Romans, is the longest letter that Paul had written, and we would hope, of a different tenor than his others. He was writing to a congregation that had never met him, one that if they knew anything about him, had received that information from rumor and hearsay. We do not know whether they had heard the worst or the best, but at this point we are searching for anything that would speak in Paul's favor.
The study of this letter, through its introduction on the part of professional theologians, also gives us greater insight into the claims Paul had made concerning his creation of the majority of existing churches during that time. Depending on which authority you read, the letter dates somewhere between 54 A.D. and 59 A.D.
There is no evidence in Acts, or Romans, that Paul founded the congregation in Rome. In fact, until the last, he had never been to that city. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 941: 315f)
As at the church of Antioch, an influx of Hellenists from Jerusalem originally populated this area. Those who fled the great persecution, appear to have established the first Gentile churches there.. Concerning Acts 11:20, The Interpreter's Bible, enlightens us to the possible truth of the matter.
Those scholars tend to believe there is sufficient proof for us to understand that Paul had nothing to do with preaching the gospel to gentiles in this area of the world. In fact, it was done in many places simply because of the movement of the early Christians. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 145)
We are also told by historians and theologians that Paul was not the corner stone of Greek Christianity. The Hellenistic churches, i.e.; Antioch, Damascus, and Tarsus were the basis upon which Paul did his work. As we have noted before, Paul took credit for the work of other missionaries, namely the Palestinian Church, and also the natural development of various congregations due to the simple movement of a people already based in the religion. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 146)
Indeed, here we have another opinion that validates this student's belief that Paul did, in fact, take credit for the work of others.
As far as Antioch is concerned, our major example, it is closely associated with Peter, even referring to him as its first bishop. Likewise, Barnabas is a far more important figure than Paul in the development of the early church in this city.
Barnabas, already pointed out, was a much more important figure in the early church than he is given credit for. He led the movement which resulted in changing the base of operations for the church from Jerusalem to Antioch. Another point in fact which excludes Paul from the creation of this congregation. Paul occupied a secondary position to Barnabas. In fact, it is possible that Paul's ministry may have owed more than is acknowledged to the motivation of Barnabas. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 147)
Paul's letter to the Romans indicates that the church at Rome was a strong and well-established community before his intended visit there. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 361)
The fact that Paul built his theological concepts on the broad foundation of a Hellenized philosophy, is not surprising. What does draw our criticism of Paul are his statements that he did not build on the work of other men, and that he received nothing either from the Apostles or from others who were involved with him at his earliest known moments. This would appear to be an outright fabrication.
By the time this letter was written, Paul's theology had been fairly well set in his mind. It was to become the very foundation of the Church, upon which virtually all of its doctrine is based. Therefore, when one rebelled against the establishment, they were not only dissenting against that body, but against Paul..
Paul saw Jesus as the means of salvation, not by adherence to his teachings or by following his example, not by his light, his life, or his way, but through his death. As a human sacrifice whose blood atoned for the sins of all mankind.
"It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses..." (Romans 4:25; RSV)
"Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood..." (Romans 5:9; RSV)
He conceived of Jesus as being pre-existent with God at the creation, and that he came to earth in human form as God incarnate, but born as other men through the flesh and into sin. This would seem to negate the purpose of the Virgin Birth, of which he apparently had no concept.
Paul's complex philosophy sees Jesus as being without sin, yet condemns him to sin by being born through a mortal woman, "...into sin." Contradictions abound in his play on words, but only because he is building his 'theology' on the basis of Greek mythological philosophies, existing pagan rituals, and Pharisaic concepts such as 'predestination'.
But not only does Paul create this 'phantom' world from his own flights of imagery, but he imposes on us the 'communion' meal as a sacrament, he creates the 'body of Christ', or, 'the body of believers,' along with innuendoes that are taken from his letters (pre-gospel) and added to the gospels, i.e., "...this do in remembrance of me."
None of this pragmatic thought ever came from the Gospels themselves, or from the Apostles, or the Jerusalem Church. That which we know as the doctrine upon which the Church operates comes to us from Paul, a person whose character is now under dire suspicion, who neither knew the Lord Jesus, his life activities, or his teachings, and who rebelled against the decisions of the Apostles and the Elders of the Jerusalem Church.
Paul, wanted to go to Spain, visiting the church at Rome on the way. But he must first make a visit to Jerusalem. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 358)
Since the need was a pressing one, it amazes this student that it took Paul well over a year to collect the money, let alone deliver it. The crowning fact concerning this great collection is that no where do we have any text, biblical or historical, including third party, indicating that this final trip to Jerusalem was ever made, or that the money was ever delivered.
