Epistle to the Romans

W. C. Van Manen

"Romans (Epistle)," in Encyclopaedia Biblica (New York: Macmillan, 4 Vols., 1899-1903), Vol. 4, 4127-4145. In the following text EB page numbers are given in brackets.  A list of basic works referred to in this essay is provided at the end.

Old Christian literature is aquainted with two epistles to the Romans—that of Paul and that of Ignatius. As regards the latter, the reader is referred to what has been said under "Old-Christian Literature" (posted in this web cite), §§ 28f. The "Epistle of Paul to the Romans" has come down to us from antiquity not as a separate work but as one of the most distinguished members of a group—the "epistles of Paul" (epistolai Paulou)—in which its title in the shortest form (aleph, ABC, etc.) is "to Romans" (pros 'Rômaious).

1. History of Criticism: Traditional View

From the beginning (first by Marcion, about 140 CE) the work, as an integral part of the authoritative "Apostle" (ho Apostolos, to apostolikon)—i.e., Paul—in other words as a canonical writing, was tacitly recognized as the work of the apostle Paul. This continued without a break until 1792. Justin took no notice of Paul; Irenaeus and Tertullian—the latter with a scornful "haereticorum apostolus" on his lips-—laboured to raise the "apostle" in the estimation of the faithful (cf. EB "Paul," § 48; = Van Manen, "The Pauline Writings" on this site); but no one ever thought of doubting the genuineness of the letters attributed to the apostle—or of defending it. During the whole of that period the question did not so much as exist.

2. Theories of Composition

There is indeed a very old discussion—perhaps it had already arisen even in the second century—as to the existence of the epistle in two forms, a longer and a shorter, even after omission of the two last chapters (15, 16). Origen taxes Marcion with this last omission; but Origen's older contemporary Tertullian says nothing of that, though he several times reprimands the heretic for having tampered with the text of chs. 1-14. The probability is that Tertullian had no acquaintance with chs. 15-16. At any rate, he made no citation from them in his polemic against Marcion (Adv. Mar. 5.13-14), although in its course he leaves none of the previous chapters (1-14) unreferred to and speaks of one expression—tribunal Christi (14:10)—as written in clausula (epistulae).

In recent times the tradition of the text as regards chs. 15-16 has frequently come under discussion. The conclusion is not only that the chapters in question were unknown to Marcion and probably also to other ancient witnesses, including Irenaeus and Cyprian, but also that there were in circulation at an early date MSS in which the doxology Rom 16:25-27 either occurred alone immediately after 14:23 or was entirely wanting (cf. Sanday- Headlam, Romans [1895], lxxxixff.; S. Davidson, Introduction, 1894).

To these facts were added, at a later date, considerations based on the contents of chs. 15-16 tending to show that they hardly fitted in with chs. 1-14. Semler (1767), soon afterwards supported by Eichhorn (Einleitung in das NT, 1827), held ch. 15 to be by Paul but not to have originally belonged to the Epistle to the Romans. Baur (Paulus, 1845), followed, in the main, among others by Schwegler, Zeller, and S. Davidson, and controverted by Kling, De Wette, and others, maintained the piece to be spurious. Since Baur, many scholars have endeavored to steer a middle course by seeking—in very divergent ways, it is true—for the close of the letter supposed lost, in chs. 15, 16. In these various attempts an important part was always played by the conjecture, first put forth by Schulz (1829), that in Rom 16:1-20 what we really have is an epistle of Paul to the Ephesians.

In this direction—that of holding more Pauline epistles than one to have been incorporated with each other or amalgamated together to form the canonical epistle to the Romans—the way had already been led (leaving chs. 15 and 16 out of account) by Heumann in 1765.

Heumann argued, according to Meyer (Kommentar, 1859), for the "strange hypothesis" that a new Epistle to the Romans begins at ch. 12, whilst ch. 16 contains two postscripts (vv. 1-24 and 25-27) to the first. Eichhorn (Einleitung, 1827) guessed that Paul in reading over the epistle after it had been written [4129] by an amanuensis made various additions with his own hand. C. H. Weisse (1855) held Rom 9-11 to be a later insertion. He found, moreover, a number of minor insertions in the Epistle, and finally concluded that chs. 9-10+16:1-16, 20b, probably had belonged originally to an Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. Laurent (NT Studien, 1866) supposed Paul to have written with his own hand a number of notes to his Epistle to the Romans which subsequently by accident found their way into the text. Renan (St. Paul) was of the opinion that Paul had published his Epistle to the Romans in several forms—e.g., chs. 1-11+15; chs. 1-14+16 (part); out of these forms the epistle known to us ultimately grew. Straatman (ThT, 1868, 38-57), controverted by Rovers (Ibid., 310-325), came to the conclusion that chs. 12-14 do not fit in with what precedes; that these chapters along with ch. 16 belong to an Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians; and that the close of the Epistle to the Romans, properly so called, is found in ch. 15. Spitta (1893) contended, and at a later date (1901) reaffirmed, though with some modifications of minor importance, that our Epistle to the Romans is the result of a fitting-together of two epistles written by Paul at separate times, one before and one after his visit to Rome, and addressed to the Christians there. The first and longer, a well rounded whole, consisted of 1:1-11:36, 15:8-33, 16:21-27; the second, partly worked into the first, has not reached us in its entirety; we recognise with certainty only the portions: 12 :1-15:7 and 16:1-20.

Pierson and Naber (Verisimilia, 1886), controverted by Kuenen (ThT, 1886), point to a number of joinings and sutures, traces of manipitiation and compilation, in the traditional text of the Epistle to the Romans, with a view to proving its lacera conditio. Michelsen (ThT, 1886-7) sought to distinguish in that text five or six editions of Paul's Epistle, in the course of which various far-reaching modifications may be supposed to have been made. Sulze (1888) pressed still further for the recognition of additions and insertions. Völter repeated his "Votum" (ThT, 1889) in a separate publication (Komposition der paul. Hauptbriefe, 1890), and sought to prove again that our canonical Epistle to the Romans is the fruit of repeated redaction and expansion of a genuine epistle of the apostle.

Thus, there has been no lack of effort on the part of scholars to satisfy themselves and each other of the composite character of the traditional text. Equally decided, however, at least with most of them, is the opinion that nevertheless the text is, for the most part, and in the main, from the hand of Paul. This conviction was for a long time tacitly assumed, rather than explicitly expressed. So even by Baur, Weisse, and Straatman, while it was brought to the foreground, with friendly yet polemical emphasis, as against the representatives of "advanced criticism," by Spitta. As regards the others mentioned above, most hesitation was to be noticed in Pierson-Naber, Michelsen, and Völter; but even these, one and all, continued to speak of an original letter, written by Paul to the Romans. Not a few writers continued simply to maintain the prima facie character of the canonical epistle or, as occasion offered, to defend it in their notes and discussions, commentaries and introductions.

For details, pro et Contra, and some guidance through the extensive literature, the student may consult Holtzmann, Einleitung (1892), 242-6; Sanday-Headlam, Romans (1895), lxxxixff.; Zahn, Einleitung (1900), 1, 268-299. For a more complete though not always accurate account of the doubts regarding the unity of the work, Clemen, Die Einheitlichkeit der paulin. Briefe (1894); cf. ThT (1895), 640ff.

3. Pauline Authorship Questioned

The first to break in all simplicity with the axiom of the genuineness of our canonical epistle to the Romans, athough without saying so in so many words, was E. Evanson. He appended to The Dissonance of the four generally received Evangelists (1792) some considerations against the justice of the received view which regarded Paul as author of the epistle—considerations based upon the contents themselves and a comparison between them and Acts (pp. 256-261). Controverted by Priestley and others, Evanson's arguments soon fell into oblivion.

