The structure of Romans

The original text

Chapter 16

In chapter 16, Paul greets a long list of his friends and fellow workers. Yet Paul had never been to Rome, so how could he have known so many Roman Christians? Some scholars argue that several of Paul’s Asian friends could have migrated to the capital city. But the argument is not convincing. There are just too many people (25 names), and also he knows too much about them: “the church in their house” (v.5); “Mary, who has worked hard among you” (v.6). Thus it is more probable that 16:1-20 was a separate letter of commendation for Phoebe, addressed to Ephesus (1 Cor 16:8,19). Some say that Rom 15:33 is too abrupt for the ending of a letter, but actually it is quite credible. [1]

On the remainder of this web page I will only deal with the main letter (chs. 1-15).

15:30

In this verse αδελφοι ("brothers") is omitted by papyrus p46 and by Codex Vatanicus, c.f. the NEB and REB translations. There is therefore a good case for omitting this word.

Derivation of the structure

Some features of the structure stand out clearly. Chs. 1-4 (The old covenant) and 5-8 (Justified by faith) each contain about the same amount of text. The section 15:14-33 (Paul's mission) is a clear ending. At first (in the 1980s) I thought that this section might have represented one, two or three pages, and that the middle option was better because it led to around 820 letters to the page (c.f. Philippians at around 800). But in 1997 I identified at least three small sections which pointed rather to the third option. These were 3:9-20; 8:31-39 and 15:7-13, now posited as each occupying close to a single page, and all of which are named sections in UBS3. This indicated a 57-page model with an average of about 566 letters to the page.


The first two levels of the structure of Romans


chapter:verse Greek pages suggested
range letters   section title
 
1:1-15 1149 2 Introduction to the Christians at Rome
 
  Christian theology
1:16 - 4:25 7918 14    God's righteousness is revealed
5 - 8 9103 16    Salvation from sin and death
9 - 11 6752 12    The status of the people of Israel
 
  Christian service
12 - 13 2839 5    Duties to outsiders
14:1 - 15:6 2221 4    Dealing with scrupulous people
15:7-13 573 1    Christ is for both Jews and Gentiles
 
15:14-33  [...] 1717 3 Paul's missions: accomplished and intended

Concerning the two-level structure

  1. The numbers of letters refer to the NA27 Greek text, reduced in the section marked [...] to indicate the textual omisssion of one word.
  2. The two-level structure is neatly symmetrical.
  3. The second-level sections contain links as follows:
    1st pair: light/darkness in 2:19 and 13:12
    2nd pair: die  αποθνησκω (16x in 5:6 - 8:34 and 6x in 14:7-15)
    3rd pair: people  λαος   (6x in 9:25 - 11:2 and 2x in 15:10-11)


The complete structure of Romans


chapter:verse Greek pages suggested
range letters   section title
1:1-15 1149 2 Introduction to the Christians at Rome
  Christian theology
     God's righteousness is revealed
        God's judgement
1:16-32 1690 3          On the pagans
2:1-29 2203 4          On everyone
        Are the Jews privileged?
3:1-8 616 1          Yes, they have the oracles of God
3:9-20 634 1          But not really, for all have sinned
        Righteousness through faith
3:21-26 504 1          Justified through faith in Jesus
3:27 - 4:25 2271 4          Faith is counted as righteousness
     Salvation from sin and death
        Just as ... so now: sin/grace contrasts
5:1-14 1185 2          Our reasons for exulting
5:15 - 6:23 2698 5          The free gift of God
        Redemption of the body through death
7:1 - 8:17 3425 6          The weakness of the flesh
8:18-25 612 1          Waiting for salvation
        The spirit and Christ intercede for us
8:26-30 493 1          God's purpose
8:31-39 690 1          Nothing can separate us from Christ's love
     The status of the people of Israel
9:1 - 10:13 3351 6       The law failed to make Israel righteous
10:14 - 11:36 3401 6       Israel disobeyed; but God is merciful
  Christian service
     Duties to outsiders
12:1 - 13:7 2240 4       Render sacrifice, service and taxes
13:8-14 599 1       Put on love, light and Christ
14:1 - 15:6 2221 4    Dealing with scrupulous people
15:7-13 573 1    Christ is for both Jews and Gentiles
15:14-33  [...] 1717 3 Paul's missions: accomplished and intended


Comments on the complete structure of Romans

  1. Note the perfect structural symmetry of the sections on righteousness (1:16 - 4:25) and salvation (5:1 - 8:39).
  2. The mean 'page size' is 566.1 letters. This is significantly less than the roughly 800 letters per page which I have established for the Corinthian and Philippian correspondence and for Gal 1:1 - 6:10, and much closer to the 608 letters of Gal 6:11-18 which appears to represent the last page of Galatians. We know from 6:11 that 1:1 - 6:10 was penned by a scribe, and 6:11-18 by Paul himself. This indicates that Paul probably produced the archetype of his 'magnum opus' with his own hand.

References

1. D.Trobisch, "Paul's Letter Collection" (Quiet Waters Publications, Missouri, 2001) pp. 72-73)