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Summary of Epistological Study

III. Structure:
We will analyze the ways to determine the structure of Romans in section A, then I will propose an outline with attention to the transfer model which is embedded in the structure of Romans.

I will not use the rhetorical analysis of the Pauline epistles as the backbone of this analysis due to its methodological weakness.

A. Structure Analysis
The following discussion will first use the help from epistolary analysis, then the literary and theological analysis to determine the structure of Romans.

  1. Form : Epistolary analysis
  2. Structure: Literary and Theological analysis

1. Form : Epistolary analysis

When we analyze the ancient letters, we will find most of them have the following structure:

Opening: Name of sender, name of recipient, and greetings

Thanksgiving, often ending with a transition to the letter-body


Final greetings and blessing.

Martin Luther Sitrewalt, Jr. has proposed a possible genre of Greek letter-essay. He analyzes fifteen documents: the philosophic Letters of Epicurus, the Letters of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, selections from the works of Plutarch, 2 Maccabees, and the Martyrdom of Polycarp, and proposes the following structure:


Epistolary introduction

Transition from introduction to body



Though Paul's letters reflect similar formal structures, but there are some distinct structures can be seen in Paul's letters. The body of the letter often includes or is followed by ethical instructions (i.e., parenesis). In the closing, Paul always shows his wish to visit the audience (usually called 'apostolic parousia' by scholars). The letter-closing is also sometimes expanded in length to include a prayer for peace, personal greetings, and a doxology or benediction.

If we apply the insights gained from the epistolary analysis on Romans, we may gain this provisional outline:

Opening (1:1-7)

Sender (1:1-6)

Addressees (1:7a)

Greeting (1:7b)

Thanksgiving (1:8-15)

Transition to body and body-opening (1:16-17)

Letter-body (1:18-11:36)

Parenesis (12:1-15:13)

Apostolic Parousia (travel plans, intention to visit 15:14-32)

Closing (15:33-16:27)

Peace wish (15:33)

Greetings (16:1-15, 21-23)

Blessing / Doxology (16:25-27)


Comparison Table:

Most Ancient Letters
Greek letter-essay
provisional outline
Opening: Name of sender, name of recipient, and greetings Heading
  • Opening (1:1-7)
  • Sender (1:1-6)
  • Addressees (1:7a)
  • Greeting (1:7b)
Thanksgiving, often ending with a transition to the letter-body

Epistolary introduction

Thanksgiving (1:8-15)

Transition from introduction to body

Transition to body and body-opening (1:16-17)

Letter-body Body Letter-body (1:18-11:36)
Parenesis (12:1-15:13)
Apostolic Parousia (travel plans, intention to visit 15:14-32)
Final greetings and blessing. Closing
  • Closing (15:33-16:27)
  • Peace wish (15:33)
  • Greetings (16:1-15, 21-23)
  • Blessing / Doxology (16:25-27)


(2) The Analysis on the Thanksgivings

On the Pauline Thanksgivings, Jervis has found five units (for Rom. 1:1-18):

  1. "I give thanks to" ('eucharisto) (1:8a),
  2. Manner of Thanksgiving (1:8b,9),
  3. Cause (1:8c),
  4. Explanation (1:11-12,13b-15),
  5. Concerns for Readers/Prayer Report (1:10, 1:13a).

Unit C is generally used by Paul to establish a sense of personal relationship with the readers is very brief and formal in the Romans. Paul's cause for thanksgiving rests on the general knowledge on the faith of the Roman believers is being reported all over the world. In Unit B, Paul stresses his apostolic role and his commission to preach the gospel (1:9b), rather than affirming his love for him. Unit D and Unit E use a twofold repetition pattern to show Paul's intention to preach the gospel to his Roman readers (1:15). Therefore, "A visit to them (the Roman Christians) is vital for him because he longs to be able to exercise his apostolic obligation by preaching to them as he has preached to 'the rest of the Gentiles' (v.13b). That Paul expresses a desire to preach to the Roman believers does not imply that the thought he would be preaching to the unconverted. Rather, in the context of having affirmed his respect for their faith, he is expressing a desire that these Roman believers would hear his preaching of the gospel." Jervis rightly shows Paul's desire to visit for his presentation of his gospel, but the hint of "world mission" (1:8) seems to be over-looked by her.

