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A critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans online

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of the year 354,' connect a removal ol the bodies of the two Apostles with
the consulship of Tuscus and Bassus in the year 258. There is some
ambiguity as to the localities from and to which the bodies were moved ;
but the most probable view is that in the Valerian persecution when the
remeteries were closed to Christians, the treasured relics were transferred to
the site known as Ad Catacumbas adjoining the present Church of St
Sebastian '. Here they remained, according to one version, for a year and
seven months, according to another for forty years. The later story of an
attempt by certain Orientals to steal them away seems to have grown out of
a misunderstanding of an inscription by Pope Damasus (366-384 a.d.)^-

Here we have a chain of substantial proof that the Roman Church fully
beUeved itself to be in possession of the mortal remains of the two Apostles
as far back as the year 200, a tradition at that date already firmly established
and associated with definite well-known local monuments. The tradition aa
to the twenty five years' episcopate of St. Peter presents some points of re-
semblance. That too appears for the first time in the fnurth century with
Eusebius (c. 325 A.D.) and his follower Jerome. By skilful analysis it is
traced back a full hundred years earlier. It appears to be derived from a list
drawn up probably by Hippolytus '. Lipsius would carry back this list
a little further, and would make it composed under Victor in the last decade
of the second century*, and Lightfoot seems to think it possible that the
figures for the duration of the several episcopates may have been present in
the still older list of Hegesippus, writing under Eleutherus kc. 175-190 a. d.)'.

Thus we have the twenty-five years' episcopate of St. Peter certainly
believed in towards the end of the first quarter of the third century, if not by
the beginning of the last quarter of the second. We are coming back to
a time when a continuous tradition is beginning to be possible. And yet the
difficulties in the way of bringing St. Peter to Rome at a date so early as the
year 42 (which seems to be indicated) are so great as to make the acceptance
of this chronology almost impossible. Not only do we find St. Peter to all
appearance still settled at Jerusalem at the time of the Council in A.D. 51,
but we have seen that it is highly improbable that he had visited Rome
when St. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Church there. And it is hardly less
improbable that a visit had been made between this and the later Epistles
(Phil., Col., Eph., Philem.), The relations between the two Apostles and of
both to the work of missions in general, would almost compel some allusion
to such a visit if it had taken place. Between the years 58 or 61-63 and 170
there is quite time for legend to grow up ; and Lipsius has pointed out
a possible way in which it might arise •. There is evidence that the tradition
of our Lord's command to the Aptistles to remain at Jerusalem for twelve
years after His Ascension, was current towards the end of the second century.
The travels of the Apostles are usually dated from the end of this period

' The best account of this transfer is that given by Duchesne, Liber Pontiji-
call's i. cvi f.

'■' So Lipsius, after Erbes, Apokr. Apostelgesch. ii. 335 f., 391 flf. ; also Liglit-
foot, Clement ii. 500. The Roman Catholic writers, Kraus and De Waal,
would connect the story with the jealousies of Jewish and Gentile Christians in
the first century : see the latter's Die Apostelgruft ad Catacumbas, pp. 33 f^
49 (T. This work contains a full survey of the controversy with new archaeo'
logical details.

• Lightfoot, op. cit. i. 259 ff.; 333.

• Ap. Ligntfoot, pp. 237, 333. • Itid. p. 33J.

• Apokr. Apostelgesch. ii. 37, ()9>



(i.e. about 41-41 a.d.). Then the traditional date of the death of St. Petei
is 67 or 68 ; and subtracting 42 from 67 we get just the 25 years required.
It was assumed that 'St. Peter's episcopate dated from his first arrival in

