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Reading Paul's Letter to the Romans

Reading Paul's Letter to the Romans

Edited by Jerry L. Sumney
  • Book Info
    Reading Paul's Letter to the Romans
    Book Description:

    In this volume, leading scholars in the study of Romans invite students and nonspecialists to engage this text and thus come to a more complete understanding of both the letter and Paul’s theology. The contributors include interpreters with different understandings of Romans so that readers see a range of interpretations of central issues in the study of the text. Each essay includes a short review of different positions on a topic and an argument for the author’s position, set out in clear, nontechnical terms, making the volume an ideal classroom tool. The contributors are A. Andrew Das, James D. G. Dunn, Victor Paul Furnish, Joel B. Green, A. Katherine Grieb, Caroline Johnson Hodge, L. Ann Jervis, E. Elizabeth Johnson, Sylvia C. Keesmaat, Rodrigo J. Morales, Mark D. Nanos, Jerry L. Sumney, and Francis Watson.

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-718-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Reading the Letter to the Romans
    (pp. 1-10)
    Jerry L. Sumney

    Romans has been one of the most influential books of the New Testament. It was a text from Romans that moved St. Augustine to become a Christian. Martin Luther’s reading of Romans led him to start the Protestant Reformation. John Calvin’s reading led him to propose his doctrine of the predestination of all people. John Wesley’s foundational experience came to him while hearing a reading of the preface of Luther’s commentary on Romans. In scholarship of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Romans exercised more influence on the ways Paul and his theology were understood than any other letter, possibly more...

  4. To the Churches within the Synagogues of Rome
    (pp. 11-28)
    Mark D. Nanos

    Paul did not use the label “Christian” in his letters, and it is widely recognized that in Paul’s time “Christianity” did not exist in a formal, institutional sense. Instead, Christ-followers were still identifying themselves in Israelite/Jewish terms based on covenant affiliation with the one God who created a people from Abraham’s descendants. Those who shared Paul’s commitment to Christ were addressed and discussed, in terms of ethnicity, as Jews or non-Jews/Greeks, Israelites or members from the other “nations” (ethnē, usually translated “Gentiles”),¹ circumcised or foreskinned, and so on.

    In spite of the common recognition of such historical factors, for the...

  5. The Gentile-Encoded Audience of Romans: The Church outside the Synagogue
    (pp. 29-46)
    A. Andrew Das

    For decades scholars have debated the purpose and occasion behind Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Books have appeared with titles such as The Mystery of Romans and The Romans Debate. The letter has remained, as one scholar put it, an “enigma.” One should not conclude, however, that the discussion has been fruitless or that no progress has been made. Several avenues of investigation have, arguably, been satisfied or proved dead ends, especially those that have not accounted for the manner in which the letter seems to address the specific circumstances in the Christ-believing Roman assemblies (see §1 below). The best...

  6. Reading Romans in the Capital of the Empire
    (pp. 47-64)
    Sylvia C. Keesmaat

    For many years Romans was seen to be a systematic outline of Paul’s theology. To be fair, this assumption was made partly because Paul had never been to Rome, and it was assumed that he was writing a letter that laid out his theology as a way of introducing himself to this community. In recent years, however, scholars have begun to explore how this city itself shaped the Christian community that made its home there and how the themes and arguments of the letter address the context of that community. What was it like to live at the center of...

  7. The Righteousness of God in Romans
    (pp. 65-78)
    A. Katherine Grieb

    Is God reliable? Is God just? Can we put our whole trust in God? The moral integrity of God lies at the heart of Paul’s argument in Romans. Paul’s letter to the Christian house churches in Rome is a sustained argument for the righteousness or trustworthiness of God that is identified with and demonstrated by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. In Romans, Christ’s faithfulness is understood primarily as his willing obedience to suffer death on the cross for humanity’s salvation. So the “righteousness of God” and the “faithfulness of Christ” are closely linked in Paul’s thought. Since the heart of...

  8. Atonement Images in Romans
    (pp. 79-92)
    Joel B. Green

    Generally speaking, theological language used in New Testament studies can be traced back to Greek usage, or sometimes Latin. The term theology itself, for example, is formed from the combination of two Greek words, theos (“god”) and logos (“speech”); hence, “theology” refers generally to “speech about god” or even “god-talk.” Unlike much of our theological vocabulary, though, the term atonement derives from sixteenth-century Middle English: at-onement. Atonement, then, broadly referred to the means by which two parties could be made “as one,” that is, how they might be reconciled. Already in Middle English and subsequently, the sense of atonement is...

