In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Romans

  • Introduction
  • Essay Collections
  • Bibliographies
  • Surveys
  • History of Interpretation
  • Theological Readings
  • Rome and the Occasion of Romans
  • Use of the Old Testament

Biblical Studies Romans
Mark Reasoner
  • LAST REVIEWED: 09 June 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 February 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0085


Placed first among Paul’s letters in the canon, Romans is often considered to be the most influential and comprehensive of these letters. While Melanchthon’s description of Romans as a compendium of Christian theology has now been superseded by an emphasis on the letter’s occasional nature, all are still agreed that the letter has tremendous scope, since it deals with such profound questions as the human condition before and after the law; death; faith; the identity and future of God’s chosen people, the Jews; and Christian existence in society and within the church. This letter’s Pauline authorship has never been questioned. Those who recognize only seven New Testament letters as undisputedly authored by Paul consider Romans to be the last one written, representing Paul’s mature and most comprehensive thought. Besides the doctrinal discussions that this letter triggers in every generation, attention has been paid more recently to the letter’s attitude toward Roman imperialism, the philosophical significance of the letter’s universal vision of humanity and its messianic view of time, and the posture toward Judaism that Paul takes in this letter. Each of these issues carries implications for how church leaders understand Christian theology and pastoral care. Therefore, much of the literature on Romans combines, to a greater or lesser extent, the interests of historical scholarship with more theological interests in using Romans for contemporary life. Thus, readers of Romans should always consult more than one secondary source when investigating this letter. Readers interested in the historical scholarship should be aware of the confessional or normative Christian orientation of much of the literature. An attempt is made in this article to locate specific orientations in some of the selected entries.

Texts and Translations

Romans was written in Greek around the year 56 CE. Its Greek is not difficult, but because of the nature of Paul’s argument, there are several points in the letter where Paul’s meaning is uncertain (e.g., 3:9, 21–26; 11:26). Those who wish to understand Paul’s argument at points such as these should consult the Greek text or scholars who are reading the letter in Greek. This section is broken down into four subsections: Greek Text, Greek-English Translations, Textual Criticism, and Annotated Study Bibles.

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