Interpretive Process: Romans 7:14-25 (3)

An Interpretation of Romans 7:14-25


Romans is one of the most revered, as to put it on the pedestal of the most systematic treatment of Paul’s understanding of gospel and also one of the most least understood of Paul’s letters. It is also one of the least understood of his letters because the meaning of the letter has been somewhat obscured by preconceived ideas that people have regarding how one reads this beloved epistle. On this David DaSilva states,

“…Romans has been read primarily as an essay in propositional theology, and interpreters have often lost sight of the concrete and specific set of circumstances and interests that called this letter into existence.”[1]

Without going through the preliminaries, it is highly probable that any attempt of interpreting Romans 7:14-25, a passage known for controversial subject, would be deemed hazardous.

Settings and Purpose of Romans

In this the letter to the Romans there is the sense of unity in diversity depicted in which Paul “provides his fullest treatment of the way God had brought together people of diverse heritage and practice into one body” which is the church coupled with advise in the keeping of this unity[2].

The Jewish population in Rome was large and this is mostly due to Pompey the Great who brought many of them “as slaves after his conquest of Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E” but many were freed and Jews mostly occupied the position of slaves and freed people. Although it is not known about the origins of how Christianity spread in Rome, it is assumed that Jews were largely responsible for spreading the Gospel there with the probable Acts 2:10 as an example that Jews who might have been responsible in spreading the gospel among Jews and Gentile proselytes.[3] There was a distinctively strong Jewish leaning of the Christianity in Rome where there was “a deep rootedness both in the Old Testament (LXX) traditions and the practice of Jewish customs” which took shape “in the form of house churches (see Rom 16:5, 14-15).”[4] But during 49 C. E. during the rule of Claudius, a riot occurred that “that expelled the Jews from the province” and thus “began the shifting of the Christian community in Rome.”[5] Upon the return of the Jews to a predominantly Gentile Church after Claudius’ death spelled out the tensions in practices and that would be the issue that Paul set out to deal with when he wrote this letter to them.[6]

Paul’s personal purpose for writing Romans can be stated in two aspects. First as presenting his understanding of the gospel, attempting to defend himself of being misunderstood, and second with that an indication “Roman Christians will accept him as a missionary worthy of support”[7] (See Rom 15:25-29). His pastoral concerns on the other hand is mostly encapsulated in Romans 14-15 “where Paul seeks to bring harmony among the “strong” and the “weak.””[8] Resolving this issue seem to run in coherence with Paul’s personal goal in which it displays a timely intervention that would open doors for future missionary support[9].

[1] DeSilva, David. A. An Introduction to the New Testament: Context, Methods and Ministry Formation. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004.) pg 598

[2] Ibid 598

[3] Ibid pg 599

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid pg 600

[6] Ibid pg 601

[7] Ibid pg 602

[8] Ibid pg 603

[9] Ibid pg 603-604

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