap. Romans 15:15 f. τολμηροτέρως δὲ ἔγραψα ὑμῖν κ . τ . λ . Here Paul justifies himself, in closing, for writing as he has done especially, perhaps, for writing so decidedly in chap. 14 15:13 to the Romans. The reason he gives is unmistakable. He is a minister of Jesus Christ, a priest in the service of the Gospel; the offering he has to lay on the altar is the Gentiles, and he writes to the Romans because they are Gentiles, to further them in their faith, that when they are presented to God it may be an acceptable offering, sanctified in the Holy Spirit. There is no evading this argument; to say that in vers. 17 20 Paul’s justification of this presentation of himself as minister of Jesus Christ εἰς τὰ ἔθνη is directed against Jewish-Christian suspicions and insinuations ( cf. 2 Corinthians 10:12-18 ; 2 Corinthians 12:11-12 ) may or may not be true, but is quite irrelevant; even if there were such suspicions, and even if they had begun to find acceptance in Rome, the Gentile character of the Church at Rome as a whole is here put beyond question.
( e ) Less stress can be laid on passages like Romans 6:17 f. ( ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ), though they have undoubtedly something which recalls the ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμαρτωλοὶ of Galatians 2:15 . By the time he has reached chap. 6. Paul is quite entitled to assume that his readers were once slaves of sin, without suggesting anything about their nationality. Neither do the suggestions of particular sins ( e.g. , in Romans 6:12-14 ) throw any real light on the question. All kinds of bad things are done both by Gentiles and Jews. But discounting weak and uncertain arguments, there is a plain and solid case for maintaining that the great bulk of the Church at Rome was of Gentile origin.
2. Evidence for the Jewish-Christian character of the Church.
( a ) There are passages in which Paul includes himself and his readers in the first person plural; now no one, it is to be observed, is included with him in the superscription, so that “we” must mean “you and I”. Thus Romans 3:9 προεχόμεθα ; are we (Jews) surpassed? But it is very natural to suppose that Paul here, as is his rule, allows his opponents (real or imaginary) to state their own objections in their own person, the “we” neither including himself nor his readers; or if he speaks in his own person, it is the national consciousness of the Jew, which Paul of course shared, and not the joint consciousness of Paul and his readers, which is conveyed by the plural. Another passage of the same kind is Romans 4:1 : Ἀβραὰμ τὸν προπάτορα ἡμῶν κατὰ σάρκα . Here also the explanation is the same. Paul says “our” forefather because he has no choice. He could speak of his fellow-countrymen as “ my kinsmen according to the flesh”; but it would have been obviously absurd for him to speak of Abraham as “my” forefather. It is only through his relation to the nation that he can claim a connection with Abraham, and hence the “our” in Romans 4:1 is national, not individual, and has nothing to do with the Romans. Cf. the precisely similar case in Romans 9:10 (Isaac our father). The same use of the first person plural is found in 1 Corinthians 10:1 (All our fathers were under the cloud), which no one doubts was written to a thoroughly Gentile Church. As far therefore as passages like these are concerned, they do not invalidate in the least the evidence adduced for the Gentile character of the Church at Rome.
( b ) Not so simple are those passages which speak either in the first or second person plural of the relation of the readers, or of Paul and his readers alike, to the law. The most important of these is chap. Romans 7:1-6 . Paul here speaks to his readers as persons γινώσκουσι νόμον , knowing what law is. Even if we admit which is not necessary, nor I believe right that the reference is to the Mosaic law, it does not follow that the readers were Jews. Indeed the explicit recalling of the law to mind, while he assumes it to be known, might plausibly be alleged as an argument against a Jewish origin. But to pass that by, does not Romans 7:4 , it is argued So then, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law by the body of Christ imply that the persons addressed had lived under the law as well as the writer? in other words, that they were Jews? And is this not confirmed, when we read in ver. 5 f., “When we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were through the law , wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we have been discharged from the law ”? Have we not here, in relation to the law, an experience common to Paul and those whom he addressed, and does not this imply that antecedent to their conversion they and he had lived under the law that is, were Jews by birth? It is natural, at first sight, to think so, but it is certainly wrong. There is an experience common to Paul and to all Christians, whatever their birth; if it were not so, they would not be Christians. It is possible also for him to describe that experience in relation to the law; once all , Christians were under it, now they are so no more. All Christians were under it, for all were under sin, and to the Apostle sin and law are correlative terms. The law, indeed, did not take precisely the same form for Jew and Gentile; the one had an objective revelation, the other had a substitute, if not an equivalent for this, written on his heart; but in both it wrought to the same issues. There is nothing in the world less Jewish, there is nothing more human, than Romans 7:7-24 ; but that is Paul’s description of life under the law, and of the working of the law in that life. We understand it only too well, though we are not Jews; and so, no doubt, did those to whom it was first addressed. Hence Paul could quite well say to a Gentile Church: Ye were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; and could associate himself with them to say, We were discharged from the law by dying to that in which we were held. A perfectly clear case of this is to be found in Galatians 3:13 to Galatians 4:9 . No one imagines that the Galatians were Jews, yet Paul vindicates for them the very thing which he says of the Romans here. God sent forth His Son, he writes, made of a woman, made under law, to redeem those that are under law , that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God sent forth the spirit of His Son into our hearts, etc. The alternation of the first and second persons here shows how Paul could conceive of Jew and Gentile alike as under law in their pre-Christian days, and how in their emancipation from this in Jesus Christ one experience was common to them all. In truth, “sin,” “the law,” “the curse of the law,” “death,” are names for something which belongs not to the Jewish but to the human conscience; and it is only because this is so that the Gospel of Paul is also a Gospel for us. Before Christ came and redeemed the world, all men were at bottom on the same footing: Pharisaism, legalism, moralism, or whatever it is called, it is in the last resort the attempt to be good without God, to achieve a righteousness of our own without an initial all-inclusive immeasurable debt to Him; in other words, without submitting, as sinful men must submit, to be justified by faith apart from works of our own, and to find in that justification, and in that only, the spring and impulse of all good. It was because Paul’s Jewish experience was digested into a purely and perfectly human experience that he was able to transcend his Judaism, and to preach a universal gospel; and the use of such expressions as we have in Romans 7:1-6 is no proof that those to whom they applied were Jews too. They apply to us.
