CHAPTER 15 PART II & 16:1-27: EPILOGUE

 

Beloved Heavenly Father,

Help us to love You Father as St. Paul loved You'to love You without self interest and with the passion of completely abandoning ourselves into Your eternal will. Your servant Paul understood the kind of self-sacrificial love that is worthy of Christ.  Thomas `a Kempis expressed that kind of love when he wrote: "Jesus today has many who love his heavenly kingdom, but few who carry his cross; many who yearn for comfort, few who long for distress. Plenty of people he finds to share his banquet, few to share his fast.  Everyone desires to take part in his rejoicing, but few are willing to suffer anything for his sake.  There are many that follow Jesus as far as the breaking of bread, few as far as drinking the cup of suffering; many that revere his miracles, few that follow him in the indignity of his cross; many that love Jesus as long as nothing runs counter to them; many that praise and bless him, as long as they receive some comfort from him; but should Jesus hide from them and leave them for a while, they fall to complaining or become deeply depressed. " Instill in us that deep devotion, Lord and send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in the last lesson of St. Paul's letter to the Christians of Rome.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen   [quoting from Imitation of Christ: Thomas a Kempis, Book 2.11.1].

 

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"The Church is bathed in the light of the Lord, and pours her rays over the whole world; but it is one light that is spread everywhere, and the unity of her structure is undivided."  St. Cyprian [251AD], The Unity of the Catholic Church

 

"And all these things which were written so long ago were written so that we, learning perseverance and the encouragement which the Scriptures give, should have hope.  Now the God of perseverance and encouragement give you all the same purpose, following the example of Jesus Christ, so that you may together give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one heart."  Romans 15:4-6

 

Please read Romans 15:14-21: Paul's Apostolic mission in writing to the Christians of Rome

"14  My brothers, I am quite sure that you, in particular, are full of goodness, fully instructed and capable of correcting each other. 15  But I have special confidence in writing on some points to you, to refresh your memories, because of the grace that was given to me by God. 16  I was given grace to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, dedicated to offer them the Gospel of God, so that Gentiles might become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.  17 So I can be proud, in Christ Jesus, of what I have done for God.  18 Of course I can dare to speak only of the things which Christ has done through me to win the allegiance of the Gentiles, using what I have said and done, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God.  In this way, from Jerusalem and all around, even as far as Illyricum, I have fully carried out the preaching of the Gospel of Christ; 20  and what is more,  it has been my rule to preach the Gospel only where the name of Christ has not already been heard for I do not build on another's foundations; 21 in accordance with Scripture: Those who have never been told about him will see him, and those who have never heard about him will understand."

 

Paul's compliment to the Roman church in verse 14 recalls his compliment to the Roman Christians when he began his letter in Romans 1:8 when he wrote: "First I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is talked of all over the world." Paul is acknowledging that the Roman Christians are a strong community of faithful believers, knowledgeable in the Gospel and diligent in their obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  But, he reminds them ["to refresh your memories"], that as an Apostle, chosen by Jesus Christ, he has a duty and a calling by the Holy Spirit to instruct and correct them.

 

Then in Romans 15:16 Paul describes his Apostolic ministry in very forceful terms that points to the liturgical function of his ministry where Paul, serving the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a priest, offers up a sacrifice made holy and acceptable (sanctified) through the power of the Holy Spirit.  In this passage Paul identifies himself in the Old Covenant liturgical language of priesthood by using the significant Greek word hierogon.  First Paul uses the Greek word leitourgos which conveys the meaning of "one who performs duties under the supervision of a superior" [also see Romans 13:6 and Philippians 2:25] when he identifies himself as a "minister" / leitourgos: "I was given grace to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles...".  But this word is reinforced by the verb hierourgein, which in the present tense is always used in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament and in secular writings from this period [see Philo of Alexander and Flavius Josephus] in the context of priestly service in offering sacrifices.  In that context this passage can also be translated: "to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, serving the Gospel of God as a priest, in order that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." [see Father Brendan Byrne, S.J. Sacra Pagina Series, volume 6: Romans, page 434-435].  This imagery is expressed in terms of the ordained priest's ritual of prescribed and holy sacrifice upon God's holy Altar.

 

Question: What is the significance of this imagery in terms of Paul's Apostolic mission and the inclusion of the Gentile Christians into the New Covenant'a New Covenant formerly given into the hands of the faithful remnant of Jews who embraced Jesus as the promised Messiah?

Answer:  The formerly "unclean" Gentile "goyim" [nations/ gentiles] have been cleansed by the power of God the Holy Spirit and Paul, as the Apostle to the Gentile nations'is through the grace of God performing a priestly function'offering, by the cleansing power of baptism through the Holy Spirit, the Gentile nations as a pleasing sacrifice to God.  In the terms of Paul's Apostolate, he is communicating to the Christians of Rome, Jew and Gentile united in Christ, that his position in the Church of Jesus Christ, and indeed, his unique position in Salvation History, is defined and fulfilled in the offering of the Gentile nations to God as promised by the prophets.  Paul is the means by which the Holy Spirit has fulfilled those promises and he is therefore in a unique position to teach the Church in this regard concerning the inclusion of the Gentiles into the covenant. 

 

Israel had been offered up to God as a holy people in the ratification of the Covenant at Sinai becoming Zion'God's holy people, the kahal or Church ["the called-out ones"],  and now the Gentiles have entered into the Covenant of Zion "called out" by God as full members'equal citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth!  Please see Isaiah 45:14; 60:5-17; 61:6; and 66:18-20 for promises of the escatological Zion in which Yahweh comes to gather "every nation and every language" to "witness my glory."  And of the promise that, "some of them I shall make into priests and Levites"'some of those converted Gentiles will actually become priests and ministers of the covenant!  It is these purified Gentiles that Paul has offered to God as "living sacrifices" [see Romans 12:1-2].  It is in this same liturgical sense of a living sacrifice of believers offered up to God that Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:5, "set yourselves close to him, so that you, too, may be living stones making a spiritual house as a holy priesthood to offer the spiritual sacrifices made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

 

Question: Therefore, in what particular way does Paul see the conversion of the Gentile people he has let to Christ?

Answer: As his sacrifice offered to God'the conversion of the Gentiles is a liturgical function in which not just the Gentiles but now with the addition of the Gentiles the whole human race becomes an acceptable offering to God'an acceptable sacrifice that has been sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

 

In Romans 15:17 Paul "boasts" that he can be proud of what he has done for God in Christ Jesus when previously he had warned the Romans about "boasting" of their good deeds.  But this is an acceptable "boast" because it is based upon and brought to completion through the power'not of Paul'but of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to whom Paul gives full credit [see Romans 6:3, 11].

 

Question: In Romans 15:19 Paul writes that he has provided "signs and wonders" in testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  What is the significance of this statement?  See Acts 1:8; and 19:11-12

Answer:  "So remarkable were the miracles worked by God at Paul's hands that handkerchiefs or aprons which had touched him were taken to the sick, and they were cured of their illnesses, and the evil spirits come out of them." Acts 19:11-12.  In Romans 15:19 Paul testifies that "signs and wonders" and the power of the Holy Spirit has brought the Gentiles to faith in Jesus Christ.  In Acts 1:8 Jesus had promised His disciples, "...but you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and then you will be my witnesses, not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea and Samaria, and indeed to earth's remotest end."  Paul is acknowledging that it is this power that has given him success in his mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  "Signs and wonders" are important to the Jews for whom the recognition of a true prophet was based upon the "signs and wonders" he worked as evidence that he truly was God's representative.  Moses was the premier prophet in this regard in the "signs and wonders" he worked during the Exodus experience and this is what the crowds asked Jesus to prove'that He was truly acting as a legitimate prophet, when they said to Him in John 6:30, "What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in You?" Jesus did work "signs and wonders" greater than Moses in His ministry and many came to believe He was indeed the Son of God but still, many did not come to belief. 

 

Question: What did Paul teach about "signs and wonders" in 1 Corinthians 1:21-31?

