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.
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.
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.
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.
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.