Sixty years afterwards, Bruno Bauer (Kritik der paulin. Briefe, 1852, 3, 47-76) took up the work of Evanson, without, so far as appears, being acquainted with the writings of that scholar. He was not successful, however, in gaining a hearing—not at least until after [4130] he had repeated his doubts in more compendious form in his Christus u. die Caesaren (1877, pp. 371-380).

Soon afterwards A.D. Loman ("Quæstiones paulinae" in ThT, 1882) developed the reasons which seemed to him to render necessary a revision of the criticism of the epistles of Paul which was then current. Without going into details as regarded Romans, he declared all the epistles to be the productions of a later time. Rudolf Steck (Der Galaterbrief nach seiner Echtheit untersucht, nebst kritischen Bemerkungen zu den paulinischen Hauptbriefen, 1888) came to the same conclusion and took occasion to point out some peculiarities connected with the Epistle to the Romans. The same investigation was more fully carried out, and substantially with the same result, by W. C. van Manen (Paulus II. De brief aan de Romeinen, 1891; cf. Handleiding, voor de Oudchr. letterkunde, 1900, ch. 3, §§ 34-36), and Prof. W. B. Smith of Tulane University, Louisiana, has recently begun independently to follow the same path. The Outlook (New York) of November, 1900, contained a preliminary article by him, signed "Clericus" (a misprint for "Criticus"), and in the Journal of Biblical Literature, 1901, a series of articles bearing the author's own name was begun—the first entitled "Address and Destination of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans," and the second "Unto Romans: 15 and 16."

The newer criticism has made itself heard and goes forward on its path in spite of much opposition and strife, applauded by some, rejected by many. For its character and aims see EB "Paul," §§ 34-36; cf. §§ 37-48 (="The Pauline Writings" on this cite). Its desire is to read "the Epistle of Paul to the Romans" as well as the rest of the canonical books without any fear of the ban that lies upon aught that may perchance prove to be contrary to tradition, whether ecclesiastical or scientific; uninfluenced by any antecedent presumption as to the correctness of the current views as to contents, origin, or meaning of the text as it has come down to us, however highly esteemed be the quarter—Tübingen or any other—from which they have reached us; free, too, from the dominion of any conviction, received by faith merely, and held to be superior to any test of examination, as to the epistle being indubitably the work of Paul and of Paul alone. It seeks to read the epistle in the pure light of history, exactly as it appears after repeated examination has been made on every side, as it at last presents itself to the student who really wishes to take knowledge of the contents with as little prejudice as possible.

4. What "Romans" Seems to Be

Coming before us, as it does, as a component part of the group known as "the Epistles of Paul," handed down from ancient times, Romans appears indeed to be neither more nor less than an epistle of the apostle, written probably at Corinth and addressed to the Christians at Rome, whom he hopes to visit ere long after having made a journey to Jerusalem. Both superscription and subscription, as well as tradition, indicate this, even if we leave out of account the words "in Rome" (en 'Römë) and "to those in Rome" (tois en 'Römë) which are wanting in some MSS in 1:7, 15. We have only, in connection with the superscription and subscription, to look at the manner in which the epistle begins and ends (1:1-15; 15:14-16:27), at the way in which the writer throughout addresses his readers as brethren (1:13; 7:14; 8:12; 10:1; 11:25; 12:1; 15:14f., 30; 16:17), stirs them up, admonishes them and discusses with them, as persons with whom he stands on a friendly footing, and has opened a correspondence on all sorts of subjects. The appearance of Tertius as amanuensis (16:22) need cause no surprise, it being assumed that perhaps Paul himself may not have been very ready with the pen.

5. Contents

If we turn for a little from a consideration of the literary form to occupy ourselves more with the contents, the first thing that strikes us is the conspicuously methodical way in which the writer has set forth his material. [4131] After an address and benediction (1:1-7), an introduction (1:8-15), and a statement of what he regards as the essential matter as regards the preaching of the gospel—a thing not to be ashamed of but to be everywhere preached as a power of God for the salvation of every believer whether Jew or Greek (1:16f.)—come two great doctrinal sections followed by an ethical section. The first doctrinal section, 1:18-8:39, is devoted to the elucidation of the truth that the gospel is the means for the salvation of Jews and Greeks, because in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; the other, chs. 9-11, to an earnest discussion of what seems to be a complete rejection of the Jews by God; the third, the ethical section (12 :1-15:13), to a setting forth of the conduct that befits the Christian both towards God and towards man in general, and towards the weak and their claims in particular.

In substance the doctrine is as follows. Sin has alienated all men, Jews and Gentiles alike, from God, so that neither our natural knowledge of God nor the law is able to help us (1:18-3:20). A new way of salvation is opened up, "God's righteousness has been manifested" (dikaiosunê Theou pefanerôtai) for all men without distinction, by faith in relation to Jesus Christ (3:21-31). It is accordingly of no importance to be descended from Abraham according to the flesh; Abraham in the higher sense is the father of those who believe (4). Justified by faith, we have peace with God and the best hopes for the future (5). Let no one, however, suppose that the doctrine of grace, the persuasion that we are under grace, not under the law, will conduce to sin or bring the law into contempt. Such conclusions can and must be peremptorily set aside (6-7). The emancipated life of the Christian, free from the law of sin and death, is a glorious one (8). Israel, the ancient people of the promises with its great privileges, appears indeed to be rejected, yet will finally be gathered in (9-11). The life of Christians, in relation to God and man, must in every respect give evidence of complete renewal and absolut consecration (12:1-l5:13). Finally, a closing word as to the apostle's vocation which he hopes to fulfil in Rome also; a commendation of Phoebe, greetings, exhortations, benedictions, and an ascription of praise to God (15:14-16:27).

6. Difficulties: Not a Letter

If, at a first inspection, the work presents itself to us as an epistle written by Paul to the Christians at Rome, on closer examination it becomes difficult to adhere to such a view. Difficulties arise on every side. To begin with - as regards the form that is assumed. We are acquainted with no letters of antiquity with any such exordium as this: "Paul, bond-slave of Jesus Christ, called an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God... to all those who are in Rome... grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ"; nor with any conclusion so high-sounding as the doxology of 16:25-27, or the prayer for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ which is heard in 16:20 (or 16:24). In every other case the epistles of antiquity invariably begin plainly and simply.

Greetings are indeed conveyed both from and to various persons ; but never are so many introduced as in Rom 16:3-16, where in fact at the end all the churches salute. A letter-writer may, at the outset, seek to bring himself into closer relationship with his reader or to make himself known more exactly; but in the many examples of real letters that have come down to us from ancient times we nowhere find anything even approaching the amplitude of Rom 1:2-6. Nor yet does any real letter, whether intended for few or for many [4132], so far as we are in a position to judge, ever give us cause—because by its length or its elaborate method it resembles a treatise arranged in orderly sections—to regard it as a book, as our canonical epistle to the Romans does, with its great subdivisions (already taken account of under § 5).

7. Style of Address

We may, in truth, safely dispense with further comparison between our epistle and any real letters from ancient times, so impossible is it to regard of it as an actual epistle, to whatever date, locality, or author we may assign it. How could any one at the very beginning of a letter, in which, too, the first desire he writes to express is that of writing solemnly, earnestly, directly, allow himself to expatiate, as this writer does, in such a parenthesis? He speaks as a didactic expounder who, for the most part, directly and as concisely as possible, deals with a number of disputed points. with regard to which the reader may be supposed to be in doubt or uncertainty because in point of fact they have gained acceptance within certain circles. These expositions relate to nothing more or less than such points as the relation of the Pauline Gospel to the OT (v. 2), the descent of the Son of God from the house of David (v. 3), the evidence of the Messiahship of Jesus derived from his resurrection (v. 4), the origin and the legitimacy of the Pauline preaching (v. 5). At the same time the readers (who have not yet been named and are first addressed in V. 7) are assured that they belong to the Gentiles (ethnê), with reference to whom Paul has received his apostleship, although, according to 1:10-13, he has never as yet met them and consequently has not been the means of their conversion. All this within a single parenthesis. In such wise no letter was ever begun.

