THE ROMANS DEBATE-CONTINUED

'
by F F BRUCE, MA, DD, FBA
EMERITUS PROFESSOR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER
I. INTRODUCTION
T
he title of this lecture was suggested by the title of a
symposium edited by Karl Paul Donfried and published in 1977
as The Romans ~ e b a t e . ~ This symposium brings together ten
essays composed and published over the previous thirty years.
The first of these essays originated as a lecture delivered by
Professor T. W. Manson in the John Rylands Library in February
1948 and published in the Library's Bulletin, later in the same year,
under the title 'St. Paul's Letter to the Romans-and ~t her s ' . ~ It
seems, therefore, specially appropriate to devote this twenty-first
Manson Memorial Lecture to the continuation of the debate.
The 'Romans debate' i s the debate about the character of the
letter (including questions about i t s literary integrity, the poss-
ibility of i t s having circulated in longer and shorter recensions, the
destination of chapter 16) and, above all, Paul's purpose in sending
it. This lecture confines itself mainly t o the last of these issues.
With regard to other questions, suffice it t o say that the lecture
presupposes the literary integrity of the document (from Romans
1:l t o at least 16:23) as a letter addressed to the Christians of Rome,
and the probability that a later editor (Marcion, it appears) issued
a shorter recension of it which has influenced the textual tradition
but has no relevance for our understanding of the original work or
for the destination of chapter 16.
Since that symposi ui was published, further contributions
have been made t o the debate. A few distinguished new
commentaries on Romans have appeared;4 among them, in
he Manson Memorial Lecture delivered in the University of Manchester on
19 November 1981.
'K. P. Donfried (ed.), The Romans Debate (Minneapolis, 1977).
3~ulletin xxxi (19481, 22440, reprinted in T. W. Manson, Studies in the
Gospels and Epistles, ed. M. Black (Manchester, 19621, pp. 22541.
4Cf. C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, i-ii, ICC (Edinburgh, 1972-9);
E. Kasemann, Commentary on Romans, E.T. (London, 1980); H. Schlier, Der
Romerbrief, HTK (Freiburg, 1977); U. Wilckens, Der Brief an die Romer, EKK
(Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1978- 1.
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED 335
relation to our present subject, special mention should be made
of Ulrich Wilckens' work in the Evangelisch-Katholischer
Kommentar zum Neuen Testament. Apart from commentaries,
there is an important monograph by Dr Harry Gamble on The
Textual History of the Letter to the ~omans.' Here the various
textual phenomena which Professor Manson discussed in his
lecture of 1948 are reviewed afresh; the problem of chapter 16 i s
dealt with among others and answered~oncl usi vel y~ in my
judgement--in favour of a Roman destination. In fact I think that
C. H. Dodd said as much as needed to be said on this subject in
his Moffatt Commentary on Romans in 1932; but Dr Gamble has
dotted the i ts and crossed the t's of the case for Rome.
On several aspects of the Romans debate there i s widespread
agreement. When Paul dictated the letter he had completed ten
years of apostolic activity both east and west of the Aegean Sea.
In the great cities of South Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and
proconsular Asia the gospel had been preached and churches
had been founded. Most recently lllyricum also had been visited.
Paul now reckoned that his work in the eastern Mediterranean
area was at an end: 'l no longer have any room for work in these
regions', he said (Romans 15:23). He was essentially a pioneer,
making it his ambition to preach the gospel where the name of
Christ had never been heard before. But where around the
Mediterranean shores could he find such a place in the later fifties
of the first century? Paul was not the only Christian missionary in
the Gentile world, though he was the greatest, and several
Mediterranean lands which he had not visited had probably been
evangelized by others. But Spain, the oldest Roman province after
Sicily, Sardinia and Corsicar3 remained unevangelized; Paul
'H. Gamble, Jr, The Textual History of the Letter to the Romans. Studies and
Documents, xlii (Grand Rapids, 1977).
'C. H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, MNTC (London, 19321, pp.
xvii-xxiv, 23640.
3~pai n was annexed and organized as two Roman provinces (Hispania
Citerior and Hispania Ulterior) in 197 BC, soon after the Second Punic War. Sicily
was the first Roman province, annexed in 241 BC, at the end of the First Punic
War; Sardinia and Corsica were annexed shortly afterwards (238 BC), and were
administered as one province from 231 BC to the beginning of the fourth
century AD.
THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
resolved that he would be the first to take the gospel there. To
Spain, then, he turned his eyes.
A journey t o Spain would give him the opportunity of gratifying
a long-cherished desire t o visit Rome. He had no thought of
settling down in Rome: it was no part of his policy to build, as he
said, on someone else's foundation1 (we know what he thought
about certain people who invaded his mission-field and tried to
build on his foundation2). But a stay in Rome would enable him to
enjoy the company of Christians in the capital and to renew
acquaintance with a number of friends whom he had met
elsewhere and who were now resident there. After his missionary
exertions in the east, and before he embarked on a fresh
campaign in the west, it would be a refreshing experience t o
spend some time in Rome. No doubt there would be an
opportunity, during such a visit, to exercise his ministry as apostle
to the Gentiles3 But any converts that he made by preaching the
gospel in Rome would be added to the Christian community
already existing in the city: there was no question of his forming
them into a separate Pauline church.
One thing only remained on his programme before he could
fulfil this plan. He had to go t o Jerusalem with the delegates of
churches in his Gentile mission-field who were to hand over to the
leaders of the mother-church their churches' contributions to a
relief fund which Paul had been organizing among them for some
years. When this business had been attended to, then, said Paul
to the Roman Christians, 'l shall go on by way of you to Spain'
(Romans 15:28).
This, then, as may be gathered from information given in the
letter, was the occasion of Paul's writing to the Christians of Rome.
The letter was sent from Corinth, early in (probably) AD 57.
But if the primary purpose of the letter was t o prepare the
Roman Christians for Paul's visit t o them, how i s that purpose
related to its main content? This question, indeed, is the crux of
the Roman debate, and an attempt will be made to answer it. In
trying t o answer it, we shall bear in mind that Paul, while dictating
the letter, had three places specially in mind--Rome, the home of
' Romans 15:20.
'cf. 1 Corinthians 330-15; 2 Corinthians 1032-16. ~omans 133-15.
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED 337
the people to whom the letter was addressed; Spain, where he
planned shortly to inaugurate the next phase of his apostolic
ministry; and Jerusalem, which he was to visit in the immediate
future to complete a project very close to his heart. A
consideration of these three places, one by one, should help us to
come to terms with some important aspects of the Romans
debate.
11. THREE PROSPECTIVE VISITS
1. Rome
This document is, in no merely nominal sense, Paul's letter t o
the Roman-a letter addressed, in all i t s parts, t o a particular
Christian community in a particular historical situation.
Communications between Rome and the main centres of Paul's
mission-field were good, and Paul was able to keep himself
informed, through friends who visited Rome or were now resident
there, of what was happening among the Christians of the capital.
It is plain from Paul's language that the Christian community in
Rome was large and active, enjoying a good reputation among
churches elsewhere in the Mediterranean world.'
The origins of Christianity in Rome are obscure. The words of the
fourth-century commentator called Ambrosiaster are frequently
quoted in this regard: The Romans had embraced the faith of
Christ, albeit according to the Jewish rite, although they saw no
sign of mighty works nor any of the apostles.'2 We know too little
about Ambrosiaster's sources of information to accept this as an
authoritative statement, but it certainly agrees with such other
evidence as we have, not least in relation to the Jewish base of
early Roman ~hr i st i ani t ~. ~
' ~omans 1:8; 15:14.
'~mbrosiaster, Ad Romanos (ed. H. J. Vogels), CSEL 81.1 (Vindobonae, 19661,
p. 6.
his appears from non-literary (as well as literary) evidence, such as the
indebtedness of early Christian catacombs t o the Jewish catacombs of Rome
(like that on Monteverde). As for literary evidence, the surviving influence of
Jewish lustral practice i n the Christian worship of Rome has been traced in
Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 20.5, where a purificatory bath on Maundy
Thursday is prescribed for those preparing t o be baptized on Easter Day; cf. R. J.
Zwi Werblowsky, 'On the Baptismal Rite according t o St. Hippolytus', Studia
Patristica 4 = TU 54 (Berlin, 19571, pp. 93 ff.
338
THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
It i s probable that Christianity reached Rome within a few years
of i t s inception, given the degree of social mobility in the Roman
Empire in those days. The people most likely to take it t o Rome
were Hellenistic Jewish Christians, members of the group in which
Stephen and Philip played a leading part. The name of the
Synagogue of the Freedmen in Jerusalem, with which Stephen was
associated,' suggests a link with Rome (if the libertini in question
were the descendants of Jews who were taken as captives to
Rome by Pompey to grace his triumph in 61 BC and subsequently
emancipated). The introduction of Christianity into the Jewish
community of Rome was bound to lead to the same kind of
disputes as i t s introduction into other Jewish communities; and if
such disputes played their part in the constant tumults in which,
according to Suetonius, the Jews of Rome were indulging (adsidue
tumultuantes) in the principate of Claudius, we can understand his
further remark that these tumults were stirred up by 'Chrestus'
(impulsore ~h r e s toL2
We have ample evidence for the use of ChrestuslXpqazo~ and
ChrestianilXpqazravoi, in Latin and Greek alike, as mis-spellings for
ChristuslXprozd~ and ~hri sti ani l ~prazravoi .~ It i s about as certain
as can be with such an allusion that the person referred to i s Jesus
Christ. Had he been another, otherwise unknown, bearer of the
name Chrestus, Suetonius would probably have said impulsore
Chresto quodam. It is not at all likely that the reference i s to
another messianic claimant, a rival Christ-.g. Simon Magus
(whose presence in Rome under Claudius i s attested elsewhereL4
' ~ c t s 6:9. Z~uetonius, Divus Claudius 25.4.
3Chrestus was as common a slave-name as its near-synonym Onesimus. For
the incidence of Chrestus i n Rome cf. CIL vi. 668, 880, 975, 1929, 3555, 7460,
7846, 11707, 14058, 14433, 14805, 20770, 21531, 22837, 26157, 28324, 28659,
37672,38735. While Suetonius has the spelling Chresto here, he has Christiani in
Nero 16.2. But in Tacitus, Ann. 15.44.3 the MS Mediceus 68.2 had originally (it
appears) Chrestianos, which was corrected t o Christianos by a later hand.
