ROMANS 16 FROM THE GREEK TEXT

In the words of Jim Morrison, ‘This is the end.’  Not the end of everything, mind you.  Just the end of my translation of Romans.  It took me a little longer than I thought it would, because, you know, life.  Nevertheless, I have enjoyed each step, and feel that I know the book of Romans far better than I previously did, and that I know Paul better.  My continual prayer, however, whenever I study the scriptures is to learn more about the Lord, his ways, and how I can follow him as I interact with the world around me.  Study must be devotional or it is only a mind game.

TRANSLATION NOTES

The beginning “greet” in verse 5 is not in the actual text, but is instead borrowed. That fragment should rightly go with the previous verse.  I generally view each new “greet” as a new sentence.

In verse 10, “those from Aristobolus’ household” likely means those who are slaves belonging to a man named Aristobolus, and not a reference to his family.

Paul wants to say “Hi,” to Rufus’ mother in verse 13, but it is difficult to know what he means by “and me” at the end. He probably means “Greet Rufus’ mother, because she has been a mother to me as well,” but the language could also be “Greet Rufus’ mother, and my mother too” meaning that his mother was with Rufus’ mother. I left it literal, attempting to maintain the ambiguity.

The end of this chapter is a textual mess.  There is no verse 24, and there is doubt that verses 25-27 are genuinely Pauline.  I am not a textual critic, but a simple reading does indeed indicate that the end of verse 20 is the logical conclusion for his greetings to Rome, and then a perfunctory return greeting from those who are with him, followed by the brief benediction at the end of verse 20 makes sense.  The last line, one would assume, should be the amanuensis named Tertius and a reference to his host Gaius and friend Quartus.  It makes little sense to put the glorious doxology (and it is indeed glorious, verse 25 alone is a real gem) after the signature line, thus I lean toward thinking that 25-27 are a later addition and not the hand of Paul.

THEOLOGICAL NOTES 

Chapter 16 might be my favorite chapter in Romans because it is so personal.  For the love of all that is good and decent, do not just skip over the names here, because they matter.  Here are three highlights.

First, Phoebe is probably the person delivering the letter, and charged with the primary goal of fundraising for the upcoming trip to Spain.  Paul calls her a deacon, which may well mean generic “servant” or “minister” because offices were very fluid and not codified in the early church.  However, the tendency to translate the word “servant” here but “deacon” whenever it applies to a man is sexist and reflects poor hermeneutics.  In context, it is clear that she was a leader of some sort from her home church and Paul had sent her as a leader with leadership authority.  Indeed, note the first two people he greets are both women.

Second, Paul seems to know a lot of people in Rome, especially considering he’d never been there.  This reflects the transient nature of the first century, but also the missionary strategy of early church leaders–get into the cities–the major cities, and work from there as a base of operations.  My instinct tells me that it was the understood goal of all in Paul’s circle of co-workers that getting to Rome, the seat of empire, culture, economics, and religion was a high priority.

Third, I am obsessed with the mention of Rufus (v. 13).  Let me draw it out simply.  Paul calls him “Chosen” which means something specific, something unique to him.  What can that be.  Here is my hypothesis:  Paul’s ministry is closely linked with Luke, who wrote his own gospel and the book of Acts, and John Mark, who may have been the author of the Gospel of Mark.  Both Luke and Mark tell of the man Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross of Jesus at the crucifixion.  Mark tells us that Simon had two sons named Alexander and Rufus.  Paul’s shout out to Rufus’ mother, who had nourished him as well, could indicate that this family had been integral in Paul’s early spiritual formation in the faith.  Of course, I can’t prove any of this but it does fascinate me.

