My Latest Article on Romans Now Published in JETS

My Latest Article on Romans Now Published in JETS January 14, 2014

My most recent article on Romans is now published! It is titled,



paul-iconCheck out the December issue of the Journal of Evangelical Theological Society (JETS 56, no 4). I’m grateful for JETS being willingness to publish it. I provide the link to the article for those who are subscribers. I’m not sure if JETS allows people to access individual articles without a subscription. Click on it and see.

In the article, I unpack in greater detail something I briefly suggested in my book Saving God’s Face. The essay contributes to a key conversation within biblical studies––What is Paul’s purpose for writing the book of Romans?

People tend to either assume the answer to the question or never even raise the issue. The entire topic matters because it affects the way we interpret the message of the book. By understanding its purpose, we better discern Paul’s emphases, his rationale, and the application that should flow from his theology.

It’s common to see people treat the book of Romans almost like a systematic theology book. Many think Paul is simply reviewing the gospel or explaining how people get saved. There may be some degree of truth here (Paul’s letter is relevant for these subjects); however, they are not Paul’s point in writing Romans.

I argue that the theology in the book of Romans primarily serves a missiological purpose. That is, Paul mainly wants to further the work of missions. In particular, he has in mind his mission to Spain. Others have suggested this idea before but no one has given a detail exegetical argument. Previous articles have either posed the possibility or simply remained at a broader theological level.

Let me highlight a few key observations that should raise eyebrows. I won’t recap the entire article here. I simply want to point out the need to reconsider our previous assumptions about the book of Romans.

1. Interpreters routinely assume that when says “Greeks,” he simply means “Gentiles.” Again and again, I found few people actually defend that assumption. Don’t forget: a Greek is a Gentile, but a Gentile is not necessarily a Greek. The two words carry different connotations thus bring in different theological implications.

2. Scholars struggle with fit together the dense, middle theological section of Paul’s letter with the “bookends,” namely Rom 1:1–15; 15:18–32. Why is that? After all, the way one begins and ends a letter says a lot about the author’s intent. Not only that, but the beginning and end sections have common themes.

3. Furthermore, why does Paul typically talk about “Jews and Gentiles,” yet at certain spots, he decides to throw in again the phrase “Jews and Greeks” without explanation?

After providing a detailed argument of my thesis, I conclude with a number of applications. I think there are implications both for theology and for missiology.

If you make it over to the JETS website, let me know what you think.



Photo Credit: CC 2.0/wikimedia

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  • Pingback: is this how you describe the “framework” of Romans? (HT: @ivpress) | Unsettled Christianity()

  • I was able to print out the article. It’s wonderful. Just wonderful. It is readable and the practical applications you make are thorough and convicting. The big takeaway for me is that as superiority is to inferiority, so also is Jew to Gentile, and Greek to barbarian. In my slow journey through Jewetts’ Romans: A Commentary, he makes similar points to yours about the centrality of mission to the barbarians in Spain. I have thought, wow, if the church could see theology as being this thoroughly missiological. Anyway, thank you so much.

    • Thanks for this encouraging message! I hope this article helps people bring theology and missiology together as they ought to be.

  • Have you heard of or read Mark Nanos’ “Mystery of Romans”? (or his 25 page article, “Romans: To the Churches of the Synagogues of Rome”

    In his book, he does mention that he thinks the mission to Spain does have more importance for the occasion to letter than commonly assumed. He also argues that his hoped for mission work in Rome to the Jewish people does as well, which is what the book is mostly about (since it’s written before Acts 28).

    It was the 2nd book I read when I started a 9 month study of Romans a year ago, and it definitely has taken me to places I didn’t quiet expect (Messianic Judaism, seeing the lack of the church’s focus of the Gospel being to the Jew first, etc).

    • Thanks for pointing out this resource. I’ve read Nanos, but I can’t recall this exact article. As is obvious from my blog, I am included to read Romans in step with people like Michael Bird and N. T. Wright. There are some points of overlap between Nanos and them, particularly in their emphasis on history as an element of a well rounded exegesis.

  • Great delivery. Solid arguments. Keepp up the good effort.

  • Pingback: Why is Paul Under Obligation to "Greeks and Barbarians" and Not Just "Gentiles"? - My Digital Seminary()