Saturday, December 02, 2017

1. Concentrated Romans (1:1-15)

Romans in bullet points.

Romans 1:1-15
A. The Prescript (1:1-7)
  • 1:1. Romans 1:1-7 is the prescript of Romans, part of the traditional letter greeting of the ancient world. We know this especially from the Oxyrhynchus papyri, ordinary Greco-Roman documents discovered in a mount in the late 1800s in Egypt.
  • The standard prescript told who the letter sender was (Paul) who the audience was (to those at Rome) and said "greeting" (chairein), which relates to one of Paul's standard words, "grace" (charis).
  • Paul is the author of this letter. No one questions that this was literally Paul.
  • Paul is an apostle, someone to whom the risen Jesus had appeared (cf. 1 Cor. 9:1) and set apart to be a witness to his resurrection. This is at the heart of the good news, the gospel, Jesus is risen from the dead and is Lord and king.
  • 1:2. This is all part of God's plan, promised beforehand.
  • 1:3. This verse confirms that Jesus himself is the center of the good news, not me and not my salvation, which are entailed in his lordship. The good news at its heart is that Jesus is king. Jesus is Lord.
  • To say that Jesus is God's Son is to say that he is king. Sonship is royal language, as we see in the Old Testament background (Psalm 2:4 is in a royal psalm; 2 Sam. 7:14 is about Solomon as God's son as king).
  • Jesus has the human qualifications of a king. He is a descendant of David.
  • 1:4 Now we get the other side of Jesus' kingship. He was appointed Son of God in power on the basis of his resurrection from the dead. This is his enthronement as king. 
  • If the parallel holds, the "Spirit of holiness" is Jesus' own Spirit. The Dead Sea Scrolls refer to God's Holy Spirit with this expression, but it is only used here in the New Testament.
  • 1:5. Paul indicates again that Jesus is the one who has graced him and sent him as an apostle, an apostle to the Gentiles no less.
  • "Obedience of faith" suggests that true faith leads to obedience.
  • 1:6. "among whom you are also the called." Among whom means among the Gentiles. The audience of Romans, it would seem, was primarily Gentile.
  • I believe the rest of Romans bears this out. It also makes sense historically since the Jewish Christians at Rome, people like Priscilla and Aquila, would have been forced to leave Rome by Claudius in AD49.
  • It also makes sense that the audience would be of a more Petrine flavor. After all, this church was founded before the Pauline mission. It thus was probably more "conservative" than Paul.
  • 1:7. The rest of the prescript. To expand the prescript the way Paul has is typical of him, but very unusual for an ancient letter.
  • "Grace and peace" is standard Paul. It seems to bring together the Greek (grace) with the Jewish (shalom - peace).
B. The Thanksgiving (1:8-15)
  • 1:8. It was customary for an ancient letter at this point to wish a blessing from the gods on the reader. Paul typically gives thanks to God at this point of his letters. He is sincere even though this is standard form.
  • He indicates that the faith of the Roman church is well known in the world of Jesus followers.
  • 1:10-11. Paul wants to come to them. He has never visited Rome. He wants to impart a spiritual gift to them.
  • 1:12. Paul also wants to be encouraged by their faith.
  • 1:13. Paul wants to have a harvest among them as among other Gentiles. Again, the implication that the audience is primarily Gentile.
  • 1:14. Paul now indicates the way he categorizes the Gentile world. He divides it into Greeks and Barbarians. That is his mission domain, all Gentiles.

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