Keep in mind that Paul has been accused of taking money from the various churches by guile, and after using false pretenses to obtain the money, he kept it. It is as if those in Jerusalem were saying, 'If the collection was for us, where is it?'
A note concerning Paul's economic situation proves quite interesting here. In contemplating Paul's letter, the interpreter's notate the following.
"It is also doubtful that Paul would have been as dependent upon the assistance of the Roman church as this view assumes. We learn from other letters that Paul could have been independent of economic assistance, if necessary." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 359)
Aside from this, an intensive look at Paul's letter has raised other questions in the minds of professional theologians. Why did Paul write to the Roman church at all, and why did he write in the manner that he did. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 358)
After offering their own thoughts concerning these questions, and thinking them quite satisfactory, another question is immediately raised.
It is even more difficult to understand why this is the longest and most technical of all his letters. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 359)
After lengthy study, this student believes the following to be a true answer to these several questions. Paul's own words may well attest to the validity of this opinion.
Paul was a stranger to those in Rome. The Gospel they had received, therefore, was not Paul's but the Gospel as rendered by the Jerusalem Church and the disciples. This would have been in direct contradiction to Pauline dictates. It made necessary a statement of Paul's gospel before his appearance, not only to explain why Paul was going to contest the true Gospel, but to get some idea of the Roman congregation's reaction to it.
From Paul's words we most certainly come to the conclusion that Paul intended to visit them, not as a guest, but as the newly, 'self-appointed' head of that large congregation.
But it is time to look at the letter itself and determine more of the nature of the man, Paul. Obviously, he would put his best foot forward to those he had not yet had time to incline to his way of thinking.
As always, Paul introduces himself as an apostle, thereby making it known that he has a 'commission' that permits him to approach the established church at Rome. He states that he has been set apart, "...for the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures." (Romans 1:1-2; RSV)
But Paul again uses his own theology, for to him, Jesus is descended from David, "...according to the flesh." This would have been true of any Jew, but it reflects nothing of Jesus' birth or his true ancestry. Born, as he has stated before, in sin, in the flesh, like any other man. But then Paul displays his lack of knowledge, introducing his own Hellenistic understanding where it stands out like a sore thumb.
"...and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead." (Romans 1:4; RSV)
As ordained by God's Holy Spirit, Jesus was designated, 'Son', at his baptism. But once more, Paul deviates from religious history and either deletes the dictates of the gospels, or is ignorant of them.
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17; RSV)
"Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11; RSV)
"Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased." (Luke 3:22; RSV)
"Other ancient authorities read today I Have Begotten thee." (Holy Bible; Revised Standard Version; Collins' Clear-Type Press; 1972; Luke 3:22:Footnote k Page 57 (The most ancient text read, "This day have I begotten thee.")
"Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee," or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son." (Hebrews 1:5; RSV)
However, this has been dropped from most modern readings since it is in direct contradiction to established dogma. Most accept the fact that Jesus was born God's son, chosen before his birth as Nazarite, the Christ.
Every gospel agrees, but in any case, Paul is oblivious to God's determination for Jesus. And no matter what explanation our twentieth century theologians wish to use for Paul's words, when referencing Holy Scripture, he is wrong.
Another note is relevant here concerning Jesus' 'sonship' in Paul's mind. Did Paul consider pre-existence, and a 'begotten sonship' in his theology? This student would deny the last since Paul considered Jesus as having existed with God from the beginning. His statements concerning Jesus' natural birth also preclude such an idea. Paul's own words say he was, "...designated son of God... by his resurrection." However, pre-existence is another story.
The term 'son' is an existing, messianic title. Paul thought of Christ as pre-existent with God. Galatians 4:4, seems to be a reference to this belief. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 382)
At this point, having already determined that Paul in no way held to a view of the 'virgin' birth, it must be pointed out that at this period in time, Jesus' 'sonship' was not only adoptionist, but occurred after his birth. Adoptionist, means that Jesus became the Son of God at some point after the beginning of his earthly life. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 382)
Again, in contradiction to Jesus' teachings, despite the fact that he is addressing himself to a people that he does not know, Paul finds it necessary to impress them with his authority.