Chapter Sixteen
1. And I introduce to you our sister Phoebe. She is a deacon of the church in Cenchrea,
2. so welcome her in the Lord, in a way worthy of the saints. Help her with whatever issue might come up, for she is a protector of many, and was for me.
3. Greet Prisca and Aquila, my co-workers in Messiah Jesus,
4. for they risked their own necks for my life, and not for me only do I give thanks, but all the churches of the gentiles.
5. Greet their home church. Greet Epaenetus my beloved, who is first-fruit of Asia in Messiah.
6. Greet Mary, who worked hard among you.
7. Greet my relatives and fellow prisoners Andronicus and Junia. They are famous among the apostles and were in Messiah before me.
8. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.
9. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Messiah and my beloved Stachys.
10. Greet Apelles, who is tried and true in Messiah. Greet those from Aristobolus’ household.
11. Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet the ones from Narcissus who are in the Lord.
12. Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa who work in the Lord. Greek Persis, the beloved, who works so much in the Lord.
13. Greet Rufus, the one chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.
14. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters with them.
15. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus, and his sister, Olympus, and all the saints with them.
16. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches in Messiah greet you.
17. Yet I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to watch for those who bring dissension and difficulties against the teaching you have learned; stay clear of them.
18. For such people are not serving our Lord Messiah, but their own belly, and by pretty words and flattering speech they deceive the heart of the simple.
19. For your obedience in all things reached us, therefore I rejoice over you. I wish you to be wise in good things, but innocent in the bad.
20. The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet quickly. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
21. My co-worker Timothy, and my relatives Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater greet you.
22. I, Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.
23. My host Gaius greets you, as does the whole church. Erastus the city steward and brother Quartus greet you.
24. —
25. To the one being able to strengthen you by my gospel and the preaching about Messiah Jesus, according to the revelation of the eternal mysteries preserved in the silence of time,
26. but having been revealed now in the prophetic scriptures by the command of the eternal God, to make known the obedience of faith to all people,
27. to God who alone is wise, through Jesus the Messiah, to whom is glory in eternity. Amen.

ROMANS FIFTEEN FROM THE GREEK TEXT

Here we are, the penultimate chapter of Romans.  Only one more to go after this.  To think, when I started I thought I might be done by July 4!  I was either foolish or arrogant.  Probably a little of both.

Translation Notes

I have supplied “doing” as a verb in verse 2.  The sentence works without it, but by adding it meaning is clarified.

In verse 16, the weird phrase ‘serving as a priest of the gospel of God’ is awkward and jarring for those of us in the Protestant tradition that de-emphasizes the priestly role of ministry.  The word picture is that of a priest tending the duties of God in the temple.  Paul is making the point that he is like a priest fulfilling his term of service, but the place of service is not in the physical temple, his place of work is among the gentiles. A priest to the gentiles.  The incredible theology here is implied:  The holy place of God is not a building, but people, and gentiles at that.  The thought parallels nicely with 1 Corinthians 6:19.

The ending of verse 24 is a little hard to translate because it feels like mostly idiom, idioms which are hard to get at. What Paul appears to be indicating is “I hope to stop by and visit you on my way to Spain. We’ll have a good time, won’t we?”

The word I render as ‘proceeds’ in verse 28 is actually the word ‘fruit.’ It is a reference to the money Paul has collected among the churches during his journey. This money was a love offering for the church in Jerusalem because they had been in severe famine.

Theological Notes

There are four striking components of this chapter.  First, Paul has the idea of “owe” in his mind.  The strong owe the weak and gentile Christ-followers owe the church at Jerusalem.  One of these debts is paid with care, the other is paid with money, but the reason for the debt is the same.  All of us are spiritually connected.

Second, I still think verse 7 is the key to understanding Chapter’s 14 and 15.  These complicated faith communities–some Jewish Christian, some gentile Christian, some both, and some with other religious flavoring from all over the empire must learn to practice an inclusive faith that never lets people whom Christ accepts be rejected.  It is hard work to be a welcoming congregation, but that is exactly what Paul wants them to be.

