Introducing Romans: Critical Issues in Paul's Most Famous Letter

Introducing Romans: Critical Issues in Paul's Most Famous Letter

by Richard N. Longenecker

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Overview


Paul’s Letter to the Romans has proven to be a particular challenge for commentators, with its many highly significant interpretive issues often leading to tortuous convolutions and even “dead ends” in their understanding of the letter.

Here, Richard N. Longenecker takes a comprehensive look at the complex backdrop of Paul’s letter and carefully unpacks a number of critical issues, including:
* Authorship, integrity, occasion, date, addressees, and purpose
* Important recent interpretive approaches
* Greco-Roman oral, rhetorical, and epistolary conventions
* Jewish and Jewish Christian thematic and rhetorical features
* The establishing of the letter’s Greek text
* The letter’s main focus, structure, and argument

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802866196
Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date: 03/25/2011
Pages: 518
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author


Richard N. Longenecker is professor emeritus of New Testament at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto.

Read an Excerpt

Introducing Romans

Critical Issues in Paul's Most Famous Letter
By Richard N. Longenecker

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Copyright © 2011 Richard N. Longenecker
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8028-6619-6


Chapter One

Author, Amanuensis, and Involvement of Others

The first thought in opening a letter is always: Who wrote this letter? Is it really from the one who claims to have written it? So when taking up Paul's letter to the Christians at Rome, it must be asked: Who wrote it? Was it really from the one who claims to have written it? Authorship, the use of an amanuensis or secretary, and the possible involvement of others in the letter's final composition are the necessary first considerations in the study of any NT letter.

1. Author

The most uncontroverted matter in the study of Romans is that the letter was written by Paul, the Christian apostle whose ministry is portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles. The author identifies himself as Paul in the first word of the salutation (1:1). He speaks of himself as both a Jew by birth (9:3) and "the apostle to the Gentiles" by vocation (11:13). And throughout the letter — whether in its personal references, theological presuppositions, christological affirmations, rhetorical modes of argument, epistolary conventions, or ethical appeals — there resounds the clear note of authenticity. Together with the letter to the Galatians, it must be said: If these two letters are not by Paul, no NT letters are by him, for none has any better claim to authenticity than Galatians and Romans.

Testimony as to Paul's authorship of Romans in "the sub-apostolic age" is, as William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam have asserted, "full and ample." Likewise throughout church history — whether it be opinions expressed by the early Christian Gnostics, by such a second-century radical Christian deviant as Marcion, by Greek or Latin Church Fathers, by Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox scholars, or by Renaissance Humanists, Protestant Reformers, and modern critical scholars — Paul's authorship of Romans has been almost universally accepted. Every extant early list of NT writings includes Romans among Paul's canonical letters. There is, in fact, no recorded opposition to Paul's authorship of Romans until the late eighteenth century.

In his 1845 Paulus, der Apostel Jesu Christi, which summed up all of his previous NT studies, Ferdinand Christian Baur denied Paul's authorship of a number of letters in the Pauline corpus. But Baur accepted Romans as having been written by Paul (i.e., the first fourteen chapters; his views on the final two chapters of the letter will be discussed later in Chapter II, "Integrity"), and he built his case for early Christianity on "the four great Epistles of the Apostle which take precedence of the rest in every respect, namely, the Epistle to the Galatians, the two Epistles to the Corinthians, and the Epistle to the Romans" (i.e., the so-called Hauptbriefe). For, as Baur insisted, "there has never been the slightest suspicion of unauthenticity cast on these four epistles, and they bear so incontestably the character of Pauline originality that there is no conceivable ground for the assertion of critical doubts in their case." In the first part of the twentieth century C. H. Dodd asserted: "The authenticity of the Epistle to the Romans is a closed question." While in the latter part of the twentieth century C. E. B. Cranfield claimed: "The denial of Paul's authorship of Romans ... is now rightly relegated to a place among the curiosities of NT scholarship. Today no responsible criticism disputes its Pauline origin."

Shortly after the publication of F. C. Baur's Paulus, however, Bruno Bauer outdid his teacher F. C. Baur in the application of "Tendency Criticism" and denied that even Romans and the other three Hauptbriefe were written in the first century. Bruno Bauer argued that the letter to the Romans is so full of obscurities, contradictions, improbabilities and non sequiturs that it could hardly have been written by Paul. And many on the European continent, following Bruno Bauer's lead, took a similar stance during the closing decades of the nineteenth century — as for example, the Dutch critic A. D. Loman and the Swiss theologian Rudolf Steck, but most prominently the Dutch NT scholar W. C. van Manen.

