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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Romans - Introduction

Romans is one of the eminent texts of Western history. From Augustine to Luther, from Wesley to Barth, Christian thinkers of every era have been shaped profoundly by this, the longest Pauline epistle. Romans is commonly regarded as Paul's supreme work, the consummate expression of his mature theology. Among Protestants in particular, no book has been more highly esteemed or carefully scrutinized. Above all, Romans influenced the Reformation vision of true religion as the reception of God's grace through faith. In equal and opposite reaction, however, Romans has unwittingly encouraged generations of readers from Marcion onwards to regard Judaism as the exemplarily false religion, a creed of merit and system of works unworthy of devotion or even of toleration. The first of these conclusions lies at the heart of Protestant–Catholic debate, the second at the centre of Jewish–Christian controversy. Not surprisingly, Roman Catholics have long questioned Protestant readings of Romans (paralleling in some ways the canonical protest of Jas 2:14–26 ), as Jews have long challenged the epistle's characterization of their theology. Only recently, as a consequence of post-Vatican II ecumenicity and post-Holocaust interreligious awareness, have the earlier interpretative models begun to break apart. The willingness of major scholars to cross traditional boundaries and weigh old criticisms with new seriousness is undoubtedly the most important development in modern Pauline studies. Thus, now as in the past, Romans is at the forefront of Christian theological reflection and self-understanding.

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