|... Η ΔΕ ΗΜΕΡΑ ΗΓΓΙΚΕΝ ΑΠΟBΑΛΩΜΕΘΟΥΝ ΟΥΝ | ΤΑ ΕΡΓΑ ΤΟΥ ΣΚΟΤΟΥΣ ΕΝΔΥΣΩΜΕΘΑ ΟΥΝ | ΤΑ ΟΠΛΑ ΤΟΥ ΦΩΤΟΣ [vs.13] ΩΣ ΗΜΕΡΑΣ ΕΥΣΧΗΜΟ...
... AND THE DAY HAS DRAWN NEAR LET US PUT AWAY THEREFORE | THE WORKS OF DARKNESS AND LET US PUT ON THE WEAPONS OF THE LIGHT. [v.13] AS IN THE DAY ...
Chester Beatty Papyrus P46, generally dated by writing style between ad.150 & ad.250, with an earliest assessment of c.ad.80. This part of P.Mich.inv.6238 (recto) is of Paul's epistle to the Romans, ch.13, vs.12.
P46 was a book.
The beginning of vs.12, on the front (verso) side of this leaf, is missing.
From Paul. (1) A typical Greek letter in the ancient world began: "From so-and-so ... to so-and-so, greetings (chairein)". The Jews had their own variation on this, in that instead of saying "greetings" they liked to say "peace" (shalom). A combination of the two is found in most of the New Testament letters.
Paul's letters are all real letters, addressed to particular people or churches, and they all make use of the conventional form of opening, even if (as here) they cram a great deal of extra Christian matter into the simple framework. But Paul also makes one very significant change in the formula. Instead of "greetings" (chairein), he writes "grace" (charis). This is almost a pun: the two words are derived from the same stem; and the NEB tries to bring this out by rendering the one word charis both by I send greetings (7) and by Grace ... to you. This may originally have been a conscious twisting of a conventional expression to make it yield a rich Christian meaning—a device that Paul is very fond of. Whether Paul invented this one, or simply adopted it as an already accepted form of greeting between Christians, we cannot say. It occurs in the opening of many other New Testament letters.
In the Greek, the whole of the first seven verses forms one long sentence: (1-7) "Paul ... to all of you in Rome ... grace and peace ... ". But this sentence is broken into by a massive parenthesis, sparked off by the word Gospel (1), and going on to explain what Paul means by his apostleship. The NEB translators have deliberately refashioned the sentence and broken it up into a number of shorter sentences. By doing so they have undoubtedly made it easier to read. But they have also obscured its original shape, which not only revealed Paul as a letter-writer using the conventional form of opening, but also allowed one to hear the strikingly solemn ring of verses 3 and 4, which are often, for this reason, thought to be a fragment of an early Christian confession or creed, inserted by Paul (with perhaps a few minor alterations) into his opening greeting. This confession makes two statements about Christ. On the human level he was a particular man, a descendant of King David (3), and therefore qualified according to current Jewish doctrine to be the expected Messiah or Christ. On the level of spirit (4)—that is to say, not as a matter of empirically verifiable fact like his ancestry, but in a manner which presupposed the activity of the Holy Spirit making this reality known to believers—he was the Son of God, as was declared bya mighty act of glorious vindication, when, after the apparent defeat and humiliation of the crucifixion, he rose from the dead.
The privilege of a commission (5). The Greek means literally "grace and apostleship ", two almost technical Christian terms. "Grace" is undoubtedly a kind of privilege; but in Paul's thinking it stands for a great deal more. The whole of God's gracious dealings with his people, as recorded in the Old Testament, could be described by a single Hebrew word of which there is no exact Greek or English equivalent but which is usually translated "mercy". These gracious dealings had now reached a climax in the story of Jesus Christ; and to describe this transcendently gracious gift from God to men, along with all the acts of divine mercy which had led up to it in the course of the history of the Jewish people, Paul used another Greek word which stressed still more the free generosity of God: charis, of which one of the usual meanings was "grace" or "favour". At the same time, the effect on a believer of this tremendous sign of God's favour towards him was a new power, a new quality of living, a new radiance of personality; and this too could be expressed by the same word charis, a word which was also often used to mean "grace" in the subjective sense of "graciousness". All these ideas are present in the single word here translated privilege. "Apostleship" too, though it was indeed a commission, was also a great deal more. The root meaning of the word apostolos was one "sent out" on a mission; the word was already used in Jewish circles for the accredited emissaries of the High Priest in Jerusalem. It belonged to the calling of all Christians that they were "sent out" to preach the Gospel; but this was true to a particular degree of that original group of men who had witnessed the resurrection and who had received an explicit commission to undertake the founding of the first Christian communities. Paul, though the circumstances of his calling had been exceptional, was nevertheless soon recognized as one of these original apostles; but what marked off his apostleship from that of other apostles was that it was to men in all nations, which meant (the explosive element in Paul's work) to non-Jews.
Let me begin by thanking my God (8). Most of Paul's letters proceed straight from the opening greetings to an expression of thanksgiving for the vitality of the church to which he was writing. The only peculiarity here is that the church at Rome was not one which he had founded or for which he had a personal responsibility. He had not yet been to Rome, and he had not met the church there. His thanks were for the good report which he, like everyone else, had heard about them; and his prayers for them, and his longing to see them, were a natural expression of his desire to be more closely associated with a Christian community which had sprung up at the centre of the civilized world.
Nevertheless, Paul did feel a certain urgency in addressing himself to the Romans. I have often planned to come ... in the hope of achieving something among you (13). Not that Paul could have added to his own successes by preaching to the already existing Roman church; but he could hope to "have some fruit" (the literal meaning of the Greek words), not only in strengthening those who were already Christians, but in encouraging a greater inclusiveness of membership, and settling, once and for all, the problem he had already met with in his own churches: the relationship, within a single Christian community, of Jews and non-Jews. In this sense he was under obligation to Greek and non-Greek. (14)
This conflict between Jewish and gentile Christians, which was the first great crisis the church had to undergo, was the ostensible occasion of the letter to the Romans, and can be overheard in every chapter of it. Yet Paul characteristically did not treat this problem on a practical level, as if it were merely a question of how these people were to live together amicably. He saw in it a threat to the central truths of the Christian faith. It could only be solved by a defence of the cardinal proposition that the Gospel was for everyone who has faith (16). But this in turn raised still wider issues. A Jew would instinctively feel that God had made special promises to his own people: how then could Gentiles be admitted to salvation without making God seem to abandon his promises and be "unrighteous"? To answer this, Paul had to speak, not only of the faith of the believer, but of God's "righteousness", here rendered God's way of righting wrong (17). The guiding Old Testament text for his discourse, which contains the two principal terms in question, was Habakkuk 2.4: 'he shall gain life who is justified (i.e. whose wrong is righted) through faith'.
For we see divine retribution revealed (18). This sentence, and the sentence before, both contain the word revealed, and each expresses a complementary side of God's activity towards men. God is just, and the positive side of this justice, the way in which God "justifies" (or "rights the wrongs" of) those who believe, is revealed in Jesus Christ. This is the theme of the Gospel according to Paul, and is more fully explained later in the letter. But meanwhile there is also a negative side to this justice: divine retribution. In the Greek, this is more personally expressed as the "wrath of God". But the meaning is probably much the same. If God is righteous, the consequences of men's unrighteous deeds must necessarily be visited upon them. The important point for Paul's argument is that this in fact happens, that this side also of God's justice is revealed. It makes little difference whether this is represented in English as a personal activity of God (God's "wrath"), or as the working out of an inexorable law of retribution (see below on Revelation 6.16, pp. 805-6). What matters for Paul is the empirical reality of the conscquences of human sin.
For proof of the reality of this divine retribution, Paul had only to draw on the widely shared presuppositions of both Greek philosophy and Jewish religion. It was common ground to both Jewish and Greek thinkers that the prevailing immorality of contemporary society was connected with the rejection of pure religion. The existence of God was axiomatic (verse 19). Only misguided minds (21) could fail to recognize the creator in his works, and the inevitable consequence of that failure was a depraved reason, which led them to break all rules of conduct (literally, "to do what is not fitting", a Stoic cliché). The long list of vices in verses 29-32 has many parallels in the religious and philosophical literature of the ancient world.
So much was common ground. But Paul, a Jew, instinctively brought still severer criticism to bear on the gentile world. Two features of Greek life in particular shocked the Jews: first, the crude idolatry associated with the innumerable statues of deities—which were not in fact taken too seriously by the majority of educated Greeks, but were regarded with horror by the Jews as exchanging the splendour of immortal God for an image shaped like mortal man (23) (an allusion to Psalm 106.20: for this primal sin had been committed also by the people of Israel); and secondly, the Greeks' acceptance of unnatural and promiscuous sexual relationships, which had no counterpart in Jewish culture. These, from the Jewish point of view, were the characteristic vices of the gentile world. Any Gentile who sought the fellowship of a Jewish synagogue had to make an explicit renunciation of them. Paul sketches them somewhat luridly: but he is only giving a characteristically Jewish turn to an argument which would have been widely recognized as valid. The excesses and perversions of pagan worship and pagan morality were clear evidence that divine retribution was at work in the pagan world.
You therefore (1). This sudden turning upon an imaginary Jewish reader is, and is meant to be, a surprise. Up to this point, Paul would have carried any Jew with him in his argument; and he goes on to make one more point with 2 which a Jew ought to have agreed. It is admitted (2) (that is, "we (the Jews) recognize", as the original has it) that God's judgement is rightly passed upon all who commit such crimes as these. Wrongdoing inexorably attracts punishment from God—witness the quotation from Proverbs (24.12), he will pay every man for what he has done (6). From these premises Paul draws the (to us) obvious conclusion that the Jews would be punished by God for their offences just as much as the Gentiles.