Third, Paul wants to go to Spain.  This is his new dream.  He has had enough of the Mediterranean basin.  He is ready for a new challenge, and he is not afraid of suggesting that the fat cats in Rome help pay for it.  That is probably what the last ten verses are hinting at.  He wants to highlight how Macedonia and Achaia sent money to Jerusalem, layng the foundation for Rome to send money through him to Spain.  He also wants to be refreshed (v. 32) by them, which might mean resupplied.  Paul has a new dream, and this is his fire in the belly.  Sometimes when old dreams die, new ones must replace them.

Fourth, Paul’s prayer at the end tells us that he is somewhat hesitant, perhaps even fearful, of his journey to Rome.  He tips his hand this direction when he asks the Romans to pray for him.  He asks them to pray that his ministry/service/life’s work be accepted by the Christ-followers in Jerusalem.  He really doesn’t know how things are going to happen when he gets there.

Chapter Fifteen
1. We who are strong owe it to the weak to bear their weakness and not please ourselves.
2. Each one of us should please our neighbor by doing good things, with the goal of edification.
3. For the Messiah did not please himself, but just as it is written, “The insults they insulted you with fell upon me.”
4. What was written beforehand was to guide us, written so that we might have hope in the scriptures by patience and encouragement.
5. May the God of patience and encouragement give that same thing to you, to think about one another as Messiah Jesus.
6. So that with one mind and mouth you might glorify God and Father of our Lord Messiah Jesus.
7. Therefore, you must welcome one another, just as the Messiah welcomed you into the glory of God.
8. For I say the Messiah became a servant to the circumcised to confirm the truth of God in the promises to our ancestors.
9. But he gave mercy to the gentiles so that they would glorify God, just as it is written, “Because of this I will confess you among the gentiles and I will sing your name.”
10. And again, it says, “Be glad, gentiles, with his people.”
11. And again it says, “Praise the Lord, all you gentiles, and let all the people praise him.”
12. And again Isaiah says, “There shall be the root of Jesse, and he will arise to rule the gentiles. Upon him the gentiles will hope.”
13. May the God of hope fill you with all joy, peace in believing, and hope to overflow in you by the power of the Holy Spirit.
14. I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness, having been filled with all knowledge and are able to advise one another.
15. For my part, I write to you rather boldly, reminding you about the grace given to me by God
16. to be a minister of Messiah Jesus among the gentiles, serving as a priest of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the gentiles might be acceptable, consecrated by the Holy Spirit.
17. Therefore, I have something to boast about to God in Messiah Jesus.
18. For I will dare not to speak of anything except what obedience Messiah accomplished through me among the gentiles, in word and work
19. with powerful signs and wonders in the power of the Spirit, so that I filled from Jerusalem around about until Illyricum with the gospel of the Messiah.
20. And so making it a point to evangelize where Messiah has not been named, so as not to build on someone else’ foundation.
21. And just as it is written, “To those who have not known him, they will see, and those who have not heard, they will understand.”
22. For this I kept being hindered many times from coming to you.
23. But now, no longer having a place in these regions, and desiring to come to you for many years,
24. I hope as I travel to Spain to see you first as I pass through, and to enjoy being with you for a while before I am sent ahead.
25. But now I travel to Jerusalem, serving the saints.
26. For Macedonia and Achaia considered it a good partnership to do something for the poor saints in Jerusalem.
27. They thought well of it, for they are debtors because since the gentiles have a share in spiritual things, they owe the service of physical things too.
28. Therefore, accomplishing what I have personally guaranteed about the proceeds, I will come to you on my way to Spain.
29. I know that when I will come, I am coming to you in the full blessing of Messiah.
30. But I encourage you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Messiah and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together in prayer to God for me.
31. That I might be delivered from the unbelieving people in Judea, and my ministry in Jerusalem might be accepted by the saints,
32. and that I come to you in joy, by the will of God, and refresh myself with you.
33. And the God of peace be with all of you. Amen.

