Scholarship on Romans (a short list)

I would like to continue offering suggestions for reading scholarship in Paul’s letters with a view especially towards those who (like me) are looking for a list of the most useful (well-written) pieces. In this book (Romans) in particular, I am sure my list will vary quite a lot from someone else’s. Offer it, here, just as one man’s advice.

Where to begin?

Good question. I know of no really excellent short introductions to Romans, but a few things are on the right track. First, Doug Moo’s Encountering the Book of Romans is well-written and the EBS series from Baker is geared towards students with a very text-book-like presentation. Also, Jimmy Dunn has a short commentary in the ‘People’s Bible Commentaries’ series (2001).

Introduction to Critical Scholarship

Perhaps I don’t even need to mention the frequently cited Romans Debate (ed. Donfried) which contains well-known essays on the background, theology, and structure of Romans from a plethora of important scholars: Dunn, F. Watson, R. Jewett, Bruce, Wedderburn, and more. Also, one might add to this the collection of essays in honor of Gordon Fee entitled Romans and the People of God (eds. Soderlund and Wright; 1999) which is more exegetical and theological in nature, but offers remarks on Romans from a number of eminent scholars. More recently, we have an invaluable contribution by Mark Reasoner entitled Romans in Full Circle which traces the history of interpretation of Romans ‘from Origen to Augustine, Abelard and Aquinas, Luther and Calvin, and on beyond Barth, back to holistic, communal, and narrative-based readings in the style of Origen’ – so the backcover summary goes… In any case, a must-read. One may add Das’s new Solving the Romans Debate which argues for a purely Gentile implied reader – well defended argument, but perhaps the title is a bit too presumptuous! Further back in time, consider reading Wedderburn’s The Reasons for Romans (1988, I think) which argues that there is probably no one reason for Romans, but a cluster of purposes. Consider also N.T. Wright’s Climax of the Covenant.

Commentaries

Well, there are probably more commentaries on Romans than there are on any one book in history. So, I will be very selective!

Philology: Cranfield’s ICC is still a standard for excellence in word studies and comparison with ancient sources, thought Fitzmyer (Anchor) is also good on this.

Theology: Kaesemann is one of the most influential interpreters of Romans and his work has a great impact on scholars in the field even still. I would also include Dunn’s two-volume WBC here as well as N.T. Wright’s New Interpreter’s Bible commentary.

Social Issues: Here, though not a commentary, I would draw attention to F. Watson’s latest revision of his Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles (2007; see below). Also, Jewett’s new Romans for the Hermeneia (and Dunn).

Other: I have also found useful P. Stuhlmacher’s Paul’s Letter to the Romans which is a collection of essays that form a commentary-like book, and, Leander Keck’s Romans for the small Abingdon series. I eagerly await S.E. Porter’s short commentary on Romans for Sheffield Phoenix (July 08).

Monographs

I am sure there are many great published theses out there, but I find so many of them myopic and overly dense.  Call me picky, but I only offer here a few

J. Ross Wagner, Herald of the Good News: Isaiah and Paul in Concert in the Letter to the Romans (2003).  Articulate and basically persuasive on the idea that Paul intentionally joined together with the prophet in thinking through and dialoguing with God’s people.

Francis Watson, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles (2007) – Important revision of his well-known monograph that deals with Paul’s attempt to consolidate a common Christian identity between Jewish and Gentile Christians who are in conflict in Rome.  Watson sees this unification taking place over and against allegiance to the synagogue.  Though not exclusively focused on Romans, the majority of Watson’s tome is directed towards it.

Stephen Westerholm’s Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (2004).  A book both witty and surprisingly exhaustive on matters pertaining to Paul and the law without being exhausting!  He covers Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley in 80 pages and then moves on to Wrede, Schweitzer, Montefiore, Schoeps, Sanders, Kuemmel, Stendahl, Bultmann, Wilckens, Drane, Huebner, Raisanen, N.T. Wright, Dunn, T. Donaldson, Cranfield, Schreiner, Thielman, Seifrid, Laato, Thuren, Martyn, and J. Becker!

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5 thoughts on “Scholarship on Romans (a short list)

  1. I think this is a good list. I think I’d have added Sheila McGinn’s Celebrating Romans, a provocative collection of essays for Robert Jewett that came out ahead of his big commentary. I’d certainly also include that. And what about Philip Esler Conflict and Identity in Romans? An important book even if not entirely convincing.

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