Friday, December 08, 2017

12. Concentrated Romans (15:14-16:27)

This is the last section of Romans, although I still have a few holes to plug.

Romans 15:14-16:27
A. Closing (15:14-33)
  • These verses close the body of the letter. The earliest papyrus manuscript of Paul's letters (p46) also puts the doxology of 16:25-27 here. See comments below on Romans 16. 
  • 15:14-21. Paul understands himself to be the apostle to the Gentiles. In 15:16, Paul compares himself to a priestly minister (leitourgos), serving as a priest of the gospel (hierougeo) offering up the Gentiles to God (prospora). 
  • 15:19. Miracles were part of Paul's ministry.
  • Paul also had ministered already as far west as Illyricum. That's in the far northwest of Greece. When did he go there? Acts does not say. Perhaps it was while he was in Greece the first time.
  • 15:20. Paul does not see it as his mission to build established churches. He is a church planter. He does not plan to stay in Rome for long but to use it as a launching point.
  • 15:22-23. Paul talks about his plans. He plans to go from Rome to Spain (15:24). At present he is headed to Jerusalem (15:25).
  • 15:24-29. Paul has been collecting an offering (cf. 2 Cor. 8-9) to take to Jerusalem. This offering perhaps is the fulfillment of the concern for the poor in Galatians 2:10.
  • 15:27. Paul sees this gift to the Jews by the Gentiles as material reciprocity for the spiritual gift the Jews have given to them.
  • 15:30-33. Paul realizes he faces enemies in Jerusalem. He asks for the prayers of the Romans that the Jerusalem church will accept his offering. Of course Acts tells us that he gets arrested in Jerusalem.
B. Letter of Recommendation (16:1-27)
  • Although most Romans scholars currently think Romans 16 is right where it should be, some have argued that it may have been a separate letter sent to Ephesus from Corinth at the same time as Romans. The reasons are 1) these are a lot of people for Paul to know at a place he's never visited, 2) some of them are associated with Asia or were last known to have been at Ephesus (e.g., Priscilla and Aquila), 3) there are some manuscript issues with the conclusion.
  • Romans 16 would especially seem to be a letter of recommendation for Phoebe (16:1-2). We think of how different distance was experienced in a world without phones or email, and how important such commendations were.
  • Phoebe was a deacon (diakonos), the leadership role mentioned in various places in the New Testament (e.g., Phil. 1:1). Throughout this chapter, Paul shows that he worked alongside many women in his mission. No hint of the kind of segregation of ministry sometimes advocated today.
  • Cenchreae was a port village of Corinth, an indication that Paul is in Corinth as he writes.
  • Priscilla and Aquila had been Paul's coworkers originally in Corinth and then in Ephesus. In 2 Timothy 4 they are in Ephesus again. Priscilla is often mentioned first before her husband, a matter of some significance in that world.
  • Epaenetus was the first convert in Asia, in Ephesus presumably.
  • Andronicus and Junia, a Jewish husband and wife pair, were notable "among the apostles." The wording is a little ambiguous but may suggest that this couple had witnessed the risen Christ and been commissioned by him to proclaim that witness. That would put this man and woman in the same second tier apostleship as Paul and Barnabas. Other translations with a bias against women in ministry (e.g., ESV) render the verse to say that they were well-known to the apostles.
  • 16:17-23. A warning against divisions. Interesting that some from Corinth are then mentioned. Is this also a subtle hint to them as well? Paul warns against those who deceive the innocent with flattery and smooth talk. Perhaps false-teachers are already beginning to become a problem in the church.
  • 16:23. Gaius seems to provide the central home for the church of Corinth to meet, and that is where Paul is staying as he writes. Erastus is the city's aedile. A paving stone survives at Corinth with his name carved in it, stating that he paid for it.
  • 16:22. Tertius is the name of the scribe or amanuensis who wrote Romans down.
  • 16:21 Timothy is with Paul, as we would have thought from 2 Corinthians.
  • 16:20 is an allusion to Genesis 3:15, an indication that Paul thought of the serpent in the Garden as Satan.
  • There is some variety in the endings of Romans among the manuscripts. The verses, 16:25-27, are actually located at the end of Romans 14 in most Greek manuscripts, which of course are medieval. There was thus another ending in some manuscripts, 16:24. 
  • This raises the question of whether this ending doxology was part of the original Romans or whether it was originally located elsewhere. The oldest manuscript of Paul has it at the end of chapter 15, which fits with the hypothesis that chapter 16 was originally a separate letter to Ephesus.
  • To God be glory forevermore!
I. Introduction
1. Romans 1:1-15

II.1 Who is Justified?
II.1.1 Humanity's Problem
2. Romans 1:16-17
3. Romans 1:18-32
4. Romans 2:1-3:20

II.1.2 God's Solution
5. Romans 3:21-31
6. Romans 4:1-5:11

II.2 What about Sin?
7. Romans 5:12-6:23
8. Romans 7:1-8:39

II.3 What about Israel?
9. Romans 9-11

III. Transformed Minds
10. Romans 12-13
11. Romans 14:1-15:13

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