“Romans is Paul’s greatest letter — his magnus opus.” (Bob Clanton)
“This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul.” (Martin Luther’s preface to Romans)
Romans is Paul’s suckiest letter, the most confusing and convoluted, and contradictory. If Romans and Galatians (which are probably forgeries anyway, or at least heavily interpolated in the case of Romans) had been left out, I think I might actually like Paul. Or better yet, had Galatians been left out since its a forgery, and had Romans not bee interpolated, I would like Paul.
Romans begins as a money letter. Paul tells the Romans he’s coming to Rome intending to go on to Spain, and he’s basically saying “Get some money ready because I expect you to help me finance the trip from Rome to Spain.” He closes the letter with the same appeal. Now in a money letter like that, you don’t fill it with convoluted controversial and in point of fact outright heretical nonsense that will make your would be benefactors say “Hell no heretic, you aint getting none of our money.” Therefore, Romans 3-11 is instantly suspect as interpolation. Its a major, and counter-productive, distraction from the actual purpose of the letter.
If you read Romans 1-2, 12-16 you see the transition between chapter 2 and 12 is perfect, while following chapter 11, the “therefore” of the opening of chapter 12 (“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice,…”) would be complete nonsense:
2:24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. 25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Furthermore, the nature of the letter as an appeal for money with just a few admonitions on living the Christian life is retained. Once 3-11 are added it becomes a convoluted theological treatise. Furthermore, Romans 6 is clearly a second interpolation answering the interpolation of 3-5, and 10-11 is a second interpolation answering the interpolation of 7-9! Obviously at least 3 authors worked on Romans over time. (Romans 13:1-7 is obvious interpolation as well.)
But where’s the mss evidence of this? Burned up. But we know that Marcion of Sinope had published in 140 AD the first edition of the Pauline Corpus, and his edition differed from the later Catholic edition not only in that it lacked Hebrews, 1st and 2nd Timothy, and Titus, but also in that Romans was much much shorter, as Tertullian tells us in his Fifth Book Against Marcion, in chapter 13, “What large gaps Marcion has made in this book, we need not even go into.” Tertullian gives us minute detail of all the minor textual variations between Marcion’s Paul and the Catholic Paul in the other epistles (they’re just as minor as any variations found in the apparatus of Nestle-Aland)….but with Romans, he refuses to give us any info other than that Marcion did include Romans 1-2. Why? Because the favorite part of the Catholics, 3-11 was missing, because they invented it.
Edit: The above quote of Tertullian was a quote from memory, which turns out to be a paraphrase and yet accurately captures Tertullian’s point. The actual text is below.
In Latin, as found in Evans’ 1972 edition:
Quantas autem foveas in ista vel maxime epistula Marcion fecerit, auferendo quae voluit, de
nostri instrumenti integritate parebit.
According to Holmes’ 1870 translation:
But what serious gaps Marcion has made in this epistle especially, by withdrawing whole passages at his will, will be clear from the unmutilated text of our own copy.
According to Evans’ 1972 translation:
But how many ditches Marcion has dug,
especially in this epistle, by removing all that he would, will
become evident from the complete text of my copy.
Tertullian’s theory is that the Catholic copies are correct, and his only “proof” for this theory is ad hominem attack, namely that he accuses Marcion of being a heretic and having taught that there are two gods. Its unlikely that this was actually the case. This is exactly the kind of trumped up nonsense that Catholic writers used to suppress pure copies of scriptural books in favor of their forged or interpolated texts: just accuse the publisher who publishes the pure text of some ridiculous heresy, and everyone will flock to your forged and manipulated edition!