Tacitus himself, however, may have spelt the word Christianos, since he links it
closely with Christus tauctor nominis eius'). In the NT the first hand in Vaticanus
consistently shows the spelling Xpqorravd~. The apologists exploit the
confusion between the two forms: We are accused of being Xprarravoibut it is
unjust that one should be hated for being ~ p q a z d ~ ' Oustin, Apol. i. 4.5).
4Cf. R. Eisler, The Messiah jesus and john the Baptist (London, 19311, p. 581. E.
A. Judge and G. S. R. Thomas, 'The Origin of the Church at Rome: A New
Solution', Reformed Theological Review xxv (19661, 87, refer t o Simon as 'the
THE ROMANS DEBATEXONTINUED 339
There i s no evidence that Simon Magus claimed to be the
Messiah, and in any case a pagan writer would not have said
impulsore Chresto if he had meant 'at the instigation of a
Messiahl<hrestus for Suetonius was a personal name, as it was
for pagans in general.
True, Jesus Christ was not in Rome during the principate of
~laudius.' But Suetonius may well have understood his sources
(wrongly) to mean that he was. Tacitus knew that Christ was
executed under ~i ber i us, ~ but Suetonius had not the same
concern for historical precision. If his sources told him that the
rioting among the Jews of Rome was caused by disagreement
about the claims of Christ, it was a natural, if mistaken, inference
that Christ himself was in Rome at the time.
It was because of these riots, says Suetonius, that Claudius
expelled the Jews from Rome. He does not date the expulsion
edict: Orosius, early in the fifth century, says that it was issued in
AD 49.3 Orosius's inaccuracy in the very act of supplying this
information does not inspire confidence, but the record of Acts
makes AD 49 a probable date.4 Luke says that, when Paul first
visited Corinth, he met a Jew named Aquila, 'lately come from
Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all
most suggestive example' of the type of agitator in question. Simon's presence
in Rome in the time of Claudius is mentioned by Justin (Apol., i. 26.2). An even
more improbable identification of Chrestus than that with Simon Magus-
namely, with lames the lust--has recently been proposed by B. E. Thiering, The
Gospels and Qumran (Sydney, 19811, p. 271.
h hat he was indeed there at that time is argued by R. Craves and J. Podro,
jesus i n Rome (London, 1957).
'~acitus, Ann., 15.44.4. See p. 347, n. 1.
30rosius (writing AD 417-18) quotes Suetonius on the expulsion and says
that Josephus dates the incldent In AD 49 (Hist., 7.6.15 f.). But there is no
reference t o the incident in the extant writings of Josephus.
4 ~ h e question arises of the relation of the expulsion recorded by Suetonius
t o an action of Claudius dated by Dio Cassius (Hist., 60.6) t o the first year of his
principate: When the Jews [sc. of Rome1 had again multiplied to a point where
their numbers made it difficult t o expel them from the city without a riot, he did
not banish them outright but forbade them to meet in iccordance with their
ancestral way of life.' If this ban on meetings was later lifted, then perhaps
Claudius, 'annoyed that his relaxation .. . had led to a repetition of disorder,
reacted more severely than before, this time with an expulsion' (E. M.
Smallwood, The jews under Roman Rule [Leidcn, 19761, pp. 215 f.).
340 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
the Jews to leave Rome' (Acts 18:2). The reference in Acts 18:12 to
Gallio as proconsul of Achaia during Paul's stay in Corinth enables
us to date Paul's arrival in that city in the late summer of AD 50; it
i s therefore quite probable that Priscilla and Aquila left Rome the
previous year.'
Since Paul, in his references to Priscilla and Aquila, never
implies that they were converts of his own, the likelihood is that
they were Christians before they left Rome-perhaps, as Harnack
suggested, foundation-members of the Roman ~hur c h. ~
In Claudius's expulsion of Jews, no distinction would be made
between those among them who were Christians and the
majority who were not. The expulsion could have gone far to wipe
out the Roman church. But perhaps it did not wipe it out
altogether. If in AD 49 there were some Gentile Christians in
Rome, they would not be affected by the edict of expulsion. By AD
49 Gentile Christianity was firmly rooted in several cities of the
eastern Mediterranean, and if in the eastern Mediterranean, why
not also in Rome, to which all roads led from the imperial
frontiers? We do not know this for certain: what we can say i s that
by the beginning of AD 57, when Paul sent his letter t o the Roman
Christians, the majority of them were apparently ~ent i l es. ~
After the expulsion of Jews from Rome, if the course of events
may be so reconstructed, the small group or groups of Gentile
Christians in the city had to fend for themselves. But they
continued to receive accessions of strength in the years that
followed. They were probably not organized as a single city
church, but existed as a number of separate house-churches,
conscious nevertheless of the bond which united them in faith
and love. Some of these house-churches, indeed, may have been
associated with the imperial establishment. It i s at a later date that
Paul refers to 'saints . . . of Caesar's household' (Philippians 4:2214
'~allio's entry on the proconsulship is dated to AD 51 (if not earlier) by
Claudius's rescript to the Delphians of AD 52 (SIC 23, 801). Cf. A. Plassart,
'L'inscription de Delphes mentionnant le Proconsul Callion', Revue des ktudes
Crecques, lxxx (19671, 372 ff.
'cf. A. Harnack, 'Probabilia ijber die Adresse und den Verfasser des
Hebraerbriefs', ZNW, i (19001, 16 ff.
h his is a reasonable inference from Romans 1:13; 11:13.
4 ~ e e Bulletin, lxii (1980-l), 265.
THE ROMANS DEBATEXONTINUED 341
But the evidence of Romans 16:10 f. suggests that there were
Christians in some of the groups that made up 'Caesar's
household' of slaves and freedman-among the Aristobuliani, for
instance, and the Narcissiani.'
When, around the time that Nero succeeded Claudius in the
principate (AD 541, the expulsion edict became a dead letter (like
earlier expulsion edicts of the same kindIl2 Jews began to return to
Rome, and Jewish Christians among them. Priscilla and Aquila
seem to have returned soon after the end of Paul's Ephesian
ministry (AD 55); their residence in Rome served as the
headquarters of a house-church (Romans 16:5) as their residence
in Ephesus had done (1 Corinthians 16:19). There were no doubt
other Jewish house-churches added to the Gentile house-
churches already existing. What kind of reception did these
returning Jewish Christians meet with from their Gentile brethren?
It is implied in Romans 11:13-24 that the Gentile Christians tended
to look down on their Jewish brethren as poor relations. Paul,
discussing the place of Jews and Gentiles in the divine purpose,
warns his Gentile readers not to give themselves airs: even if they
are now in the majority, they should bear in mind that the base of
the church--of the Roman church as well as of the church
universal-is Jewish.
Caution must be exercised when evidence i s sought in this
letter for the state of the Roman church at the time of writing, lest
we find ourselves arguing in a circle. It i s all too easy to draw
inferences from the letter about the state of the church, and then
use those inferences to help us in understanding the letter.
Here, however, we have a letter from Paul explicitly addressed
to the Christians of Rome: 'to all God's beloved in Rome' (Romans
1:7). True, there i s one textual tradition which omits the phrase 'in
Rome' both here and in verse 15, but this omission cannot be
original. The sense requires a place-name, and no other place-
name than Rome will fit the context (this is no circular letter in
' Cf . C. H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, p. xxi i ; F. F. Bruce, Paul:
Apostle of the Free Spirit (Exeter, 19m, pp. 386 f.
' E. ~ . the expulsion under Tiberius in AD 19 (Josephus, Ant. 18. 65, 81 ff.;
Tacitus, Ann. 2.85; Suetonius, Tiberius, 361, ascribed by Philo (Leg. 159 ff.) to the
rnalignity of Sejanus.
THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
which a variety of place-names might be inserted in a blank space
left for the address). The omission of the reference to Rome can
best be explained, as T. W. Manson explained it, by the supposition
that Marcion struck it out, after his rejection by the Christian
leaders in Rome, to show that in his judgement such a church did
not deserve the honour of being addressed in a letter from the
only true apostle of ~hri st.'
Paul writes to the Roman Christians, he says, because he hopes
to pay them a visit soon. He had planned to visit their city on
earlier occasions but had not been able to put those plans into
action. One of the occasions he has in mind may have been the
time when he first set foot in Europe. Having croised the Aegean
to Macedonia in AD 49, he found himself travelling from east to
west along the Egnatian Way, evangelizing first Philippi and then
Thessalonica. Had nothing interfered with his programme he
might have continued his westward journey until he reached one
of the Adriatic termini of the Egnatian Way, after which the
natural course would have been t o cross the Straits of Otranto to
Brindisi and proceed along the Appian Way to ~ o m e . ~ He was
prevented from doing this by the riots which broke out in
Thessalonica while he was t her ~i mpul sor e Chresto, it might
have been said there also, for he and his colleagues were charged
with proclaiming 'another emperor, namely, Jesus' (Acts 175'). Paul
was not only forced to leave Thessalonica and proceed no farther
along the Egnatian Way; as he turned south he found that there
was no place for him anywhere in Macedonia, and he was unable
t o settle until he reached Corinth, where he stayed for eighteen
months.
But even if he had been left in peace to continue along the
Egnatian Way, it would have been an inopportune time for him to
visit Rome: it was just then that Claudius issued his expulsion
edict. A visit to Rome must await a more convenient season, and
early in AD 57 the way seemed more propitious for such a visit
'T. W. Manson, 'St. Paul's Letter to the Romans', 226-9 (Studies, pp. 227-301;
see, however, H. Gamble, The Textual History, pp. 29-33, 100 ff.
'cf. A. Harnack, The Mission and Expansion of Christianity, E.T. (London,
19081, i. 74 f.; H. J. Cadbury, The Book of Acts in History (New York, 19551, pp. 60
f.; G. Bornkamm, Paul, E.T. (London, 19711, pp. 51 ff.; E. A. Judge and G. S. R.
Thomas, The Origin of the Church at Rome', 90.
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED 343
than ever it had been before.' The situation had changed: Nero
was now on the imperial throne, halfway through his first
quinquennium, which was greeted, especially in the eastern
provinces, as a kind of golden age.
This, then, i s the background to the letter and there i s general
agreement that Paul sent it to prepare the Roman Christians for
his prospective visit. But why, it may be asked, did he send a letter
with these particular contents? He mentions his visit only at the
beginning and at the end; what is the relevance t o the Roman
Christians of the main body of the letter?
