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Der Brief an die Römer. 2 Teilbde. Teilbd. 1: Röm 1–8.
Göttingen (Neukirchen-Vluyn): Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (Neukirchener Theologie); Ostfildern: Patmos Verlag 2014. XIII, 559 S. = Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, VI/1. Kart. EUR 89,00. ISBN 978-3-7887-2883-0 (V & R); 978-38436-0566-3 (Patmos). Teilbd. 2: Röm 9–16. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (Neukirchener Theologie); Ostfildern: Verlagsgruppe Patmos 2018. XI, 511 S. = Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament. Neue Folge, VI/2. Kart. EUR 85,00. ISBN 978-3-7887-3344-5 (V & R); 978-3-8436-1106-0 (Patmos).
With the appearance of the second volume, Michael Wolter’s landmark and seminal commentary on the Letter to the Romans is now complete. These two volumes are the second analysis of Romans in the EKK series. The previous treatment being that of Ulrich Wilkens, which appeared in three volumes (1978; 1980; 1982). W. characterises his own treatment neither as a replacement, nor as an update of Wilkens commentary. Instead it offers a fresh reading of the text, and it is apparent that his treatment is aware of the developments in Pauline scholarship over the ensuing forty years. Yet, W. is not constrain-ed by such recent debates. Instead he is happy to offer his own interpretations for several key texts contained in the letter.
In the first volume, after a bibliography (1–16), an introduction of some fifty-six pages follows (17–72). In the first section of the introduction W. surveys the textual tradition and early reception of the letter (17–23). Here four early papyri are listed, the early and extensive P46, along with P40, P113, P118 as other third century witnesses. Presumably P131 appeared after this list was compiled. However the reasons for omitting P27 are less obvious: also catalogued as P.Oxy. 1355 it contains Rom 8,12–22.24–27; 8,33–9,3.5–9, and is dated to the third century. It appears to be more extensive than either P113 or P118. In this section W. clearly tabulates the most significant witnesses to the various endings of Romans. Here he lists fourteen different arrangements of the material that follows Rom 1–14. The next section discusses the authenticity and literary integrity of the letter. Here W. asserts, rather than argues for the Pauline authorship of the letter. While not disagreeing with that conclusion, it is simply stated that there can be no scientifically justifiable doubts concerning Pauline authorship »An der paulinischen Verfasserschaft des Römerbriefes kann es keine wissenschaftlich begründbaren Zweifel geben« (24). Perhaps the only reason that is provided for that assessment is that the language and content is so closely linked with other letters that denial of Pauline authorship is untenable. Perhaps, here a few more positive arguments could have been presented to explain the ›scientific‹ basis for such a decision.
In the third section W. discusses possible place and date of composition (28–30). In terms of dating, W. is admirable cautious, stat-ing that no more can be said than that the letter was probably written some time in the second half of the 50s of the first century of the common era (30). The following section on Jews and Christians in Rome is more extensive (30–41). Here W. is justifiably sceptical of the notion that report of an edict of Claudius to eject Jews from Rome was either as thoroughgoing as sometimes it is interpreted to be, or that it was responsible for a decisive rupture between Jews and Christ-followers in Rome. The fifth section then engages with one of the perennial debates concerning the letter – the reason for its compositions and the concerns it is addressing (41–56). The motivation for writing the letter is seen to arise from Paul’s future missionary plans, and is far less connected with any specific circumstances among Christ-believers in Rome. Thus the intention to visit Rome and to enter a new phase of his missionary endeavours is understood be W. to provide sufficient motivation for Paul to pen this extensive presentation of his understanding of the gospel and to reflect on the relationship between the inclusion of the Gentiles as the people of God and the implications for Jews in light of the promises to Israel. In the final section of the introduction, W. considers the function of the letter both as a letter and as a sermon or speech sent in absence. Then finally in this section there is an ex-tremely helpful overview of the structure of the letter outlining how the argument unfolds as the letter progresses (68–72).
The heart of the discussion is developed in the commentary sec-tion itself. Each section is laid out in a consistent and clear manner. For instance, the first section ›Briefeingang: Präskript und Proömium (1,1–17)‹ is discussed on pp. 75–128. The section is further subdivided into the Präskript (1,1–7) and the Proömium (1,8–17). The first subsection presents the relevant literature that informs the discussion. Next is a German language translation. There is only one text critical issues that is discussed, namely the omission of ›in Rome‹ ἐν Ῥώμῃ (Rom 1,7), notably in Codex Boernerianus (G 012) with the replacement ἐν ἀγαπῃ θεοῦ, although the variant is not mentioned by W. Here the layout is not particularly helpful. By relegating this important text critical information to the footnotes it is buried among a mass of bibliographic information. While this layout was probably imposed on W. by the formatting of the series, it is not the most useful way to present this data. Next follows the verse-by-verse analysis. Here there is much to be learnt from W.’s incisive comments. In particular, W. lucidly contrasts the contents of the introduction (Rom 1, 1–7) with the summation of Paul’s ideas in Rom 15,15–21. Also helpful is the overview discussion of the term ›apostle‹ ἀπόστολος. This excursus is marked out both with the Greek term standing in the margin as a heading and the smaller font being employed (80–81).
Later in the commentary, W. clearly presents material that he sees as forming a chiastic structure, for example see Rom 2,6–11 (173), or where thematic or structural parallelism occurs, for example see Rom 3,3–4 and 3,5–6 (211). Throughout the first volume the exegesis is judicious and always presents the rich fruits of a careful and detail-ed analysis of the Greek text, although it is not necessary to read Greek to gain invaluable insights from the treatment of the text.
The second volume commences with a brief foreword, then a presentation of a bibliography (1–20) which overlaps with the bibliography in the first volume, but is not identical to it. The exegesis which covers chapter 9–16 occupies the remainder of the volume. The pattern is the same as that established in the first vol-ume – literature overview, translation of the Greek text into German with accompanying text critical notes in the footnotes, and then the detailed verse-by-verse analysis. In discussing several of the citations in Rom 9–11, where necessary the possible underlying Hebrew text is discussed (see 130). The volume also has several detailed excurses – for instance the discussion of the Rom 14,7 (361–363). Perhaps the volume would have benefitted from a concluding essay that might have summarised the major findings of this close reading of the text and also provided some suggestions on future directions in scholarship surround this longest and most influential of Paul’s letters. It is also the case that inclusion of the usual indices of authors, subjects, and references would assist in navigat-ing the volume and making its contents even more straightforward to use.
W. has written a fine commentary on this letter that expresses key ideas of Paul’s thought. It stands deservedly alongside other major treatments of the text, and its significant contribution is the independent thought that W. exhibits at various points when exegeting the text. For serious scholarly on the text of Romans this volume will be widely consulted with great profit. Yet, it is also accessible for general readers who seek to better understand the flow and content of Paul’s thought in this letter. As such, it is a triumph of scholarship and communication.