But normally a Jew would not have seen it like this at all. He believed that because he possessed the Law of Moses and bore the name of Jew (17), he had a certain immunity from the consequences of divine judgement, and had privileges, both now and on Judgement day, which a Gentile could never have. He assumed that, equipped with the Law, he could sit in judgement (1) on the rest of the world; and that the marks of God's kindness, tolerance and patience which he found in the history of his own people were evidence that God judged the Jews less severely than others. He could rely upon the law (17), both as a moral and religious guide for himself and ultimately for all men (the very shape of knowledge and truth (20)), and also as an assurance that God would reserve for him a place in the promised kingdom.
Paul makes a violent attack on this position. Deeper arguments against the Jewish sense of privilege and immunity will come later in the letter. Paul's manner at this point is rhetorical and sweeping. The Jews themselves have committed crimes they condemn others for (verses 21-3); their own conduct brings their religion into disrepute (verse 24—a quotation from Isaiah 52.5). God has no favourites (11). His only criterion is how far a man has carried out the precepts of his law, precepts which are written in the conscience of many Gentiles just as much as in the scriptures of the Jews.
The Jew bore in his body a physical sign of the privileges and immunities he believed in: circumcision. Without this sign, he could never qualify for blessedness; with it, he could never be consigned to eternal punishment. Paul, though himself brought up as a strict circumcised Jew, now denied any such power to an outward rite. Circumcision has value, provided ... (25) No proviso was envisaged by the Jews. Paul, with the distinction which is so obvious to us between "true Jews" and others, between external marks and inward qualities, was saying something quite un-Jewish, quite new—so new, in fact, to Jewish ears that it would be asked, on what authority did Paul say this? The answer was—could only be—the authority of Jesus Christ: So my gospel declares (16).
Then what advantage has the Jew? (1) The series of questions which follow may have been put to Paul by objectors who misunderstood the implications of what has just been said—indeed verse 8 is evidence for the existence of a faction who thought that Paul's attitude to the law encouraged licence and libertarianism; or it may simply go with the jerky, dialectical style which Paul adopts in this and the following chapter, a style of which we have another example in the "diatribes" (popular lessons in philosophy) of a near-contemporary of Paul, the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. In any case, Paul is agitated by a difficult problem in which he feels personally involved: if the broad argument of chapter 2 is sound, then what advantage has the Jew? Great, in every way, answers Paul in verse 1. Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all, he says in verse 9—and it is impossible to clear liini altogether of inconsistency.
The Jews, then, have both the responsibility and the privilege of closer access to the revealed will of God, and no amount of failures on their part can make any difference to the fact that what they have received in their history and in their scriptures is an authentic revelation of God's righteousness. But again, this privilege contains no security. The Jews are no better off (9). Scripture itself (which Paul, as a Jew, can refer to as all the words of the law, though in fact he has just given us a cento of quotations mainly
from the Psalms (10-18)) shows that the whole world (i.e. Jews as well as Gentiles) is exposed to the judgement of God. The Jews have the apparent advantage of knowing how God wills men to act; but the effect of this is only to give them the consciousness of sin (20). In the words of Psalm 143.2, 'no human being can be justified in the sight of God'. The defence that one has kept the law is as hollow as any other; it may be a sufficient pretext for human pride (27) but it makes no difference to the essential unrighteousness of man before God. The Jews are no better off than anyone else. The problem is just as acute for them as for the rest of mankind: how is it possible for sinful men to have any continuing relationship with a just God?
But now (21). There is now (this is Paul's 'Gospel') a new answer worked out independently of law, yet (as will be shown in chapter 4) consistent with the scriptures. God's justice—or, as we might say, a new way of understanding how a just God can yet have dealings with universally sinful men—has been brought to light by the creation of a new status for men. God remains just; but a function of his justice is that he has the means of giving to men, despite their sin, the possibility of a status which is equivalent to that of the just. Once this status is accepted, God's justice no longer involves inevitable retribution for sin. In this sense, his justice can now be shown to be (among other things) a way of righting wrong.
How has this happened? The short answer is through faith in Christ for all who have such faith (22). What this means will be given fuller treatment in chapters 5-8; for the present, Paul merely hints, briefly and somewhat obscurely, at three metaphors, (i) It was an act of liberation (24)—a word which evoked the act of God by which the people of Israel had been delivered from their bondage in Egypt: the sinner is similarly "liberated" from the bonds which his sins lay upon him; (ii) Christ was a means of expiating sin (25)—again (in the original) a technical word, describing the function of Jewish sacrificial worship, and possibly referring specifically to the cover of the Ark which had a particular function in the ceremonies of the Jewish Day of Atonement (see Exodus 25.17-22); and (iii) in this realm of ideas, Christ's was a sacrificial death, though this again is no more than a metaphor: his sacrifice was effective (unlike the temple sacrifices) only through faith.
All this, of course, touches the nerve of the Gospel: it totally reverses the status of man before God, and opens up wholly new possibilities of godly and joyful living. But here it is introduced with a limited purpose, and has a logical place in the argument: it is to show how it is possible for God still to be just and yet to have dealings with men who can be shown to deserve condemnation. It is "theodicy"—that is to say, the object of enquiry is not man but God, and the purpose of the argument is to demonstrate his justice (26). The justice revealed in law (the law of Moses) is shown, by this new factor, still to hold good for God, even though all men will not now receive the punishment they justly deserve for their sins. So: we are placing law itself on a firmer footing (31).
If it be true that God is one (30). That God is one was a proposition recited by a Jew every day in his prayers. It was the distinctive affirmation of the Jewish faith, the one truly monotheistic religion known to the ancient world. But even for the Jews, this affirmation was not without its difficulties. When they thought of God, they thought of him as the God of Israel, the God of their fathers. He was the God who had a special relationship with the Jewish people, a relationship that had been demonstrated again and again in the course of Jewish history. But if he was the one and only God, it could not be the case that he was the God of the Jews alone (29). He was the creator of all men, and therefore he must be in some sense the God of Gentiles also. This was where the difficulties began; for it seemed obvious to Jewish thinkers that the Gentiles neither acknowledged the true God nor received from him the gracious treatment bestowed upon the Jews. In what sense, then, was he the God of the Gentiles? The question was embarrassing, and received a variety of answers. But on Paul's premises it was perfectly simple. ()nce it was recognized that the Jews could appeal to no special relationship with God, there was no difficulty in seeing how God was the God of Jews and Gentiles alike. For both, the only possible relationship with God was established in virtue of their faith (30) (or, by a very slight change of phrase which is no more than a matter of style, through their faith).
What, then are we to say about Abraham? (1) We know that the shocked reaction of the Jew to any sugwestion that he had no privilege in the sight of God was, 'We have Abraham for our father' (Matthew 3.9; John 8.33). Instinctively, he would introduce into the argument his physical descent from Abraham. The figure of Abraham was the foundation of all Jewish religious thinking. To Abraham, and through Abraham to his descendants, God had given a promise in the form of a "covenant": if a "son of Abraham" kept his part of the covenant (i.e. observed the law), he could look forward to the "inheritance" which had been promised from the beginning to the Jewish people. This 'advantage' of the Jew was axiomatic; the story of Abraham guaranteed it. And Paul, himself physically a "son of Abraham" (our ancestor in the natural line) now turns to answer this inevitable Jewish protest.
To demonstrate his superiority to any Gentile, a Jew had only to quote from Genesis, chapters 15 and 17. These chapters showed how Abraham had received a blessing (15.5-6; 17.7-8), and proved that this blessing would pass to all his descendants, on condition that they were duly circumcised (17.10-14). Why had Abraham received this signal blessing? Subsequent Jewish interpretation took the line that it was because Abraham had spontaneously carried out all the precepts of the law (even though these were written down only in the time of Moses, many generations later), and that, to receive the blessing in full, his descendants must do the same. And "descendants" was understood quite literally. The strictest schools of Jewish thought admitted only physical descendants, to the exclusion of all non-Jews. A more liberal school conceded that Gentiles, by becoming proselytes, might also have some share in the blessing; in which case, the fact that Abraham was circumcised so late in life was taken as a sign that, in some sense, he was the "father" of all those who, like him, observed the whole law, even if they were gentile converts and were circumcised only late in life.
It was this second view which Paul, as a Jew, probably once held himself; but he now develops it in a highly original way. He starts from a text taken from the same chapters of Genesis, 'Abraham put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness' (3) (15.6). But his interpretation is quite different from the usual Jewish one. He concentrates attention on the single expression, 'counted to'. This, he argues, would not be an appropriate word for the payment of wages that had been earned or of a reward that had been deserved. True, the verb itself, in Greek as in English, does not settle the matter. But it was a recognized technique among Jewish scholars to determine the meaning of a word in one place in Scripture by reference to its meaning in another place. So here: Paul quotes Psalm 32.1-2 (6) (David was assumed to be the author of all the psalms in the Old Testament), 'Happy is the man whose sins the Lord does not count against him' (7). In this text, the word "count" cannot mean "pay as a reward for certain acts". The subject is a sinner; yet he is happy (the Greek word is sometimes translated 'blest'). Clearly he cannot have earned this blessedness; what must have happened is that God, instead of "counting his sins against him" (which would be "counted" in the sense of "paid a just reward") counted to him as a favour (4) a happiness which he had certainly not deserved by any deeds of his own. And this gives the sense of counted (3) in the Genesis passage. Abraham had not done anything to deserve his righteousness: God had counted him righteous as a favour in response to his faith. The conclusion drawn from this passage by Paul is thus the exact opposite of that which was usually drawn by Jewish thinkers. It was not Abraham's acts of obedience, but only his faith, which made him the great prototype of all whom God counts righteous.