"...Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about obedience to the faith for the sake of his name..." (Romans 1:5; RSV)
"We", of course, means Paul. 'To bring about obedience', we have come to learn, means by force of arms or intimidation. And he brings this to bear on the Roman church, "...including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ." (Romans 1:5-6; RSV)
In all honesty the word used here for 'obedience' is, 'upakoen'. (Bullinger; A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English & Greek New Testament)
This means to attain obedience as a result of attentive hearing. We drew our own conclusion, not from this definition, but from Paul's activities in other congregations, including the one at Corinth.
The insinuation seems rather obvious! Paul continues, desiring to share with that congregation, but his intent slips into the open for those who have come to know his method of operation.
"For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." (Romans 1:11-12; RSV)
The Interpreters comment is concerned with this most revealing statement.
At this point we know nothing about the Roman church or the manner in which it was managed. Most assuredly, it had not been subjected to the dictatorial administration that the Pauline churches suffered. Paul seems to think that they have suffered some deficiency. In truth, he intimates that he must see to their instruction himself. The interpreter's seem to feel that Paul may have been justified in his attitude, though they do not see fit to share any knowledge they may have of the church at Rome's history. It seems they are simply accepting Paul's word as 'gospel', and are making an uncalled for assumption. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 388)
It begins to reek of the spider and the fly; Paul corrects himself lest he appear too forward, even pretentious. He suddenly leaves the subject of the gospel he has been ordained to preach, and goes into a dissertation concerning God and the worship of idols. He then subjects his readers to homosexuality and the unnumbered sins of man that Paul the righteous has catalogued.
To break this letter down into its many subjects is useless to our study, and rather than be confused by Paul's efforts to do just that, we will reserve our efforts to the major points that he intends to make. Be aware that he is operating as he always did, to create confusion with word games and then, without warning, hit home with a statement of what the gospel of God commands through Paul. Acceptance of a simple statement comes with a sigh of relief from the beleaguered.
Paul who preaches 'faith without works' contradicts himself again.
"For he will render to every man according to his works." (Romans 2:6; RSV)
Paul said that no one can be justified under the law, yet to the Romans, Jew first, Gentile next, he makes the following statement.
"All who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified." (Romans 2:12-13; RSV)
Has Paul come 'round to sanity? He is speaking of faith with acts; works. He is finally speaking of instruction that comes from Jesus. Fear not, for Paul discloses the fact that God's punishment will come when, "...according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus." (Romans 2:16; RSV)
Here, when he had the opportunity to reference his gospel directly to Jesus' teachings, Paul raises Jesus to empirical heights by contending that he will be the Judge of all things on the Day of Judgment. The gospels say that too? Paul's theology and writings came before the written gospels!
Paul cannot help but trip himself up. His play of words, based on his own inventions, continues to go out of control. He jumps from judgment to a glorious poly-philosophical statement of circumcision-uncircumcision, to the equality of Jew and Gentile. Then in Chapter 3, vss. 10-18, Paul uses a string of quotations from the Old Testament which invoke a strong reaction from theologians and interpreter's alike, all scholars of the word.
"This conclusion, is based on a string of quotations from Psalms 14:1-2; 53:102; 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; Isaiah 59:7-8; Ps. 36:1. These scriptures are a free translation of the LXX, ands are used, "...without reference to their various contexts." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 425)
How much does it take to understand what this person is about? He obviously had no fear of God for he introduces himself and 'his' gospel with a corrupt use of God's word. And repudiating what he said not moments ago, Paul advises us that, "...no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law since through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20; RSV)
This is an absolute contradiction to what he has just said. If we are to be judged by the things we have done, and we have done them properly, we should be judged accordingly, with reward. Paul says this is impossible because God's Law leads us to sin!
The knowledge of sin came from Adam and Eve when they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. ("You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it lest you die.' But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:4-5; RSV)
The Law came from God, through Moses, to protect man from sin. It was a contract between God and man that came as a gift for those who wished to become God's children. It was upheld by Jesus in its sum total, and he practiced it accordingly. No where does Jesus abrogate The Law.
It is amazing that not one person with a knowledge of God's Holy Scriptures contended with Paul about 'his' gospel. One good Jew, one righteous mind, could have preserved the true faith of the Apostles and the Jerusalem church. One keen intellect within any of these congregations could have avoided centuries of terror and bloodshed, but no one spoke up, there was none, not one.
Paul now moves to another familiar theme in his theology. Having debauched the Law, he begins an epic, oft repeated, concerning justification by faith without works. With the effort, he repudiates the statements he has just made concerning the Law, for Paul continues in his efforts to be all things to all men. When one attempts this impossible task it is necessary to compromise one's ethics and values, which Paul seems to do without effort or conscience.