The writer addresses himself to "all" the members of a wide circle—let us say in Rome; even if the words "in Rome" (en Rômê) and "those who are in Rome" (tois en Rômê), according to some MS authorities, do not belong to the original text, their meaning is assured by the superscription "to Romans" (pros Rômaious ; cf. 15:22-29) and by the unvarying tradition as to the destination of the "epistle." The Paul whom we meet here addresses his discourse to a wide public, and utters in lofty tones such words as these: "O man, whoever thou be who judges, etc." (2:1); "O man, who judges, etc." (2:3); "If thou bearest the name of a Jew, etc." (2:17); "Nay but, O man, who art thou that replies against God?" (9:20); "But I speak to you that are Gentiles" (11:13); "I say... to every man that is among you, etc." (12:3); "Who art thou that judges the servant of another?" (14:4); "But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother?" (14:10); "For if because of meat thy brother is grieved, etc." (14:15); etc. Often the argument proceeds uninterruptedly for a long time without any indication of the existence of a definite circle of persons to whom it is addressed. Yet, on the other hand also, the abstract argumentation gives place to direct address, the word of admonition or exhortation spoken to the brethren (adelfoi), whether named or unnamed—the mention of whom, however, when it occurs, is a purely oratorical form and no natural expression of the existence of any special relation between the writer and his assumed readers. Of the passages coming within the scope of this remark (some of them, already noticed in §4), none presents any peculiarity in this respect. On the contrary, every one of them produces uniformly the same impression; in this manner no real letter is ever written.

The last chapter has nothing of the character of a postscript to a letter already completed, although the letter appears to end with 15:30-33. Strange, in the sense of being not natural but artificial, is the appearance [4133] in 16:22 of Tertius ("I, Tertius, who write the epistle"), the secretary of Paul, who, however, seems himself to have had a hand in the letter, since we find him saying in 15:15, "I wrote to you." Strange especially is Tertius's greeting of the readers in his own name, in the midst of the greetings which Paul seems to be transmitting through him (vv. 21, 23).

The contents of the epistle, largely consisting of argument and discussions on doctrinal theses, differ as widely as possible from what one is wont to expect in a letter—so widely that many have long laboured at the task of making a suitable paraphrase of the "textbook" while retaining their belief in its epistolary character (See, e.g., the specimen in Holtzmann, Einleitung, 237; cf. S. Davidson, Introduction, 1, 113-116).

8. The Supposed Readers

In vain do we make the attempt in some degree to picture to ourselves what the relation was between the supposed author and his readers. Acts supplies no light. There we read that when Paul is approaching Rome the brethren go to meet him, not because they had previously had a letter from him, but because they have heard various things regarding his recent fortunes (28:14f). As for the Jews of the metropolis, they have heard nothing either good or bad concerning him (v. 21). Tradition, apart from the NT, has equally little to say about the epistle, whether as to its reception or as to what impression it may have made. The document itself says something, but only what adds to the confusion. The truth of the matter seems unattainable. Scholars lose themselves in most contradictory conjectures as to the occasion and purpose of the writing. Who the supposed readers of the epistle were can only be gathered from its contents. But these are so different in many aspects that it is possible to say with equal justice that the church in Rome was Jewish-Christian, Gentile-Christian, or a mixture of the two. See, among others, Weiss, Kommentar (1889), 19-33; Holtzmann, Einleitung, 232-241; Lipsius, Handkommentar zum NT (1891), 70-76; Sanday-Headlam (1895), xxxviii-xliv; Steck, Galaterbrief (1888), 359-363; Van Manen, Paulus, 2, 20-25.

It may be added here that the work is throughout addressed to "brethren" of all kinds, and sometimes it seems also to have been intended for Jews and Gentiles who stood in no connection whatever with Christianity. Did any one ever give to a particular letter an aim so general, without realising that his letter had ceased to be a letter at all in the natural meaning of the word, and had become what we are accustomed to call an open letter, an occasional writing, a book? Everything leads to the one conclusion (that) the epistolary form is not real, it is merely assumed. We have here to do, not with an actual letter of Paul to the Romans, but rather with a treatise, a book, that with the outward resemblance of a letter is nevertheless something quite different. See EB "Epistolary Literature," §§ 1-3; and EB "Old Christian Literature, §§ 18f. (also on this web site).

9. A Kind of Unity

The same conclusion results from a closer examination of the whole as it lies before us, whenever we direct our attention to the connection of its several parts. The relative unity of the book there is no reason for doubting. It is not, however, unity of the kind we are accustomed to expect in a book written after more or less careful preparation, in accordance with a more or less carefully considered and logically developed plan; not unity such as is the outcome of a free elaboration of the materials after these have been more or less diligently collected, and fully mastered by the writer. Least of all, a unity such as we look for in a letter, whether we think of it as written at one sitting or as written bit by bit and at intervals. It is rather a unity of such a sort reminds us of that [4134] of a synoptical gospel, with regard to which no one doubts that it is the result of a characteristic process of redaction and remaniement, curtailment, correction, and supplementation by the help of older pieces drawn from other sources. It is such unity as we find in reading Acts, although we do not hesitate for a single moment to realise that Luke has made an often very palpable use of written sources. There is unity of language and style, of thought, of feeling, of opinion; but at the same time there are, not seldom, great diversities in all these respects. The result, obviously, of the unmistakable circumstance that the writer of the canonical epistle has made continual and manifold use of words, forms of expression, arguments, derived from sources known to him, whether retained in his memory or lying before him in written form.

10. Failures to Find Unity

Proof of the justice of this view is supplied by the various attempts made by earlier and later exegetes to expound the epistle as a completely rounded whole—attempts in which it is found necessary at every turn to resort to the assumption of all sorts of conceivable and inconceivable figures and forms of speech, and thus conceal the existence of joints and sutures, hiatuses, and unintelligible transitions. More particularly is this seen in the scientific line taken by Heumann, Semler, Eichhorn, Weisse, Straatman, Völter, Michelsen, Spitta, and so many others (cf. above § 2), who have argued, and continue to argue, for the view that more than one epistle of Paul lies concealed in the apparently homogeneous canonical epistle, or for the view that there have been interpolations, more or less numerous, on an unusually large scale. In the last resort, on an (as far as possible) unprejudiced reading of the text which has come down to us—a reading no longer under the dominion of a foregone conclusion, to be maintained at all hazards, that here we have to do with the original work of the apostle Paul, sent by him to the church at Rome—we shall find that what lies before us is simply a writing from Christian antiquity presenting itself as such a work, which we must try to interpret as best we can.

11. Signs of Composition

The traces of additions and redactions in the various sections and subsections of the epistle are innumerable. It would be superfluous, even if space allowed, to go through all the details on this matter. A few examples may suffice. Compared with the first part (1:18-8:39), the second (9-11), although now an integral portion of the work, betrays tokens of an originally different source. There is no inherent connection between them, although this can, if desired, be sought in the desire to set forth a wholly new doctrinal subject in a wholly new manner. In the second we no longer hear of the doctrine of justification by faith; the treatment of the subject enunciated in l:16f. is no longer continued. What takes its place is something quite different and wholly unconnected with it; a discussion, namely, of the doctrinal question, "Why is it that the Gentiles are admitted and Israel excluded from salvation?" This discussion is directed not, like the contents of the first part, ostensibly to Christian Jews, but to Gentiles. There is nothing in the first part that anywhere suggests any such affection for Israel as is everywhere apparent throughout the second part, and especially in 9:1-3; 10:1; 11:1, 25-36; nothing that comes into comparison with the solemn declaration of 9:1 in which the writer bears witness to his great sorrow and unceasing pain of heart concerning Israel. This exordium points to a quite different situation, in which "Paul" requires to be cleared of the reproach of not concerning himself about God's ancient people. Hence the wish expressed by him that he might become "anathema from Christ" for his brethren's sake, his "kinsmen according to the flesh" (9:3). Hence his zeal here and in 11:1 to declare himself an Israelite, [4135] of the seed of Abraham, the tribe of Benjamin. Hence also the summing-up of the ancient privilege of Israel, "whose is the adoption and the glory and the covenants" (9:4f.), in comparison with which the simple statement that they were entrusted with the oracles of God (3:2) sinks into insignificance.

