Friday, December 21, 2007

Second Pass at This Sunday's Bible Lessons (December 23, 2007)

[To see what these "passes" are about, go here.]

(General Comments, continued)
(7) Romans 1:1-7: These opening verses of Romans, like the beginnings of Paul's other letters now in our New Testament, conforms to the usual conventions of Greek and Roman letter-writing in the first century. (Greek was the Mediterranean basin's second language, much as English is today, which is why the New Testament was written in Greek. As Rome subsumed Greece and all the Mediterranean region--and beyond--under its imperial dominion, Greek and its conventions were adopted by the Romans.)

Letters didn't begin, as ours do, with the name of the addressee (ie, Dear Joe...), but with the name of the sender.

The sender's name was usually followed by an apposition. Paul pays particular attention to this because, as we'll see, Romans was written as a letter of introduction to the small band of believers who had little or no familiarity with him.

The addressee was usually mentioned at the end of the opening line of the letter.

(8) This introduction is long, running to seven verses. And it's a single sentence. Although Paul can compose lengthy sentences, this is even longish for him!

(9) But if you pay close attention to these verses, you'll see that in it, Paul summarizes the argument of the entire letter.

(10) The letter was written by Paul--actually dictated by him to a secretary known as an amanuensis, sometime after 57AD. Paul's purpose in writing it, as mentioned above, was to introduce himself to the small Roman church. There, he would serve them and encourage them in their faith, then take a collection for the purpose of supporting his ministry in Spain, where he would carry the Good News of Jesus.

Most scholars agree that the Roman church was composed of Jews like Paul, with few Gentile members at the time. This may explain why, in later chapters of Romans, Paul wrestles with the spiritual well-being of other Jews who did not believe that Christ was the Messiah.

[More tomorrow, I hope.]

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