Secondly, Paul attacks the idea that it is necessary to be a physical descendant, or even a circumcised proselyte, in order to have Abraham as one's "father". Abraham's fatherhood must be understood (as some Jews already partly realized) not literally but metaphorically: he is the prototype of a particular kind of relationship with God, he is the father of all who have faith (11). This gives the key to a passage (Genesis 17.5) which had always given trouble to Jewish expositors: I have appointed you to be father of many nations (17). So long as fatherhood was understood literally 'in the natural line', this was bound to be a puzzling verse; it could only be taken to indicate a gracious extension of "sonship" to those Gentiles who became proselytes and received circumcision—that is, who followed Abraham in keeping the whole law. But if this "holding by the law" were the criterion for sonship, there would be no advantage in having Abraham for father; for, as has been shown already, law can bring only retribution (15): the fact that all break the law prevents those who hold by the law from being heirs (14), indeed they have the same status as everyone else: the only difference for the Gentiles is that, having no law, they cannot even recognize their transgressions as a breach of law (15). No, having Abraham as "father" is only of use if the fatherhood is understood metaphorically. He is father of all who have faith ... so that righteousness is 'counted' to them (11). Indeed it is arguable that Abraham's decisive act of faith took place when he was yet uncircumcised (12) precisely in order to demonstrate that he was the prototype for all, circumcised and uncircumcised alike.
Abraham's "faith" can be more sharply defined: it was faith in the power of God to perform a specific and seemingly impossible act (18-22), the birth of a son in their old age to Abraham and his wife Sarah (Genesis 15-18). The God in whom men must have faith is a god who does the seemingly impossible. He makes the dead live (17) (as in the resurrection of Christ), and he summons things that are not yet in existence as if they already were (as at the creation). Abraham's true "sons" arc those who have faith in a miraculous act: in God having raised Jesus our Lord from the dead (24). The significance of this act was already prefigured in the Old Testament: he was given up tlo death for our misdeeds (25) (an allusion to Isaiah 53.12); its newly revealed
Therefore, now that we have been justified through faith (1). So far the argument has moved on a somewhat theoretical plane. Paul's concern has been strictly theological: to show how it is possible to hold two apparently incompatible beliefs: (i) that God is just, (ii) that he does not condemn all men, even though 'there is no just man, not one'. He has been presenting his 'Gospel' as a newly revealed solution to this problem: 'Now God's justice has been brought to light' (3.21).
But now Paul passes from theological implications to practical consequences. The new status which is given to 'all who have faith' brings with it peace, hope, and an ability to undergo the test of persecution (4); and its reality is guaranteed by an experience which is evidently taken for granted in the churches to which Paul writes: that of the Holy Spirit (5).
How has Christ's death and resurrection procured such tremendous consequences for Christians? This act of God in Christ may perhaps be understood as comprising two stages. One stage is already completed: Christ died for the wicked (6). That one man's death could have consequences of this order was not an unintelligible idea. Innocent and pious men had been martyred for their faith in the course of Jewish history (particularly during the Maccabean wars in the early second century B.C.), and Jewish thinkers had begun to interpret their deaths as a vicarious sacrifice. These exceptional acts of heroism could be understood as being on behalf of others. But the beneficiaries, so to speak, of these sacrificial deaths were always thought of as the righteous people of God: those who by their own piety were trying to hasten the kingdom of God were assisted in their efforts by the heroism of certain of their forbears which would predispose God to act in favour of his people. In this sense (perhaps) there had been examples in Jewish history of the proposition that for a good man one might actually brave death (7). But Paul's argument has shown that there are no "good men". Christ's sacrificial death for others cannot be explained as an act of heroic piety enhancing the general piety of others: it is entirely isolated, it is for the wicked, for men who are yet sinners. The only possible explanation of it is that it was God's own proof of his love towards us (8). But if this is the true explanation, and God has indeed shown his love towards us, it follows that we have now been reconciled to God (10)—a new word, used in place of the forensic terms "justified", "made righteous". Moreover, we can now exult in God (11)—a word (in the Greek) with a touch of pride and confidence about it (it is translated 'pride' in 3.27): we can now be sure that God, instead of being inexorably severe to us in judgement, will be 'on our side' (8.31). All this has been effected by Christ's sacrificial death. It now belongs to the past; it is the first stage of God's act in Christ.
But this first stage is immediately followed by a second, which is not past but present, and which involves our response to what Christ has done for us. After having been reconciled by Christ's death, we shall be saved by his life (10)—a continuing process which transforms the life of the believer. More will be said about this second stage in the following chapters. The important point for the present is that the two stages cannot be separated.
To return to the first stage: Paul offers an interpretation of the historical event of Christ's death and resurrection in terms of the story of Adam. One is tempted to ask, did he think of this story as history or as myth? But this is probably not a fair question. A Jew would not have doubted for a moment that the opening chapters of Genesis contain a true record of creation; on the other hand, he would not have shared our interest in the science of history, and therefore would have been more interested in the meaning of the story than in its historicity. Moreover, a general, almost mythological, interest was already built into the story, in that in Hebrew the name Adam means "man", and so one finds, in Jewish literature of about the same period as Paul, generalized and almost psychological interpretations of the story, such as this one from the book known as the Apocalypse of Baruch: "Each of us has been the Adam of his own soul".
Paul's use of the story shows the same ambiguity—it is both a universal parable and a particular event in history. It is universal, in that through one man (Adam) sin entered the world (12); for the main current of Jewish teaching was not that Adam's physical nature had been changed after his disobedience, so that his descendants literally inherited sin and death from him (though it is possible Paul believed this, and his language in verse 12 has given rise to severe doctrines of "original sin"), but that in Adam could be seen the primal representative Man, whose sin was the sin of all humanity. To this extent, Adam was a timeless and universal figure of myth. But Adam was also a particular man of a particular time; he represented a particular stage, as it were, of man's history. Adam's sin was the first sin: the sin of disobedience. It was only later that the Law of Moses was given as a kind of paradigm of all possible cases of disobedience (Law intruded into this process to multiply law-breaking (20)). The function of the law was to mark a new stage in man's history by breaking down the sin of Adam into all its possible varieties. But Paul wishes to set "sin" in a wider context than that of actions prohibited by the Jewish law. He goes back to the first stage, the master-sin of Adam. Even in the early period from Adam to Moses (14), when the law had not yet: intruded (20) (a word by which Paul probably intends to relegate the law to a subordinate place in the sweep of his universal anthropology), all men were already the successors of Adam in that their lives were conditioned by sin (whatever its precise form) and terminated by death.
But the function of Adam in Paul's argument is not merely to explain sin, it is also to explain Christ. Adam (man) foreshadows the Man who was to come (14). If Adam is the type of every sinner, Christ is the type of the new humanity which God has "justified" despite its sin. This explanation leans towards the universal Adam of myth. But Christ is not in any sense myth: he is a particular person, the one man, Jesus Christ. And so, when the parallel between Adam and Christ is being worked out, Adam too is treated, like Jesus, as a particular historical figure, and the one misdeed (18) of the one can be compared with the one just act (or, perhaps better, the "act which rights the wrongs of others" and issues in a verdict of acquittal) of the other. So particular are the two events that a kind of arithmetical comparison is possible, showing the immense excess of God's grace which was needed to balance the equation.
And yet the whole force of this excursus into what, for us, is simply Jewish mythology lies not in its being reduced to particular events and figures of history, but in its universal application. "Adam" is man—all of us. The condemnation passed upon Adam resulted in his death. Because of all men's solidarity with Adam—Adam is all men—death established its reign (17). But the new Adam, the Man who was to come (14), is related to us in the same way. Christians have the same solidarity with Christ as mankind in general with Adam. With Christ they receive acquittal instead of condemnation, life instead of death. The way this solidarity is achieved is the subject of the next chapter.
It has been suggested that the act of God in Christ can be understood as comprising two stages: the first is already completed, and consists of the historical events of Christ's death and resurrection; the second follows from his continuing activity among men. To concentrate on the first of these stages at the expense of the second is to open the way to a serious misunderstanding. It is to suggest that the new status, which is acquired through faith in Christ, lays no moral obligations on the believer, that he will be "just" whatever he does, indeed that the more he sins the more striking a demonstration he will give of the "righteousness" of God who, despite everything, "justifies" him. It seems to lead to the shocking conclusion that a Christian may persist in sin, so that there may be all the more grace (1).
The charge that Paul's preaching was libertarian, and simply did away with the old moral restraints without providing any new ones, seems often to have been made during his lifetime; and indeed Paul laid himself open to it. He appeared to devalue the Jewish law, and yet not to put any new moral code in its place. It is true that his letters contain substantial sections devoted specifically to moral instruction; but even so, the emphasis is usually upon the reality of a Christian's new status before God, the freedom of the Christian life, and the fact that God gives freely (23), not in reward for conduct or actions of a particular kind, but solely in response to the believer's faith. It is easy to see how such a presentation could have been misconstrued, and Paul have been accused of encouraging Christians to persist in sin.
Paul here answers the charge. He has already tried to show that he is not devaluing the law ('we are placing law itself on a firmer footing', 3.31), and in any case the Christians have of course a moral code of their own. But the real answer lies in the fact that it is impossible to separate the two stages of salvation, the historical fact of "justification" from its present consequences. This can be vividly illustrated by the rite of baptism. Have you forgotten, Paul asks (3), referring to an experience all the Roman Christians will have had (or perhaps it is better to keep the literal meaning of the original, "Do you not know", for it is far from certain that they would ever before have thought of their baptism in quite this way)—have you forgotten that when we were baptized into (the NEB adds union with) Christ Jesus we were baptized into his death? The symbolism here would have needed no explanation. Baptism involved complete immersion: the new convert stepped down into the river or pool and the waters closed for a moment over his head. It was a ritual death: he died with Christ (8). This was the first stage of salvation. But, of course, you could not stop there! A second stage followed. The convert did not remain under water to drown, any more than Christ remained in the tomb. If we have become incorporate with him in a death like his, we shall also be one with him in a resurrection like his (5). The newly baptized emerged from the water to set his feet upon the new path of life (4). The second stage of salvation is present and continuing; it involves an "incorporation" with Christ who, living as he lives, ... lives to God (10). And this union with Christ lays a new ethical foundation for life.
