27. Romans: Integrity

Course: New Testament Survey - Acts to Revelation

Lecture: Romans: Integrity


One of the problems that this letter has involves the situation of chapter 16. Paul writes to 28 people in the church at Rome; but he’s never visited the church in Rome. How in the world does he know 28 people in a church he has never visited? Some have suggested therefore that some of these people (like Priscilla and Aquila) we have read of being in the city of Ephesus. You have a reference here to Epaenetus in v. 5, who was the first convert in Asia, which is Ephesus. What’s he doing in Rome, when it seems that he should be in Ephesus?

Some have suggested that perhaps two copies of this letter were made – one that went to Rome, and another that went to Ephesus, and chapter 16 and all these greetings were added to that [Ephesus] letter. It is interesting to note, however, that when Paul writes letters to churches that he’s established he doesn’t give personal greetings in them. On the other hand, there is one other letter that he writes to a church that he did not personally found. In Colossians 1:3-4, it’s evident that Paul has never been at Colossae, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.” You don’t hear about a person’s faith if you helped ground that faith. And then he says, concerning the grace of God (v. 7), that they “…learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant.” And he continues in v. 9, “So from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will ….” Again, he says that he “has heard” these things.

So, Ephesus is a church that he established and he writes to, but he doesn’t give greetings. Corinth is a church he established; he doesn’t give a list of greetings like this. In the letters to Thessalonica and Philippi there are not long lists like this. But when you get to the end of Colossians, you do find a listing of names. Starting in 4:15, “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.’” So he writes to a church and there he specifically singles out people he knows, and sends greetings to them. So it may very well be, then, that Paul writes these additions to a church that he has not visited intentionally; whereas to a church that he has visited, it doesn’t seem to be his tendency to do that.

You also have to remember that Jews, for instance, that had been expelled from Rome would most likely have returned, especially if they owned houses and things of this nature. So Jews returning back again would provide opportunity for Paul (who had met Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth and Ephesus, for instance) to send greetings now that they’ve gone back. This would also tie his relationship to that church in some way.

Some have suggested that Priscilla & Aquila’s greeting here seems to argue in favor of his having written this chapter 16 to Ephesus because in chapter 16 of 1 Corinthians that’s where they are located, (v. 19), “The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings ….” So, when Paul writes 1 Corinthians from Ephesus, Aquila & Priscilla are there, and they send greetings because they had been there originally. When they were kicked out of Rome, they came first to the city of Corinth and established their relationship with the church there; but now they’re in Ephesus. How are they now back in Rome? Well, home was where they had been kicked out of – Rome was their hometown, and it would seem quite natural for them to have returned at this time.

Epaenetus, the first convert in Asia – what is he doing in Rome? Well, the very fact that he greets and singles him out as the first convert in Asia would not be necessary if he’s writing to the head church in Asia, Ephesus. It makes much more sense to make this point in writing to the church in Rome (“Greet Epaenetus, who by the way was my first convert in Ephesus”).

The doxology which we have in 16:25-27, occurs in a number of different places in manuscripts,

“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Christ Jesus! Amen.”

That is found in different places. It’s found in some manuscripts at the end of chapter 15; and in some at the end of chapter 14. Also, if you look at 1:7, the greeting “…to all God’s beloved in Rome”: there are a few manuscripts (not in any way the best manuscripts) that lack that reference to Rome, and also the reference to Rome in 1:15. But those are not the best manuscripts, and are in the minority.

So there have been a number of suggestions as to how all of this took place. As I said, some suggest that Paul wrote two letters: one to Rome, consisting of the first 15 chapters; another to Ephesus, which consisted of the same 15 chapters plus an addendum of chapter 16. And Marcian, who is this early Heretic in the church, left out chapter 15 because it had too much Jewish nature associated with it, and therefore they have this other variety. I think it makes more sense to say that all of this was a single letter, which Paul wrote to Rome. Marcian did omit chapters 15 and 16, which caused all sorts of problems. He put a doxology there, and some put a doxology then after 15, and so we have a little textual variation this way. But for me it’s much easier to see this as a unified letter. It’s not a question once again of whether Paul wrote all 16 chapters, but whether they are a single letter. It’s the same kind of problem of integrity that we have with another major letter, which is 2 Corinthians. No one denies that it’s Pauline, but is it a single letter?

The outline of the letter consists of a salutation, thanksgiving, the main body (which we’ll look at shortly), the exhortation at the end, and the conclusion. We have a very lengthy body in this letter – much more so than in others, where he deals with specific issues. And why and how, we’ll look at that.