Chapter 16 in Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Dispensable Tagalong or Valuable Envelope? -- By: Mark Reasoner

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 20:4 (Autumn 2006)
Article: Chapter 16 in Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Dispensable Tagalong or Valuable Envelope?
Author: Mark Reasoner


Chapter 16 in Paul’s Letter to the Romans:
Dispensable Tagalong or Valuable Envelope?

Mark Reasoner

MARK REASONER (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn. He is the author of Romans in Full Circle: A History of Interpretation (WJK 2005).

The sixteenth chapter of Romans was treated as a detachable unit at least as early as the second century, showing that some considered it to be a tagalong compared with the rest of Paul’s letter to the Romans.1 The oldest surviving manuscript of Romans, Chester Beatty Papyrus II, also known as Π46, dating from the early third century, places the benediction of 16:25-27 between 15:33 and chapter 16. This leads some textual critics to conclude that Π46 had an antecedent that ended at chapter 15, since the final benediction was shifted to the end of that chapter. T. W. Manson went so far as to suggest that Paul’s original letter ended at chapter 15, and that what we call chapter 16 was added to a copy of the Roman letter and sent to Ephesus.2 When textual critics compare Π46 with other early manuscripts of Romans, there is clear evidence that in the second century, if not before, a fourteen-chapter version of the letter once circulated, composed of 1:1-14:23 plus 16:25-27. In this version, the final two chapters, which were tied to the circumstances in Paul’s life and the specific addressees of the letter, as well as the destination phrases (“in Rome”) in 1:7, 15, were omitted in order to make the letter more relevant for the church at large.3

It should now begin to be apparent why we can say that Romans 16 has been treated as a tagalong in relation to the rest of the chapters Paul composed in his letter to the Romans. Though the majority of Romans scholars now consider Romans 16 to be an integral part of the letter that Paul wrote,4 it has not attracted the attention paid to the earlier chapters of the letter. As N. T. Wright writes in another essay in this volume, ...

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