Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
DBSJ 17:1 (2012) p. 105
Introducing Romans: Critical Issues in Paul’s Most Famous Letter, by Richard N. Longenecker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011. 490 pp. $40.00.
Seasoned New Testament scholar Richard Longenecker is now working on a commentary on “Paul’s most famous letter,” the epistle to the Romans. Introducing Romans is the prelude to that forthcoming commentary. At 450 pages, it is an exhaustive treatment of the critical issues in the contemporary study of Romans.
Longenecker begins with a discussion of “important matters largely uncontested today”—the author, integrity, occasion, and date of the letter. He argues that the author of Romans was Paul, that Romans 16 (including the doxology) was original to the letter, and that Romans was written from “greater Corinth” in the winter of a.d. 57-58 before Paul set out for Jerusalem. Longenecker next addresses “two pivotal issues”—the addressees and purpose of the letter, issues which I will discuss below. The final three sections of the book deal respectively with rhetorical conventions and Jewish and Christian themes, textual criticism and major issues of interpretation (e.g., the πίστις Χριστοῦ debate), and the structure and argument of the letter. Some highlights: Longenecker argues that the letter should be categorized rhetorically as a type of λόγος προτρεπτικός (“word of exhortation”), but that it was also shaped by, among other things, the Hebrew Bible and early Christian confessions. He argues that the genitive construction πίστις Χριστοῦ in Romans 3:22 and 26 should be read as a subjective genitive (“the faithfulness of Christ”), rather than an objective genitive (“faith in Christ”). And he sees merit in E. P. Sanders’s view that Second Temple Judaism was a religion of grace (the foundation of the New Perspective on Paul), although he tempers this conclusion by noting that some Jewish texts do evidence legalism.
Much of this book simply treats at length the same issues that can be found in the introduction of any major commentary on Romans. But Longenecker makes two distinct contributions. First, he argues that the addressees of the letter to the Romans were Gentile and Jewish believers in Jesus who “considered themselves closely tied to the Jerusalem church” and “thought and expressed themselves in ways congenial to Jewish Christianity” (83). In arguing this, Longenecker seeks to move the discussion beyond the question of merely the ethnic identity of the Roman Christians (Jews, Gentiles, or both?), and to the question of the theological outlook of the Roman Christians. This theological outlook cannot be determined by mirror-read...
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