After his preliminary remarks about his occasion for writing,
Paul launches into a sustained and coherent statement of the
gospel as he understood it, with special emphasis on the justifying
grace of God, available on equal terms t o Jews and Gentiles
(1:16-8:40). Then comes a careful inquiry into God's purpose in
history, with particular reference to the place of Jews and Gentiles
in that purpose (9:l-11:36). Various ethical admonitions
(123-13:14), including a problematic paragraph on the Christian's
relation to the state (13:l-71, are then followed by a particular
paraenesis on the mutual responsibilities of the 'strong' and the
'weak in faith' within the Christian community (14:l-15:13). Next,
Paul makes a short statement about his activity as apostle to the
Gentiles thus far (15:14-23, together with an account of his plans
for the immediate and subsequent future (15:22-33). The letter
comes t o an end with the commendation of Phoebe, who i s
taking it t o i t s destination (163 f.), and a series of greetings to
twenty-six individuals, who belong to at least five groups or
house-churches (16:3-15). Greetings are sent from 'all the chur-
ches of Christ', presumably those of the Pauline mission-field
(1636). A final admonition (16:17-20) i s followed by greetings from
h he date AD 57 i s indicated by forward (from Gallio) and backward (frem
Festus) dating. By Pentecost of the year in which Romans was written Paul had
arrived i n Judaea; not long after his arrival he was detained i n custody in
Caesarea, and remained there for two years, until Festus became precurater
(Acts 24327'). There is numismatic evidence for dating the accessien of Festus in
AD 59 (cf. F. W. Madden, History of lewish Coinage [London, 18641, p. 153; A.
Reifenberg, Ancient lewish Coins Uerusalem, 219471, p. 27; see also E. Schiirer,
The History of the lewish People in the Age of lesus Christ, i [Edinburgh, 19731, p.
465, n. 42).
344 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
named individuals among Paul's present companions (16:21-3),
and by a benediction (16:24) and doxology (16:25-7) of disputed
authenticity.'
If we knew more about the current situation in the church of
Rome, it might be seen that the detailed contents of the letter are
more relevant to that situation than can now be established. But it
will be rewarding to look at the contents section by section.
As regards his lengthy statement of the gospel (1:16-8:40), it
was in any case expedient that Paul should communicate to the
Roman Christians an outline of the message which he proclaimed.
Misrepresentations of his preaching and his apostolic procedure
were current, and must have found their way to Rome. It was
plainly undesirable that these should be accepted in default of
anything more reliable. Paul does not, for the most part, refute
those misrepresentations directly (there are a few incidental
allusions to them, as in Romans 3 :8, ~ae&c BiZaaylqpoip~Ba) but
gives a systematic exposition, showing how, if the contemporary
plight of mankind, Gentile and Jewish, i s t o be cured, Cod's
justifying grace, without discrimination among i t s beneficiaries, i s
alone competent to cure it.
This exposition i s carried on largely in terms of a debate or
dialogue with the synagogue. Paul must have engaged in this kind
of exchange repeatedly in the course of his preaching-what, for
example, were the terms in which some members of the
synagogue in Pisidian Antioch 'contradicted what was spoken by
Paul' (Acts 13:45)?--but it was probably relevant to the state of
affairs in Rome. The rioting which attended the introduction of
Christianity into the Jewish community of the capital some years
previously was sparked off by arguments not dissimilar, perhaps,
t o those voiced in the Jerusalem synagogue where Stephen's
teaching was first heard.2 Paul's exposition of the new faith had
different emphases from Stephen's, but was sufficiently like it to
provoke the same kind of violent reaction, as indeed it did from
one city to another.
Paul's gospel, we know, was charged with promoting moral
' see B. M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Creek New Testament
(LondonINew York, 19711, pp. 53941; H. Gamble, The Textual History, pp. 1214,
129-32. ' ~ c t s 6:9 f.; see p. 338 above.
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED 345
indifferentism, if not with actively encouraging sin, and the form
of his argument in this letter implies his awareness that this charge
was not unknown in Rome: 'Are we to continue in sin that grace


may abound? (Romans 6:l). He makes it plain, therefore, that the
gospel which he preaches i s not only the way of righteousness, in
the sense of the righteous status which God by his grace bestows
on believers in Christ, but also the way of holiness, in which 'the
righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in us who walk not
according to the flesh but according to the Spirit' (Romans 8:4).
The relation of chapters 9-11 t o the plan of the letter as a whole
has been much debated. It has been said that, if Paul had moved
from the end of chapter 8, with i t s celebration of the glory which
consummates God's saving work in his people, to the beginning of
chapter 12, with i t s practical application of that saving work to the
daily life of Christians, we should have been conscious of no
hiatus. Yet Paul judged it fitting to grapple at this point with a
problem which, as he confesses, caused him great personal pain.
Israel, the nation which God had chosen to be the vehicle of his
purpose of grace in the world, had as a whole failed to respond to
the fulfilment of that purpose in Jesus Christ. Paul was conscious
of this as a problem for himself both on the personal and on the
apostolic level. If in Israel's failure to respond he saw writ large his
own earlier unbelief, that very fact brought hope with it: as his
eyes had been opened, so his people's eyes would surely be
opened. For this he prayed incessantly.' Indeed, if Israel's
salvation could be won at the price of his own damnation, he
would readily pay that price.2 He would gladly have devoted his
life and strength to the evangelizing of his peopleI3 but he was
specifically called to be Christ's apostle to the Gentile world. Yet
he trusted that even by the evangelization of Gentiles he would
indirectly do something for the advantage of his own people: they
would be stimulated to jealousy as they saw increasing numbers
of Gentiles enjoying the gospel blessings which were the fruit of
God's promises to the patriarchs, and would waken up to the
' Romans 10:l.
2
Romans 9:l-3.
Acts 22:17-21, on which see 0. Betz, Di e Vision des Paulus im Tempel
von Je~sa~em' , in Verborum Veritas: Festschrih fiir C. Stahlin, ed. 0. Bocher and
K. Haacker (Wuppertal, 19701, pp. 113 ff.
346 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
realization that these blessings were for them too-that in fact
they should properly have been for them first, since they were the
descendants of the patriarchs and the inheritors of those
promises. This prospect enhanced the prestige of his apostleship
as he contemplated it: 'inasmuch as I am the Gentiles' apostle, I
glorify my ministry in order to make my kinsfolk jealous and thus
save some of them' (Romans 1133 f.).
But it i s not simply to share with the Roman Christians his
concern for Israel and his appreciation of the significance of his
apostleship that he writes like this. His theme is relevant to the
situation in Rome. It i s in this context that he warns the Gentiles
among his readers not t o despise the Jews, whether the Jews in
general or Jewish Christians in particular, because God has not
written them off. They continue to have a place in his purpose,
and his purpose will not be completed until, with the ingathering
of the full tale of Gentile converts, 'all Israel will be saved' (Romans
11:25 f.). Gentile Christians must not pride themselves on the
superiority of their faith, but remember that they are what they
are only by the kindness of God. This will induce in them a proper
sense of humility, and respect and understanding for their fellow-
believers of Jewish stock.
The paragraph about the Christian's relation to the secular
authorities (Romans 13:l-7) is best understood in the light of the
Roman destination of the letter. This is not a universal statement
of political principle. The injunction to 'render (&71660~&) t o all
their dues' (13:7) may indeed be viewed as a generalization of
Jesus' precept: 'render (&716602&) t o Caesar what belongs to
Caesar' (Mark 12:17). That precept was addressed to a particular
situation in Judaea, in face of a firmly held and violently defended
doctrine that for Jews of Judaea to pay tribute to a pagan overlord
was to take from God the things that were his and hand them
over t o another. That situation, of course, did not exist in Rome.
But in generalizing the dominical precept Paul has in mind the
situation which did exist in Rome and in other cities throughout
the empire.
Eight years previously, it appears, the introduction of
Christianity into Rome had led to riots. About the same time,
according to Luke, the arrival of Paul and his fellow-preachers in
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED 347
Thessalonica provoked the charge that they were the men who
had subverted the whole world and kept on 'acting against the
decrees of Caesar' (Acts 17:6 f.). The name of 'Christian' had
subversive associations in Rome and elsewhere: some at least
remembered that the founder of the movement had been
executed by sentence of a Roman judge on a charge of sedition.'
It was most important that Christians in the imperial capital
should recognize their responsibility not t o give any support by
their way of life to this widespread imputation of disloyalty, but
rather refute it by punctilious obedience to the authorities and
payment of all lawful dues. Thus far the representatives of imperial
law had, in Paul's experience, shown at least a benevolent
neutrality t o the prosecution of his mi ssi ~n. ~ The time was to
come, and that in Rome itself, when this would no longer be so.
When Caesar demanded the allegiance which belonged to God,
his demand had to be refused. But Caesar had not yet done so,
and Paul does not mention this eventuality. His approach to the
matter is relevant t o the situation of Roman Christians at the time
and in the circumstances of their receiving the letter.
Equally relevant to the Roman situation is the practical section
in Romans 14:l-15:7 in which Paul deals with the relation between
the 'strong' and the 'weak' in the Christian fellowship-the 'weak'
being those who scrupulously abstained from certain kinds of
food and paid religious respect to certain holy days, while the
'strong' (like Paul himself) had a more robust conscience with
regard to such externalities.
There i s a degree of resemblance between what Paul says here
and what he says to the Corinthian church on the issue of eating
or avoiding the flesh of animals offered in sacrifice to a pagan
deity (1 Corinthians 8:l-13; 10:14-30). But in this section of the
letter to the Romans there i s no direct word about eating
~j60jZoOu~a (an issue bound to be acute in a mainly Gentile
church like that of Corinth). The distinction here is rather between
the believer who can, with a good conscience, eat food of any
'cf. the only mention of the trial of Jesus by a pagan author: 'Christus Tiberio
imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat'
(Tacitus, Ann. 15.44.4).
' ~ o t a b l ~ Gallio, who refused to take up a complaint against him at Corinth
(Acts 1832-16).