( c ) The character of the argumentation in the epistle has been adduced in support of the Jewish origin of the readers. It is quite true that in the dialectical development of his gospel in Romans Paul often states and answers such objections as would naturally occur to one representing the historical and legal standpoint of the Jews’ religion. Cf. Romans 3:1 (What advantage then hath the Jew?), Romans 6:1 (Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?), Romans 6:15 (Are we to sin, because we are not under law, but under grace?) Romans 7:7 (What shall we say then? Is the law sin?), Romans 11:1 (I say then, Hath God cast off His people?). There are two obvious reasons why Paul should have developed his gospel by this dialectical process apart from the assumption that he is meeting the anticipated objections of his readers. One is, that he was a Jew himself, and justified his gospel instinctively, as he went along, against the primâ facie objections to it which arose in his own mind. Here, again, however we must remember that though Paul was a Jew he was a man; and it does not strike one as rigorously historical, but as somewhat absurd, to characterise as Jewish or as Jewish-Christian the criticism of grace which comes natural to every human being. The other reason is, that Paul had heard already in other places most of the objections to his gospel which he answers in this epistle. There is only one express reference to this, in Romans 3:8 (As we are slandered, and as some affirm that we say, Let us do evil that good may come: for τινες here, cf. 2 Corinthians 3:1 , Galatians 2:12 ); but that Paul’s gospel was assiduously and energetically counterworked we know quite well, and he may have heard (through some of his friends in the city) that his adversaries were forestalling him at Rome. These reasons fully explain the nature of his arguments; and in view of the direct evidence for the Gentile character of the Church they prove nothing on the other side.
( d ) Great stress was laid by Baur on chaps. 9 11 in this connection. These, it was argued, were the real kernel of the epistle the part for the sake of which it was really written, and by relation to which the rest has to be explained; and these, moreover, have no interest, or none worth speaking of, for a Gentile Church. It was only to a Jewish-Christian consciousness that this vindication of God’s wonderful ways in the history of redemption required to be or could be addressed. Plausible as this may sound, the facts are against it. For whatever reason, it is precisely and unambiguously to the Gentiles that all this section is addressed. In Romans 9:1 f., Romans 10:1 f. Paul speaks of the Jews in the third person (my prayer to God for them , etc.). He calls them my kinsmen, not yours or ours . He quotes himself, but not his readers (Romans 11:1 ), as proof that God has not cast off His people, which he would hardly have done had they also been Christian Jews (but see note on this verse). He uses the fate of the Jews, the natural branches, to warn his readers, grafted into the tree of life contrary to nature, against contempt, pride, and unbelief. Whatever the motive of these chapters may have been, it cannot have been that the bulk of the Romish Church was Jewish in origin, or strongly Jewish in sympathy. The apostle’s own application of their teaching in Romans 11:17-24 proves exactly the reverse.
( e ) Still less can anything be made of an appeal to Romans 13:1-7 . The Jews were certainly a rebellious and turbulent race, and inherited theocratic ideas which might make them doubt the lawfulness of paying tribute to Cæsar (Deuteronomy 17:15 , Mark 12:13-17 ); but Christianity too in all its forms is an idealism which necessarily raises the question of the relation of God’s Kingdom to the kingdoms of this world, and so gives occasion to such explanations as those of Paul in chap. Romans 13:1-7 . It has been pointed out, too, that echoes of this passage occur in the public prayer of the Roman Church in Clem., ad. Cor , l, lxi, at a period when the Gentile character of the Church is not questioned.
( f ) As for the use of the Old Testament in this epistle, it has no bearing whatever on the nationality of the readers. To all the New Testament writers the Old Testament was revelation, and in a sense Christian revelation; and they used it in the same way no matter to whom they wrote.
None of these passages is sufficient to prove that the Church as a whole was Jewish-Christian, or even that it was strongly influenced by Jewish ideas. On the other hand, the passages quoted under 1 prove conclusively that the bulk of the Church was Gentile, so that one writing to it as a body thought of it as a Gentile Church. This, of course, would not preclude the existence in it of a minority of Jewish origin. We can hardly conceive, in the lifetime of the Apostles, a Church without such an element The Apostles themselves were all Jews, and it was their rule it was even Paul’s rule to preach to the Jew first. But apart from this general presumption, we have a distinct indication in the epistle itself that there was in the Roman Church a Jewish-Christian element. In chap. 14. Paul speaks of dissensions between “the strong” and “the weak,” and though it would be wrong simply to identify these with Gentile and Jewish Christians, it is a safe inference from Romans 15:7-13 , taken in connection with what precedes, that the difference between “strong” and “weak” was not unrelated to that between Gentile and Jew (see notes ad loc ). Hence the prevailing tendency of scholars is to recognise that the Church was Gentile as a whole, but had a minority of Jewish origin. To what extent the Gentile mass was influenced by Jewish ideas how far the Gentile members of the Church had been originally proselytes, and were therefore appreciative of the Jewish-Christian consciousness or in sympathy with it is another question. As we have seen above, under 2, b , c , no special assumption of this kind is needed to explain the manner in which Paul vindicates his gospel to them.
CHARACTER OF THE EPISTLE ITS OCCASION AND PURPOSE
THE character of the epistle has been a subject of as much discussion as the character of the readers, and the discussion is less likely ever to be closed. A writing of such vitality, which is always being in part lost, and always rediscovered in new power a writing of such comprehensive scope and such infinite variety of application a writing at once so personal and historical, and so universal and eternal, is not easily reduced to a formula which leaves nothing to be desired. The definitions of its purpose which have been given by scholars strike one rather as all right than as all wrong. But before entering on an examination of these it will be proper to investigate the occasion of the letter, as it may have some bearing on its purpose.
