Where do you stand in the investigation of the Roman audience? Understanding the composition of the audience at Rome helps us to understand the intented theological meaning behind Paul’s word choices. There is a lot of debate around the question of audience, thanks to Paul’s hint in 7:1: “for I am speaking to men who know the law.” But what does that tell us about Paul’s audience? Is he writing to a Jewish audience in Rome?
R.C. Sproul thinks not. “This has caused some to think that Paul is writing to Jewish believers. But I don’t think so. I think he is assuming that his general readers at the church at Rome, even those who have been converted from the Gentile world, would have some understanding of Old Testament law, because people who converted to Christ were instructed in Old Testament history.” (Sproul, The Gospel of God: Exposition of Romans)
Robert Mounce, in the New American Commentary series, seems to think it’s a reference to the basic, fundamental character of “law” rather than a reference to Mosiac legislation. “They were acquainted with the basic precepts of legal jurisdiction. They understood what law was all about.” (Mounce, R. New American Commentary: Romans)
A rich source of scholarship, Cranfield’s commentary in the International Critical Commentary series, takes this investigation even further. His footnotes abound with citations listing who is on which side of the argument; but his sources are somewhat dated (the work was edited in 1975). But for Cranfield himself, the interpretation of “law” at 7:1 isn’t good enough to form a strong argument for a predominantly Jewish audience. “Neither the constant engagement with the OT to be seen throughout the epistle nor the use of the words γινώσκουσιν γὰρ νόμον λαλῶ (7:1) proves that Paul was writing to a predominantly Jewish-Christian church; for the OT was the Bible of the Gentile, as well as the Jewish, Christian…” (Cranfield, C.E.B., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Volume 1)
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