Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The unfortunate chapter break of 15

At nearly the end of the letter to the Romans Paul talks to his personal ministry plans:
Romans 15:24-25, 28 "I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints... When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you."
He concludes his personal plans by asking the church to pray for him, so that he may be delivered from the Jews who want to kill him.
Then a most unfortunate thing happens- the chapter break for 16 which drives a wedge in the mind of the reader between the two chapters, as if they are two thoughts.

I looked through all the commentary I could lay hands on, and they all say something extremely boring at this point: "Paul now greets a number of people. Although we have no idea who they are, it's important to remember, blah blah blah." 
I suspect that this isn't Paul saying hello to people in Rome, but asking the Roman church to greet those coming to them. As sent by Paul himself. He told them his personal ministry plans, now he's going to introduce his ministry team and send them ahead to Rome, and then Spain.
That is to say, chapter 16 looks just like a continuation of the thought Paul started in 15. That's why they are to greet the people coming, of whom is Phoebe, carrying the letter, and that's why the warning for the false teachers who worm their way into such a large group.
Romans doesn't conclude the ministry plans until after Romans 16:17.
Admittedly, there is a small weakness with this view, and that's the church that meets in the house of Prisca and Aquila, most likely traveling from Ephesus to Rome. It's hard to see the whole house church moving, but then again, it may be that the ban on Jews in Rome has lifted, and they are returning home together.

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