In the first part a quite different tone is assumed towards the Jew (Ioudaios, 2:17), with whom the speaker appears to have nothing in common. There we find Jew and Greek placed exactly on an equality (1:16; 2:9f., 3:9); the idea of the Jews that as such they could have any advantage over the heathen is in set terms controverted (2:11-3:21), and it is declared that descent from Abraham, according to the flesh, is of no value (ch. 4). In 9-11, on the other hand, we have earnest discussion of the question how it is possible to reconcile the actual position of Israel in comparison with the Gentile world with the divine purpose and the promise made to the fathers. Here, too, a high-pitched acknowledgment of the privileges of Israel, the one good olive-tree, the stem upon which the wild olive branches—the believing Gentiles—are grafted; Israel in the end is certain to be wholly saved, being, as touching the election, beloved for the fathers' sake (kata tên exlogên agapêtoi dia tous pateras, 9:4f., 31; 10:2; 11:7, 17f., 26, 28). In the first part, a sharp repudiation of the law in respect of its powerlessness to work anything that is good (3:20f,, 27; 4:15; 6:14; 7:5f., etc.); in the second a holding up of the giving of the law (nomothesia) as a precious gift (9:4). In the first part the earnest claim to justification by faith (5:1), to being under grace (6:4), to a walk in newness of spirit (7:6); in the second the assurance that "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (10:9).

Observe, again, the difference in respect of language. The words "just," "justify," "be justified" (dikaioun, dikaioun, dikaiousthai) nowhere occur in chs. 9-11, nor yet the expression "both Jews and Greeks", except in 10:12 where apparently it is not original, or at least has no meaning after the words "for there is no distinction" (ou gar estin diastolê). The words "Israelite" and "Israel" are not met with in 1-8, whilst in 9-11 the first occurs thrice and the second eleven times. On the other hand, we have "Jew" nine times in 1-3, but only twice in 9-11, and in both cases its occurrence seems probably due to the redactor. The "adoption" (huiothesia), which, according to 8:15 (cf. Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5) is a privilege of all Christians, whether Jews or Greeks, recurs in 9:4 in connection with a supposed predestination of Israel as the son of God ; the word is the same but it sounds quite differently. In 1-8 Christ is seven times called the son of God, and in 9-11 never. On the other hand, he is probably called God in 9:5, but nowhere in 1-9. While in 1-8 we find no other form of the verb "say" (erein) than "shall we say" (eroumen), in 9:19f we also have "thou wilt say" (ereis) and "shall the thing say?" (erei). If the occurrence of the expression "what then shall we say" (tu oun eroumen) in 9:14, 30, as well as in 4:1, 6:1; 7:7; 8:31, points to oneness of language, it has nevertheless to be noted that in 1-8 it never, as in 9:30, is followed by a question, but always by a categorical answer.

A speaker who says that Israel "following after a law of righteousness did not arrive at [that] law" (diôkôn nomon dikaiosunês eis nomon ouk efthasen, 9:31) understands by "law" (nomos) something quite different, and at the same time is following a quite different use of language, from one who declares that the Jew sins "under law" (ennomos or en nomô); shall be judged "by law" (dia nomou, 2:12); doeth not "the things of the law" (ta tou nomou, 2:14), is not justified "by works of law" (ex ergôn nomou), comes to knowledge of sin "through law" (dia nomou, 3:20) and lives "under law" (hupo nomon, 6:14). Only the latter is thinking of the Mosaic law, about which the former would not speak so depreciatingly. In chs. 9-11, as Steck (Galaterbrief, 362) justly remarks, [4136] a much more superficial use is made of the proof from scripture, "and the whole representation and language is somewhat less delicate."

12. The Third Part; 12:1-15:13

The third part of the epistle (12:1-15:13) seems to be closely connected with that which precedes. Observe the "then" (oun, 12:1), and notice how the writer harks back to 9-11 in his declaration (15:8) that Christ has been made a minister of the circumcision with reference to the promise of God, and to 1:16f. or1:18-8:39 in the same declaration supplemented with the statement (15:9) that Christ appeared also that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. But the connection, when more closely examined, will be found to be only mechanical. There is no real inward connection. No one expects a hortatory passage such as this after 11:33-36. Nor yet, where some would fain place it, after ch. 8 or ch. 6. The exhortations and instructions given in 12:1-15:13, however we put the different parts together, stand in no relation to the preceding argument; the same holds good of the exordium 12:1f. Though usual, it is not correct to say that Paul first develops his doctrinal system in 1:18-11:36, and then his ethical in 12:1-l5:13; or even to say in the modified form of the statement that he follows up the doctrinal with an ethical section. Exhortations are not wanting in the first part, nor doctrines in the last. The truth is that in 1:18-11:36 the doctrinal element is prominent, just as the hortatory is in 12:1-15:13. In other words, the two pieces are of different character. They betray difference of origin. 12:1-15:13 is, originally, not a completion of 1-11, thought out and committed to writing by the same person, but rather—at least substantially—an independent composition, perhaps, it may be, as some have conjectured, brought hither from another context. It has more points of agreement with certain portions of the Epistles to the Corinthians than with Rom 1-11. Compare, in general, the manner of writing and the nature of the subjects treated.

In detail compare such expressions as "beseech... by" (parakalô... dia) in 12:1 with 1 Cor 1:10, 2 Cor 10:1, whereas "beseech" (parakalein), however Pauline, is found neither in Rom 1-11 nor in Gal; the "mercies" (oiktirmoi) of God in 12:1, but nowhere named in Rom 1-11; "this age" (ho aiôn houtos) in 12:2 with 1 Cor 1:20; 2:6, 8; 3:18; 2 Cor 4:4, but not found in Rom 1-11. Compare also the representation that the Christian can still be renewed by the renewing of the mind (anakainôsis tou noos) in 12:2 with the assurance that though the outer man perish, "that which is within us is renewed every day" (ho esô hêmôn [anthrôpos] anakainoutai hêmera) in 2 Cor 4:16, whereas Rom 1-11 knows nothing of this "renewal," and could hardly have introduced it alongside its doctrine that the Christian is dead so far as sin is concerned (6:2) so that he now srands in the service of newness of spirit (7:6). Compare again, the assurance that God gives to each a measure of faith (ekastô metron pisteôs) in 12:3 with "only as the Lord has supplied to each" (ei mê ekastô hôs memeriken) in 1 Cor 7:14, "according to the measure of the limits which God has apportioned to us as a measure" (kata to metron tou kanonos, ou emerisen hêmin ho Theos metrou) in 2 Cor 10:13; and also with the declaration that not every one receives faith through the spirit (1 Cor 12:9), as also that there is a still more excellent way than that implied in the spiritual gifts of which faith is one—namely love (1 Cor 12:31—not only are the words "apportion" (merizein) and "measure" (metron) unknown in Rom 1-11, but so also is "love" (agapê) in the sense of love to God and one's neighbor, and (equally so) a faith (pistis) which is not regarded as the beginning of a new life, in comparison with which love is not required simply because that and everything else that is needed is already possessed where faith is.

