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Romans - Introduction

      The depth of thought, logical reasoning, and profound comprehension of the divine government shown in this Epistle have always been recognized. Luther says, "It is the chief part of the New Testament." Meyer, that it is "the grandest, boldest, most complete composition of Paul." Godet terms it "the cathedral of the Christian faith." That it should be what Coleridge says, "the most profound work in existence," is not wonderful when we bear in mind that it was written by the greatest of the apostles, in the full vigor of his manhood, at the height of his activity, and addressed to the church of the great imperial city which was the center of influence and power for the whole world. In this mighty capital, under the shadow of the palace of the Cæsars, in some unknown way, a congregation of believers had been gathered. It is certain that long before any apostle had set foot in Italy, churches had been formed in Puteoli and in Rome ( Acts 28:14 Acts 28:15 ). Possibly the "strangers of Rome," who listened to Peter on the day of Pentecost, had carried back the Gospel, and had formed the nucleus; but it is probable that the constant influx of strangers from all portions of the empire had carried many of the converts made around the Eastern Mediterranean to the great political center of the world. The greetings of the last chapter of this Epistle show that Paul had many acquaintances among the number, and the names seem to imply that most of them were Greeks. Indeed, while there was a Jewish element in the church, it can hardly be doubted that the majority of the believers were of Gentile origin. Various passages in the Epistles, such as Romans 1:5-7 Romans 11:13 Romans 1:25 Romans 1:28 Romans 14:1 Romans 15:15 Romans 1:16 , give indications of a Gentile preponderance.

      As to the date and place of composition, there is hardly room to doubt that it was written at Corinth, during the three months' stay in Achaia (Greece), which is mentioned in Acts 20:3 . According to Rom. 15:25 , at the time of writing, he was about to proceed to Jerusalem with offerings for the poor saints, made by the churches of Macedonia and Achaia. At Corinth, the largest city of Achaia, he directed such collections to be made. Phoebe, who is commended in 16:1 , lived at Cenchreæ the eastern harbor of Corinth. Four of the seven persons named in Rom. 16:21-23 , as being with him, Timotheus, Sosipater, Jason and Gaius, can be shown from other sources, either to have lived at Corinth, or to have been there at that time. From these facts, and other circumstances, it seems clear that it was written at Corinth in the spring of A. D. 58.

      We have only space to add that even the most radical rationalistic criticism has always admitted that this Epistle had for its author the Apostle Paul. The testimony of the ancient church is unanimous; Renan has no doubt of its genuineness, and even Dr. Baur, of the Tubingen school of critics, admits that it is one of the Epistles which must be ascribed to the authorship of the great Apostle to the Gentiles. While not the first in order of time, for the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, that to the Galatians, and the two of the Corinthians, were written before it, it probably has the precedence in importance over all the Epistles of the New Testament.

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