Paul’s intention to visit Rome is first mentioned in Acts 19:21 , and, as Hort remarks, it is expressed with curious emphasis. “After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit ( ἔθετο ἐν τῷ πνεύματι ), when he had passed through Macedonia, and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” He passed through Macedonia and Achaia, as he proposed, and it was during his stay in Corinth (which, according to the usual chronology, was in the winter of 58 59), and towards the close of it, that he wrote this letter. This is a point on which all scholars are agreed. When he wrote, he was on the point of starting, or perhaps had started, on his journey to Jerusalem, with the collection for the poor saints there which had been made in the Churches of Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia (chap. Rom 15:25 ff., 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 , 2 Corinthians 8:9 ). He had with him Timothy and Sosipater, or Sopater (chap. Romans 16:21 ), whom we know otherwise to have been in his company (Acts 20:4 ), when he started on that journey. Gaius, his host at the moment (Romans 16:23 ), is probably the same as the Gaius whom he had himself baptised at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14 ). The time and place, therefore, at which the Epistle to the Romans was written are beyond question. But we ought to notice these not only formally, as points of geography and chronology, but in their significance in Paul’s life. The time was one at which he felt that his work in the East was done. From Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum he had fully preached the gospel of Christ. He had no more place in these parts (Romans 15:19 ; Romans 15:23 ). His eye was turned westward, and rested inevitably on Rome. He had wished to visit it for a good many years (Romans 15:23 ), perhaps ever since he had first met Prisca and Aquila in Corinth (Acts 18:2 ), and he had often formed the purpose, though it had been as often disappointed (Romans 1:13 ). But now it had a definiteness which it had never had before. He did not indeed look on Rome as the goal of his journey; he meant only to stay there till he had been somewhat satisfied with the Church’s fellowship, and then to be convoyed by them toward Spain (Romans 15:24 ). But he was a Roman citizen, and must have been conscious, as an expression in Romans 1:8 shows (“Your faith is proclaimed in all the world”), of the supreme importance of the Church which had its seat in the capital of the empire. He would not only wish a point of support there for his further operations in the West; he must have been more than commonly anxious that Christianity there should appear as what it truly was, and that the Romans should be firmly established in it. If Paul was going to write to the Romans at all, no matter from what immediate impulse though it should only have been to announce his approaching visit it would be natural that his communication, in proportion as he realized the place and coming importance of the Church at Rome, should assume a catholic and comprehensive character. We can hardly imagine the man who was conscious of his own vocation as Apostle of the Gentiles, and conscious at the same time of the central significance of this Church, writing anything of a merely formal character to such a community. When he introduced himself to them , it was a great occasion, and the epistle is the best evidence that he was sensible of its greatness.
There are other considerations which would tell on Paul’s mind in the same direction. When he wrote, he was setting out on a journey the issue of which was doubtful and perilous. At the very outset he had to change his course, because of a plot formed against him by the Jews (Acts 20:3 ). He dreaded what these same relentless enemies might do in Judæa; he was not sure that even the Christians in Jerusalem would receive graciously the offering which his love and zeal had raised among the Gentiles on their behalf (chap. Romans 15:31 ). He was setting out in readiness not only to be bound, but to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 21:13 ). In a sense, therefore, this epistle might be called his testament (Weiss). He puts into it, not merely what is suggested to him by special circumstances of which he is aware in the Church at Rome e.g. , the discussion of the relations between “the strong” and “the weak” but all that his own situation and that of the Church, looking at both in the largest aspect, determine to be of interest. He has achieved a great work in the East. By carrying the charity of the Gentile Christians to Jerusalem, and fraternising once more with the primitive Church, he hopes to secure and perfect that work, and to effect a more cordial union between the two great branches of Christendom, which so imperfectly understood each other. He has passed through great conflicts, but his mind has only been made clearer by them, and established in firmer possession of the fundamental principles of the Christian life; he can define it without misgiving in relation to all previous modes of human experience and all earlier stages of religion, whether in Greek or Jew. His heart is set on further labours, but he is profoundly conscious of the uncertainties of the future. Such are the outward and the spiritual conditions under which Paul writes. Is it not manifest that when we give them all the historical definiteness of which they are capable, there is something in them which rises above the casualness of time and place, something which might easily give the epistle not an accidental or occasional character, but the character of an exposition of principles? Be the immediate motive what it may, it is not incredible that the epistle should have something in it which is rather eternal than historical, and that it should require for its interpretation, not a minute acquaintance with opinion in the apostolic age, but some sense of God and man.
The various opinions as to the purpose of the letter have been classified by almost all writers on Introduction under similar heads: it is only necessary to premise that such opinions do not in fact (whatever their authors may think) necessarily exclude one another.
1. The purpose of the letter, according to some, is dogmatic . It is a systematic and formal exposition of the Gospel according to Paul. It is a doctrinal treatise, to which only accident gave the form of a letter; in other circumstances it might have been a book. This was the opinion which ruled at the time of the Reformation. Luther calls the epistle absolutissima epitome evangelii . Melanchthon calls it doctrinæ Christianæ compendium . No one can say that these descriptions are inept. Luther did find the Gospel in Romans, and found it in a power which made him the greatest conductor of spiritual force since Paul, which directly regenerated one half of Christendom, and indirectly did much to reform the other half. Melanchthon made the epistle the basis of his Loci. He was delighted to find a theology which did not philosophise about the mysteries of the Trinity, or the modes of incarnation, or active and passive creation; but through sin and law and grace gave the knowledge of Christ and His benefits. The dogmatic conception of the epistle has held its ground even in modern times, and among writers who pride themselves in giving the historical its due. Thus Hausrath describes it as “the essential content of what he otherwise preached by word of mouth”. Hilgenfeld calls it “a complete presentation of the Gospel which Paul preaches among the Gentiles”. Pfleiderer, more dogmatically still, speaks of it as “an objective development of the truth of the Gospel, drawn from the nature of the Gospel itself”. And certainly, whatever the writer’s motive may have been, the letter has a systematic character. There is no analogy in any other of his epistles to the connected train of thought which runs from Romans 1:16 to Romans 8:39 or even to Romans 11:36 . There is indeed a break between chaps. 8 and 9, but there is no unbridgeable gulf. Holtzmann gives, as specimens of the way in which they can be connected, the opinions of Mangold (in 1 8. Paul justifies his doctrine of salvation, in 9 11 his action as a missionary), of Holsten (in 1 8 he justifies the content, in 9 11 the result, of his preaching), and of Pfleiderer (in 1 8 there is the dogmatic, in 9 11 the historical aspect of his gospel). This last agrees pretty much with Godet, who makes the subject of the whole eleven chapters salvation by faith, chaps. 1 8 treating this in relation to the individual, and chaps. 9 11 in relation to its development in history. The systematic character of this part, therefore, is beyond doubt. Those who insist upon it are not of course blind to the parts of the epistle (chaps. 14 and 15) in which incidental matters affecting the Church at Rome are touched upon; but it is not in these, they would say, but in the formal presentation of the truth in chaps. 1 11 that the purpose of the letter is revealed. Granting this, however, the question arises whether the systematic character of the epistle is equivalent to a dogmatic character. In other words, is Paul simply expounding, in a neutral, unprejudiced, objective fashion, the whole scope and contents of his gospel, or is he expounding it in relation to something present to his mind, and to the mind of his readers, which gives the exposition a peculiar character?