"For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised because of their faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law." (Romans 3:28-31; RSV)
Whether the letter of James was written for the purpose of disputing II Corinthians or Romans, is not important. The fact is, James makes small work of Paul's theology and the reason is plain. God does not have a double standard. He does not attempt to please everyone by basing His judgments on what they believe. And that is exactly what Paul has just stated.
He has set one criterion for all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike. It is for us to follow God's desires, not for God to follow ours.
Jesus did not come preaching two messages, but one. Jesus did not uphold two laws, but one. According to Paul, God will treat with each of us according to what we believe, God will comply. With two sets of rules, it would be interesting to see how Paul intends to uphold the Law. In this manner, however, Paul pleases everyone, everyone can be included, accommodated. All each must do is swear allegiance to Paul and state that they have faith in Jesus.
The agreement he made with the disciples is ignored, it is violated without a thought.
Paul insists on using Abraham as his example which is a poor choice at best, as James and Holy Scripture have already proven. While attempting to qualify Paul's use of Genesis, the interpreter's make a definitive point.
The argument that Abraham was justified by his faith hinges on Genesis 15:6. "Believed", in the original passage, "...is far from including all that Paul meant by "faith". (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume9: Page 439)
Of course, Paul is using the LXX and not the original text, the Masoretic Text. He is using a Greek translation of the Hebrew which could not possibly render a proper meaning for this passage. However, The Interpreter's Bible, insists that Paul does not distort the Greek, which is menial and far more limited than the Hebrew. And just a few verses ago, the same scholars insist that Paul misused the Greek to his own advantage without any regard for its original context. However, it is pointed out that Paul normally used the LXX.
"While Philo and his Alexandrian coreligionists looked upon the translation of the Seventy as a work of inspired men, the Palestinian Rabbis subsequently considered the day on which the Septuagint was completed as one of the most unfortunate in Israel's history, seeing that the Torah could never be adequately translated." (The Holy Scriptures; Masoretic Text; Jewish Publication Society: Preface: Page V)
(Keep in mind that Jesus was a Palestinian Jew!)
Paul further asserts that Abraham was reckoned as righteous before he was circumcised, and therefore, "He received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness which he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believed without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them..." (Romans 4:11: RSV)
Aside from being absolutely incorrect, it pays no mind to Jewish tradition and doctrine. Paul has been caught in a 'rut' of his own making by stating that Abraham is the one 'righteous' soul, who by his act of circumcision, serves that all in him are 'righteous' without circumcision. This was not why God commanded Abraham to be circumcised. The Holy Scriptures tell us this very plainly.
It is unfortunate for both Paul and his supporters, then and today, that they failed to heed God's Word. Righteousness did not satisfy Abraham's salvation, but merely made him acceptable to receive God's perpetual covenant. As, The Interpreter's Bible, was so kind to point out, "Needless to say, "believed" in the original passage is far from including all that Paul meant by "faith"..."
"And God said unto Abraham; 'And as for thee, thou shalt keep my covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any foreigner, that is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised; and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken My covenant." (Genesis 17:9-14; Masoretic Text)
Jesus was circumcised. And if we talk of those bought with money, let us talk as does Paul, about the price with which all men were bought through Jesus who was called the Christ. God has one covenant, not two. Yet with all this, Paul would invite everyone and anyone into the 'house' without proper credentials. Does this sound Jewish? So was Paul, until it suited his purposes to betray that heritage.
Paul says, "...the promise to Abraham and his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith." (Romans 4:13; RSV)
I would like to know just how righteous God would have considered Abraham had he said, 'I believe, but you're not cutting on me!' Or if Abraham had said, ' I believe, but I'll be damned if I'm going to kill my own son!' Faith without works is a daydream. In every case, Abraham had to begin the action, the work had to be started.
"And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham..." (Genesis 22:1; Masoretic Text)
The word "prove" means "to be tested." God, who knows the innermost workings of man's mind and heart, tested Abraham to see if he was worthy. This is after, long after, he is found 'righteous' in God's eyes. If he is redeemed, then he was redeemed once for all. If he was saved, then he was saved once for all. But that is not what the passages Paul uses, means.
Once more, when was Abraham approved, saved, redeemed? He cut the wood for the burnt-offering, he readied everything, and went to the place God had commanded. He set his son on the altar and put the wood for the fire on him, and raised the knife to kill him. Then, and only then, did God say, "Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know..." (Genesis 22:12; Masoretic Text)
And though Paul will exclaim that Abraham is the father of us all, this student recalls what John the Baptizer said when the Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized.
"Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham." (Matthew 3:8-9; Luke 3:8; RSV)
"They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do what Abraham did..." (John 8:39; RSV)
But Paul denies the works through which Abraham was found acceptable, he makes his own covenant, but with which god? He preaches two laws, two covenants, and a second gospel, 'his' gospel, which can only spell disaster for anyone who follows it. Jesus did not say, 'you would believe as Abraham believed,' he did not say, 'if you had faith as Abraham had faith,' he said, "...you would do as Abraham did."
If we need to nit-pick, as Paul does in this next play-on-words, Paul is also incorrect when he says, "...sin indeed was in the world before the law was given..." (Romans 5:13; RSV)
Now Paul may consider the 'law' as it was given to Moses, and thereafter codified. But there was 'law' before sin since God's command, regardless of its nature, is Law. And by Paul's own definition, stated earlier in this thesis, without law there can be no sin!
"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying: 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.'" (Genesis 2;16-17; Masoretic Text)
Not only is a command given, but a punishment is also prescribed. This is Law! Paul chooses to ignore the finer points. Was this Law given to punish, or to protect? Paul goes along his own path, but not to no advantage, for within the use of Adam as the man of 'death', and Jesus, the man of 'life', we are presented with another Christian precept, that of the 'free gift.'
Paul has manipulated God's word concerning Abraham, Adam, and Jesus until he can say, "If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17; RSV)
Paul speaks of 'original sin', so this damnation of mankind also comes from Paul. It is the basic rope with which the church binds its adherents. Paul then speaks of those who have received the baptism of Jesus, having died with him and been raised with his resurrection, to a new life. The echoes of paganism continue in Paul's thoughts.
The resurrection is another basis for Paul's growing theology, one also embraced by the modern Church, yet he was totally ignorant of what actually occurred during the three and a half hours involved in the crucifixion. If the possibilities of the end discussed in, In Defense Of The Apostles Faith, turn out to be correct, Paul's entire doctrine would be without basis. Not a fact, not even a probability, but a point that should be considered seriously.
Another idea needs to be brought out here since Paul is dealing almost exclusively with sin. Paul did not conceive of sin as being a part of natural man, but an 'alien' power that had infested our human anatomy and which governs our will. It was not an inanimate 'thing' to Paul, but a 'living' entity.
The Interpreter's Bible, also states that Paul considered sin as, "...an outside demonic power." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9, Page 369: First paragraph introduction)
With Paul's concept concerning the Evil One, this student concurs whole heartedly. In this arena we are of a single mind, and those who ignore this reality are in grave danger.
However, what is most distressing is Paul's continuing attack against the law as being the cause of, "...our sinful passions." (Romans 7:5; RSV)
He uses this argument to induce others to break away from God's Law and to follow a human ordinance. And in the very next sentence Paul exposes himself for the artist that he is in using confusion to escape a contradiction.
"What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." (Romans 7:7; RSV)
If this is true, then we must acknowledge that man cannot be guilty of coveting, since he doesn't know what 'coveting' consists of; he cannot murder even if he unjustly, and by forethought, kills another since he has never heard the word, murder, and he does not know what it means. This is the most heinous of concepts man can begin to consider as a defense.
Simply put, any thing or any person which leads another to commit a crime (sin) is an accomplice to that act. If any thing, or any person, leads another to do evil, then that thing or person is also evil. Righteousness cannot lead one to unrighteousness, therefore, the law which was conceived and administered by the Lord God, and not Satan, cannot be evil or cause one to sin. Nor can evil work through it.
A thought is suggested for a second time. Without the Law, if Paul had snuck up behind another and killed him, committed murder, would it not still be murder? Without any concept of God, there is within the human animal a sense of fair and unfair. Even if we are a blank concerning the existence of God, we are not restricted from having a sensibility of right and wrong.
Paul's argument is extremely juvenile because he assumes that before the Law there was no sin! "Apart from the law, sin lies dead." (Romans 7:8; RSV)
If there is no law, sin cannot exist. That is what he is saying, but just moments ago he said that before the law there was sin, the sin of Adam and Eve. He is wrong on both accounts.
The web becomes so complex that Paul weaves in an attempt to deceive, that even he cannot keep up with it. All his 'wisdom' becomes foolishness. Unfortunately, the deception has worked, and continued for two thousand years. The giving of the Spirit becomes a 'wholesale' item, the free gift received, those in the church are no longer saints but the children of God, and if the children of God, then heirs. (Romans 8:16-17; RSV)
And now Paul strikes upon the ultimate theory, and the ultimate confusion.