348 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
kind and treat all days alike, and the believer whose conscience
forbids the eating of any but vegetable food and the doing of
ordinary work (however normally legitimate) on a holy day. The
principle of mutual considerateness which Paul inculcates in this
section would, of course, cover the issue of ~i h;l devza, but if
Paul has one particular situation in mind here, it is a situation in
which Jewish and Gentile Christians have to live together in
fellowship. It was to such a situation, indeed, that the Jerusalem
decree was addressed a few years before, but Paul takes a
different line from the decree. The decree urged abstention from
~i hAdevza and flesh from which the blood had not been
completely drained;' Paul urges his readers to consider one
another.
It was not simply that Jewish Christians continued t o confine
themselves to kosher food and to observe the Sabbath and other
holy days, while Gentile Christians practised complete liberty in
both respects. The situation was probably more complex. Many
Jewish Christians had become more or less emancipated from
legal obligations in religion, even if few were so totally emanci-
pated as Paul was. On the other hand, some Gentiles were more
than willing to judaize, to take over the Jewish food restrictions
and Jewish regard for holy days, even if they stopped short at
ci rc~mci si on.~ We have examples of this tendency to judaize in
our own day, even if it i s not expressly called judaizing; and in the
apostolic age we have only t o think of Paul's Gentile converts in
Galatia, who were not only beginning t o keep the Jewish sacred
calendar but even to accept circumcision.
Among the house-churches of Rome, then, we should probably
envisage a broad and continuous spectrum of varieties in thought
and practice between the firm Jewish retention of the ancestral
customs and Gentile remoteness from these customs, with some
Jewish Christians, indeed, found on the liberal side of the halfway
mark between the two extremes and some Gentile Christians on
the 'legalist' side.j Variety of this kind can very easily promote a
' ~ c t s 15:28 f. Cf. C. K. Barrett, 'Things Offered to Idols', NTS xi (1964-51,138 ff.
'cf. Juvenal, Sat., 14. % ff.
h he varieties need not be demarcated so distinctly as in P. S. Minear, The
Obedience of Faith (London, 1974, pp. 8 ff., where five different outlooks are
identified.
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED 349
spirit of division, and Paul wished to safeguard the Roman
Christians against this, encouraging them rather to regard the
variety as an occasion for charity, forbearance and
understanding.
Instead of laying down rules which would restrict Christian
freedom, Paul makes it plain that, religiously speaking, one kind of
food i s no worse than another, one day no better than another. It
is human beings that matter, not food or the calendar. Christian
charity, on the one hand, will impose no limitations on another's
freedom; Christian charity, on the other hand, will not force
liberty on the conscience of someone who is not yet ready for it.
The scrupulous Christian must not criticize his more emancipated
brother or sister; the emancipated must not look down on the
over-scrupulous. The only limitation that can properly be imposed
on Christian liberty i s that imposed by Christian charity, and it can
only be self-imposed. No Christian was more thoroughly emanci-
pated than Paul, but none was readier to limit his own liberty in
the interests of his fellow-~hristians.' In such matters as
abstention from food or observance of days he conformed to the
company in which he found himself: in themselves they were
matters of utter i ndi fferen~e.~ This example he recommends to
others. For the rest, they should do what they believe to be right
without forcing their convictions on others or thinking the worse
of others if they do not see eye to eye with them.
2. Spain
H Spain plays a less crucial role in the letter than either Rome or
Jerusalem does, it i s no merely peripheral one. Not only did Paul's
plan to visit Spain provide him with an opportunity t o gratify his
long-cherished desire to see Rome, but it enabled him to invite
the Roman Christians' collaboration in the next phase of his
apostolic enterprise. It meant, moreover, that he could tell the
Roman Christians of his plan to visit them without giving them
cause to suspect that he was coming to put down his roots
among them or assert apostolic authority over them. At the same
time, by assuring them of his ardent longing to make their
'cf. 1 Corinthians 8:13; 10:33; Romans 14:14. 'cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
350 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
acquaintance he makes it plain that he does not simply see in
their city a convenient stopping-off place on his way to Spain.
Rome probably lay no less close to his heart at this time than
Spain did.'
But why should he think of evangelizing Spain? If he judged his
task in the Aegean world to be complete and wished to adhere to
his policy of confining his ministry to virgin soil, his range of choice
in the Mediterranean world, as has been said, was limited. By AD
57 the gospel had certainly been carried to Alexandria and
Cyrene, if not farther west along the African coast. The close
association between proconsular Asia and Gallia Narbonensis
would suggest that the evangelization of the former territory in
AD 52-5 led quickly to the evangelization of the latter. But Spain,
for long the chief bastion of Roman power in the west, beckoned
Paul as his next mission-field.
We have no idea what contact, if any, Paul may have had with
people from Spain who could have told him something of
conditions in that land.2 One thing is certain: the language which
had served him so well in his ministry hitherto, and served him
equally well in his present communication with Rome, would not
be adequate for the evangelizing of Spain. Spain was a Latin-
speaking area. Paul was probably not entirely ignorant of Latin,
but he would require to speak it fluently if he was to do effective
work in Spain. It was perhaps in order to spend some time in a
Latin-speaking environment that he had recently paid a visit to
Illyricum. We should not, in fact, have known about his visit to
lllyricum but for his mentioning it in Romans 15:19 as the
westernmost limit of his apostolic activity thus far.
If lllyricum provided him with some linguistic preparation, there
were other kinds of preparation required for such an enterprise as
he contemplated in Spain. In earlier days the church of Syrian
Antioch had provided Paul and Barnabas with a base for the
evangelization of Cyprus and South Galatia. Later, when
Christianity had been established in Corinth and Ephesus, these
' ~hr~sostom goes farther: 'he mentions Spain in order to show his eagerness
and warmth towards them [the Roman Christiansl' (Homilies on Romans, 30 [on
15:283).
'cf. W. P. Bowers, 'Jewish Communities in Spain in the Time of Paul the
Apostle', ITS, n.s. 26 (19751, 395402.
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED
two cities provided Paul with bases for the evangelization
respectively of the provinces of Achaia and Asia. But where would
he find a base for the evangelization of Spain if not in Rome? He
does not in so many words ask the Roman Christians to provide
him with such a base, but he sets the situation before them in
such a way that they would see his need of one and could, if they
were so minded, spontaneously offer to supply what was needed.
'I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain', he says, 'and to be
sped on my journey there by you (Gq' b@v npon~pqeflvcrr i.lc~i),
when first I have enjoyed your company for a little' (Romans
15:24). Here certainly i s one facet of his purpose in writing--not, of
course, the only one. What the sequel was--whether or not he
did go to Spain, and whether or not the Roman church did
provide him with a base--is quite unclear, and i s in any case
irrelevant to our investigation of the purpose of the letter.
3. lerusalem
Towards the end of his personal remarks in Romans 15, Paul
tells the Roman Christians that, before he can come to their city
and spend some time with them on his way to Spain, he must for
the present go to Jerusalem 'with aid for the saints' (Romans
15:25). This i s a reference to his involvement in the Jerusalem relief
fund, which we know from his Corinthian correspondence to
have been very much on his mind for some time back.'
One obvious reason for mentioning the relief fund to the
Roman Christians was to explain why he could not set out for
Rome immediately: this business of delivering the collected
money to Jerusalem must be completed first. Therefore he could
not give them even an approximate date for his arrival in Rome-
as things turned out, it was just as well that he did not try to give
them one! Even if nothing untoward happened, there was no way
of knowing how long the business would take. According to
Luke's record, he hoped to be in Jerusalem in time for Pentecost
(which in AD 57 fell on May 29).
But evidently Paul i s not merely advising his friends in Rome
that there may be some delay in his setting out to see them: he
tries, tactfully, to involve them in his Jerusalem enterprise. He does
'cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:l-9:15.
352 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
not, either expressly or by implication, invite them to contribute
t o the fund. It had been raised among the churches of Paul's own
planting, in which the Roman church had no place. Indeed, just
because the Roman Christians were not involved in the fund in
this sense, Paul could tell them about it in a more relaxed manner
than was possible in writing to people whom he wished to make a
generous contribution. The Gentile churches, he says, are debtors
to Jerusalem in respect of spiritual blessings; it is but fitting that
they should acknowledge that debt by imparting to Jerusalem
such blessings as they could impart-material blessings, monetary
gifts.
It i s plain from his Galatian and Corinthian letters that Paul was
greatly concerned to preserve his churches' independence of
Jerusalem. Yet here he himself acknowledges their dependence
on Jerusalem for the gospel itself. Indeed, we learn more here than
anywhere else of Paul's real attitude to Jerusalem. Throughout his
letters there i s an ambivalence in his relation to the Jerusalem
church and i t s leaders: on the one hand, they must not be
allowed to dictate t o his churches or himself; on the other, he
must at all costs prevent his apostolic ministry and the Gentile
mission from having the ties of fellowship with Jerusalem severed.
This appears clearly enough in Galatians: in the very context in
which he asserts his independence of Jerusalem he tells how he
went up t o Jerusalem on one occasion and laid his gospel before
the leaders of the church there.' Happily, they appear to have
recognized the validity of Paul's gospel and his authority to
communicate it to the Gentiles. What if they had withheld such
recognition? Paul was under orders higher than theirs, but his
work would be largely frustrated if he had to carry it on in
isolation from Jerusalem. Luke does not always tell his readers why
Paul's apostolic ministry was punctuated by the successive visits
t o Jerusalem which he records (Acts 9:26; 11:30; 15:2; 18:22;
19:21), but in the light of Paul's letters we can see why he was so
careful to maintain contact with Jerusalem and we can accept
Luke's account in this regard as being true t o the facts.
The place which Jerusalem occupied in Paul's thinking is
emphasized by his statement in Romans 15:19 about the range of
'~alatians 2:2-10.
THE ROMANS DEBATEXONTINUED 353
his apostolic activity to the time of writing: 'from Jerusalem and as
far round as lllyricurn I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.' It
i s evident from Acts and from Paul's own testimony that it was not
in Jerusalem that he first preached the gospel. Why then does he
give Jerusalem pride of place in this statement? Perhaps because
Jerusalem i s the place where, by divine decree, the preaching of
the gospel is initiated :
out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem
(Isaiah 2:31.