The second stage of salvation, then, takes the form of a new kind of life for the Christian, in which deliberately committing sin makes no sense. We died to sin: how can we live in it any longer? (2) We might now express this change by saying that a person has been morally converted, he is psychologically different, and his former sinful way of life no longer holds any attraction for him. But to a person of Paul's background, a psychological analysis of this kind would not have seemed to do justice to the seriousness of man's moral predicament. Paul recognized the fact that there is an irrational element in moral conduct which leads a man to do wrong even when he clearly sees what is right and is determined, in principle, to adhere to it. To do justice to this irrational element in terms of moral philosophy or of a simple psychology is not easy; and many of Paul's contemporaries saw the issue, not as a matter of the psychological make-up of the individual, but as a struggle played out between objective forces of good and evil, lighting for control ol'ii man's personality. To put it crudely, it was as if a person sinned, not through some fault of his own, but because of some external force of evil working upon him.
Exactly how this struggle was thought of varied from one culture to another, and even within Judaism there were different views. One school imagined two conflicting impulses in man, another represented man as subject to a good and a bad "spirit". But all these approaches to the problem of moral failure had in common a tendency to personify moral concepts, and to think in terms, not of habits and dispositions, but of objective powers to which the personality is subject. There are clear examples of this tendency in the present passage. That Christ is never to die again (9) is a simple statement of fact. But this can be personified: he is no longer under the dominion of death, where the point could perhaps be brought out by writing Death with a capital letter. To say that a man will die is doubtless equivalent to saying that a man is under the dominion of Death; but the second formulation implies that there is a personified power, "death", which holds man in subjection. Similarly with sin. "Sin" means simply a certain kind of action. To be the slaves of sin (6) may be no more than a metaphor: certain kinds of conduct, if they become habitual, can "enslave" a person. But with a sentence like, Sin must no longer reign in your mortal body, exacting obedience to the body's desires (12), the language is no longer merely metaphorical: "sin" has become personified. It is an objective force working upon the moral life of the individual. It could now be spelt with a capital letter: Sin.
This tendency to think of external personified forces influencing a man's moral actions explains some of the language in which Paul has tried to express the consequences of Christ's death and man's participation in that death. By our solidarity with Christ, there is a sense in which we "die" (one might say, the man we once were dies, or the sinful self dies (6)); and this "death" affects our relationship with "Sin". A dead man is no longer answerable for his sin (7). This was a commonplace in Jewish thinking. Either "sin" was imagined in a law-court demanding his due, but once a man was dead and was no longer there to answer in court, sin got no redress; or, since death is the "wage" of sin, once this was paid there could be no further penalty. Either way, sin lost its power over men at the moment of death; and since Christians have died with Christ, they are now dead to sin (11) and are liberated from it.
To put it another way—a way which brings us closer to the argument that it is absurd to imagine that a Christian can persist in sin (1). Sin may be imagined, not as a claimant in a law-court, but as a king over the mortal body (12), as a master (16) to whom men are enslaved. Paul has established that all men are sinners, therefore all are slaves of sin. Once again death the ritual death undergone with Christ—liberates us from this master. The expression of sin's mastery was the law. Now that the slavery to sin is ended, the law ceases to be binding. But this was exactly the argument of Paul's critics. What was there instead of the law to control Christians' conduct? The answer lay in a consistent application of the same analysis of moral conduct. Man is not morally autonomous. His body is at the disposal (13) of whatever power is in control. If sin loses its mastery, some other power must take its place. For Christians, there could be no doubt what this power would be: put yourself at the disposal of God.
To a Jew, "putting oneself at the disposal of God" meant only one thing: observing the law. But Paul has shown that the law is an expression of the mastery of sin. Therefore Christians must have some other means of making sure that their conduct conforms to God's will. In fact, of course, they have a moral code of their own. Paul seems to be referring to such a code when he mentions a pattern of teaching (17). Precisely what it consisted of at this date we do not know. Presumably it was based partly on the ethical teaching of Jesus, and partly on existing moral standards. But it must certainly have been sufficiently specific and comprehensive to refute the charge that Christians, because they no longer observed the Law of Moses, were now living in a state of moral anarchy (19). By obeying this new pattern of teaching, they could acknowledge the control of God in their lives.
It follows, then, from this whole analysis of moral conduct that the act of God in Christ cannot consist merely in liberation from the mastery of sin. That stage must be followed by another. The mastery of sin gives place to a new mastery. A crude way of stating it would be that one has been freed from one slavery only in order to enter another. At least (it could be said) when you were slaves of sin, you were free from the control of righteousness (20). What was the gain of being freed from sin if it meant being bound (22) to a new service? The answer is obvious: it lies in the rewards attached to each; in the one case death, in the other eternal life (23).
Union with Christ, not only in a death like his, but in a resurrection like his (5)—this is the mechanism by which we achieve the status of "just" before God, this is the process which, since it embraces the two stages of salvation, issues in our being at the disposal of God, as dead men raised to life (13). This is Paul's answer to those who accuse him of abolishing the law, and, with the law, all moral standards. Through union with Christ, we are freed from the commands of sin; but equally, we are bound to the service of God (22).
Paul adds a further illustration of the way in which the death of Christ entails our liberation. A wife's legal duty to her husband is terminated by the husband's death. Similarly, a man's legal duty to observe the Jewish law is terminated by his own death (this was a familiar Jewish cliché); and a Christian, by being identified with the body of Christ (4), has "died", and has therefore had his legal duty terminated. In each case a death is necessary, and the result of that death is the possibility of a new relationship this is presumably the point of comparison, for in other respects Paul's example manifestly does not work out, and no amount of subtle interpretation will make it do so.
But this illustration raises again the awkward question, which recurs throughout the letter, of the continuing validity of the law. It was said earlier (6.2) that 'we died to sin'. It is said now that we have died to the law (4).Does this make the law identical with sin? (7) Paul has already had to make good the claims of the Mosaic law to be an authentic revelation of the justice of God (chapter 3). He has now to clarify the connection between law and sin, lest his argument should seem to lead him to the paradoxical conclusion that the law given by God has been wholly harmful in its effects.
That there is a connection between law and sin is admitted. Sinful passions are evoked by the law (5), in that except through law I should never have become acquainted with sin (7). For example—and two views are possible about what Paul's example consists of. One view is that he is referring to his own boyhood: the full obligations of the law were not laid upon a Jewish boy until he was thirteen years of age. There was a time (9) would then refer to those early years in which the law did not have to be fully observed. To that extent it could perhaps be said that a boy under thirteen was fully alive. But this explanation is somewhat forced. The other view, which seems more probable, is that the example depends, once again, upon the figure of Adam (who is all men, and so "I"). Between Adam and Moses there was a stage when the law did not yet exist: " I lived (on this view I was fully alive would not be a correct translation) in the absence of law". But the commandment of the Law of Moses, "Thou shalt not covet", was in fact already given to Adam in the particular form, "thou shalt not eat of the fruit of the tree".
Adam's reaction (and so "my" reaction) was to have all kinds of wrong desires (8) (literally the same word, "coveting"). Sin, this time personified as the serpent, found its opportunity (11) in this commandment and seduced me (in the person of Adam: a clear allusion to Genesis 3.13). Sin is therefore not "identical with law": law is merely the opportunity for sin. Thus Paul can still maintain that the law is good. It was sin that used a good thing to bring about my death (13).
The tendency to personify sin, which was already apparent in the previous chapter, now becomes explicit: it is no longer I who perform the action, but sin that lodges in me (17). Sin has become an independent source of action, an alter ego in conflict with my true self, and the next few verses passionately portray the symptoms of man's moral struggle in terms which are as comprehensible to modern psychology as they were to both Jews and Greeks in the ancient world. It is only the root cause of this struggle which is identified as a demonic entity named sin.
This sudden essay in psychology is not entirely unprepared. It follows upon a distinction, alluded to already in this chapter and worked out more fully in the next, which was widely accepted among Jews: the distinction between "flesh" (here translated my unspiritual nature (18) or our lower nature (5)) and spirit. This distinction was not a way of dividing up man into his component parts (like body and soul), but of defining the kind of motives, conduct and ambitions of which he is capable. "Flesh" covers the whole range of human conduct which is governed by merely selfish motives. Its propensities may be grossly sensual (such as fornication) or subtly emotional and intellectual (such as idolatry and party-intrigues: see the list in Galatians 5.19-21). It is man's lower nature in so far as it covers all that is purely human and that is in no way open to the influence of God. But its opposite is not a "higher (unselfish, altruistic) nature". Its opposite is spirit, which is the name for everything in man which responds to the Spirit of God. Spirit can be physical, or emotional, or intellectual. To be "spiritual" is simply to leave room in one's life for a response to the commands and initiatives of God. Now these two terms are distinct, but they are not themselves in conflict. They merely define the area in which a conflict might take place. Paul has to go further than this to find the protagonists in the struggle which he experiences within himself. On the one side, he suggests, is the "I" which is spiritual (i.e. which has responded, however imperfectly, to the promptings of God); and on the other is that power which seems so often to gain control of the rest of my nature: sin.