"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son..." (Romans 8:28-29; RSV)
You see, Paul speaks with a forked tongue. God works for the good of those who love him... AND are called! Predestined!
Paul's concept of God's plan is complex, and with the terms he uses, there is no way one can avoid drawing the conclusion that Paul is speaking of predestination. Even our Christian scholars agree that there is no way to, "...avoid such a conclusion." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 525)
Can all of this be understood in a simple way? If we are 'chosen' beforehand, 'predestined' to be a part of something, then in effect there is no, free will. It has been set out beforehand, etched in stone, so to speak. With such a 'calling,' the individual has no free choice, they will be what God has 'chosen' them to be.
The horror, therefore, is not of being thus singled out for God's purpose, but for those who never will be, cannot possibly be, for God has made His choice beforehand. If there is a pre-set group who have been 'chosen', then man has no ability to choose to follow God, he is condemned, for those who will follow, those who will serve, have already been 'glorified' by God's 'calling.'
"And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified." (Romans 8:30; RSV)
Logically then, those whom he did not choose are condemned!
The 'chosen' are also known by Paul as the 'elect.' The problem with Paul's theory is that if it were true, his preaching any gospel would be useless. Regardless of what any one tried to do, the 'elect' have already been 'chosen' to carry out God's will. All else is in vain!
And if one chooses to say that there is always the chance that one soul might be 'saved' by ministry, then we question the "perfection" of God's works.
Now it is imperative that the theologians and interpreters make a statement about Paul's character, namely, his use of scripture. And it is proper that having made remarks concerning his 'misuse' of God's word that an additional opinion be called upon. We do so now through those who seek to elevate his authority and position.
Paul regularly used the LXX, rather than the Hebrew text, and he quotes the Hebrew very freely. He also, often, quotes text without any regard for the original context. In Romans 10:18 Paul attempts to prove that the gospel had been preached to the Jews through his ministry, but he does so by using Psalm 19:4, "...with complete and flagrant disregard for its manifest meanings. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 553)
To win at any cost? He lied, he cheated, he deceived those to whom he brought 'his' gospel and he seems to have had no conscience about doing it. If this thesis was done simply to prosecute the man, it would have served human interests to 'fix' dialogue and to erroneously quote Scripture. Though error may exist, such has not been done with intent, for if this student is in the wrong, correction serves the better interest. Paul did not see things that way. Does this make this student better than Paul? No, just obedient to another cause.
The unfortunate fact is that this practice is common place in Christianity. It is exhibited in the very first verses of Mark's gospel as well as being used by 'churched' ministers and radio and television evangelists everywhere. We must admit, however, that they had a good role-model to follow.
To go on, Paul suggests that, "...if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9; RSV)
That's it! All of Paul's meandering through endless philosophy and imagined theology boils down to this. Despite the point being made, Paul goes on quoting irrelevant scripture that in no way was meant to serve the purposes he has in mind. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 561 (On Rom. 10:16))
This time Paul uses (misuses) Psalm 19:4. A scripture that refers to the sun and the other heavenly bodies, "...are made to refer to the Christian evangelists of Paul's own day." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 562 (on Rom. 10:18))
Confusion and hesitant translations follow Paul's words as he speaks of the Jews, his fellow Israelites. Paul must bring up his apostleship again, and in speaking to the Gentiles, states that he is an apostle to the Gentiles. And so as not to seem prideful, Paul explains himself in this manner.
"Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them." (Romans 11;13-14; RSV)
Paul never made any Jew's jealous, but raised an outcry of rage from them. And how does Paul explain his meaning, how is jealousy going to 'save' anyone? He doesn't, it is for the Romans and for us to figure out. Even the professionals are confused, for time and time again we find statements like the following in their interpretations.
"...[...or better perhaps...], [...must he not have meant...], 'The little word then (oun) in vs. 13, which cannot be got rid of, though some MSS lack it, makes this passage more difficult. [...or perhaps...], Does full number mean...; If Paul means... presumably he is thinking..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 570; 575)
Speculation, every one is reduced to speculation, the amateur and the professional, the proud and the profane. Why? Because Paul was a master at words, but if you will pay strict attention to his meandering, you will see just how he misleads his readers, how he confounds them with a myriad of similes that end up meaning nothing! And he was probably a poor speaker, which he has unwittingly admitted in II Corinthians, because in front of a living audience he did not have the time, or the assistance, to look up or create the images that he did when he wrote it all down.