So far the ground is fairly clear. But when Lipsius goes further than this
and denies the Roman visit in toto, his criticism seems to us too drastic '.
He arrives at his result thus. He traces a double stream in the tradition.
On the one hand there is the ' Petro-pauline tradition ' which regards the two
Apostles as establishing the Church in friendly co-operation ^. The outlines
of this have been sketched above. On the other hand there is the tradition
of the conflict of St. Peter with Simon Magus, which under the figure of
Simon Magus made a disguised attack upon St. Paul ^. Not only does
l^ipsius think that this is the earliest form of the tradition, but he regards it
as the original of all other forms which brought St. Peter to Rome * : the
only historical ground for it which he would allow is the visit of St. Paul.
This does not seem to us to be a satisfactory explanation. The traces of the
Petro-pauline tradition are really earlier than those of the Ebionite legend.
The way in which they are introduced is free from all suspicion. They are
supported by collateral evidence (St. Peter's First Epistle and the traditions
relating to St. Mark) the weight of which is considerable. There is practic-
ally no conflicting tradition. The claim of the Roman Church to joint
foundation by the two Apostles seems to have been nowhere disputed. And
even the Ebionite fiction is more probable as a distortion of facts that have
a basis of truth than as pure invention. The visit of St. Peter to Rome, and
his death there at some uncertain date ^, seem to us, if not removed beyond
all possibility of doubt, yet as well established as many of the leading facts
of history.

(a) Composition. The question as to the origin of the Roman
Church has little more than an antiquarian interest ; it is an isolated
fact or series of facts which does not greatly affect either the picture
which we form to ourselves of the Church or the sense in which
we understand the Epistle addressed to it. It is otherwise with
the question as to its composition. Throughout the ApostoHc age
the determining factor in most historical problems is the relative

* It is significant that oq this point Weizsacker parts company from Lipsius
{Apost. Zdtalt. p. 485).

» Op. cit. p. 1 1 ff. * Ibid. p. 28 ff.

« Ibid. p. 62 if.

' There is no substantial reason for supposing the death of St. Peter to have
taken place at the same time as that of St. Paul. It is true that the two
Apostles are commemorated upon the same day (June 29), and that the
Chronicle of Eusebius refers their deaths to the same year (a.d. 67 Vers.
Armen. ; 68 Hieron.). But the day is probably that of the deposition or re-
moval of the bodies to or from the Church of St. Sebastian (see above) ; and
for the year the evidence is very insufficient. Professor Ramsay {llie Church
in the Roman Empire, p. 279 ff.) would place the First Epistle of St. Peter in
the middle of the Flavian period, A.D. 75-80 ; and it must be admitted that the
authorities are not such as to impose an absolute veto on this view. The fact
that tradition connects the death of St. Peter with the Vatican would seem to
point to the great persecution of A.D. 64 ; but the state of things implied in
the Epistle does not look as if it were anterior to this. On the other hand,
Professor Ramsay's arguments have greatly shaken the objections to the tradi-
tional date of the death of St PauL. -,


preponderance of the Jewish element or the Gentile. Which of
these two elements are w-e to think of as giving its character to
the Church at Rome? Directly contrary answers have been given
to the question and whole volumes of controversy have grown up
around it; but in this instance some real advance has been made,
and the margin of difference among the leading critics is not now
very considerable.

Here as in so many other cases elsewhere the sharper statement of
the problem dates from Baur, whose powerful influence drew a long
train of followers after him ; and here as so often elsewhere the
manner in which Baur himself approaches the question is deter-
mined not by the minute exegesis of particular passages but by
a broad and comprehensive view of what seems to him to be the
argument of the Epistle as a whole. To him the Epistle seems to
be essentially directed against Jewish Christians. The true centre
of gravity of the Epistle he found m chaps, ix-xi. St, Paul there
grapples at close quarters with the objection that if his doctrine
held good, the special choice of Israel — its privileges and the
promises made to it — all fell to the ground. At first there is no
doubt that the stress laid by Baur on these three chapters in com-
parison with the rest was exaggerated and one-sided. His own
disciples criticized the position which he took up on this point, and
he himself gradually drew back from it, chiefly by showing that
a like tendency ran through the earlier portion of the Epistle.
There too St. Paul's object was to argue with the Jewish Christians
and to expose the weakness of their reliance on formal obedience
■ to the Mosaic Law.