Consider also the distinction between various spiritual gifts (12:6-8) compared with 1 Cor 12:4-11 and 28-30; the whole attitude towards self-exaltation (12:3-8) compared with 1 Cor 4:6f. and 12:12-30; the exhortations to the practice of love, zeal, and purity (12:9-21; 13:8-14) compared with 1 Cor 13; 14:1-20, 39; 15:58; 5:11; 6:9-11, 16-20, where amongst other things, the occurrence of "cleave" (kollasthai) in Rom 12:9 and1 Cor 9:16f., but found nowhere else in the Pauline writings, is to be noticed; the occurrence also of "taking thought for thing honourable in the sight of all men" (pronooumenoi kala enôpion pantôn anthrôpôn) in 12:17 as compared with the only parallel expression "for we take thought of things honourable not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men" (provooumen gar kala ou monon enôpion kuriou alla kai enôpion anthrôpôn) in 2 Cor 8:21 (cf. Prov 8:4); the term ofeilein ("to owe") in 13:8, used several times in 1 and 2 Cor, but never in Rom 1-11; the special exhortations to subjection to authority and to [4137] due discharge of one's various obligations (13:1-7) indicative of a peaceful environment and hardly in keeping with the persecutions suggested by the closing verses of ch. 8, but on the other hand quite in accord with the special admonitions and exhortations of 1 Cor 1:10ff., 6, 6:1-11; 11:2-15; etc.; what is said in ch. 14 regarding the use of certain meats, the observance of sacred days, and the respect for the weak, with regard to which no word is found in 1-11, but which reminds us throughout of 1 Cor 3-10, not only by reason of the similarity of such expressions as "eat" (esthiein), "food" (brôma), "cause to stumble" (skandalizein), "a stumbling-block to the brother" (proskomma tô adelfô), "not to eat flesh" (mê fagein krea), etc., but also very specially by reason of the agreement in the central thought that to the fully developed Christian all things are allowed, but that he must give no offence to the weak brother and therefore ought rather to act as if he were still in bondage to ancient customs and usages.

13. Chapter 15

The conclusion of the canonical epistle 15:14-16:27 must be accepted, as such, notwithstanding the objections urged by Semler, and those who follow him, in rejecting chs. 15 and 16 as not original constituents of the writing sent by Paul to the Romans. It nevertheless shows many evidences of compilation by the aid of various pieces at the redactor's disposal, a process to which reference has already so often been made that it seems superfluous to dwell long upon it now. Let the reader but observe the disconnected character of the five pieces of which ch. 16 consists, each of which either has no relation to the preceding, or is in contradiction with it. The recommendation of Phoebe in vv. 1f. hangs in the air. The greetings of vv. 3-16 presuppose a previous residence of Paul at Rome and a circle of acquaintances formed there, notwithstanding the positive statements on the subject in 1:8-13 and 15:22f. The warning against false teachers in vv. 17-20 finds no point of attachment in what precedes. The greetings of others in vv. 21-23 raise unanswered questions, not the least of these being those which arise in view of the existence of the already complete list in vv. 3-16, and the mention of all the churches at the close. The detached character of the doxology in vv. 25-27 is shown by the fact that in many MSS it occurs atfter 14:23.

14. Improbability of the Traditional Theory

The examples cited, along with others which might be adduced (cf. van Manen, Paulus, 2, 34-101) show conclusively that the "epistle" has been compiled with the help of previously existing documents. There are also other reasons, however, against accepting the voice of tradition regarding the origin of the work. Now and then the contents themselves reveal quite clearly that they cannot be from Paul (ob. 64 A.D.), so that we have no need to dwell upon the improbability of supposing that Paul, a tentmaker by calling and personally unknown to the Christians at Rome, addressed to that place an epistle so broad and so deep, written in so exalted and authoritative a tone; nor upon the question as to how it was possible that such an epistle should, so far as appears, have failed to make the slightest impression, whether good or bad, at the time, and was doomed to lie for more than half a century buried in the archives of the Christian church at Rome in impenetrable obscurity, until suddenly it re-emerged to light, honoured and quoted as an authority by—the gnostics! Evanson long ago (1792) pointed to the fact that the church addressed in it was apparently of long standing, and to the silent assumption in 11:12, 15, 21f. that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. was a thing of the past. As regards the first of these points, he compared what is said in Acts and called attention to the fact that nothing is there said of any project of Paul's to visit Rome before he had been compelled by Festus to make appeal to the emperor (25:10-12), nor yet anything about an Epistle to the Romans or about any Christian community of any kind met there by the apostle (28:11-31). Yet even if we leave Acts out of account as being incomplete and not in all respects wholly trustworthy, what the epistle itself says and assumes with regard to the Christian church at Rome is assuredly a good deal more than, in all probability, [4138] could have been alleged about it at so early a date as 59 A.D., the year in which it is usually held to have been written by Paul.

15. Reflection of a Later Age

The faith of the Roman Church is supposed to be known "throughout the whole world"; and Paul is filled with desire to make its acquaintance in order that so he may be refreshed (1:8, 12). The faith of both rests on the same foundation. The Christians of Rome are Pauline Christians. Like him they are justified by faith (5:1); reconciled with God (5:11); free from the dominion of sin and now in the uninterupted service of God (8:18-22); no longer under the law but under grace, so that they now live in newness of spirit and not in oldness of the letter (6:15; 7:6). They are well acquainted with Paulinism. They know it as a definite form of doctrine and have fully and freely given their assent to it—"You were servants of sin but you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching where unto you were delivered" (6:17). It is possible to speak to them without any fear of rnisunderstanding, about "faith" (pistis) and "grace" (Charis), "righteousness (dikaiosunê) and "love" (agapê), "believing" (pisteuein) and "being justified" (dikaiousthai), "being justified by faith" (dikaiousthai ek pisteôs) and "by works of law" (ex ergôn nomou), "sinning without the law" (hamartanein anomôs) and "under the law" (ennomôs or en nomô), "being delivered up" (paradothênai) and "dying for men" (apothanein huper abthrôpôn), "redemption" (apolutrôsis), "being baptised into Christ" (baptisthênai eis Xriston), "being crucified with Christ" (sustaurousthai [Christô]), "living after the flesh" (zên kata sarka), "after the spirit" (kata pneuma), "to God" (tô Theô), "in Christ" (en Christô). It is possible to use such expressions as: "for there is no distinction" (ou gar estin diastolê: 3:22); "but where there is no law neither is there transgression" (ou de ouk estin nomos oude parabasis: 4:15); "but where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly" (ou de epleonasen hê hamartia, hupereperisseusen hê Charis: 5:20); "to be under law," "under grace" (6:14); "spirit of adoption," Abba, Father," (8:15); to throw out such questions as these: Whether or not there be with respect to Jews and Greeks "respect of persons with God"? (2:11); Has the Jew as such any advantage over the Greek, when both have sinned? (3:9-20); In how far does any importance at all still attach to circumcision? (2:25-29); What value has the law? (2:12-29; 3:19-22, 27-31; 7:1-6); Does faith ever make it void? (3:31); In what sense may we pride ouselves on having Abraham as our father? (ch. 4); Must we not think that the doctrine of grace leads to continuance in sin? (6:1); Is not the conviction that we are not under law but under grace conducive to sin? (6:15); Can the law be held responsible for sin because by means of the law we were brought to the knowledge of sin? (7:7).