2. The latter alternative is affirmed by those who hold that the purpose of the epistle is controversial . It is an exposition of Paul’s gospel indeed, but not a purely dogmatic one, which in an epistle would be gratuitous and out of place. The exposition is throughout conducted with reference to an attack such as would be made on Pauline Christianity from the point of view of Judaism, or even of Jewish Christianity. It is not so much an exposition as a defence and a vindication. Practically this idea governs many interpretations, e.g. , that of Lipsius. That there is an element of truth in it is not to be denied. Paul does not write in vacuo , in no concrete relations at all. In Romans 3:8 there is a hint of actual adversaries and their criticisms on the Pauline gospel; in Romans 16:17-20 there is another hint of at least possible ones. It may be, as has been noticed above (p. 566), that Jews or Jewish Christians were attempting to create prejudice against the Apostle in Rome; but we cannot, on the ground that this is a letter, and must therefore have its character explained by the circumstances of the readers, conclude for certain (with Weizsäcker), that this was the case. In expounding his gospel systematically to the Romans, Paul defines it, not necessarily against enemies who were forestalling him in Rome, but against the criticism which had followed him all through his missionary work. And we must remember, as has also been referred to already, that part of that criticism was not so much Jewish as human. It is not the Jewish or Jewish-Christian consciousness in particular it is the consciousness of the natural man at a certain stage of moral development which thinks that forgiveness is an immoral doctrine, and is shocked at the idea of a God “who justifies the ungodly,” or on the other hand, indulges the idea that pardon procures licence to sin. Though the opposition Paul encountered everywhere was headed by Jews or by Christians of Jewish birth, what it represented was by no means exclusively Jewish; and in an epistle of this unique character, standing where it stands in the Apostle’s life, and making so little express reference to actual Jewish adversaries (contrast it in this respect with Galatians or 2 Corinthians 10-13), we must not limit too narrowly the kind of opposition he has in view. He is stating the case of gospel against law against all that is pre-Christian, infra-Christian, and anti-Christian; and his polemic has not a temporary but a permanent significance. It is addressed not to Jews of the first century, but to men, and to Christians, of all time. Nothing so conclusively proves its necessity as the fact that it so soon ceased to be understood. It is not easy to live at the spiritual height at which Paul lived. It is not easy to realise that religion begins absolutely on God’s side; that it begins with a demonstration of God’s love to the sinful, which man has done nothing and can do nothing to merit; and that the assurance of God’s love is not the goal to be reached by our own efforts, but the only point from which any human effort can start. It is not easy to realise that justification, in the sense of an initial assurance of God’s love, extending over all our life, is the indispensable presupposition of everything which can be called Christianity. It is not easy to realise that in the atoning death of Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost there are the only and the adequate securities for Christian morality; that the only good man is the forgiven man, and that he is good, not because he is under law, but because he is not under law but under grace. There must have been many men who were practically Christian, and that, too, in the broad sense, which gave no advantage to the Jew over the Gentile, but who were far from realising their Christianity in principle like Paul. In his heroic sense, indeed, Christianity hardly survived him; it was recovered in something like its native power, attested even by a recrudescence of its original perils, at the time of the Reformation; and it always requires to be rediscovered again. But this is only another way of saying that the polemic of the Epistle to the Romans is not narrowly anti-Jewish; it is anti-legal; and whenever legalism establishes itself in the Church anew, whether as mere custom, or as a dogmatic tradition, or as a clerical order claiming to be essential to the constitution of the Church, the Christian conscience will find in this polemic the sword of the spirit to strike it down. We admit, therefore, that the epistle has a controversial aspect; but probably the controversy is not so much with definite adversaries at work in Rome as with those principles and instincts in human nature which long experience as a preacher had made familiar to St. Paul.
3. A third view of the epistle defines its purpose as conciliatory . This, again, by no means excludes either of the views already commented on. Even controversy may be conducted in a conciliatory tone, and with a conciliatory purpose. When Paul wrote, he was extremely anxious about the unity of Jew and Gentile in the Church. His journey to Jerusalem had mainly that in view. In the epistle, while there is much that is trenchant in argument, there is nothing that is personal in feeling. There is no contemptuous irony, such as we have in 2 Corinthians 10-13; no uncontrolled passion such as flashes out here and there in Galatians. Although the law works wrath and stimulates sin, he describes it as holy, spiritual, and ordained unto life. He speaks with passionate affection of the Jews (Romans 9:1 ff.), always recognises their historical prerogatives (Romans 3:1 ff., Romans 9:1 ff.), warns the Gentiles against self-exaltation over them, and anticipates the salvation of Israel as a whole. In chaps. 14 15 also his generosity to “the weak,” though his judgment is unequivocally with the strong, may be regarded in the same light; the weak are certainly connected with the Jews, and his aim in the whole passage is the peace and unity of the Church. All this confirms us in thinking that the controversial aspect of the epistle should not be urged with special severity against Jewish Christians, or their modes of thought: Paul has no desire to exasperate any one, but in the position in which he stands, “the greatest moving power in the enlargement and building up of the universal Church” (Hort), about to visit Jerusalem at once, and Rome, if he can, immediately afterwards, his desire is to win and to unite all.