Answer: The Jews want "signs" [the literal translation in verse 22]'supernatural acts that point to the power of God while the Gentiles want "wisdom"'logic based on reason, which is for the Gentile Greeks stronger than miracles.  Paul admits it is human to demand proof and the desire for "proof" is not in itself reprehensible but it is unacceptable when the demand for "proof" denies the gift of faith.  The Cross of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection is all the proof one needs, "but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is both the power of God and the Wisdom of God."  Christ is both the "sign" and the "wisdom."

 

Question: How far does Paul write that he has carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Answer: From Jerusalem to Illyricum.   The Roman province of Illyricum is modern day Albania.  Paul has accomplished the mission set for him by the Holy Spirit, having spread the Gospel from one end of the eastern half of the Roman Empire to the other.  Now the Holy Spirit will challenge him to complete the same pattern in the West, expanding the Gospel message from the ends of the West in Spain to the other end of the western Roman Empire which would be Britain.  Was this part of Paul's broader plan to repeat his success for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the west?

 

Question: What does Paul say is his rule in preaching the Gospel?

Answer: He is strictly a missionary who founds Christian communities and does not build on someone else's foundation.  He establishes the Church and then leaves it to others to continue nurturing the growth of the communities he founded.

 

Paul then quotes Isaiah 52:15c in Romans 16:21 with his typical introductory statement: "in accordance with the Scripture," "Those who have never been told about him will see him, and those who have never heard about him will understand."

Question: Who is it who has never been told about him who will "see" and "understand"?  Who is it these people did not know before Paul and the Apostles?

Answer: Before the ministry of Paul and his companions in Christ the Gentile nations did not know Christ but through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ they came to "see" and to "understand" Christ and to received the gift of salvation.

 

This Isaiah passage is from the Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant which takes up the theme of suffering and the persecution which the "Servant" of God will endure.  Paul also quoted the next verse, Isaiah 53:1 in Romans 10:16. Paul does not mean to compare himself with Christ by quoting this passage'he means to say that he is sent by Christ to those who have never seen or heard about the Savior and he leads them to understanding by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This verse will, however, become prophetic for him in the coming spring and the next two years when Paul will witness before governors and kings: Isaiah 53:15, "...and kings will stay tight-lipped before him, seeing what had never been told them, learning what they had not heard before." [see Paul's witness to Roman governors and King Agrippa I in Acts 24:24-27; 25:13-26:32].

 

Please read Romans 15:22-33: Paul's future plans

"22 That is why I have been so often prevented from coming to see you; 23 now, however, as there is nothing more to keep me in these parts, I hope, after longing for many years past to visit you, to see you when I am on the way to Spain'24 and after enjoying at least something of your company, to be sent on my way with your support.  25 But now I have undertaken to go to Jerusalem in the service of the holy people of God there, 26 since Macedonia and Achaia have chosen to make a generous contribution to the poor among God's holy people at Jerusalem.  27 Yes, they chose to; not that they did not owe it to them.  For if the Gentiles have been given a share in their spiritual possessions, then in return to give them help with material possessions is repaying a debt to them.  28 So when I have done this, and given this harvest into their possession, I shall visit you on the way to Spain.  29 I am sure that, when I do come to you, I shall come with the fullest blessing of Christ. 30  Meanwhile I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, that in your prayers to God for me you exert yourselves to help me; 31 praying that I may escape the unbelievers in Judea, and that the aid I am carrying to Jerusalem will be acceptable to God's holy people. 32 Then I shall come to you, if God wills, for a happy time of relaxation in your company.  33 The God of peace be with you all.  Amen."

 

Again Paul announces his intention of visiting the Roman Christians as he previously mentioned in the opening of his letter in Romans 1:8-15.

Question: What mission does Paul write that he must complete before coming to visit them?  See Romans 15:25-26; Acts 19:21; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4

Answer: He must deliver the Gentile's contributions to the mother Church in Rome.  This is a mission that has been planned since Paul first wrote about it in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 and repeated the plan in 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9

 

Question: Notice that twice, in verses 26 and 27 Paul stresses that the donation of the Gentiles to the Church in Jerusalem is voluntary. What debt or obligation does Paul consider the Gentiles have to the Church in Jerusalem and why? 

Answer: Paul considered it the obligation of the Gentiles as younger brothers who have been welcomed back into the family of God and therefore now have a share in the spiritual blessings of the covenant to express their solidarity with the Jews as their older brothers and sisters in faith by support the members of the Church in Jerusalem who were in need of material support.  Many orthodox Jews of the Diaspora would come to Jerusalem to die, leaving behind their widows and orphans.  Many of these abandoned widows became Christians and were a financial burden for the Jerusalem church.  In this gesture of solidarity from the Gentile Christians is also the reminder that the Gentiles are the "wild olive branches" that have been grafted on to the original root'the Patriarchs, the fathers of the Jews [see Romans 11:16-18], and the "wild branches" have an obligation to share not only in the blessings but in the suffering.

 

Notice the title given to those who suffer in Jerusalem in verse 26, "to the poor among God's holy people."  Does it not recall the blessings promised the poor and humble in Jesus' Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:20-21? ' " How blessed are you who are poor: the Kingdom of God is yours.  Blessed are you who are hungry now: you shall have your fill.  Blessed are you who are weeping now: you shall laugh."  The Gentiles of Greece and Asia Minor [Galatia contributed to the relief fund], are now the bearers of God's promised blessing.  [See other passages associated with the blessed poor and humble in Psalms 69:32; 72:2; Proverbs 28:11; 29:13; Isaiah 14:32; 25:4; 29:19].

 

Question: Where does Paul plan to go after visiting the Romans and what is he hoping the Roman church will give him?

Answer: He plans to spread the Gospel in Spain and is his hoping for their emotional support and probably for their financial support'what every missionary evangelist needs for the success of his mission.

Question: What 2 requests does Paul make of the Roman Christians?

Answer: That they will pray for the success of his mission to Jerusalem and the preservation of his life.

 

Please read Romans 16:1-16: Greetings to Roman Christians

"1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae; 2 give her, in the Lord, a welcome worthy of God's holy people and help her with whatever she needs from you'she herself has come to the help of many people, including myself.  3 My greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow-workers in Christ Jesus,4  who risked their own necks to save my life; to them, thanks not only from me, but from all the churches among the Gentiles, 5 and my greetings to the church at their house.  Greetings to my dear friend Epaenetus, the first of Asia's offerings to Christ. 6  Greetings to Mary (Maria), who worked so hard for you.  7 Greetings to those outstanding apostles, Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and fellow-prisoners, who were in Christ before me.  8 Greetings to Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.  9 Greetings to Urban, my fellow-worker in Christ, and to my dear friend Stachys.  10 Greetings to Apelles, proved servant of Christ.  Greetings to all the household of Aristobulus.  11 Greetings to my kinsman, Herodion, and greetings to those who belong to the Lord in the household of Narcissus.  12 Greetings to Tryphaena and Tryphosa who work hard in the Lord; greetings to my dear friend Persis, also a very hard worker in the Lord.  13 Greetings to Rufus, chosen servant of the Lord, and to his mother'a mother to me too.  14 Greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. 15  Greetings to Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all God's holy people who are with them.  16 Greet each other with the holy kiss.  All the churches of Christ send their greetings."

 

"All the churches of Christ send their greetings." This form of greeting is not found anywhere else in Paul's letters.  This special greeting again illustrates the position of honor of the Roman church whose "faith is talked of all over the world." Romans 8:1.

 

In Romans 16:1 Paul commends to the Roman congregation the deaconess Phoebe who Paul writes of endearingly not as "his" sister but as "our" sister, meaning "our sister" in the precious Blood of Jesus the Christ'it is a kinship affiliation that is stronger than the physical bond in the natural family.  The title he assigns her, deaconess, identifies Phoebe to the Roman church as a woman of importance "in service" to the Church in the East.  She may have been a woman of independent wealth because Paul mentions that she has come to the aid of many people, including himself.  From this passage most scholars believe Phoebe was entrusted by Paul with delivering this most important letter to the Roman church. Paul must have placed great confidence and trust in this holy woman.

 

After his request for Phoebe's welcome Paul greets a large number of Roman Christians'with many of whom he has strong ties and some are apparently only acquaintances.  We may have wondered how Paul could speak so boldly about the "weaknesses" within this community which needed to be overcome'now we know how Paul was so well acquainted with the problems that threatened the unity of this faith community'he had inside information! 

