Brief historical background of the book of Romans Essay
Brief historical background of the book of Romans
The book Romans was written probably during the mid to late fifties. Pauline authorship has been the dominating view as to the authorship of the book especially that the book of Romans reflects an exceptional theological understanding that fits to Paul’s credential as writer. First, he was highly educated receiving education no less than Israel’s greatest teacher Gamaliel during his time.
Second, His understanding of the divine plan of salvation as also depicted in other Pauline epistles notably Ephesians and Galatians where he discussed about salvation and the divine action towards accomplishing that plan, appropriately fit with the mature theological thought and thorough presentation of the gospel. While there was no specific intended recipient except that it was addressed to the Romans, the letter was addressed to several congregations in Rome with the purpose of promoting Jewish and Gentile unity in the church.
The main theme of the epistle was that the gospel proclaims that God acquits both Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus on the basis of Jesus Sacrificial death. Brief summary of the context of Romans chapter 5 Romans chapter 5 according to Henry (1985) is the climax of the first major section of the epistle. Henry puts it, “Chapter 5 of the epistle describes the actual, objective manifestation of the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ” (p. 64). Henry noted that Romans 5:12 to 21 places God’s action of reconciliation in Christ in its ultimate context, the cosmic context.
It is in this context that this exegesis of Romans 5: 12 to 17 is anchored. To exegete this passage fully, it is hereby deemed necessary to write in full Romans 5: 12-17. Paul states: 12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
15But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation. 17For if, by the trespass of the man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ (NIV).
The passage was full of important and meaningful terminologies that comprise its entire interpretation. Terminologies such as sin, death, law, gift, grace, judgment, condemnation, abundant provisions, and gift of righteousness are words that have important implications not only in the book of Romans, but the entire doctrine of salvation. For instance, the theological notion of sin which the apostle Paul has raised encompassed the entire interpretation of the scripture.
This is also the idea that Paul was giving emphasis especially in such terms such as gift, grace, and righteousness. Exegesis of chapter 5:12-17 Paul begins verse 12 with the conclusive word “therefore” which means that the passage was connected with earlier theological discussion beginning from chapter 1:18 in which Paul cited that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against wicked people whose godlessness entails them to suppress the truth. Paul emphasized that despite they know all about God yet they neither recognized him nor glorify him (v. 19).
Because of this utter neglect and deliberate violation of God’s will, Paul says, “they have no excuse” (2:1). Here, Paul refers to both Jews and Gentiles. In chapter 3, Paul declares that no one is righteous and categorically stated that everyone has sinned and have fallen short to the glory of God (3:23). But chapter 4 deviates from the gloom discussion of sin and its consequence. He now focused on the hope of being able to regain spiritual relations with God through faith, citing Abraham as example. Paul used the word “therefore” to connect the passage with the above context.
But as mentioned earlier, this passage is full of important words and phrases that enable this connection. First of all, Paul mentioned about the entry of sin and death. Obviously referring to Adam, he said that sin and death entered the world through the trespass of the one man. It means that the whole human race was contaminated by the sin committed by Adam through which death becomes the consequence. In order to shed more light on this highly theological discussion, it is important to define sin and death from their original usage in this passage.
The law of sin and death The original word used for sin in Romans chapter 5:12 was the noun Hamartia, which occurred 174 time in the New testament and Hamartias while Thanatos for death. According to James Montgomery Boice, the Greek Hamartia and Hamartias means short coming or missing the mark. But Hamartia and Hamartias are just two of several Greek words for sin. The Greek Pesha, for transgression, chata to miss the mark, shagah to go astray, and paraptoma offense, all depicts a deviation from a higher standard or from a state enjoyed originally.
The context therefore which Paul has in mind about sin and death goes back to the Garden of Eden in which Adam and Eve were placed by God. Obviously, this place depicts God’s presence which suggests that Adam and Eve enjoyed a higher state of life. But they deviated from this state by deliberately ignoring God’s command and therefore breach their fellowship with God. While Genesis 1:8 describes this place as a place of sufficiency as all that Adam needs to live were there, yet they departed from the mark which God has set for them.
Thus, while everything that God has created adds beauty to this place especially the four rivers and all the animals that were subject to the dominion of Adam depicts God’s concern, provision, and love for his creation, they were were supposedly strictly oblige to obey what God has commanded them. Along with these beautiful creations, was God’s solemn warning for Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree in the center of the Garden as the very time they would eat of it, they will surely die. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve have chosen to disobey God.
Thus, right after Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s command, they were sentenced to live a difficult life as the ground by which they could get their food was cursed by God. God also pronounced the entry of death into the world when God said to Adam “by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). Along with God’s judgment, they were driven out of the garden. That means, they were cast out from the very presence of God.
The issue here is that Adam and Eve lost a higher state of life they enjoyed at Eden. They enjoyed God’s abundant provisions, they enjoyed God’s presence, and they enjoyed their being a perfect creation of God. They were innocent and they must have also been a divine creation. With Adam’s fall, all these were lost. Although God still care for human being even after Adam’s fall, the state of life which they had enjoyed in the Garden was never restored. Besides, the impact of God’s pronouncement that Adam would go back to dust speaks of the physical corruption.
