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Paul’s Letter to the Romans Episcopal Church of the Resurrection May 19-June 23, 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "Paul’s Letter to the Romans Episcopal Church of the Resurrection May 19-June 23, 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 Paul’s Letter to the Romans Episcopal Church of the Resurrection May 19-June 23, 2011

2 Sections in this Class May 19 – Introduction June 2 – 1:1-4:25 June 9 – 5:1-8:11 June 16 – 8:12-11:36 June 23 – 12:1-16:27

3 NT Chronology Jesus: 4BC?-30AD? Paul: First decade AD-60sAD? Paul’s Letters: – 50: 1-2 Thessalonians – 53: Ephesians? – 53: Galatians – 54: 1 Corinthians – 55: Philippians & Philemon – 55-56: 2 Corinthians – 57: Romans – 58 Colossians Roman/Jewish War: GOSPEL OF MARK: Rome destroys Jerusalem temple: 70 Gospel of Matthew: Luke/Acts: Gospel of John: Revelation: Other Epistles: Didache: Justin Martyr: Mid 2 nd Century Gospel of Thomas: Mid 3 rd Century

4 Possible Pauline Chronology 33 – Paul’s conversion 35 – First journey to Jerusalem – Mission from Antioch to Asia 48 – Second journey to Jerusalem 49 – Macedonian mission – Corinthian Mission 50 – 1-2 Thessalonoians written – Ephesian mission 53 – Galatians written 54 – 1 Corinthians written 55 – Phillipians and Philemon written – 2 Corinthians written 56 – Painful return to Corinth 57- Third visit to Corinth 57 – Romans written 57 – Third journey to Jerusalem – Imprisonment and trial in Caesarea 58 – Colossians written – Arrival and imprisonment in Rome

5 What did Paul write? Original to Paul (Circa 50s) – Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, I Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon – Radical Paul – Challenges many social conventions of ancient world Disputed (Circa 70-90) – Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians – Conservative Paul – Challenges some social conventions of ancient world Non-Pauline (Circa ) – I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus – Reactionary Paul – Reinforces many social conventions of ancient world

6 Who was Paul? Chronology of Paul’s life in Acts differs considerably from chronology in epistles Born first decade AD(?), died 60sAD(?) Paul grew up in Tarsus, Southern Turkey. He lived in the Diaspora, not in Israel. Diaspora Judaism was more insecure Tarsus was urban, cosmopolitan and well-educated (versus Galilee) Roman citizen? A tent-maker Pharisee

7 Who was Paul? Paul did not know the historical Jesus. Often he feels need to assert apostolic credentials – Seldom cites Jesus’ sayings – Focuses more on Jesus’ death/resurrection than life – Focuses more on relationship with Jesus than Jesus stories – Paul doesn’t seem familiar with most Gospel stories, except for Last Supper and some apocalyptic material Jewish Christ mystic? Epileptic? Malarial? Paul did not intend to start a new religion. He thought Christianity was fulfillment of Judaism

8 Was Paul a Mystic? Mystic: Someone who experiences union with God. Moved from believing to knowing God Was Paul a mystic? Did he have a mystical experience on the road to Damascus?

9 Paul is Important Augustine converted to Christianity after reading Romans 13:13-14 Luther founded his definition of grace on Paul Paul is central to John Calvin’s theology John Wesley, who went on to found the Methodists, was converted by Luther’s commentary on Romans Borg jokes that for Lutherans, Paul is more important than Jesus

10 Contrasting Perspectives on Paul Protestant versus Catholic Christian versus Jewish Jewish covenantal tradition versus Roman imperial theology

11 Context is Important Paul wrote letters, not stories, like the Gospel, so they often leave out or assume knowledge of the Gospel, but don’t make it explicit Paul wrote letters to specific communities to address specific issues. If we don’t know much about the community or issue, it’s hard to understand the letter Concentric contexts: Individual communities/Jesus movement/Judaism/Roman empire For Paul to say, “Jesus is Lord”, was treason

12 What Goes Into an Epistle? Greeting – Identifies sender(s), recipient(s) – “Grace and peace” – Claim of apostolic authority Sense of formality. Functions like a business card Thanksgiving for blessings and for recipients Body – Addresses difficulties that prompted the letter – Usually Paul defends or clarifies his mission – Romans is fashioned as a diatribe or debate between teacher and student – Appeals to scripture and Greco-Roman philosophy Benediction – Personal news, exhortation, advice, recap, signature, doxology

13 Major Pauline Themes Relationship of Jews and Gentiles before Christ Justifying oneself before the law/covenant Creating a community that treats all people equally

14 Problems in Paul Paul seems to endorse slavery, subordinate women and condemn homosexuality. Paul says humans should be subject to their rulers Paul also seems to say celibacy is better than marriage Did Paul change the message of Jesus into doctrines about Jesus?