The writer who has worked out this view of Baur's most elabo-
rately is Mangold. It is not difficult to show, when the Epistle is
closely examined, that there is a large element in it which is
essentially Jewish. The questions with which it deals are Jewish,
the validity of the Law, the nature of Redemption, the principle on
which man is to become righteous in the sight of God, the choice
of Israel. It is also true that the arguments with which St. Paul
meets these questions are very largely such as would appeal
specially to Jews. His own views are linked on directly to the
teaching of the Old Testament, and it is to the Old Testament
that he goes in support of them. It is fair to ask, what sort of
relevance arguments of this character would have as addressed to

It was also possible to point to one or two expressions in detail
which might seem to favour the assumption of Jewish readers.
Such would be Rom. iv. i where Abraham is described (in the
most probable text) as 'our forefather according to the flesh' {top
irpondTofja T]fxC)v Kara nupKii). To that howcver* it was obvious to
reply that in i Cor. x. t St. Paul spoke of the Israelites in the


wilderness as * our iathers,' though no one would maintain that the
Corinthian Christians were hy birth Jews. There is more weight
— indeed there is real weight — in the argument drawn from the
section, Rom. vii. i-6, where not only are the readers addressed
as «8fXc/)oi jMov (which would be just as possible if they were con-
verts from heathenism) but a sustained contrast is drawn between
an earlier state under the Law (6 vSfios vv. r, 4, 5, 6 ; not vv. 2, 3
where the force of the article is different) and a later state of free-
dom from the Law. It is true that this could not have been
wrUten to a Church which consisted wholly of Gentiles, unless the
Apostle had forgotten himself for the moment more entirely than
he is likely to have done. Still such expressions should not be
pressed too far. He associates his readers with himself in a manner
somewhat analogous to that in which he writes to the Corinthians,
as if their spiritual ancestry was the same as his own. Nor was
this without reason. He regards the whole pre-Messianic period
as a period of Law, of which the Law of Moses was only the most
conspicuous example.

It is a minor point, but also to some extent a real one, that the
exhortations in chs. xiii, xiv are probably in part at least addresser"
to Jews. That turbulent race, v/hich had called down the inter-
ference of the civil power some six or seven years before, needed
a warning to keep the peace. And the party which had scruples
about the keeping of days is more likely to have been Jewish than
Gentile. Still that would only show that some members of the
Roman Church were Jews, not that they formed a majority. Indeed
in this instance the contrary would seem to be the case, because
their opponents seem to have the upper hand and all that St. Paul
asks for on their behalf is toleration.

We may take it then as established that there were Jews in the
Church, and that in substantial numbers; just as we also cannot
doubt that there was a substantial number of Gentiles. The direct
way in which St. Paul addresses the Gentiles in ch. xi. 13 ff. {viiiv
8e Xeyo) rn'is fdveaiv K.r.X.) would be proof Sufficient of this. But it
is further clear that St. Paul regards the Church as broadly and in
the main a Gentile Church. It is the Gentile element which give?
it its colour. This inference cannot easily be explained away from
the passages, Rom. i. 5-7, 13-15 ; xv. 14-16. In the first St. Paul
numbers the Church at Rome among the Gentile Churches, and
bases on his own apostleship to the Gentiles his right to address
them. In the second he also connects the obligations he is under
to preach to them directly with the general fact that all Gentiles
without exception are his province. In the third he in like manner
excuses himself courteously for the earnestness with which he has
written by an appeal to his commission to act as the priest who
lays upon the altar the Church of the Gentiles as his offering.


This then is the natural construction to put upon the Apostle's
language. The Church to which he is writing is Gentile in its
general complexion; but at the same time it contains so many
born Jews that he passes easily and freely from the one body to
the other. He does not feel bound to measure and weigh his
words, because if he writes in the manner which comes most
naturally to himself he knows that there will be in the Church
many who will understand him. The fact to which we have
already referred, that a large proportion even of the Gentile Chris-
tians would have approached Christianity through the portals of
a previous connexion with Judaism, would tend to set him still
more at his ease in this respect. We shall see in the next section
that the force whicli impels the Apostle is behind rather than in
front. It is not to be supposed that he had any exact statistics
before him as to the composition of the Church to which he was
writing. It was enough that he was aware that a letter such as he
has written w-as not likely to be thrown away.

If he had stayed to form a more exact estimate we may take the
greetings in ch. xvi as a rough indication of the lines that it would
follow. The collection of names there points to a mixture of
nationalities. Aquila at least, if not also Prisca \ we know to have
been a Jew (Acts xviii. 2). Andronicus and Junias and Herodion
are described as ' kinsmen ' [avy/eveh) of the Apostle : precisely
what this means is not certain — perhaps 'members of the same
tribe' — but in any case they must have been Jews. Mary (Miriam)
is a Jewish name ; and Apelles reminds us at once of ludaeus Apella
(Horace, Sat. I. v. 100). And there is besides ' the household of
Aristobulus,' some of whom — if Aristobulus was really the grandson
of Herod or at least connected with that dynasty — would probably
have the same nationality. Four names (Urbanus, Ampliatus,
Rufus, and Julia) are Latin. The rest (ten in number) are Greek
with an indeterminate addition in 'the household of Narcissus.'
Some such proportions as these might well be represented in the
Church at large.

