An Outline Plan for the Study of the Epistle to the Romans

By Professor George B. Stevens, D.D.,

Yale University, New Haven.


[REMARK.—The. following plan is intended merely as an introduction to the questions and topics to be studied in connection with the Epistle with references to some of the most important aids to the study. It is adapted to one beginning the critical study of the book and contemplates an examination of the most important points. It does not aim to impart any instruction beyond indicating topics for study and directing the student to sources of information concerning them. In a word, it aims to show what needs to be done by one who would understand Paul's greatest doctrinal epistle.]


(1) Read the whole epistle through carefully at a single sitting with a view to deciding (a) for what class of readers—Jewish or Gentile—it was written, (b) what was Paul's purpose in writing it. (2) How does the view taken of (a) affect that to be taken of (b)? (3) Seek any hints in the epistle or elsewhere in the New Testament that may throw light upon the founding of the Roman church. (4) What was its relation to the apostle? (5) Is the epistle properly called a " system of theology " or a "treatise "? (6) Does any reason appear in the study of the foregoing questions why the apostle should have written so elaborate and doctrinal a letter to the Roman church?

After answers, as definite as possible, have been reached by the student's own inquiry, he should consult one or more Introductions to the epistle, such as Gloag's (Int. to Paul. Eps.), Weiss' (Int. to New Test.), or those prefixed to the commentaries of Meyer or Godet.


(1) Determine the central thought of the epistle and divide it into its (a) doctrinal and (b) practical sections. (2) Analyze carefully the treatment of this leading thought, defining how Paul treats it (a) negatively and (b) positively. (3) Taking the portion of the epistle that establishes its central thought negatively, note how he, does this in application (a) to the Gentiles and (b) to the Jews. (4) Taking the positive proof of his main thesis, distinguish (a) the general introduction of the truth to be proved, (b) the Old Testament proof of it, (c) statements of consequences, and (d) the bearing upon the theme of any further expositions of doctrine or discussion of objections. (5) Determine the purpose of chs. 9-11, and their relation to the epistle as a whole, and analyze and paraphrase their contents. (6) Note the scope of the practical and hortatory portion of the epistle.


(1) Observing the analysis of the course of thought that has been made, study and make a minute analysis of the course of thought in each division as a whole. (2) Note points that are obscure and reserve them for special examination. (3) Carefully define all important words, such as faith, righteousness, justify, redemption, propitiation, consulting for the purpose, if using the Greek text, Thayer's or Cremer's Lexicon; if the study is on the basis of the English, such treatises as Godet's and Beet's commentaries may be consulted with profit. (4) Examine with special care the connections of thought as established by such words as but, for, therefore, etc. (5) Study the bearing of all Old Testament passages quoted or referred to, comparing Paul's employment of them with the force which they have in the Old Testament setting, and seeking the point of connection between the original force and the New Testament use.


[REMARK.—Two examples only of this method of study are given in connection with important topics in the epistle.]

I. Teaching of the epistle respecting Sin. (a) Its forms and development in the Gentile world (1:18-32), (b) in the Jewish world (2:1-3:20). (c) Sin's origin (esp. 5:12 sq.) and consequences (I) in this life, (2) in life to come. (d) The relation of the law to sin (esp. ch. 7) and its development into conscious transgression. (e) Incompatibility of sin with the Christian life (esp. ch. 6).

II. Teaching respecting Redemption. (a) Its origin, how related to the nature of God? (b) How related to the divine righteousness (3:25, 26)? (c) By what acts of Christ accomplished? (d) How appropriated by man? (e) Its consequences in the individual life (esp. ch. 8) and in the moral life as related to others (see esp. the practical portion and collate its principal maxims for religious life).


[REMARK.These and kindred topics are suitable for essays or for such definitions and outlines as could be expanded into essays.]

  1. Paul's theistic argument.

  2. The description of the state of the Gentile world (ch. 1) compared with the testimony of secular history.

  3. Paul's use of the Old Testament.

  4. The doctrine of civil government in ch. 13.

  5. Paul's treatment of "weak brethren" (ch. 14).

  6. The bearing of ch. 7 upon the manner of the apostle's conversion.

  7. The forms of argument and modes of thought which the epistle illustrates.



[I append a very brief list of commentaries with a few words of characterization: 1. Boise (J. R.); brief philological annotations (Am. Bap. Pub. Soc., Chicago). 2. Abbott (Lyman); stimulating and helpful, with supplementary essays (A. S. Barnes & Co., N. Y.). 3. Beet (J. A.); practical and readable (Hodder & Stoughton, London). 4. Stuart (Moses); an interesting critical exposition (W. F. Draper, Andover, Mass.). 5. Godet; thorough, scholarly, and, in the main, intelligible to those who do not read Greek (Funk & Wagnalls, N. Y.). 6. Meyer; minute, critical, technical, and exhaustive, with very full and valuable supplementary notes by President Timothy Dwight (Funk & Wagnalls, N. Y.).]