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Commentary on Romans

Teaching Notes

by Michael Bugg

Note:  Since these are my teaching notes for Beth HaMashiach, I am using the Complete Jewish Bible as my default translation.  Since Paul's letters are where David H. Stern's paraphrase really shines, this will hopefully serve to enhance the commentary.  Nevertheless, readers may wish to consult with a more literal translation for comparison.

Introduction:  The Background of Rabbi Sha’ul

1)      Born in Tarsus, “no insignificant city” (Acts 21:39, 22:3)

a)      Mentioned in an Assyrian Obelisk from 850 BCE – probably over a thousand years old in Sha’ul’s time

b)      Sided with Caesar Augustus during the Roman civil wars, and was made a “free city” by the emperor

c)      Renowned as a place of education; Strabo compares it to Athens and Alexandria.  Was also a major trading center and port.

2)      “Brought up” (ἀνατρέφω) in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3)

a)      Ανατρέφω is used to denote raising/nourishing children in Luke 4:16 (of Yeshua growing up in Nazareth) and Acts 7:21 (of the raising of Moses by Pharaoh’s daughter.

b)      Rabbi Gamaliel ben Simeon ben Hillel, aka R. Gamaliel the Elder or Rabban Gamaliel HaZaken (information from Hegg, Writer, pp. 37ff)

i)        Led the Sanhedrin from 20-40 CE

(1)   The first to lead the Sanhedron single-handedly

(a)    previously it was ruled by zugot, “pairs,” like Hillel and Shimmai

(b)    was therefore given the title of Rabban (“Our Teacher”),

ii)      Was known for his light halakhah

(1)   Lightened the Sabbath laws for witnesses, midwives, and other public servants (b. Rosh Hashanah 23b)

(2)   Enacted laws to protect women and others and generally lighten the yoke of the Law (m. Shekalim 3:6)

(3)   Ruled in favor of a woman who claimed her virginity against her husband’s word (b. Ketuvot 10b)

(4)   Was tolerant towards the new Messianic sect, as shown in his mercy to Kefa and Yochanan (Acts 5:38f)

iii)    Was also known for writing “epistles” – three are preserved in the Talmud (b. Sanhedrin 11b, Tosefta, San. 2:6; y. Sanhedrin 1:2, 18d)

iv)    Finally, was known for encouraging his students to study Greek and Greek philosophy:

b. Sotah 49b
But is Greek learning, for its part, forbidden at all?  And did not R. Judah say Samuel said in the name of R. Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel, “What is the meaning of the following verse of Scripture: ‘My eye affects my soul, because of all the daughters of my city’ (Lam. 3:51)?  “There were a thousand children in my father’s house, five hundred of them studied Torah, and five hundred studied Greek learning.  “And I am the only one of them who has survived here, and my father’s brother’s son [survived] in Asia.” The household of Rabban Gamaliel is in a separate category [and may study Greek], for they had a relationship with the government. 

(1)   We see this in Paul who three times quotes Greek philosophers in the canonical Scriptures:

(a)    In Athens, he quotes Aratus, a local philosopher (Acts 17:28)

(b)   To Titus, he quotes the Cretan philosopher Epimenides (Tit. 1:12)

(c)    In 1Co. 15:33, he quotes Meander, an Athenian author

3)      Lineage/Family

a)      Of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom. 11:1, Php. 3:5), the same tribe as King Saul (1Sa. 9:21) and Mordecai (Est. 2:5)

b)      His parents were both P’rushim (Acts 23:6) and Roman citizens (22:28).  The family was likely both monied and influential, since they secured Sha’ul an education with the Elder of Israel.

c)      If some of his family rejected him, not all did; had a sister and nephew in Jerusalem who acted to protect him (Acts 23:16)

d)     Rom 16:13 - Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.

4)      Acts and Sha’ul’s Religious Identity

a)      Before the Damascus road

i)        Though taught at the feet of Gamaliel the grandson of Hillel, Sha’ul’s subsequent actions against the Nazarines are more consistent with the School of Shimmei.

