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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Provenance.

1.

The Pauline authorship of Romans is not in doubt. Indeed, one might say that Romans is the ‘most Pauline’ epistle, since it most influences scholarly construals of Paul and most frequently is referenced in arguments about the (in)authenticity of the Deutero-Pauline letters. Also, compared to other Pauline epistles (notably Philippians and 2 Corinthians), few doubts arise concerning the literary integrity of Romans. The unity of the letter is seriously questioned only at ch. 16 , which some regard as the remnant of a separate Pauline letter, appended to Romans' original conclusion in 15:33 . The evidence for this view is not compelling, as is noted in the commentary on ch. 16 .

2.

Romans was probably composed in Corinth during Paul's final visit. Gaius, ‘whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy’ ( 16:23 , NIV), is presumably the same figure mentioned in 1 Cor 1:14 . In 15:23–33 , Paul anticipates an imminent journey to Jerusalem, an itinerary that corresponds broadly to Acts 20:1–21:17 . Thus, widespread consensus exists for dating Romans in the mid-50s CE, making it one of Paul's final letters (at least subsequent to his Thessalonian, Galatian, and Corinthian correspondence).

3.

The letter is written ‘to all God's beloved in Rome’ ( 1:7 ). The city of Rome was the seat of government of the Roman republic (?5th cent.–31 BCE) and empire until 330 CE, when Constantine moved the capital to Constantinople. During the second and first centuries BCE, Rome gradually came to dominate the countries of the Mediterranean basin, including Judea, which was conquered in 63 BCE by the Roman general Pompey. The city of Rome was vast, home to approximately 1 million persons. Augustus and subsequent emperors erected monumental public works, including amphitheatres, squares, temples, forums, and libraries. Although the wealthy inhabited comfortable villas, the great majority of people were poor and lived in large tenement houses, some as tall as six storeys (HBC 882). The Jewish community of Rome was substantial; it is estimated that between 20,000 and 50,000 Jews lived in the city by the beginning of the first century CE (ABD 1048). How or when Christianity came to Rome is unknown. By mid-century, when Paul wrote Romans, the church already enjoyed a substantial reputation ( 1:8 ). A dispute within the Jewish community over Christian claims appears to stand behind the Emperor Claudius's expulsion of the Jews from Rome in 49 CE (see Acts 18:2 ). According to Suetonius (Claudius, 25.4), ‘the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus’, probably a mistaken form of the word Christus (Christ). Local Christians were sufficient in number and reputation in 64 CE that Nero could scapegoat them for the fire of Rome. ‘Nero fastened the guilt and afflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace’ (Tacitus, Annals, 15.44.2).

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