All of these nineteenth-century continental critics had been anticipated at the close of the eighteenth century by E. Evanson, who argued that (1) Paul could not have written to a church at Rome since the Acts of the Apostles makes it clear that no such church then existed, (2) Paul, having never visited Rome, could not have known somany people at Rome as the last chapter of the letter suggests, (3) Aquila and Priscilla could not have been at Rome at that time, (4) Paul's mother would hardly have wandered off to Rome (assuming, from a literal rendering of the possessive "my" of 16:13, that Rufus's mother, who is greeted at Rome, was also Paul's birth mother), and (5) such verses as 11:12, 15, 21 and 22 indicate that Romans was written after the fall of Jerusalem, and so after the death of Paul. Echoes of many of these late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century arguments continued, to some extent, in the writings of such early-twentieth-century scholars as W. B. Smith and G. Schläger. Scholars today, however, are united in recognizing Romans as having been written by Paul. And all earlier denials of his authorship are commonly viewed today as aberrations in the history of NT study, and rightly so.

2. Amanuensis

Every discussion of the authorship of Romans must also include reference to its probable amanuensis or secretary, for in 16:22 there is the statement: "I, Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord." Assuming that chapter 16 is an integral part of Paul's letter to the Christians at Rome (see Chapter II, "Integrity"), here is the clearest indication in all of Paul's letters that an amanuensis or secretary was involved in the composition of his correspondence — though there are also a number of other indicators in the other canonical letters of Paul and the other NT letters that secretaries were involved in most, if not all, of them as well.

The extant non-literary Greek papyri, the bulk of which (some 40,000 to 60,000 manuscripts) were found during the last decade of the nineteenth century in the Fayyum district of Egypt, indicate quite clearly that an amanuensis or secretary was frequently, if not commonly, used in the writing of letters in the years before, during, and after the first Christian century. And there are reasons to believe that the writers of the NT also followed this practice. Literary men of the day may have preferred, as did Quintilian (c. A.D. 35-95), not to use an amanuensis for their personal correspondence. Or they may have agreed with Cicero (106-43 B.C.) that dictation to a secretary was an expedient necessitated only by illness or the press of duties. But the nonliterary papyrus materials show that the common practice for more ordinary people was to use an amanuensis to write out their letters, after which the sender would usually, though not always, add in his own handwriting a word of farewell, personal greetings, and often (at least about half the time, to judge by the letters studied so far) the date of writing.

Writing skills among ancient amanuenses undoubtedly varied. A third-century A.D. Latin payment schedule reads: "To a scribe for best writing, 100 lines, 25 denarii; for second-quality writing, 100 lines, 20 denarii; to a notary for writing a petition or legal document, 100 lines, 10 denarii." The Greek biographer Plutarch (c. A.D. 46-120) credited Cicero in the first century B.C. with the invention of a system of Latin shorthand, relating how Cicero placed scribes in various locations in the senate chamber to record the speeches and taught them in advance "signs having the force of many letters in little and short marks" — though it may have been Tiro, the freedman of Cicero, who was actually the originator, for inventions of slaves were often credited to their masters. The reference by Seneca (c. 4 B.C.–A.D. 65) to slaves having invented among their other notable accomplishments "signs for words, with which a speech is taken down, however rapid, and the hand follows the speed of the tongue" lends credence to Tiro, or someone like him, as the originator, and suggests that at least by A.D. 63-64, when Seneca's letters to Lucilius were written, a system of Latin shorthand was widely in use.

In the Greek-speaking world tachygraphy (tachygraphos), or shorthand writing, may be assumed to have been fairly common in the first Christian century. Legend ascribes its invention among the Greeks to Xenophon of the fourth century B.C. In POxy 724, a letter dated March 1, A.D. 155 (i.e., "the fifth of Phamenouth in the eighteenth year of the emperor Titus Aiolios Hadrian Antonius Augustus Eusebius"), a former official of Oxyrhynchus by the name of Panechotes binds his slave Chaerammon to a stenographer named Apollonius for a term of two years in order to learn shorthand from him. Although Panechotes' letter is a second century A.D. writing, the developed system of shorthand that it assumes — which Chaerammon was to take two years to learn — presupposes an earlier workable system of Greek shorthand. And in the Wadi Murabba'at caves of southern Palestine, the site where Simeon ben Kosebah (who was called in Aramaic by his admirers "Bar Kokhbah," that is, "Son of the Star," but denounced by his detractors as "Bar Kozebah," that is, "Son of the Lie") made his headquarters in the early second century, there have been found, written on vellum, two pages of Greek shorthand writing, which are as yet undeciphered.