16. A Developed Faith

All this is unthinkable at so early a date as the year 59 A.D. There is, moreover, the one great simple fact which overrides these considerations, and thrusts them, so to speak, into the background—this, namely, that the Paulinism with which we are made acquainted in the Pauline Epistles, and particularly in that to the Romans, is of more recent date than the historical Paul. Compared with what the first disciples of Jesus believed and professed, it is not merely a remarkable divergence; it is in point of fact a new and higher development from the first Christianity. It presupposes, to speak with Loman, "a richly developed stage of theological thought." It has learned to break with Judaism and to regard the standpoint of the law as once for all past and done with, substituting in its place that of grace as the alone true and valid one. The new life "under grace" stands in sharp antithesis to the old one "under the law" (6:14). It knows, and it is, a new divine revelation; it has a theology, a christology, and a soteriology, which bear witness to a more advanced thinking and to a deeper experience of life than could possibly have been looked for within the first few years after the crucifixion. It is a remarkable forward step, a rich and far-reaching reform of the most ancient type of Christianity; now, a man does not become at one and the same moment the adherent of a new religion and its great reformer. All attempts to escape the difficulty so far as Paul is concerned break down in presence of the obvious meaning of Gal 1:11-23, as was shown years ago by Blom against Straatman (ThT 1875, 1-44).

It is of no avail continually to hark back to the [4139] possibility—which, in fact, no one denies—of a development in Paul's mind during the years that elapsed between his conversion and the writing of his epistles. The Paulinism of the epistles in question is, on their own showing, in its main features at least (with which we are here concerned) as old as the Christian life of Paul; but such a Paulinism is even for thoughtful believers in the supernatural inconceivable as having come into existence immediately after Paul had become a Christian. Let the student read and ponder the sketch of Paulinism given by van Manen in Paulus, 2, 126-140; 211-217; and EB "Paul," § 40 ( = "The Pauline Writings" on this web site).

17. Kinship with Gnosis

The kinship of Paulinism (especially in the form in which it occurs in the Epistle to the Romans) with gnosis, which has been recognised and remarked both by older and by younger critics—amongst others, by Basilides, Marcion, Valentinus, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Holsten, Hilgenfeld, Scholten, Heinrici, Pfleiderer, Weizsäcker, Harnack (cf. van Manen, Paulus, 2, 154-166)—leads also to the same conclusion: that Paul cannot have written this epistle. As to the precise date at which (Christian) gnosis first made its appearance there may be some measure of uncertainty: whether in the last years of Trajan (ob. 117 C.E.), as is commonly supposed, or perhaps some decades earlier; in no event can the date be carried back very far, and certainly not so far back as to within a few years of the death of Jesus. With regard to this it is not legitimate to argue, with Baljon (Geschichte, 77), that in the Pauline gnosis "no doctrine of a demiurge, no theory of aeons is found." It is years since Harnack (DG 2 1, 196f.) rightly showed that the essence of the matter is not to be looked for in such details as these.

18. Other Signs of a Later Age

In addition to the assumed acquaintance (already remarked on) of the readers of the epistle with the Pauline gospel, there are other peculiarities that indicate the church addressed as one of long standing. It is acquainted with various types of doctrine (6:17). It can look back upon its conversion as an event that had taken place a considerable time ago (13:11). It has need of being stirred up to a renewal of its mind (12:2) and of many other exhortations (12-14). It has in its midst high-minded persons whose thoughts exalt themselves above the measure of faith given them (12:3). It does not seem superfluous to remind them that each belongs to the other as members of one body endowed with differing gifts. There are prophets, ministers, teachers, exhorters, givers, rulers, and those who show mercy, and it appears to be necessary that each should be reminded of what he ought to do or how he ought to behave. The prophet must keep within the limits of the faith that has been received, and be careful to speak according to the proportion of that faith (12:6); the minister, the teacher, and the exhorter must each busy himself exclusively with the work entrusted to him; the giver must discharge his task with simplicity, the ruler his with diligence; he that shows mercy is to do so with cheerfulness (12:4-8). The mutual relations must be considered anew and carefully regulated, both in general (12:9-21; 13:8-10), and, in particular, with respect to the special "necessities of the saints," the duty of hospitality, the attitude to be maintained towards persecutors (12:12ff.), the public authority, and the fulfilment of the duties of citizenship (13:1-7). A vigorous exhortation to vigilance and an earnest warning against revellings and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness, strife and envy, are not superfluous (13:11-14). There are weak ones in the faith, who avoid the use of wine and flesh (14:1f., 21); others who hold one day holy above others, and as regards their food consider themselves bound by obsolete precepts regarding clean and unclean (14:5f., 14f., 20). Others again who regard all these things with lofty disdain, making no distinction between clean and [4140] unclean food, deeming that they are free to eat and drink as they choose, and that all days are alike; but these, just because of the freedom they rejoice in, give offence to many brethren and are the cause of their moral declension (14:5f., 13, 15, 20-23). These divergent practices have already continued for so long that the writer, so far as the first two (wine and flesh, clean and unclean) are concerned, is in perplexity between them himself, and has no other plan than to raise himself above them all in order to urge a general point of view—a genuinely "catholic" one—of "give and take," in which the principle of freedom is recommended and its application urged in the fine maxims: let no one give offence, let each one be fully persuaded in his own mind, all that is not of faith is sin (14:5, 13, 23).

The church is exposed to persecution; it suffers with Christ. It has need of comfort. What is said in this connection cannot be explained from any circumstances at Rome known to us before Nero and the time of the great fire in 64. It points rather to later days when Christians were continually exposed to bloody persecutions. See 5:3-5; 8:17-39; 12:12, 14.

One decisive proof that in our epistle we are listening to the voice of one who lived after the death of Paul in 64 C.E. is to be found in the manner in which the question of the rejection of Israel is handled in chs. 9-11. That question could not thus occupy the foreground or bulk so largely in the minds of Christian writers and readers as long as Jerusalem was still standing, and there was nothing to support the vague expectation of its approaching overthrow which some entertained. The allusions to the great events of the year 70, the overthrow of the Jewish commonwealth, and the expectations which connected themselves with this event are manifest. Any one who will read what is said, particularly in 11:11-22, about the downfall of the Jews (to paraptôma autôn), about the branches that have been broken off (exeklasthêsan kladoi) and the "cutting off" (apotomia) which has come upon those who are fallen (epi tous pesontas), can be under no misapprehension on this point.

19. Summary

If we now sum up the points that have been touched on in §§ 6-18, we need have no hesitation in deciding that the arguments are convincing: our canonical Epistle to the Romans is not what it seems to be, not a letter written by the apostle and sent to a definite church; it is a tractate, a book, designed to be read aloud at Christian meetings, a piece to be read in Church (kirchliches Vorlesungsstück), or homily, as Spitta has phrased it. It is a book written in the form of a letter, not written after the kind of preparation with which we write our books, but compiled rather in a very peculiar manner by use of existing written materials wherein the same subjects were treated in a similar or at least not very divergent way. We can best form some conception of the method followed here by studying the text of one of the synoptical gospels with an eye to the method in which it was presumably composed; or by tracing in detail the manner in which such authors as the writer of the present epistle make use of the OT. They quote from its words alternately verbatim and freely, often, too, without any reference to the OT context, so that we can trace the question only by comparison of the text we possess which has been wholly or partly followed (cf. van Manen, Paulus, 2, 217-9).

The study of the "epistle" from the point of view of is probable composition enables us to distinguish what treatises or portions of treatises were probably made use of before the text came into existence in its present form. In this way the work as a whole makes us acquainted with underlying views then prevalent, and accepted or controverted by our author—on the universality of sin and its fatal consequences (1:18-3:20); on righteousness by faith (3:21-31); on the connection between this and Abraham as father of the faithful (ch. 4); the fruits of [4141] justification (ch. 5); three objections against Paulinism (6:1-14; 6:15-7:6; 7:7-25); the glories of the new life in Christ (ch. 8); the rejection of the Jews (chs. 9-11); what is the duty of Christians towards God and man generally, and towards the weak and the principles held by them in particular (12:1-15:13). Such views, however greatly they may vary in purpose and scope, all belong to one main direction, one school of thought, the Pauline. We give them this name because we gain our best and most comprehensive acquaintance with the school from the "epistles of Paul," just as we speak of the Johannine School and the johannine tendency, although we know nothing about the connection between the school or tendency on the one side, and the well-known apostolic name connected with it on the other. To suppose that the school originated from the historical Paul, as was formerly maintained by Steck, is possible; but the supposition finds no support in any historical facts with which we are acquainted (cf. Paulus, 2, 222-227).