 

We will look more closely at this list after Paul sends greetings from his co-workers in Corinth in 16:21-23, but Prisca and Aquila deserve special mention.

Question: When did Paul first meet this devoted Jewish couple in whose home the Church gathered in Corinth?  What was the probable date of their first meeting? Hint: see Acts 18:1-3.

Answer: Emperor Claudius' expulsion of Jews and Christians from Rome is generally dated to 49AD so Paul's meeting with Pricilla and Aquila must have been sometime after the eviction of Jews and Christians from Rome and after the Council of Jerusalem which is also dated to 49AD'an opportune time to meet since the Church leadership (Peter and others) had also been expelled from the Roman capital.  The 5th century Christian historian Orosius wrote that Claudius expelled the Jews in the ninth year of his reign, which in our calendar would be from January 24, 49 – January 23, 50AD [Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, 7.6].  Sometime after meeting these holy Jewish Christians from the Roman Church, Paul was brought before the Roman governor of the province of Achaea [Greece] in the city of Corinth for charges leveled against him by the Jews.  An inscription discovered at Delphi, Greece, helps to approximate the date Junius Gallio was Roman proconsul of Achaea.  His appointment could not have been earlier than the late spring of 50 and he must have continued in that position [if he served a two year term] not later than the early summer of 54AD.  During Claudius' reign as Emperor, an official like Gallio normally left Rome in the early spring and arrived at his post by the late spring or early summer.  Such men usually served for a term of 1 year but it was not unusual for them to serve 2 years, as in the case of Roman governor of Judea-Samaria-Galilee, Marcus Antonius Felix. [Note: prior to Claudius' rule Roman governors served much longer terms.  Pontius Pilate was governor for 10 years from 26-36AD].

 

Question:  Paul developed a lasting friendship with this couple.  In what other ways did they serve the Church and support Paul in his ministry?  See Acts 18:1-3, 18-26; 1 Corinthians 16:19.

Answer: Aquila was a Jewish Christian from the Roman province of Pontus in Asia Minor.  Pricilla and Aquila are the model Christian couple devoted to God, to serving the Gospel of Jesus Christ and devoted to each other.  Paul stayed with them in Corinth where they worked together in the trade of tent-making [or prayer shawl making; tillit in Hebrew can mean "tent" or "prayer shawl"]; their home was the first Christian gathering place in Corinth.  According to Acts 18:18-19 when Paul's mission was competed in Corinth they left with him and traveled to Ephesus where they also established a church-home [1 Corinthians 16:19].  In Ephesus they met a gifted Christian orator named Apollos and gave him more complete instruction in the Word.   They returned to Rome some time after Claudius' edict was revoked [54AD] where they also offered their home as a "church-home" to Roman Christians.  During their years of friendship and service in the Church they willing risked their lives for Paul and were most likely his best source of information concerning the spiritual health of the Roman faith community.

 

Question: What request does Paul make in Romans 16:16 and what is the significance?

Answer:  In Romans 16:16 Paul requests that the Romans: " Greet each other with the holy kiss." And then adds: " All the churches of Christ send their greetings."

In both the Old and New Testaments [as well as in modern times] the kiss, exchanged between persons of the same sex or persons of opposite sexes, has been a common token of affection at greetings and farewells between persons of the same family or kingroup/ethnic group, by blood or marriage, and a kiss was also given as a sign of submission and homage.

For Biblical examples:

·        Greets and partings of kinsmen: Genesis  27:26f; 29:11; 29:13;31:28; 32:1; 33:4; 45:15; 48:10; 50:1; Exodus 4:27; 18:7; 2 Samuel 14:33; 1 Kings 19:22; Ruth 1:9, 14)

·         Between friends: 1Samuel 20:41; 2Samuel 19:40; Proverbs 24:26

·        Lovers: Song of Solomon 1:2 and 8:1 

·        The kiss of greeting could also be used for treachery : see Proverbs 27:6.  Such was the kiss with which Joab greeted Amasa when he stabbed him (2 Samuel 20:9) and the kiss of betrayal that Judas used to identify Jesus to the Temple police (Matthew 26:48; Mark 14:44; and Luke 22:47). 

·        It was an expected courtesy for a host to greet a guest with a kiss as is mentioned in Luke 7:45 when Jesus reproached Simon the Pharisee : "You did not give me a kiss but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet."

·        And members of the Church greeted each other with a kiss:  Romans 16:16 "Greet one another in a holy kiss" and in 1Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1Thessolonians 5:26; and 1Peter 5:14

Paul is asking the Christians of Rome, on his behalf, to exchange this sign of affection and solidarity with each other as members of "the family" which is the universal family/Church of God.  This ancient greeting survives in the Catholic Mass in the ritual of the Pax: the sign of peace, a rite described in St. Justin Martyr's letter to the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius [138-161AD] explaining how Christians worshipped circa the year 150/155AD and that in the liturgical celebration Christians exchanged a "kiss of peace" with one another who share the family solidarity of belief in Christ Jesus, reconciling with each other in brotherly love before receiving the Eucharist [which we do in obedience to Jesus command in Matthew 5:24].

 

St. Paul appeals to the Roman Christians for their prayers as he prepares for the journey to Jerusalem that he planned to make in what would probably be the spring of 58AD, and he gives them a final warning.

Please read Romans 16:17-20: Paul's final warning

"17 I urge you, brothers, be on your guard against the people who are out to stir up disagreements and bring up difficulties against the teaching which you learnt. Avoid them.  18 People of that sort are servants not of our Lord Christ, but of their own greed; and with talk that sounds smooth and reasonable they deceive the minds of the unwary.  19 Your obedience has become known to everyone, and I am very pleased with you for it; but I should want you to be learned only in what is good, and unsophisticated about all that is evil. 20  The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you."

 

This final warning is similar to Paul's parting words in other letters; for example, see Galatians 6:12-17.  He is probably referring to the Jews who try convince Jewish Christians to reject the New Covenant or Jewish Christians who cannot accept a unified brethren and reject the Gentile Christians [see Galatians 5:7-12; Philippians 3:18-19].  In this case, Paul advises, debating the issues can only go so far'there is a point when such discord can become harmful to the believer and he should walk away.  It is wise in such cases to remember Paul's warning in Romans 14:23: "...every action which does not spring from faith is sin."  Our actions must be prompted by a conviction of faith.

 

In Romans 16:19 Paul again compliments the Roman Christians: "Your obedience has become known to everyone, and I am very pleased with you for it.."  And then he admonishes them to discern between what is good and what is evil and promises in verse 20"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."

Question: To what Old Testament promise is Paul alluding in this verse? 

Answer: He is recalling God's promise in Genesis 3:15 that the "seed of the Woman" will have the power to "crush the head of the serpent".  Jesus has fulfilled this promise with His Resurrection, but Christians, as the collective "seed of the Woman, Mary" are still in battle against Satan but we have take courage because we have already been promised the victory!

 

Before Paul concludes his letter he names members of the Corinthian church who are friends as well as his companions and fellow workers in Corinth.  Many scholars do not believe this section of Paul's letter from 16:21-27 is part of the original document, arguing that verse 20 is the original closing formula of the letter.   Perhaps that is possible but these verses are included in all but a few of the ancient copies of Paul's letter to the Romans and some of those omit the entire list of names, perhaps because those copies were used in the liturgical readings just as we omit parts of Scripture from certain passages of Scripture used in our liturgical readings [i.e. the lengthy Old Testament genealogies].  Isn't it also possible that those with Paul'maybe even looking over the shoulder of his secretary, wanted to be included and suggested that their greetings be added along with the greeting of Paul's secretary, Tertius which made it necessary to close the letter with the lovely doxology which follows the greeting of the Corinthian Christians in verses 24-27?  Haven't we all had such an experience?  Isn't it likely that Paul's fellow laborers in the "great harvest of souls" would take an interest in his letter to the very important Roman Christian community where many of them had friends who were serving Christ in the center of the pagan Roman Empire?

