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In later centuries, the churches regularly wandered back to the works theology, but Augustine’s position remained the official theology. Very famous is Martin Luther’s great struggle in the sixteenth century – first for his own personal faith, then for the churches of northern Germany – to recover the doctrine of justification by faith in Paul’s writings. Besides being a daunting writing on its own part, many have heard about the great historical figures and moments associated with the book. In the later fourth century CE, the Latin rhetorician Augustine converted to Christianity and led the fight in Latin-speaking Christendom against the heresy of Pelagius (that good works are required for salvation) and persuaded the Western churches to adopt Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith. His recovery of Paul’s gospel from the letters to the Romans and the Galatians split Western Christendom into Catholics and Protestants for the following five hundred years. In the early eighteenth century, the Church of England was in the spiritual doldrums, from which John and Charles Wesley, among others, were suffering. Luther opposed the church’s practice of selling pardons (“indulgences”) to sinners and generally recognizing that “good works” are required for salvation. The earliest complete copies of Romans are in the great parchment codices created by the newly-wealthy churches in Alexandria, Egypt, in the mid-to-late fourth century CE – such as . Romans is a famous and history-making Biblical book. When Romans is mentioned among knowledgeable Christians and Biblical scholars, a certain awe and solemn respect usually sets in. Consequences: Instructions for living in mutual love. ~~~~ The earliest surviving copy of Paul’s letters – collected long after his own time – is the papyrus codex P, copied around 200 CE and containing major fragments of Romans 5-16.During the “common time” after Pentecost we will be directed to fourteen more readings, beginning in Romans 5 and progressing through the book to chapter 14. Romans is a famous and history-making Biblical book. This “business” of the letter did not itself require the long exposition of the gospel that makes up the Epistle.There are only a couple of readings from Romans in each of the other two years of the Lectionary cycle. The Epistle contains neither personal stuff about Paul nor any instructions specific to hearers in Rome.

For twenty Sundays in the current church year (Year A), the Revised Common Lectionary assigns readings from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. The Epistle (-) is a series of “topics” that Paul often addressed. (According to Acts, it ended up taking almost three years.) The hope Paul shares with them is that Rome can become the base for a future mission in the western part of the empire.

It is also likely that Paul decided to spell out his version of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that his Roman hearers would know exactly where he stood on many controversial and still-developing topics of the Christian proclamation.

Many of them had undoubtedly heard about him, but perhaps through rumor and hearsay.

Paul’s scribe would have written on a scroll, rather than a separate page like this.

This picture shows a sheet of a papyrus manuscript.


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