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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

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Commentary on Romans

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Text Commentary side-by-side

1, 1–7:

In Paul's letters the greeting or praescriptio follows a standard form, though with variations. It is based upon the common Greco‐Roman epistolary practice, but with the addition of Semitic and specifically Christian elements. The three basic components are: name of sender; name of addressee; greeting. In identifying himself, Paul often adds phrases to describe his apostolic mission; this element is more developed in Rom than in any other letter. Elsewhere he associates co‐workers with himself in the greeting: Sosthenes (1 Cor), Timothy (2 Cor; Phil; Phlm), Silvanus ( 1–2 ). The standard secular greeting was the infinitive chairein, “greetings.” Paul uses instead the similar‐sounding charis, “grace,” together with the Semitic greeting šālôm (Greek eirānā), “peace.” These gifts, foreshadowed in God's dealings with Israel (see Nm 6, 24–26 ), have been poured out abundantly in Christ, and Paul wishes them to his readers. In Rom the Pauline praescriptio is expanded and expressed in a formal tone; it emphasizes Paul's office as apostle to the Gentiles. Verses 3–4 stress the gospel or kerygma, v 2 the fulfillment of God's promise, and vv 1 and 5 Paul's office. On his call, see Gal 1, 15–16; 9, 1; 15, 8–10; 9, 1–22; 9, 22, 3–16; 26, 4–18 .

1, 1:

Slave of Christ Jesus: Paul applies the term slave to himself in order to express his undivided allegiance to the Lord of the church, the Master of all, including slaves and masters. “No one can serve (i.e., be a slave to) two masters,” said Jesus (Mt 6, 24 ). It is this aspect of the slave‐master relationship rather than its degrading implications that Paul emphasizes when he discusses Christian commitment.

1, 3–4:

Paul here cites an early confession that proclaims Jesus' sonship as messianic descendant of David (cf Mt 22, 42; 2 Tm 2, 8; Rv 22, 16 ) and as Son of God by the resurrection. As “life‐giving spirit” ( 1 Cor 15, 45 ), Jesus Christ is able to communicate the Spirit to those who believe in him.

1, 5:

Paul recalls his apostolic office, implying that the Romans know something of his history. The obedience of faith: as Paul will show at length in chs 6–8 and 12–15 , faith in God's justifying action in Jesus Christ relates one to God's gift of the new life that is made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the activity of the holy Spirit (see especially 8, 1–11 ).

1, 7:

Called to be holy: Paul often refers to Christians as “the holy ones” or “the saints.” The Israelite community was called a “holy assembly” because they had been separated for the worship and service of the Lord (see Lv 11, 44; 23, 1–44 ). The Christian community regarded its members as sanctified by baptism ( 6, 22; 15, 16; 1 Cor 6, 11; Eph 5, 26–27 ). Christians are called to holiness (1 Cor 1, 2; 1 Thes 4, 7 ), that is, they are called to make their lives conform to the gift they have already received.

1, 8:

In Greco‐Roman letters, the greeting was customarily followed by a prayer. The Pauline letters usually include this element (except Gal and Ti), expressed in Christian thanksgiving formulas and usually stating the principal theme of the letter. In 2 Cor the thanksgiving becomes a blessing, and in Eph it is preceded by a lengthy blessing. Sometimes the thanksgiving is blended into the body of the letter, especially in 1 Thes. In Rom it is stated briefly.

1, 10–12:

Paul lays the groundwork for his more detailed statement in 15, 22–24 about his projected visit to Rome.

1, 13:

Brothers is idiomatic for all Paul's “kin in Christ,” all those who believe in the gospel; it includes women as well as men (cf 4, 3 ).

1, 14:

Greeks and non‐Greeks: literally, “Greeks and barbarians.” As a result of Alexander's conquests, Greek became the standard international language of the Mediterranean world. Greeks in Paul's statement therefore means people who know Greek or who have been influenced by Greek culture. Non‐Greeks were people whose cultures remained substantially unaffected by Greek influences. Greeks called such people “barbarians” (cf Acts 28, 2 ), meaning people whose speech was foreign. Roman citizens would scarcely classify themselves as such, and Nero, who was reigning when Paul wrote this letter, prided himself on his admiration for Greek culture. Under obligation: Paul will expand on the theme of obligation in 13, 8; 15, 1. 1, 27

1, 16–17:

The principal theme of the letter is salvation through faith. I am not ashamed of the gospel: Paul is not ashamed to proclaim the gospel, despite the criticism that Jews and Gentiles leveled against the proclamation of the crucified savior; cf 1 Cor 1, 23–24 . Paul affirms, however, that it is precisely through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus that God's saving will and power become manifest. Jew first (cf 2, 9–10 ) means that Jews especially, in view of the example of Abraham (ch 4 ), ought to be the leaders in the response of faith.

1, 17:

In it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith: the gospel centers in Jesus Christ, in whom God's saving presence and righteousness in history have been made known. Faith is affirmation of the basic purpose and meaning of the Old Testament as proclamation of divine promise ( 1, 2; 4, 13 ) and exposure of the inability of humanity to effect its salvation even through covenant law. Faith is the gift of the holy Spirit and denotes acceptance of salvation as God's righteousness, that is, God's gift of a renewed relationship in forgiveness and power for a new life. Faith is response to God's total claim on people and their destiny. The one who is righteous by faith will live: see the note on Hb 2, 4 .

1, 18–3, 20:

Paul aims to show that all humanity is in a desperate plight and requires God's special intervention if it is to be saved.

1, 18–32:

In this passage Paul uses themes and rhetoric common in Jewish‐Hellenistic mission proclamation (cf Wis 13, 1–14, 13, 31 ) to indict especially the non‐Jewish world. The close association of idolatry and immorality is basic, but the generalization needs in all fairness to be balanced against the fact that non‐Jewish Christian society on many levels displayed moral attitudes and performance whose quality would challenge much of contemporary Christian culture. Romans themselves expressed abhorrence over devotion accorded to animals in Egypt. Paul's main point is that the wrath of God does not await the end of the world but goes into action at each present moment in humanity's history when misdirected piety serves as a facade for self‐interest.

1, 18:

The wrath of God: God's reaction to human sinfulness, an Old Testament phrase that expresses the irreconcilable opposition between God and evil (see Is 9, 11.16. 9, 18.20; 10, 4; 30, 27 ). It is not contrary to God's universal love for his creatures, but condemns Israel's turning aside from the covenant obligations. Hosea depicts Yahweh as suffering intensely at the thought of having to punish Israel (Hos 11, 8–9 ). God's wrath was to be poured forth especially on the “Day of Yahweh” and thus took on an eschatological connotation (see Zep 1, 15 ).

1, 24 :

In order to expose the depth of humanity's rebellion against the Creator, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts. Instead of curbing people's evil interests, God abandoned them to self‐indulgence, thereby removing the facade of apparent conformity to the divine will. Subsequently Paul will show that the Mosaic law produces the same effect; cf 5, 20; 7, 13–24 . The divine judgment expressed here is related to the theme of hardness of heart described in 9, 17–18 .

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