 

Please read Romans 16:21-23: Last greetings from Christians in Corinth "Timothy, who is working with me, sends greetings to you, and so do my kinsmen Lucius, Jason and Sosipater.  I, Tertius, who am writing this letter, greet you in the Lord.  Greetings to you from Gaius, my host here, and host of the whole Church.  Erastus, the city treasurer, sends greetings to you, and our brother Quartus"

 

LIST OF ROMAN CHRISTIANS and CHRISTIANS WORKING WITH PAUL IN CORINTH, GREECE

+ = in Rome  * = in Corinth

1. Phoebe*

16:1: a deaconess of the Church at Cenchreae, Greece (one of the port cities of Corinth) who delivered Paul's letter to the Roman church.

2. Prisca +(Priscilla) and her husband

3. Aquila +

(notice Paul lists Prisca first.  It was unusual for a wife to be given preference over her husband in this way, and he does not use her formal name nor refer to her simply as Aquila's wife, giving her status in her own right)

16:3-4: Paul commends them as "fellow workers" for Christ in whose home the Church meets.  Paul first meant this Jewish couple in Corinth, Greece, during his second missionary journey which lasted from circa 50 -52 AD. Aquila was a native of Pontus, a Roman province of NE Asia Minor near the Back Sea.  Paul was very fond of this couple and knew them for years, often stayed in their home which also served as a church for believers.  He credits themn with saving his life.  When Paul first meant them the couple had recently been driven out of Rome by Claudius edit banning both Jews and Christians that the Roman historian Suetonius mentions in his history of Rome.  This edict was enacted circa 49 or 50AD.  The couple practiced the trade of tent or prayer shawl making as did Paul.  This couple actively preached salvation through Jesus Christ and offered their home to the faithful for the celebration of the Eucharist.  See Acts 18:2-26; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2.  

4. Epaenetus +

(probably the same as Epaphras/Epaphroditus).  These various spellings all mean "highly desirable" in Greek

16:5: Paul lists him as his first convert to Christianity in Asia.  Epaphras was a Christian of Colossae, Greece (see Colossians 4:12) who founded the Christian Church of Colossae and who was also a faithful companion during Paul's imprisonment in Rome (see Philemon 23).  He brought gifts to Paul from the church at Philippi (Philippians 4:18) and was later sent by Paul back to Philippi after Epaphroditus become ill (Philippians 2:25).

5. Maria (Mary) +

16:6: Paul commends her for her hard work for the Church. No other information is available on this Roman Christian (probably the Jewish "Miriam" but could be the Latin feminine for Marius )

6. Andronicus + &

7. Junias (Junia) +

16:7 Kinsmen/Jews who Paul's acknowledges embraced Jesus as the Messiah before his conversion and who he hails as apostles [in the wider sense of Romans 1:1] who were imprisoned with him at one time. St. John Chrysostom identifies them as a married couple.  Paul experiences imprisonment on several occasions before writing this letter and would be imprisoned afterward as well (Acts chapters 23-28; 2 Corinthians 11:23; 2 Timothy 1:16). 

8. Ampliatus +

16:8: Identified as a friend "beloved" by God .  This name seems to have been a common slave name and has been found in several Latin inscriptions from this period.

9. Urban +

(Latin =Urbanus, meaning "city dweller")

16:9: Identified by Paul as "fellow worker" in the spread of the Gospel.  This name appears in several very early Latin inscriptions from this period. 

10. Stachys +

16:9: Named by Paul as a beloved friend

11. Apelles +

16:10: A described by Paul as a "servant of Christ"'possible Church leader

12. Household of Aristobulus +

16:10: Christian members of this Roman household'possibly slaves (?)

13. Herodion +

16:11: A kinsman/countryman of Paul's (Jewish name)

14. Household of Narcissus +

16:11: Christian members of this Roman household'possibly slaves (?).  Ambrosiaster and others record that Narcissus was a presbyter of a congregation/ church home.

15. Tryphaena +&

16. Tryphosa +

16:12: Scholars have suggested that these women may be twins.  Their names mean "delicately and delicate" and are names that are found in Greek inscriptions.  Paul identifies them as women who labor in the service of the Lord.

17. Persis +

16:12: A woman who is a beloved friend and hard worker in the Church. 

18. Rufus + and his

19. mother +

16:13: Rufus is identified as a "chosen servant" of the Lord and therefore is probably a Church leader.  He may possibly be one of the sons of Simeon of Cyrene who became promiment in the Church [see Mark 15:21] and who were known to Mark when he was in Rome, or he may be Rufus Prudens, a Roman Senator who sheltered the Church in his palace [see 2 Timothy 4:22].  Paul is fond of his mother who became a spiritual mother to him.

20. Asyncritus +

21. Phlegon +

22. Hermes  +

23. Patrobas +

24. Hermas +

and others with them

16:14: Greetings extended to possible members of a household or a faith community meeting in a home.  There was a Hermas who is believed to be the younger brother of Pope St. Clement who will become a priest of the Church in Rome.  He wrote "The Shepherd" and is listed among the successors of the Apostles in Rome. The great 3rd cent. Scholar Origen believes this is the same man.

25. Philologus + &

26. Julia +

27. Nereus + &

28. his sister +

29. Olympas + et all

16:15: greetings to these men and women probably of a church home led by Philologus and his wife'identified as God's holy people.

30. Timothy *

16:21: Paul's spiritual "son" working with Paul in Corinth.  He is a native of Lystra in Lycaonia; son of a Greek father and a Jewish Christian mother whose name is Eunice and the grandson of the Jewish Christian, Lois [2 Tim. 1:5].  Timothy joined Paul as a missionary companion on his second missionary journey.  He was part of Paul's team in the evangelization of Corinth; he was sent by Paul to both Philippi and Thessalonica to strengthen those communities.  Paul will write Timothy two letters.  He is one of Paul's most intimate and trusted friends. See Acts 16:1-3; 17:14; 19:22; 20:4; 1 Cor. 16:10-12; 2 Cor. 1:1; 19; Phl. 1:1; 2:19; Col. :1:1; 1Th. 1:1; 3:2, 6; 2 Th. 1:1; Phm. 1; Heb. 13:23; 1 & 2 Timothy

31. Lucius *

32. Jason *

33. Sosipater *

16:21: Paul's kinsmen who were with him the winter of 58AD in Corinth. Lucius may be the Lucius of Cyrene mentioned as a teacher in Acts 13:1.  Jason may be Paul's host in Acts 17:5-9.  Sosipater (Sopater) is perhaps the same companion as Acts 20:4

34. Tertius

16:22: Paul's secretary (in Greek = amanuenses) who wrote out the letter as Paul dictated it.  His name is Latin and means the 3rd = possibly the 3rd son?

35. Gaius *

16:23: Named by Tertius as his host in Corinth and of the whole church which probably means the faith community meets in his house.

36. Erastus *

16:23: Named by Tertius as the city treasurer of Corinth, a man of influence in the Church.  He may be the brother Paul sent on a mission in Acts 19:22; also see 2 Timothy 4:20.  A 1st century AD Latin inscription has been discovered in Corinth naming the city official Erastus as donating the funds to pave the city square.

37. Quartus *

16:23: Named by Tertius as "our brother", and not "my brother", which means "brother" in the Christian sense of brotherhood. 

 

Let's study Paul's list of ancient Christians in detail.  Of the ten women Paul mentions in Romans 16:1-23, it appears that seven are singled out as actively serving the Church in leadership positions: Prisca (Pricilla), Maria (Mary), Junia, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis, and Rufus' mother'all in Rome; and Phoebe who is the only woman given the title "deaconess" and who is the only woman mentioned in a leadership role from among Paul's companions in Greece.  St. John Chrysostom writes that "men should be put to shame" by such holy women as these listed by Paul in Romans.   In mentioning so many women in positions of leadership within the Church, Paul obviously does not condemn but encourages women to actively serve Christ.  St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople [m. 207AD] wrote concerning Paul's comments about women teaching in 1 Timothy 2:12 compared to his praise of women in Romans 16: "What does Paul mean when he says that he does not permit a woman to teach? He means to prevent a woman from coming forward publicly and preaching in the pulpit; he does not stop them from teaching altogether.  If this were the case.....how would Priscilla have come to instruct Apollos?  [..].  The women of those days were more spirited than lions, sharing with the Apostles their labors for the Gospel's sake. Homilies on Romans 31.