20. The Author

What is certain, at any rate, is that the canonical epistle is not by Paul. A writing that is so called, but on closer examination is seen to be no epistle but rather a compilation, in which, moreover, are embedded pieces that plainly show their origin in a later time, cannot possibly be attributed to the "apostle of the Gentiles." In this connection, however, it is inappropriate to speak of deception or forgery or pious fraud. There is not the slightest reason for supposing that our author had the faintest intention of misleading his readers, whether contemporaries or belonging to remote posterity. He simply did what so many others did in his day; he wrote something in the form (freely chosen) of a tractate, a book, or an epistle, under the name of some one whom he esteemed or whose name he could most conveniently and best associate with his work, without any wrong intention or bad faith, because he belonged or wished to be thought to belong, to the party or school which was wont to rally under his master's standard. His own name remained unknown; but his nom de plume was preserved and passed from mouth to mouth wherever his work was received and read. What reason was there for inquiring and searching after his real name if the work itself was read, quoted, copied, and circulated with general approval? The work might bear evidence of the artist so far as concerned person, surroundings, sufferings. In this case, according to the epistle, he was a Christian, one of the Pauline School, a polished and educated man with a heart full of zeal for the religious needs of humanity: a Paulinist, however, of the right wing.

21. His method.

He raises himself above the different shades of opinion which he knows so well by letting them find alternate expression, by letting the voice now of the one and now of the other be heard. He gives utterance to words so sharply explicit as these: "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight" (3:20); "now are we delivered from the law wherein we were held" (7:6); but also to other words, so friendly in their tone as regards the very same law: "not the hearers ... but the doers of the law shall be justified" (2:13); "the law is holy," "spiritual" (7:12, 14). He asseverates that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek (3:22); that there is with God no acceptance of persons (2:11); and that the privileges of the Jew are many (3:1f.); that Israel is in a very special way the people of God (9:4f.; 11:1). He says that to be a son of Abraham after the flesh signifies nothing (4:1ff.), and that to be of the seed of Abraham is a specially great privilege (11:1). He recognises at one time that the wrath of God is now manifest upon the sins of men (1:18), and at another that this is yet to come (2:5-8). He speaks of it as a matter of experience that the Christian has broken with sin for good and has become a wholly new creature (5:1-7:6 and ch. 8), and also lays down a quite different doctrine to the effect that he is still "sold under sin," [4142] continually doing the thing he would not, and he longs for emancipation from the body (7:7-25). He embraces the doctrine of a redemption of man from a power hostile to God on the ground of the love of the father (3:24; 5:1; 8:3, 32), and with this he associates the thought of an atoning sacrifice on behalf of the sinner offered to God by Christ "in his blood" (3:2-5).

Paul is to him the called apostle of the Gentiles (1:1, 5, 13f.; 15:16,18); but also warmly attached to the Jews and ready to do everything for them (9 :1-3; 10:1; 11:1); in possession of the "first fruits of the spirit," always working "in the power of God's spirit," but also in the manner of the original apostles "in the power of signs and wonders" (15:19). He recognises Jesus as God's son, who has appeared "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (8:3, 32); but he also says that he is of Israel according to the flesh (9:5), and that he was first exalted to the dignity of divine sonship by his resurrection (1:3f.; 15:12). He speaks with the same facility of "Jesus," "Jesus Christ," and "our Lord Jesus Christ" as he speaks of "Christ" and "Christ Jesus." For him all distinction in the use of these various designations has practically disappeared. Not seldom do we find him affirming and denying on the same page. He knows how to give and take, when to evade arguments, and when to meet them. Already we perceive in him something of the "catholic" spirit which rises above the strife of parties; which serves the truth and promotes the unity of believers, by siding now with the right wing, now with the left, by gliding over thorny points, and boldly thrusting difficulties aside.

22. The Writer's Origin

As for origin, he was probably a Greek. He thinks in Greek, speaks Greek, and seems to have used no other books than those which he could have consulted in Greek (cf. Paulus, 2, 186-190). His home we can place equally well in the East or in the West. In the East, and particularly in Antioch or elsewhere in Syria, because Paulinism probably had its origin there. The catholic strain, on the other hand, within the limits of the Pauline movement, seems rather to have proceeded from Rome. The possibility is not excluded that the main portions of the letter, or if you will, of a letter, to the Romans, were written in the East, and that the last touches were put to it in Rome or elsewhere in the West; in other words, that it was there that the epistle took the final form in which we now know it. There is a considerable number of writings which passed over from the hands of the Gnostics into those of "catholic"-minded Christians, and in the transition were here and there revised and corrected, brought into agreement, somewhat more than appeared in their original form, with the prevailing type of what was held to be orthodox (cf. Paulus, 2, 227-230).

23. Date

The author has not given us the date of his work, and we can guess it only approximately. Broadly speaking, we may say, not earlier than the end of the first nor later than the middle of the second century. Not before the end of the first century, because after the death of Paul (about 64 C.E.) time enough must be allowed to admit of epistles being written in his name as that of a highly placed and authoritative exponent of Christianity—the representative, not to say the "father," of Paulinism, a forward-reaching spiritual movement, a deeply penetrating and largely framed reform of that oldest Christianity which embodied the faith and expectations of the first disciples of Jesus after the crucifixion. Paulinism in this sense certainly did not come into existence until after the downfall of the Jewish state in 70 C.E., and—if we consider its kinship with gnosticism, and various other features which it shows—surely not before the end of the first, or the beginning of the second, century. On the other side, we may venture to say, not later than the middle of the second century. Clement of [4143] Alexandria, Tertullian, Irenaeus, use the book towards the end of that century, and we may be sure did not hold it for a recent composition. So also Theophilus (ad Autolycum, 3,14), who about 180 C.E. cited Rom 13:7f. as "divine word" (Theios logos). Basilides (125), and Marcion, who made his appearance at Rome in 138, knew the epistle as an authoritative work of "the apostle." Aristides (125-126), James (130), 1 Peter (130-140) in like manner show acquaintance with the epistle. Various circumstances combined justify the supposition that it was written probably about 120 C.E., whilst some portions of it in their original form may be regarded as somewhat earlier (cf. Paulus, 2, 296-303; 3, 312-315).

24. Value of the Writing.

If, in conclusion, we are met by the question, "What is the value of the writing when one can no longer regard it as an epistle of Paul to the Romans?" it must never be forgotten that the incisiveness of its dialectic, the arresting character of certain of its passages, the singular power especially of some of its briefer utterances and outpourings of the heart, the edifying nature of much of the contents, remain as they were before. The religious and ethical value, greater at all times than the aesthetic, is not diminished. The historical value, on the other hand, is considerably enhanced. True, we no longer find in it what we were formerly supposed to find: the interesting (though in large measure not well understood) writing of the apostle, written in the days of his activity among the Gentiles, to a church which was personally unknown to him. But what have we in its place? A book of great significance for our knowledge of the ancient Christianity that almost immediately succeeded the apostolic (the Christianity of the disciples of Jesus in the years that followed his death). There is no work from Christian antiquity that contributes more largely to our knowledge of Paulinism (whether in its first form—which it has not reached us in any deliberate writing—or in its subsequent development) in its strength as an inspiring directory for conduct, and in the richness and depth of its religious thought and experience.