All this is characteristically Jewish psychology. Paul goes a little way towards translating it into terms which a Greek reader would find easier to understand. He allows that the "spiritual nature" is roughly equivalent to the inmost self which is the place of reason (22); whereas the principle of the " flesh" can be expressed as the law that is in my members (23). To this extent, the conflict can be put in terms familiar to Greek-speaking readers, as between the reason and the unreasonable impulses of the body. But Paul does not linger in this terminology; for the Jewish way of seeing the matter is essential when it comes to understanding the Spirit of God (chapter 8).
It seems to follow from the whole run of the chapter that Paul here uses the first person as a way of describing the general condition of men: "I" is every man. But there can be little doubt that Paul is also writing from experience. Every man's struggle is Paul's own struggle. It has often been felt (hat this creates a difficulty. The analysis (it is said) is appropriate enough in general, but not to a converted Christian, who has surely been liberated from this body doomed to death (24). Therefore, if Paul is offering us autobiography, it must belong to his experience before his conversion; he would describe his present state quite differently. The difficulty is to reconcile this view with the last sentence of the chapter, I ... am yet ... a slave to the law of sin (25), and critics have been led to suggest that this sentence must have been displaced in the manuscripts Irom its corrcct position a few lines higher. But this is an arbitrary solution It is hotter to recognize (lor it is consistent both
with Christian experience and with Paul's argument) that a continuing moral conflict is a part even of the liberated life of the Christian. Paul had reason for uttering the warning, 'so sin must no longer reign in your mortal body' (6.12). It is not the reality of the struggle, but its consequences, which have been changed. And this change is fully momentous enough to warrant the exclamation, Thanks be to God!
The conclusion of the matter is this. This phrase stands for two Greek particles, which serve to mark the point which the argument has reached: it can now be taken as agreed that there is no condemnation for those who are united with Christ Jesus (1). The fact is established; but how has it happened? So far, two explanations have been given: one drawn from mythology (solidarity with Adam superseded by solidarity with Christ: chapter 5), and one from the rite of baptism ("dying" to sin in Christ: chapter 6). A third explanation is now offered on the basis of the distinction, made in the last chapter, between 'spirit' and 'lower nature' ("flesh"): in Christ Jesus the life-giving law of the Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death (2). A new kind of living is the result, and indeed the proof, of our justification.
This is not to say that, by choosing to live in a certain way, we are able to procure our justification. To think this would be to forget the first stage of salvation, the fact that it was God who took the initiative by sending his own Son (3). It is true that we benefit from this act of God in so far as, by faith, we become united with Christ Jesus (1). But our faith is only the subjective side of our salvation; the matter still has an objective side to it. Quite independently of us and our response, something has been done for us by God.
Precisely what God did, and how God's deed affects mankind, is not easily said in a single sentence. Previously, Paul has made use of metaphors from the Jewish sacrificial system (3.21-6). He does the same here. Jesus was sent as a sacrifice for sin(3)—which is probablyan allusion to the Old Testament "sin offerings" that were offered to expiate inadvertent transgressions of the law (Leviticus 4). Further, he was sent in a form like that of our own sinful nature. The effect of this (if we may apply the argument that is worked out in Galatians 3) was to undermine the authority of sin—and here, once again, "sin" becomes an independent personification of the powers of evil. Until then, sin had invariably dragged the lower nature with it into death and condemnation. Its claim on the lower nature, never having been contested, could be regarded as legally established. But now, by raising Christ from the dead, God has given a decisive demonstration that condemnation and death are not the inevitable verdict and sentence passed on the descendants of Adam. By this one great exception, the hitherto uncontested claim of sin has been shown to be groundless: God has passed judgement against sin (3). And this reverses our whole situation, even our relationship to the law. Before, our lower nature, being governed by sin, made it impossible for us to obey the law, and so the law could do us no good: our lower nature robbed it of all potency. But now the claim of sin that it could always bring us into condemnation has been disposed of, and the law can become, what it always was potentially, a means of promoting right conduct in us and so of securing our acquittal; so that the commandment of the law may find fulfilment in us (4).
The nature of the Christian's 'union with Christ' may now be more precisely defined in terms of the distinction made earlier between 'spirit' and 'lower nature'. The NEB here makes use of modern idioms such as level and outlook (5); but it is important to bear in mind the meaning of the original Jewish distinction. It is not a question of the 'lower nature' as contrasted with a "higher" one; it is a matter of whether a man's horizon is entirely limited by his own interests, or whether he is open to the influence of God. And now that the possibility of being influenced by God is so enormously enhanced by 'union with Christ' (or: Christ ... dwelling within you (10)), the 'level of the spirit' becomes all-important. A Christian's whole life is now lived on this level, because it is here that union with Christ takes effect. Or, to put it less subjectively, when you are on that level, God's Spirit dwells within you (9). And conversely, if a man does not possess the Spirit of Christ, he is no Christian.
Christ ... dwelling within you (10) is more than a metaphor. If we are now directed by the Spirit (4), this is not a case of remote control. A new power is now master within us, and this within the visible and tangible "us": our body. Christianity is not "spiritual" in the sense of involving only a part of us. It involves the whole of our body, that is, the whole of ourselves; in our wholeness, we can either live on the level of our lower nature (in which case the body follows its natural bent, its base pursuits (13)) or of the spirit. And this body of ours, which can become a dead thing through sin (10), can equally, by the indwelling Spirit, receive new life (11).
The Roman Christians did not have to be told to believe in the Spirit; they had experienced it, and not least when they prayed. In Aramaic, Abba (15) was an intimate and familiar way of saying "father". It would normally have seemed quite unnatural to address God in this way. God is too great to be treated with such familiarity. The most a Jew would allow himself was the somewhat less personal and proprietary form, "Our Father". But the Christians, when they prayed, found themselves crying Abba. They would hardly have done this of their own accord: it must therefore have been the Spirit which inspired them to do so. And the Spirit would only have inspired them to do this if it was correct i.e. if God really were the Father of each one of them, and they his sons. Now in Jewish law a man could always adopt a son simply by calling him "my son". In this sense, the Spirit makes us sons. (Paul here uses the technical Greek word for adoption.) If we can correctly call God "father" (and the Spirit assures us we can), God must have called us (and adopted us as) his "sons".
The cry Abba was uttered by Jesus himself in a moment of suffering (Mark 14.36). It can be uttered by us, but only under the same condition: if we share his sufferings (17). Not that Paul needed to bid Christians of that time to go out and look for sufferings. They had enough in the sufferings we now endure (18). But these sufferings are transformed by hope, hope of what is in store for us (19). There is a splendour to come, as yet unrevealed, which will transfigure not only ourselves (revealing us as God's sons), but the universe itself (20). The writer of the Adam story in Genesis painted on a large canvas; not only the condition of mankind, but the evident disharmony of nature itself, was the result of Adam's sin: "Cursed is the ground because of you" (Gen. 3.17). And the concomitant of the ultimate union of Adam-humanity with Christ will be the restoration of the whole universe to its intended splendour. This is the scale of the Christians' hope, the majestic context in which we are called to show our endurance (25).
For we have been saved, though only in hope (24). "Though only" is an addition by the translators, making Christian salvation sound somewhat remote and hypothetical. What Paul is saying here is that, however great the benefits which a believer enjoys already from the act of God in Christ, there is a greater future still to come. Consequently, one of the distinctive marks of Christian living is hope. Now anyone who lives in hope is looking forward to a future more glorious than the present; the present is at most a shadow of what is to come. We are not yet fully God's sons, our whole body (23) is not yet fully set free from the dominion of sin. This condition, along with the sufferings and persecutions which inevitably beset the very existence of a Christian community, calls for endurance (25). But this endurance is made easy by the Christian hope.
For we do not merely live in hope. The Spirit is already experienced as a present reality, as firstfruits of the harvest to come (23). If a further example of this experience is needed, it is the miraculous subvention given to those whose very weakness paralyses their prayer. Indeed, the Spirit in everything ... co-operates for good with those who love God (28).But this is not the result of their loving God. Once again, the initiative is God's. God knew his own before ever they were (29). Logically, this has a negative side: those whom God did not know as his own are presumably without hope. But possibly Paul is not thinking of this logical corollary here. His words may be intended simply to guard against any suggestion that the initiative is ours and not God's. The emphasis is all on the believer's union with Christ, which can now be expressed in yet another way: if we have been "adopted" as God's sons, we have been shaped to the likeness of his Son (29), and our union with him is that of brothers among a large family (30). All this splendour flows from that first moment of our salvation, when God justified us.
With all this in mind (31). The whole section ends with a direct application of theology to life. If God has done all this for us, what, even in the difficult situation of the Roman Christians, can any longer cause alarm? It is God who pronounces acquittal (33): there is no authority in heaven or earth that 33 can reverse this verdict. Christ ... pleads our cause (34); with such an advocate (this is a new metaphor) we are safe in any court. In the words of a psalm (44.22), we are being done to death for thy sake all day long (36): the persecution we receive identifies us with the long line of righteous sufferers who fill the pages of Scripture. But these sufferers could merely hope; now, overwhelming victory is ours(37)—not only over the persecution of men, but over the psychic and inhuman forces of the universe, over the heights and depths (39) of astrology, metaphysics, and popular superstition.
The Gospel according to Paul has now been stated: salvation is for all, through faith in Christ,' quite independently of law'. But it was one thing to state this magnificent impartiality of God as a theoretical proposition of theology; it was quite another to bring the matter down to a personal level and admit that it involved a moral and spiritual condemnation of one's natural kinsfolk (3). Yet this, from the Jewish point of view, was the inevitable implication of the universal Gospel of Christ; and Paul, personally caught in the logic of his own argument, makes no attempt to hide his feelings: in my heart there is great grief and unceasing sorrow (2). What had become of the divine promises made to the Jews? 'Has God rejected his people?' In the short term, the problem was insoluble, and the anguish remained. But in the larger context of world history, an answer might yet be found. Hence the translators' heading for the next three chapters, The purpose of God in history.