ROMANS 14 FROM THE GREEK TEXT

I read verses 7-8 of Romans 14 every time I officiate a funeral.  They are good words for a funeral.  However, Romans 14 is not about the dead, it is about the living, and how we, as servants of the Lord live by faith.  In that way, Chapter 14 is textually linked to the beginning of Romans (1:17).

Translation Notes

I changed the noun “arguments” in verse 1 into the verbal infinitive “to argue” for the sake of sounding better.  Without that change, it sounds psychologically unstable.
In verse 10, I chose “sibling” instead of the literal “brother” because of the way Paul is using the idea. I could have gone with “brother or sister” but I decided that there was already a gender neutral word that meant that. Notice In verse 15 I use both constructions to bring tension to the foreground for the reader.
There is a textual variant in verse 12. The prepositional phrase “to God” at the end of the verse is not in the earliest manuscripts. As I read it, it seemed to me like it didn’t belong, and was clearly a later addition.
Beginning with verse 13 we are introduced to two words that can both be translated as ‘stumbling block.’ These synonyms are used by Paul to describe the responsibility of the ‘strong’ to the ‘weak’ Christ-follower. I chose to clarify it with the words spiritual and moral, but that is a rather subjective choice, so be advised.

Theological Notes

Romans 14 answers the question asked by Cain at the beginning, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The answer is yes.  We each have the sacred responsibility for making certain our actions do not cause spiritual crisis or destructive doubt for other people.  To be certain, discipleship and education are intended as the backdrop of this chapter because one of the goals of a faith community is to make everyone strong, not to permanently tolerate a weakened state of faith.  Nevertheless, the instruction is clear:  Do not let personal choices or habits destroy other people.

The last verse of the chapter puts things into a stark black and white frame.  Everything we do–raising our families, eating dinner, watching television, reading a book, or choosing which church to attend is either an act of faith (belief that God is in control and we are his servants) or it is an act of sin.  It is an act of sin when what we do serves to satisfy our lust, greed, anger, materialism, pride, and any other of the host of vices that compete with trusting faith.  Whatever is not of faith is sin.

Chapter Fourteen
1. But welcome the one who is weak in the faith, choosing not to argue.
2. One believes everything is okay to eat, but the other who is weak eats vegetables.
3. The one eating must not despise the one not eating, and the one not eating must not judge the one eating, for God himself welcomed him.
4. Who are you, judging another’s servant? To his own lord he stands or falls, but he will be made to stand for the Lord is able to stand him up.
5. Some judge some days different than other days, but others judge every day the same. Let each person make up his or her own mind about it.
6. The one who considers some days different, considers it for the Lord, and the one eating gives thanks to God, eating to the Lord, while the one not eating gives thanks and abstains unto God.
7. For none of us lives for himself and none of us dies to himself.
8. Indeed, if we live, we live to the Lord. If we should die, we die to the Lord. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
9. It is for this that Messiah died and came to life, so that he might establish rule over the dead and living.
10. But why do you judge your sibling? Why do you despise your sibling? Everyone will come and stand before the judgement seat of God.
11. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, that every knee will bow to me and every tongue will confess to God.”
12. Each of us, then, will give an account about himself.
13. Do not judge one another any longer, therefore, but judge it more important to not put a moral obstacle or a spiritual barrier in front of a sibling.
14. I know and I have been persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is automatically unclean, except when someone thinks it to be unclean.
15. For if by food your sibling grieves, you no longer walk in love. Do not destroy with food this brother or sister for whom Messiah died.
16. Do not let good be blasphemed by you.
17. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18. Serving the Messiah this way is pleasing to God and accepted by people.
19. Now, therefore, let us pursue the things of peace and the things that help one another.
20. Do not undo the work of the Kingdom of God on account of food. For while everything is clean, it is evil to eat something that is a moral obstacle for another person.
21. It is good not to eat meat, drink wine, or anything else if it is a spiritual barrier for your sibling.
22. Your faith is your own business, what you have is before God. Blessed is the one not judging himself in what he approves,
23. but the one beginning to doubt while he eats will stand condemned, because it is not from faith. Everything not of faith is sin.