This primacy of Jerusalem i s recognized in the Lucan tradition-
for example, in the direction 'beginning from Jerusalem' in the
risen Lord's charge to his disciples (Luke 24:47; cf. Acts 1:8). Paul
appears to acknowledge this primacy not only in Romans 15:19
but elsewhere in his letters. He had, in fact, a greater regard for the
Jerusalem church and its leaders than they evidently had for him,
and was indeed, as the late Arnold Ehrhardt put it, 'one of the
greatest assets for the Jerusalem church' because, either by his
personal action' or under his influence, versions of the gospel
which were defective by the standards of Jerusalem were brought
into conformity with the line maintained in common by Paul and
the leaders of the mother-church.' And it i s a matter of plain
history as well as a 'theological presupposition' that, from the
inception of the church until at least AD 60, 'Christendom' (in the
words of Henry Chadwick) 'has a geographical centre and this i s
Jerusalem. Gentile Christians might be free from Judaism; they
remained debtors t o ion."
Jerusalem also played a central part in Paul's understanding of
the consummation of God's purpose in the world. He himself, as
apostle to the Gentiles, had a key place in that purpose as he
understood it--not only directly, as the progress of the gospel
prospered under his hand among the Gentiles, but also indirectly,
when (as he hoped) the large-scale participation of Gentiles in the
blessings of the gospel would stimulate the Jewish people t o
jealousy and move them to claim their own proper share in those
'A. A. T. Ehrhardt, The Framework of the New Testament Stories (Manchester,
19641, p. 94.
2 ~ . Chadwick, 'The Circle and the Ellipse' (19591, in H. von Campenhausen
and H. Chadwick, lerusalem and Rome (Philadelphia, 19661, p. 25.
3 54 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
blessings. This development would mark the climax of gospel
witness in the world and precipitate the parousia. This seems to be
the point of Paul's quotation of Isaiah 59:20 f. in this context
(Romans 11:26 f.). He quotes it in the form: The Deliverer will
come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.' The
Hebrew text says 'to Zion'; the Septuagint version says 'for Zion's
sake'. Paul has apparently derived 'from Zion' from Psalm
14:7//53:6, '0 that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!'
The implication i s that the climax of salvation i s closely associated
with Jerusalem. Not only did the gospel first go out into all the
world from Jerusalem; Jerusalem (if we interpret Paul aright) would
be the scene of i t s consummation. And Paul's own ministry, as he
saw it, had a crucial role in speeding this consummation.'
No wonder, then, that Paul related his ministry closely to
Jerusalem. This adds a further dimension of meaning to Paul's
organizing of the Jerusalem relief fund and to his resolve t o be
personally present in Jerusalem with the messengers of the Gentile
churches who were to hand it over. It was not only his response to
the request of the Jerusalem leaders at an earlier date that he
should 'remember the poor' (Galatians 2:lO); it was not only an
acknowledgment on the part of the Gentile churches of their
indebtedness to Jerusalem and a means of promoting a more
binding fellowship of love between them and the church of
Jerusalem. It was all that, but it was at the same time the outward
and visible sign of Paul's achievement thus far, the occasion of his
rendering to the Lord who commissioned him an account of his
discharge of that commission. It was also, in his eyes, a fulfilment
of prophecy.
One of the prophets of Israel had foreseen the day when 'the
wealth of nations' would come to Jerusalem, when foreigners
would 'bring gold and frankincense and proclaim the praise of the
LORD'. 'They shall come up with acceptance on my altar', said the
God of Israel, 'and I will glorify my glorious name' (Isaiah 60:5-7). A
careful study of Romans 15 leads to the conclusion that Paul sees
this promise being fulfilled in the impending visit of Gentile
'on this see J. Munck, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind, E.T. (London, 19591,
passim.
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED 355
believers to Jerusalem, carrying their churches' gifts and prepared
to join their fellow-believers of Jerusalem in thanksgiving to God. It
was this vision that prompted his earnest prayer that 'the offering
of the Gentiles (nyoapopu zcGv 28vcGv) might be acceptable, being
sanctified by the Holy Spirit' (Romans 15:16). This language echoes
that of Isaiah 66:20, where the brethren of the Jerusalemites will
be brought 'from all the nations as an offering to the LORD'. In the
Old Testament context the 'brethren' in question are Jews of the
dispersion; for Paul they are fellow-members of that extended
family which embraces believing Gentiles and believing Jews-
together children of Abraham.
The Gentile Christians brought their monetary offering, but
they themselves constituted Paul's living offering, the fruit of his
own Lpovpyh. Paul would not have thought of presenting this
offering anywhere other than in Jerusalem. Hence his decision to
accompany the Gentile delegates as they travelled there to hand
over their churches' gifts to the mother-church. He may have had
it in mind to render an account of his stewardship thus far and to
re-dedicate himself for the next phase of his ministry in those very
temple precincts where, more than twenty years before, the Lord
had appeared to him and confirmed his commission to preach to
the Gentiles (Acts 22:17-211.' His Gentile companions could not
accompany him into the temple, but there in spirit he could
discharge his i ~povpyi a and present as a 'pure offering' the faith of
his converts through which the name of the God of Israel was now
'great among the Gentiles' (Malachi 1:11).
He may indeed have hoped that on a later occasion, when his
contemplated evangelization of Spain was completed, he might
pay a further visit to Jerusalem with a fresh offering of Gentiles
from 'the limit of the westr2 and render a further, perhaps the final,
account of his ~tewardship.~
'see p. 345 above, with n. 3.
2 ~ f . 1 Clement 5:7 (rb rkppa r& 6 8 0 ~ ~ ) .
3 ~ o r the argument that the 'full number of the Gentiles' (Romans 11:25) will
not 'come in' until Paul 'has brought Christian representatives from Spain to
Jerusalem as part of his collection enterprise' see R. D. Aus, 'Paul's Travel Plans
to Spain and the "Full Number of the Gentiles" of Rom. xi.25', NovT, xxi (19791,
232-62.
356 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
But at the moment his visit to Jerusalem with the fruit of his
Aegean ministry had to be paid, and he could not foresee how it
would turn out. He lets his Roman readers fully into his motives for
paying the visit, and shares with them his misgivings about the
outcome. That the 'unbelievers in Judaea' would stir up trouble for
him as on previous occasions was only to be expected; but would
the gift-bearing Creeks (Danaos et dona ferentes)' be 'acceptable
to the saints' (Romans 15:31)? Paul could not feel sure on this
score, and he invites the Roman Christians to join him in earnest
prayer that his hopes and plans would be fulfilled. If things turned
out otherwise, then all the care which had gone into the
organization of the fund, all the high hopes which Paul cherished
for the forging of a firmer bond of affection between the mother-
church and the Gentile mission, would be frustrated. Whether or
not the leaders of the Jerusalem church did in fact accept the gifts
in the spirit in which they were brought i s disputed, but it does not
affect our understanding of ~omans? One thing i s clear: Paul was
anxious that they should so accept them, and he seeks the
prayers of the Roman Christians to this end.
Did he seek more than their prayers? Their prayers were all that
he explicitly asked for, but did he hope that they would read
between the lines and do even more than he asked?
We may certainly dismiss the view that the letter i s addressed
only ostensibly t o Rome but is essentially directed to the
Jerusalem church-that Paul throughout the letter really develops
the argument which he hoped would be effective in ~erusalem.~
There i s nothing in the letter to suggest that i t s contents are not
primarily intended for Roman consumption; we have argued
indeed that i t s contents are as a whole suited to the Roman
' Virgil, Aeneid 2.49.
2 ~ . D. C. Dunn thinks it most likely that Ithe Jerusalem church refused to
accept the collection' (Unity and Diversity in the New Testament [London, 19771,
p. 257). (For my part, I think it more likely that they did accept it.)
3~mplifying the suggestion of E. Fuchs that the 'secret address' of the letter is
Jerusalem (Hermeneutik [Bad Canstatt, 19631, p. 1911, J. Jervell argues that 'the
essential and primary content of Romans (1:18-11:36) is a reflection upon its
major content, the "collection speech, or more precisely, the defense which
Paul plans to give before the church in Jerusalem' (The Letter to Jerusalem'
119721, in The Romans Debate (ed. K. P. Donfried), p. 64).
THE ROMANS DEBATEXONTINUED 357
situation, as they are for the most part unsuited to the Jerusalem
situation.
But might Paul be hinting that the Roman Christians could do
something to pave the way for a favourable reception in
~erusalem?' We have no direct information on such contact as
may have existed at this date between the Christians of Rome and
the church of Jerusalem, but it would be surprising if there were
no communication between them. There would, however, be no
time for the Roman Christians to get in touch with Jerusalem
between their receiving this letter and Paul's arrival in Jerusalem.
Paul was evidently on the point of setting out for Jerusalem when
he sent the letter (nopetiopar, 'l am on my way', he says in Romans
15:25). -If the year was AD 57, he left Philippi about 15 April-'after
the days of Unleavened Bread' (Acts 20: 6t and reached
Caesarea with his companions about 14 May. Even if Phoebe left
Cenchreae a month before Paul set out for Jerusalem (mid-March
was the earliest date for the resumption of sailing after winter),'
she would not have reached Rome much earlier than mid-April,
and there was no way that messengers from Rome could reach
Judaea before Paul did, even if they had set out as soon as the
letter was r e~ei ved. ~
But Paul certainly did wish to involve the Roman Christians as
closely as possible with his Jerusalem enterprise, and if the
Jerusalem leaders could be given to understand (tactfully) that
Rome was being kept in the picture, this might have influenced
their reception of Paul and his Gentile friends.
'SO Y. M. Park, 'The Effect of Contemporary Conditions i n the Jerusalem
Church on the Writing ol the Epistle to the Romans' (unpublished Ph.D. thesis,
University of Edinburgh, 1979).
' ~e~et i us, De re rnilitari 4.39. Even a journey by land could not have begun
much earlier.
3 ~ t would not have made much difference to the timing if Phoebe went t o
Rome by the Via Egnatia rather than all the way by sea. The promptest journey
from Rome t o Judaea took nearly five weeks; for example, news of the death of
Tiberius on 16 March AD 37 (Tacitus, Ann. 6.50), reached Jerusalem on the eve
of Passover (Josephus, Ant. 18.12241, which in that year coincided with the full
moon of April 17 or 18. Cf. A. M. Ramsay, The Speed of the Roman Imperial
Post', ]RS, xv (19251, 60-74.
