Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. —Paul in Romans 1:1
What is the first thing you do when you receive a text message or phone call from someone you don’t know or recognize? You politely ask, “Who is this?” To fully understand what someone is saying, you first need to know who is speaking. The same is true when we study a book of the Bible. Even though we know God is the divine Author of all 66 books, He used human authors who had distinct styles and patterns. Learning about these human authors will allow you to uncover a deeper layer of understanding about their writing.
The human author of Romans is Paul, and he identifies himself in the opening verse: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus.” With almost all the books of the Bible, some historians and theologians dispute their authorship. Almost no one challenges Romans. According to New Testament Professor Charles Quarles, “Although Paul’s authorship of several letters has been contested, the evidence for his authorship of Romans is so strong that only the most radical have challenged it.”1
In the days to come, I will explore Paul’s pre-conversion background, but for now, I want to give you a brief overview of his writings and describe their place within the overall contents of the Bible. The Bible is really a book divided into two parts. The Old Testament is 39 different books preparing us for the coming of Jesus. The New Testament is 27 books telling us about the coming of Jesus and the beginnings of the Christian movement. Of those 27 books in the New Testament, Paul wrote 13 over a period of 15-plus years. He addressed them to at least seven different churches and two individual church leaders. Paul may also have written Hebrews. If so, he would be the author2 of 14 books.
The majority of the New Testament falls into one of three categories:
1. Written by Paul
2. Written about Paul
3. Written by someone working closely with Paul.
In the book of Acts, which is a historical account of the Holy Spirit’s work in the early church, chapters 13-28 focus on the mission work of Paul. The human author of Acts is Luke, a medical doctor and the most prolific contributor to the New Testament in terms of an actual word count. Luke wrote his self-titled book (or Gospel) on the life of Christ and the book of Acts on the life of the first Christians. He was also Paul’s traveling companion. Luke was a friend and physician who stood by Paul through beatings, riots, and imprisonment.
If any doubt remains about the authority of Paul’s letters, proof can be found in a letter from the apostle Peter: “Our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15–17).
How is God’s divine authorship reflected throughout the writings of the human authors of the Bible?
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This is an excerpt from Theology for Everybody: Romans, a 365-Day Devotional, click here to get your copy.
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