While Romans is by far Paul’s most systematic letter, it was written to the Roman church in order to address specific concerns. Discuss the occasion, date, recipients, and purpose of Romans. Consider the following:
Who founded the church in Rome?
Paul did not found the church in Rome, and in fact had never even been there. (Bruce & Allen, page 1316) There is very little information to determine who started the church there. What we do know is that Luke tells us Jews from Rome were present at the Pentecost event. Therefore, it seems likely that some of these Jews were converted to Christianity and founded the Roman church upon returning home. (Moo, page 17)
What was the situation like in Rome during this time?
Previously, the Jews had been required to leave Rome, but by the time Romans was written they had returned. The church in Rome was comprised largely of Gentiles who had followed Judaism and been converted to Christianity following the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost. This had been the cause of some discontent between Jewish believers who held to the Law and these Gentile believers who did not feel bound by the Law. Addressing those problems was a key purpose of Romans. (Moo, page 17)
Who wrote Romans?
The first verse of the book of Romans tells us that it was sent by the apostle Paul in order to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. Moo suggests that it is most likely that Paul composed the letter while his faithful scribe Tertius did the actual task of writing. (Moo, page 16) This was common practice in those times. The author, who dictated the material to the scribe, composed the actual content and was responsible for what was sent.
From where was it written?
According to Moo, Paul wrote Romans during his third missionary journey while he was in Corinth. “His reference to Cenchrea in 16:1 suggests he is staying in Corinth at the time, for Cenchrea was the seaport next to Corinth.”(Moo, page 16) This opinion is also supported by Leslie C. Allen, who writes that it was probably during the winter of A.D. 56-7 that Paul wrote his letter to the Romans from a house in Corinth. (Bruce & Allen, page 1316)
Moo, Douglas J. Romans: The Niv Application Commentary: From Biblical Text to Contemporary Life. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000.
Bruce, F. F., and Leslie C. Allen. New International Bible Commentary-Romans. Rev Sub ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999.
Submitted for “Romans” DB Forum 1 on March 26, 2011.