ROMANS 12 FROM THE GREEK TEXT

Less theology, more behavior.  That is what happens with the beginning of Romans 12.  Paul gently moves the reader from his dense theological musings into the realm of practical application in everyday life.  Of course, he makes this transition with one of the most fascinating lead-ins ever:  Romans 12:1

Translation Notes:

There is not a whole lot to discuss on the translation side.  The chapter is pretty cut-n-dried.  However, it is interesting to note that the word “fervent” in verse 11 is closely associated with the word for “boil”, which is quite the word picture for spiritual life.

The chain of gifts (vv 6-8) is not as easy to handle as it might seem.  There is no easy flow from noun to verb, as seemingly each verb has some kind of different application.  For that reason I worked it over thoroughly to make it fit English grammar.

Theological Notes:

A Bible student could spend a decade trying to figure out what exactly verses 1 and 2 are all about.  I will only, therefore, make a couple of observations here.  First, the center of Christian worship is not about rituals or dead animals.  In worship there is something about denial, self-sacrifice, discipline, patience, and even mortification, but this worship is not dead but alive, and it is physical.  Worship is done with our living bodies.  Second, worship is more than our bodies, it is also what happens in our minds.  We must exercise control of our thoughts and transform (metanoia, as opposed to paranoia) the way our minds work.  That indicates to us that the Christian life is reasonable, logical, and driven by conscience choice, not bleeding hearts.

Some might parse out verse one as being about worship while verse two is about discipleship, and that might be correct, but Paul might rightly ask us what is the difference?

Verse 21 is sobering to me.  The world is filled with evils, and as followers of Christ we are not called to simply endure them or to tolerate them, but to overcome them.  We do not overcome them with worship or with prayer, which is odd.  We do not even overcome evil with scripture.  These are the things we would think we would need to overcome evil–worship, prayer, and the word.  But no, worship, prayer and the word are the building blocks (c/f v. 2 for knowing the will of God) that inform us what is “the good” we should do in the world.  It is our actions in the world that defeat evil.

Chapter Twelve

1. Therefore, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, because of the compassion of God, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God, your thoughtful act of worship.
2. Do not model yourself on this age, but be transformed in the renewal of the mind, so as to determine what the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God is.
3. I speak to all those among you by the grace given to me, do not think highly of yourself but think reasonably, each one by the faith God has given.
4. Just as we have many members in one body, but every member does not have the same function,
5. so in Messiah we are many in one body, but as individuals we are members of one another.
6. By the grace given to us, we are given different gifts. If it is prophecy use it in proportion to faith,
7. if service then as a deacon, if teaching as a teacher,
8. if encouraging in encouragement, if sharing in sincere generosity, if leadership in diligence, or if one has mercy in gladness.
9. Love without pretense. Abhor evil. Cling to good.
10. Let sibling-type love be tenderly affectionate among you. Lead out with honor for one another.
11. In diligence do not be timid. Serve the Lord with a fervent spirit.
12. Rejoice in hope. Endure distress. Continue faithfully in prayer.
13. Contribute to the needs of the saints. Pursue hospitality.
14. Bless the one persecuting you. Bless and do not curse.
15. Rejoice with those rejoicing. Cry with those crying.
16. Think of one another as the same, not arrogantly, but be associated with those who are humble. Do not be too thoughtful of yourself.
17. Repay no one evil for evil. Think ahead about what is honorable in the eyes of all people.
18. For your part, if possible, live at peace with all people.
19. Do not vindicate yourself, beloved, but rather put wrath in its place. For it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I myself will repay,’ says the Lord.”
20. But, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink, doing this heaps fiery coals upon his head.”
21. Do not let evil conqueror you, but instead conquer evil with good.