A wide-ranging study of the interpretation of Paul’s letter to the Romans throughout history, from Origen to Karl Barth.
In anticipation of his Illuminations commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans, Stephen Westerholm offers this extensive survey of the reception history of Romans. After two initial chapters discussing the letter’s textual history and its first readers in Rome (a discussion carried out in dialogue with the Paul-within-Judaism stream of scholarship), Westerholm provides a thorough overview of over thirty of the most influential, noteworthy, and representative interpretations of Romans from nearly two thousand years of history. Interpreters surveyed include Origen, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Peter Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Locke, Cotton Mather, John Wesley, and Karl Barth.
Bearing in mind that Paul did not write for scholars, Westerholm includes in his study interpreters like Philipp Jakob Spener and Richard Baxter who addressed more popular audiences, as well as an appendix on a remarkable series of 372 sermons on Romans by beloved British preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones. A further aim of the book is to illustrate the impact of this New Testament letter on Christian thought, supporting Westerholm’s claim that “the history of the interpretation of Romans is, in important areas and to a remarkable extent, the history of Christian theology.”
Preface Part One: Text 1. Text and Textual History Part Two: Readers 2. The First Readers of Romans and the “Paul within Judaism” School Part Three: History of Interpretation 3. The Patristic Period 4. The Medieval Period 5. The Sixteenth Century 6. The Modern Period 7. History of Interpretation: Conclusion Appendix: The Apostle and the Doctor Bibliography Indexes
Stephen Westerholm is professor emeritus of early Christianity at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. His other books include Reading Sacred Scripture: Voices from the History of Biblical Interpretation (with Martin Westerholm), Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme, and Understanding Paul: The Early Christian Worldview of the Letter to the Romans.
“Those reading Romans today need to be aware of the nearly twenty centuries of previous interpretation. There is no better way to get an overview of that than by reading this book. Stephen Westerholm has produced an excellent survey of the history of the interpretation of Romans, both by well-known exegetes like Chrysostom, Augustine, and Calvin and by many other lesser known but still significant interpreters. Thoroughly to be commended.” — Tony Lane London School of Theology
“Anyone interested in studying Romans, or in the history of Christian dogmatics, should read this splendid book cover to cover, and then keep it close by for frequent consultation. Westerholm surveys eighteen centuries of interpretive thinking about Paul’s most influential epistle and does so with the accuracy, sympathy, humility, and delightful bursts of humor that make his scholarship so profitable.” — Frank Thielman Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
“Westerholm is here concerned with the history of interpretation of Romans from the Patristic era via the Middle Ages up to the twentieth century, and he begins, as one should, by paying close attention to the Greek manuscript tradition showing awareness of the fact that textual variants are an integral part of that history—the anonymous scribes were readers and interpreters, who at times sought to ‘improve’ the text, thus contributing to that rich history of interpretation with those theologians we know by name from Origen to Karl Barth.” — Tommy Wasserman Örebro School of Theology, Sweden
“Like the tip of the proverbial iceberg, compelling exegesis is the visible portion of a much larger body of learning. Here we get a glimpse of that larger learning as Stephen Westerholm discusses the text of Romans, the identity of its first readers, and a gallery of its interpreters down two millennia. The lucid writing and crisp analysis not only whet the appetite for the author’s own forthcoming commentary on the letter but also provide essential preparation for any serious attempt to interpret Romans.” —Stephen Chester, Lord and Lady Coggan Professor of New Testament, Wycliffe College
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