(1)   What caused this change?

ii)      Actively used his influence to persecute the Ekklesia

b)      After the Damascus road

i)        Nowhere does the Bible say that Sha’ul converted from Judaism to “Christianity”—rather, he repented from his persecutions of Yeshua’s followers

(1)   Paul’s change of heart is what revealed Yeshua’s power to change lives and affect repentance.

(2)   His name

(a)    The idea that he changed his name from Sha’ul to Paul as a part of his conversion is a Christian myth – continued being called Sha’ul through Acts 13:9, which then notes that he had a dual name.

(b)   Sha’ul = Gr. Saulos, “the haughty walk of a prostitute”

ii)      Initial activities after T’shuva

(1)   Gal. 1:15-19
But when God, who picked me out before I was born and called me by his grace, chose to reveal his Son to me, so that I might announce him to the Gentiles, I did not consult anyone; and I did not go up to Yerushalayim to see those who were emissaries before me. Instead, I immediately went off to Arabia and afterwards returned to Dammesek.  Not until three years later did I go up to Yerushalayim to make Kefa's acquaintance, and I stayed with him for two weeks, but I did not see any of the other emissaries except Ya'akov the Lord's brother.

(a)    Before going to Arabia, he preached in Damascus until some of his opponents tried to kill him (Acts 9:22-25).

(b)   It was in Arabia where he apparently received his revelation. 

(i)     Later in this same letter (4:25), he mentions that Mt. Sinai is in Arabia; is it possible that that is where he went to learn?

(c)    Paul’s return to Damascus is not mentioned in Acts, most likely because Luke did not want to de-emphasize the very real danger to Paul’s life there.  However, this visit would have taken place before his first trip to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26f).

(d)   “make [his] acquaintance” = historesai (ἱστορῆσαι), not a casual visit, but one with a purpose: to inquire deeply into the person visited. 

(i)     Was not initially received until Bar-Nabba took a chance and introduced him to the others (Acts 9:26f)

(2)   Returned to Tarsus after a plot to kill him was discovered (Acts 9:29f)

iii)    First journey among the Diaspora

(1)   Formally set apart by the Spirit to go to the Gentiles (Acts 13:2)

(2)   Successfully preached the Besorah (Good News) in Cyprus, even converting the proconsul, Sergius Paulus

(a)    Defeated Elymas in a “power encounter”; made him blind

(3)   Went to Pisidian Antioch

(a)    Invited to speak – given the honor of a respected rabbi

(b)   Presents Yeshua from the prophets

(c)    Initial reception of the message is cautious interest

(d)   God-fearing gentiles beg him to speak again next Sabbath; the next week, the synagogue is overrun by Gentiles

(i)     This is what turns the Jews in Antioch against the Besorah (Good News)!

(4)   Journeys in Galatia

(a)    Similar responses to that in Pisidian Antioch become something of a pattern

(b)   A group of troublemakers start following Sha’ul around to stir up trouble and suppress the Besorah

(5)   The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15)

(a)    The controversy

(i)     Gentiles were coming en masse to the synagogue on the Sabbath to hear about the Messiah; what is to be done with them?

(ii)   The questions:

1.      Must Gentiles be circumcised (become Jewish) in order to be saved? (v. 1)

2.      Must Gentiles keep the whole Torah (written and oral) in order to be saved? (v. 6)

(iii) Note that whether Jews should keep the Torah is never brought up; it is assumed that they should!

(b)   Paul’s actions

(i)     Comes to Jerusalem as an emissary (v. 2)

(ii)   Privately meets with the leaders of the Ekklesia and gets their initial approval (Gal. 2:1-10)

(iii) Writes his letter to the Galatian assemblies he had founded before the Council (otherwise he would have referenced the Council’s ruling)

(iv) Disputes the Judaizers before the Council with Kefa and Ya’akov’s support.

iv)    Returns to Antioch (Syrian)

v)      Second Journey in the Diaspora

(1)   Separates from Bar-Nabba over the issue of Yochanan-Mark; travels with Silas

(2)   Takes Timothy as a disciple in Lystria

(a)    Circumcises him to facilitate their mission (Acts 16:4)

(3)   Travels through Macedonia, passing through Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens.

