PAUL'S ACQUAINTANCE WITH ROME
Before Paul wrote the Roman epistle, he had never been in Rome (Ro 1:11, 13, 15). Yet he personally greets no less than thirty individuals there with whom he was acquainted (Ro 16:3-15). After he wrote the Roman letter, he intended to go to Jerusalem, to Rome (Ro 15:23-28) and then on to Spain (Ac 19:21). When he wrote the Roman letter he did not mention the fact that he would arrive in Rome in chains. Before he left on the trip he was arrested in Jerusalem. After that he spent time in prisons at Jerusalem and Caesarea. The journey to Rome as a prisoner stopping at different ports, boarding different ships, enduring a shipwreck and spending time on an island, took considerable time.
Chart EARLY ROMAN RULERS (A)
1. Julius Caesar, 102-44 BC, great soldier, statesman, orator, author.
2. Augustus Caesar, 31 BC-AD 14, AKA Gaius Octavius, Jesus born.
3. Tiberias Caesar, AD 14-37, AKA Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus, Christ crucified (Lu 3:1; 20:22-25).
4. Caligula, AD 37-41, AKA "Little Boots."
5. Claudius Caesar, AD 41-54, famine, banished Jews (Ac 11:18; 18:2).
Rome had a population of over a million people.[ 1 ] Residents included Jews,
Greeks, and immigrants from various places and many slaves. Although Claudius
once gave the Jews religious freedom,[ 2 ] he later banished them from Rome in AD
49. Priscilla and Aquila were among those who were banished (Ac 18:2). After
the ban was relaxed some Jews went back (Ro 16:3).
1. In house of Prisca and Aquila (Ro 16:3-5).
2. Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren WHO are with them (Ro 16:14).
3. Those with Philogogus and Julia, Nereus and
his sister and Olympas (Ro 16:15).
The Roman letter seems to have been written during Paul's third visit to Corinth.
He mentions Gaius his host and city treasurer Erastus (Ro 16:23). If this
assumption is correct, the letter was written during the winter of AD 56, plus or
minus a year or so.
The church of Christ in Rome became very large.
In the Catacombs, ten generations of Christians are buried. It is difficult to
reach an accurate estimate of the extent of these galleries in the tufa rock,[ 3 ]
or of the number of miles of graves they contain.[ 4 ]
The lowest estimate is 350 miles of catacombs, the highest 600. Various writers
have estimated the number of burials in them. Approximations in books run from
1,175,000 to 4,000,000. When Jean and I were in a Roman catacomb in 1996,
our guide said that 6,000,000 Christians who had been immersed were buried in
the six catacombs during the first 300 years of the church. Perhaps one out of
four people in Rome was a Christian in the first century.[ 5 ] Though the population
of Rome is known to have declined in the third and fourth centuries, the number
of Christians must have been between 238,000 and 800,000 or more in each
Most of the Roman Christians in the first century were Gentiles (see Ro 1:6, 13;
11:13). Paul's arguments in chapter 3 suggest that his readers were somewhat
familiar with the OT (see also chapters 4, 9, 10, 11). The letter has about 74
quotations from the OT. The reference to Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 has led
some to conclude that there were several Jews in the church. Paul used the second
person to address Jews in Romans 2:17-24. He also wrote:
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the
law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty
before God (Ro 3:19).
He also said, "For I speak to those who know the law" (Ro 7:1). His
instructions to the strong and weak may allude to Christians of Jewish and Gentile
Roman Christians were known far and wide for their faith (Ro 1:8). Paul
praised them highly (Ro 1:9, 10). He desired to visit them personally (Ro 1:11-13). He considered them to be fine Christians who were "full of goodness" (Ro
15:14-16). He requested their prayers (Ro 15:30-32).
Tertius, Paul's amanuensis, wrote in Greek. It is more likely that Greek (not
Aramaic or Latin) was the cross-cultural language in the immense, multi-racial
church at Rome.
Paul was imprisoned at Jerusalem (Ac 21:11, 33), sent to Caesarea (Ac 23:31-33), appealed to Caesar (Ac 25:11) and sailed for Italy as a prisoner (Ac 27:1-28:14). He entered the prison in Rome about AD 60 (see Ac 25:12; 28:16). Luke
and Aristarchus accompanied him.[ 6 ] His prison consisted of his own hired
dwelling but he was constantly chained to a guard (Ac 28:30, 31). From the
Roman jail he wrote the "prison epistles" of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians
About AD 63, d uring Nero's rational years, Paul was released from Roman
prison. He then traveled east to Ephesus (1Ti 1:3) and to Crete (Tit 1:5; 3:12).
I like to think he made his intended trip to Spain (see Ro 15:24, 28). He was re-arrested about AD 64 or 65 and tried as a malefactor. He was executed by sword
on the Ostian way southwest of Rome about AD 66 or 67. Fairly reliable
traditions confirm this.
In the KJV there are five benedictions or doxologies[ 7 ] which some regard as
appropriate endings to the letter (Ro 15:13, 33; 16:20, 24, 25-27). In some
versions there are only four.[ 8 ] Origen wrote that Marcion the heretic[ 9 ] cut away
Romans 14:23 to the end. Some conjecture that someone added verse 24 to
manuscripts from which verses 23-27 were missing.
Coordinate themes of the book of Romans are the righteousness of God and
salvation by faith. The righteousness of God is revealed in the powerful gospel
of Christ through which salvation is made available to sinners (see chart ROMANS
OUTLINE). A key verse is:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to
salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek
In chapter 3, Paul begins to discuss righteousness by faith (see Ro 3:21-5:21).
In chapter 4, he supports his point by citing Abraham and his righteousness by
faith (see Ro 4:1-25). Then in chapter 5, he contrasts Adam and Christ (Ro 5:1-21). In chapter 6, he discusses righteous living, a practice pretty much rejected
by ruling Jews (see Ro 9:1-11:36). He outlines details of virtuous living (Ro 12:1-15:13) and closes his letter with personal matters and greetings (Ro 15:14-16:27;
see chart ROMANS OUTLINE).