The list of the Jews' privileges (verses 4-5) is impressive: they had all the riches of the Old Testament; they had the promises once made to their own people; and they had the continuing institutions of their religion. Not only that, but the patriarchs themselves (5), so it was believed, had by their impeccable obedience built up a balance of credit with God on which their physical descendants could still draw; and now it was one of themselves whom God had appointed to fulfil that rôle of world saviour which for several centuries they had associated with the title Messiah (Christ). Rich indeed was this inheritance—and Paul breaks off to utter, like any good Jew, his recognition of the goodness of God. May God, supreme above all, be blessed for ever! Amen. (5)
Yet the Jews had rejected their own Messiah, and salvation had gone elsewhere. What then had gone wrong? Had God gone back on his promises? Was the glory and the privilege an illusion all the time? Was the Old Testament a fraud? No, this was inconceivable: it is impossible that the word of God should have proved false (6). And indeed one way out of the difficulty was suggested by Scripture itself.
Not all descendants of Israel are truly Israel (7). Paul has already shown himself ready to make a distinction on general grounds between 'true Jews' and those who are Jews only 'in externals' (2.28-9). He now invokes the narrative of Genesis to prove that mere physical descent from Abraham was not a sufficient condition for claiming the name of Jew. Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. But the Ishmaelites were not true Jews (even though Ishmael was Isaac's elder brother). Only the descendants of Isaac were reckoned as Abraham's descendants (8). And since Isaac was a child of promise (for Sarah was past the age of child-bearing, and God had to intervene, with the promise of a miracle, before she could give birth to Isaac—Genesis 18.14), the principle of promise, rather than natural genealogy, was introduced into the Jewish race from the start.
However this argument was a little precarious. Ishmael's mother was a slave-girl (Hagar), and this in itself was a good enough reason for declaring her offspring not to be "truly Israel", as compared with that of Abraham's free-born wife Sarah. A better example was furnished by the next generation. Isaac and Rebekah had two children (who were in fact twins), yet only one of them, Jacob, was regarded as a Jewish patriarch (Genesis 25). The other, Esau, was hated by God (13), and the Edomites (his presumed descendants) duly became the object of centuries of Jewish hatred. This second example was decisive proof that God's purpose (11) did not work through the ordinary laws of heredity, but was selective.
But this last example, if it proved the point in question, opened up new problems. If God could choose one of a pair of twins and reject the other, even before they were born (12), one must ask: does God abide by any principle, or is he entirely capricious? Is God to be charged with injustice? (14) The answer to this is twofold. The key to God's purpose is not caprice but mercy. God singles out men (and nations) on whom he will show mercy (15) (Exodus 33.19), and this singling out inevitably appears unjust and capricious to those who are not so singled out, but are used as the necessary villains, so to speak, in the drama of God's merciful purposes. An example is Pharaoh, whom God deliberately made stubborn (18) (Exodus 9.12,16) in the interests of a greater design.
A second answer is also possible, one that is aimed especially at anyone who feels that this apparent capriciousness of God undermines all moral responsibility. This answer received its classic expression in the prophets (Isaiah 29.16; 45.9; Jeremiah 18.6): the creator, like the potter, can do what he likes with his creatures; it is not for them to call him unjust, for only he, and not they, know the purpose for which he created them. But Paul does not develop this somewhat obscurantist conception; he merely uses the metaphor in order to take his previous answer a little further. God's mercy does not always take the form of an immediate action: it may be worked out over a long period and with far-reaching and splendid consequences, which can even result in a "very patient toleration" of those who have been assigned parts as villains of the piece, those vessels ... due for destruction (22).
The metaphor also serves to lead back into the point at issue. God's purpose is selective, and the principle of his selection is mercy; and these propositions, having been demonstrated from the Old Testament, are now applied to the case of the Christian church: such vessels are we (24). Two verses of Hosea (25-6) (2.23; 1.10), which originally expressed God's changing judgement on the people of Israel, are quoted (as they are in 1 Peter 2.10) to the advantage of gentile Christianity: God's selective purpose has now embraced men whom he has called from among Gentiles (24); and that tiny minority of the Jewish race which has also entered the church appears to give effect to the important principle to be found in Isaiah, that God's purpose will be achieved even if only a remnant shall be saved (27) (Isaiah 10.20-2).
From the Jewish point of view, this selection of the Gentiles could hardly be expected to make sense. It was they, the Jews, who had made great efforts after a law of righteousness (31); and they had noticed the apparent lack of moral effort on the part of the Gentiles. But they had made the fatal mistake of supposing that their end could be attained by virtue of these efforts alone; that (in their own theological language) salvation could be obtained by deeds (32). They had failed to reckon with the one essential element in the quest for a relationship with a just and merciful God: faith. Their attitude, in fact, was well illustrated by a composite image which the early church built up from two passages of Isaiah (28.16; 8.14—the same combination occurs in 1 Peter 2.6). A piece of masonry, left lying on the ground by the builders, may seem at first sight to lie no more than an obstacle to stumble over; looked at more closely, it may be recognized as the stone which will one day crown the whole structure, the 'main cornerstone'.
God is just and God is selective. These apparently incompatible propositions have now been reconciled, in that God's selectivity has been shown to be determined, not by caprice, but by that side of God's righteousness which is his mercy. It must now be asked, is there no way in which this merciful treatment may be earned?
One obvious way of earning it would seem to be religious zeal, and this the Jews had in abundance. To their zeal for God I can testify (2). However, their zeal for God had turned into a zeal for correct observance of the law, in the belief that such observance would be a way of righteousness (3), i.e. a means of establishing a relationship with God. The uselessness of this way has already been sufficiently demonstrated. But there is a further point: Christ ends the law (4). This phrase deliberately exploits the ambiguity of the word "end" (telos). Christ puts a temporal end to the law, in that he opens a new era in which observance of the law is no longer the decisive criterion. But he also brings law to its destined "end"—that is, he fulfils the law—in that he has dethroned the power (" sin ") which' robbed the law of all potency' (8.3). From now on, that which brings righteousness is not observance but faith.
The difference between observance and faith can be illustrated by a contrast latent in the Old Testament itself. Compare Leviticus (18.5), 'The man who does this shall gain life by it' (5) (where the emphasis is on "doing"), with Deuteronomy 30.11-14,
"The commandment which I lay on you this day is not too difficult for you, it is not too remote. It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who will go up to heaven for us ... nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who will cross the sea for us to fetch it and tell it to us? ... but the word is near you: it is upon your lips and in your heart."
There is at least a hint here that something is given to men before ever they start "doing" anything; and Paul adapts this passage to the Christian experience. The appearance of the Son of God on earth is something which has happened: no effort is needed on our part to bring Christ down (6). The resurrection has happened: there is no action we have to take to bring Christ up from the dead (7). All that matters is the word of faith on the lips and in the heart (8), the confession (9) (as it might be, when on trial as a Christian) that 'Jesus is Lord'. This word of faith is something utterly different from the long and exacting discipline of " doing" the law. Yet it guarantees that one will be saved from shame (11) (a phrase from Isaiah 28.16, meaning that one will not be put hopelessly to shame when confronted with God's righteousness)—and it is a possibility for everyone. What had been enunciated as a general principle by the prophet Joel (2.32)—everyone who invokes the name of the Lord will be saved (13)—now has a new and startling meaning: the word Lord in the Old Testament often conceals a reference (so the first Christians took it) to the Lord Jesus Christ. So here: everyone who invokes the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. There is no distinction between Jew and Greek (12).
In verse 14 Paul appears to meet, somewhat abruptly, a possible objection. It might be said that the Jews—perhaps it was true of the majority of the Jews in Rome—have had no chance to hear the Gospel. There may have been no one to spread the news (15) (almost a technical term, in the Greek, for preaching the Gospel); or, if there has, he may have seemed to the Jews to lack the authority of a proper commission, such as would be given to one of their own number by a formal act of the authorities in Jerusalem. But (to take the last point first) there is evidence in Scripture (Isaiah 52.7) that those who bring good news (15) authenticate themselves (their feet are welcome or "beautiful"); and to answer the first point, Psalm 19.4 ('Their voice has sounded over all the earth ...' (18)) can be taken as a prophecy that the outreach of the gospel-preaching is to be universal: the Jews must have heard it (or at any rate they soon will have). The fact is, not that they have not heard, but that not all have responded to the good news (16). And this failure to respond, with its threatening consequence that salvation may go to others, is foreshadowed in many passages of Scripture. Paul quotes three: Isaiah 53.1; Deuteronomy 32.21; and Isaiah 65.1-2 (19-21).
I ask then, has God rejected his people? (1) The argument of these chapters ould seem to entail that he has. But at this Paul recoils. I cannot believe it!—the phrase ("God forbid!" in older versions) occurs again in verse u (Far from it!) and above at 3.6 and 3.31 (it is translated differently each time in NEB): it is one which Paul uses to repel what he feels to be an outrageous conclusion. And in fact there were two ways out of the difficulty. One has already been alluded to (9.24-9): the biblical doctrine that so long as a 'remnant' (5) of faithful people continued to exist, God's promises to the Jewish people could still be fulfilled even if the majority had shown themselves unworthy. This doctrine was illustrated by the story of Elijah (2) (1 Kings 19): it made no difference if the entire nation seemed to have gone after false gods, so long as there were seven thousand men left who were still faithful (4). The principle now had a new application. God had not rejected his people (1), since a tiny 'remnant' of them (5) had accepted Jesus Christ—among whom was Paul (I am an Israelite myself (1)). But this remnant, unlike the previous "remnants" in Jewish history, was selected by the grace of God (5). It had done nothing to deserve its selection; it must not be imagined that the salvation of this selected few (7)had been earned by the merits and deeds of the Jewish people (6). This would be entirely contrary to Paul's Gospel: grace would cease to be grace.