15 Paul’s Letter to the Romans “Romans is neither a systematic theology nor a summary of Paul’s lifework, but it is by common consent his masterpiece. It dwarfs most of his other writings. …What nobody doubts is that we are here dealing with a work of massive substance, presenting a formidable intellectual challenge while offering breathtaking theological and spiritual vision.” “…anyone who claims to understand Romans fully is, almost by definition, mistaken.” -N.T. Wright

16 Romans can’t be read narratively like a gospel. Themes come and go, circle one another, contradict each other, build and ebb. Sections blend together, end abruptly and pick up suddenly

17 Who was reading this letter? Two groups: – Christian Gentiles faced with non-Christian Jews – Christian Gentiles in tension with Christian Jews In late 40s many of Rome’s Jews were expelled from Rome in wake of riots over Christian preaching within Jewish community. Jews allowed back in 54 – Builds tension into relationship The two groups are trying to live together, though they have very different cultural inheritances, food customs, etc.

18 Who was reading this letter? Rome and Caesar considered themselves the source of justice/righteousness in the world Paul said Jesus was. This puts Christians in sharp tension with Rome Written from Corinth (or nearby) to Rome in the mid-to-late 50s

19 God’s Righteousness According to N.T. Wright, this is the primary theme. See 1:16-17 Righteousness = covenant loyalty and commitment to putting the world to right Covenant – Jews of Paul’s time believed God would still fulfill covenant made with patriarchs. Liberation was coming – Covenant functioned to bring humanity into communion with God Law Court – Temple had a court before which parties argued. “Righteousness” was status of successful party. Judge also considered righteous – Relationships with Israel’s oppressors fell into this category of righteousness

20 God’s Righteousness, cont. Often these themes were described in apocalyptic language. This does not mean anticipation of imminent destruction, rather, it is a literary genre that: – “…uses highly charged and coded metaphors to invest space-time reality with its cosmic or theological significance.” Paul clearly expected Jesus to come back within his lifetime, and voices frustration that it has not happened

21 Apostle to the Gentiles Paul seems to have believed that Jesus’ death and resurrection was the long-awaited event, so he re-imagined the way of viewing the story of Israel within the world Paul became “apostle to the Gentiles”. Thought that since God had fulfilled his purpose to Israel, and now it was time for Gentiles to come along

22 God, Jesus, Paul and Torah 1.Uncouple Mosaic law from Abrahamic Covenant 2.Regard Abrahamic covenant fulfilled “apart from the law” 3.Torah applies to Jews only, is not relevant to period when gentiles were joining God’s people 4.Torah intensifies problem of sin for those under it, so they needed to be freed from it 5.Torah had been fulfilled in creation of new people of God in Christ

23 Martin Luther’s Mistake Luther asked Romans how humans overcome sin and gain salvation. He said humans were justified by faith: – Humans realize inability to be righteous and must instead trust God’s action in Christ to free them from obligations to a law Paul didn’t write about that. He seems to be talking about God’s righteousness, not humans’

24 Sections of the Epistle: Chapters 1-4 Jesus has been true to Abrahamic Covenant and brought saving order to the world World is in rebellion, chosen people have failed But God has created a worldwide family of Abraham

25 Sections of the Epistle: Chapters 5-8 God has, therefore, done what the Covenant was meant to do –solved problem of sin God has redeemed all people of enslavement to sin People are led by the Spirit This is result of God’s “astonishing, unchanging, self-giving covenant love expressed completely and finally in death of Jesus.”

26 Sections of the Epistle: Chapters 9-11 Failure of Israel to believe in Messiah But ironically, it is death of Messiah that opens salvation to all Gentiles warned against anti-Jewish arrogance

27 Sections of the Epistle: Chapters Community of Christians must live as the renewed humanity. Must reflect God’s intention for Jew and Gentile to worship together Disparate groups must come together in common worship and mission

28 Sources Robert Wall, Introduction to Epistolary Literature, from “The New Interpreters Bible”, Volume X N.T. Wright, The Letter to the Romans, from “The New Interpreters Bible”, Volume X Art Ross, Martha Stevenson, Romans, from “Interpretation Bible Studies” Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, The First Paul


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