(4)   Goes to Corinth

(5)   Returns to Antioch

vi)    Third Journey in the Diaspora

(1)   Travels again to Galatia

(2)   Stays in Ephesus until a riot forces him to flee

(3)   Returns to Macedonia

vii)  Composes Romans while staying in Corinth (Acts 20:2-3, Rom. 15:25ff).

c)      Never ceased identifying himself as (and therefore living as) a Pharisee

i)        Act 23:6 - But knowing that one part of the Sanhedrin consisted of Tz'dukim and the other of P'rushim, Sha'ul shouted, "Brothers, I myself am a Parush and the son of P'rushim; and it is concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am being tried!"

ii)      2Ti. 1:3 (NASB) - I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did . . .

iii)    Continued to follow the whole Torah, even the sacrificial Temple service

(1)   Act 18:18 - Sha'ul remained for some time, then said good-bye to the brothers and sailed off to Syria, after having his hair cut short in Cenchrea, because he had taken a vow; with him were Priscilla and Aquila.

(2)   Act 21:18-26
The next day Sha'ul and the rest of us went in to Ya'akov, and all the elders were present.  After greeting them, Sha'ul described in detail each of the things God had done among the Gentiles through his efforts. 

On hearing it, they praised God; but they also said to him, "You see, brother, how many tens of thousands of believers there are among the Judeans, and they are all zealots for the Torah.  Now what they have been told about you is that you are teaching all the Jews living among the Goyim to apostatize from Moshe, telling them not to have a b'rit-milah for their sons and not to follow the traditions. 

"What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.  So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow.  Take them with you, be purified with them, and pay the expenses connected with having their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that there is nothing to these rumors which they have heard about you; but that, on the contrary, you yourself stay in line and keep the Torah.

"However, in regard to the Goyim who have come to trust in Yeshua, we all joined in writing them a letter with our decision that they should abstain from what had been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled and from fornication." 

The next day Sha'ul took the men, purified himself along with them and entered the Temple to give notice of when the period of purification would be finished and the offering would have to be made for each of them.

(3)   Act 24:17 - "After an absence of several years, I came to Yerushalayim to bring a charitable gift to my nation and to offer sacrifices.  It was in connection with the latter that they found me in the Temple. I had been ceremonially purified, I was not with a crowd, and I was not causing a disturbance.”

iv)    W.D. Davies, former Professor of New Testament studies at Princeton University, concludes,

Paul belonged to the main stream of first-century Judaism, and . . . elements in his thought, which are often labeled as Hellenistic, might well be derived from Judaism. . .   [I]n the central points of his interpretation of the Christian dispensation Paul is grounded in an essentially Rabbinic world of thought . . . the Apostle was, in short, a Rabbi become Christian and was therefore primarily governed both in life and thought by Pharisaic concepts, which he had baptized ‘unto Christ.’  (Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, 1 and 16)

d)     His beliefs about his mission

i)        Gal. 1:15 - But when God, who picked me out before I was born and called me by his grace . . .

(1)   Jer. 1:5 - Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you. Before you came forth out of the womb, I sanctified you. I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.

(2)   Isa. 49:1-6
Listen, islands, to me; and listen, you peoples, from far: the LORD has called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother has he made mention of my name.  He has made my mouth like a sharp sword while hiding me in the shadow of his hand; he has made me like a sharpened arrow while concealing me in his quiver.  He said to me, "You are my servant, Isra'el, through whom I will show my glory."  But I said, "I have toiled in vain, spent my strength for nothing, futility." Yet my cause is with ADONAI, my reward is with my God. 

So now ADONAI says - he formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Ya'akov back to him, to have Isra'el gathered to him, so that I will be honored in the sight of ADONAI, my God having become my strength, he has said, "It is not enough that you are merely my servant to raise up the tribes of Ya'akov and restore the offspring of Isra'el. I will also make you a light to the nations, so my salvation can spread to the ends of the earth."