Unit E is intertwined with unit D. It has been a 'preface' to unit D. In each section of unit E (1:10, 1:13a), Paul's desire to meet the Roman Christians is repeatedly stated. The corresponding explanations of this desire are twice expressed in unit D (1:11-12; 13b-15). Paul wish to impart some spiritual gift to them(1:11), encouraged them in faith(1:12), obtain some fruit among them(1:13b), and preached the gospel to them(1:15). His mission to the Greeks is clearly stated in 1:14. Paul wish to establish the Roman Christians and they was well-trained in his gospel. His desire to evangelize Spain by the support of the Romans are suspended until chapter 15. This may be Paul's tactic to motivate a community which he did not know much. Paul has written with a familiar tone to the addressees which developed a sense of warmth. Though the purpose of writing Romans is only partly revealed but the theme of Romans, his gospel, is immediately stated in 1:16-18. In light of this, Paul may try to persuade the Roman Christians to follow his gospel in order to establish their faith in it. Thus they will eventually support him in his mission to Spain.

O'brien has suggested that the thanksgiving paragraphs have four functions: epistolary function, pastoral and apostolic concern for the addresses, didactic function, and paraenetic purpose. He stated, "With the possible exception of Rom. 1:8ff. (where, however, theological themes are certainly prefigured), Paul's thanksgiving periods have a didactic function." The theological themes can be clearly seen in 1:16-18, and the didactic function of Rom. 1:8ff is doubtful. This means Paul may have tried a different approach in writing Romans in contrast to other Pauline writings.

The end of thanksgiving and the beginning of the body-opening may have three alternatives:


end of thanksgiving

beginning of the body-opening










In option A, 1:13 is taken as the transitional formula for the body-opening, but 1:11-12 is not a typical conclusion for a thanksgiving. Option C is supported by Schubert's contention that 1:16-17 functions as an eschatological conclusion for the thanksgiving. In this option, 1:18 is taken as the beginning of the body-opening. But this verse is grammatically dependent on the preceding verses.

In option B, 1:16-17 serves suitable letter-body opening. It introduces the theological themes in Romans and it uses the first person singular which is widely used in other Pauline letters. J. M. Bassler suggests 1:16-2:10 shows some characteristics of a Ringkomposition. Since 1:18 is grammatically dependent on 1:16-17 and it can serves both as a part of the letter-body opening and a transition to the letter-body. Detailed discussion on that will be found in the next part of this thesis (Part III. A. 2.) The thanksgiving of Roman is 1:8-15, but the beginning of the letter-body opening is 1:16-18.


Comparison with Pauline Epistles:

(2) The Analysis on the Thanksgivings

Paul's thanksgiving has been assumed to follow form of contemporary "epistolary introductory thanksgiving." Peter Arzt has re-visited this assumption and proposes an opposite view. The so-called formula valetudinis or health wish with a motif of thanks to the god occurs in the main clause seems to be limited to the third century B.C.E. This is not a common convention in Paul's times. But the report of a prayer is used in numerous papyrus letters in some Pauline epistles (Rom.; Phil.; 1 Thess.; Phlm.). In Greek papyrus letters this report acts as an extended version of the formula valetudinis and is found in both the beginning and at the end of the letters. In contrast to that, Paul's prayer reports refer to the "well-being" of the addressees' Christian life, and are mostly placed in the beginning. Therefore he proposes that "the combination of a report of a prayer and/or the mneia-motif with a thanksgiving to God for the addressees derives from Paul's personal intention and not from a common epistolary convention." Paul's practice does not seem to influence other Christian communities. This practice is found in some Pauline epistles only (Eph.; Col.; 2 Thess.; 2 Tim.), and not found in other early Christian epistles.