But this "remnant" explanation accounted only for that small number of Jews who, like Paul, had become Christians. The question still remained, what of all the rest? It was true (as has been shown earlier) that any doctrine of the divine selection of some necessarily implied the rejection of others; and there were abundant prophecies in Scripture of the fate in store for those who were made blind to the truth (7) (Paul quotes two: Isaiah 29.10 and Psalm 69.22-3). But Paul was still not disposed to accept that the failure of all except a small remnant meant the complete downfall (11) of the rest of the Jewish people. Because they offended, salvation has come to the Gentiles; it was true that the universal scope of the Gospel might never have been grasped had it not been thrown out by the exclusive religious system of the Jews. But this need not be the end of the matter. A chain reaction had been set up, and this would ultimately impinge again on the Jewish nation which, despite itself, had started it. The effect of gentile Christianity would be to stir Israel to emulation; and the result of this would eventually be their coming to full strength (12).
This line of thought suggested a second explanation; and possibly Paul was constrained to put it forward, not merely by his natural feelings, but by a patronizing and complacent attitude that had been taken up by the gentile Christians over against the Jewish community. Therefore he addressed his second answer specifically to them. I have something to say to you Gentiles (13).
This answer depended upon taking a long enough view of history. It was only in the short term that it appeared that salvation had simply passed from Jews to non-Jews. In the long term, it was impossible to suppose that anything had changed in the destiny of God's chosen people. Of another people it might be said simply that their history had a brilliant beginning, but that it all came to nothing. But the early history of Israel was of a different order. The faith of the patriarchs (28) was such that, in that one small area of human history, God could be said to have treated men as truly his friends. This was no ordinary beginning. Just as it was believed that an offering from the first portion of dough (16) made holy all the bread that was eaten (Numbers 15.18-19), and that a tree, once consecrated, does not have to be reconsecrated each time a new branch grows, but that if the root is consecrated, so are the branches, so the evident sanctification of the generation of the patriarchs guaranteed the divinely appointed destiny of their descendants. The gracious gifts of God and his calling (29), so unambiguously bestowed upon a particular race of men, were irrevocable. The answer must be that the present rejection of Israel—the treating of them as God's enemies (28) instead of his friends—was temporary. It was merely the preparation for their acceptance (15) in the future, even if (when Paul wrote) this prospect seemed to demand an intervention by God no less miraculous than that of bringing life from the dead.
In such a perspective, both Paul's own work and the status of his gentile converts could no longer be understood as ends in themselves. Paul knew
himself to be a missionary to the Gentiles (13). But it was only when his work had the effect of stirring emulation in the Jews (14) and so hastening the time when the whole Jewish race would be saved that he gave full honour to that ministry (13). As for his gentile converts, their situation had an analogy in nature. The normal growth of a wild olive tree can be altered by grafting in shoots from a cultivated olive, so that the tree begins to bear fruit. The Gentiles were in this situation: they had been grafted in (17) among the branches of the parent tree, and they must not imagine that they could either be independent of that tree or feel superior to it. Moreover, if the analogy were pressed, it became another vivid parable of God's gracious treatment of them. The grafting had been against all nature (24): wild olive shoots had been grafted into the cultivated olive, instead of the other way round! Against all expectation, and entirely owing to the merciful selection of God, the Gentiles had been given an essential part to play in the ultimate sancti-fication of Israel. The moral for them, whenever they were tempted to scorn their unconverted Jewish neighbours, was clear enough: put away your pride (20).
There is a deep truth here (25) (literally, "a mystery") which can only be plumbed by considering the whole sweep of history. First—one recalls Jesus' words, Mark 13.10—the Gospel has to be preached to all the world, the Gentiles have to be admitted in full strength (26). Then—though only then—the whole of Israel will be saved. This is the ultimate answer to the agonizing question with which Paul started. But it also provides striking confirmation of Paul's understanding of God's dealings with men. Had the Jewish people, instead of rejecting the Gospel, calmly accepted it, it might have appeared as if their salvation still depended on their own privileged history. But their present phase of disobedience (31) showed that when they ultimately came to receive mercy they would receive it on exactly the same basis as the Gentiles, as a free and gracious gift. In this way only would those ancient prophecies be fulfilled which appeared to predict the coming of a Messiah who would deliver and purify the people of Israel: 'From Zion shall come the Deliverer' (26) (Isaiah 59.20-1).
Paul has reached the end of his argument: and he breaks off once again (as he did in 1.25) with a brief hymn of praise (33-6 ), for which most of the material can be found in the Old Testament (especially Isaiah 40.13). At the end of this hymn, his hearers will doubtless have responded, Amen (36).
The last main section of the letter follows not so much on the previous one as upon the main argument which reached its climax in chapter 8. Man's salvation has been procured by the act of God in Jesus Christ; but there is still a response required from the believer, before that salvation can become effectual. In chapter 6, this response was described in terms of continuing solidarity with the risen Christ. Here, it is presented under the metaphor of a living sacrifice (1)—not the old ritual sacrifices of the Jewish temple, but the worship offered by mind and heart, a total dedication of one's very self, involving a moral and intellectual transformation, and a new capacity to discern the will of God (2). This section on Christian behaviour is logically entailed by Paul's analysis of salvation. And so he begins, Therefore, my brothers ...
The chapter consists of specific moral instructions, delivered with that particular authority which Paul believed he possessed by virtue of his apostleship (the gift that God in his grace has given me (3)). Some of these instructions were evoked by the special needs of the Christian church. We know from 1 Corinthians 12 how the 'gifts of the Spirit' (some of them newly inspired, others a new intensification of existing talents), though they were one of the marks of an authentic church, tended to lead to rivalry and disorder. In his first letter to Corinth, Paul had worked out his answer (which is only hinted at here) in terms of being united with Christ to form one body (5). The gifts are to be exercised in the service of all; there is no superiority of one over another; the only criterion of an individual's worth is the measure of faith that God has dealt to each (3). It makes no difference if some of the 'gifts' are obviously God-given, like the gift of inspired utterance (6), while others belong to the routine of life, like diakonia (here
somewhat misleadingly translated administration (7): it means anything from technical Christian "deaconship" to specific services performed by some members of the community for others). Whatever they are, they must be exercised single-mindedly, without pretension.
But by no means all these sentences express a uniquely Christian insight. Four of them can be found in the Old Testament; three of these (16-19) are in Proverbs (Care as much about each other as about yourselves: 3.7; Let your aims be such as all men count honourable: 3.4; If your enemy is hungry ... : 25.21), and the fourth (Justice is mine ...) in Deuteronomy (32.35). The church did not create an entirely new moral code: it endorsed much that was already well known to both Greeks and Jews. The second half of this chapter is a Christian variation on a theme which Paul's readers, whatever their background, must have heard many times before.
Continuing to propound his code of behaviour, Paul turns to relationships
with the world outside the Christian community. Every person must submit to the supreme authorities (1). Had the Roman Christians been particularly unruly or uncooperative? Or was civil obedience simply one of the standard sub-headings of the Christian moral code? We do not know. But there is no reason to doubt that, until at least the persecution of Nero some 15 years after the date of this letter, the Roman administration had done nothing which would particularly antagonize the Christians; indeed, at this period the main adversary was usually the local Jewish community, and the narrative of Acts shows the Christians often invoking the protection of the Roman government against Jewish attacks. So Paul, somewhat in the manner of a Stoic philosopher, argues that the authority of the state is a divine institution (2). We do not know how many Jews would have shared his opinion. Philo of Alexandria would probably have been prepared to do so; but inevitably the Jews we hear about most are those who (especially inside Palestine) fanatically opposed the Roman regime. The evidence of the New Testament and of early Christian literature shows consistently that the Christians were deliberately law-abiding; and we observe that Paul takes it for granted that the Roman Christians pay taxes—an aspect of civil obedience towards which their attitude may well have been modelled on that of Jesus himself (Mark 12.13-17).
Obligations towards the state lead into obligations towards society in general: one's neighbour (8). It was a well-known speculation of learned Jews, how the law could be summed up (9). Jesus, we know, took part in this speculation, and reached his own conclusion: love of God, and love of neighbour. Paul, in this context of social behaviour, quotes only the second part of this. All law, so far as it affects society, can be summed up in the one rule, 'Love your neighbour as yourself'. If he had wished to summarize the whole of the Ten Commandments, he would doubtless have added "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God".
All this moral admonition has proceeded logically from the argument of chapters 5-8. For good measure, Paul adds a motive for good conduct which was doubtless (as it has been ever since) a more commonplace one in the church than Paul's highly sophisticated reasoning: the nearness of the End. It is far on in the night; day is near (12). One might have expected the urgency of this challenge to have decreased as the years passed; yet throughout the New Testament period the same call is sounded again and again: "The end is at hand ... therefore be sober and alert". Paul is here adopting one of the distinctive notes of Christian moral teaching. Nevertheless, at the end of the chapter he returns to his deeper argument: Let Christ Jesus himself be the armour that you wear (14)—literally, "Put on Jesus, the Christ", which is more than a metaphor: it recalls the language of Christian baptism (Galatians 3.27), a rite which (as has been shown in chapter 6) carries profound ethical consequences.