Chapter 1


From: Sha'ul, a slave of the Messiah Yeshua, an emissary because I was called and set apart for the Good News of God.  (Rom. 1:1)

1.      “Slave” = Gr. δοῦλος, equivalent to Heb. ‘eved עבד

2.      Like Abraham’s ‘eved Eliazer, a sheliach (an emissary) “sent forth” to bring Isaac back his bride from the lands of the Gentiles

The Good News

God promised this Good News in advance through his prophets in the Tanakh. (1:2)

  1. Good News = Gr. ευαγγελιον, basar (בּשׂר) in Heb.

    1. בּשׂר also means “meat,” since the ANE response to hearing good news was to throw a feast

                                                              i.      The Shalom Offering

  1. The Good News (Basar) in the Tanakh:

    1. Isa 40:9-11 - You who bring good news to Tziyon, get yourself up on a high mountain; you who bring good news to Yerushalayim, cry out at the top of your voice! Don't be afraid to shout out loud! Say to the cities of Y'hudah, "Here is your God!  Here comes Adonai ELOHIM with power, and his arm will rule for him. Look! His reward is with him, and his recompense is before him.  He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering his lambs with his arm, carrying them against his chest, gently leading the mother sheep."

    2. Isa 52:7-10 - How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, proclaiming shalom, bringing good news of good things, announcing salvation and saying to Tziyon, "Your God is King!"  Listen! Your watchmen are raising their voices, shouting for joy together. For they will see, before their own eyes, ADONAI returning to Tziyon.  Break out into joy! Sing together, you ruins of Yerushalayim! For ADONAI has comforted his people, he has redeemed Yerushalayim!  ADONAI has bared his holy arm in the sight of every nation, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

    3. Isa 61:1-4 - The Spirit of Adonai ELOHIM is upon me, because ADONAI has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives, to let out into light those bound in the dark; to proclaim the year of the favor of ADONAI and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, yes, provide for those in Tziyon who mourn, giving them garlands instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a cloak of praise instead of a heavy spirit, so that they will be called oaks of righteousness planted by ADONAI, in which he takes pride.  They will rebuild the ancient ruins, restore sites long destroyed; they will renew the ruined cities, destroyed many generations ago.

                                                              i.      Quoted by Yeshua in regards to Himself in Luke 4:18f

    1. Nah. 1:15 - Look! On the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, proclaiming shalom. Keep your festivals, Y'hudah, fulfill your vows; for B'liya'al will never pass through you again; he has been completely destroyed.

The Hymn of Messiah

It concerns his Son - he is descended from David physically; he was powerfully demonstrated to be Son of God spiritually, set apart by his having been resurrected from the dead; he is Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord. (1:3-4)

  1. Written in the form of poetry, or a hymn

    1. “descended from David physically”

                                                              i.      Isa 11:1, 10-11, 12 - But a branch will emerge from the trunk of Yishai, a shoot will grow from his roots. . .  On that day the root of Yishai, which stands as a banner for the peoples - the Goyim will seek him out, and the place where he rests will be glorious.  On that day Adonai will raise his hand again, a second time, to reclaim the remnant of his people . . . from the four corners of the earth.

    1. “powerfully demonstrated to be Son of God spiritually”

                                                              i.      2Sa 7:12-16 - When your days come to an end and you sleep with your ancestors, I will establish one of your descendants to succeed you, one of your own flesh and blood; and I will set up his rulership.  He will build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever.  I will be a father for him, and he will be a son for me. If he does something wrong, I will punish him with a rod and blows, just as everyone gets punished; nevertheless, my grace will not leave him, as I took it away from Sha'ul, whom I removed from before you.  Thus your house and your kingdom will be made secure forever before you; your throne will be set up forever.'" 

                                                            ii.      Psa 2:7-9 - "I will proclaim the decree: ADONAI said to me, 'You are my son; today I became your father.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance; the whole wide world will be your possession.  You will break them with an iron rod, shatter them like a clay pot.'"

    1. “set apart by his having been resurrected from the dead”

                                                              i.      Belief in the Resurrection of the Dead was so important to Pharisaic (P’rushi) Judaism that those who denied it were said to be denied a place in the ‘Olam Haba, the World to Come.

                                                            ii.      However, Yeshua was set apart by His unique, individual Resurrection, the Firstfruits of all who would follow (1Co 15:20f), as proof that the Father accepted His Sacrifice

1.      Isa 53:10 - . . . yet it pleased ADONAI to crush him with illness, to see if he would present himself as a guilt offering. If he does, he will see his offspring; and he will prolong his days; and at his hand ADONAI's desire will be accomplished. 