Here is a perfect example of a statement that is meant to sound as though it were full of wisdom and sobriety, yet it does nothing but confound its hearers. Without great difficulty one could make it mean just about anything they desired.
"As regards the gospel they (the Jews) are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all." (Romans 11:28-32; RSV)
Does Paul mean that God made all men disobedient just so that He could have mercy on them? Or could he have meant...
Now one may complain that we have not taken these verses in context with the rest of Paul's statement. The reason we have not is because there is no context. The preceding lines concern themselves with a hardening of Israel, "...until the full number of the Gentiles come in..." (Romans 11:25; RSV), and it is followed by, "...the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Romans 11: 33; RSV)
Was Paul, as some believe, demented and unable to carry a single line of thought, or was he a crafty genius at work bedeviling those who would listen to his rhetoric? This student must concede that he is a believer of the later.
It is amazing that Paul can beseech his readers not to be, "...conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2; RSV), and none of the Roman congregation question his suppositions.
It would appear that he is asking them to renew their minds that they might prove what God's will is.. It would seem that he was telling them to use their minds to discover what is right and acceptable, not just to sit and listen, and calmly accept what they are told.
"Prove here means "know surely," "have trustworthy knowledge of." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 582)
However, if one uses a simple Greek Lexicon we find that the proper definition is, "to assay, to make trial of, put to the proof, examine; hence, to examine and judge of; prove by test, approve on trial." (A Critical Lexicon and Concordance To The English And Greek New Testament; Page 609)
Then are we to have the mind of God? To know His thoughts? To eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
Earlier, Paul had decried wisdom and the gathering of knowledge. He announced himself alone as knowing God's intent and purpose, for did he not say that he had the mind of Christ?
Why did no one challenge Paul? Obviously, there were exceptionally few minds that were able to decipher Paul's immediate meaning. For the most part, the citizenry were of a simple mind, uneducated and unskilled in the most basic forms of literacy. Not one percent of them could read and most were intimidated by the mysterious world of cults and legend that abounded in their society.
Paul exhibits the highest form of hypocrisy by appealing to this congregation, one he does not even know, about adopting some form of modesty in their self-evaluation.
"For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think..." (Romans 12:3; RSV)
This comes from one they obviously did not know, who constantly boasts about his 'divine' authority, about his apostolic 'commission', and how much better he is than Jesus' chosen Twelve. We have been shown evidence of this, yet his adherents refuse to accept the evidence set before them.
Here, for whatever has gone before, scholars, Christian men and women, speak out at last, though two thousand years too late.
"Paul appeals to the authority of his apostleship, the highest office and function in the church, but one for which he deserves no credit.." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 584)
Paul should have taken his own advice. Instead, he goes on to ask virtues from the Roman congregation that he himself does not possess.. "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them; ...do not be haughty, ...never be conceited, ...pay no one evil for evil, ...never avenge yourselves." (Romans 12:14-20; RSV)
This student can only recall the despicable manner in which he treated Peter, the enmity and disdain in which he held the Apostles, how he dealt with the slave who had the gift of prophecy and the sinner in I Corinthians, and how he punished the leader of the Corinthian congregation.
How he held his 'commission' over the heads of his congregations, and used his organization to hold sway over them, how he continually boasted of his authority, his apostleship, and how he wished that those who persecuted him would 'mutilate' themselves.
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." (Romans 13:1-2; RSV)
In saying this to keep others from daring to question his authority, Paul ingeniously extends his statement as though to cover all administrations and influences. Since Paul has shown a loathing for government and authority per se, this student would take issue with Paul's advice.
It would seem to be the reasoning of one who was demanding obedience so that he himself could obtain obedience. Why this attitude? Many of the Jews in Rome were there at the disfavor of the Empire, was he afraid that his teachings would spawn a silent revolt against the State? We are well aware that all governments are not appointed by God, nor do they have His favor.
More often than not, those who 'govern' are corrupt. Would Paul do honor to them? More often than not, evil has chosen those who govern so that the present order in the world may oppose God. Would Paul honor them? In Paul's time those who governed were dictators. We may include the very existence of Palestine under the Roman heel, ruled by the Idumean Herods. Pharaoh ruled Egypt with an iron fist, using his people as well as slaves for his own purposes. Dictatorships flourish, few of which are benevolent. Would Paul do honor to them?