 

Five men are mentioned who are leaders in Rome: Aquila, Andronicus, Urbanus, Apelles, and Rufus.  Six men are Paul's countrymen'Jewish Christians, some of whom came to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah prior to Paul's conversion; some may even be "kinsmen" in the flesh as well as in the spirit according to the early Church scholar Origen and others [we know that Paul had a sister in Jerusalem and a nephew; see Acts 23:16].  20 of the names mentioned are Greek names found in 1st century documents while 10 are common Latin names and perhaps two are Hebrew names.  The other names are less common and may reflect the ethnic diversity of the Roman population from the far reaches of the Empire.  Many of those mentioned are probably either slaves or former slaves.  Paul names some Roman Christians who appear to be slaves from the households of two pagan Romans, Aristobulus and Narcissus

 

In Romans 16:1 Paul identifies Phoebe by the title "deaconess"'a position of authority and responsibility.  The Greek word is diakonia, which means "service."  This designation is first suggested in Acts chapter 6 where seven male "deacons" are selected from among the disciples of Jesus Christ: "About this time when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution [diakonia / service ] (of food), their own widows were being overlooked.  So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, 'It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom, to whom we can hand over this duty." Acts 6:1-3.  It is interesting that seven men were selected; twelve is the number of Israel, originally represented by the twelve tribes and seven was the number of the Gentile nations who inhabited Canaan [see Deuteronomy 7:1, also quoted in Acts 13:19]. The "Hellenists" were Jews from outside Judea who had come from the Gentile nations to live in the Promised Land while the "Hebrews" were Jews who were native to Judea and the Galilee and who had their own Synagogues to help support widows.  These seven men were selected to offer service to the Church by ministering to the needs of the congregation'this did not include preaching which rested in the hands of the Apostles: "We ourselves will continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word." Acts 6:4.  Therefore, "deacon/ deaconess" is the title of a service position in the early Church:

 

This is the leadership role in which the Gentile woman Phoebe served the Church at Corinth.  No where in the writings of the New Testament or in early Church documents does the "deaconess" have a role beyond practical service to the congregation'she most certainly did not distribute the Eucharist or preside over the celebration of the Eucharist as some feminists have suggested.

 

Please read Romans 16:25-27: Closing Doxology

This long doxology is unique to Paul's letter to the Romans and many modern scholars do not believe it was original to his letter but suggest it was added later by a writer other than St. Paul.  In some ancient copies of Romans it is placed after 14:23.  Marcion, the 2nd century AD priest turned Gnostic heretic, completely eliminated this doxology'along with every passage after Romans 14:23.  But he also removed the genealogies of Jesus from the Gospels and other major passages from New Testament Scripture. Yet the spirit of Marcion, whom the successors of the Apostles severely condemned [St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (martyred c. 155AD) called him "the firstborn of Satan"], lives on in many modern scholars.  It cannot be denied that this final doxology does return to Paul's theme of the "mystery" of the Gospel [see Romans 11:25; Ephesians 3:6] in verse 25, and also completes the theme he introduced in the beginning of his letter when he wrote that it is "Jesus Christ, our Lord through whom we have received grace and our apostolic mission of winning the obedience of faith among all the nations for the honor of his name." The return to the central theme of  "obedience in faith" in verse 26 brings Paul's message of unity and solidarity in Christ to the Roman church full circle'beginning with the message of obedience and ending with the same theme'like the opening and closing of a great door which is the Church hinged by the Cross of Christ Jesus.

 

"25 And now to him who can make you strong

 in accordance with the Gospel that I preach

and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,

in accordance with that mystery

which for endless ages was kept secret

26 but now (as the prophets wrote) is revealed,

as the eternal God commanded,

to be made known to all the nations,

so that they obey in faith: 27 to him, the only wise God,

give glory through Jesus Christ for ever and ever.  Amen."

 

 

Question: How is it that God makes the Christian strong?  See Romans 1:11-12; 1 Corinthians 1:7-9; 11:26-32; 2 Corinthians 1:20-22; Colossians 2:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3, 13; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 3:3-5.

Answer: A Christian is strong when he/she is firmly grounded in sound doctrine, instructed by the successors of the Apostles and nourished by the correct reception of the sacraments through Mother Church and committed to the practice of living a life empowered by the Holy Spirit with Christ living in each believer and through each believer who forms the Body of Christ'day by day until the Day of Judgment.

 

Question: What "mystery" is Paul referring to in verse 25?  See 1 Corinthians 2:7, 8, 10; Ephesians 3:3-12; 6:19; Colossians 1:26-27;

Answer: The "mystery" that is revealed in the climax of history is that salvation has come to man through the Gospel of Jesus Christ in which the whole of humanity is welcomed back into God's family'including the Gentile nations.

 

In Romans 16:26 Paul returns to the repeated theme of "obedience of faith" that he first introduced in Romans 1:5 and which he now repeats at the close of his letter in Romans:

·        Romans 1:3-5: "This is the Gospel concerning his Son who, in terms of human nature was born a descendant of David and who, in terms of the Spirit and of holiness was designated Son of God in power by resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ, our Lord through whom we have received grace and our apostolic mission of winning the obedience of faith among all the nations for the honor of his name."

·        Romans 16:26: "...but now (as the prophets wrote) is revealed, as the eternal God commanded, to be made know to all the nations, so that they obey the faith..."

 

Faith is the necessary condition of the revelation of Jesus Christ and obedience to this faith is required throughout one's faith journey. Addressing the necessity of "The obedience of faith" the Magisterium quoting Romans 1:5; 16:26 and 2 Corinthians 10:5-6, wrote in the document Dei Verbum that this obedience "...is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,' and freely assenting to the truth revealed by him.  To  make this act of faith, the grace of God and the interior help of the Holy Spirit must precede and assist, moving the heart and turning it to God, opening the eyes of the mind and giving  joy and ease to everyone in assenting to the truth and believing it.  To bring about an ever deeper understanding of revelation, the same Holy Spirit constantly brings faith to completion by his gifts." The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II, Dei Verbum 1, 5

 

The obedience of faith as Paul illustrated in chapters 6-8 and 12-15, is faith which leads to our justification through Jesus Christ in which God's gift of new life is made possible through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is a gift empowered through God the Holy Spirit and enacted in the Sacrament of Baptism in which we die to sin and death and are resurrected to new life in Christ, becoming members in God's family. It is a gift that is unattainable without claiming the grace available to us through our obedience of faith'the active, living, vital faith that moves us forward from grace to faith to repentance to baptism to a life that lives to glorify God by imitating Christ in our joys and in our sufferings, and in our acts of mercy and love toward others.

 

Paul does not mention either St. Peter or Peter's disciples Sts. Linus and Clement [future Popes/Bishops of Rome], nor does he mention St. Claudia [see historical note at the end of this lesson] who was prominent in the Roman Church [a community meant in her home] and who, along with Linus receive mention during what was probably his last imprisonment in 2 Timothy 4:21. Clement is mentioned as a "fellow worker" Philippians 4:3, a letter written perhaps during his first Roman captivity in 61/62-63AD.  This is probably either because Paul had not become acquainted with some of these Saints and then others, like Peter and his disciples may not have been in residence in Rome at this time but were traveling to the many faith communities across Greece and Asia Minor, monitoring their spiritual growth and fidelity to the true teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Peter was a marked man from the time of Acts chapter 5 when the angel released Peter from prison in Jerusalem.  The Jews were determined to put him to death.  Peter founded the community in Antioch, Syria [which became Paul's home church] before going to Rome and at some time, according to Bishop Dionysius Bishop of Corinth [writing in 166AD], Peter also preached at Corinth sometime after Paul had established the faith community there during his second missionary journey of 50-52AD'a practice Peter may have followed after each new community became established.