    1. “he is Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord.”

                                                              i.      i.e. “Yeshua the Annointed King, by virtue of being David’s Son, and Lord of all Creation, by virtue of being God’s Son, proven by His Resurrection.”

                                                            ii.      Php 2:6-11 - Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be possessed by force.  On the contrary, he emptied himself, in that he took the form of a slave by becoming like human beings are. And when he appeared as a human being, he humbled himself still more by becoming obedient even to death - death on a stake as a criminal!  Therefore God raised him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name; that in honor of the name given Yeshua, every knee will bow - in heaven, on earth and under the earth and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is ADONAI - to the glory of God the Father.

1.      Isa 45:22-24  Look to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God; there is no other.  In the name of myself I have sworn, from my mouth has rightly gone out, a word that will not return - that to me every knee will bow and every tongue will swear about me that only in ADONAI are justice and strength."

Called and Elected

Through him we received grace and were given the work of being an emissary on his behalf promoting trust-grounded obedience among all the Gentiles, including you, who have been called by Yeshua the Messiah. (1:5-6)

  1. Grace, election, commission

    1. “we” = Israel (ελαβομεν is a verb (“received”) written in the plural form)

    2. “received grace and were given the work of being an emissary,” ελαβομεν χαριν και αποστολην, lit. “received grace and ambassadorship”

                                                              i.      Here Sha’ul is speaking of Israel as a whole receiving a mission to be ambassador of the Good News—a mission that only a few took up

                                                            ii.      grace = χαριν, an unmerited favor, esp. from a patron, shown in the form of a concrete gift

1.      The socially-required response to χαριν was to give back to the patron in the form of loyalty.  To refuse to do so brought dishonor on the recipient, not the patron. [find ref]

2.      Heb. equiv. chen (חן), favor, acceptance, “find favor in the eyes of”

    1. “called” =  the same word Sha’ul used to describe his own special calling, meaning that our calling is likewise from sin and into an ambassadorial role for the King

                                                              i.      Mat 22:14 – “. . . for many are invited (κλητοι, ‘called ones’), but few are chosen (εκλεκτοι, ‘elect ones,’ e.g., chosen and sealed with election)."

  1. “trust-grounded obedience”

    1. Often translated “obedience of faith,” and erroneously thought to mean mere obedience to the call to trust God

    2. Rather, means an obedience that comes from trusting God

Personal Greetings and Background on Roman Messianism

To: All those in Rome whom God loves, who have been called, who have been set apart for him: Grace to you and shalom from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.  (1:7)

  1. Shalom from God

    1. Sha’ul’s usual greeting, found in almost all of his letters

  1. Rome

    1. Had several, perhaps up to eleven, synagogues

                                                              i.      Ch. 16’s “shout outs” suggest seven or eight Messianic assemblies (Nanos, Romans 77, n. 124)

    1. Evidence of mixed communities of Jews and Christians in Rome (Nanos, ibid. 70f)

                                                              i.      Christian inscription and artifacts in Jewish catacombs

                                                            ii.      “shared literature such as hymnals and prayer books”

1.      A form of the Amidah was used as a liturgical prayer in the early Ekklesia [find reference]

                                                          iii.      Christian use of non-rabbinic Jewish apocrypha

                                                          iv.      “shared language and idioms,”

                                                            v.      “shared Sabbath and food regulations,” (e.g., not eating blood or strangled meat, Acts 15:29)

                                                          vi.      The Ekklesia borrowed heavily from the synagogue in its own organization and service

Rome’s Reputation and Fall

First, I thank my God through Yeshua the Messiah for all of you, because the report of your trust is spreading throughout the whole world. (1:8)

  1. Early attestation that Rome’s assembly was founded by Peter and Paul and that it enjoyed high status among the assemblies – Dionysius of Corinth (c. 170), Irenaeus (c. 180)

    1. “Through the resources which ye have sent from the beginning, ye Romans, keep up the custom of the Romans handed down by the fathers, which your blessed Bishop Sorer has not only preserved, but added to, sending a splendid gift to the saints, and exhorting with blessed words those brethren who go up to Rome, as an affectionate father his children.”  (Dionysius of Corinth, Fragments of a Letter to Rome, ch. 1)

    2. “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [in Rome], on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”  (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, ch. 3.2)

                                                              i.      Irenaeus was the disciple of Polycarp, who was the disciple of Yochanan the Emissary.