The extent of the freedom that amanuenses had in drafting letters is impossible to determine from the evidence presently at hand. Undoubtedly it varied from case to case. Amanuenses may have written their clients' letters out in longhand, word for word or even syllable by syllable. They may have taken down their clients' messages in shorthand and then written them out in final form in longhand. They may have been given the sense of what their clients wanted to say and left to work out the wording themselves. Or they may have been asked to write on a particular subject in a sender's name without being given explicit directions as to how to develop the topic — especially if the sender felt his amanuensis already knew his mind on the matter. Scholarly opinion on this matter is divided. Otto Roller, for example, believed that ancient amanuenses had a great deal of freedom and that dictation of a word-for-word variety was rare, whereas F. R. Montgomery Hitchcock drew exactly the opposite conclusion. But whatever method or methods may have been used in the writing of any particular letter, and whatever freedom may have been given to the amanuensis involved, the sender usually added a personal subscription in his own hand, thereby not only concluding the letter with an intimate, personal touch but also attesting to all that was written. At times, there might even be included in the subscription a résumé of what had been said in the body of the letter, thereby acknowledging further the authenticity of the contents and highlighting some of its details.

We possess, of course, no autograph of any NT letter. It may be assumed, however, that their authors followed current conventions and so used amanuenses when writing — though for the authors of the NT writings their secretaries were probably more personal companions who possessed some literary ability than trained scribes. In 2 Thess 3:17 Paul says that it was his practice to add a personal subscription to his letters in his own handwriting ("I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the attesting sign [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in all my letters"), thereby validating what was written and assuring his converts of the letter's authenticity. Such a statement is in line with the epistolary practice of the day and alerts us to the likely presence of other such subscriptions among his other letters, though it gives no guidance as to how to mark them off. Likewise, the words of 1 Cor 16:21 and Col 4:18 ("I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand") suggest that the subscriptions were distinguishable in handwriting from the material that preceded — necessitating, of course, the involvement of an amanuensis in what preceded. Gal 6:11, while allowing some uncertainty as to the precise extent of the reference, recalls certain features in the subscriptions of Greco-Roman letters when it declares, "See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!" Philemon 19 may also be the beginning of such a personal subscription: "I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand." And all of this suggests that the statement "I, Tertius, who wrote this letter in the Lord" of Rom 16:22 cannot be understood in any way other than that an amanuensis was involved in some way and to some extent in Paul's letter to the Christians at Rome.

Of the non-Pauline materials in the NT, 1 Peter and the Fourth Gospel are most plausibly also to be seen as having been written down by a close associate who served as the author's amanuensis or secretary. As George Milligan long ago observed:

In the case of the First Epistle of St. Peter, indeed, this seems to be distinctly stated, for the words dia Silouanou, "by Silvanus," in c. v. 12, are best understood as implying that Silvanus was not only the bearer, but the actual scribe of the Epistle. And in the same way an interesting tradition, which finds pictorial representation in many mediaeval manuscripts of the Fourth Gospel, says that St. John dictated his Gospel to a disciple of his named Prochorus.

Just how closely Paul supervised his companions or associates in their writing down of his letters is impossible, based only on the data in his letters, to say. As suggested above, the responsibilities of an amanuensis could vary, ranging all the way from taking dictation verbatim to "fleshing out" a general line of thought. Paul's own practice probably varied with the circumstances encountered and the companions available. Assuming, as Otto Roller has proposed, that amanuenses were often identified in the salutations of letters (particularly if they were known to the addressees), more might be left to the discretion of Silas and Timothy (cf. 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1) or Timothy alone (cf. 2 Cor 1:1; Col. 1:1; Phil 1:1; Philem 1) than to Sosthenes (cf. 1 Cor 1:1) or Tertius (cf. Rom 16:22) — and perhaps much more to Luke, who is referred to as being the only one with Paul during his final imprisonment (cf. 2 Tim 4:11). And if in one case Paul closely scrutinized and revised a letter, at another time he may have only read it over and allowed it to go out practically unaltered.