 

In the spring of 58AD Paul did make his journey to Jerusalem and he did deliver the precious contribution from the Christian Gentile churches of Greece to the mother church in Jerusalem [see Acts 21-23] where he was arrested and sent to the Roman governor at Caesarea, the provincial capital [Acts 23:23-35].  In Caesarea Marcus Antonius Felix, the Roman governor, heard the Jewish leaders' complaints against Paul [Acts 24], and listened to Paul's eloquent defense [Acts 10-21].  Felix decided to put Paul under "house arrest" until the Roman Tribune Lysias visited [Felix's superior]'he also hoped to extract some sort of a ransom for Paul's release.  Paul remained in comfortable confinement'allowed to have unrestricted access to visitors, for two years. During this enforced confinement he was able to teach the Church and her faith communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Galilee.  The Roman governor also gave Paul several opportunities to share the Gospel with him and with his wife Drucilla, a Jewess who was the great-granddaughter of Herod the Great and Mariamme, the last legitimate Jewish Princess of the Hasmonean line.  The ancient document containing the Book of Acts of the Apostles known as the Codex Bezae reports that Drusilla asked to hear Paul preach about Jesus of Nazareth and adds that when her husband was not responsive to Paul's message it was her request that Paul remain in Caesarea under arrest.  Two years later Felix died suddenly in 60AD and Porcius Festus replaced him as the Roman governor of the province [Acts 24:27].  Immediately after his arrival in Caesarea Festus granted Paul a hearing and when Paul, fearing the Jews might demand that he strand trial in Jerusalem, Paul appealed to Caesar for justice as a Roman citizen, Festus honored Paul's request and had him sent to Rome [Acts 25-6] after giving Paul the opportunity to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to him, King Agrippa and his sister Princess Bernice [great-grandchildren of Herod the Great] and siblings of Drusilla.

 

After many hardships Paul finally arrived on the Italian peninsula.  Upon Paul's ship docking at the Roman port of Ostia, the Roman Christians, who had been notified of his arrival, sent a delegation to meet Paul on his way to Rome at "the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns" [see Acts 28:15].  Luke records in Acts 28:21 that the Roman Christians assured Paul they had not received letters from Jerusalem with complaints about him and that the Jewish Christians who had come from Judea had heard of Paul and his work but that none had carried negative reports about him.  They also told Paul that they were anxious to learn about his views on the various Christian heresies that were already infecting the true doctrine of the Church [Acts 28:22].  We do know from accounts written by both Roman and Christian writers like the Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius and the Christian leader who would become the 3rd Bishop of Rome after Peter, Clement of Rome, that there was a large number of Christians in Rome at this time and that although they were now distinguished from Jews that even pagan Romans related Christians to an origin in Judea. Clement wrote that there was "a considerable multitude" of Christians in the Roman capital [1 Clement 6.1], and Suetonius refers to them as "a class of human beings given to a new and mischievous superstition" [Life of Nero, 16.2].

 

Paul spent about two years in Rome under "house arrest" in the Roman capital waiting for his case to be heard.  It was a productive two years, however.  His visitors were not limited and Paul taught the Christians of Rome from his prison for those two very fruitful years and wrote letters to the churches he had founded in Colossus, Ephesus, and Philippi, as well as a letter to Philemon.  After Paul was release from his first Roman captivity from 60-62AD there is evidence that he traveled to the west to begin his missionary work in Spain as he had originally planned.  Most scholars assume his first letter to Timothy and his letter to Titus were written at this time.  There can be no doubt that Paul's preaching in Rome unified the Church and prepared the members of the Roman faith community for their martyrdom when Christian persecution began in 64AD.  We have several accounts of the heroic martyrdom of these Roman Christians.  The Roman historian Tacitus records that the Christians were blamed for the great fire that destroyed 10 of the 14 Roman precincts on July 19, 64AD after many Romans suspected that Nero was responsible for setting the fire.  The Roman historian Tacitus, who was not favorably disposed to Christians, wrote in his history of Rome: "To suppress this rumor, Nero created scapegoats.  He punished with exquisite cruelty the notoriously depraved group whom the populace called Christians.  The originator of the group, Christ, had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate.  [...].  First, Nero arrested self-acknowledged members of this sect.  Then, on the information they supplied [after torture], an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.  Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths.  Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.  Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car.  Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed." Tacitus, Annuls, 15.44.  To this account the Roman historian Sulpicius Severus [ca 360-420AD] adds: "In this way, cruelty first began to be manifested against the Christians.  Afterward, too, their religion was prohibited by laws which were enacted; and by edicts openly set forth it was proclaimed unlawful to be Christian."  Chronicle, 2.29

 

The murders of the Christians of the Roman church did not have the effect the Roman ruler desired.  Instead of decimating the Church into oblivion'the Church in Rome continued to grow.  In another great wave of persecution that was to follow circa 190AD the Roman Christian Tertullian wrote: Afflict us, torment us, crucify us'in the proportion as we are mowed down, we increase; the blood of Christians is a seed." Tertullian, Apologia 50.  And in a letter he wrote to the Church in Rome before his martyrdom in circa 107AD Bishop Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the church of the first Christian martyrs what he knew they fully understood concerning offering oneself as a sacrifice for Christ, "I look forward with joy to the wild animals held in readiness for me, and I pray that they may attack me; I will coax them to devour me, so that they may not, as happened in some cases, shrink from seizing me...I bid all men know that of my own free will I die for God,... [...]  Let me be given to the wild beasts, for through them I can attain unto God.   I am God's wheat, and I am ground by the wild beasts that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.  Entice the wild beasts that they may become my sepulcher...[..].  ; come fire and cross and grapplings with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, hacking of limbs, crushings of my whole body; only be it mine to attain unto Jesus Christ.  [...].  I am God's wheat, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found Christ's pure bread." Epistle to the Romans, St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch

 

Some time after this initial great martyrdom of the Roman Christians Paul returned to Rome and was arrested along with St. Peter and Peter's wife and was martyred with them in the year 67AD.  Scholars debate whether his second letter to Timothy was written during this first captivity in Rome or during his last Roman captivity shortly before his death'St. Jerome testifies that the second letter to Timothy was written shortly before Paul's martyrdom.  In the second pastoral letter to his beloved "son" Timothy, who was continuing Paul's work in Greece [see 1 Timothy 1:3], Paul gives Timothy instruction and encouragement, but Paul also mentions his imprisonment, "I hope the Lord will be kind to all the family of Onesiphorus, because he has often been a comfort to me and has never been ashamed of my chains.  On the contrary, as soon as he reached Rome, he searched hard for me and found me" 2 Timothy 1:16-17.  And then Paul's remarks in 2 Timothy 4:6-7 seems to express a premonition of imminent death and he mentions that two friends had abandoned him, perhaps because they feared if they continued to visit him after he had been condemned to death that they too would face martyrdom [see 2 Timothy 1:15].  Paul seems prepared to accept his destiny as he writes: "As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to depart.  I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come for me now is the crown of uprightness which the Lord, the upright judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his appearing" 2 Timothy 4:6-8. Paul also mentions appearing before the Roman magistrates in 2 Timothy 4:16-18 and he makes the request twice that Timothy come to see him before the winter in 2 Timothy 4:9 and 21.

 

Paul loved and served His Savior preaching the Gospel of salvation to his very last breath.  Bishop Eusebius in his Church History quoting a letter of Dionysius Bishop of Corinth to Pope Soter, Bishop of Rome c. 166 AD writes, "That both Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom at the same time is affirmed as follows by Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth when writing to the Romans:  'You have also, by your very admonition, brought together the planting that was made by Peter and Paul at Rome and at Corinth; for both of them alike planted in our Corinth and taught us; and both alike, teaching similarly in Italy, suffered martyrdom at the same time.' "   That both Peter and Paul were martyred at the same time [both their feast days are celebrated by the Church on June 29th] was also recorded by the historian Gaius (Geek) or Caius (Latin), who wrote his account in the time of Pope Zephyrinus, Bishop of Rome, circa AD 203 "I can point out the monuments of the Apostles.  For if you are willing to go to the Vatican or to the Ostian Way, you will find the monuments of those who founded this Church." [see Eusebius, Church History, page 129].  Pope St. Clement I, a disciple and successor of St. Peter who probably knew St. Paul intimately [possibly the Clement mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:3] eloquently sums up the depth of the faithfulness of the Apostle to the Gentiles when he wrote, "Paul, also, having seven times worn chains, and been hunted and stoned, received the prize of such endurance.  For he was the herald of the Gospel in the West as well as in the East, and enjoyed the illustrious reputation of the faith in teaching the whole world to be righteous.  And after he had been in the extremity of the West, he suffered martyrdom before the sovereigns of mankind; and thus delivered from this world, he went to his holy place, the most brilliant example of steadfastness that we possess." [The Epistles of Clement: to the Church in Philippi 4.3]. 

