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Epistle to the Romans

General Information

The Epistle to the Romans is the longest of Saint Paul's letters and is therefore placed first among the letters in the New Testament of the Bible. It is the only Pauline letter written to a community not founded by the apostle and is more of an essay presenting some of Paul's ideas on salvation than a response to particular problems. It was probably written about AD 57 - 58 before Paul departed from Corinth for Jerusalem to deliver the collection he had taken for the church there.

Chapters 1 - 4 develop in greater detail the theme of justification by faith, which appears in polemical form in Galatians. Chapters 5 - 8 show the effect of salvation on humans. In chapters 9 - 11, Paul tries to fathom God's plan for the Jews, his chosen people, who have not followed Jesus. The implications for Christian life of Jesus, faith, and salvation are drawn out in chapters 12 - 15. Chapter 16 is a letter of introduction for the deaconess Phoebe and is thought by many to have been originally a separate letter.

The exact nature and purpose of Romans is controversial, and it is difficult to determine whether it is a theological letter - essay, a last testament, an introduction of Paul to the Roman Christians, or a response to particular problems in Rome that Paul had heard about. Romans is a particularly rich and complex epistle; its teachings on justification, the Jews, and attitudes toward civil government have been debated from the Reformation to the present.

Anthony J Saldarini

C K Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1957); K Barth, The Epistle to the Romans (1933); P S Milner, The Obedience of Faith (1971).

Epistle to the Romans

Brief Outline

  1. Introduction (1:1-15)
  2. Sinfulness of man, including both Gentiles and Jews (1:16-3:20)
  3. Justification by Faith (3:21-5:21)
  4. Sanctification (6-8)
  5. Israel and world Salvation (9-11)
  6. Details of Christian conduct (12-15:13)
  7. Concluding remarks, greetings (15:14-16:27)


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