From this point of view it is possible to form a conception of the purpose of the epistle which will do something like justice to it as a whole. It is an epistle, not a book. Paul wrote to Rome, not simply to clear up his own mind, not as a modern writer might do, addressing the world at large; he wrote to this particular community, and under a particular impulse. He knew something about the Church, as chaps. 14 and 15 show; and while he might have acquired such information from members of it whom he met in Corinth, Ephesus, or elsewhere, it is quite probable, from chap. 16, that he had friends and correspondents at Rome itself. He wrote to the Roman Christians because it was in his mind to visit them; but the nature of his letter is determined, not simply by consideration of their necessities, but by consideration of his own position. The letter is “occasional,” in the sense that it had a historical motive to intimate and prepare for the coming visit; but it is not occasional in the sense in which the first Epistle to the Corinthians is so. It is not a series of answers to questions which the Romans had propounded; it is not a discussion, relevant to them only, of points either in doctrine or practice which had incidentally come to be of critical importance in Rome. Its character, in relation to St. Paul’s mind, is far more central and absolute than this would imply. It is in a real sense a systematic exposition of what he distinctively calls “my gospel” (Romans 2:16 ), such an exposition as makes him thoroughly known to a community which he foresaw would have a decisive importance in the history of Christianity. It is not an impromptu note, nor a series of unconnected remarks, each with a motive of its own; it is the manifesto of his gospel, by means of which the Apostle of the Gentiles, at a great crisis and turning point in his life, establishes relations with the Christian community in the capital of the Gentile world. It can be dated, of course, but no writing in the New Testament is less casual; none more catholic and eternal. It is quite true that in expounding his gospel Paul proceeds by a certain dialectical process; he advances step by step, and at every step defines the Christian truth as against some false or defective, some anti-Christian or infra-Christian view; in this sense it is controversial. But we have seen already the limitations under which alone a controversial character can be ascribed to it; Paul is not so much controverting anybody in particular as vindicating the truth he expounds against the assaults and misconstructions to which he had found it give rise. There is no animosity against the Jews in it; no sentence such as 1 Thessalonians 2:15 f. or Galatians 5:12 . It is an establishment of principles he aims at; except in Romans 3:8 , Romans 16:17-20 there is no reference to persons. Even in chaps. 9 11 (see the introduction at chap. 9) the whole tone is conciliatory; the one thing which tries our faith in them is Paul’s assurance of the future of his own people. But as an interpretation of the actual working out in human history of that method of salvation which he has expounded in the first eight chapters as an exhibition of the process through which the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles alike contribute eventually, to the universality of the Gospel these chapters are an essential part of the epistle. They are mainly but not exclusively apologetic: they belong to that whole conception of the Gospel, and of the mode in which it becomes the inheritance of the world, which was of one substance with the mind of St. Paul. No one who read the first eleven chapters of the epistle could meet the Apostle as a stranger on anything essential in Christianity as he understood it. No doubt, as Grafe has remarked, it does not contain an eschatology like 1 Corinthians 15:0 or 2 Corinthians 5:0 , nor a Christology like Colossians 1:0 . But it establishes that which is fundamental beyond the possibility of misconception. It vindicates once for all the central facts, truths and experiences, without which Christianity cannot exist. It vindicates them at once in their relation to the whole past of mankind, and in their absolute newness, originality and self-sufficiency. It is an utter misapprehension to say that “just the most fundamental doctrines the Divine Lordship of Christ, the value of His death, the nature of the Sacraments are assumed rather than stated or proved” (Sanday and Headlam, p. xli.). There can be only one fundamental doctrine, and that doctrine for Paul is the doctrine of justification by faith. That is not part of his gospel, it is the whole of it: there Luther is his true interpreter. If legalists or moralists object, Paul’s answer is that justification regenerates, and that nothing else does. By its consistency with this fundamental doctrine, we test everything else that is put forward as Christian. It is only as we hold this, on principle, with the clearness with which Paul held it, that we can know what Christian liberty is in the sense of the New Testament that liberty in which the will of God is done from the heart, and in which no commandments or ordinances of men, no definitions or traditions, no customs or “orders,” have any legal authority for the conscience. And in the only legitimate sense of the word this liberty does not make void, but establishes the law. That is the paradox in the true religion which perpetually baffles those who would reduce it to an institution or a code.
INTEGRITY OF THE EPISTLE
THE integrity of the Epistle to the Romans has been called in question mainly in connection with chaps. 15 and 16. Partly on the ground of textual phenomena, partly on internal grounds, the authenticity of these chapters has been denied, in whole or in part; and even among those who recognise chap. 16 as Pauline, many are unable to recognise Rome as the place to which it was addressed. It will be convenient to consider (1) the questions raised by the position of the doxology, and the various endings; (2) questions raised by the internal character of chap. 15; and (3) questions connected with the character and destination of chap. 16.
1. The position of the doxology, and the various endings. The facts in regard to the doxology are as follows:
( a ) It is given at Romans 16:25-27 , and there only, by , Vulgate, Syriac, Memphitic, Aethiopic and Latin Fathers. This is by far the best attested position for it, and that which, owing to the respect of Erasmus for the Vulgate, it occupies in the received text.
( b ) At Romans 14:23 , and there only, it is found in , most cursives, Greek lectionaries, and Greek commentators except Origen. Possibly the lectionaries explain its appearance at this point. The matter in chaps. 15 and 16 being of a more personal or temporary interest was not likely to be chosen for reading in church. But in order that the great doxology, which was too short for a lesson by itself, might not be lost in public worship, it was appended to the last lesson before chap. 15.
( c ) It is found both after Romans 14:23 and at Romans 16:25-27 in 17 arm.
