Epistle to the Romans

The Epistle to the Romans is the sixth book in the New Testament, and the longest of the thirteen Pauline epistles. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by Paul the Apostle to explain that salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans was likely written while Paul was staying in the house of Gaius in Corinth. The epistle was probably transcribed by Paul's amanuensis Tertius and is dated AD late 55 to early 57. Consisting of 16 chapters, versions with only the first 14 or 15 chapters circulated early. Some of these recensions lacked all reference to the original audience of Christians in Rome making it very general in nature. Other textual variants include subscripts explicitly mentioning Corinth as the place of composition and name Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae, as the messenger who took the epistle to Rome. Prior to composing the epistle, Paul had evangelized the areas surrounding the Aegean Sea and was eager to take the gospel farther to Spain, a journey that would allow him to visit Rome on the way. The epistle can consequentially be understood as a document outlining his reasons for the trip and preparing the church in Rome for his visit. Christians in Rome would have been of both Jewish and Gentile background and it is possible that the church suffered from internal strife between these two groups. Paul – a Hellenistic Jew and former Pharisee – shifts his argument to cater to both audiences and the church as a whole. Because the work contains material intended both for specific recipients as well as the general Christian public in Rome, scholars have had difficulty categorizing it as either a private letter or a public epistle. Although sometimes considered a treatise of (systematic) theology, Romans remains silent on many issues that Paul addresses elsewhere, but is nonetheless generally considered substantial, especially on justification and salvation. Proponents of both sola fide and the Roman Catholic position of the necessity of both faith and works find support in Romans. Martin Luther in his translation of the Bible controversially added the word "alone" (allein in German) to Romans 3:28 so that it read: "thus, we hold, then, that man is justified without doing the works of the law, alone through faith".

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