  1. However, even as early as the second half of the 2nd Century, the Roman bishops had started to use their influence to pressure the other assemblies, particularly on leaving Jewish observances.

    1. Anicetus, Bishop of Rome (154-168) tried to influence Polycarp to change the date of Passover; Polycarp refused.

    2. Victor I (190-202) threatened to excommunicate the eastern assemblies if they would not change the date of Passover from the 14 th of Nisan. 

                                                              i.      Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, replied that he was not afraid of Victor’s threats.

                                                            ii.      Irenaeus, while sympathetic to Victor’s views, rebuked him for overstepping his authority.

    1. Calixtus I (218-223) was the first to try to use Mat. 16:18 to press his claim of supremacy among the bishops.

                                                              i.      Tertullian of Carthage, the “Father of Latin Christianity,” called him a Usurper

    1. Innocent I (402-417) called himself “Ruler of the Church of God,” claiming the right to settle the more important matters of controversy for the whole Ekklesia

    2. Leo I, “the Great” (440-461), called by some historians the First Pope, taking control of the fracturing West in a time of great difficulty and even convincing Attila the Hun to spare the city in 452 CE.  Even so, he continued to try to grow Rome’s influence over the other Sees.

  1. Nevertheless, well beyond the 4th Century, Christendom was dominated by no less than FIVE centers of officialdom:  Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem.  While Rome was largely unchallenged in the West, it was never accepted as having authority in the East.

A Debt to All Cultures

For God, whom I serve in my spirit by spreading the Good News about his Son, is my witness that I regularly remember you in my prayers; and I always pray that somehow, now or in the future, I might, by God's will, succeed in coming to visit you.  For I long to see you, so that I might share with you some spiritual gift that can make you stronger - or, to put it another way, so that by my being with you, we might, through the faith we share, encourage one another.  Brothers, I want you to know that although I have been prevented from visiting you until now, I have often planned to do so, in order that I might have some fruit among you, just as I have among the other Gentiles. (1:9-13)

  1. While Kefa is given joint credit with Sha’ul for founding the Roman assembly—and among Catholics, given preeminent credit—he had obviously not visited the city at the time that Sha’ul wrote his letter:

    1. Rom 15:20 - . . . making it my aim to proclaim the Good News, not where Messiah was already named, that I might not build on another’s foundation.

  2. Why did Sha’ul so wish to visit Rome? 

    1. Its centrality and importance:  “All roads lead to Rome.”

    2. Possibly because he had friends from Rome who had already been exiled for the sake of Messiah by the command of Claudius Caesar:

                                                              i.      Priscilla and Aquilla (Rom. 18:2)

                                                            ii.      Claudius “expelled the Jews from Rome, who were continually making tumults, being moved thereunto by one Chrestus” (Suetonius, The Life of Claudius, ch. 25).

    1. To give strength to a weakened and divided assembly (“some spiritual gift”)

                                                              i.      The expulsion would have left the Gentile Christians for a time without Scriptures, rabbinic teaching, or the ability to keep any of the “Jewish” commands without risking exile or worse themselves.

                                                            ii.      By the time the Jewish believers were allowed back, the Gentile Christians would have had to develop their own practices apart from the Torah in order to survive.

                                                          iii.      Sha’ul’s unique gift among the Emissaries was his ability to bridge the gap between Jew and Greek, drawing both together by subtle allusions to their respective cultures in his writings.

                                                          iv.      He was apparently successful, given the close ties the Ekklesia and the synagogue seem to have enjoyed in Rome for some time thereafter (see notes on 1:7, above).

    1. “so that by my being with you, we might, through the faith we share, encourage one another”

                                                              i.      Sha’ul’s special mission was to the Gentiles, but he never ceased to love and strive for his own people.

