I picked up NT Wright’s commentary on Romans 1-8 called Paul for Everyone at Otter Creek Bookstore last week. Besides bowing to the urge to use his name in a pun whenever I can, I always enjoy books from this insightful, chatty, and accessible series on the New Testament.
This past weekend was spent renovating my office, and during my breaks I snatched up Wright. As many fans of Wright know, he emphasizes the cultural/racial issues in the book of Romans. The unity of the Jews and Gentiles in Christ is a very important issue for Paul. Even if he’s even on theology throughout, Paul wasn’t just slamming down a heap of doctrine.
At the outset of Romans, Wright sets the stage in a way I’ve never quite thought of before. First of all, the Gospel came to Rome most likely through Peter, and a few Jews converted.
Then, all of the Jews were expelled from Rome for a few years, leaving any believing Gentiles as the only Christian gang in town. When the ban ended, the Jews returned to find a Gentile Christian church.
It’s a familiar enough story-line. The parents leave, so to speak, the kids take over the house, and when the parents return there is conflict. The Jews probably returned to Rome and said, “What have you Gentiles done with this place?”
Though we mingle facts with speculation, such a context is helpful to keep in mind when reading one of the heaviest theological letters Paul ever rambled together.