Romans 1:1–5 And The Occasion Of The Letter: The Solution To The Two-Congregation Problem In Rome -- By: Chip Anderson

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 14:1 (Spring 1993)
Article: Romans 1:1–5 And The Occasion Of The Letter: The Solution To The Two-Congregation Problem In Rome
Author: Chip Anderson


Romans 1:1–5 And The Occasion Of The Letter:
The Solution To The Two-Congregation Problem In Rome

Chip Anderson*

In a recent article on the occasion of Romans, G. Smiga announces that we are finally realizing that it is “no longer adequate to approach Romans as an abstract theological summary or compendium of religious truths.”1 K. Donfried, in the introduction to the 1977 edition of The Romans Debate, pointed us toward an important issue regarding NT studies and the study of Romans in particular:

[T]he implications and challenge of the New Testament for the twentieth century can only be made clear when one knows the setting of each New Testament book in its original context. In other words, if one does not know the original intention of a document one can hardly interpret its contemporary meaning with accuracy and precision.2

As the revised edition of The Romans Debate reveals, there is a plethora of literature investigating the occasion and purpose of this highly regarded NT letter. In the 1991 edition, Donfried affirms: “Without question a consensus has been reached that Romans is addressed to the Christian community in Rome which finds itself in a particular historical situation.”3

Indeed there was a social reality to which Paul’s letter to the Romans was addressed. By the time the letter had arrived in Rome, the Gentile church had spread widely throughout the empire, and now offered its own set of problems for the apostles—especially Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. The situation in Rome afforded opportunities to address the problems arising in a world where Gentiles were increasingly turning to the Christian faith. For Paul writes to a church whose significant Gentile component

*Rev. Chip Anderson is Professor of Biblical Studies and NT Greek Language at Prairie Bible College, Three Hills, Alberta, Canada.

was being affected by the return of the Jews to Rome after their expulsion under Claudius had been rescinded.

Another significant reorientation in the study of Paul, and of Romans in particular, is a shift in recent scholarship regarding Paul’s “center” from ordo salutis to a more historia salutis.4 Paul’s theology is now seen to revolve around the accomplishment of salvation through redemptive events in history rather than around the application of salvation to individuals. This approach has caused some to take a more serious look at Pau...

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