Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most overrated document in the Bible.
Overrated, that’s what it is. Of all the books of the Bible, none are presented with such ridiculously exaggerated importance as the document we call “Romans.” It’s not really a big deal, folks.
Just look at the history of this document. People wage wars over it. Christians claim that “Romans” changed the world. Did it? Maybe how Christians re-contextualized it and made that re-contextualization into a big deal is what changed the world? And maybe not for the better.
Here’s a video on the most overrated Scripture, “Romans”—
Look, I am Catholic. As such, I accept that “Romans” is inspired. Not “God-dictated,” mind you. Inspired doesn’t mean that.
As someone who has taught Scripture for over two decades, I wouldn’t call “Romans” unimportant. I am not saying it is trivial. Don’t get me wrong. It gives us a great window into how early Jesus groups were. And it shows us how Paul related to such communities, Jesus groups that he did not establish. “Romans” gives us a glimpse of Paul himself. But let’s not get carried away. Overrated “Romans” is not the big deal people make of it.
It is just travel arrangements—ancient Mediterranean Jesus-group travel arrangements. Paul needed to get to Israelite emigres over in Spain. Therefore, he wrote to a Jesus group who had only heard about him through the gossip network. So Paul introduces himself. He expresses, in Mediterranean fashion, that there is so much he and they have in common. Ultimately, Paul does this to make his travel plans.
Paul’s Letter to the … ??
“Romans” should not really be called “Paul’s Letter to the Romans.” In his letter, Paul never addresses “Romans.” Instead, he was writing to God’s beloved in Rome. Who are they? Hellenized Israelite emigres whose families had been residing as minorities there and who belonged to Jesus groups.
Stop treating this overrated document as if it were some ingenious theological masterpiece. It’s not that at all. It’s just longwinded Mediterranean travel arrangements, folks. Being inspired doesn’t change the facts.
As I said, Paul wrote this overrated letter to Hellenist-Israelite Jesus-group people in Rome because of travel plans. He needed to visit Spain. Because Paul never founded a Jesus group in Rome, other Jesus-group change agents founded this community (no, not Peter). He probably wrote “Romans” from Corinth about 56-58 CE.
Situating Overrated “Romans”
Frequently, Christians wrongly believe that fourteen of the 27 New Testament documents were written by the historical Paul. In actuality, we know that only seven of these are authentically Pauline.
Five of these seven documents—1 Thessalonians, 1—2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Philippians—deal with interpersonal issues in Jesus-groups Paul founded. Paul wrote “Philemon” as a letter of recommendation for a slave-owner to accept his runaway slave.
That leaves only the overrated “Romans.” It’s just travel arrangements. Is it inspired? Yes, fellow Catholics, it is. But inspiration happens “in.” It doesn’t change what a document fundamentally is. It doesn’t turn longwinded Mediterranean travel arrangements into a theological masterpiece.
Overrated Uncritical Criticism
Someone told me, “Hey, Jackass! The Bible is God’s Word! And Romans is part of God’s Word!! And that makes it a big deal! If it is in the Bible, count on it being a big deal, Jackass!”
So, according to my friend, simply being included in the canon makes “Romans” a big deal. Well, if that is true, then certainly it must also be true of Nahum. That book must be a big deal, too, huh?
Do you agree with my friend’s logic? Are you offended like he is by me calling “Romans” overrated? If so, can you tell me what Nahum is about?—and don’t go looking up the “answer” online. Tell me what it is about off the top of your head. If “Romans” and Nahum really are such a big deal that you get upset by this blog post, surely you know what these documents are about, right? Because they aren’t overrated. They are a big deal. Big enough a deal for you to know all about them.
So many big deal documents in the Bible. Like 3 John. And Obadiah. And Zephaniah. What is Zephaniah about? Tell me, because after all, these canonical books are all a big deal. If it’s in the Bible, that makes it a big deal! Right?
It’s No Big Deal, Really
“Romans” is overrated. It’s a big letter, the biggest of the Pauline corpus. So it got placed first among his letters sent to groups because it was the longest in length. There is no big theological reason.
But later Christians, addicted to finding cryptic meanings in everything, saw that “Romans” was first among the letters and assumed that made it the most important. But it was just the largest document. And it’s travel arrangements. It’s not unimportant, but it doesn’t deserve the attention it has perennially received.