  9. The Law in Romans
    (pp. 93-108)
    Francis Watson

    Paul uses the word nomos (“law”) on seventy-two occasions in Romans, and in all but a few cases the reference is to the Torah, the law of Moses whose five books are foundational to Jewish Scripture. Thus the law was given through Moses (Rom 5:14), and before his time “there was no law” (5:13). The law was entrusted specifically to the Jewish people (2:17), or “Israel” (9:31), for whom it is a legitimate source of pride (2:24). Gentiles are basically ignorant of the law although they sometimes unknowingly observe it (2:14). The law is associated with wrath (4:13) and with...

  10. “Promised through His Prophets in the Holy Scriptures”: The Role of Scripture in the Letter to the Romans
    (pp. 109-124)
    Rodrigo J. Morales

    At the beginning of the letter to the Romans, Paul writes of the gospel he proclaims that “[God] promised [it] beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures” (Rom 1:2). True to this opening, the letter brims with quotations of and allusions to the Scriptures of Israel, texts that help to make up what Christians today refer to as the “Old Testament.”¹ More than any other of his letters, Romans refers again and again to texts from the Psalms, from the Prophets (especially Isaiah), and from the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). As with so many features...

  11. Adam and Christ
    (pp. 125-138)
    James D. G. Dunn

    At first glance an essay on “Adam and Christ” in Paul’s letter to the Romans does not seem to allow much scope for discussion. Adam, after all, is mentioned in only one verse (Rom 5:14). That verse, of course, deserves close attention, especially its somewhat enigmatic reference to Adam as “a/the type of the one to come.” And, as we shall see, the context and following contrast that the chapter makes between Adam and Christ, and between the effects of what they did (5:15–21), certainly call for a careful discussion of “Adam and Christ.” But to confine discussion to...

  12. The Spirit Brings Christ’s Life to Life
    (pp. 139-156)
    L. Ann Jervis

    The Spirit appears prominently in Romans, particularly in the central part of the letter—chapters 5–8. I happen to think that this is not accidental. As I read Romans, these chapters are central not only because they are in the middle of Paul’s letter but also because they contain what for him was central to his gospel. Paul understood himself to be the apostle to the Gentiles (1:5), and he regarded the Romans as among his apostolic charges (1:6). Of course, when Paul writes to “all God’s beloved at Rome” (1:7), they are already believers in Jesus Christ, having...

  13. God’s Covenant Faithfulness to Israel
    (pp. 157-168)
    E. Elizabeth Johnson

    Christianity was born as a sect of Judaism and remarkably quickly—within the first few years—began to welcome non-Jews into its fellowships without expecting them to embrace the Judaism that was the church’s heritage. This was both a source of its attractiveness to the outsiders who joined and a cause of internal debate as Christians who never stopped being Jews reflected on the implications of the church’s including both Jews and Gentiles. How should Christian Jews who honor God’s law relate to their Gentile Christian brothers and sisters? Should Gentile Christians, like their Jewish brothers and sisters, refrain from...

  14. “A Light to the Nations”: The Role of Israel in Romans 9–11
    (pp. 169-186)
    Caroline Johnson Hodge

    It used to be fairly standard to consider Rom 9–11 as ancillary to Paul’s main arguments, which were laid out in Rom 1–8. These first eight chapters were thought to articulate the central points of Paul’s theology: in the search for salvation, justification by faith trumps the keeping of the law. The contents of Rom 9–11—including Paul’s emotional declarations, his scolding of Jews for their lack of belief, and his seemingly contradictory claims about Israel’s continued privileges—were often neglected because they were considered difficult to understand and incongruent with traditional readings of Paul. This began...

  15. Living to God, Walking in Love: Theology and Ethics in Romans
    (pp. 187-202)
    Victor Paul Furnish

    Almost all of the ethical appeals in Romans come toward the close of the letter, in 12:1–15:13.¹ For years, even centuries, many interpreters tended to view this section as general moral advice based on what Paul had given his own churches and which, he assumed, could benefit the Roman Christians as well. On this reading, Romans is important primarily because of the “theological doctrines” spelled out in chapters 1–11, and the “practical” topics in chapters 12–15 are by and large incidental.

    This view, however, is no longer widely held. The apostle himself indicates a connection between these...

  16. Author Index
    (pp. 203-205)
  17. Subject Index
    (pp. 206-210)