Romans: Who Wrote It?

That Paul authored Romans is largely, if not entirely, beyond dispute. However, the date and location of his writing are both small matters of discussion, these usually undertaken with reference to the book of Acts. By comparing Paul’s travels in Acts with textual clues within Romans, we may discern the location and date of his writing with confidence.

Paul concludes Romans with a series of commendations, beginning with “Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well” (16:1-2). Phoebe’s primacy suggests that Paul’s entrusted her with the responsibility of carrying his epistle to Rome. The fact that Phoebe is from Cenchreae, one of two port cities of Corinth, hints strongly that Paul wrote from Corinth. Moreover, if the Gaius mentioned as his host in 16:23 is the same as the Gaius baptized by Paul in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14), as seems quite likely, the case for a Corinthian location strengthens considerably.

Interestingly, the New Testament records two Pauline visits to Corinth. The first was an eighteen-month visit during which the church was founded (Acts 18:1-18). The second was a brief, three month stay (Acts 20:1-3). Regarding this latter stay, Waters is very helpful:

This latter stay was part of a longer journey in which Paul had purposed to go to Rome by way of Corinth and Jerusalem (Acts 19:21). It on this itinerary that we should locate Paul’s writing of the epistle to the Romans. He tells the Romans that he plans to travel to Spain, but he first intends to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome (Rom. 15:24-25, 28). Putting the pieces together, Paul is in Corinth when he writes this letter (Acts 20:1-3). He intends to travel, first to Jerusalem, then to Rome, and finally to Spain (Rom. 15:24-25). We may therefore reliably date the letter to the ‘winter of [AD] 57-58.’

This is far from a matter of pure trivia. The timing of Paul’s letter has bearing on our understanding of his audience, as well as his overall aim in writing, something we will see in weeks ahead.


Sources

Kruger, M. J. (Ed.). (2016). A biblical-theological introduction to the New Testament: the gospel realized. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Murray, J. (1982). The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. xiii. “That the apostle Paul wrote he epistle to the Romans is not a matter of dispute and for that reason, as one of the most recent commentators has said, it is ‘a proposition which is unnecessary to discuss.’”

All Scripture quotations taken from the ESV.