358 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
Ill. CONCLUSION
In short, not only in his impending visit to Jerusalem to
discharge the relief fund and not only in his subsequent Spanish
project, but in all the aspects of his apostleship Paul was eager to
involve the Roman Christians as his partners, and to involve them
as a united body. He did not know how much longer time he had
to devote to the evangelization of the Gentile world. He may have
believed himself to be immortal till his work was done (he never
explicitly says so), but for one so constantly exposed to the risk of
death it would have been irresponsible to make no provision
against the time when death or some other hazard would prevent
him from continuing his work. He had his younger associates, we
know--men like Timothy and Titus--who could bear the torch
after his departure. But if he could associate with his world vision a
whole community like the Roman church, the unfinished task
might be accomplished the sooner. The influence of that church
sprang not only from the centrality of the imperial capital and i t s
unrivalled means of communication with distant regions, but
even more (he had reason t o believe) from the outstanding faith
and spiritual maturity of which the Roman Christians gave
evidence. An individual might suffer death or imprisonment, but a
church would go on living. Therefore in all the parts of his letter to
the Romans he instructs them, he exhorts them, he shares with
them his own concerns and ambitions in the hope that they may
make these their own. These hopes and ambitions embraced not
only the advance of the Gentile mission but also the ingathering
of Israel which, he was persuaded, would follow the completion of
the Gentile mission. Because of i t s history and composition, the
church of Rome was uniquely fitted for this ministry. That i t s
members might see the vision and respond to it Paul sent them
this letter.
Did the Roman Christians rise to the occasion? The witness of
history is that they did. From now on, and especially after AD 70,
Christendom, which could hitherto be represented by a circle
with i t s centre at Jerusalem, became rather (in Henry Chadwick's
figure) an ellipse with two foci-Jerusalem and ~ome. ' The
'The Circle and the Ellipse', p. 29.
THE ROMANS DEBATE-CONTINUED 359
influential part played henceforth by the Christians of Rome in the
life of the ecumenical church i s due not so much to their city's
imperial status as to the encouragement given them by Paul in
this letter.2
And later, no doubt, during his two years' residence among them. This
much may be said with confidence, even if we do not go so far as to say with
Henry Chadwick that, 'if there is one man who more than any other man may
be regarded as founder of the papacy, that man is surely St. Paul' ('The Circle
and the Ellipse', p. 36).

Related Interests


may abound? (Romans 6:l). He makes it plain, therefore, that the
gospel which he preaches i s not only the way of righteousness, in
the sense of the righteous status which God by his grace bestows
on believers in Christ, but also the way of holiness, in which 'the
righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in us who walk not
according to the flesh but according to the Spirit' (Romans 8:4).
The relation of chapters 9-11 t o the plan of the letter as a whole
has been much debated. It has been said that, if Paul had moved
from the end of chapter 8, with i t s celebration of the glory which
consummates God's saving work in his people, to the beginning of
chapter 12, with i t s practical application of that saving work to the
daily life of Christians, we should have been conscious of no
hiatus. Yet Paul judged it fitting to grapple at this point with a
problem which, as he confesses, caused him great personal pain.
Israel, the nation which God had chosen to be the vehicle of his
purpose of grace in the world, had as a whole failed to respond to
the fulfilment of that purpose in Jesus Christ. Paul was conscious
of this as a problem for himself both on the personal and on the
apostolic level. If in Israel's failure to respond he saw writ large his
own earlier unbelief, that very fact brought hope with it: as his
eyes had been opened, so his people's eyes would surely be
opened. For this he prayed incessantly.' Indeed, if Israel's
salvation could be won at the price of his own damnation, he
would readily pay that price.2 He would gladly have devoted his
life and strength to the evangelizing of his peopleI3 but he was
specifically called to be Christ's apostle to the Gentile world. Yet
he trusted that even by the evangelization of Gentiles he would
indirectly do something for the advantage of his own people: they
would be stimulated to jealousy as they saw increasing numbers
of Gentiles enjoying the gospel blessings which were the fruit of
God's promises to the patriarchs, and would waken up to the
' Romans 10:l.
2
Romans 9:l-3.
Acts 22:17-21, on which see 0. Betz, Di e Vision des Paulus im Tempel
von Je~sa~em' , in Verborum Veritas: Festschrih fiir C. Stahlin, ed. 0. Bocher and
K. Haacker (Wuppertal, 19701, pp. 113 ff.
346 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
realization that these blessings were for them too-that in fact
they should properly have been for them first, since they were the
descendants of the patriarchs and the inheritors of those
promises. This prospect enhanced the prestige of his apostleship
as he contemplated it: 'inasmuch as I am the Gentiles' apostle, I
glorify my ministry in order to make my kinsfolk jealous and thus
save some of them' (Romans 1133 f.).
But it i s not simply to share with the Roman Christians his
concern for Israel and his appreciation of the significance of his
apostleship that he writes like this. His theme is relevant to the
situation in Rome. It i s in this context that he warns the Gentiles
among his readers not t o despise the Jews, whether the Jews in
general or Jewish Christians in particular, because God has not
written them off. They continue to have a place in his purpose,
and his purpose will not be completed until, with the ingathering
of the full tale of Gentile converts, 'all Israel will be saved' (Romans
11:25 f.). Gentile Christians must not pride themselves on the
superiority of their faith, but remember that they are what they
are only by the kindness of God. This will induce in them a proper
sense of humility, and respect and understanding for their fellow-
believers of Jewish stock.
The paragraph about the Christian's relation to the secular
authorities (Romans 13:l-7) is best understood in the light of the
Roman destination of the letter. This is not a universal statement
of political principle. The injunction to 'render (&71660~&) t o all
their dues' (13:7) may indeed be viewed as a generalization of
Jesus' precept: 'render (&716602&) t o Caesar what belongs to
Caesar' (Mark 12:17). That precept was addressed to a particular
situation in Judaea, in face of a firmly held and violently defended
doctrine that for Jews of Judaea to pay tribute to a pagan overlord
was to take from God the things that were his and hand them
over t o another. That situation, of course, did not exist in Rome.
But in generalizing the dominical precept Paul has in mind the
situation which did exist in Rome and in other cities throughout
the empire.
Eight years previously, it appears, the introduction of
Christianity into Rome had led to riots. About the same time,
according to Luke, the arrival of Paul and his fellow-preachers in
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED 347
Thessalonica provoked the charge that they were the men who
had subverted the whole world and kept on 'acting against the
decrees of Caesar' (Acts 17:6 f.). The name of 'Christian' had
subversive associations in Rome and elsewhere: some at least
remembered that the founder of the movement had been
executed by sentence of a Roman judge on a charge of sedition.'
It was most important that Christians in the imperial capital
should recognize their responsibility not t o give any support by
their way of life to this widespread imputation of disloyalty, but
rather refute it by punctilious obedience to the authorities and
payment of all lawful dues. Thus far the representatives of imperial
law had, in Paul's experience, shown at least a benevolent
neutrality t o the prosecution of his mi ssi ~n. ~ The time was to
come, and that in Rome itself, when this would no longer be so.
When Caesar demanded the allegiance which belonged to God,
his demand had to be refused. But Caesar had not yet done so,
and Paul does not mention this eventuality. His approach to the
matter is relevant t o the situation of Roman Christians at the time
and in the circumstances of their receiving the letter.
Equally relevant to the Roman situation is the practical section
in Romans 14:l-15:7 in which Paul deals with the relation between
the 'strong' and the 'weak' in the Christian fellowship-the 'weak'
being those who scrupulously abstained from certain kinds of
food and paid religious respect to certain holy days, while the
'strong' (like Paul himself) had a more robust conscience with
regard to such externalities.
There i s a degree of resemblance between what Paul says here
and what he says to the Corinthian church on the issue of eating
or avoiding the flesh of animals offered in sacrifice to a pagan
deity (1 Corinthians 8:l-13; 10:14-30). But in this section of the
letter to the Romans there i s no direct word about eating
~j60jZoOu~a (an issue bound to be acute in a mainly Gentile
church like that of Corinth). The distinction here is rather between
the believer who can, with a good conscience, eat food of any
'cf. the only mention of the trial of Jesus by a pagan author: 'Christus Tiberio
imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat'
(Tacitus, Ann. 15.44.4).
' ~ o t a b l ~ Gallio, who refused to take up a complaint against him at Corinth
(Acts 1832-16).
348 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
kind and treat all days alike, and the believer whose conscience
forbids the eating of any but vegetable food and the doing of
ordinary work (however normally legitimate) on a holy day. The
principle of mutual considerateness which Paul inculcates in this
section would, of course, cover the issue of ~i h;l devza, but if
Paul has one particular situation in mind here, it is a situation in
which Jewish and Gentile Christians have to live together in
fellowship. It was to such a situation, indeed, that the Jerusalem
decree was addressed a few years before, but Paul takes a
different line from the decree. The decree urged abstention from
~i hAdevza and flesh from which the blood had not been
completely drained;' Paul urges his readers to consider one
another.
It was not simply that Jewish Christians continued t o confine
themselves to kosher food and to observe the Sabbath and other
holy days, while Gentile Christians practised complete liberty in
both respects. The situation was probably more complex. Many
Jewish Christians had become more or less emancipated from
legal obligations in religion, even if few were so totally emanci-
pated as Paul was. On the other hand, some Gentiles were more
than willing to judaize, to take over the Jewish food restrictions
and Jewish regard for holy days, even if they stopped short at
ci rc~mci si on.~ We have examples of this tendency to judaize in
our own day, even if it i s not expressly called judaizing; and in the
apostolic age we have only t o think of Paul's Gentile converts in
Galatia, who were not only beginning t o keep the Jewish sacred
calendar but even to accept circumcision.
Among the house-churches of Rome, then, we should probably
envisage a broad and continuous spectrum of varieties in thought
and practice between the firm Jewish retention of the ancestral
customs and Gentile remoteness from these customs, with some
Jewish Christians, indeed, found on the liberal side of the halfway
mark between the two extremes and some Gentile Christians on
the 'legalist' side.j Variety of this kind can very easily promote a
' ~ c t s 15:28 f. Cf. C. K. Barrett, 'Things Offered to Idols', NTS xi (1964-51,138 ff.
'cf. Juvenal, Sat., 14. % ff.
h he varieties need not be demarcated so distinctly as in P. S. Minear, The
Obedience of Faith (London, 1974, pp. 8 ff., where five different outlooks are
identified.
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED 349
spirit of division, and Paul wished to safeguard the Roman
Christians against this, encouraging them rather to regard the
variety as an occasion for charity, forbearance and
understanding.
