The Book of Romans: [1] Intro, Background, & Author

ColosseumThe book of Romans introduces the epistles (letters) of the apostle Paul in the New Testament. It is the longest of Paul’s letters, and the most in-depth in addressing the central beliefs of the Christian church: the nature of sin, salvation, the relationship between grace and law, and Christ’s central role in restoring man to right relationship with God.

Authorship, Date of Writing and Background

Saul of Tarsus, a fire-breathing Pharisee, was present at the martyrdom of Stephen in Jerusalem. He subsequently launched an intense persecution against the Christians, who he viewed as a heretical cult of Judaism. On his way to Damascas, with written authority from the Jewish high priest to arrest Christians and bring them to Jerusalem, he encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, was struck blind, and had his vision restored 3 days later when he converted to Christianity through the courageous intervention of Ananias, a Christian disciple in Damascus.

Paul wrote this letter in Corinth, Greece (a church he had founded) during his third missionary journey (Acts 15:25–26; 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14). There being no public postal service, the commendation of Phoebe, a woman who lived in Cenchrea right next door to Corinth, probably indicates that she carried the letter to Christians in Rome (16:1–2). Paul had never visited the church at Rome at the time of its writing.

The Roman church was predominantly Gentile (1:5–6; 13, 11:13, 22–31; 15:15–16). The origins and founder of the church at Rome are not known; the Roman Catholic Church claims it was established by the apostle Peter, but there is little evidence other than some early tradition to support this), but he planned to visit the Christians there and gain their support for a mission to Spain farther west (15:24,28). So the letter takes the form of a self-introduction in terms of the gospel he proclaims.

There is no serious dispute among scholars that the author of this letter is the apostle Paul. Date of writing is 56-57 AD, from Corinth.

References:

  • Paul’s description of his conversion to the Galations: Gal 1:11-24
  • Paul’s description of his strict adherence as a Pharisee to every aspect of the Law: Phil 3:2-11