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The Textual Originality of Romans 15–16: Additional Evidence

Beyond these general reasons that the perspectives of Baur and others on Rom 15–16 are insufficiently supported, several other pieces of evidence also converge to suggest that these chapters, much in the form in which they appear in the modern, printed editions, are original to Romans.

  1. On Origen’s testimony, Marcion truncated the epistle before the beginning of chapter fifteen (Murray 2.265; cf. Carson, Moo, and Morris 246; Metzger 536). This fact, combined with the observation that Rom 15:1–13 completes the argument begun in Rom 14:1–23 strongly indicates that at least this part of Rom 15–16 is original to Paul.
  2. Since only limited, if any, direct, textual evidence exists for the supposed fifteen-chapter version of the epistle, it seems quite likely that, as authenticity goes for one part of the section of Rom 15–16, so it goes for the whole (Carson, Moo, and Morris 247).
  3. The external manuscript evidence for Rom 15–16 is very strong, and the external, patristic testimony also seems reasonably good. Origen (ca. 185–254) includes this section in his Romans commentary (Bray 353–81, 387), and both Justin Martyr (ca. 100/110-165) and Tertullian (ca. 155/160–240/250) seem to allude to it at various points (Bray 360, 375, 387). With these last two examples, however, some caution must be exercised, since they do provide only allusions to and not direct quotations from Romans (cf. Bray xxii). Moreover, Carson, Moo, and Morris, 246, note that Tertullian, at least, does not quote from Rom 15–16 in places where he might have been expected to do so. Yet, if Tertullian was indeed writing against Marcionism in these texts (Murray 2:264), he may have simply been attempting to construct his argument from texts that the Marcionites themselves would accept.
  4. Finally, and specifically related to the doxology, very little evidence exists for its omission, and one manuscript (G), although it omits the passage, leaves room for its inclusion (Metzger 534–35)].

Based on these factors, it seems that only the doxology’s specific placement may remain somewhat in doubt, and one must admit that discerning its original placement is no simple task. Of the three basic positions in which it appears in different manuscripts (i.e., at the end of one of Romans’ last three chapters), a placement after chapter fourteen (either in addition to or instead of the placement at the end of Rom 16) would interrupt the train of Paul’s argument from 14:1–15:13. This placement could, therefore, perhaps be preferred because it is the hardest reading, and scribes copying Romans would have tended to remove rather than create difficulties in the text. Yet, this reading could also have arisen because the Marcionites used and circulated their version of Romans, which ended with chapter fourteen (Metzger 472). Reading the doxology after Rom 15 has the support of an early third-century manuscript (P46), but this textual basis is very narrow and may merely reflect a scribal idiosyncrasy (cf. Metzger 471, 473). The final placement possibility for the doxology at the end of Rom 16, of the three major possibilities, has perhaps the best breadth and antiquity in its manuscript attestation (e.g., א, B, C, D, cop, eth, it, vg). In the end, therefore, because of the possiblity of Marcionite influence in the placement of the doxology after Rom 14, it seems most probable that the doxology originally appeared after Rom 16 and that Rom 15–16 formed the concluding section of Paul’s original composition.

In this post:

Gerald Bray

Gerald Bray

D. A. Carson, Douglas Moo, and Leon Morris

D. A. Carson, Douglas Moo, and Leon Morris

Bruce Metzger

Bruce Metzger

John Murray

John Murray


About David Stark

Associate Professor


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This site and its content are licensed by J. David Stark under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. The views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person(s) or institution(s).
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