Monday, March 30, 2015

NT: Romans 1 - 5

The dates given for when various Pauline Epistles were written differ somewhat, depending on who’s doing the dating. It appears, however, that I can assume that Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is not his earliest. It might have been written between 52 and 57 CE, which would put it after both Galatians and 1 Thessalonians, and possibly others. Again, it depends. Seeing as how dates for all of the New Testament books are disputed, it won’t make that much difference to read and blog about Romans in its NT order, and keep any chronology-related comments for later. It’s a long one:

It is the longest of the Pauline epistles and is considered his "most important theological legacy".

Chapter 1 starts out like your everyday letter, with a salutation. A long, drawn-out salutation. Paul expresses his desire to visit the congregation in Rome, then says a few good words about Jesus and God, then lays in to the evil and fornicators. He clearly indicates that unbelievers are scum.

Chapter 2 focuses on hypocrites, he really hates hypocrites. And he appears obsessed with circumcision. Hypocrites and dick flesh - that’s the theme here.

It’s taking a while, but by Chapter 3, we hear Paul say that faith is more important than works.

28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

...and another word or two about dick flesh.

I’m surprised that Jesus has only been mentioned in passing so far.

Chapter 4 reinforces the idea of faith over works. And dick flesh. Jesus gets mentioned again, once.

Finally, we hear more about Jesus in Chapter 5, as Paul illustrates the power of faith as the path to God, and the power of belief in Jesus to obtain redemption for your sins.

The whole obsession about dick flesh is really disturbing, though.

So, I wonder why Paul feels he’s so important to the Romans that his words should be taken seriously? We can imagine that, in 55 CE, there are a few thousand believers spread around the Mediterranean Sea, and that, if Antioch (Turkey) is where the first church is established, then major civic centers might be expected locations for congregations to arise. But Paul’s early importance (or feeling of importance) is an eyebrow-raiser. If nothing else, we can sense that the question of salvation through works as opposed to salvation through faith is what Paul feels needs addressing.

Regardless, it’s worth reading about the Church at Antioch, just to get a mental image of where and how Paul gets started. When we get to earlier Epistles, it will be interesting to see whether Paul's theology has changed.

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