( d ) It is omitted in both places in , but has space left after Romans 16:24 , in which f (the Latin of this bi-lingual MS.) has the doxology, while has space left between chaps. 14 and 15.
Besides this variety of MS. attestation, there are certain other facts to take into consideration. ( a ) There is the evidence of Origen (in his translator Rufinus) to the text in his time. It runs as follows (ed. Lommatzsch, vii., p. 453): Caput hoc Marcion, a quo Scripturæ evangelicæ et apostolicæ interpolatæ sunt, de hac epistola penitus abstulit; et non solum hoc sed et ab eo loco, ubi scriptum est : omne autem quod non est ex fide peccatum est: usque ad finem cuncta dissecuit. In aliis vero exemplaribus, id est, in his quae non sunt a Marcione temerata, hoc ipsum caput diverse positum invenimus; in nonnullis etenim codicibus post eum locum quem supra diximus hoc est : omne autem quod non est ex fide peccatum est: statim cohærens habetur : ei autem qui potens est vos confirmare. Alii vero codices in fine id, ut nunc est positum, continent . This remark is made at Romans 16:25 , and caput hoc means, of course, this passage, i.e. , the doxology. Marcion wholly omitted it there. But what do the following words mean? What strikes one at first is that he not only omitted it there, but omitted everything standing after “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” in other words, not only the doxology, but the whole of chaps. 15 and 16. But Dr. Hort ( vide Appendix, p. 112), who reads (with what he says seems to be the best MS.) in eo loco instead of ab eo loco , and changes hoc into hic , only finds the statement that Marcion cut off the whole of the doxology at Romans 14:23 , as well as at Romans 16:25 . But usque ad finem cuncta dissecuit is a very misleading way to express this to readers whose copies of the epistle would all contain chaps. 15 and 16, and it is hardly open to doubt that the first impression of the meaning is the correct one, and that Marcion ended his Epistle to the Romans at Romans 14:23 . Thus, as Gifford puts it, “we have evidence of a diversity of position before Origen’s time, and regarded by him as independent of Marcion’s mutilated copies. But we have no evidence of omission before Marcion, who was at Rome propagating his views about A.D. 138 140.”
( b ) There is the evidence of the “capitulations,” or division of the epistle into sections, in some MSS. of the Latin Bible, especially the two best codices of the Vulgate, Codex Amiatinus and Codex Fuldensis, both sixth century MSS. In Codex Amiatinus there are fifty-one sections. The fiftieth, entitled De periculo contristante fratrem suum esca sua, et quod non sit regnum Dei esca et potus sed iustitia et pax et gaudium in Spiritu Sancto , evidently answers to chap. Romans 14:15-23 ; the fifty-first, which is entitled De mysterio Domini ante passionem in silentio habito, post passionem vero ipsius revelato , as plainly corresponds to the doxology. The capitulations therefore were drawn up for a Latin MS. which omitted chaps. 15 and 16. In another way the capitulations in Codex Fuldensis point to the same conclusion.
( c ) There is the appearance, at least, of different endings. 1. When the doxology stands at Romans 14:23 , it indicates an ending at that point, though otherwise it is a very unnatural one, as the subject and sense of chap. 14 run on unbroken to Romans 15:13 . Romans 15:2 . There is at Romans 15:33 what has sometimes been taken as another ending: “The God of peace be with you all. Amen.” 3. There is the benediction at Romans 16:20 : “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you”. This is genuine, and is an ordinary Pauline formula at the close of a letter. 4. There is the benediction at Romans 16:24 : “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Most editors regard this as spurious; it has been transferred in Western texts from verse 20 to this place, and finally established itself in both. Gifford, however, regards it as genuine in both places. 5. There is the doxology at Romans 16:25-27 .
( d ) In all mention of Rome is wanting: see critical note on Romans 1:7 ; Romans 1:15 .
This complicated combination of facts has not yet been clearly explained, and perhaps never will be. Renan’s theory was that Romans is really a circular letter, and that it was sent in various directions, with different endings, which were afterwards combined. Lightfoot thought the facts adduced amounted to irresistible evidence that in early times shorter copies of the epistle existed, containing only chaps. 1 14, with or without the doxology; and the theory by which he explained these facts was this, that “St. Paul, at a later period of his life, reissued the epistle in a shorter form with a view to general circulation, omitting the last two chapters, obliterating the mention of Romans in the first chapter, and adding the doxology, which was no part of the original epistle”. This tempting theory was expounded in the Journal of Philology , 1871, in a review of Renan; and this review, along with a minute criticism of Dr. Hort, and a reply by Lightfoot, can be studied in Lightfoot’s Biblical Essays , pp. 285 374. An acute statement of the objections to it is also given by Gifford in the introduction to his commentary (p. 23 f.); yet when all is said, it remains the most satisfying hypothesis that has yet been suggested for the colligation of the facts. Sanday and Headlam think that Paul could not possibly have made the break at Romans 14:23 he must have been too conscious that the sense ran on unbroken to Romans 15:13 ; it was probably to Marcion, therefore, to whom the references to the Jews and the Old Testament in Romans 15:1-13 were objectionable, that the imperfect copies of the epistle owed their existence. This is hardly convincing. If there is not a break at Romans 14:23 , there is at least a pause in the thought, and Paul may as easily have made a division there as the author of our present division into chapters. Besides, as Gifford points out (see above, p. 577), there is evidence that the doxology stood in different positions (at Romans 14:23 for one) before Origen’s time, and independently of Marcion’s mutilated copies. Hence some one must have felt that Romans 14:23 was not an impossible place to stop at, and that for other than Marcion’s reasons; and if some one, why not Paul himself? But in the absence of any direct evidence as to how the textual phenomena originated, it is very improbable that any certainty on the subject will ever be attained.