                                                            ii.      If he could bring peace between the estranged factions of Jew and Gentile in Rome, this would be a great confirmation of his calling

  1. “Prevented from visiting”

    1. Not the first time he had been withstood from taking the Gospel to a certain place; prevented by the Ruach from going to Asia (Acts 16:6)

A Debt to the Gentiles

I owe a debt to both civilized Greeks and uncivilized people, to both the educated and the ignorant; therefore I am eager to proclaim the Good News also to you who live in Rome. (1:14-15)

  1. Sha’ul’s debt – he certainly had a mission, but why a debt?

    1. Greeks and βαρβάροις (“barbarians”)

    2. The idea of using all influences, symbols, and philosophies for the glory of the Holy One was not unique to Paul, though he certainly exemplified it!

                                                              i.      Similarity to Philo (cf. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism 96f)

1.      Philo was a fully Torah-observant Jew

a.       “He roundly condemned those Jews who ignored the literal meaning of the Law as being worthless in favor of a symbolic meaning.  Thus circumcision might be interpreted as a ‘sign of the excision of pleasure and all passions’, etc., but nevertheless had to be observed literally.” (ibid.)

2.      However, he borrowed frequently from Greek ideas.

3.      Object was not to use the traditions of Judaism to support Hellenistic philosophy and mystery religions—but the other way around!

a.       “Judaism not only in the Dispersion but even more so in Jerusalem itself was eager to adopt any convention of Hellenistic religion in order to exalt the one God and His Torah; Judaism could indeed be assimilated to a mystery cult to a remarkable degree—for missionary ends.” (ibid., 97)

                                                            ii.      In the same way, Paul may have used imagery from both mainstream philosophy and the pagan mystery religions in explaining Messiah to his varied audiences.  Examples:

1.      Another Adam as a “spiritual” man and divine figure in contrast to the earthly Adam (1Co 15:45)

2.      The concept of dying with a deity in order to be raised again into a new life (cf. Col. 2:20, 3:3)

3.      True union with Deity, e.g., “in Messiah” (εν Xριστω)

  1. Likewise, we too should be ever-ready to use every element—every meme—of our culture to explain who and what Yeshua truly is to our audiences

    1. Meme:  An idea, piece of imagery or symbolism

    2. Sources of Memes

                                                              i.      Liturature

1.      Religious works from both the Jewish and Christians sides

                                                            ii.      Movies and TV

                                                          iii.      Music

                                                          iv.      Jokes

                                                            v.      Political discourse

    1. The power of memes:

                                                              i.      “Whenever we read a good book, tour a foreign country, comfort a distraught friend or engage in a stimulating conversation, the experience prompts physical changes in our brain.  This remarkable process, which scientists call sproutina, involves the rapid growth of new neural connections—dendrites, axons, and the synapses between them . . . stimulated neurons produce new synapses in as little as ten minutes!
     “The enemy’s strategy is simple.  He wants to influence the kinds of thoughts that enter our minds so he can alter the neural structure of our brains. . .  An event lasting all of seconds can cause long-lasting neurological change.”  (Otis, Twilight Labyrinth 158)

In other words, there is a danger that the meme can go both ways—subversion of paganism or subversion to paganism!

    1. Examples that went both ways:

                                                              i.      Christmas

                                                            ii.      Lent and Easter

    1. Protecting against the danger of memes:

                                                              i.      Eph 4:27 - Do not give the Enemy a foothold

                                                            ii.      Php 4:8 - In conclusion, brothers, focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy.

                                                          iii.      2Co 10:3-5 - For although we do live in the world, we do not wage war in a worldly way; because the weapons we use to wage war are not worldly. On the contrary, they have God's power for demolishing strongholds. We demolish arguments and every arrogance that raises itself up against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah.

1.      The key of obedience to God’s Word:

a.       Philo took every Greek philosophical idea and made it point to the God of Israel and His Torah—by continuing to keep the Torah in all of its particulars even as he subverted the Greek culture.

b.      So did Sha’ul!

                                                          iv.      Rom 12:2 - In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the 'olam hazeh (the present world). Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed.




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