Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Romans as a "bread-and-butter" letter redux

Three years ago, almost to the day, I was teaching the Epistle to the Romans as part of my Life and Letters of Paul class, and I blogged about a quotation from J. Paul Sampley (Is Romans a "bread and butter letter"?):
It is an apostolic response to ethnic problems in those churches, and it is a “bread-and-butter” letter written in advance of his arrival, seeking support for his mission to Spain.
I raised a couple of questions about it, first the appropriateness of the term "bread-and-butter letter" and second the matter of where the quotation is from. I had copied out the quotation some years ago but somehow managed to lose the citation. In yesterday's class on the Life and Letters of Paul, I returned to the Epistle to the Romans and again mentioned this quotation. Happily, Ken Olson managed to find it for me, and it looks like something had happened in my transcription of the quotation.  Here it is with a proper citation:
A crisis brought most Pauline letters into existence. Even Romans, written to a church that Paul’s preaching did not establish, is a “bread-and-butter” letter written in advance of his journey, seeking support for his mission to Spain (cf. 15:22-24). Ephesians, however, lacks clues concerning a concrete crisis or occasion.

J. Paul Sampley, “The Letter to the Ephesians”, in Gerhard Krodel (ed.), Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, The Pastoral Epistles (Proclamation Commentaries; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978):  9-39 (9)


Otishpote said...

It should be kept in mind that Romans, as we have it in modern Bibles, is unlikely to be the work of a single author. Extensive redactions were made to Romans, and to Paul's other epistles, during the second century and there are several good reasons to think that Marcion's shorter gnostic versions of the Pauline letters are significantly closer to the originals of Paul's epistles than are the Catholic versions of the epistles that we find in traditional Bibles.

For one good introduction to the textual issues that evidence the above conclusions, consult: "The First Edition of the Paulina" by
Paul-Louis Couchoud, 1928. An English translation is available online at:


I recommend you download the PDF, as some of the typography is corrupted in the HTML version.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Good job, Ken!

Interesting that the once hard-to-find quote about Romans was in an article by Ephesians. That shows the benefit of reading widely.