Lesson 57

The Epistle to the Romans

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

16:8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. 16:9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved. 16:10 Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 16:11 Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet them of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord. 16:12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord. Greet Persis, the beloved, who labored much in the Lord. 16:13 Greet Rufus, the chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 16:14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. 16:15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. The assemblies of Christ greet you.

Today's Lesson 

As I hinted yesterday, there is considerable scholarly discussion on exactly to what city chapter 16 was directed. While this discussion does not seriously affect the bulk of the epistle, it is worth touching on when chapter 16 is examined. The main question that comes out of studying this chapter with the rest of the epistle is the obvious question as to how Paul knew so many people that were active Christians in a city he had never visited? And, if Paul knew this many people in Rome, how come there are not more personal comments throughout the epistle as there are in the Corinthian epistles or the shorter letters, such as Philippians and Galatians for example.


One possible explanation that has been advanced is that chapter 16 was never meant for the churches of Rome. This can be explained in several ways. First, chapter 16 may have been meant for a church community that Phoebe would be traveling to on her way to Rome. Many examine chapter 16 and believe that its extensive greetings are more appropriate to a destination of Ephesus. Paul had spent several years in Ephesus and at least two of the names, Prisca and Aquila, are last associated with Ephesus in the Acts of the Apostles. Moreover, Paul had been imprisoned for a time in Ephesus and Andronicus and Junias are also described as "fellow prisoners."


Another possible explanation is that Paul recognized the importance of the text of Romans and made several copies. The copy that we have preserved was a copy that came from another city, like Ephesus, and chapter 16 was an addendum that was added to greet the people that Paul knew there. It is known that the early church treasured and shared the letters that had been sent by Paul. In fact, the sharing of Paul's letters is what created the impetus for collecting together all of the writings of the New Testament. The collection began with Paul's epistles and then the gospels and other epistles were added by church councils until an approved "canon" of works was gathered.


Of course, it is quite possible that the whole premise for the argument is mistaken. Rome was the center of the known world in Paul's day. It was a very cosmopolitan place to live. Travel within the Roman world was easier than at any point in the history of time. Travel was more efficient than it would be until the end of the middle ages. It may well be that there were enough people that Paul had met that were either from Rome or had traveled to Rome that could explain all of the people listed in this chapter.


It is also quite possible that the whole world was more mobile than we assume in the past. We assume that the travels of Paul and Barnabas and Silas as described in the Acts of Apostles were considered irregular. It might be that migration in the ancient world was much more extensive than we believe.


This discussion does not in any way suggest that the Epistle to the Romans as we have it today is any less inspired by the Spirit of God. God has used Romans in such dramatic ways since it was written that only the most vehement critics have suggested fault with it. Whether chapter 16 was intended for Christians in the city of Rome or another city, few doubt that the Apostle Paul wrote it.


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