Instead of laying down rules which would restrict Christian
freedom, Paul makes it plain that, religiously speaking, one kind of
food i s no worse than another, one day no better than another. It
is human beings that matter, not food or the calendar. Christian
charity, on the one hand, will impose no limitations on another's
freedom; Christian charity, on the other hand, will not force
liberty on the conscience of someone who is not yet ready for it.
The scrupulous Christian must not criticize his more emancipated
brother or sister; the emancipated must not look down on the
over-scrupulous. The only limitation that can properly be imposed
on Christian liberty i s that imposed by Christian charity, and it can
only be self-imposed. No Christian was more thoroughly emanci-
pated than Paul, but none was readier to limit his own liberty in
the interests of his fellow-~hristians.' In such matters as
abstention from food or observance of days he conformed to the
company in which he found himself: in themselves they were
matters of utter i ndi fferen~e.~ This example he recommends to
others. For the rest, they should do what they believe to be right
without forcing their convictions on others or thinking the worse
of others if they do not see eye to eye with them.
2. Spain
H Spain plays a less crucial role in the letter than either Rome or
Jerusalem does, it i s no merely peripheral one. Not only did Paul's
plan to visit Spain provide him with an opportunity t o gratify his
long-cherished desire to see Rome, but it enabled him to invite
the Roman Christians' collaboration in the next phase of his
apostolic enterprise. It meant, moreover, that he could tell the
Roman Christians of his plan to visit them without giving them
cause to suspect that he was coming to put down his roots
among them or assert apostolic authority over them. At the same
time, by assuring them of his ardent longing to make their
'cf. 1 Corinthians 8:13; 10:33; Romans 14:14. 'cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
350 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
acquaintance he makes it plain that he does not simply see in
their city a convenient stopping-off place on his way to Spain.
Rome probably lay no less close to his heart at this time than
Spain did.'
But why should he think of evangelizing Spain? If he judged his
task in the Aegean world to be complete and wished to adhere to
his policy of confining his ministry to virgin soil, his range of choice
in the Mediterranean world, as has been said, was limited. By AD
57 the gospel had certainly been carried to Alexandria and
Cyrene, if not farther west along the African coast. The close
association between proconsular Asia and Gallia Narbonensis
would suggest that the evangelization of the former territory in
AD 52-5 led quickly to the evangelization of the latter. But Spain,
for long the chief bastion of Roman power in the west, beckoned
Paul as his next mission-field.
We have no idea what contact, if any, Paul may have had with
people from Spain who could have told him something of
conditions in that land.2 One thing is certain: the language which
had served him so well in his ministry hitherto, and served him
equally well in his present communication with Rome, would not
be adequate for the evangelizing of Spain. Spain was a Latin-
speaking area. Paul was probably not entirely ignorant of Latin,
but he would require to speak it fluently if he was to do effective
work in Spain. It was perhaps in order to spend some time in a
Latin-speaking environment that he had recently paid a visit to
Illyricum. We should not, in fact, have known about his visit to
lllyricum but for his mentioning it in Romans 15:19 as the
westernmost limit of his apostolic activity thus far.
If lllyricum provided him with some linguistic preparation, there
were other kinds of preparation required for such an enterprise as
he contemplated in Spain. In earlier days the church of Syrian
Antioch had provided Paul and Barnabas with a base for the
evangelization of Cyprus and South Galatia. Later, when
Christianity had been established in Corinth and Ephesus, these
' ~hr~sostom goes farther: 'he mentions Spain in order to show his eagerness
and warmth towards them [the Roman Christiansl' (Homilies on Romans, 30 [on
15:283).
'cf. W. P. Bowers, 'Jewish Communities in Spain in the Time of Paul the
Apostle', ITS, n.s. 26 (19751, 395402.
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED
two cities provided Paul with bases for the evangelization
respectively of the provinces of Achaia and Asia. But where would
he find a base for the evangelization of Spain if not in Rome? He
does not in so many words ask the Roman Christians to provide
him with such a base, but he sets the situation before them in
such a way that they would see his need of one and could, if they
were so minded, spontaneously offer to supply what was needed.
'I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain', he says, 'and to be
sped on my journey there by you (Gq' b@v npon~pqeflvcrr i.lc~i),
when first I have enjoyed your company for a little' (Romans
15:24). Here certainly i s one facet of his purpose in writing--not, of
course, the only one. What the sequel was--whether or not he
did go to Spain, and whether or not the Roman church did
provide him with a base--is quite unclear, and i s in any case
irrelevant to our investigation of the purpose of the letter.
3. lerusalem
Towards the end of his personal remarks in Romans 15, Paul
tells the Roman Christians that, before he can come to their city
and spend some time with them on his way to Spain, he must for
the present go to Jerusalem 'with aid for the saints' (Romans
15:25). This i s a reference to his involvement in the Jerusalem relief
fund, which we know from his Corinthian correspondence to
have been very much on his mind for some time back.'
One obvious reason for mentioning the relief fund to the
Roman Christians was to explain why he could not set out for
Rome immediately: this business of delivering the collected
money to Jerusalem must be completed first. Therefore he could
not give them even an approximate date for his arrival in Rome-
as things turned out, it was just as well that he did not try to give
them one! Even if nothing untoward happened, there was no way
of knowing how long the business would take. According to
Luke's record, he hoped to be in Jerusalem in time for Pentecost
(which in AD 57 fell on May 29).
But evidently Paul i s not merely advising his friends in Rome
that there may be some delay in his setting out to see them: he
tries, tactfully, to involve them in his Jerusalem enterprise. He does
'cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:l-9:15.
352 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
not, either expressly or by implication, invite them to contribute
t o the fund. It had been raised among the churches of Paul's own
planting, in which the Roman church had no place. Indeed, just
because the Roman Christians were not involved in the fund in
this sense, Paul could tell them about it in a more relaxed manner
than was possible in writing to people whom he wished to make a
generous contribution. The Gentile churches, he says, are debtors
to Jerusalem in respect of spiritual blessings; it is but fitting that
they should acknowledge that debt by imparting to Jerusalem
such blessings as they could impart-material blessings, monetary
gifts.
It i s plain from his Galatian and Corinthian letters that Paul was
greatly concerned to preserve his churches' independence of
Jerusalem. Yet here he himself acknowledges their dependence
on Jerusalem for the gospel itself. Indeed, we learn more here than
anywhere else of Paul's real attitude to Jerusalem. Throughout his
letters there i s an ambivalence in his relation to the Jerusalem
church and i t s leaders: on the one hand, they must not be
allowed to dictate t o his churches or himself; on the other, he
must at all costs prevent his apostolic ministry and the Gentile
mission from having the ties of fellowship with Jerusalem severed.
This appears clearly enough in Galatians: in the very context in
which he asserts his independence of Jerusalem he tells how he
went up t o Jerusalem on one occasion and laid his gospel before
the leaders of the church there.' Happily, they appear to have
recognized the validity of Paul's gospel and his authority to
communicate it to the Gentiles. What if they had withheld such
recognition? Paul was under orders higher than theirs, but his
work would be largely frustrated if he had to carry it on in
isolation from Jerusalem. Luke does not always tell his readers why
Paul's apostolic ministry was punctuated by the successive visits
t o Jerusalem which he records (Acts 9:26; 11:30; 15:2; 18:22;
19:21), but in the light of Paul's letters we can see why he was so
careful to maintain contact with Jerusalem and we can accept
Luke's account in this regard as being true t o the facts.
The place which Jerusalem occupied in Paul's thinking is
emphasized by his statement in Romans 15:19 about the range of
'~alatians 2:2-10.
THE ROMANS DEBATEXONTINUED 353
his apostolic activity to the time of writing: 'from Jerusalem and as
far round as lllyricurn I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.' It
i s evident from Acts and from Paul's own testimony that it was not
in Jerusalem that he first preached the gospel. Why then does he
give Jerusalem pride of place in this statement? Perhaps because
Jerusalem i s the place where, by divine decree, the preaching of
the gospel is initiated :
out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem
(Isaiah 2:31.
This primacy of Jerusalem i s recognized in the Lucan tradition-
for example, in the direction 'beginning from Jerusalem' in the
risen Lord's charge to his disciples (Luke 24:47; cf. Acts 1:8). Paul
appears to acknowledge this primacy not only in Romans 15:19
but elsewhere in his letters. He had, in fact, a greater regard for the
Jerusalem church and its leaders than they evidently had for him,
and was indeed, as the late Arnold Ehrhardt put it, 'one of the
greatest assets for the Jerusalem church' because, either by his
personal action' or under his influence, versions of the gospel
which were defective by the standards of Jerusalem were brought
into conformity with the line maintained in common by Paul and
the leaders of the mother-church.' And it i s a matter of plain
history as well as a 'theological presupposition' that, from the
inception of the church until at least AD 60, 'Christendom' (in the
words of Henry Chadwick) 'has a geographical centre and this i s
Jerusalem. Gentile Christians might be free from Judaism; they
remained debtors t o ion."
Jerusalem also played a central part in Paul's understanding of
the consummation of God's purpose in the world. He himself, as
apostle to the Gentiles, had a key place in that purpose as he
understood it--not only directly, as the progress of the gospel
prospered under his hand among the Gentiles, but also indirectly,
when (as he hoped) the large-scale participation of Gentiles in the
blessings of the gospel would stimulate the Jewish people t o
jealousy and move them to claim their own proper share in those
'A. A. T. Ehrhardt, The Framework of the New Testament Stories (Manchester,
19641, p. 94.
2 ~ . Chadwick, 'The Circle and the Ellipse' (19591, in H. von Campenhausen
and H. Chadwick, lerusalem and Rome (Philadelphia, 19661, p. 25.
3 54 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
blessings. This development would mark the climax of gospel
witness in the world and precipitate the parousia. This seems to be
the point of Paul's quotation of Isaiah 59:20 f. in this context
(Romans 11:26 f.). He quotes it in the form: The Deliverer will
come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.' The
Hebrew text says 'to Zion'; the Septuagint version says 'for Zion's
sake'. Paul has apparently derived 'from Zion' from Psalm
14:7//53:6, '0 that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!'
The implication i s that the climax of salvation i s closely associated
with Jerusalem. Not only did the gospel first go out into all the
world from Jerusalem; Jerusalem (if we interpret Paul aright) would
be the scene of i t s consummation. And Paul's own ministry, as he
saw it, had a crucial role in speeding this consummation.'
