43 The end of Romans
The end of the Epistle to the Romans has one obvious difference between the KJV and the NIV. It is the duplication in the KJV of the words “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” both in verse 20 and 24 while verse 24 is wanting in the NIV and other modern versions. Yet when we look at the final chapter as a whole, some interesting possibilities are revealed.
A table showing the manuscript evidence concerning verse 24 is posted at the bottom of this page.
It is interesting to note that this verse is included after verse 27 in one Greek Uncial, six Greek minuscules, three ancient translations as well as one Church Father.
Paul had a definite way to end all his epistles. It is with almost exactly the same blessing, that is the subject of our present discussion.
But the end of Romans shows some remarkable deviances.
In the manuscripts to our avail, the blessing is found in the following places:
Rom 15:33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Rom 16:20 … The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
Rom 16:24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Rom 16:27 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
When Paul ends all twelve the other epistles with almost exactly the same words, why would he deviate from his “signature” in this, his sixth epistle?
I propose the following possibility:
Paul probably ended his epistle at first at 15:32, and added his blessing.
Then came along Phoebe, a deacon from Cenchrea, a harbor city very near to Corinth from where Paul was writing this letter. She most probably acted as courier taking the letter to Rome and therefore needed introduction and a word of recommendation. Paul then sends greetings to many people in Rome, some of whom he might have received word via Phoebe. Then he ended his letter at Romans 16:20a, again adding his “signature”.
Since there were a few lines left on the page, Tertius who acted as amanuensis for Paul added his personal greetings. Since it was his own addition, he did not repeat Paul’s “signature” but an attentive scribe immediately missed it, and added it to complete the Epistle.
That is most probably also the reason why it is added to some manuscripts after verse 27.
Let us now pay attention to the doxology found in verses 25-27.
A doxology normally consists of two parts, the first being a statement concerning the directly preceding subject. Rom 16:25-26: “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him—“
The second part is a statement to hail the greatness of God.
Rom 16:27 “… to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen:”
Though this is a very typical form of a doxology and corresponds with the doxologies by Paul in Ephesians 3:20-21 and 1Tim. 1:17, this is not the way Paul concludes any of his letters. The way a doxology was composed, would mean that it should be applicable to those to whom Paul was sending his greetings.
Here again we are faced in the manuscripts with some very interesting facts.
Five Uncials and no less than seventeen minuscules, supported by quite a few ancient translations include these words after Romans 14;23. The oldest manuscript we have, Papyrus No. 45 dating from around 200 A.D. has these words after Romans 15:33.
What could we conclude from the fact that a clause is placed at different places in different manuscripts? The only logic answer is that this clause had been a “floating” piece of scripture that accompanied the epistle to Rome from the beginning. Scribes struggled to find the proper place to include this doxology in their copy of the epistle, hence the three possibilities
My conclusion then concerning the end of Romans is twofold.
Paul ended his epistle at Romans 16:20 with his usual “signature-blessing” The repetition of the blessing in verse 24 as an addition by a scribe, following the example in other Pauline epistles.
Secondly the doxology in verses 25-27 is a typical floating statement by Paul of which we cannot be certain of its correct placing in the epistle. Yet, at the end as concluding word to the epistle to Rome, one should apply it to the whole epistle, and not only to the directly preceding matter.
Together with Paul in Rom 11:33 we could proclaim: ” Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
How Great thou art!
May God bless you!
|Witness:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:|
|301-400||? , B||Vulgate, Bohairic||Vulgate, Syriac, Gothic|
|401-500||A, C||Ethiopic||D||Chrysostom, Euthalius, Theodoret|
|701-800||1 Old Latin||?||John-Damascus|
|801-900||Gp||5 Old Latin|
|901-1000||8 Minuscules||15 Minuscules|
|1001-1600||2 Old Latin|