(3) Status and Condition. The same list of names may give us
some idea of the social status of a representative group of Roman
Christians. The names are largely those of slaves and freedmen.
In any case the households of Narcissus and Aristobulus would
belong to this category. It is not inconceivable, though of course
not proveable, that Narcissus may be the well-known freedman of
Claudius, put to death in the year 54 a.d., and Aristobulus the
scion of the house of Herod. We know that at the time when

' See the note on ch. xvi. 3, where reference !■ made to the view favoured
by Dr. Hort {I\om. and Eph. p. 12 Ef.), that Prisca was a Roman lady belonging
to the well-known family of that name.



St. Paul wrote to the Philippians Christianity had penetrated into
the retinue of the Emperor himself (Phil. iv. 22). A name like
Philologus seems to point to a certain degree of culture. We
should therefore probably not be wrong in supposing that not
only the poorer class of slaves and freedmen is represented. And
it must be remembered that the better sort of Greek and some
Oriental slaves would often be more highly educated and more
refined in manners than their masters. There is good reason to
think that Pomponia Graecina, the wife of Aulus Plautius the
conqueror of Britain, and that in the next generation Flavius
Clemens and Domililla, the near relations and victims of Domitian,
had come under Christian influence *. We should therefore be
justified in supposing that even at this early date more than one of
the Roman Christians possessed a not inconsiderable social stand-
ing and importance. If there was any Church in which the ' not
many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble/
had an exception, it was at Rome.

When we look again at the list we see that it has a tendency to
fall into groups. We hear of Prisca and Aquila, * and the Church
that is in their house,' of the household of Aristobulus and the
Christian members of the household of Narcissus, of Asyncritus, &c.
'and the brethren that are with them,' of Philologus and certain
companions ' and all the saints that are with them.' It would only
be what we should expect if the Church of Rome at this time
consisted of a number of such little groups, scattered over the
great city, each with its own rendezvous but without any complete
and centralized organization. In more than one of the incidental
notices of the Roman Church it is spoken of as ' founded ' (Iren.
Adv. Haer. III. i. i ; iii. 3) or 'planted' (Dionysius of Corinth in
Eus. H. E. II. XXV. 8) by St. Peter and St. Paul. It may well be
that although the Church did not in the strict sense owe to these
Apostles its origin, it did owe to them its first existence as an
organized whole.

We must not however exaggerate the want of organization at
the time when St. Paul is writing. The repeated allusions to
' labouring' (/comai') in the case of Mary, Tryphaena and Tryphosa,
and Persis — all, as we observe, women — points to some kind of
regular ministry (cf. for the quasi-technical sense of Ktmiav i Thess.
V. 12; I Tim. V. 17). It is evident, that Prisca and Aquila took
the lead which we should expect of them ; and they were well
trained in St. Paul's methods. Even without the help of an
Apostle, the Church had evidently a life of its own; and where
there is life there is sure to be a spontaneous tendency to definite
articulation of function. When St. Paul and St. Peter arrived we

' Lightfoot, Clement, i. 30-39, &c-


may believe that they would find the work half done; still it would
wait the seal of their presence, as the Church of Samaria waited for
the coming of Peter and John (Acts viii. 14).

§ 4. The Time and Place, Occasion and Purpose,

OF THE Epistle.

(i) Time and Place. The time and place at which the Epistle
was written are easy to determine. And the simple and natural
way in which the notes of both in the Epislle itself dovetail into the
narrative of the Acts, together with the perfect consistency of the
whole group of data — subtle, slight, and incidental as they are — in
the two documents, at once strongly confirms the truth of the
history and would almost alone be enough to dispose of the
doctrinaire objections which have been brought against the

St. Paul had long cherished the desire of paying a visit to Rome
(Rom. i. 13; XV. 23), and that desire he hopes very soon to see
fulfilled; but at the moment of writing his face is turned not
westwards but eastwards. A collection has been made in the
Greek Churches, the proceeds of which he is with an anxious mind
about to convey to Jerusalem. He feels that his own relation and
that of the Churches of his founding to the Palestinian Church is
a delicate matter; the collection is no ligiitly considered act of
passing charity, but it has been with him the subject of long and
earnest deliberation ; it is the olive-branch which he is bent upon
offering. Great issues turn upon it ; and he does not know how it
will be received '.

