There’s a lot I don’t understand when I read the Epistles of St. Paul. This shouldn’t surprise me, given his background. The man was utterly brilliant, and he had what sounds like the equivalent of a doctorate in his Hebrew studies, as well. I don’t, I can’t operate on that level.
But what I do understand grabs me and won’t let go.
I’m rereading the Pauline epistles for the first time in a number of years. I keep going back and reading portions of Philippians and Ephesians again and again – and Romans 12. . . so I decided it’s probably a good idea to just start with Romans and read through. I’m keeping a journal as I read, and my color pencils are by my elbow as well (although I’m really not using them as much as I’d thought I would).
Frankly, most of the first half of Romans zooms right over my head. Paul gets into some pretty heavy theology there, and while the first two chapters are vividly accessible to me, only bits and pieces grab me from the beginning of Chapter 3 into Chapter 8. I’m trying to use those bits and pieces, and a general sense of background as I know it, to construct a clearer sense of Paul’s teaching. After all, this is an epistle — a letter! It’s not supposed to be his dissertation! even though that’s sometimes how he feels.
Paul was writing to the Romans, here, and it seems so apt that this epistle begins the succession of all his works. Rome ruled the world, politically, militarily, and culturally. It was a place of tremendous sophistication. It was also a hotbed of depravity.
Amazing that a core group of Romans rejected the strength, the power, the luxuries and excesses of Roman culture to become followers of that still-obscure cult, Christianity.
In fact, this is the whole point of the Pauline epistles: to teach a formerly pagan people how to adapt to the radically different paradigm of Christian discipleship.
More soon. — God bless you.