Literary Structure

Greek had been the lingua franca of the Mediterranean world.1 Being a linguist and scholar, Paul uses language in Romans with plenty of metaphor, a practice he might have learned from the Hebrew Prophets before him. There is hardly any paragraph in this letter without a metaphor.2 Paul uses words not to define but to evoke. Paul’s language is a lively. Rather than including high technical words, he has used the language of common discourse loaded with metaphors.

Scholars have pointed out certain literary structural problems like the textual variations in the last three chapters. This concern about the element of grace and the doxology. Also the inclusion of chapter 16 shows an unlikely style of writing by Paul in including such a long list of salutation to a place and a church where he had never visited.3


Over the years, the integrity of the letters to Romans had been under a long debate. According to the Radical Partition theories, several scholars have the opinion that the current form of Romans with all its complexities and difficulties is actually a composite of two, three or seven separate letters. The reason behind the proposal of such partition theories is due to the ambiguity in finding a single occasion and purpose of writing the letter.4 Scholars have also questioned the number of chapters in Romans. A century before the parchment P46 turned up it had been argued on internal evidence that the original letter to the Romans ended at 15:33. Thus it was said that the last chapter was a part of some other church wherein Paul was well known. Another debate which questions the integrity of this letter is the fourteen chapter version of Romans. The main argument for this debate is due to the doxology being placed in the end of chapter 14.

Major Themes

After the regular greetings, Paul develops his theme. He states that all mankind both Jews and Greeks needs to be put right with God. The term Justification is used by Paul to describe an effect worked in those who believe what God has done in Christ. Since God has acquitted people in judgement, they were now justified.5 He also uses the term Righteousness, which means to have a right relationship with God. Pauls two main themes, the integrity of the gospel committed to him and the solidarity of Jews and gentiles in the messianic community are already apparent in the first half of the letter’s first chapter.6

Next Paul describes the new life in union with Christ that results from this new relation with God. In chapters 5-8, Paul discusses the purpose of the Law of God and the power of God’s Spirit in life of believers. He also brings into light that the rejection of Jesus by Jews is a part of God’s plan for bringing all mankind within the reach of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Also themes like baptism, new order, service to God, the duty of Christians to the state and to one another and questions of conscience has been widely discussed here.


Of the nine letters of Paul which are generally recognized as authentic, the most important are Romans, I and II Corinthians and Galatians.7 Romans it is said that has been composed with greater leisure and thus has been crafted with much more precision and the themes included are systematically placed. Scholars claim this book to be the principal source of book for the study of Paul’s gospel and is undoubtedly the most important theological book ever written.8 It is also sometimes described as Paul’s last testament. As we travel across this letter, we find ourselves immersed in a classic work of spiritual formation.

1 Ibid 89

2 Rochard Foster, Dallas Williard. The Spiritual Formation Bible. (London; Hodder and Stoughton, 2006) 2045

3 C K Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, (Great Britian: R & R Clark, 1957) 11

4 Andrew Das, Solving the Romans Debate,( Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007) 10

5 Raymond Brown, An Introduction to the New testament, (New York: DoubleDay, 2009) 577

6 John Stott, The Message of Romans, (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994)36

7 Interpreters Bible 355

8 Ibid 355

Written By: 
Rev. Thomas Rinu Varghese

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