Monday, March 10, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Six

Okay, so we have read Romans several times and noted who wrote it, when it was written, where it was written, to whom it was written and why it was written. We have also taken copious notes on recurring words, themes, etc. Jotted down questions as to what particular passages or words might mean. We have then composed a provisional outline.

A seminary nerd would now attempt to translate the original Greek but you all have a life and, therefore, spent your time more profitably than a raging Geek like myself.

So now we need to start to try to answer some of the questions raised during our earlier readings as we work through Romans passage by passage. Let's start with Romans 1:1-12, which I believe is the exordium or introduction containing a greeting and key themes that will be unpacked throughout the epistle.

Romans 1:1-12 reads, in the NASB:

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.

For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.

For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine.

Okay, now my question is this--can you define each word above so that 3rd grader could understand it? For example, can you define, in simple terms, the words "bond servant (which is preferable to the translation "slave") or "Christ" or "apostle" or explain what Paul means when he writes that Jesus is David's descendant according to "the flesh" or that Jesus was "declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection"? If not, then you have work to do.

I would not recommend running to a commentary or to most books on word studies. At the risk of sounding smug, most of these works are simply poor. For example, Barclay's commentaries are woefully out-of-date for no other reason then they often rely on ancient documents that we now know were written several hundred years after the writing of the Gospels. Thus, to quote New Testament scholar Don Carson, relying on such documents would be like reading the New York Times today to discover what Abraham Lincoln thought! Books like Vine's Expository Dictionary are also guilty of this move and also suffer from being written decades before software programs revolutionized our study of Greek.

There are up-to-date popular works out there like Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words and the NIV Application Commentary series but far too Christians have easy access to these works. So, we will begin to work through these problems tomorrow. Stay tuned.