 

The reference in St. Clement's passage to the "extremity of the West" is most likely a reference to the Roman Province of Iberium, or Spain.  "The West" is an expression often used by Roman writers to identify Spain.  In his Church History Bishop Eusebius also records, "After defending himself successfully, it is currently reported that the Apostle again went forth to proclaim the Gospel and afterward came to Rome a second time, and was martyred under Nero." Both St. John Chrysostom and St. Jerome in their commentaries on Paul's letter to the Romans express the understanding that Paul was released from his Roman imprisonment and traveled to Spain to preach the Gospel: "Paul after his residence in Rome departed to Spain" [St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans], before he was arrested an second time and martyred.

 

St. Jerome records his understanding of St. Paul's two imprisonments and martyrdom in Rome when he wrote, "It ought to be said that at the first defense, the power of Nero having not yet been confirmed, nor his wickedness broken forth to such a degree as the histories relate concerning him, Paul was dismissed by Nero, that the Gospel of Christ might be preached also in the West.  As he himself writes in the second epistle to Timothy, at the time when he was about to be put to death,  dictating his epistle as he did while in chains; 'At my first defense no one took my part, but all forsook me: may it not be laid to their account. But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me; that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and that all the Gentiles might hear', and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion''clearly indicating Nero as a lion on account of his cruelty....He then, in the fourteenth year of Nero* on the same day with Peter, was beheaded at Rome for Christ's sake and was buried in the Ostian Way..." The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Jerome, page 363.  *Note: Nero became Emperor in 54AD. The 14th year of Nero's reign, counting as the ancients counted, identifies year of the martyrdom of Paul and Peter as 67AD

 

Bishop Eusebius also recorded an account of the deaths of the Apostles Peter and Paul, "It is therefore recorded that Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified under Nero. This account of Peter and Paul is substantiated by the fact that their names are preserved in the cemeteries of that place even to the present day [4th century AD].  It is confirmed likewise by Caius [Church historian of the early 200's], a member of the Church, who arose under Zephyrinus, Bishop of Rome [reigned 203-221]. He, in a published disputation with Proclus, the leader of the Phrygian heresy, speaks as follows concerning the places where the sacred corpses of the aforesaid apostles are laid: 'But I can show the trophies of the apostles.  For if you will go to the Vatican [hill] or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this Church.'  And that they both suffered martyrdom at the same time is stated by Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth [bishop c. 167-175], in his Epistle to the Romans, in the following words: 'You have thus by such an admonition bound together the planting of Peter and of Paul at Rome and Corinth.  For both of them planted and likewise taught us in our Corinth.  And they taught together in like manner in Italy, and suffered martyrdom at the same time.'  I have quoted these things in order that the truth of the history might be still more confirmed." [Bishop Eusebius, Church History, 2.25.5-8].

 

It was the vision of the deaths of these two great Christian princes of the Church that inspired the hymn that is sung by the Church on their feast day on June the 29th :

"O happy Rome!  Who in they martyr-princes' blood,

A twofold stream, art washed and doubly sanctified.

All earthly beauty thou outshinest  far

Empurpled by their outpoured life-blood's glorious tide."

 

St. Peter, at his request, was crucified upside down.  St. Paul did not suffer crucifixion because he was a Roman citizen'the humiliation of crucifixion was reserved for non-Romans.  As a Roman citizen he was given the more dignified execution of beheading.  According to tradition Paul was martyred outside the Ostian Gate and when his head was struck off his body it bounced three times on the ground, producing at each place his head struck the earth a fountain that sprang up out of the ground'the first hot, the second warm and the third cold.  The site of his martyrdom is still venerated as Tre Fontane, the "three fountains" and the 3 natural springs still flow, although there is little difference in the water temperature.  Paul was originally buried on the Via Ostia [where the Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls now stands].  The Catholic documents that record the deaths of the early Christian martyrs, known as The Martyrologies, provide the additional information that the Roman Senator, St. Pudens, in whose home the Roman Christians regularly celebrated the Eucharist [see 2 Timothy 4:21], retrieved the body of Paul and interred it on his estate situated on the Via Ostia.  Later when the grave was threatened during the Valerian persecution, it is reported that the bodies of both Peter and Paul were taken to a place of safety and hidden in the Ad Catacumbas [more specifically the section of the catacomb named for St. Sebastian] on the Appian Way. 

 

The persecution of the Church finally ended with the coming to power of the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine I, who in 313AD issued the Edict of Milan, protecting Christianity as a state approved religion. Emperor Constantine built a large basilica over the grave of St. Peter on Vatican Hill and another smaller basilica at the site of St. Paul's martyrdom near the Ostian Gate.  Pope Sylvester I consecrated the churches on the same day in November 18th, 324AD.  But it was not until Constantine celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of his accession in the summer of 335 that, in honor of the celebration, the bones of these two saints were solemnly removed from their resting place at the catacombs of St. Sebastian, where they had been carefully entombed since 258AD.  The sacred bones were wrapped in purple cloth and with two solemn processions were taken to the churches that marked the traditional sites of their martyrdoms at the basilica on Vatican Hill and the Ostian Way and were laid to rest. [see Constantine the Great, John Holland Smith, page 286; also The Search for the Twelve Apostles, page 18].

 

St. Paul's basilica was not as large or as grand as St. Peter's and could not accommodate all the pilgrims who came to pay their respects to the great Apostle to the Gentiles, and so the original church was replaced by a larger and grander basilica by an imperial edict of the Roman Emperor Valentinianus II in 386AD.  This church was consecrated by Pope Siricius in 390AD and was later restored after an earthquake by Pope Leo the Great in the 5th century.  The Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls was destroyed by fire in 1823, was again rebuilt, and this is the present church known as St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls in Rome.  A Benedictine priest is constantly on guard at the site of St. Paul's tomb which is covered with a marble slab bearing the inscription "Paulo-Apostolo Mart," dating to the 4th century AD.  The tomb is located beneath a grille on the floor of the High Altar of St. Paul's Basilica'where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed daily above his tomb!  

 

Note: Some Jewish Christians were not convinced by the teachings of St. Paul and the hierarchy of the Church concerning the full acceptance of Gentiles into the New Covenant.  Clinging to their national and euthenics prejudices this group within the New Covenant people of God continued to oppose the decisions of the first Magisterium and the evangelization of the Gentile peoples of the Roman world.  Some time after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD they split from the universal Church, formed their own sect known as the Ebionites, and eventually disappeared from the pages of history.  But St Paul, Jewish Apostle to the Gentile has not disappeared.  His letters are just as vital, instructional, and doctrinally sound today as they were in the first century AD.  His is still teaching us from his letters just as he taught his beloved "son" Timothy.  St Paul speaks to his disciple St. Timothy and to all of us from his prison in Rome shortly before his death:

2 Timothy 1:8-10 "So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to our Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but share in my hardships for the sake of the Gospel, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy'not because of anything we ourselves had done but for his own purpose and by his own grace.  This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has been revealed only by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus.  He has abolished death, and he has brought to light immortality and life through the Gospel, in whose service I have been made herald, apostle and teacher."

 

St. Paul, beloved Apostle to the Gentile nations, pray for us your spiritual children, as we journey in obedience of faith through our exile in this life to our eternal homeland in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Amen!

 

Questions for group discussion: Concerning Paul's warning in Romans 16:17-20'then, and today, Christian apologetics has a limit. When the other party cannot continue in a dialogue of love and respect it is time to walk away, "shaking the dust off your feet." 

Question: How did Jesus instruct the Apostles when He sent them out on their first missionary journey?  Did Paul adhere to these same instructions passed on to him by the Apostles? See Matthew 10:1, 4-16; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6; Acts 13:50-51.