There were numerous potential sources of friction in a mixed Jewish-gentile community. In particular, full table-fellowship was hard to achieve. A Jewish Christian might now find himself sitting down at table with non-Jews whose meat would certainly not have been slaughtered in the correct Jewish fashion (it might even be pork!). Moreover there was always the danger, for both parties, that any meat bought in the market might be part of an animal which had been sacrificed to a pagan god—and many found it difficult not to feel somehow implicated in pagan worship if this were the case (see below on 1 Corinthians 8). Some members of the community (doubtless mainly Jews) seem to have resolved the difficulty by becoming vegetarians and abstaining from meat altogether, unable to put their consciences or their deeply inbred prejudices to rest in any other way; whereas those who had faith enough (2) (doubtless mainly Gentiles, though some Jews may have come to share Paul's indifference to these matters) ate all kinds of food. And similar scruples—or perhaps plain asceticism—seem to have led to different views about drinking wine (21).
A further complication was the observance of religious festivals. One of the main characteristics of a Jewish community, and one of the first things demanded of any Gentile who wished to be associated with it, was the observance of certain days—that is to say, the Sabbath and certain annual festivals. Simply by becoming a Christian, a Jew did not necessarily feel himself to be released from such observances; on the other hand, he could no longer regard them as a matter of mechanical obligation. Rather, everyone should have reached conviction in his own mind (5). The problem was, how could a Jew who conscientiously felt it right to continue such observances live peaceably within a Christian community in fellowship with non-Jews who recognized no such observances?
It seems that the more emancipated section of the community were showing impatience towards those who (in their eyes at least) were weaker (2), that is, more scrupulous. In principle, Paul was perfectly prepared to agree with them. I am absolutely convinced, as a Christian, that nothing is impure in itself (14): this was a Christian conviction which probably went back to Jesus himself (Mark 7.17-23)
(vi) Finally, an example has been given us by Christ, who did not consider himself (3). Christ's whole tenor of life fulfilled a pattern adumbrated in such passages of the Old Testament as Psalm 69.9, 'The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell upon me'. The righteous sufferer of that psalm, in his agonized complaint to God, found that even his religion was being held against him by his enemies. These words had come true with startling accuracy in the story of Christ. Such a notable fulfilment of one prophecy (and of the many others which seemed to prefigure the events of Christ's life) could only mean that all the other promises contained in Scripture would shortly be fulfilled. This was the source of a Christian's encouragement (5) when he studied the Old Testament, this was one of the grounds of his fortitude (4).
But in so far as all these problems sprang from the basic difficulty of Jews and non-Jews accepting one another as religious equals and living in a single community without prejudice, the ultimate solution could only be found on I he level of the main argument of the letter. Part of the work of Christ was to maintain the truth of God by making good his promises to the patriarchs—the Jews were not to be abandoned (chapters 9-11); but at the same time to give the Gentiles cause to glorify God for his mercy (9) by giving them a promise of salvation 'quite independently of the law' (chapters
1-4). It was the old vision come true: Gentiles, make merry together with his own people (11) (Deuteronomy 32.43; Paul goes on to quote Psalm 18.49; 117.1; Isaiah 11.1,10 (12)). The greatest spur to agreeing in lesser matters was the great purpose that God was working out for both peoples together. In a word, accept one another as Christ accepted us (7).
My friends (14). The letter suddenly becomes personal. Paul is evidently aware that he may have used more forceful language than would be warranted by the real state of affairs at Rome. I have written to refresh your memory (15)—the sentence sounds deliberately apologetic. Of course the Christians at Rome were people well able to give advice to one another (14); but Paul, in virtue of the gift I have from God (15), was able to speak to them with an authority which none of them could claim for themselves; and moreover, this apostleship of his, with its special commission to the Gentiles, made it peculiarly incumbent on him to address himself to the problems of churches with a substantial gentile membership.
No one, after having read the narrative in Acts, would question the statement that Paul's apostleship had been exercised by word and deed, by the force of miraculous signs and by the power of the Holy Spirit (19). But what of the next sentence? From Jerusalem as far round as Illyricum. The part of the world in fact covered by Paul's preaching (so far as we know from Acts and from his own letters) can be seen on the map. Jerusalem (which he had visited several times since his conversion) and Illyricum represent the geographical limits of his work; but in what sense, after merely having evangelized a few cities and territories in the intervening area, could he be said to have completed the preaching of the gospel, so much so that he had no further scope in these parts (23)? Not, clearly, in an exhaustive geographical sense. The explanation is probably more theoretical. Jesus had said that 'before the end the Gospel must be proclaimed to all nations' (Mark 13.10). Yet in the first century the end was expected quite soon; therefore the proclamation to all nations must have been understood somewhat symbolically: so long as there had been some preaching in each province of the empire, Jesus' prophecy would be deemed to have been fulfilled. Paul may even have thought that the completion of his own preaching at representative points throughout the civilized world would help to bring about the end—hence his determination to reach Spain, which was regarded as the westernmost part of the world (though there is no certain evidence that he ever succeeded in doing so). In any case, I have completed the preaching of the gospel (19) is probably intended less as a claim to have covered a continent than as a statement that his work had advanced the world-wide progress of the gospel as far round as Illyricum. Paul had never felt it to be his task to build on another man's foundation (20). The pattern of his own pioneering work was laid down for him in a prophecy of Isaiah (52.15) which Paul clearly felt was being fulfilled each time he brought the Gospel to a place where it had not been heard before.
But meanwhile he had to complete a task which had occupied him for some years: the raising of money for the poor among God's people at Jerusalem (26). On this collection, which is mentioned in most of Paul's letters, see especially below on 2 Corinthians 8. It seems that by the time Romans was written the collection had reached a point at which Paul could make plans to deliver the proceeds to Jerusalem in person (which is what the rather puzzling expression under my own seal (28) must amount to).
The last paragraph of the section throws a little light on Paul's relations with Jerusalem. The later part of Acts makes it clear that Paul had much to fear from unbelievers in Judaea (31); but he evidently felt some anxiety also about his reception by the Jerusalem church.
Letters of commendation were as common in the ancient world as they are now. Paul here commends a certain Phoebe, who holds office (1)—that is, she is a diakonos, a word which may already be a technical term, meaning in this case "deaconess" (though (he existence of deaconesses at this early period cannot be proved), or may simply be a way of saying that she has given of her time and money in the service of the congregation at Cenchreae (the port on the east side of the isthmus of Corinth).
Paul proceeds to send his personal greetings to some individuals at Rome. It may be thought surprising that Paul should have been acquainted with so many in a church which he had not yet visited. But there was much travelling to and from Rome. The Jewish couple, Prisca and her husband Aquila (3), are a good example. Expelled from Rome under the edict of Claudius (Acts 18.2), they had settled in Corinth, then moved to Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16.19), and were now back in Rome, apparently in sufficient affluence to be able to accommodate a congregation at their house (5) (Christian congregations continued to meet for worship in private houses until at least the third century).
Nothing is known for certain of any of the other persons named. Rufus (13) could be the same man as the son of Simon mentioned in Mark 15.21: if Rufus was a person well known to the church in Rome, and if Mark's gospel was compiled in Rome, his appearance in both passages would be explained. Again, Aristobulus (10) could be Herod the Great's grandson who is known to have lived and died at Rome, and whose household might well have contained both Jewish and gentile converts to Christianity; and Herodion (11) suggests a member of the same household. But all this is speculation. All that we can say for certain is that most of the names are such as might have been met with in any Greco-Roman society, though some (such as Stachys (12)), is are rare ones; many of them are typical slaves' names (Persis (12), Philologus (15)); and the list suggests a socially mixed and cosmopolitan society such as one would expect the church in Rome (though not necessarily only in Rome) to have been. Within it Paul recognizes two apostles (7), both Jews, one with a Greek name (Andronicus) and the other, like Paul, with a Roman name (Junias, unless it is Junia, but a woman seems less likely in the context). Evidently he could use the word "apostle" in a wider sense than that implied in the early chapters of Acts (where it denotes one of the Twelve); these two became Christians even before Paul himself, and may have been responsible for the first bringing of the Gospel to Rome.
Greet one another with the kiss of peace (16). Literally, "a holy kiss". But the "kiss of peace" formed part of Christian worship as early as the mid-second century, and may have already been customary in Paul's time. Paul's letters were probably intended to be read to the assembled congregation immediately before the celebration of the eucharist; and this expression may well have been an allusion to a solemn kiss of peace which the hearers of the letter were about to exchange with one another.
After a very direct and personal piece of advice (17-20)—inspired perhaps by some specific and disquieting information received from Rome—Paul associates some of his friends with his closest greetings. Timothy (21)was one of his most constant companions; and of his fellow-countrymen, Lucius may be the
Lucius of Cyrene of Acts 13.1; Sosipater the Sopater of Acts 20.4; and Jason the Jason of Acts 17.5-9—but none of these identifications is certain. Gaius is doubtless the Corinthian of 1 Corinthians 1.14; Erastus (23) was evidently an influential person.
The final paragraph sums up much of the argument of the letter in the form of an ascription of praise to God (as in 1.25; 9.5; 11.33); it refers to a revelation implicit down the ages, but now disclosed (25), in a manner which embraces all nations (26), Jews and non-Jews alike. But it is not certain that it originally formed part of the letter; if one may judge by the style, it may not even be from the hand of Paul. In some manuscripts it occurs at the end of chapter 14, in some at the end of chapter 15, and in some it is omitted altogether. The curious variations in the manuscript tradition over where and how the letter should end (see the footnotes in NEB) suggest that the letter may have existed from the beginning in more than one version, and even (since some manuscripts omit the words 'in Rome' in 1.7,15) that it may have been originally intended for some Christian community other than Rome—possibly Ephesus. But it is also possible that the manuscript tradition suffered derangement at an early stage. In any case there is no serious reason to doubt the traditional view that the letter was destined, at least in the first instance, for the church in Rome.