Later, in Chapter VI, we will speak more extensively about the Greco-Roman epistolary conventions of Romans. It may be that some of these features should be credited more to Tertius than to Paul, particularly the epistolary conventions that appear at the beginning and end of the letter. Still, there are a number of reasons to suggest that what appears in the Greek text of Romans today is essentially what Paul dictated to Tertius — with all of it, however composed, standing under his approval and expressing what he wanted to say to the Christians at Rome. The similarities of style and language between Galatians, the Corinthian letters, and Romans suggest that in these earlier letters Paul was himself fully in charge of not only the arguments presented but also the diction used. Further, since his letter to Rome was undoubtedly viewed by him as one of his most important letters — one on which the success or failure of his proposed mission to the western regions of the Roman empire largely depended — it is not unreasonable to assume that Paul would have given a great deal of attention not only to the thoughts expressed but also to their precise wording.

Whether Tertius should be viewed as having written down Paul's dictation in longhand "syllable by syllable," as C. E. B. Cranfield postulates, or as having taken Paul's dictation in shorthand and then written it out in longhand, as William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam proposed, Paul's letter to the Christians at Rome gives every indication of having been carefully composed by him in both its arguments and its diction — that is, in both its content and its wording. Paul may have used one of "the brothers" as his amanuensis when writing Galatians (Gal 1:2), Sosthenes when writing 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 1:1), his young colleague Timothy when writing 2 Corinthians (2 Cor 1:1), and Tertius when writing Romans (Rom 16:22). But in all of these four early letters, at least, he seems to have exercised a great deal of control over those who served as his secretaries, so that the letters produced may be seen to express not only his essential thoughts but also his precise wording.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Introducing Romans by Richard N. Longenecker Copyright © 2011 by Richard N. Longenecker. Excerpted by permission of William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Preface....................viii
Abbreviations....................xiii
Bibliography of Selected Commentaries....................xxi
I. Author, Amanuensis, and Involvement of Others....................3
1. Author....................3
2. Amanuensis....................5
3. Involvement of Others....................10
II. Integrity....................15
1. Glosses and Interpolations....................16
2. Form of the Original Letter....................19
3. Major Text-Critical Issues Today....................30
III. Occasion and Date....................43
1. Occasion....................43
2. Date....................46
IV. Addressees....................55
1. Rome in Paul's Day....................56
2. Jews and Judaism at Rome....................60
3. Christianity at Rome....................69
4. Identity, Character, Circumstances, and Concerns of Paul's Addressees....................75
V. Purpose....................92
1. Positions Based on Paul's Own Consciousness and Ministry....................94
2. Positions Based on Conditions Existing Among the Christians at Rome....................111
3. Toward a Proper Method for Determining Paul's Purpose or Purposes....................128
4. The Impact of Our Proposed Understanding of the Letter's Addressees....................133
5. Primary and Subsidiary Purposes for the Writing of Romans....................147
6. Summation and Broader Context....................157
VI. Greco-Roman Oral, Rhetorical, and Epistolary Conventions....................169
1. Oral Conventions....................171
2. Rhetorical Conventions....................180
3. Epistolary Conventions....................204
VII. Jewish and Jewish Christian Procedures and Themes....................236
1. Biblical Quotations and Allusions....................236
2. Confessional Affirmations and Other Traditional Materials....................245
3. Remnant Theology and Rhetoric....................247
4. Underlying Narrative Features....................253
VIII. Establishing the Text....................265
1. An Overview of the New Testament Textual Tradition....................265
2. The Contemporary Re-evaluation of the Textual Tradition....................272
3. The Impact of This New Approach on New Testament Textual Determinations....................275
4. The Challenge of Establishing the Text of Romans Today....................278
IX. Major Interpretive Approaches Prominent Today....................290
1. "The Righteousness of God" and "Righteousness"....................290
2. "Justification" and "Faith"....................305
3. "In Christ" and "Christ by His Spirit in Us"....................307
4. The [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Theme....................317
5. The "New Perspective" on Palestinian Judaism and Paul....................324
6. "Honor" and "Shame"....................330
7. "Reconciliation" and "Peace"....................337
8. A Concluding Remark regarding Patterns of Distribution and Paul's Use of These Themes and Features in Romans....................343
X. Focus or Central Thrust of the Letter....................353
1. The Materials of Rom 1:18-3:20....................355
2. The Materials of Rom 3:21-4:25....................363
3. The Materials of Rom 5:1-8:39....................367
4. Conclusion....................375
XI. Structure and Argument of the Letter....................378
1. The Opening Sections....................380
2. The Body Sections....................385
3. The Concluding Sections....................444
Postscript....................467
Index of Authors....................469
Index of Scripture and Other Ancient Writings....................478

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