2. Questions raised by the internal character of chap. 15.
The Tübingen school, or at least some of its more vigorous adherents, followed Baur in finding chap. 15 too moderate in tone for Paul. Baur regarded the last two chapters as the work of some one “writing in the spirit of the Acts of the Apostles, seeking to soothe the Judaists and to promote the cause of unity, and therefore tempering the keen anti-Judaism of Paul with a milder and more conciliatory conclusion to the epistle”. An argument like this rests on a general impression of what it was possible for Paul to write, and can only be met by another general impression of a different sort. It is sufficient to say that later scholars are practically at one in finding that there is nothing in the chapter inconsistent with Pauline authorship. The Paul by whom Baur measured all things in the epistles is really not the Paul of history, but of a more or less arbitrary theory; and his picture has to be corrected by taking into account precisely such revelations of his true attitude to the questions of his time as are found in this chapter. Lipsius, who thinks the fifteenth chapter as a whole genuine, nevertheless holds that it has been interpolated. He omits the latter part of verse 19 ὥστε με ἀπὸ Ἱερουσαλὴμ καὶ κύκλῳ μέχρι τοῦ Ἰλλυρικοῦ πεπληρωκέναι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ as inconsistent with Galatians 1:18-24 , and unsupported by any accredited historical evidence. But he admits that it is supported by Acts 9:28 f.; and if we compare Romans 1:8 , Colossians 1:23 , and remember that what we have before us is not sworn evidence but a broad rhetorical description of the Apostle’s missionary labours, we shall probably think the expression characteristically Pauline rather than the reverse. In verse 20 Lipsius omits οὐχ ὅπου ὠνομάσθη Χριστός , ἵνα μὴ ἐπʼ ἀλλότριον θεμέλιον οἰκοδομῶ , ἀλλά . The words, he argues, are suggested by 2 Corinthians 10:15 ; but the purpose expressed in them, of not preaching the Gospel in Rome, because Rome is a mission-field belonging to others (who have introduced Christianity there already), is incompatible with Romans 1:5 ; Romans 1:13-15 , Romans 12:3 , Romans 15:15 . It is enough to answer that the purpose of not preaching the Gospel at Rome i., not expressed here at all. Paul tells the principle on which he has always acted the principle of breaking new ground. It is the principle on which he will act still, for he takes Rome only en route for Spain; but that is not inconsistent with anything he purposes to do at Rome in the way of Christian work, nor with anything he does in this epistle. On the same principle Lipsius omits also Romans 15:23-24 ; but with equal groundlessness. The very facts to which he refers, that the plan of travel announced in these verses is nowhere else referred to either in Acts or in the Epistles, and that it was (as he thinks) never carried out, are conclusive evidence of the genuineness of the passage What motive could a late interpolator have for putting into Paul’s mind a projected voyage, of which there was no purpose on record, and which was never actually made? The unanimous testimony of all sources guarantees the integrity of the text; and there is no reason whatever to doubt that it is Paul’s.
3. Questions connected with the character and destination of chap. 16.
When we come to this chapter the situation is changed. It is not its genuineness, but its destination, that is called in question. Since 1829, when David Schulz suggested that it was a fragment of an epistle to the Ephesians, this opinion has been widely received. The exact extent of the fragment, indeed, is disputed. Schulz made it consist of Romans 16:1-20 ; Weizsäcker says Romans 16:1-23 ; others, Romans 16:3-20 , or Romans 16:1-15 , or Romans 16:1-16 and Romans 16:21-23 , or Romans 16:3-16 only. Whatever its limits, the arguments on behalf of it can only be estimated by going over the chapter, and considering them as they emerge.
( a ) The suggestion is made that Phoebe, sailing from Cenchreæ, would naturally have Ephesus rather than Rome as her goal. But there is no reason to believe that she was sailing from Cenchreæ, though she lived there. Paul may have met her in Corinth on her way to Rome.
( b ) At first sight there may seem more reason to believe that Aquila and Priscilla point to Ephesus. They had gone thither with Paul at an earlier date (Acts 18:19 ), and they had a church in their house there, which joined them in a greeting to Corinth, when Paul wrote his first Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:19 ); and they were there also some years later (2 Timothy 4:19 ). The question is whether these facts, in the circumstances, outweigh the fact that the greeting is found here in a letter addressed to Rome. If we look at the whole situation, this is at least doubtful. As fellow-workers of Paul, it is plain that they shared to a large extent his wandering life, and we know that they had originally a connection with Rome (Acts 18:2 ). There is nothing in the least improbable in the idea that though they were in Ephesus, say in 54 and 57 A.D., and again say in 66, they should have been in Rome in 58. Paul must have had his information about the Church in Rome from some one; and nothing is so likely as that he had it from his old and intimate associates, Aquila and Priscilla, who had themselves a connection of old standing with the capital.
( c ) There remains the case of Epænetus, who is described as the first fruits of Asia unto Christ. The received text has Achaia, but that is an error. One fails to see, however, why this Epænetus, though the first Christian convert in the province of Asia, should be bound to remain there always. There is no difficulty in supposing that he was at Rome, and that Paul, who knew him, was aware of the fact, and introduced his name to multiply for himself points of contact with the Roman Church.
These are the only definite matters of fact on which the theory of an Ephesian destination of the chapter has been based. They do not amount to anything against the weight of all the external evidence which makes them part of a letter to Rome. Nor is their weight increased by pointing out in the verses which follow the large number of persons with whom Paul had been in personal relations persons whom he calls “my beloved,” “my fellow-labourers,” “my fellow-captives”; “who bestowed much labour on us”; “his mother and mine” Paul’s life as a missionary brought him into contact with persons in all the great towns of the East, and though he had not yet visited Rome, it cannot be doubted that many of those with whom in the course of his twenty years’ ministry he had established such relations as are referred to here, had for one cause or other found their way to the great city. Paul would naturally, in preparing for his own visit, make all that he could of such points of attachment with the Roman Church as he had. It is, as Gifford points out, a very strong, indeed a conclusive argument for the Roman destination of the letter, that of the twenty-two persons named in verses 6 15, not one can be shown to have been at Ephesus; while (1) Urbanus, Rufus, Ampliatus, Julia and Junia are specifically Roman names, and (2) besides the first four of these names, “ten others, Stachys, Apelles, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Hermes, Hermas, Patrobas (or Patrobius), Philologus, Julia, Nereus are found in the sepulchral inscriptions on the Appian Way as the names of persons connected with ‘Cæsar’s household’ (Philippians 4:22 ), and contemporary with St. Paul”. Hence, in spite of the difficulty of Paul’s knowing so many people in a Church he had never visited, and the equally great difficulty that none of all these people are mentioned in the letters the Apostle afterwards wrote from Rome (see Colossians 4:10 f.), scholars like Lightfoot, Gifford and Sanday find no reason to give up the historical tradition which makes this chapter an integral part of the epistle addressed to Rome. There is really more reason to question verses 17 20 than any other part of the chapter. Words like those in verse 19 ἐφʼ ὑμῖν οὖν χαίρω , θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς κ . τ . λ . certainly strike one as in better keeping if addressed to a Church with which Paul had had such previous relations as entitled him to take a personal tone than if addressed to strangers. But we cannot tell a priori how the consciousness of an Apostle towards a Christian community he had never yet seen was determined; it may, with all the disclaiming of titles to interfere, have involved precisely that authoritativeness and sense of responsibility to and for the Church which is expressed in this passage.