That is, of decaying and dying to which the writer of Genesis clearly indicates the hopelessness of man’s condition. While the Bible was silent about how long did Adam and Eve were living in Eden when they committed that regretful decision, after they were driven out, the days of their lives started to be in counting. Humans offended God and justice must be served against them. It is this condition that Paul was talking. Sin corrupted the human being and because of this we are subjected to decay.
Thus, sin is defined as “coming short of the glory of God” (3:23). The consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin therefore was that every human being became sinners subject to all the woes both physical and spiritual with reference to Adam as the fountain of all the woes that sin has introduced into the world. Referring to Adam, Barnes noted, “Sin entered into the world. He was the first sinner of the race. The word sin here evidently means the violation of the law of God. He was the first sinner among men, and in consequence all others became sinners.
” We are subject to the consequence of sin both in the physical and the spiritual world. Earlier, genesis 3 speaks of the consequence of sin in the physical world as the difficulty of life. That is, all the miseries that the world suffers including hunger and poverty, chaos because of unrelenting wars in various part of the world, calamities such as earthquakes, typhoons’, and other manmade disasters, worries caused by economic uncertainties, and all other social problems affecting our society that are in turn affecting us individually.
Sin has corrupted the hearts and mind of many people resulting to more crimes, and moral decay contributing more problems that makes life even more difficult. On top of this, death played the worst role in the lives of the human being. The Greek word for death in this passage is thanatos which means a physical death. The Greek thanato implies both the physical and spiritual death. However, the bible did not give any formal definition of the word death. Thus according to Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman, we must infer our understanding of death from a whole range of Biblical statements pertaining to the subject.
In doing so, we must be careful to distinguish idiomatic or euphemistic expressions for death, which may not be intended anything more than a person has died, from comments intending to some understanding of what that death involved . Boa and Bowman noted that the Bible often used the words “expire” “to breathe one’s last” to “depart” “to be no more” “to be gathered to one’s people or fathers” “to sleep” “to lie down with one’s fathers” “to be cut off from the land” and “to perish.
” While the use of these terms for death may vary in the interpretation, yet death generally means the termination of the physical life. According to the Standard International Bible Encyclopedia, death is a consequence of sin. It stated that in contrast with a long life which has been viewed in the Old Testament as a blessing, death is seen as a disaster. This condition depicts the worse condition of the human being as aside from making life more miserable, life is now uncertain.
This clearly illustrated in the following lines, Death, though come into the world through sin, is nevertheless at the same time a consequence of man’s physical and frail existence now; it could therefore be threatened as a punishment to man, because he was taken out of the ground and was made a living soul, of the earth earthy (Genesis 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47). If he remained obedient, he would have returned to dust but have pressed forward on the spiritual development (The International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia.
Against this hopeless condition, Paul states that despite the entrance of sin into the world through one man and death through sin which rendered man hopeless as he was incapable of restoring his previous relations with God, Paul now asserts in verse 15 that the God himself has taken the initiative to reach out with men. Pau states, “But the gift is not like the trespass. ” The gift of grace (which shall also be discussed later) of God according to Paul was far greater than all the effects of sin. The Revised English Bible translation clearly made this striking difference between the effect of sin and the gift of grace of God.
REB puts it, “God’s act of grace is out of all proportion to Adam’s wrong doing. For if the wrong doing of that one man brought death upon so many, its effect is vastly exceeded by the grace of God and the gift that came to so many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ. ” Here the effect of sin and death in the human being is clearly outweighed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The Law and Grace There were various kinds of law that the ancient Jews held sacred during the Old Testament times. Among them and the most important were the Torah or the ceremonial laws, and the Decalogue which given by God to Moses in Exodus 20: 1-17.
While the Torah of the Old Testament presents a more complicated moral admonition that were difficult for state enforcement however, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of theology asserts that the state is silent “about state enforcement or specifies God rather than the state as the enforcer. ” Under this law enforcement, the book of Deuteronomy has various laws and regulations which require strict obedience. While the Decalogue (Greek word for the Ten Commandments) “represents minimum moral and religious requirements for those covenant relationship with God” it nevertheless demand absolute obedience.
Because of this strict demand for obedience, the law has become the stumbling black for the Israelites because these laws were too much for them to obey literally and word for word. Paul say’s the law served as a mirror for sin by which the Israelite can reflect on the holiness of God. The Israelites particularly found it to heavy to obey the law, perhaps not only because the law was intended to be all encompassing, but because of their adjustment from practically secular Egyptian values or laws, they could hardly follow the divine laws.
They were miserable with regards to obedience to the law. This lead Paul to conclude in Roman chapter 8, that the law was powerless because it weakened by the sinful nature of the human being. Thus, the law was unable to address the divine requirements instead; it served as the vehicle for sin to dominate mankind. It is in this context that God’s grace through Jesus Christ came into the scene to rescue every human being from the serious consequences of sin which death.