Thursday, October 08, 2015

Have We Been Missing the Apostle Paul's Intent for Writing Romans?


Hope For The Nations: Paul’s Letter to the Romans, A Corporate Reading
Tom Holland, Apostolos Publishing Ltd., London, UK, 2015

                                              

This is a book that presents both traditional concepts as well as new ones on what the Apostle Paul was intending for his audience to fully grasp.  That sounds mundane but I must admit I could not put it down.  It’s written by a scholar but within easy reach of a layman like me.  Tom Holland, Senior Research Fellow in Biblical Studies at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology, has given us a well researched and extremely well written book that speaks to every believer in a valuable and timely way.
His theory is that it is all about “context” and he shows us why time and time again.  Holland says for years we have taken the letter to the Romans as one speaking primarily to “individuals” in the church – to you and me.  But he shows us why Paul was writing about, and to, much larger groups – Israel, the Gentiles, and the new combined Church as an entity. He is careful to point out that this position does not exclude the idea that the points which Paul is making to the Roman Church are not as applicable to the individual Christian – they are, but when studying the Epistle we must remember his intended audience.
Holland argues and shows that Paul, in just about every key phrase in the letter, was drawing from the Old Testament, and especially Isaiah.  He talks about the first, second, and third Exodus of the people of Israel, the Jews, and how God has led them out of slavery, gave them a great part to play in history of all mankind’s salvation, and now is calling them to be part of the Gospel that they themselves ushered in.  He is careful however to distinguish between all of the Jewish people and those that were (and will be) a “remnant” and those that still will accept the Gospel.
He points out the various “covenantal” themes we find in Romans tied to the rest of Scriptures.  He helps us see and understand why when reading Romans we need to look at the references therein to the Old Testament from the perspective of how the early Church read it.
This is a great book for those studying Romans, teaching it in a group or to a class, or preaching a series on it.  For the individual student, it serves as a modern commentary on each verse.  Holland takes great effort to not put down the thoughts of others, but also shows us why he personally tends to go with a particular view.  I like that.
He deals extensively with the tension caused by the requirement that converted Jews placed on Gentiles to be circumcised. He also deals with the issue regarding the eating of meat sacrificed to idols and explains particularly well why that may be a problem to Gentile converts and not to Jewish ones. (The answer he provides was instrumental, by extrapolation, in helping me understand why certain Christians object to alcohol today and why some do not.) Both issues he addresses were major contributors to the discord between the two sources of origin for the original Christian Church.  In the process he deals with how Paul sees the purpose of the Law in the Old Testament and for the new Church, as well as for us today.
The book is full of gems of knowledge and wisdom for the taking. Issues that I personally struggled with were helpfully explained time and time again.  My copy of the book is filled with my notations on new insights.
You can listen to preacher after preacher and teacher after teacher on Romans and never really understand the “big message” or see the “big picture” of what the author is trying to share.  Getting a hold of a scholarly work rewritten for non-scholars yet communicating the secrets of historical and contextual hermeneutics to bring alive God’s Holy Word allows you to stop and think and question and reflect.  Tom Holland does just that for you.  I very highly recommend it to all.  I will be looking for more of his books.
The author’s bottom line (and his own desire for writing) is given away in the very title of this book – there is indeed “Hope for the Nations” of both Gentiles and Jews.
    -- Ken B. Godevenos, Accord Resolution Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario. 15/10/08  

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