No wonder, then, that Paul related his ministry closely to
Jerusalem. This adds a further dimension of meaning to Paul's
organizing of the Jerusalem relief fund and to his resolve t o be
personally present in Jerusalem with the messengers of the Gentile
churches who were to hand it over. It was not only his response to
the request of the Jerusalem leaders at an earlier date that he
should 'remember the poor' (Galatians 2:lO); it was not only an
acknowledgment on the part of the Gentile churches of their
indebtedness to Jerusalem and a means of promoting a more
binding fellowship of love between them and the church of
Jerusalem. It was all that, but it was at the same time the outward
and visible sign of Paul's achievement thus far, the occasion of his
rendering to the Lord who commissioned him an account of his
discharge of that commission. It was also, in his eyes, a fulfilment
of prophecy.
One of the prophets of Israel had foreseen the day when 'the
wealth of nations' would come to Jerusalem, when foreigners
would 'bring gold and frankincense and proclaim the praise of the
LORD'. 'They shall come up with acceptance on my altar', said the
God of Israel, 'and I will glorify my glorious name' (Isaiah 60:5-7). A
careful study of Romans 15 leads to the conclusion that Paul sees
this promise being fulfilled in the impending visit of Gentile
'on this see J. Munck, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind, E.T. (London, 19591,
passim.
THE ROMANS DEBATE--CONTINUED 355
believers to Jerusalem, carrying their churches' gifts and prepared
to join their fellow-believers of Jerusalem in thanksgiving to God. It
was this vision that prompted his earnest prayer that 'the offering
of the Gentiles (nyoapopu zcGv 28vcGv) might be acceptable, being
sanctified by the Holy Spirit' (Romans 15:16). This language echoes
that of Isaiah 66:20, where the brethren of the Jerusalemites will
be brought 'from all the nations as an offering to the LORD'. In the
Old Testament context the 'brethren' in question are Jews of the
dispersion; for Paul they are fellow-members of that extended
family which embraces believing Gentiles and believing Jews-
together children of Abraham.
The Gentile Christians brought their monetary offering, but
they themselves constituted Paul's living offering, the fruit of his
own Lpovpyh. Paul would not have thought of presenting this
offering anywhere other than in Jerusalem. Hence his decision to
accompany the Gentile delegates as they travelled there to hand
over their churches' gifts to the mother-church. He may have had
it in mind to render an account of his stewardship thus far and to
re-dedicate himself for the next phase of his ministry in those very
temple precincts where, more than twenty years before, the Lord
had appeared to him and confirmed his commission to preach to
the Gentiles (Acts 22:17-211.' His Gentile companions could not
accompany him into the temple, but there in spirit he could
discharge his i ~povpyi a and present as a 'pure offering' the faith of
his converts through which the name of the God of Israel was now
'great among the Gentiles' (Malachi 1:11).
He may indeed have hoped that on a later occasion, when his
contemplated evangelization of Spain was completed, he might
pay a further visit to Jerusalem with a fresh offering of Gentiles
from 'the limit of the westr2 and render a further, perhaps the final,
account of his ~tewardship.~
'see p. 345 above, with n. 3.
2 ~ f . 1 Clement 5:7 (rb rkppa r& 6 8 0 ~ ~ ) .
3 ~ o r the argument that the 'full number of the Gentiles' (Romans 11:25) will
not 'come in' until Paul 'has brought Christian representatives from Spain to
Jerusalem as part of his collection enterprise' see R. D. Aus, 'Paul's Travel Plans
to Spain and the "Full Number of the Gentiles" of Rom. xi.25', NovT, xxi (19791,
232-62.
356 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
But at the moment his visit to Jerusalem with the fruit of his
Aegean ministry had to be paid, and he could not foresee how it
would turn out. He lets his Roman readers fully into his motives for
paying the visit, and shares with them his misgivings about the
outcome. That the 'unbelievers in Judaea' would stir up trouble for
him as on previous occasions was only to be expected; but would
the gift-bearing Creeks (Danaos et dona ferentes)' be 'acceptable
to the saints' (Romans 15:31)? Paul could not feel sure on this
score, and he invites the Roman Christians to join him in earnest
prayer that his hopes and plans would be fulfilled. If things turned
out otherwise, then all the care which had gone into the
organization of the fund, all the high hopes which Paul cherished
for the forging of a firmer bond of affection between the mother-
church and the Gentile mission, would be frustrated. Whether or
not the leaders of the Jerusalem church did in fact accept the gifts
in the spirit in which they were brought i s disputed, but it does not
affect our understanding of ~omans? One thing i s clear: Paul was
anxious that they should so accept them, and he seeks the
prayers of the Roman Christians to this end.
Did he seek more than their prayers? Their prayers were all that
he explicitly asked for, but did he hope that they would read
between the lines and do even more than he asked?
We may certainly dismiss the view that the letter i s addressed
only ostensibly t o Rome but is essentially directed to the
Jerusalem church-that Paul throughout the letter really develops
the argument which he hoped would be effective in ~erusalem.~
There i s nothing in the letter to suggest that i t s contents are not
primarily intended for Roman consumption; we have argued
indeed that i t s contents are as a whole suited to the Roman
' Virgil, Aeneid 2.49.
2 ~ . D. C. Dunn thinks it most likely that Ithe Jerusalem church refused to
accept the collection' (Unity and Diversity in the New Testament [London, 19771,
p. 257). (For my part, I think it more likely that they did accept it.)
3~mplifying the suggestion of E. Fuchs that the 'secret address' of the letter is
Jerusalem (Hermeneutik [Bad Canstatt, 19631, p. 1911, J. Jervell argues that 'the
essential and primary content of Romans (1:18-11:36) is a reflection upon its
major content, the "collection speech, or more precisely, the defense which
Paul plans to give before the church in Jerusalem' (The Letter to Jerusalem'
119721, in The Romans Debate (ed. K. P. Donfried), p. 64).
THE ROMANS DEBATEXONTINUED 357
situation, as they are for the most part unsuited to the Jerusalem
situation.
But might Paul be hinting that the Roman Christians could do
something to pave the way for a favourable reception in
~erusalem?' We have no direct information on such contact as
may have existed at this date between the Christians of Rome and
the church of Jerusalem, but it would be surprising if there were
no communication between them. There would, however, be no
time for the Roman Christians to get in touch with Jerusalem
between their receiving this letter and Paul's arrival in Jerusalem.
Paul was evidently on the point of setting out for Jerusalem when
he sent the letter (nopetiopar, 'l am on my way', he says in Romans
15:25). -If the year was AD 57, he left Philippi about 15 April-'after
the days of Unleavened Bread' (Acts 20: 6t and reached
Caesarea with his companions about 14 May. Even if Phoebe left
Cenchreae a month before Paul set out for Jerusalem (mid-March
was the earliest date for the resumption of sailing after winter),'
she would not have reached Rome much earlier than mid-April,
and there was no way that messengers from Rome could reach
Judaea before Paul did, even if they had set out as soon as the
letter was r e~ei ved. ~
But Paul certainly did wish to involve the Roman Christians as
closely as possible with his Jerusalem enterprise, and if the
Jerusalem leaders could be given to understand (tactfully) that
Rome was being kept in the picture, this might have influenced
their reception of Paul and his Gentile friends.
'SO Y. M. Park, 'The Effect of Contemporary Conditions i n the Jerusalem
Church on the Writing ol the Epistle to the Romans' (unpublished Ph.D. thesis,
University of Edinburgh, 1979).
' ~e~et i us, De re rnilitari 4.39. Even a journey by land could not have begun
much earlier.
3 ~ t would not have made much difference to the timing if Phoebe went t o
Rome by the Via Egnatia rather than all the way by sea. The promptest journey
from Rome t o Judaea took nearly five weeks; for example, news of the death of
Tiberius on 16 March AD 37 (Tacitus, Ann. 6.50), reached Jerusalem on the eve
of Passover (Josephus, Ant. 18.12241, which in that year coincided with the full
moon of April 17 or 18. Cf. A. M. Ramsay, The Speed of the Roman Imperial
Post', ]RS, xv (19251, 60-74.
358 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
Ill. CONCLUSION
In short, not only in his impending visit to Jerusalem to
discharge the relief fund and not only in his subsequent Spanish
project, but in all the aspects of his apostleship Paul was eager to
involve the Roman Christians as his partners, and to involve them
as a united body. He did not know how much longer time he had
to devote to the evangelization of the Gentile world. He may have
believed himself to be immortal till his work was done (he never
explicitly says so), but for one so constantly exposed to the risk of
death it would have been irresponsible to make no provision
against the time when death or some other hazard would prevent
him from continuing his work. He had his younger associates, we
know--men like Timothy and Titus--who could bear the torch
after his departure. But if he could associate with his world vision a
whole community like the Roman church, the unfinished task
might be accomplished the sooner. The influence of that church
sprang not only from the centrality of the imperial capital and i t s
unrivalled means of communication with distant regions, but
even more (he had reason t o believe) from the outstanding faith
and spiritual maturity of which the Roman Christians gave
evidence. An individual might suffer death or imprisonment, but a
church would go on living. Therefore in all the parts of his letter to
the Romans he instructs them, he exhorts them, he shares with
them his own concerns and ambitions in the hope that they may
make these their own. These hopes and ambitions embraced not
only the advance of the Gentile mission but also the ingathering
of Israel which, he was persuaded, would follow the completion of
the Gentile mission. Because of i t s history and composition, the
church of Rome was uniquely fitted for this ministry. That i t s
members might see the vision and respond to it Paul sent them
this letter.
Did the Roman Christians rise to the occasion? The witness of
history is that they did. From now on, and especially after AD 70,
Christendom, which could hitherto be represented by a circle
with i t s centre at Jerusalem, became rather (in Henry Chadwick's
figure) an ellipse with two foci-Jerusalem and ~ome. ' The
'The Circle and the Ellipse', p. 29.
THE ROMANS DEBATE-CONTINUED 359
influential part played henceforth by the Christians of Rome in the
life of the ecumenical church i s due not so much to their city's
imperial status as to the encouragement given them by Paul in
this letter.2
And later, no doubt, during his two years' residence among them. This
much may be said with confidence, even if we do not go so far as to say with
Henry Chadwick that, 'if there is one man who more than any other man may
be regarded as founder of the papacy, that man is surely St. Paul' ('The Circle
and the Ellipse', p. 36).

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