As for the doxology, it stands by itself. Lightfoot thought it no part of the original epistle. Neither did Alford. “Probably,” says the latter, “on reperusing his work either at the time, or, as the altered style seems to import, in after years at Rome, he subjoins the fervid and characteristic doxology with which it closes.” Opinions on the genuineness of the doxology vary in part (but not exclusively) as opinions vary on the genuineness of the pastoral epistles. In spite of the vindication of the style word by word, the impression it leaves on the mind is hardly Pauline. It seems artificial rather than inspired. It is defended by Gifford, Hort, and Sanday and Headlam; by Weiss (who thinks Paul may have added it with his own hand), Godet, and many others: rejected by Delitzsch, Pfleiderer, Schultz and Lipsius. In substance it recapitulates the main ideas of the epistle.
The text printed in this commentary is the Textus Receptus , but that which is commented upon is practically that of Westcott and Hort. Various readings, of any importance, have been carefully noted in the apparatus criticus , with such an indication of the authorities for them as will be sufficient for those who do not aspire to be experts in this department: care has been taken to give the evidence for those readings in which critical editors depart from the received text. It is impossible here to do more than note the MSS. and other authorities which have been cited; information as to their characteristics and value must be sought from such sources as the Prolegomena to Tischendorf’s Novum Testamentum Graecum , or Scrivener’s Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament , or Westcott and Hort’s Introduction , vol. ii. An easier book to begin with is Hammond’s Textual Criticism applied to the New Testament . In Sanday and Headlam’s Commentary (pp. lxiii. lxxiv.), there is a lucid account of the chief sources of evidence for the text of Romans, and of their relations to one another; while B. Weiss, in his great work, Das Neue Testament: Textkritische Untersuchungen und Textherstellung , gives weight to considerations of a kind that more purely “diplomatic” constructors of texts are apt to overlook.
The principal MSS. of Romans are those which also contain the gospels, viz. , . and belong to the fourth century, and to the fifth. The MSS. next in importance, , are different from those which are called by the same names in the gospels: they are all Graeco-Latin MSS. is the Codex Claromontanus which Tischendorf assigns to the sixth century. It wants Romans 1:1-7 ; Romans 1:27-30 . Tregelles describes it as “one of the most valuable MSS. extant”. is the Codex Sangermanensis, now at St. Petersburg. It is probably not older than the ninth or tenth century, and is described by Sanday and Headlam as “nothing more than a faulty copy of ”. is the Codex Augiensis, now in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. It is of the ninth century, and wants Romans 1:1 to Romans 3:19 ἐν τῷ νό [ μῳ ]. is the Codex Boernerianus, now in Dresden, and is a little later than F. It wants Romans 1:1 ἀφωρισμένος … Romans 1:5 πίστεως , and Romans 2:16 τὰ κρυπτὰ … Romans 2:25 νόμου ᾖς . These four all belong to the type of text which Westcott and Hort call Western. Other uncials of less importance are , Codex Mosquensis; , Codex Angelicus; and , Codex Porphyrianus, all of about the same age, i.e. , the ninth century. Of cursive MSS. those quoted in this work are 17 (the same as 33 in the Gospels, and 13 in Acts), “the queen of cursives”; 47, of the eleventh or twelfth century, now in the Bodleian Library; and 67, of the eleventh century, now at Vienna. The marginal corrector of this MS., quoted as 67**, gives many peculiar and ancient readings. The versions referred to are the Latin Vulgate, especially as given in Codex Amiatinus circa 514 A.D. and Codex Fuldensis, also of sixth century; the old Latin contained in (see above); the Syriac versions, one of which (the Peshitto) was “certainly current much in its present form early in the fourth century” (Sanday and Headlam), while the other dates from the sixth: an occasional reference is also made to the Egyptian versions, and to the Armenian: the last was made in the fifth century.
To estimate the value of any reading it is necessary to consider the relations to each other of the authorities which support it. In the Epistle to the Romans, as elsewhere in the New Testament, these authorities tend to fall into groups. Thus form one; a second; and a third. form what Westcott and Hort describe as “neutral” authorities; are “Western”; include what they call “Alexandrian,” but are not identical with it. Sanday and Headlam, after giving an account of the authorities for the text, define the “specific characteristics of the textual apparatus of Romans” as these: (i.) the general inferiority in boldness and originality of the Western text; (ii.) the fact that there is a distinct Western element in , which therefore when it is combined with authorities of the Western type is diminished in value; (iii.) the consequent rise in importance of the group ; (iv.) the existence of a few scattered readings either of alone or of in combination with one or two other authorities which have considerable intrinsic probability, and may be right. By a little practice on the readings for which the authority is given in the apparatus criticus , the student can familiarise himself with the facts, and exercise his own judgment on them.
In the notes, Winer means Moulton’s edition of Winer’s Grammar; W. and H. stands for Westcott and Hort; S. and H. for Sanday and Headlam’s Commentary on Romans.