We hear much of this collection in the Epistles written about
this date (i Cor. xvi. i ff. ; 2 Cor. viii. i ff. ; ix. i ff.). In the
Acts it is not mentioned before the fact; but retrospectively in
the course of St. Paul's address before Ftlix allusion is made to
it: 'after many years I came to bring alms to my nation and
offerings' (Actsxxiv. 17). Though the collection is not mentioned
in the earlier chapters of the Acts, the order of the journey is
mentioned. When his stay at Ejjhesus was drawing to an end
we read that 'Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed
through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After
I have been there, I must also see Rome' (Acts xix. 21). Part of
this programme has been accomplished. At the time of writing
St. Paul seems to be at the capital of Achaia. The allusions

' On this collection see an excellent arliclc by Mr. Renilall in The Expositor,
»893, ii. 321 ff.



which point to this would none of them taken separately be
certain, bnt in combination they amount to a degree of pro-
bability which is little short of certainty. The bearer of the
Epistle appears to be one Phoebe who is an active, perhaps an
official, member of the Church of Cenchreae, the harbour of
Corinth (Rom. xvi. i). The house in which St. Paul is staying,
which is also the meeting-place of the local Church, belongs to
Gains (Rom. xvi. 23); and a Gaius St. Paul had baptized at
Corinth (i Cor. i. 14). He sends a greeting also from Erastus,
who is described as ' oeconomus' or ' treasurer' of the city. The
office is of some importance, and points to a city of some im-
portance. This would agree with Corinth; and just at Corindi
we learn from 2 Tim. iv. 20 that an Erastus was left behind on
St. Paul's latest journey — naturally enough if it was his home.

The visit to Achaia then upon which these indications converge
is that which is described in Acts xx. 2, 3. It occupied three
months, which on the most probable reckoning would fall at
the beginning of the year 58. St. Paul has in his company at
this time Timothy and Sosipater (or Sopater) who join in the
greeting of the Epistle (Rom. xvi. 21) and are also mentioned
in Acts XX. 4. Of the remaining four who send their greetings
we recognize at least Jason of Thessalonica (Rom. xvi. 21; cf.
Acts xvii. 6). Just the lightness and unobtrusiveness of all these
mutual coincidences affixes to the works in which they occur
the stamp of reality.

The date thus clearly indicated brings the Epistle to the Romans into
close connexion with the two Epistles to Corinthians, and less certainly with
the Epistle to Galatians. We have seen how the collection for the Churches
of Judaea is one of the links which bind together the first three. Many
other subtler traces of synchronism in thought and style have been pointed
out between all four (especially by Bp. Lightfoot in Journ. of Class, and
Sacr. Philol. iii [1857], p. 2S9 ff. ; also Galatians, p. 43 ff., ed. 2). The
relative position of i and 2 Corinthians and Komans is fixed and certain.
If Romans was written in the early sjiring of A.D. 58, then i Corinthians
would lall in the spring and 2 Corinthians in the autumn of A.D. 57'. In
regard to Galatians the data are not so decisive, and different views aie held.
The older opinion, and that which would seem to be still dominant in
Germany (it is maintained by Lipsius writing in 1891), is that Galatians
belongs to the early part of St. Paul's long stay at Ephesus, A.D. 54 or 55.
In England Up. Lightfoot found a number of followers in bringing it into
closer juxtaposition with Romans, about the winter of A.D. .^7-=i8. The
question however has been recently reopened in two opposite directions: on
the one hand by Dr. C. Clemen Chionologie der paulinischen Brieje, Halle,
1893), who would place it after Romans; and on the other hand by

* Jiilicher, in his recent Einhitung, p. 62, separates the two Epistles to the
Corinthians by an interval of eighteen months ; nor can this opinion be at once

Online LibraryW. (William) SandayA critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans → online text (page 4 of 71)