Answer:  It was the custom of Jews or Israelites when returning to the Promised Land after sojourning in pagan territory to "shake the dust off their feet" before stepping again on the holy ground.  The dust of any other land other than the Holy Land is understood to be unclean since is it contaminated by unbelievers.  In this passage Jesus is telling the Apostles that this kind of impurity is attached to any place or person who denies the Son of God and His Gospel of salvation. There are times when, after having share the Gospel of salvation, if it is rejected we have fulfilled our obligation and it is time to "shake the dust off our feet" and walk away, leaving the dispute and the disputer in God's hands. At the end of Acts 13 Paul and  Barnabas are rejected by the Jews they have attempted to lead to Christ and their opponents both persecute the Apostles and expel them from their county.  Upon their departure Paul and Barnabas "..shook the dust from their feet in protest against them" and gave those who persisted in obstinate rebellion against the Messiah up to God.

Question: How far should a Catholic Christian persist when confronted with someone who is not a Christian or who is anti-Catholic?  What are our obligations and when are those obligations fulfilled?  It every such case what is the guiding rule for Christian behavior?

Question: Has Catholic doctrine remained unchanged since the time of St. Paul?

Answer: Jesus teaching has not changed but the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, has come to a deeper understanding of that divine revelation with each generation.  St. Vincent of Lerins has a very good response to this question.  His feast day is celebrated on May 24 and he lived in the late 4th to mid 5th century AD:

St. Vincent of Lerins: "On the Development of Doctrine in the Church"

"But some one will say perhaps, Shall there then, be no progress in Christ's Church?  Certainly; all possible progress.  For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it?  Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged in itself, alternation, that it be transformed into something else.  The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning. 

 

The growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the growth of the body, which, though in process of years it is developed and attains its full size, yet remains still the same.  There is a wide difference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age; yet they who were once young are still the same now that they have become old, insomuch that though the stature and outward form of the individual are changed, yet his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the same.  An infant's limbs are small, a young man's large, yet the infant and the young man are the same.  Men when full grown have the same number of joints that they had when children; and if there be any to which mature age has given birth, these were already present in embryo, so that nothing new is produced in them when old which was not already latent in them when children.  This, then, is undoubtedly a true and legitimate rule of progress, this the established and most beautiful order of growth, that mature age ever develops in the man those parts and forms which the wisdom of the Creator had already framed beforehand in the infant.  Whereas, if the human form were changed into some shape belonging to another kind, or at any rate, if the number of its limbs were increased or diminished, the result would be that the whole body would become either a wreck or a monster, or, at the least, would be impaired and enfeebled.

 

In like manner, it behooves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress, so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterated, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and so to speak, in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its distinctive property, no variation in its limits.

 

For example: Our forefathers in the old time sowed wheat in the Church's field.  It would be most unmeet and iniquitous if we, their descendants, instead of the genuine truth of wheat, should reap the counterfeit error of tares.  This rather should be the result'there should be no discrepancy between the first and the last.  From doctrine which was sown as wheat, we should reap, in the increase, doctrine of the same kind'wheat also; so that when in process of time any of the original seed is developed, and now flourishes under cultivation, no change may ensure in the character of the plant.  There may supervene shape, form, variation in outward appearance, but the nature of each kind must remain the same.  God forbid that those rose-beds of Catholic interpretation should be converted into thorns and thistles.  God forbid that in that spiritual paradise from plants of cinnamon and balsam darnel and wolfsbane should of a sudden shoot forth. 

 

Therefore, whatever has been sown by the fidelity of the Fathers in this husbandry of God's Church, the same ought to be cultivated and taken care of by the industry of their children, the same ought to flourish and ripen, the same ought to advance an go forth to perfection.  For it is right that those ancient doctrines of heavenly philosophy should, as time goes one, be cared for, smoothed, polished; but no that they should be changed, not that they should be maimed, not that they should be mutilated.  They may receive proof, illustration, definiteness; but they must retain withal their completeness, their integrity, their characteristic properties.  [...].

 

But the Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, does not appropriate what is another's, but while dealing faithfully and judiciously with ancient doctrine, keeps this one object carefully in view'if  there be anything which antiquity has left shapeless and rudimentary, to fashion and polish it, if anything already reduced to shape and developed, to consolidate and strengthen it, if any already ratified and defined to keep and guard it.  Finally, what other object have Councils ever aimed at in their decrees, than to provide that what was before believed in simplicity should in future be believed intelligently, that what was before preached coldly should in future be preached earnestly, that what was before practiced negligently should thenceforward be practiced with double solicitude?  This, I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of heretics, has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils'this, and nothing else'she has thenceforward consigned to posterity in writing what she had received from those of olden times only by Tradition, comprising a great amount of matter in a few words, and often, for the better understanding, designating an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new name." –Saint Vincent of Lerins

 

Note: in this final reference to a "new name" or "characteristic" Vincent is referring to pronouncements by the universal Magisterium like those at the Council of Ephesus in 431AD which declared the Virgin Mary the "Mother of God" and the councils which defined the proper divine and human nature of Jesus Christ by the new term "Homousios", meaning "consubstantial or of one substance, essence."

On the Development of Doctrine in the Church, Chapter XXIII, 54, 55, 56, 57 & 59

Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series volume 11, pages 146, 148-9.

 

Historical note: Most Catholic historians agree that the Catholic Church which rests on the site of the palace of the lady Claudia and Senator Pudens [known as the Palatium Britannicum'this was a family of Roman Britians] was a place of refuge for both Peter and Paul when they were in Rome.  Ancient records record that "the children of Claudia and Rufus Pudens were raised at the knees of Peter and Paul and the other disciples..." [page 58,  The Search for the Twelve Apostles].   St. Pudens was martyred on May 17, which the Church celebrates as his feast day. In the Martyrologies of Rome he is listed as "the Blessed Pudens, father of Praxedes and Pudentiana.  He was clothed with Baptism by the Apostles, and watched and kept his rube pure and without wrinkle to the corwn of a blameless life." May 17th is the feast of "Natal (birth)" day of "St. Pudentiana, the virgin, of the most illustrious descent, daughter of Pudens, and Disciple of the Holy Apostle St. Paul.  While June 20 is the Natal Day in martyrdom of St. Novatus, son of the Blessed Budens, brother of St. Timotheus the Elder and the Virgins of Christ, Pudentiana and Praxedes.  All these were instructed in the faith by the Apostles." The names and martyrdom dates of each of the saints of this great Christian family can be seen recorded on the wall of the ancient former Palatium Britannicum. Tradition records that the memorial was carved on the walls of the ancient palace following the execution of the Virgin Praxedes, daughter of Pudens, in the second century.  She was the youngest daughter of St. Pruden and St. Claudia.  The inscription reads: "In this sacred and most ancient of churches, known as that of Pastor (Hermas), dedicated by Sanctus Pudens, the Senator, and the home of the holy Apostles, repose the remains of three thousand blessed martyrs which Pudentiana and Praxedes, virgins of Christ, with their own hands interred."  [see Search for the Twelve Apostles, page 285].

 

Catechism references that refer to Chapters 15:14-33 and 16:1-27 [*denotes Scripture quoted in citation]:

15:16

1070*

15:30

2629*

15:19

693

16:25-27

2641*

15:27

1070*

16:26

143*; 1204; 2087

 

Resources used for this lesson:

The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II

The Interlinear Bible Greek-English, volume IV

The Teachings of the Church Fathers, Ignatius Press

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Romans, Joseph Fitzmyer

Romans, Brendan Byrne

Navarre Commentary'Romans

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture'Romans

Strong's Concordance

Caesar and Christ, Will Durant

Church History, Bishop Eusebius

The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Jerome

Homilies on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, St. John Chrysostom

The Search for the Twelve Apostles, William Steuart McBirnie

The First Christian Centuries, Paul McKechnie

Christianity and the Roman Empire, Ralph Martin Novak

Augustus to Constantine: The Rise and Triumph of Christianity in the Roman World, Robert M. Grant

Church History, Father John Laux

Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series volume 11

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.