25. Defenders of Genuineness

No serious efforts to defend the genuineness of the epistle have as yet ever been attempted. Those offered casually and in passing, as it were, rely on the so-called external evidence (e,g., Weiss, Kommentar, 33-34; S. Davidson, Introduction, 117-119, 150-152). That is to say, its defenders rely on what is excellent proof of the existence of the epistle at the time when it was cited, or what clearly presupposes an acquaintance with it, but is of no significance whatever when the question is whether the work was in reality written by the individual who from the first was named as its author.

This the Tübingen school has long perceived; Baur also did not rely on such arguments. Instead of doing so, he thus expressed himself (Paulus 1, 1866, 276): "Against these four epistles (Rom, 1 and 2 Cor, Gal,) not only has even the slightest suspicion of spuriousness never been raised, but in fact they bear on their face the mark of Pauline originality so uncontestably that it is impossible to imagine by what right any critical doubt could ever possibly assert itself regarding them." This utterance, however, it will be observed, wholly ignores Evanson (1792) and of course also Bruno Bauer, who did not publish his criticism till 1851; but it also ignores the view taken by so many, including F. C. von Baur himself, who have vied with one another in the disintegration of the epistle, as also the possibility that yet others at a later date might perceive what Baur himself had not observed; nor yet does it take account of the unsatisfactory nature of any assertion (however plausible it may sound) as to the "originality" of Paul, whom after all we know only by means of the picture that has been constructed with the aid of those very epistles with regard to which we wish to inquire whether they really were written by him. Nothing therefore is [4144] added to the argument when a countless host of others since Baur are never weary of repeating that "even the Tübingen school" has raised no doubts as to the genuineness. The observation is correct, it is true. Only they forget to add: nor yet have they offered proofs that it is genuine.

Weiss, Davidson, and others remain equally sparing of their arguments even after the criticism of a later date has made its voice heard. They put it aside with a single word. Weiss, with a reference to a "Parody," by C. Hesedamm, Der Römerbrief beurtheilt u. gevierheilt (1891). Davidson, with the observation that the genuineness, apart from the conclusive testimony of witnesses, is fully guaranteed by internal evidence: "The internal character of the epistle and its historical allusions coincide with the external evidence in proving it an authentic production of the apostle. It bears the marks of his vigorous mind; the language and style being remarkably characteristic." He omits, however, to tell us how he knows that anything is a "production," not to say an "authentic production of the apostle"; nor yet how he has obtained his knowledge of the mind of Paul; nor yet why it is impossible for a pseudonymous author to have any characteristic language and style.

Harnack (ACL ii. 1 [1897], vii) considers himself absolved from going into the investigation until the representatives of the newer criticism "shall have rigorously carried out the task incumbent on them of working out everything pertaining to the subject afresh."

Jülicher (Einleitung, 1894, p. 17; 1901, p. 19) once and again resorted to a severe attack on "hypercriticism" and "pseudocriticism," and subsequently proceeded, in dealing with the Epistle to the Romans, as if nobody had ever at any time argued against its genuineness.

Sanday and Headlam (Romans, 1895, 85-98) discuss exhaustively the integrity of the epistle, especially as regards chs. 15-16, but say little about the history of the question of genuineness. They cursorily dismiss some of the objections without showing that they have really grasped their proper significance. Counter-arguments are practically not heard. So also in other commentaries whose authors had heard anything about the newer criticism referred to. Holsten ("Prot. Kirkenzeitung," 1889), Pfleiderer (Paulinismus, 1890), Holtzmann (Einleitung, 1892), Lipsius (HC, 1892), and others, made some general observations in favour of the genuineness that had been called in question. But these discussions were little more than insignificant "affairs of outposts"; no real battle was delivered nor even any serious attack prepared.

Then came Zahn (Einleitung, 1900) with his censure on his comrades in arms against the Tübingen school for their error in having defended indeed the genuineness of the epistles "rejected" by Baur, but not that of the "principal epistles," "although Baur and his disciples had never so much as even attempted any proof for the positive part of their results." Forthwith he addressed himself to the long postponed task. He gave some half-dozen general observations (pp. 112-116) not differing in substance from those which had already been made; referred to the various particular investigations to be made in a later part of the work, including the detailed treatment of the Epistle to the Romans (pp. 251-310) where 31 full pages are devoted to the subject of the integrity and not a single word to the question of genuineness.

Baljon (Geschichte, 1901) perceived that something more than this was necessary to put the newer criticism to silence, if it was wrong. But what he wrote with this end in view was neither (as might have been expected) a confutation of the objections urged, nor yet an argument for the genuineness at least as solid and good as (in intention at all events) that made on behalf of Philippians, but simply a couple of pages (pp. 97-100) devoted to the history of the newer criticism and a few observations upon the objections urged by van Manen. [4145]

So far as appears, no one has as yet addressed himself to the task of an orderly scientific discussion of the arguments on the other side, or to an effective setting forth of the arguments on behalf of the genuineness.

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Basic Works Referred to in Discussion

Baur, F. C.
Paulus, der Apostel Jesu Christi. Sein Leben und Wirken, seine Briefe und seine Lehre Second edition: Leipzig: Fues, 1886-87; E. Zeller, ed., 2 Vols.; First edition: Stuttgart: Becher und Müller, 1845; ET of first edition = Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ, His Life and Work, His Epistles and His Doctrine, 2 Vols., London: Williams & Norgate, 1875.

Bauer, Bruno
Kritik der paulinischen Briefe, 3 vols., 1850/1851/1852.

Bauer, Bruno
Christus und die Caesaren. Der Hervorgang des Christentums aus dem römischen Griechentum, 1877.

Eichhorn, J. G.
Einleitung in das Neue Testament, 5. vols. Leipzig, 1804-1827.

Evanson, Edward
The Dissonance of the four generally received Evangelists, 1792.

Harnack, Adolf von
Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur bis Eusebius, Leipzig, 1897.

Holtzmann, Heinrich
Einleitung in das Neue Testament, Freiburg, 1892.

Jülicher, Adolf
Einleitung in das Neuen Testamentl 1894; 21901.

Loman, A. D.
"Quaestiones Paulinae," ThT, 1882, 1883, 1886.

Pierson, A., and S. A. Naber
Verisimilia. Laceram conditionem Novi Testamenti exemplis illustrarunt et ab origine repetierunt, 1886.

Sanday, William, and A. C. Headlam
The Epistle to the Romans, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1895.

Steck, Rudolf
Der Galaterbrief—nach seiner Echtheit untersucht, nebst kritischen Bermerkingen zu den paulinischen Hauptbriefe, Berlin, 1988.

Spitta, Friedrich
"Untersuchung über der paulinischen Hauptbriefe," in indem, Zur Geschichte und Literatur des Urchristententums, vol. 2, 1901.

ThT = Theologisch Tijdschrift

Van Manen, W. C.
Paulus, I, De Handelingen der Apostelen, 1890.

Van Manen, W. C.
Paulus, II. De brief aan de Romeinen 1891.

Van Manen, W. C.
"Paul: Later Criticism," in Encyclopaedia Biblica (New York: Macmillan, 4 vols., 1899-1903), vol. 4, 3620-3638.

Van Manen, W. C.
"Old Christian Literature, III. Epistles," in Encyclopaedia Biblica (New York: Macmillan, 4 vols., 1899-1903), vol. 4, 3480-3491.

Völter, Daniel
Die Composition der paulinischen Hauptbriefe, I, Der Römer- und Galaterbrief, 1890.

Weiss, B.
Der Brief an die Römer, KEK4, 1899.

Zahn, Theodor
Einleitung in das Neue Testament, Leipzig, 11900; ET = Introduction to the New Testament, 2. vols., Edinburgh: Clark, 1909.

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Copyright © Institute for Higher Critical Studies, 1996
Darrell J. Doughty
Institute for Higher Critical Studies
Drew University, Madison, NJ, 07940