And of the world, we deal with Kings, Emperors, War Lords, and Tyrants, few if any who are interested in the welfare of the people. At what price? That price usually involved spending the lives of their subjects. Would Paul do honor to them?
And in our present age, inherited from bad seed we got bad seed. Dictators, in almost every country in the world save the United States and Canada. And in our own country we were dealing with unscrupulous men who deceive, lie, and cheat the people in any manner they can. Are they seated in power by the will of God? Would Paul do honor to them?
Who was Paul talking about? This student believes that as a citizen of Rome, 'by inheritance and through no work of his own,' Paul used this example as a round- about method of asserting his own position of rulership. It seems obvious that such a pretense was meant to eventually point to Paul and his authority, appointed by God.
"Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." (Romans 13:2; RSV)
Are we not to resist Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin? If we are indicting the man, we seem to have good reason. Paul goes on to discuss, once again, the subject of food and the Law.
"I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean of itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean. If your brother is injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died." (Romans 14:14-15; RSV)
Paul attacks the Law again, but this time his thinking has advanced far enough for him to include the suggestion that we offend Jesus when we offend another by what we eat, or abstain from. The basic thought, however, is the same. Act to please men rather than God.
"Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats..." (Romans 14:20; RSV)
The vast majority of the religious world knows that this is not true. Jew and Moslem alike, and some sects of Christianity, are still willing to obey God's Law concerning clean and unclean foods. They have good reason to do so.
In closing his letter, Paul again misuses another of God's Old Testament scriptures; Psalm 69:9. Interpreter's believe that this is another of Paul's theological references to the pre-existence of Jesus. And they have basically the same negative reaction to it. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 633)
If this student seems repetitive, it is due to the nature of the study. For that which Paul indicates here sounds very familiar when placed in the context of Greek mythology. The gods giving up their immortality to come to earth, and in doing so, becoming mortal for the sake of mankind.
But now Paul draws on his own sense of purpose, we must assume, to impress the Roman congregation. And in doing so suddenly becomes the means of the Gentile's salvation!
"But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:15-16; RSV)
No comment is necessary concerning Paul's 'newly' expanded commission.
Oddly enough, despite his feelings about women and their place in the church, in this letter Paul names several women who are in active service in the church. Indeed, Phoebe is named as a deaconess of the church at Cen'chreae. Is this section of the letter Paul's? Has he relented?
Professional interpreter's believe that the word, 'deaconess,' may fit a theory of this part of the letter being written by another, using Paul's name.
Pliny refers to such a title of authority about 112 AD, but there is no letter to Trajan concerning the trials of the Christians, (ca A.D. 112) in reference to a deaconess in the N.T. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 655)
He also mentions Prisca (Priscilla KJV), in whose home the church at Ephesus met, and Mary. We know nothing, of this very common name, from any other source. In this amazing section Paul also speaks of Andronicus and Junias, whom he also names as "...men of note among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me." (Romans 16:7; RSV)
Because Paul has named many apostles since he generalized the title, we cannot be sure if the Twelve knew these two men, or if they themselves had risen to that auspicious height. More important, he admits that they were believers before he was converted. But in the end, warning must come again from Paul's lips.
"I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them." (Romans 16:18; RSV)
We assume that the doctrine they have been taught is the letter, an excellent reason for its being so lengthy. Also, by his speech it is obvious that Paul believes himself to be a leader, if not the leader, of the Roman congregation. He has taken over, even though he has never been among them.
In concluding this letter, we make note that Paul did not physically write the epistle.
"I Ter'tius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord."
"Tertius, the scribe or amanuensis, is nowhere else referred to..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 665)
In our critique of the, Letter to the Romans, we have not so much attempted to decipher Paul's entire meaning, but rather to delve into his attitudes, opinions, and what he stated were his beliefs. Foremost was the fact that this congregation was not one that he was familiar with, yet he took 'command' of them without hesitation.
Of prime consideration to him was his 'authority'; that the Roman congregation be subject to it, and accept a gospel of his personal conception. Despite the humanity of the man, his desire for 'material' recognition, the theology that he was framing, for his time, was exceptional. In the forming of any 'spiritual' credo it normally takes years to form a rigid structure of dogma. Although we know that Paul may have had almost twenty years to formulate the seed of his doctrine, the complexity of his religious philosophy is commendable.
Certainly we do not take odds with him on this basis, but rather the method in which it was delivered, and the purpose for which it was intended. These are slowly become less of a mystery as we move on to the next letter.